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Kshira Bhavani


namaH shrIpurabhairavyai

A member of our Mandali recounted a fascinating experience at the shrine of Khir Bhavani (kShIra bhavAnI), as she remained in meditation reciting the great pAdukA mantra of the AdinAtha. She fought with words to describe the feeling of ecstasy that enveloped her when the form of parAshakti that she was trying to focus on, transformed into the fiery blue cloud housing the madavihvala susharIra of the great gaNanAyaka and his vimarsha shakti; and the subtle but profound essence of kAmakalA became evident to her, as though she had just remembered a simple truth she had known all along. That indeed is the lakShaNa of real anugraha, where there is bliss and the knowledge that leads to this bliss is never a new revelation. The Supreme Goddess had demonstrated her anugraha shakti yet again, reinforcing the truth stated in the enchanting verses of panchastavI.

The bhairava stream of Tantras deal primarily with svacchanda bhairava, who we like to call Adi nAtha or our kAraNa guru, and his shakti or bhairavI is referred to as aghoreshvarI (who we also call samvartasundarI of the Solar Orbit represented by SvacchandAnandanAtha), who is worshiped as one of the AmnAya nAyikas of the shrIkrama. It is in trika shAstra and tatsambandhi practices however that the glory of the supreme shakti becomes explicit. In Krama tantra, this Supreme Shakti along with her Bhairava becomes implied within the great kAmakalA kAlI, as described succinctly in baDabAnala: antaHsthita bhairavi. The most important piece of literature related to bhavAnI, after probably the rudrayAmaLa, is mahAraj~nI Pradurbhava. This work, traditionally revered by the Kashmiri Pandits, describes the mAhatmya, dhyAna, AvaraNa Krama and mantra rahasya of mahArAjnI. This work seems to have originated among the Pundits in late nineteenth century.

Some scholars point out that kShIra bhavanI does not find mention either in nIlamata purANa or in the amusing rAjatarangiNi of Kalhana. According to sthala purANa, an upAsaka named Govind Joo had a vision of bhagavatI in the form of a serpent and a spring and he offered her kShIra. This led to the association of the word kShIra with bhavAnI. This location, where the goddess appeared as a serpent and a spring, is today known as the sacred shrine of kShIra bhavAnI. It should be noted that the word Naga is used to represent both a spring and a snake in Kashmir. That aspects of Kashmiri Shaivism influenced the approach to the visualization and upAsanA of this deity is hardly surprising. kAshmIra desha has been, from time immemorial the cauldron where spices from various walks of life have been mixed to cook a fragrant broth. It is clear beyond doubt that Vasugupta chose to attribute the origin of his system to a new revelation rather than base it on an interpretation of the already existing shaiva and shAkta tantra for many reasons, some of which we have discussed before. Kalhana states rather point blank the influence of Bauddha, vaiShNava and shAkta tantras on the system that we know today as Kashmiri Shaivism with its sub streams, as also of local folklore, cults of nAga, gandharva, pishAcha etc. This seems to be reason why some of scholars including appayya dIkShita refer to it as samhitA rather than as shAstra. Another important fact to consider here is the lack of patronage from the rulers of Kashmir to Tantra, which is a rather notable factor in how things have shaped up. As regarding the various influences, an author makes an interesting note: "Because of the syncretization with Vaishnavism, the traditionally flesh eating and wine drinking Goddesses and Gods of the Valley gradually became vegetarian and reformed and free from their earlier Tribal identity evident in older works like tantrAloka. They also incorporated deities that were for long outsiders, into their parivAra". While this phenomena has continued over a long period, the tale of vaiShNo devI seems to perfectly fit this category. Whatever be the origin, kShIra bhavAnI or rAj~nI is one of the tutelary deities of kAshmIra, along with bAlA, jvAlAmukhI, shAradA and bhadrakAlI. A text named devIrahasya, which gets passed off as an appendix to rudrayAmala, which mahAmahopAdhyAya gopInAtha kavirAja emphatically rejects), deals at length with the upAsanA of rajnI.

The iconography of aghoreshvarI bears close resemblance to the older depiction of prajnAparAmitA tAra of vajrAyana; the description of bhairavI as vajraparya~nkAsanA, a term not rooted in shAkta tantra, gives a deeper indication [a certain friend initiated into the Sakyapa school of Vajrayana that originated from Virupa, shared some interesting information, which we shall discuss later]. While the description of kShIra bhavAnI is associated with rajnI, her dhyAna is not very different from aghoreshvarI. While aghoreshvarI gets identified with lalitA or tripurasundarI, which probably was just something that happened over time, unlike the typical description of lalitA in any of the shrIkula tantras, aghoreshvarI is adorned with muNDamAlA and while being seated on panchabrahmAsana, she is also described as panchamundAsanasthA frequently. A popular mAlA mantra used mostly by auttareyas as tripurasundarI mAlA mantra, probably has its origin in this region for it uses the words: aghoreshI, rajnI, muNDamAlAdhArinI, panchabrahmAsanasthe, panchamUNDAsanasthite etc.

kShIra bhavAnI, like most other goddesses in the Kashmir Valley, is frequently referred to as tripurasundarI in rAjnI prAdurbhava and her three forms are: sarasvatI, lakShmI and bAlA, who represent her sAttvika, rAjasika and tAmasika aspects respectively. Her parivAra devatAs are six in number: durgA, tripurA, kAlI, shivA, vaiShNavI and sharikA. Three popular mantras are associated with the worship of rajnI: the 12 and 15 lettered ones related to her aspect as mahArAjnI and twenty-two lettered one related to mahA shyAmA. Also, it is interesting to note that her rajasika aspect is frequently referred to as sItA. A well-known legend is regarding the changing of colors of the spring that represents bhagavatI and this is said to represent the moods of the Goddess herself, as shyAmA, sItA or shAradA.

While the restless mind can ponder over various such facts trying to find the origin of the One without an Origin, the trained mind of an upAsaka that has received the kaTAkSha of shrInAtha knows better and immerses itself in the kShIra of anugraha overflowing from mahArAjnI. It is best to seek answers about her, from her and through her!

tvAM vyApinIti samanA iti kuNDalIti
tvAM kAminIti kamaleti kalAvatIti |
tvAM mAlinIiti lalitetyaparAjiteti
devi stuvanti vijayeti jayetyumeti ||