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  Sri VidyaSri Vidya is one of the most comprehensive and popular vidyas in sakta. In the context of Hindu spiritual practices, a vidya can be defined as the worship of a God/Goddess. Literally vidya means learning; it is from the word-root "vid" - to know. Knowledge is called Veda, and learning is called vidya. This includes the knowledge to be gained, different stages in the process of gaining such knowledge, the purpose of such knowledge, the procedure and practices for learning, pitfalls and corrective measures and so on. Worship of a God is the gradual process of elevating the level of consciousness of the worshipper into that of the God, realizing the God and His nature. Therefore the knowledge and worship of each God is called a Vidya. Thus Sri Vidya is the knowledge and worship of Mother Goddess Sri Devi. She is also called Sri Mata (Mother Sri), Tripura Sundari. "Sri" means prosperity, auspiciousness, divinity. Sri Devi is the Divine Mother who bestows bliss and plentitude on Her devotees. In Veda, She is praised as Sri. Vedic knowledge diversified and developed into different schools like Smarta (following smritis like Dharma Sastras), Srauta (studying Sruti or Veda), Pauranica (following smritis like Puranas) and so on. Tantra is another school of practices that combines methods of worship with philosophy and theology. With these developments, Sri Devi came to be known and worshiped in different forms. In Puranas, Sri is called Lakshmi, the Goddess of wealth and prosperity. The worship of Sri Mata or Tripura Sundari, developed as Sri Vidya, one of the major cults in Sakta Tantras. The kaula-practitioners of Sri Vidya differentiate it as Sri Kula Tantra, while Sri Vidya Tantra is the general name used by all the Sri Vidya practitioners. Tripura Sundari literally means the most beautiful lady of three worlds. Mother Sri is said to be the most beautiful Goddess among all God-forms. Tripura Sundari is worshiped in different names and forms, like Lalita, Bala, Raja Rajeswari.

Lalita Upakhyana - The Story of Lalita Tripura Sundari

In Brahmanda Purana, the story of Lalita Tripura Sundari is narrated by Lord Hayagriva (the horse-headed form of Lord Vishnu) to the great seer Agastya. Here is a brief of it.

There is a popular story in which
Manmatha, the presiding deity of desire, is turned into ashes by the fire of Lord Siva's third eye. From those ashes, a demon by the name Bhandasura emerges. He acquires many powers through penance and defeats the army of Gods. He lived in his capital Shunyaka, constructed for him by Mayasura, the architect of demons.

Unable to withstand the might of
Bhandasura, the gods had nowhere to go. Narada advises them to worship Sakti, the divine Mother. The gods worship the mother and perform a sacrifice to propitiate Her. The Mother emerges from the fire altar to fulfill the wishes of the gods and to dispel their fear. Since She emerged from the fire altar, She is called Agni Kunda Samudbhava. As She emerged to protect the gods and to
fulfill their aspirations, She is called deva karya samudyata. She is red in hue, the most beautiful Goddess. Lord Siva assumes the form of Kamesvara, and
takes Her as His consort.

She then set out for destroying
Bhanda and his armies. She is accompanied by Raja Matangi, Her minister on the one side. Raja Matangi is also called Raja Syamala, Mantrini and Nakuli. On the other side Varahi accompanied Her, the general of the Mother's armies. Varahi is also called Dandanatha. They were followed by the gods and their armies.

They announced war on Bhandasura's
capital, Shunyaka, and there was a fierce battle. Varahi and Syamala started demolishing the armies of Bhanda and killing his generals. Bhanda sent his sons to arrest the attack of the divine armies, the eldest of them being Caturbahu (having four hands). Bala Maha Tripura Sundari, the child-form of the Mother, volunteered to fight Bhanda's sons and killed them.

