You are on page 1of 9

Dhumavati (Sanskrit: , Dhmvat, literally "the smoky one") is one of

the Mahavidyas, a group of ten antri! goddesses" Dhumavati represents the


fearsome aspe!t of Devi, the #indu Divine Mother" She is often portrayed as
an old, ugly $ido$, and is asso!iated $ith things !onsidered inauspi!ious and
unattra!tive in #induism, su!h as the !ro$ and the %haturmas period" he
goddess is often depi!ted on a horseless !hariot or riding a !ro$, usually in a
!remation ground"
Dhumavati is said to manifest herself at the time of !osmi! dissolution
(pralaya) and is "the &oid" that e'ists (efore !reation and after dissolution"
)hile Dhumavati is generally asso!iated $ith only inauspi!ious *ualities, her
thousand+name hymn relates her positive aspe!ts as $ell as her negative
ones" She is often !alled tender+hearted and a (esto$er of (oons" Dhumavati
is des!ri(ed as a great tea!her, one $ho reveals ultimate kno$ledge of the
universe, $hi!h is (eyond the illusory divisions, like auspi!ious and
inauspi!ious" #er ugly form tea!hes the devotee to look (eyond the
super,!ial, to look in$ards and seek the inner truths of life"
Dhumavati is des!ri(ed as a giver of siddhis (supernatural po$ers), a res!uer
from all trou(les, and a granter of all desires and re$ards, in!luding ultimate
kno$ledge and moksha (salvation)" #er $orship is also pres!ri(ed for those
$ho $ish to defeat their foes" Dhumavati-s $orship is !onsidered ideal for
unpaired mem(ers of so!iety, su!h as (a!helors, $ido$s, and $orld
renoun!ers as $ell as antrikas" .n her &aranasi temple, ho$ever, she
trans!ends her inauspi!iousness and a!*uires the status of a lo!al prote!tive
deity" here, even married !ouples $orship her" /lthough she has very fe$
dedi!ated temples, her $orship (y antri! ritual !ontinues in private in
se!luded pla!es like !remation grounds and forests"
%ontents
0 1rigins
2 3egends
4 .!onography and te'tual des!riptions
5 Sym(olism and asso!iations
6 )orship
7 See also
8 9otes
: ;eferen!es
< ='ternal links
1rigins
/ traditional image of Dhumavati as an old hag $ith a $inno$ing (asket on a
horseless !hariot
Dhumavati hardly has an independent e'isten!e outside the Mahavidya
group" here is no histori!al mention of her (efore she is in!luded among the
Mahavidyas">0? /s a goddess of poverty, frustration, and despair, Dani@lou
asso!iates Dhumavati $ith 9irriti, the goddess of disease and misery, and
/lakshmi, the goddess of misfortune and poverty">2? Ainsley adds another
goddess to the list: Byestha">4?
he &edi! goddess 9irriti is asso!iated $ith death, de!ay, (ad lu!k, anger,
and need" #ymns emphasiCe oDerings to keep her a$ay" 3ike 9irriti,
Dhumavati is asso!iated $ith unpromising things and hardship" Byestha, also
an early #indu goddess, has similarities in i!onography $ith Dhumavati" 3ike
Dhumavati, she is dark, ugly and is asso!iated $ith the !ro$" Byestha is
des!ri(ed as (eing una(le to tolerate any auspi!iousness" /lso like
Dhumavati, Byestha d$ells in *uarrels, inauspi!ious pla!es, and has a (ad
temper">4? 3akshmana Desika, the !ommentator on the Saradatilaka+antra,
identi,es Dhumavati $ith Byestha">5? Eoth /lakshmi, the sister and antithesis
of 3akshmi (Shri), the goddess of $ealth, lu!k and (eauty, and Dhumavati are
des!ri(ed as old, !arrying a (room and having a !ro$ (anner" Eoth sym(oliCe
hunger, thirst, need, and poverty">4?
