In Tantra, worship of Devi-Shakti is referred to as a Vidya. Of the hundreds of tantrik practices, the worship of the ten major Devis is called the Dasa Mahavidya. These major forms of the goddess are described in the Todala Tantra. They are Kali, Tara, Maha Tripura Sundari (or Shodasi-Sri Vidya), Bhuvaneshvari, Chinnamasta, Bhairavi, Dhumavati, Bagalamukhi, Matangi, and Kamala. These ten aspects of Shakti are the epitome of the entire creation. Chapter 10 also outlines their consorts, although Dhumavati, the widow form, is not allocated a consort.
There are several “levels” at which these Devis can be worshiped with the prescribed Mantra and Yantra. Like a simple worship of the yantra with the mantra recitation, as a remedial astrological measure, elaborate worship with all tantrak rituals for attaining various siddhis associated with these tantras and for spiritual salvation.
Successful sadhana of these Vidyas gives several boons to the practitioner. The Tantrik-Yogi who has control over his senses and positively inclined uses the boons to guide people and for the benefit of mankind. The ones whose head starts spinning with success use them for the gratification of the senses, gather a bunch of disciples around them and become fake gurus.
The last chapter of todala Tantra equates Vishnu’s ten incarnations with the ten Mahavidyas as follows:
“Shri Devi said: Lord of Gods, Guru of the universe, tell me of the ten avatars. Now I want to hear of this, tell me of their true nature. Paramesvara, reveal to me which avatar goes with which Devi.
“Shri Shiva said: Tara Devi is the blue form, Bagala is the tortoise incarnation, Dhumavati is the boar, Chinnamasta is Nrisimha, Bhuvaneshvari is Vamana, Matangi is the Rama form, Tripura is Jamadagni, Bhairavi is Balabhadra, Mahalakshmi is Buddha, and Durga is the Kalki form. BhagavatÌ Kali is the Krishna murti.” (Todalatantra, chapter 10)
The worship of these is also prescribed as an astrological remedy – for the 9 planets and the Lagna as follows:
Kali for Saturn, Tara for Jupiter, Maha Tripura Sundari (or Shodasi-Sri Vidya) for Mercury, Bhuvaneshvari for Moon, Chinnamasta for Rahu, Bhairavi for Lagna, Dhumavati for Ketu, Bagalamukhi for Mars, Matangi for Sun, and Kamala for Venus.
The tantrik worship of these most powerful Vidyas must be practiced only under the guidance of a siddha Guru.
The Dasa(Ten) Mahavidyas
Maha Vidya – Maa Kali
Kali is often portrayed as dancing on the dead body of her consort Shiva. She has black skin, 4 arms, wide open glaring eyes, a necklace consisting of severed heads and her tongue lolls wildly out of her big wide open mouth, laughing at the attachments of us mortal humans. Indeed a terrible spectacle to behold!
Kali symbolizes death, time and destruction. She is the first Goddess as we have to transcend our fear of time, death and the temporary to truly start on our spiritual path.
Mahavidya – Maa Tara
We invoke Tara in times of need. She is the gentle saviouress who we pray to in times of need and distress. She will guide us safely across the oceans of Maya (the great illusion meaning existence). She is light blue, white and golden and will grant us the miracles we ask for.
Mahavidya – Maa Tripura Sundari
Tripura Sundari is truth, beauty and harmony. She is the ecstatic beautiful face of God. She is the splendor of nature, the profound harmony and principle in all things (ie the golden number)
The magnificent sri yantra is often usen in her worship
Mahavidya – Maa Bhuvaneswari
Bhuvaneswari is the goddess of space. She is invoked to increase our consciousness of the vastness of the universe. She also stands for the pursuing of knowledge.
Mahavidya – Maa Tripura Bhairavi
Tripura Bhairavi is the goddess of tapas meaning spiritual practice. She gives the adept a huge power of focus and perseverance to reach any goal.
Mahavidya – Maa Chinnamasta
Chinnamasta is the thunder goddess. With a flash of lightning and thunder she decapitates the adept freeing his consciousness so it no longer is bound to the physical body. She is portrayed as standing upon the dead corpse of Shiva. In one of her 4 arms she carries her own decapitated head which is drinking one of three rays of spurting blood from her headless neck.
Meditation upon her gives immense courage
Mahavidya – Maa Dhumavati
Dhumavati is the power of the void. She is portrayed as an old crooked hag with rotten teeth. She symbolizes all which is sorrowful, despairing, forsaken and putrefied. She is death itself. She gives us the opportunity to find God in even the most despairing situation by going deeply inwards until we find the deepest truth in the depths of our being.
Mahavidya – Maa Bagalamukhi
Bagalamukhi is the power of the sphinx which transfixes us and hypnotizes us. Bagalamukhi is used to stop ones enemies as she hypnotizes them completely.
She is portrayed as a woman of immense beauty who puts anyone who contemplates her into a deep state of trance.
Mahavidya – Maa Matangi
Matangi is the Goddess of divine order. As above so below as an ancient quote says.
A great example of the order of the universe are the sciences of fractals or the holographic theory of the universe.
She is also used extensively by artists who use this universal order to channel works of great depth and beauty.
Mahavidya – Maa Kamala
Kamalatmika is the Goddess of abundance and spiritual perfection. When the adept has been through all the other Goddesses he/she has understood the universe and is ready to receive all its gifts.