After this, Bhanda's brothers
Vishanga and Visukra, who were earlier vanquished and fled from the field, came back to fight Sri Devi's armies. Bhanda also applied a mystical contrivance to obstruct the march of Devi's armies, called vighna yantra (literally the machine of obstacles). When the Mother was merely glanced with love by the Lord Kamesvara, She gave birth to Ganesha (this is described as Kamesvara mukhaloka kalpita Sri Ganesvara). Ganesha destroyed the vighna yantra much to the
happiness of the divine armies. Then Bhanda inspired demon Gajasura to fight
Ganesha, who was also killed by Him. The divine armies of Sri Devi marched
forward, Vishanga was slain in this encounter by Mother Mantrini and Visukra by

Bhanda faced the Mother directly,
attacking Her with weapons inspired by mystical powers. Sri Devi destroyed his weapons with weapons inspired by the ten forms of Maha Vishnu, that emerged instantly from the ten nails of Her hands. Weapon inspired by Pasupati (a form of Lord Siva) demolished the demonic armies. Finally the weapon inspired by Maha Kamesvara, destroyed Bhandasura along with his capital Shunyaka.

The Mother was applauded and
worshiped along with Lord Kamesvara.

Description of the Mother and Her Abode

The Mother is said to be red in hue (Aruna). Her abode is Manidweepa, the island of gems and pearls. It is also called Sri Nagara. It is not reachable even for Gods like Indra. It is through Her grace alone, that one can reach Her abode. She, along with Lord Kameswara, is worshiped there by lakhs of Her attendant deities. She is called Kamakala, the manifestation of desire. Out of desire for cosmic sport She acts. Out of desire for pleasing the Lord, and union with the Lord She plays. Ever smiling,
blissful and granting the boons of Her devotees, She is praised as personification of grace, bliss and mercy. She rules the universe and all aspects are Hers. All the beings, including the gods, act by Her inspiration and mercy.

In a verse meant for meditation on
the Mother, She is described as:

Sindhuuraaruna vigrahaam trinayanaam
maanikya moulisphurat Taara naayaka sekharaam smita mukheem aapeena vakshoruhaam PaaNibhyam aLi puurna ratna cashakam raktotpalam bibhrateem Soumyaam ratna ghatastha rakta caranaam dhyayet paraam ambikaam

Meaning the seeker meditates on the
Mother (ambika), who is eternal (para), saffron-red in hue (sindhuuraaruna vigrahaa), having crown embedded with gems (manikya mouli), with Moon as an adornment over the head (taara naayaka sekharaa), three eyed (trinayanaa), eversmiling (smita mukhi), having high breasts (aapeena vakshoruhaa), with hands holding jeweled wine cup and red flowers (paaNibhyaam aLI puurna ratna cashakam raktotpalam bibhrati), ever soft and peaceful (soumyaa), with Her red lotus feet rested on a gem-decked pedestal (ratna ghatastha rakta caranaa).

Arunaam karunaa tarangitaaksheem
dhruta pasa ankusa pushpa baana caapaam aNimaadibhiraavrutaam mayuukhaiH ahamityeva vibhaavaye bhavaneem

Meaning the seeker is meditating
(vibhavaya) on the Mother (bhavani), red in hue (arunaa), colored and shining as Sun God (mayuukhaa), whose looks shower waves of grace and mercy (karunaa tarangitaakshi), with hands holding (dhruta) noose (pasa), goad (ankusa) andcane-bow that shoots flower-arrows (pushpa baana caapaam), with Goddesses with mystical powers in the outer rungs of Her palace-city (aNimaadibhiraavrutaa).

The first verse meditates on the
Mother from head to feet. It is a general practice to meditate, describe and
worship male forms or deities from feet to head upwards, and female forms or
deities from head to feet downwards. Also, the Mother's feet are said to be the
abode of devotee, his ultimate destination. The second verse is about the
aspects of Sri Vidya, which are explained through the powers of Goddesses, the
weapons held.

The Origin and Philosophy of Sri Vidya

Lalita Sahasra nama in Brahmanda Purana, the hymn that praises the Mother with Her 1000 names, gives comprehensive description of Sri Vidya, its philosophy and methods. Besides, it
is called yoga sahasra, which explains the secrets of all forms of yoga, and
consciousness studies.