)hile there are similarities (et$een Dhumavati and the three goddesses, the
latter la!k signi,!ant !hara!teristi!s of Dhumavati, like her $ido$hood and a
te'tual emphasis on her ugliness" he names of the three goddesses also do
not ,gure in Dhumavati-s nama stotras (hymns invoking her many names),
$here su!h identi,!ations !ould have (een e'pli!itly mentioned" he three
also la!k the more ,er!e $arrior aspe!ts of Dhumavati as $ell as her positive
aspe!ts in the !onte't of the Mahavidyas" .n s!holar David Ainsley-s opinion,
though the three may (e Dhumavati-s ante!edents, they are not "the same"
as Dhumavati">4? /!!ording to Ainsley, the !on!ept of ten Mahavidyas may
not (e earlier than the 02th !entury">6?
3egends
/ silver panel of the door of the Aali temple, /m(er Fort depi!ts Dhumavati
on a horseless !hariot $ith a $inno$ing (asket"
Dhumavati is often named as the seventh Mahavidya" he Guhyatiguhya+
antra e*uates &ishnu-s ten avatars $ith the ten Mahavidyas" he ,sh
in!arnation Matsya is des!ri(ed as arising from Dhumavati" / similar list in
the Mundamala e*uates Dhumavati $ith &amana">7?
.n a story from the Shakta Maha+Ehagavata Hurana, $hi!h narrates the
!reation of all the Mahavidyas, Sati, the daughter of Daksha and ,rst $ife of
god Shiva, feels insulted that she and Shiva are not invited to Daksha-s yagna
(",re sa!ri,!e") and insists on going there, despite Shiva-s protests" /fter
futile attempts to !onvin!e Shiva, the enraged Sati transforms into the
Mahavidyas, $ho surround Shiva from the ten !ardinal dire!tions" Dhumavati
stands in the southeast">8?>:?><? /nother similar legend repla!es Sati $ith
Aali (the !hief Mahavidya) as the $ife of Shiva and origin of the other
Mahavidyas">0I? he Devi Ehagavata Hurana mentions the Mahavidyas as
$ar+!ompanions and forms of goddess Shakam(hari">00?
/ legend from the Shaktisamgama+antra des!ri(es that Sati !ommits sui!ide
(y Jumping in Daksha-s yagna and Dhumavati rises $ith a (la!kened fa!e
from the sad smoke of Sati-s (urning (ody" She is "all that is left of Sati" and
is her outraged and insulted avatar">02? he Hranatosini+antra e'plains the
$ido$hood of Dhumavati" 1n!e, Sati asked Shiva to give her food" )hen
Shiva de!lines, the goddess eats him to satisfy her e'treme hunger" )hen
Shiva re*uests her to disgorge him, she o(liges" Shiva then reJe!ts her and
!urses her to assume the form of a $ido$">02? /nother oral legend tells that
Dhumavati $as !reated (y the $arrior goddess Durga in the (attle against
demons Shum(ha and 9ishum(ha" Dhumavati-s literal name ("she $ho
a(ides in smoke") !omes from her a(ility to defeat demons (y !reating
stinging smoke">04?
he Hranatosini+antra version stresses Dhumavati-s destru!tive aspe!t and
hunger, $hi!h is satis,ed only $hen she !onsumes Shiva, $ho himself
!ontains or !reates the universe" .t (rings out her inauspi!ious status as a
$ido$ and her self+assertion on her hus(and">02?
.!onography and te'tual des!riptions
he Dhumavati antra des!ri(es her as an old and ugly $ido$" She is thin,
tall, unhealthy, and has a pale !omple'ion" She is des!ri(ed as restless and
$i!ked" Knadorned $ith Je$ellery, she $ears old, dirty !lothes and has
dishevelled hair" #er eyes are fearsome, her nose long and !rooked, and
some of her long fang+like teeth have fallen out, leaving her smile $ith gaps"
#er ears are ugly and roughL her (reasts hang do$n" .n one of her trem(ling
hands, she holds a $inno$ing (asket, $hile the other makes a (oon+
!onferring gesture (varada+mudra) or kno$ledge+giving gesture (!inmudra)"
She rides in a horseless !hariot (earing an em(lem of a !ro$ and a (anner"
She is astute and !rafty, though" /l$ays hungry and thirsty, Dhumavati
initiates *uarrels and invokes fear">0?>2?>05?>06?>07?
