Hearing this true statement, the merciful goddess smiled and severed her own head. As soon as she severed her head, it fell on
the palm of her left hand. Three bloodstreams emerged from her throat; the left and right fell respectively into the mouths of
her flanking attendants and the center one fell into her mouth.
After performing this, all were satisfied and later returned home. (From this act) Parvati became known as Chinnamasta.
In visual imagery, Chinnamasta is shown standing on the copulating couple of Kamadeva and Rati, with Rati on the top.
They are shown lying on a lotus.
There are two different interpretations of this aspect of
Chinnamasta's iconography. One understands it as a symbol of
control of sexual desire, the other as a symbol of the goddess's
embodiment of sexual energy.
The most common interpretation is one where she is believed to be
defeating what Kamadeva and Rati represent, namely sexual desire
and energy. In this school of thought she signifies self-control,
believed to be the hallmark of a successful yogi.
The other, quite different interpretation states that the
presence of the copulating couple is a symbol of the goddess
being charged by their sexual energy. Just as a lotus seat is
believed to confer upon the deity seated atop it's qualities of
auspiciousness and purity, Kamadeva and Rati impart to the
Goddess standing over them the power and energy generated by
their lovemaking. Gushing up through her body, this energy spouts
out of her headless torso to feed her devotees and also replenish
herself. Significantly here the mating couple is not opposed to
the goddess, but an integral part of the rhythmic flow of energy
making up the Chinnamasta icon.
The image of Chinnamasta is a composite one, conveying reality as
an amalgamation of sex, death, creation, destruction and
regeneration. It is stunning representation of the fact that
life, sex, and death are an intrinsic part of the grand unified
scheme that makes up the manifested universe. The stark contrasts
in this iconographic scenario-the gruesome decapitation, the
copulating couple, the drinking of fresh blood, all arranged in a
delicate, harmonious pattern - jolt the viewer into an awareness
of the truths that life feeds on death, is nourished by death,
and necessitates death and that the ultimate destiny of sex is to
perpetuate more life, which in turn will decay and die in order
to feed more life. As arranged in most renditions of the icon,
the lotus and the pairing couple appear to channel a powerful
life force into the goddess. The couple enjoying sex convey an
insistent, vital urge to the goddess; they seem to pump her with
energy. And at the top, like an overflowing fountain, her blood
spurts from her severed neck, the life force leaving her, but
streaming into the mouths of her devotees (and into her own mouth
as well) to nourish and sustain them. The cycle is starkly
portrayed: life (the couple making love), death (the decapitated
goddess), and nourishment (the flanking yoginis drinking her
Of Related Interest:
Mahavidyas and the Assertion of Femininity in Indian Thought
Mother Goddess as Kali - The Feminine Force in Indian Art
Every Woman a Goddess: The Ideals of Indian Art
Durga : Narrative Art of an 'Independent' Warrior Goddess
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