Sri Vidya is a well developed form
of Sakta Tantra. The various constituent vidyas are well organized and arranged in a more systematic hierarchy compared to other sampradayas. Soundarya Lahari, a hymn he composed in praise of the Mother in a hundred verses, is said to be
one of the most beautiful and profound explanations of Sri Vidya. Sri Vidya is
followed by smarta as well as Tantric schools. There is no clear separation
between them. Smriti followers are said to be smartas. They follow elements of
tantra to the extent that they do not contradict smritis.

Sri Vidya is found in the Rig Veda

as Sri Sukta, the hymn with 15 verses. It is said that this is fashioned after
panchadasi, the central Mantra of Sri Vidya. Sri Sukta, with its application of
single-syllable beejas (like eem, kaam, sreem), appears more in line with the
Sakta Mantra Sastra than the classical Rig Vedic Mantra Sastra.

Sri Vidya tantra has two major

Vidyas, Panchadasi and Shodashi. Panchadasi is the mantra with 15 syllables.
Shodashi is the mantra with 16 syllables. Shodashi is one of the 10 disciplines
of sakta tantra, called dasa maha vidyas. The vidya is called triputi, having
three parts. They are Agni (fire), Surya (sun) and Chandra (moon) khandas
(parts). The Mother is said to shine in these three worlds.

Also, Lalita, Shyamala and Varahi

symbolize the powers of Sri Devi's divine will (iccha sakti), knowledge (jnana
sakti) and action (kriya sakti). Lalita Herself is the power of divine will,
her associates Matangi and Varahi represent the powers of knowledge and action
respectively. This is evident from their roles - Lalita is the ruler, Matangi
the minister and Varahi the general.

Sri Sukta, for the same reason,

praises the Mother as Suryaa (Sun) and Candraa (Moon). It does not praise Her
as Agni, but the Sukta itself is addressed to Agni.

and Puranic Concept

In the Vedic theology, there are two
main deities that we find: Agni and Indra. Agni is the central deity of the
Veda, and Indra is the head-deity. Agni is the face of Gods, and all Vedic
worship is offered to various Gods through Agni. Thus Agni is central. And the
Lord of all deities is Indra, thus Indra is the head-deity or the Godhead.

We can compare this, to the way in a

family the husband is head of the family and the wife is the center of the
family connecting and managing the entire family.

In Saiva - Sakta parlance, we find

Siva-Sakti dual to be similar to this. Siva is Isvara, the Lord. He is the
guiding principle. Sakti is pervading, the principle of manifestation, causing
creation, sustaining and dissolving it. She does it, inspired by and for the
Lord. Vedic Indra can be seen as Isvara and Vedic Agni, the divine will, can be
seen as Sakti in Saiva - Sakta parlance. The close association of the Mother
with Vedic Agni is further explained through Her epithets like Agni Kunda
samudbhava (discussed above), Agni Sikha (having fire for Her hair). The
symbolism of Lalita Herself assuming the form of the power of divine will
reinforces this idea.

Further, triputi is directly related

to the Vedic theology. In the Puranic trimurthy concept, Brahma, Vishnu and
Rudra preside over creation, sustenance and dissolution functions. They are
representatives of Satva, Rajas and Tamas. According to Yaska, they derive from
the Vedic triplet Agni (Fire God), Aditya (Sun God) and Vayu (Air God). The
older Sakta schools like Chandi (Mother Durga) speak of this triplet. In the
more recent Sri Vidya, the corresponding aspect of Vayu finds a replacement
with Soma (Moon God). Both Vayu and Soma are aspects of Rudra. However Vayu
signifies strength while Soma bliss, and therefore the corresponding
God/Goddess being worshiped have these qualities too. Thus, while Candi is
representative of power and anger, Lalita is a pleasant form.

