Mahavidyas: Enveloping, embracing, devouring

Mahavidyas images with a Bengali inscription: Kali, Tara, Shodashi, Bhuvaneshvari, Bhairavi, Chhinnamasta, Dhumavati, Bagalamukhi, Matangi, and Kamala. US public Domain via wikimedia
Mahavidyas images with a Bengali inscription. US public Domain via wikimedia

In Aion, Carl Jung references the symbolism of “the Orient” saying, “the enveloping, embracing, and devouring element points unmistakably to the mother” [1]. It is likley he is speaking of the Tantric Mahavidyas, the goddesses of great (maha) wisdom (vidya).

In the image above, we see mahavidyas: Kali, Tara, Shodashi, Bhuvaneshvari, Bhairavi, Chhinnamasta, Dhumavati, Bagalamukhi, Matangi, and Kamala. In several of the images, we see the goddess enveloping (standing on) Shiva. The Goddess is seen standing in the pratyalidha stance, with the right knee advanced and the left knee drawn back [2]. Shiva reclines in meditative bliss, he is not fearful of her power. In fact quite the contrary, he knows her ferocity is the only thing capable of slaying the great demons. Here is a wonderful story from the Mahvidyas, in which Parvati turns into Bagalamukhi and devours Shiva.

“Once upon a time, Siva was living on Mount Kailasa with Parvati. She became so hungry that her body was racked with pain. She complained to Siva, asking him for something to eat: “O Siva,” she said “give me some food. I am famished.” Siva told her to be patient and wait a bit, after which he would give her anything she wanted. But having said this, Siva ignored her and went back to doing yoga. She appealed to him again, saying that she was desperate for food. He again asked her to wait awhile. She protested that she could not wait, that she was starving to death. When he still was uncooperative, she put Siva himself into her mouth to devour him. After a little while smoke began to issue from Parvatf’s body. This smoke was her may a (magic power of illusion). Then Siva emerged from Parvati and said: “Listen, O Goddess, a woman without a husband, as you just were, is called a widow and must strip herself of the adornments and marks of a married woman. That woman, you, who left her husband by swallowing him, will be known as Bagalamukhi. And the smoke that came from her will be known as the goddess Dhumavati” (cited in Kinsley).


  1. Aion (CW 9ii) by Carl Jung, para 20
  2. Tantric Visions of the Divine Feminine: The Ten Mahāvidyās by David R. Kinsley