More than any of the Mahavidyas, with the possible exception of Kamala, Bhuvaneshvari is associated and identified with the earth, the creation in general, and the underlying energy that brings it to be and pervades it. She embodies the characteristic dynamics and constituents that make up the world and that lend creation its distinctive character.
The legend behind her origin says that in the beginning the sun appeared in the heavens. The rishis (sages) offered soma (a sacred plant) so that the world might be created. The sun then created the three worlds (lokas or bhuvanas). At that time Shodashi (Tripura-sundari) was the main power, or shakti, through whom Surya (sun) created the worlds. Having created the worlds, or having empowered the sun to do so, the goddess assumed an appropriate form and pervaded and directed the triple world. In this form she became known as Bhuvaneshvari, "mistress of the world." It is further said that Bhuvaneshvari remains unmanifest until the world is created. That is, Bhuvaneshvari is particularly associated with the visible, created world.
Bhuvaneshvari's beauty is mentioned often. The Tantrasara describes her as having a beautiful face, framed with flowing hair the color of black bees. Her eyes are broad, her lips full and red, and her nose delicate. Her firm breasts are smeared with sandal paste and saffron. Her waist is thin, and her thighs, buttocks, and navel are lovely. Her beautiful throat is decorated with ornaments, and her arms are made for embracing. Shiva is said to have produced a third eye to view her more thoroughly. In her hundred-name stotra (hymn) in the Shaktapramoda, she is said to be a beautiful young girl, to have a smiling face, and to have an attractive sexual organ. She is said to be the triangle itself (the schematic representation of the yoni).
Here she is shown with four arms, two of them making the gestures of granting boons and removing fear respectively. These gestures express her gracious attitude towards the world, particularly towards her devotees.
The other two hands hold a goad and noose. These suggest control. The goad means that she controls evil forces or inner hindrances, such as anger, lust, and any obsession that interferes with spiritual development. The noose symbolizes the different bodily sheaths that hide, and therefore bind, the spiritual essence of a person, the atman.
Kinsley, David. Tantric Visions of the Divine Feminine, New Delhi, Motilal Banarsidass, 1998.
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