The three functions of creation,

sustenance and dissolution, are further expanded into five functions. They are
srusti (creation), sthiti (sustenance), laya (dissolution), tirodhana (veiling
of individual consciousness through maya) and anugraha (unveiling, making the
individual realize the Truth beyond Maya). The Mother presides over these five functions,
and hence is called Pancha Krtya Parayana. The representatives of these five
functions are Brahma (creation), Vishnu (sustenance), Rudra (dissolution),
Isvara (veiling) and Sadasiva (unveiling, absolute truth). All these five
derive their life force, the strength to act, from the Mother. These five
deities are said to form her royal chair, with Brahma, Vishnu, Rudra and Isvara
forming four legs and Sadasiva forming the plank. Hence the Mother is called
Pancha Brahmasanaseena. Pancha is five, asana is seat, asina is having sit on
the seat. The five Brahmas are the five deities mentioned.

Without Her, they are lifeless

corpses. That is why the Mother is also called Pancha Pretasanaseena or seated
on the seat of five corpses. Preta means corpse.


While Sakta is Advaitic in nature,
there is a difference between Sankara Advaita and Advaita of Sakta Tantra.

There are three main schools that

explain the relation between universe and Brahman. One is Arambha vada, which
says universe has a beginning and an end. Nyaya and Vaiseshika follow this. The
other schools hold that universe is eternal, its dissolution and next cycle of
creation are linked with the continuity of the seed of creation. The second
school is Parinama Vada, which says that the universe is a transformation of
Brahman, emerges and dissolves in Brahman. The way a spider's web comes from
it, the universe comes from Brahman. Brahman is the essential substantial
(upadana) cause for the universe. Sankhya, Yoga, Karma Mimamsa follow this. The
third is Vivarta vada, which says that universe is a manifestation, an
appearance over Brahman. Sankara Advaita comes under this. According to him,
Brahman is the nominal (nimitta), substantial (upadana) and undifferentiated
(abhinna) cause for the world. Sankara Advaita holds that Maya bounds and
releases the being. World as it appears, appears because of Maya, and it is not
what the world really is. The world, in reality, is Brahman only. Thus when one
realizes Brahman and gets beyond the veil of Maya, then only Brahman remains,
not the world. Sakta Tantra holds that Atman is same as Brahman, like other
versions of Advaita, but the universe is real and eternal. It is not just an
appearance that gets dissolved with realization. The Mother is primal rhythmic
energy, Sakti and not Maya.

Sri Vidya is popularized by Sankara.

The Vedic followers (who follow smritis and dharma sastras) of Sri Vidya go by
Sankara Advaita. Atman is always liberated, but appears to be bound because of
ignorance caused by Maya over the individual soul. Here Atman is to be called
self. Soul is actually the subtle body that is constituted of subtle senses,
mind and intellect. The Causal being of the universe, Isvara, associated with
His consort Maya, rules the universe. The veil of Maya, is lifted through the
grace of Sadasiva - and the individual being identifies its oneness with Atman
which is beyond Maya.

and Consecration

The primary difference between Vedic
and Sakta Tantra philosophies lies in the fact that in Vedic philosophy desire
is seen to be transcended. Though desire is not sought to be suppressed by
force, it is not seen as a means to transcendence - it is sees as something
that is to be grown over.

In Sakta, Nature, whether it is

desire or natural tendency or instinct, is seen as a divine manifestation of
the Mother Sakti. It is through fulfillment of it, with the sense that it is
divine, as a form of worship of the Mother, that one seeks to please the

The Vedic practitioners of Sakta Tantra

take a middle path, by praising the Mother as Maya who creates these tendencies
to bind the being, seek to be liberated from these by Her grace.