.n the Hrapan!asarasara+samgraha, Dhumavati is des!ri(ed as having a (la!k
!omple'ion and $earing ornaments made of snakes" #er dress is made of
rags taken from !remation grounds" She holds a spear and a skull+!up
(kapala) in her t$o hands">0? he spear is sometimes repla!ed (y a s$ord"
>06? /nother des!ription in the same te't says Dhumavati is aged $ith a
$rinkled, angry fa!e and !loud+like !omple'ion" #er nose, eyes, and throat
resem(le a !ro$-s" She holds a (room, a $inno$ing fan, a tor!h, and a !lu("
She is !ruel and fro$ning" #er hair appears dishevelled and she $ears the
simple !lothes of a (eggar" #er (reasts are dry">0? #er hair is grey, her teeth
!rooked and missing, and her !lothes old and $orn">08?
/ grey+s!ale image depi!ting $oman $earing a sari and gold ornaments
sitting on a !hariot pulled (y t$o large (la!k (irds and holding a $inno$ing
(asket"
/n late 0:th+!entury painting (y Molaram depi!ting dark+!omple'ioned
Dhumavati holding a $inno$ing (asket, riding a !hariot, (ut pulled (y t$o
(la!k s!avenger (irds and she (eing adorned $ith Je$ellery, in !ontrast to
her traditional des!ription
Sometimes, Dhumavati rides a !ro$ and holds a trident">05? She may (e
depi!ted $earing a garland of severed heads, $ith red+!oloured lim(s and
matted (ut dishevelled hair">06? Sometimes, she !arries the (uDalo+horn of
Mama, the god of death, sym(oliCing her asso!iation $ith death">08?
Dhumavati has ,er!e, $arlike attri(utes too" .n the Shakta pramoda, she
!rushes (ones in her mouth, !reating an a$ful noise" She also makes the
fearful and $arlike noises of drums and (ells" She $ears a garland of skulls,
!he$s the !orpses of the demons %handa and Munda, and drinks a mi'ture of
(lood and $ine">08?
hough there are standard des!riptions of Dhumavati-s form, some relatively
re!ent paintings deviate from it" For e'ample, an 0:th+!entury painting (y
Molaram depi!ts Dhumavati sitting on a !hariot pulled (y t$o (la!k
s!avenger (irds $ith !urved (eaks" he painting follo$s the usual attri(utes
like the $inno$ing (asket, (oon+giving gesture, (ut also depi!ts her young
and (eautiful $ith full (reasts and adorned in gold ,nery, a stark !ontrast to
her usual form" /n early 2Ith+!entury painting from &aranasi depi!ts her
riding a !ro$, holding a trident, a s$ord, a $inno$ing fan, and a (o$l in her
four arms, dark+!omple'ioned, $ith sagging (reasts, $earing $hite !lothes
and $ith !remation Names in the (a!kground" She is again adorned in gold
,nery and $ears a gold+he$n lo$er garment, unusual for a $ido$-s dress"
/nother 0:th !entury 9epali manus!ript depi!ts a !omplete deviation from
her traditional des!riptions" She is !ompletely nude $ith high (reasts, $ears
a pearl ne!kla!e and head(and, stands on a pea!o!k $ith legs apart, and
holds a mirror $hile looking at her reNe!tion" / ring of ,re surrounds her,
possi(ly !onveying !remation Names">0:?
Sym(olism and asso!iations
&edi! s!holar Ganapati Muni des!ri(ed the goddess:
O Her!eived as the void, as the dissolved form of !ons!iousness, $hen all
(eings are dissolved in sleep in the supreme Erahman, having s$allo$ed the
entire universe, the seer+poets !all her the most glorious and the eldest,
Dhumavati" She e'ists in the forms of sleep, la!k of memory, illusion, and
dullness in the !reatures immersed in the illusion of the $orld, (ut among the
yogis she (e!omes the po$er that destroys all thoughts, indeed Samadhi
(death and li(eration) itself" P
QGanapati Muni, Kma Sahasram 4:, pp" 04Q05, >0<?
