Maheśvarī माहेश्वरी refers to the name of a pilgrim’s destination mentioned in the Mahābhārata महाभारत, an epic poem consisting of 81 936 metrical verses dating back to the last centuries before Christ.
Then, the name Maheśvarī appeared in the Purāṇa पुराण (20 000 metrical couplets dating back to the first millennium before Christ), as a mind-born divine mother (Mātṛka मातृक), created for the purpose of drinking the blood of the Andhaka अन्धक demons, according to the Matsya-purāṇa मत्स्य पुराण.
She then appeared in many legends, and then in Śaktism (Śākta शाक्त philosophy).
Maheśvarī is the goddess enshrined at Mahākāla महाकाल, a name of Lalita ललित.
She is a Śakti शक्ति, an energy, as well as a mother-like goddess who is related to Māheśvara, another name of Śiva शिव.
Maheśvarī refers to one of the seven mother-like goddesses (Mātṛka). The Mātṛka मातृक emerge as Śakti from out of the bodies of the gods, Maheśvarī from Śiva. The order of the Saptamātṛka सप्तमातृक usually begins with Brahmī ब्रह्मी symbolizing creation, then Vaiṣṇavī वैष्णवी, then Maheśvarī, who resides in the hearts of all beings, breathes in life and individuality.
Maheśvarī is also known as Raudri रौद्री, Rudrāṇī रुद्राणी and Maheshi.
Māheśvarī is also the name of one of the sixty-four Mātṛka to be worshipped during Āvaraṇapūjā आवरणपूजा ("Worship of the Circuit of Goddesses" or "Durgā’s Retinue" दुर्गा), according to the Durgāpūjātattva दुर्गापूजातत्त्व. They should be worshipped with either the five Upacāra उपचार, or perfume and flowers.
Upacāra are hospitality rules. They are sixteen in number and must be given to an important guest or a deity during a Pūjā पूजा.
They are then called Ṣoḍaśopacāra षोडशोपचार:
Āsana आसन (seat), Padya पद्य (water for washing the feet), Arghya अर्घ्य (water for drinking), Snānīya स्नानीय (bath), Anulepana अनुलेपन (ashes or other fragrant things for besmearing), Dhūpa धूप (smoke), Dīpa दीप (light), Naivedya नैवेद्य (food), Tāmbūla ताम्बूल (betel), Śītalajala शीतलजल (cool drinks), Vasana वसन (clothes), Bhūṣaṇa भूषण (ornaments), Mālya माल्य (garland), Gandha गन्ध (sweet-smelling things), Ācamanīyaka आचमनीयक (water to rinse mouth), Sutalpa सुतल्प (good bed).
Māheśvarī is often associated with the qualities of a protective mother serving for the well-being of all.
Her namo mantra is:
oṃ māheśvaryai namaḥ
Śākta शाक्त or śāktism represents a tradition of Hinduism where the Goddess (dēvī देवी) is revered. śākta literature includes a range of scriptures, including various Āgama आगम and Tantra तन्त्र, although its roots may be traced back to the Vedas वेद.
In Śilpaśāstra शिल्पशास्त्र, the ancient Indian science of creative arts (Śilpa) such as sculpture, iconography and painting, Māheśvarī refers to the third Mātṛka मातृक (mother) and is the Śakti शक्ति of Śiva शिव. She is white in complexion; has three eyes. She is depicted with four arms. Two of her hands are in the Varadamudrā वरदमुद्रा and Abhayamudrā अभयमुद्रा, while the other two hold the Triśūla त्रिशूल and Akṣamālā अक्षमाला. Sometimes, she is also shown holding panapātra पनपात्र (drinking vessel), or paraśu परशु (axe), or Aiṇa ऐण (antelope), or Kapāla कपाल (skull), or Nāga नाग (snake). Her banner as well as the Vāhana वाहन is Nandī नन्दी (bull). She wears snake-bracelets and Jaṭāmukuṭa जटामुकुट (a special helmet on her head).
The Vishnudharmottara Purana mentions that Goddess Maheśvarī should be depicted with five faces, each possessing three eyes and each adorned with Jaṭāmukuṭa crown and crescent moon. She is depicted with six arms. In four of her hands, she carries the Sūtra सूत्र (aphorisms), the Ḍamaru डमरु, the Triśūla and the Ghaṇṭa घण्ट (small bell). The other two hands gesture Abhaya and Varada mudra.
Māheśvarī Yogācārya was initiated under the name of Yogācārya by Swāmi Viṣṇu Devānandā विष्णु देवानन्दा in Canada, and her master Śrī Śrī Śrī Satcitānanda श्री सच्चिदानन्द, the Silent Yogi of Madras, definitely confirmed this initiation.
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©Centre Jaya de Yoga Vedanta Ile de la Réunion
Translated by Stéphanie BOSCO