Aspects of Agama

There are two major schools of
literature in Hinduism. One is the Vedic literature, consisting of Vedas,
various subjects that the Vedas deal with, Puranas, Dharma Sastras and so on.
They deal with theology, spiritual philosophy, procedure and philosophy of
rituals, various paths to salvation, code of conduct and righteousness, world
views, the subjects one needs to learn to be able to understand such as the
science of chanting, grammar, etymology, astronomy and so on. There is another
stream of literature that deals primarily with the methods of worship. Though
some of these are found in the Brahmana and Aranyaka portion of the Veda,
Mimamsa (inquiry into the message of Veda), Kalpa Sutras (code and procedure
for rituals), most of the elements practiced in popular Hinduism are from

Agamas expound many aspects,

including personal worship, temple construction and architecture, Iconography,
worship in temple, Vastu and so on. It is not an exaggeration to say that most
of the popular aspects of Hinduism are found in Puranic and Agamic literature.
Primarily Agamas are of three schools - Vaishnava Saiva and Sakta. They are
followed by Vaishnavites, Saivaites and Saktas respectively. Agama has three
parts, Mantra, Tantra and Yantra.

Mantra is a divine word which is

chanted repeatedly as part of worship. Yantra in general, is a contrivance inspired
by the power of a mantra. In many cases it is a geometric shape, carved on a
metal plate or stone or crystal or floor. In case of Sri Vidya, it is Sri
Cakra. Tantra is the entire philosophy and procedure of worship. The Tantra
expounding Sri Vidya is called Sri Vidya Tantra, and is found in many Sakta
texts like Prapancha saara and Rudra Yamala.

Uniquely to Sri Vidya, the name of

the Vidya or the Goddess or Yantra does not have a separate name. It is not
popularly called Lalita Vidya or Tripura Sundari Vidya. The tantra is called
Sri Vidya, the Yantra Sri Yantra, the city of the Mother's residence is called
Sri Nagara. However "Sri" as we saw means divine and it is like saying divine
Yantra, divine city and divine Vidya, without a specific name of the deity.
Every other Vidya, is explicitly referred to, with the name of its presiding
deity, Candi or Vishnu or Ganapati.

Yoga and Sri Vidya Tantra

Though Yoga is a very technical
subject and its discussion is mostly restricted to teacher-student disciplines,
any introduction to Tantra without the mention of Yoga is incomplete.

There are three major forms of Yoga,
Mantra yoga, Laya yoga and Kundalini yoga. The aim of all the three is the
same, though the methods vary slightly. Sri Vidya tantra involves all these
three forms of yoga and integrates them.


Sound is produced through contact,
vibration and obstruction. This is called Ahata. However cosmic hiss if one can
hear is eternal and existent. This is called Anahata. It is not produced by us
but only heard. A yogi can hear this. In sadhana one makes the sound oneself
(by doing mantra japa), in a rhythm, resonant with the vibrations of his nadis
and his breath. Through this one will be able to discover the deeper vibration.
This way of merging individual with cosmic is called mantra yoga.

Mantra is said to be the sound-form
of Devata (god-form). One realizes Devata through the chanting of mantra in
mantra yoga. Mantra yoga concentrates on nada (sound) to strike rhythm between
individual and cosmic vibration, to activate the right nadis, to expose one into
the cidakasa or daharakasa (causal space). Sabda (sound) is the tanmatra
(subtle attribute) of mahabhuta (primal element) Akasa (space). And through
sabda one tries to turn his vision inwards from akasa to daharakasa, through
chanting the mantra, by producing sound to slowly listening the anahata sound
without producing it. Eventually when mantra yoga is achieved, one achieves
laya yoga also, since his consciousness is directed to daharakasa where his
devata resides.

Panchadasi, the root mantra of Sri
Vidya is said to be the sound-form of the Mother. The mantra is divided into
three kutas or parts with five syllables each. The first is called Vagbhava
Kuta, the Mother's head. The second is called Madhya Kuta, the trunk - from
neck to navel. The third is Sakti Kuta, the part below navel.

