Varahi Tantra (English Study)

by Roberta Pamio | 2014 | 29,726 words

This English essay studies the Varahi Tantra and introduces the reader to the literature and philosophy of the Shakta Tradition to which this text belongs. These Shakta Tantras are doctrines where the Mother Goddess is conceived as the Supreme deity who is immanent and transcendental at the same time. The Varahitantra (lit. the "Doctrine of th...

Chapter 22 - The the Six Āmnāyas

This chapter exposes the six āmnāyas.[1]

1) The Dakṣiṇāmnāya:

The first tradition to be described is the Dakṣiṇāmnāya (verses 1-36’), revealed by Aghora Bhairava.

The Mistress of this tradition is Niśeśī (the "Queen of the Night") who is very powerful and very strong; she is eternal and adorned with blue garments; she is known sometimes as Caitanyabhairavī, sometimes as Raktakālī, and sometimes as Sundarīkālikā or Aghoreśvarī. She has even been worshipped by Kratu and by Dharmarāja[2] and in the tradition she is known as Caitanyabhairavī (vv.1-5): the Goddess is described in verses 6-16 as having the Vedas as her seat and the owl as her vehicle; she is blazing in the middle of a funeral pile; she is emaciated, adorned by a garland of heads and dressed with garments made of bones and skin; she shines as thousands of suns and she has five faces, each one with three eyes; she has sixteen arms, holding an elephant’s skin (gaja kañcuka), a small bell (kiṅkiṇī), a pāśa, an aṅkusha, a kapāla, a khaṭvāṅga, a muṇḍa, a drum (ḍiṇḍima), a khaḍga, a kheṭa, arrows, a bow, a cakra, a daṇḍa, a kamaṇḍalu and showing abhayamudrā, varadamudrā and tarjanī mudrā.

It is then said that the main Goddesses of this tradition are Dakṣiṇakālikā, Pracaṇḍā, Ugracaṇḍā, Ugratārā, Kapālinī, Tvaritā, Chinnamastā, Bagalā, Nīlasarasvatī, Bhīmā, Trailokyaḍāmareśvarī, Trailokyavijayā, Caṇḍī, Raktacāmuṇḍā and Bhairavī; the attendants (aṅgadevatās) are said to be many, between which are remembered Jambhinī, Stambhinī, Tārā, Mohinī, Andhinī and Śivā (vv.17-19).

It is then explained that the one Mistress of the Dakṣiṇāmnāya expands into a variety of forms such as the eight Mātṛs, the eight Bhairavas, the eight Kṣetrapālas (Protectors of the Field), the Lord of the Field, Baṭuka, Gaṇeśa and the crowd of Yoginīs; She is the Samayā (the "Sacred Oath") and the Protectress (vv.20-21).

She has all the qualities of Bhairava and she is surrounded by many attendants; she is worshipped according to the vāmācāra and bestows siddhis to the practitioners (vv.22-26’).

Then in verses 26"-31 is given the dhyāna of Nīlavārāhī, who is described shining as a blue cloud, adorned with blue earrings, blue flowers and blue ornaments; she wears a garland of blue vaiḍūrya[3] and she is embellished by precious gems tied up with sapphires; she stands on a blue horse and she holds a blue sword; she, Mahāmāyā (the Supreme Illusion), deludes the fourteen worlds with the blue veil of sleep; she, who is delighting in the vīrapāna,[4] devours the slanderers of the dravya (ritual ingredients) and always protects the vīras (lit. heroes); she, Paramānandabhairavī, is the Supreme Mother and the Creator of Supreme Bliss.

The exposition on the Southern Tradition concludes with the mantroddhāra of Nīlavārāhī, in verses 32-36’.[5]

2) The Uttarāmnāya:

The second tradition to be discussed is the Uttarāmnāya (vv.36"-61).

This wrathful tradition (ugrāmnāya) belongs to the Kālīkula. The Potent Mistress (tīvranāyikā) of this āmnāya is Kālī, who has millions of forms; the goddess, who bestows ājñāsiddhi, is supported by the strength of Viṣṇu: thus Mahākālī is Nārāyaṇī, eagerly engaged in the protection of the world. One who always remembers her is free from great danger (36"-39).

In verse 39 it is explained that by the means of time she devours everything, including the Brahman; since she devours time itself, she is remembered as Kālikā.

Then Mahākālī, who has countless forms, is portrayed in verses 40-51. Here are given two descriptions of the Goddess: in one she is blue, with three faces and nine eyes; she is adorned by bone earrings and a garland of skulls and she is standing on Śiva; in the other she has nine faces, sitting on Śiva in padmāsana (in the lotus posture, with crossed legs) and holding a kapāla, a cakra, an aṅkuśa and a mudgara with her right hands, and carrying a triśūla, a pāśa, a khṭvāṅga and a dead child (mṛtavāla) with her left hands.

