Goddess of war and epidemics, famines, and other disasters.[1]
14th century Nepali sculpture of Chamunda.
Sanskrit transliterationCāmuṇḍā
AffiliationDurga, Adi parashakti, Parvati, Kali, Mahakali
AbodeCremation grounds or fig trees
Mantraॐ ऐं ह्रीं क्लीं चामुण्डायै विच्चे
oṁ aiṁ hrīṁ klīṁ cāmuṇḍāyai vicce
WeaponTrident and Sword
or Dhole[3]
Corpse (Preta)
ConsortShiva as Bheeshana Bhairava or Bhoota Bhairava

Chamunda (Sanskrit: चामुण्डा, IAST: Cāmuṇḍā), also known as Chamundeshwari, Chamundi or Charchika, is a fearsome form of Chandi, the Hindu mother goddess, aka Shakti and is one of the seven Matrikas.[4]

She is also one of the chief Yoginis, a group of sixty-four or eighty-one Tantric goddesses, who are attendants of the warrior goddess Parvati.[5] The name is a combination of Chanda and Munda, two monsters whom Chamunda killed. She is closely associated with Kali, another fierce aspect of Parvati. She is identified with goddesses Parvati, Kali or Durga.

The goddess is often portrayed as residing in cremation grounds or near holy fig trees. The goddess is worshipped by ritual animal sacrifices along with offerings of wine. The practice of animal sacrifices has become less common with Vaishnavite influences.[6][7]


Ramakrishna Gopal Bhandarkar says that Chamunda was originally a tribal goddess, worshipped by the tribals of the Vindhya mountains in central India. These tribes were known to offer goddesses animal as well as human sacrifices along with liquor. These methods of worship were retained in Tantric worship of Chamunda, after its assimilation into mainstream Hinduism. He proposes the fierce nature of this goddess is due to her association with Rudra (Shiva), identified with the fire god Agni at times.[8] Wangu also backs the theory of the tribal origins of the goddess.[9]


The black- or red-coloured Chamunda is described as wearing a garland of severed heads or skulls (Mundamala). She is described as having four, eight, ten or twelve arms, holding a Damaru (drum), trishula (trident), sword, snake, skull-mace (khatvanga), thunderbolt, a severed head and panapatra (drinking vessel) or skull-cup (kapala), filled with blood. She stands or sits upon the corpse of a man (shava or preta), a defeated demon or corpse. She is adorned with bones, skulls, and serpents. She also wears a Yajnopavita (sacred thread) of skulls. She wears a jata mukuta, that is, a headdress formed of piled, matted hair tied together with snakes or skull ornaments. Sometimes, a crescent moon is seen on her head.[10][11] Her eye sockets are described as burning the world with flames. She is accompanied by evil spirits.[11][12] She is also shown to be surrounded by skeletons, ghosts and beasts like jackals, who are shown eating the flesh of the corpse the goddess sits or stands on. The jackals and her fearsome companions are sometimes depicted as drinking blood from her skull-cup or the severed head she is holding, implying that Chamunda drinks the blood of the defeated enemies.[13] This quality of drinking blood is a characteristic of all Matrikas, and Chamunda in particular. At times, she is depicted seated on an owl, her vahana (mount or vehicle), or a buffalo[14] or Dhole.[15] Her banner figures an eagle.[11]

These characteristics, a contrast to the typical depictions of Hindu goddesses with full breasts and beautiful faces, symbolise the inevitability of old age, death, decay and destruction.[16] Chamunda is often seen as a form of Kali. She appears as a frightening old woman, projecting fear and horror.[17][18]


Chamunda, 11th-12th century, National Museum, Delhi. The ten-armed Chamunda is seated on a corpse, wearing a necklace of severed heads.
The Goddess Ambika (here identified with: Durga or Chandi) leading the Eight Matrikas in Battle Against the Demon Raktabīja, Folio from a Devi Mahatmya - (top row, from the left) Narasimhi, Vaishnavi, Kumari, Maheshvari, Brahmi. (bottom row, from left) Varahi, Aindri and Chamunda, drinking the blood of demons (on right) arising from Raktabīja's blood and Ambika.
The Great Goddess in Her Chamunda Form. Mughal miniature, possibly from a scroll of the Devi Mahatmya, c. 1565-1575. Government Museum and Art Gallery, Chandigarh
Chamunda scupture from Rajshahi.
Chamunda scupture from Rajshahi at Asian Civilisations Museum, schist, 11th century CE. The goddess is standing on a young boy and two kankala (skeletal) figures.