Dhumavati is al$ays !onsidered a $ido$, and thus, is the only Mahavidya
$ithout a !onsort" hough asso!iated $ith Shiva, having eaten him, he has
sin!e left her">4?>2I? #aving destroyed the male element (Hurusha) in the
universe, she is left $ith nothing, (ut she is still Shakti, the female element
$ith latent energy">2?>0<? Dhumavati-s insatia(le hunger and thirst is
highlighted in many te'ts, and has (een interpreted as the manifestation of
her unsatis,ed desires">07?
/s a $ido$ in a horseless !hariot, Dhumavati is portrayed as a $oman going
no$here in life and so!iety" She is "all that is unlu!ky, unattra!tive and
inauspi!ious"">07? She appears in the form of the poor, the (eggars, the
lepers, and the diseased" She d$ells in the "$ounds of the $orld", deserts,
ruined houses, poverty, tatters, hunger, thirst, *uarrels, mourning of !hildren,
in $ild and other un!iviliCed, dangerous pla!es">2?>08?>20? )ido$s in general
are !onsidered inauspi!ious, dangerous, and sus!epti(le to possession (y evil
spirits" /s a divine $ido$, Dhumavati is to (e feared">20? Dhumavati is
des!ri(ed as a hag or $it!h, !rafty and *uarrelsomeL she represents all the
dreaded miseries of life">0<?>22?
/ nude $oman $ith long hair and $earing a pearl ne!kla!e and head(and,
stands on a pea!o!k ($hi!h in turn sits on a lotus) $ith her legs apart" She
holds a mirror in her left hand and looks at her reNe!tion in it" /n aureole and
halo surround her"
0:th+!entury 9epali manus!ript depi!ting Dhumavati in more eroti! fashion
/lternative paintings sho$ her as young and adorned, as a se'ually tempting,
eroti!ised, young, attra!tive yet inauspi!ious $ido$" #er thousand+name
hymn says that she gives enJoyment, is !ompletely (eautiful and adorned
$ith garlands, !lothes, and Je$ellery" She is also asso!iated $ith se' in the
hymn, $hi!h !alls her "She )hose Form .s ;ati"" ;ati literally means "se'ual
inter!ourse" and also the name of the #indu love goddess" She is said to
enJoy se'ual inter!ourse, to (e present $here se'ual a!tivity is, and to (e
o!!upied $ith se'" She is said to like li*uor (a for(idden drink), to (e
into'i!ated, and to (e $orshiped (y into'i!ated people" She also indulges in
the antri! ritual of (reaking the ,ve ta(oosQthe Han!hamakara, $hi!h
in!lude !onsuming $ine, meat, ,sh, par!hed grain and ritual se'">24?
Dhumavati is a manifestation of the anti+so!ial and inauspi!ious elements in
$omen and is an antithesis to the goddess 3akshmi">5? 3ike /lakshmi,
Dhumavati rules over the four months of the rainy season, $hen even solar
light is o(s!ured (y the evil $ater spirit" his !oin!ides $ith %haturmas, a
period during the year $hen the god &ishnu sleeps" /t that time, darkness
rules and the soul loses its usual luster" his period is !onsidered
inauspi!ious, and as su!h as no auspi!ious !eremonies like marriage !an take
pla!e">2?>4?
he presen!e of the !ro$, a !arrier of death, in her i!onography as $ell as her
te'tual des!ription of having !ro$+like features asso!iate her $ith death and
inauspi!iousness" /nother motif in her i!onography linking her $ith death is
the presen!e of a !remation ground and !remation pyres in the (a!kground"
#er thousand name hymn says that she lives in the !remation ground, sits on
a !orpse, $ears ashes, and (lesses those $ho haunt the grounds" he
Hrapan!asarasara+samgraha relates that she $ears a dress taken from a
!orpse">07? Dhumavati is the em(odiment of tamas guna, asso!iated $ith
ignoran!e and darkness" She likes meat and $ine, (oth tamasi! in nature">07?
>25?
Eeyond name and form, (eyond human !ategories, alone and indivisi(le, as
the great dissolution, she (Dhumavati) reveals the nature of ultimate
kno$ledge, $hi!h is formless and kno$s no divisions into good or (ad, pure
and impure, auspi!ious and inauspi!ious"
+ David Ainsley">26?
