The Sanskrit words Maha and Vidya translate to “Great Wisdom”.
Dr Kavitha Chinnaiyam’s book “Shakti Rising” was published in 2017 and you can find it on Amazon. Earlier that year she asked me to do the illustrations for it. They are included here under copyright.
It was a wonderful opportunity to reacquaint myself with the Mahavidyas – the Ten Wisdom Goddesses. I had been inspired by them previously in David Frawley (Vamadeva Shastri’s) “Tantric Yoga and the Wisdom Goddesses”.
In this new post I will collect together the illustrations in Kavitha’s book, as well as some background images for a fresh angle on the creative process!
Kavitha combines her distinguished career in cardiology with teaching Yoga and meditation. She introduces her Shakti Rising facebook community: “This group is about radical self-discovery through the divine feminine. In this safe place, we can share anything knowing that it will be held in mutual love and respect.”
The group practices meditation and develops the momentum of Kavitha’s work through questions, insights and sharing.
My medium for the drawings in Shakti Rising is the simplest one: pencil and Bic biro. Here is a chance to see the original scans, smudges and all – with pauses in the visual narrative, for fresh imagery. My art combines European and Indian roots with Renaissance and the ancient world. At the time I did the Mahavidya drawings there was intense “disappointment” and pain in the world’s political crust: yet their power rivered up through me with an alternative and forward-looking Vision.
In re-invoking them now, I feel this same uplift brings together the deep roots of the Goddess east and west; her mountains, caves and rivers. As we breathe and liberate the Mahavidya in all Her weathers and mysteries … she cradles us in Her freedom. Take courage!
This is a drawing of my grandmother in circa 1946, on a Moroccan beach. She and my grandfather were giving servicemen a day off from their Gibralter barracks. One of them recalled, “Helen looked like a marble statue come to life, her hair curling, her arms shining, she walked by the frilly waters, and when Jim saw her he told her she looked like a goddess and she said, ‘I know.’”
By way of background, here are two copies of Botticelli’s Pallas Athene with Centaur – a painting I associated from early childhood with my grandmother, who inspired me with these Renaissance models. The one on the right is done with my left hand. Click on either one to view:
Dr Kavitha Chinnaiyam bridges modern medicine to the elder archetypes and healing powers of Kundalini Shakti. She encourages us to rediscover our unfettered female beauty through the disciplines of Yoga, Mantra and Puja. These practices attune and refine our being to the Shakti frequency, helping us to face and transform the shadows of our subconscious conditioning. Her work is a mountain-spring through the ground for men and women to realise collective human health and parenting. Let us gather together …
You will find some of these ten Mahavidyas are wild, extravagant, untamed and elemental – especially Kali, Tara and the fiery Bhairavi. Awaken the creative process!
The joy of the rising feminine power in nature still meets the engine of patriarchal distortions in the world. This is inevitable. We human beings as men and women sustain deep, separative wounds of conditioning in our individual and collective psyche. Mother Nature in her seasonal manifestations within the evolutionary biosphere may appear at first to resist growth in order to strengthen and deepen the root.
And now: the Mahavidyas.
Ganesh is the Lord of Obstacles. His blessing is invoked at the beginning of each commercial enterprise or creative activity. Ganesh the elephant god, involuntary offspring of Siva and Parvati, and brother to the transcendent Skanda, “unlocks the throat of poets.” So he is often depicted playing the flute. To him are offered loving sweets and incense. His vehicle is the wily and intelligent Rat. On his brow is drawn the Siva Shakti Yantra: two yoni triangles descend through one male lingam (upward).
In fact I did not draw this Ganesh until I had almost completed Mother Kali: then I was nudged to do so – how could I have forgotten?
Ganesh is immensely difficult to draw, combining animal, child-human and divine anatomy – a challenging initiatory obstacle for any artist! – as I found with my repeated erasures, disproportions and re-tries.
Below is my first “practice” drawing of Kali – in charcoal and touches of chalk on tinted sugar-paper:
I was experimenting with media: but generally I prefer line, and it is easier to reproduce. Siva is aware in blissful deep sleep: she absorbs his electricity and crackles. Her seer was Ramakrishna: her city is Calcutta whose river Hugli – a branch of the Ganges delta – flows into the Bay of Bengal.
Next I sketched her this way – in ferocious glee! Kavitha emailed to me various traditional versions. I was not happy with this sketch, and at first I put it away. Lord Siva looks as if he wishes to lie-in for a bit longer.
At about that time, a joke entered: to illustrate my friend Tony’s Cat-a-Log for his exhibition. Our goddess looks perplexed, floating on the subconscious sea. Behind her and to the left the charcoal flurry suggests Ganesh waving his trunk – perhaps reminding me to do him first?
