Mahavidya, aka: Maha-vidya, Mahāvidyā; 10 Definition(s)

Introduction

Mahavidya means something in Hinduism, Sanskrit. If you want to know the exact meaning, history, etymology or English translation of this term then check out the descriptions on this page. Add your comment or reference to a book if you want to contribute to this summary article.

In Hinduism

Purana

[Mahavidya in Purana glossaries]

Mahāvidyā (महाविद्या).—A name of Lalitā;1 symbolical of Devī.2

  • 1) Brahmāṇḍa-purāṇa IV. 18. 16.
  • 2) Viṣṇu-purāṇa I. 9. 120.
(Source): Cologne Digital Sanskrit Dictionaries: The Purana Index
Purana book cover
context information

The Purana (पुराण, purāṇas) refers to Sanskrit literature preserving ancient India’s vast cultural history, including historical legends, religious ceremonies, various arts and sciences. The eighteen mahapuranas total over 400,000 shlokas (metrical couplets) and date to at least several centuries BCE.

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Shaktism (Shakta philosophy)

[Mahavidya in Shaktism glossaries]

1) Mahāvidyā (महाविद्या, “Great Knowledge”):—One of the names of Mahālakṣmī (rajas-form of Mahādevī). Mahālakṣmī is one of the three primary forms of Devī. Not to be confused with Lakṣmī, she is a more powerful cosmic aspect (vyaṣṭi) of Devi and represents the guṇa (universal energy) named sattva. Also see the Devī Māhātmya, a Sanskrit work from the 5th century, incorporated into the Mārkaṇḍeya-Purāṇa.

2) Mahāvidyā (महाविद्या, “transcendent knowledge”):—One of the names of Sarasvatī, the Hindu goddess of speech, eloquence and all forms of knowledge.

(Source): Wisdom Library: Śāktism
Shaktism book cover
context information

Shakta (शाक्त, śākta) or Shaktism (śāktism) represents a tradition of Hinduism where the Goddess (Devi) is revered and worshipped. Shakta literature includes a range of scriptures, including various Agamas and Tantras, although its roots may be traced back to the Vedas.

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Shaivism (Shaiva philosophy)

[Mahavidya in Shaivism glossaries]

Mahāvidyā (महाविद्या) or Mahāvidyāgama refers to one of upāgamas (supplementary scriptures) of the Bimbāgama which is one of the twenty-eight Siddhāntāgama: a classification of the Śaiva division of Śaivāgamas. The Śaivāgamas represent the wisdom that has come down from lord Śiva, received by Pārvatī and accepted by Viṣṇu. The purpose of revealing upāgamas (eg., Mahāvidyā Āgama) is to explain more elaborately than that of mūlāgamas (eg., Bimba-āgama) and to include any new idea if not dealt in mūlāgamas.

(Source): Shodhganga: Iconographical representations of Śiva
Shaivism book cover
context information

Shaiva (शैव, śaiva) or Shaivism (śaivism) represents a tradition of Hinduism worshiping Shiva as the supreme being. Closely related to Shaktism, Shaiva literature includes a range of scriptures, including Tantras, while the root of this tradition may be traced back to the ancient Vedas.

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General definition (in Hinduism)

[Mahavidya in Hinduism glossaries]

Mahāvidyā (महाविद्या)—A holy place on the bank of the Yamunā which Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu visited. (Śrī Caitanya Caritāmṛta, Madhya–17.191)

(Source): Wisdom Library: Hinduism

Mahāvidyas: A name given to a group of ten transformations, or personifications, of Devī in the Śākta Tantric literature, consisting, typically, of: Kālī, Tārā, Ṣoḍaśī, Bhuvaneśvarī, Bhairavī, Chinnamastā, Dhūmāvatī, Bagalā, Mātaṅgī, and Kamalā.

(Source): Oxford Index: Hinduism

Mahavidyas (Great Wisdoms) or Dasha-Mahavidyas are a group of ten aspects of the Divine Mother Durga or Kali herself or Devi in Hinduism. The 10 Mahavidyas are Wisdom Goddesses, who represent a spectrum of feminine divinity, from horrific goddesses at one end, to the gentle at the other.

The name Mahavidyas comes from the Sanskrit roots, with maha meaning 'great' and vidya meaning, 'revelation, manifestation, knowledge, or wisdom.