The text then concludes its exposition on the Northern Tradition (vv. 52-61). In verse 52" it is acknowledged that Kālī is the founder of the Kaula path; in verse 54 it is said that Durvāsa, Nārada, Vyāsa, Vasiṣṭha and Kauśika obtained siddhis through her worship.

In vv. 55’-56 it is written that Kalī, the bestower of enlightenment and siddhis, is the Mistress of Nirvāṇa and the revealer of the great knowledge; in verse 59’ the Goddess is said to be united to Vāmadeva (vāmadevāśritā), alluding to the fact that this āmnāya has been revealed by Vāmadevaśiva.

3) The Paścimāmnāya:

The third tradition discussed is the Paścimāmnāya (vv.62-90’).

It is said that Śrīnāthā revealed countless mantras, rahasyas and yamalas, and that the Goddess has been known as Kubjā (lit. the "Crooked One"), because at the beginning she "churned" her navel with her tongue in order to give birth to the Universe from her womb; thus Kubjikā has been worshipped by the whole world (vv. 62-64).

She is the Mistress of the Western Tradition, which has been revealed by Sadyojāta; she is the origin of the world and she embodies the great destruction (v. 65).

Honoured by endless teachers, she is eternal and in union with Śiva; she is the propagator of many paths, from the superior to the inferior (v. 66).

Kubjikā is visualised in union with Bhairava, who is described as sitting on a bull, with a single face, three eyes and eighteen arms: with his right hands he holds a ḍamaru, a hatchet (paraśu), an arrow, a khaḍga, an aṅkuśa, a thunderbolt (vajra), a śaṅkha, a flute (veṇuvādya) and shows varadā and abhayā mudrā; with the left hands he carries a khaṭvāṅga, a śula, a bow (dhanu), a shield (phalaka), a paśa, a ghaṇṭā, a kalaśa, a sugar-cane (veṇu) and shows abhayamudrā. On his left thigh is Kubjikā: she has one face, three eyes and two hands, and she is of reddish colour (vv.67-73).

Kubjikā, who has many forms, abides in the Kaula path; she was made descend to earth by Śrīnātha (v. 74).

Verses 75-76 say that the Kujāmnāyā has been promulgated by Kujeśanātha.

Verses 77-80 speak about the devatās of this āmnāya.

Sadyojāta accomplished the practice of Kubjikā, who is the Mistress of the Cakra. Aṅgira mastered her vidyā (or mantra), which he then taught to Dakśā; then her vidyā was given to Nahuṣa and then to Candra. Thus she has been celebrated as Kuladevī, the "Goddess of Kula" (vv. 81-85).

Her vidyā, which bestows many siddhis, has been worshipped by Durvāsa (v. 86).

In verse 87 it is said that the Goddess is delighted by worshipping her according to the vāma mārga (lit. "left path"), i.e. with the offering of the five mākaras, otherwise her worship bears no fruit.

Kubjikā, who is the Mother of Kula (Kulamātṛkā), bestows all siddhis, enjoyment and liberation (vv.88-89’).

She has been described in various texts, including the Manthānabhairavatantra (v. 89"-90’).

4) The Ūrdhvāmnāya:

The fourth tradition mentioned is the Ūrdhvāmnāya (vv.90"-178).

The Goddess of this āmnāya, which has been revealed by Īśāna, is the Mistress of all the cakras; she is eternal and worshipped in all the āmnāyas; she is the Mistress of Parabrahma; she is Māyā, remembered also as Nārāyaṇī. By her worship one attains enjoyment and, in the end, Nirvāṇa (vv. 90’-95’).

In her form as Viṣṇu, she destroys all the evil-doers; she, who is the Māyā which pervades the whole world, deludes even gods and demigods (95"-96’).

When she, who is formless, assumes a form, she is Mahātripurasundarī: she shines as a ruby and her fragrance is similar to water perfumed with saffron; she has beautiful eyebrows, lovely eyes, attractive breasts and a sweet smile; her head is adorned by a crescent moon and all her limbs are embellished with ornaments; she is charming, with three eyes and four arms, holding a pāśa, an aṅkuśa, a bow and five arrows; the Supreme Mistress (Parameśvarī) is sitting on Sadaśiva as her couch, on a maṇḍapa which has as its legs Brahmā, Viṣṇu, Rudrā and Īśāna. She, the Supreme Power (Paraśakti), is praised as Sundarī and Tripureśī (96"-100).