In Hindu scripture Devi Mahatmya, Chamunda emerged as Chandika Jayasundara from an eyebrow of goddess Kaushiki, a goddess created from "sheath" of Durga and was assigned the task of eliminating the demons Chanda and Munda, generals of demon kings Shumbha-Nishumbha. She fought a fierce battle with the demons, ultimately killing them.[19]

According to a later episode of the Devi Mahatmya, Durga created Matrikas from herself and with their help slaughtered the demon army of Shumbha-Nishumbha. In this version, Kali is described as a Matrika who sucked all the blood of the demon Raktabīja, from whose blood drop rose another demon. Kali is given the epithet Chamunda in the text.[20] Thus, the Devi Mahatmya identifies Chamunda with Kali.[21]

In the Varaha Purana, the story of Raktabija is retold, but here each of Matrikas appears from the body of another Matrika. Chamunda appears from the foot of the lion-headed goddess Narasimhi. Here, Chamunda is considered a representation of the vice of tale-telling (pasunya). The Varaha Purana text clearly mentions two separate goddesses Chamunda and Kali, unlike Devi Mahatmya.[11]

According to another legend, Chamunda appeared from the frown of the benign goddess Parvati to kill demons Chanda and Munda. Here, Chamunda is viewed as a form of Parvati.[22]

The Matsya Purana tells a different story of Chamunda's origins. She with other matrikas was created by Shiva to help him kill the demon Andhakasura, who has an ability - like Raktabīja - to generate from his dripping blood. Chamunda with the other matrikas drinks the blood of the demon ultimately helping Shiva kill him.[11] Ratnakara, in his text Haravijaya, also describes this feat of Chamunda, but solely credits Chamunda, not the other matrikas of sipping the blood of Andhaka. Having drunk the blood, Chamunda's complexion changed to blood-red.[23] The text further says that Chamunda does a dance of destruction, playing a musical instrument whose shaft is Mount Meru, the string is the cosmic snake Shesha and gourd is the crescent moon. She plays the instrument during the deluge that drowns the world.[12]

Association with Matrikas

Chamunda, LACMA, Bengal, 11th century AD India.

Chamunda is one of the saptamatrikas or Seven Mothers. The Matrikas are fearsome mother goddesses, abductors and eaters of children; that is, they were emblematic of childhood pestilence, fever, starvation, and disease. They were propitiated in order to avoid those ills, that carried off so many children before they reached adulthood.[17] Chamunda is included in the Saptamatrika (seven Matrikas or mothers) lists in the Hindu texts like the Mahabharata (Chapter 'Vana-parva'), the Devi Purana and the Vishnudharmottara Purana. She is often depicted in the Saptamatrika group in sculptures, examples of which are Ellora and Elephanta caves. Though she is always portrayed last (rightmost) in the group, she is sometimes referred to as the leader of the group.[24] While other Matrikas are considered as Shaktis (powers) of male divinities and resemble them in their appearance, Chamunda is the only Matrika who is a Shakti of the great Goddess Devi rather than a male god. She is also the only Matrika who enjoys independent worship of her own; all other Matrikas are always worshipped together.[25]

The Devi Purana describe a pentad of Matrikas who help Ganesha to kill demons.[26] Further, sage Mandavya is described as worshipping the Māṭrpaňcaka (the five mothers), Chamunda being one of them. The mothers are described as established by the creator god Brahma for saving king Harishchandra from calamities.[27] Apart from usual meaning of Chamunda as slayer of demons Chanda and Munda, the Devi Purana gives a different explanation: Chanda means terrible while Munda stands for Brahma's head or lord or husband.[28]

In the Vishnudharmottara Purana - where the Matrikas are compared to vices - Chamunda is considered as a manifestation of depravity.[29] Every matrika is considered guardian of a direction. Chamunda is assigned the direction of south-west.[22]

Chamunda, being a Matrika, is considered one of the chief Yoginis, who are considered to be daughters or manifestations of the Matrikas. In the context of a group of sixty-four yoginis, Chamunda is believed to have created seven other yoginis, together forming a group of eight. In the context of eighty-one yoginis, Chamunda heads a group of nine yoginis.[5]


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A South Indian inscription describes ritual sacrifices of sheep to Chamunda.[30] In Bhavabhuti's eighth century Sanskrit play, Malatimadhva describes a devotee of the goddess trying to sacrifice the heroine to Chamunda's temple, near a cremation ground, where the goddess temple is.[31] A stone inscription at Gangadhar, Rajasthan, deals with a construction to a shrine to Chamunda and the other Matrikas, "who are attended by Dakinis" (female demons) and rituals of daily Tantric worship (Tantrobhuta) like the ritual of Bali (offering of grain).[32]


8th-century Baitala Deula in Bhubaneswar, Odisha dedicated to Chamunda
Chamundeshwari Temple in Mysuru, Karnataka
Jodhpur temple

In Buddhism

In Vajrayana Buddhism, Chamunda is associated with Palden Lhamo. She is seen as a wrathful form of Kali and is a consort of Mahakala and protectress of the Dalai Lama and Panchen Lama of the Gelug school. [34]

In Jainism

Early Jains were dismissive of Chamunda, the goddess who demands blood sacrifice - which is against the primary principle of Ahimsa of Jainism. Some Jain legends portray Chamunda as a goddess defeated by Jain monks like Jinadatta and Jinaprabhasuri.[35]

