Mahavidya Dhumavati

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Devi Dhumavati- the goddess whose form is like that of the smoke, is a form of goddess Parvati or the great goddess Durga. She is also a member of the ten Mahavidyas or Great Wisdom, worshipped in Hinduism and Tantra. Her origin story tells us- that when Shiva did not pay any heed to Parvati’s demands for food, the goddess overwhelmed by anger and hunger, swallowed Shiva.

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Item Code: PAA609
Artist: Kailash Raj
Specifications:
WATER COLOR PAINTING ON PAPER ARTIST: KAILASH RAJ
Dimensions 12.00 inch Height X 9.50 inch Width

Mahadeva requested his wife to release him from her belly, and upon coming out he cursed her. As a result of the curse, Parvati became an old widow, terrible to look at, and associated with all things inauspicious. Her appearance was dark and gloomy, much like the smoke that comes from the fires of the cremation ground, thus she came to be known as Dhumavati. The goddess is seen as an embodiment of unquenchable hunger and thirst that leads to destruction. As a female divinity who has no male deity above her, she is unfathomably powerful, making her dangerous at the same time. However, Dhumavati behind her dreadful appearance carries great esoteric meanings.


Riding on a gold chariot covered in gemstones, with velvet cushions for the seat, the elevated physique of Mahavidya Dhumavati in this painting inspires awe. Her physical characteristics match Parvati’s description after Shiva’s curse. She wears a widow’s white attire, her hair is dishevelled and white, her breasts are flabby and her face is covered in signs of old age. On the other hand, she is also adorned with resplendent jewellery, made from gold, pearls, and precious jewels. The artist wants us to remember that even in her most terrible forms, the goddess is inherently divine. Crows, birds associated with death, and cremation ground are attached to the Goddess’ chariot. Closely connected with these birds, Dhumavati is often described as having a crow-like neck and nose. Near the crows’ feet, one can see skulls, bones, and fires. Texts speak of goddess Dhumavati dwelling in the cremation ground, crushing bones of humans in her mouth, resulting in awful sounds. Such myths and imagery of the divine, beyond the average societal understanding of good-bad, is a way of conveying profound religious truths.


In looking at the painting more closely, one sees the halo that encircles Devi’s face and the third eye on her forehead- a symbol of supreme knowledge. The sorting basket (soopa) which is her prime attribute, signifies her ability to distinguish between Satya (the real) and Maya (unreal or illusion).  The contrast between burning fires, skeletons, and the greenery of the bank of a lotus-filled water body (lotus is a popular Hindu motif for the evolution of life) hints at the parallel journeys that life and death make in this world. Standing above these events, Dhumavati is a goddess that represents the renovation of the soul by confronting the cruel realities of life- death, decay, and hunger, without any fears. 

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