Saraswati Sukta of the Rigveda says
that Vak or word is of four forms - Para (eternal), pasyanti (experienced by
seer in a state of deep consciousness), madhyama (when it translates as idea in
the intellect) and vaikhari (when it is verbally expressed). Realizing Para Vak
or Nada Brahman through a regulated chanting of mantra, first externally then
mentally and then finally without producing it, is mantra yoga.


Meditation is the means in laya
yoga. One controls mind through the control of breath, so that full
concentration is possible in meditation. Through meditation, one's
consciousness merges in the object of meditation and one realizes Atman. The
state in which the difference between the one who meditates, the act of
meditation and the object of meditation dissolves, is called samadhi or

One also observes during meditation
one's own being, the different sheaths of consciousness. There are five kosas
or sheaths of consciousness of being - annamaya (physical), pranamaya
(vital-life), manomaya (mental), vijnanamaya (intellect-knowledge) and
anandamaya (causal - blissful). The first is gross, next three constitute
subtle and the fifth causal being. The causal being is Isvara who resides in
all beings, along with Maya His consort. She veils the unmanifest form of the
divine, Brahman. The Mother is Maha Maya, who covers the world with veil of
ignorance and lifts the veil out of grace, causing the entire play of creation.
This is the cosmic sport She does for the Lord, Her lila. Her play, action can
be seen in karana-akasa the causal space. She is the moon of that space, and is
called Cidakasa candrika.

Gross (sthula), subtle (sukshma),
causal (karana) and absolute (turiya) are the four states in which Brahman
manifests. Realizing eternal through meditation is laya yoga. In Laya yoga one,
through meditation, identifies himself progressively with the inner sheaths,
and finally with the inner most being - Atman. The Mother is said to reside in
and beyond the five sheaths - Panca kosantara sthita. Thus the seeker achieves
oneness with the Mother through laya yoga.


In Kundalini yoga, one realizes
divine consciousness through the activation of the hidden energy of Kundalini.
There are six centers (cakras) in the spinal channel. Kundalini is said to be
initially coiled up at muladhara. She is the Mother. She passes through these
six from muladhara at the bottom of spine to ajna at the forehead, then to the
crown of the head (sahasrara) where individual consciousness fully unites with
cosmic consciousness. There, the Mother is said to unite with the Lord. This
involves the opening of three knots or granthis in the path, called Brahma
granthi, Vishnu granthi and Rudra granthi. There is one granthi per two cakras.
Muladhara (pelvic) and swadhisthana (navel) associate with Brahma granthi,
manipura (heart center) and anahata (midway between neck and solar plexus)
associate with Vishnu granthi, visuddha (throat) and ajna (center of forehead)
associate with Rudra granthi. These three are the triputi discussed above.

The worship of Sri Chakra with nine
levels is also a means to this in Sri Vidya. Kundalini is said to be completely
activated, with the Mother uniting with the Lord at Sahasrara, when the devotee
reaches the bindu of Sri Chakra.

The union of Mother Kundalini with
the Lord, is the liberation of seeker from Maya. This is possible with anugraha
or grace as discussed above, and completes the cycle of births. This is the
same as realizing Nada Brahman in mantra yoga, and sayujya of laya yoga.

and Worship of Sri Chakra

Sri Chakra is worshiped as the
Mother Herself. In Sri Vidya, there is usually no other idol worshiped other
than Sri Chakra. Even if an idol is worshiped, Sri Chakra is worshiped along
with idol. All the upacaras or offerings are done to the Sri Chakra.

The worship of Sri Chakra is done
through Devi Khadgamala (literally garland of swords, indicating energy) hymn,
which enumerates the deities in each level. In an elaborate worship of Sri
Cakra, each deity at each level is invoked, worshiped and offered oblations.
However in a regular worship, it can be done in a much abridged way and
Goddesses at each level are worshiped together.