Dhumavati is often said to appear at the time of Maha+pralaya, the great
dissolution of the !osmos and is e*uated $ith the dark !louds that rise during
Hralaya" #er thousand name hymn also !alls her (y names meaning "She
)hose Form is Hralaya", ")ho .s 1!!upied $ith Hralaya", ")ho %reates and
%auses Hralaya" and ")ho )alks /(out in Hralaya"" /n author says that she
stays even after Shiva ($ho is Maha+kala) ("Great ime" or "Great Death")
disappears, thus she is "the Ho$er of ime", and !onsidered to (e (eyond
time and spa!e">27? Dhumavati represents ultimate destru!tion, the smoke
that rises after the universe is destroyed">0<?>27?
he goddess- name "Dhumavati" means the "smoky one"">2?>28? She is said
not to like oDerings (urnt in a ,re that is not smoky" She likes smoke from
in!ense, oDerings, and !remation pyres, as these sym(oliCe destru!tion"
Dhumavati also e'ists in the form of smoke and roams every$here at her $ill"
>2:?
)hile Dhumavati generally is asso!iated $ith only inauspi!ious *ualities, her
thousand+name hymn tells a(out her positive aspe!ts, too">2<? She is often
!alled as (esto$er of (oons and tender+hearted" #er hymn says that she lives
in the midst of $omen and is $orshipped (y them" #er hymn sings of her as
the giver of !hildren">4I?
/s an an!estor or Grandmother spirit, she em(odies a great tea!her and
guide, granting kno$ledge of the ultimate truth of life and death" #er smoke
hides that $hi!h is o(vious, revealing hidden se!rets and truths of "the
unkno$n and the unmanifest"">0<? Fra$ley says her outer appearan!e as
poverty is de!eptive and a mere illusion that hides the inner reality" She is
"the good fortune that !omes to us in the form of misfortune"">22? Dhumavati
em(odies the "po$er of suDering"" hrough the negative aspe!ts that
Dhumavati represents rise the virtues of patien!e, persisten!e, forgiveness,
and deta!hment" )ithout the revealing of this negativity of life, it !annot (e
trans!ended and the se!ret truths $ould remain hidden under the smoky veil
of illusion">40?
Dhumavati-s outer inauspi!ious, fearful form reveals the dangers of
!onsidering sensory pleasures as ful,lment+giving" he $inno$ing (asket,
used to separate the husk from the grain, sym(oliCes the need to separate
the outer illusory form from the inner reality" #er ugly form tea!hes the
devotee to go (eyond the outer de!eptive appearan!es and seek the inner
truths of life">06?
Dhumavati is the primordial darkness and ignoran!e, from $hi!h rises the
$orld of illusion" She represents the darknessRignoran!e (efore !reation and
after de!ay" his ignoran!e, $hi!h o(s!ures the ultimate reality, is ne!essary
(e!ause $ithout the realiCation of this ignoran!e, true kno$ledge !an not (e
a!hieved">22? Dhumavati also represents yogi! sleep (Moganidra), the pre+
!reation state of !ons!iousness, as $ell as the primal sleep (the &oid) in
$hi!h all !reation $ould dissolve and rea!h ultimate reality of Erahman" his
void is pure !ons!iousness, the !essation of movements of the mind, and
silen!e">22?>40? =ven Dhumavati-s a(ility to spread disease is also !onsidered
positive, as disease punishes the $i!ked and restores !osmi! order">42?
Dhumavati is also asso!iated $ith the heart or middle region of the (ody">40?
Dhumavati is sometimes regarded as an older form of Aali, in $hi!h she
represents timelessness and unmanifest life+for!e">40? /nother tradition
identi,es Dhumavati $ith Smashana+kali, "Aali $ho lives in the !remation
ground"">44? She is !onsidered a terri(le aspe!t of the Goddess and in!luded
among the Aalikula ("family of Aali") goddesses">45? Dhumavati-s nama
stotras (hymn $ith names of the deities) identify her $ith Harvati, Sati, and
glorify her as a slayer of demons