Another Jain legend tells the story of conversion of Chamunda into a Jain goddess. According to this story, Chamunda sculpted the Mahavir image for the temple in Osian and was happy with the conversions of Hindu Oswal clan to Jainism. At the time of Navaratri, a festival that celebrates the Hindu Divine Mother, Chamunda expected animal sacrifices from the converted Jains. The vegetarian Jains, however, were unable to meet her demand. Jain monk Ratnaprabhasuri intervened, and as a result, Chamunda accepted vegetarian offerings, forgoing her demand for meat and liquor. Ratnaprabhasuri further named her Sacciya, one who had told the truth, as Chamunda had told him the truth that a rainy season stay in Osian was beneficial for him. She also became the protective goddess of the temple and remained the clan goddess of the Osvals. The Sachiya Mata Temple in Osian was built in her honour by Jains.[36] Some Jain scriptures warn of dire consequences of worship of Chamunda by the Hindu rites and rituals.[37] Many Kshatriyas and even the Jain community worship her as her Kuladevi or family/clan deity.

See also


  1. ^ Nalin, David R. (15 June 2004). "The Cover Art of the 15 June 2004 Issue". Clinical Infectious Diseases. 39 (11): 1741–1742. doi:10.1086/425924. PMID 15578390.
  2. ^ "Goddess Chamundi".
  3. ^ "Sapta Matrika | 7 Matara - Seven Forms of Goddess Shakti".
  4. ^ Wangu p.72
  5. ^ a b Wangu p.114
  6. ^ "About Goddess Chamunda Maa: Story, History & Significance - Rudra Centre". Retrieved 2023-05-02.
  7. ^ OmniMaster (2020-05-25). "Hinduism: Shaivism". Retrieved 2023-05-02.
  8. ^ Vaisnavism Saivism and Minor Religious Systems By Ramkrishna G. Bhandarkar, p.205, Published 1995, Asian Educational Services, ISBN 81-206-0122-X
  9. ^ Wangu p.174
  10. ^ See:
  11. ^ a b c d e Goswami, Meghali; Gupta, Ila; Jha, P. (March 2005). "Sapta Matrikas In Indian Art and their significance in Indian Sculpture and Ethos: A Critical Study" (PDF). Anistoriton Journal. Anistoriton. Archived (PDF) from the original on 2010-05-05. Retrieved 2008-01-08. "Anistoriton is an electronic Journal of History, Archaeology and ArtHistory. It publishes scholarly papers since 1997 and it is freely available on the Internet. All papers and images since vol. 1 (1997) are available on line as well as on the free Anistorion CD-ROM edition."
  12. ^ a b Kinsley p.147
  13. ^ "Durga: Avenging Goddess, Nurturing Mother ch.3, Chamunda". Norton Simon Museum. Archived from the original on 2006-10-03.
  14. ^ "Goddess Chamundi".
  15. ^ "Sapta Matrika | 7 Matara - Seven Forms of Goddess Shakti".
  16. ^ Wangu p.94
  17. ^ a b "Ancient India".
  18. ^ "Glossary of Asian Art".
  19. ^ Gopal, Madan (1990). K.S. Gautam (ed.). India through the ages. Publication Division, Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, Government of India. p. 81.
  20. ^ Kinsley p. 158, Devi Mahatmya verses 10.2-5
  21. ^ "Devi: The Great Goddess". Archived from the original on 2017-06-09. Retrieved 2017-05-29.
  22. ^ a b Moor p.118
  23. ^ Handelman pp.132–33
  24. ^ Handelman p.118
  25. ^ Kinsley p.241 Footnotes
  26. ^ Pal in Singh p.1840, Chapters 111-116
  27. ^ Pal in Singh p.1840, Chapter 116(82-86)
  28. ^ Pal p.1844
  29. ^ Kinsley p. 159
  30. ^ Kinsley p.146
  31. ^ Kinsley p.117
  32. ^ Joshi, M.C. in Harper and Brown, p.48
  33. ^ "History of Chamunda Tekri is centuries old". Free Press Journal. Retrieved 2022-01-05.
  34. ^ Srivastava, Sonal (10 July 2011). "The Goddess Sutra". Retrieved 13 December 2022. "Chamunda is a form of Kali; she is protector, just like Palden Lhamo in Tibetan Buddhism," says Tsundu Dolma, a student of Tibetan Medicine, I'd met at an interfaith tour earlier in Karnataka. Palden Lhamo is protector of Buddha's teachings in the Gelug school of Tibetan Buddhism. She is Mahakala's consort and venerated as guardian deity of Tibet, the Dalai Lama and the Panchen Lamas.
  35. ^ Encyclopaedia of Jainism By Narendra Singh, Published 2001, Anmol Publications PVT. LTD., ISBN 8126106913, p.705
  36. ^ Babb, Lawrence A. Alchemies of Violence: Myths of Identity and the Life of Trade in Western India, Published 2004, 254 pages, ISBN 0761932232 pp.168–9, 177-178.
  37. ^ Encyclopaedia of Jainism By Narendra Singh p.698

Further reading