Sri Chakra is a model of universe,
which represents a Sakta world view. Sri Chakra or Sri Nagara is said to be the
abode of the Mother, and She is its ruler. It has nine levels called avaranas.
The nine levels are said to be nine levels in evolution of the seeker,
beginning from the outer most to the inner most where the Mother resides. Sri
Vidya tantra explains the Goddesses at each level (or the epithets or aspects
of Mother at each level), the method of worship, and the mystical powers one
attains through their worship. In the inner most level called bindu resides the
Mother with Lord Kameswara. The various petals or lines and their number in
each avarana signify the number of Goddesses worshiped.

Sri Chakra is worshiped in two and
three dimensional forms. Planar Sri Chakra is called Bhu prastara (bhu - earth,
meaning flat). Three dimensional Sri Chakra, where the outer most level is the
base and each inner level is in elevation over the outer one, with bindu (the
inner most triangle) as the peak, as if forming a cone, is called meru prastara
(meru is a mountain, and the name indicates that the figure is similar to a
mountain/cone). In an ardha meru or half meru, some of the nine levels are
depicted in the same altitude.

Further, the nine are divided into
three levels of three enclosures each. The outer most three comprise Srshti
chakra (the orbit of creation). The next three comprise Sthiti chakra (the
orbit of sustenance). The inner most three comprise Samhara chakra (the orbit
of dissolution).

The geometry and worship of Sri
Chakra is comprehensive and exhaustive. It explains the entire Sakta world
view, its enumeration of the world, its philosophy and practice. Therefore we
can only give a cursory glance at it, because otherwise it would become a book

by itself.

The outer most level of Sri Chakra
is square shaped, with three concentric squares and four gates on four sides.
The next two levels are lotus petals, with sixteen and eight petals
respectively. The next five levels are basically nine triangles drawn into each
other, producing a total of forty three. These are seen as five levels of 14,
10, 10, 8, 1 triangles as we move inwards. The inner most or ninth level is
bindu or a dot. This is also counted as a triangle, making the total count 44.

In each level, the Mother is
described as causing those tendencies that bind beings at that level. If one
successfully transcends the binding at one level, that is, when he seeks to
proceed further without limiting oneself to the powers he gets at that level,
then he will move to an inner level. Though all the levels of Sri Chakra are
worshiped every time, one actually transcends or gets elevated to these levels


This is the outermost enclosure and
has three concentric squares, with four gates on four sides. It is called so
because most of the apparently mystic powers can be got here. It is said that
even the Gods stop here without proceeding inwards, because their desires are
fulfilled by the powers achieved at this level.

The three lines represent ten Mudra,
Matrika and Siddhis (mystical powers).

Mudras are gestures, positions of
fingers and hands, which are used for expressing various experiences. In case
of worship, they are used as part of worship, to invoke certain experiences.
The Mother is called dasa mudra samaradhya in Lalita Sahasra nama, meaning She
is worshiped through ten mudras. They are Sarva Sankshobhini, Sarva Vidravini,
Sarva Akarshini, Sarva Vasankari, Sarva Unmadini, Sarva Mahankusa, Sarva
Khecari, Sarva Bija, Sarva Yoni and Sarva Trikhanda.

Matrikas are the seven primordial
forms of the Mother, from which all the sound forms originate. They are Brahmi,
Vaishnavi, Maheswari, Aindri, Kaumari, Varahi and Chamundi.

There are ten mystical powers of the
Mother which are personified as Goddesses. They are Anima, Laghima, Mahima,
Isitva, Vasitva, Prakamya, Bhukti, Iccha, Prapti and Sarva kama siddhis. They
include small powers like victory over hunger and sleep, to great ones like
getting every wish granted, knowing things far off in distance and time.

This enclosure is also called
bhupura or earthly (physical).


