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A ‘divine mother’, i.e. a goddess. In the plural, a class of goddesses of Vedic origin, connected with fertility, but by c.500 ce typically depicted as a group of seven or eight. At one level they are presented as the śaktis of male deities, as the names of the seven—the saptamātṛkās—suggest: Brāhmī (Brahmā), Maheśvarī (Śiva), Kaumarī (Kumara), Vaiṣṇavī (Viṣṇu), Varāhī (Varāha), Indrāṇī (Indra), and Cāmuṇḍā. (Mahā Lakṣmī, the cosmic form of Devī, is the eighth.) At another level, the ‘mothers’ are feared as ferocious and independent goddesses, thought to be particularly dangerous to young children; it is in this fierce form that they are associated with the yoginī cults of Tantric Śaivism.

Subjects: Religion

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