GALLERY ONE (below) – click on any smaller image to view or enlarge. These are Mahavidya Kali, Tara (sketch), Mahavidya Tara, two versions of Mahavidya Tripura Sundari and Mahavidya Bhuvaneshwari. The deities supporting Tripura Sundari’s throne in version 2 were squeezed up together by xerox, scissors and glue, to fit the book’s format!
I recommend to you Kavitha’s book for their sadhana, integration and practice. I will just mention here, that Kali is an elemental force; Tara is a wild lass; Tipura Sundari invites with pure alluring Beauty, and Bhuvaneshwari bestows the Wisdom. They express the light and shadows of our inner nature.
The graceful weight of Tipura Sundari’s great beauty awakens Siva’s sense of humour. The gods supporting their plinth are (from left to right) the trimurti Siva, Brahma and Vishnu – destruction, creation, preservation – with Siva in his prehistoric character as Rudra the Wild Hunter. They flank the Sri Chakra Yantra, Nature’s mandala upon nine strings.
The painting of figs in this sequence is an illustration for D H Lawrence’s long poem “Figs”.
I include in GALLERY 2 (below) Anthony Wigg’s portrait of a Cyclopean woman, and another fig. In many versions of the fiery Mahavidya Bhairavi, she has severed Siva’s head: while he in his Rudra the Wild Hunter consciousness looks on, presaging the self-beheaded Chinnamasta . Kavitha asked me to remove Rudra and restore Siva’s head. These three versions show the careful rotation of his body, as if during birth.
Mahavidya Chinnamasta – meaning “severed head” also has two versions. I used a drawing I did about 12 years ago, and added Chinnamasta’s three devotees. Ecstatic, headless, thought-free, she drinks pure Consciousness, absorbing Kundalini from the lovers who earth the lightning-flash. Her seer in the 1930s was the poet Ganapati Muni, spiritual brother to Ramana Maharshi. Another of her names is Vajra Vairocani,”the effulgent lightning bolt of pure perception.” David Frawley (of Ganapati Muni’s lineage) gives this version of her Mantra: Om srim hrim hrim aim vajra-vairocaniyai hum hum phat Svaha!
Those bell-notes awaken non-dual consciousness. He writes, “Srim is a mantra of beauty and light. Hrim is the mantra of inner transformation. Her Name is the lightning of realisation. Hum gives the power to cut through illusions. Phat concentrates the force of the mantra. Svaha (Awakening) offers it to the inner fire of awareness. Bhairava the fierce form of Siva, is the seer of her mantra, as well as Bhairavi’s.”
Thus, the mutual exchange of Mahavidyas Bhairavi and Chinnamasta.
I find it best to view and close the images one by one, rather than sequentially inside the gallery, where the line sometimes tends to blur.
Of all the Mahavidyas, the one I most enjoyed drawing was Dhumavati, the elder grandmother or crone. She was done in less than a day. She carries a sieve and she rides a chariot flanked by two Saturnine crows. Meeting her again, her wisdom nourishes me in the strange, immortally changing flesh. I find it wonderful how the wild ecstatic Chinnamasta is followed in the sequence by Dhumavati: out of ageless Mystery speaks the fountain of youth.
Here is my sketch and finished drawing of Mahavidya Bagalamukhi and her suitor – the logical mind. What is your story?
Mahavidya Matangi has an extraordinary presence – she resonates with Saraswathi at the beginning of this post. Her seed vibration is “HRIM” – the inner transformation through creative expression.
In this smaller sequence are: a painting my daughter did at five years old for her great-grandfather – Jumping over the fire for Persian new year equinox – photos of Rose and Silver-birch – and a Black panther. In the Vidya we integrate primordial resources of childhood, the fiery heart, the animal kingdom and earth. These pictures remind me that when my daughter was a child she had a dream one night that she met a Great Cat – a tiger, panther or lion. She kept still and they gazed quietly into each other’s eyes.
And finally, Mahavidya Kamalakshmika – With Lakshmi, goddess of the hearth, and of prosperity, she remains as ever Kali !
The wild fires of Kali, Bhairavi and Chinnamasta, the music of Tripura Sundari, Bhuvaneshwari and Matangi, the challenging passion of Bagalamukhi and the ancient wisdom of Dhumavati flow everlastingly sweet within her being. Desire ripens to serenity. The Elephants return; she rides the lotus.
And from a neighbouring Wisdom School:
My adventure invites fellow travellers. I am a poet, an artist and a seer. I welcome conversation among the PHILO SOFIA, the lovers of wisdom. See also Aquariel
All art and creative writing in this blog is copyright © Janeadamsart 2012-2019. May not be used for commercial purposes. May be used and shared for non-commercial means with credit to Jane Adams and a link to the web address https://janeadamsart.wordpress.com/