Shaktas believe, "the one Truth is sensed in ten different facets; the Divine Mother is adored and approached as ten cosmic personalities," the Dasa-Mahavidya ("ten-Mahavidyas"). The Mahavidyas are considered Tantric in nature, and are usually identified as:

  1. Kali – The ultimate form of Brahman, "Devourer of Time" (Supreme Deity of Kalikula systems)
  2. Tara – The Goddess as Guide and Protector, or Who Saves.Who offers the ultimate knowledge which gives salvation (also known as Neel Saraswati).
  3. Tripura Sundari (Shodashi) – The Goddess Who is "Beautiful in the Three Worlds" (Supreme Deity of Srikula systems); the "Tantric Parvati" or the "Moksha Mukta".
  4. Bhuvaneshvari – The Goddess as World Mother, or Whose Body is the Cosmos
  5. Bhairavi – The Fierce Goddess
  6. Chhinnamasta – The self-decapitated Goddess
  7. Dhumavati – The Widow Goddess,or the Goddess of death.
  8. Bagalamukhi – The Goddess Who Paralyzes Enemies
  9. Matangi – the Prime Minister of Lalita (in Srikula systems)
  10. Kamala – The Lotus Goddess; the "Tantric Lakshmi"
(Source): WikiPedia: Hinduism

The ten Mahāvidyās –

  1. Kālī,
  2. Tarā,
  3. Ṣodaśī,
  4. Bhuvaneśvarī,
  5. Bhairavī,
  6. Cinnamastā,
  7. Dhūmāvātī,
  8. Bagalā,
  9. Mataṅgī
  10. and Kamalā

– of which the first listed is always is Kālī: the other nine are but her forms.

(Source): University of Divinity: The Tantric Hymn to Kālī

The Mahāvidyās are popularly ten in number:

  1. Kālī
  2. Tārā
  3. Tripurasundarī
  4. Bhuvaneśvarī
  5. Chinnamastā
  6. Tripurabhairavī
  7. Bagalāmukhī
  8. Mātaṅgī
  9. Dhūmāvatī
  10. Kamalātmikā

An alternate lists consists of thirteen Mahāvidyās:

  1. Chaṇḍayogīśvarī
  2. Laghuśyāmā
  3. Tripuṭā

In the context of Srividya, sixteen Mahāvidyās are listed (the first ten are identical):

  1. Vanadurgā
  2. Shūlinī
  3. Ashvārūḍhā
  4. Trilokyavijayā
  5. Mahāvārāhī
  6. Annapūrṇā
(Source): Kamakoti: Angavidya Krama for Dasha Mahavidya

In the Tāntrika literature, the Mahāvidyās are usually enumerated as ten. But the number is sometimes increased by three and sometimes by six. The Muṇḍamālā-tantra names the ten Mahāvidyās thus:

  1. Kālī
  2. Tārā
  3. ṣoḍaśī
  4. Bhuvaneśvarī
  5. Bhairavī
  6. Chinnamastā
  7. Dhūmāvatī
  8. Bagalā
  9. Mātaṅgī
  10. Kamalā

The list of the Muṇḍamālā-tantra being taken as standard, the three and six additional names which occur in Sammohana Tantra are:

  1. Caṇḍeśvarī, Laghu śyāmā and Tripuṭā, and
  2. Vanadurgā, śūlinī, Aśvārūḍhā, Trailokyavijayā, Vārāhī and Annapūrṇā.

There appear to be slight differences of opinion in the various Tantras in regard to the names of the Bhairavas of these Mahāvidyās. These names, as given in the Toḍala-tantra, are:

  1. Mahākāla
  2. Akṣobhya
  3. Śiva
  4. Tryambaka
  5. Dakṣiṇāmūrti
  6. Kabandha
  7. Kālabhairava (Ghora) *
  8. Ekavaktra (Mahārudra)
  9. Mātaṅga (dakṣiṇāmūrti)
  10. Viṣṇu (Sadāśiva)

*=According to the Śaktisaṅgama-tantra.

(Source): Kamakoti: Dasha Mahavidya

Languages of India and abroad

Sanskrit-English dictionary

[Mahavidya in Sanskrit glossaries]

Mahāvidyā (महाविद्या).—the great lores; काली तारा महाविद्या षोडशी भुवनेश्वरी । भैरवी छिन्नमस्ता च विद्या धूमवती तथा । बगला सिद्धविद्या च मातङ्गी कमला- त्मिका । एता दश महाविद्याः (kālī tārā mahāvidyā ṣoḍaśī bhuvaneśvarī | bhairavī chinnamastā ca vidyā dhūmavatī tathā | bagalā siddhavidyā ca mātaṅgī kamalā- tmikā | etā daśa mahāvidyāḥ) ... ()||

Mahāvidyā is a Sanskrit compound consisting of the terms mahā and vidyā (विद्या).

(Source): DDSA: The practical Sanskrit-English dictionary
context information

Sanskrit, also spelled संस्कृतम् (saṃskṛtam), is an ancient language of India commonly seen as the grandmother of the Indo-European language family. Closely allied with Prakrit and Pali, Sanskrit is more exhaustive in both grammar and terms and has the most extensive collection of literature in the world, greatly surpassing its sister-languages Greek and Latin.

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