The Goddess, who embodies the Supreme Absolute (parabrahmāsvarūpiṇī), bestows the Great Liberation. She, with the wide eyes (viśālākṣī), manifests in many forms: thus she is Kāmeśvarī, the power of Rudra, who descended in Pūrṇāgiri, Vajreṣvarī, the eternal power of Viṣṇu, who resides in Kāmarūpa, Bhageśī, the power of Brahmā, who abides in Jālandrara and Śivā, of the essence of Parabrahma, who dwells in Uḍḍiyāna. She is the Mistress of every cakra, every pīṭha, every mantra, every god, and of the six āmnāyas (101-105).

Then in verses 106-114’ the Śrīyantra is described as consisting of nine cakras, and in verses 114"-131’ are praised its glories.

In verses 131"-134’ it is said that Tripurasundarī can be worshipped according vāmācāra and dakṣiṇācāra: by the left path one can quickly realize all one's desires, and by the right path, which is best for renunciants, one can obtain only kaivalya (eternal bliss).

Then in verses 134"-154 is described the glories of her sixteen-syllabled mantra and of the Parāprasādamantra.

It is then said that Mahātripurasundarī is the Supreme Mistress who embodies all beings and who resides everywhere (vv.155-156’).

In verses 156"-158 it is concluded that there is no difference between Śiva and Śakti, since the Supreme Goddess is neither male, female or neuter: she, who embodies all beings, is the form of the Self (ātmāliṅgasvārūpiṇī) and because she is the cause of the origin of all beings (sarvotpattihetubhūtā) she is called the yoni (womb).

5) The Pūrvāmnāya:

The fifth tradition mentioned is the Pūrvāmnāya (vv.159-178).

The Mistress of the Eastern Tradition is Pūrṇeśvarī, the power of Rudra, and her Śiva is Tatpuruṣa (vv. 159-160).

The Goddess is described in verses 161-166: she is bright as a sapphire and she carries a paśa (?), a dordaṇḍa, varamudrā, abhayamudrā, a kapāla, a ḍamaru, a rosary (akṣamālā), a śakti, a bow, an arrow and a khaḍga. She is standing in the pratyāliḍha pose on both a sun and a moon disk, atop a mahāpreta; the serpents Vāsukī and Śaṅkhapāla are her ear-ornaments and Ananta is her garland; she is embellished by bone ornaments; she has three wild eyes and a half-moon on her head.

It is then said that Pūrṇeśvarī appeared in Pūrṇagiri pīṭha, in the crematory ground of the Lakṣmī forest; worshipped by Indra, she manifested in many forms (167-168’).

In the second half of the verse 168 it is said that because the Goddess has been worshipped by primeval (pūrva) gods and sages, her tradition is known as Pūrvāmnāya.

In verses 169-175 many forms of the Goddess are named.

Then it says that the fruit of the worship of the Goddess of this tradition can be accomplished through the left path and not through the right path.

Verse 177 speaks about siddhis.

In verse 178 it is said that her vidyā has been propitiated by Marīci, who then gave it to Indra.

6) The Adhāmnāya:

The sixth tradition discussed is the Adha āmnāya (vv. 179-186).

The Mistress of the Lower Tradition is the fearless and unimpeded Vajrayoginī, the Mother of Buddha (Jinamātṛkā), whose worship gives quick results in the Kali Yuga (vv. 179-180).

She is described in verses 181-184 as follows: she has three faces and she is of red colour; she is in a dancing posture on a dead body; she has three eyes; she is adorned by ornaments of bone and by a garland of skulls; she has a serpent for sacred thread; she wears a tiger’s skin and a lion’s skin as upper garments; she has curly hair rising upwards; she has four hands, and holds a kartṛ, a kapāla, a khaṭvāṅga and a ḍamaru.

She gives quick results in the Kaliyuga, but she does not bestow release from further transmigration (apavarga). Her tradition follows the Buddhist Āgamas and has many subdivisions (v. 185).

Verse 186 mentions Kālacakra, Saṃvara, Hayagrīva, Yogāmbara and Mahākāla as being her Bhairavas.

Footnotes and references:


A very similar exposition of the six āmnāyas is present in the Parātantra: both texts are almost identical in the analysis of the āmnāyas, with the differences that the Vārāhī Tantra starts with the description of the Dakṣiṇāmnāya (instead of with the Pūrvāmnāya, as in the Parātantra) and identifies the Mistress of this āmnāya, Niśeśī, with Vārāhī herself.


Dharmaraja is another name for Yama, the god of death.


Vaidurya is either the cat's eye stone or lapis lazuli. Here is what is meant is a blue lapis lazuli.


Vīrapāna means literally “the drinking of the hero” and it refers to the consumption of purified liquor according to the Tāntrik tradition.


In the Parātantra, the dhyāna and the mantroddhāra of Nīlavārāhī are absent.

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