This avarana is called so, because
at this level every desire of the devotee is fulfilled. This level of Sri Cakra
has sixteen lotus petals. Correspondingly as this enclosure belongs to desire
and their fulfillment, the Mother is praised as the one who attracts through
the primal natural tendencies. The sixteen forms of desire are enumerated here.
Praising the Mother as akarshini (one who attracts). This is where the effect
of the Mother Maya is seen, as She attracts the beings with desire - making
them bound with their senses, and other faculties. The sixteen forms are Kama
(desire in general, but specifically sexual), Buddhi (intellect), Ahankara
(ego), Sabda (sound - hearing), Sparsha (touch), Rupa (form - vision), Rasa
(feel), Gandha (odor), Citta (impression), Dhairya (courage), Smriti (memory),
Nama (name), Bija (seed), Atma (self), Amrita (immortality), Sharira (body).

Desire is the primary obstacle in
detachment and liberation of being. While the smarta way is to transcend
desire, the Sakta way is to fulfill it and consecrate it as a form of worship.
Thus, fulfillment of desire is seen not only not negatively but rather
positively in Sakta.


This avarana is named sankshobhana
because the Mother here is praised as the one who causes agitation,
instability, commotion. This enclosure has eight lotus petals, named Ananga
kusuma, Ananga mekhala, Ananga Madana, Ananga Madanatura, Ananga rekha, Ananga
vegini, Ananga ankusha and Ananga malini. It is Ananga (Cupid or Manmatha), the
God of love, who agitates creatures in these ways.

This is the enclosure of mind.

Saubhagya dayaka

In the fourth enclosure, Sakti is
worshiped as the granter of all kinds of prosperity. This level of Sri Cakra
has fourteen trangles. The Goddesses or the forms of Mother in this enclosure
are Sarva Sankshobhini (agitator of all), Sarva Vidravini (slayer or the one
who dissolves), Sarva Akarshini (one who attracts), Sarva Ahladini (one who
refreshes), Sarva Sammohini (one who mesmerizes), Sarva Stambhini (one who
immobilizes), Sarva Jrumbhini (one who causes growth and expansion), Sarva
Vasankari (one who controls all actions), Sarva Ranjini (one who pleases),
Sarva Unmadini (one who intoxicates), Sarvaartha sadhini (one who fulfills all
needs and desires), Sarva sampatti purani (granter of all kinds of prosperity),
Sarva mantra mayi (one whose forms are all mantras), Sarva dvandva kshayankari
(one in who all dualities dissolve into oneness).


In the fifth enclosure, the Mother
is worshiped as the one who grants all whishes. In fact "artha" is not just a
desire but a purpose. Thus the Mother grants all that we want, we need, and we
need to fulfill. This level in Sri Cakra has ten triangles. The ten
corresponding forms in which the Mother is worshiped here are Sarvasiddhi prada
(granter of all powers), Sarva sampat prada (granter of all kinds of wealth),
Sarva priyankari (one who grants all that pleases), Sarva Mangala kari (one who
grants all kinds of auspiciousness), Sarva Kama prada (granter of all wishes),
Sarva dukha vimocani (absolver from all kinds of sorrow and unhappiness),
Sarvamrutyu prasamani (one who prevents all kinds of (untimely) death), Sarva
vighna nivarini (one who prevents all obstacles), Sarvanga Sundari (one who is
beauty personified, with each limb being perfect), Sarva Saubhagya dayini
(granter of prosperity and well-being).

raksha kara

In this enclosure, the Mother is
called the protector. It has eight triangles. The corresponding forms of Devi
are Sarvajna (one who knows everything), Sarva Sakti (one who is all powerful),
Sarvaisvarya prada (one who grants all worldly possessions and occult powers),
Sarva jnana mayi (one who is knowledge personified), Sarva vyadhi vinasini (one
who prevents all kinds of ailments), Sarva adhara swarupa (one on who rests the
entire universe), Sarva papa hari (one who cleanses and absolves from all kinds
of sins), Sarva ananda mayi (one who is bliss personified), Sarva raksha
svarupini (the protector), Sarvepsita phala prade (granter of all desires,
granter of the fruits of all deeds/worship/sacrifice).

Roga hara

The seventh enclosure has eight
triangles, and Sakti is worshiped as the one who removes all kinds of ailment.
Ailment can be biological, but in Vedanta, the cycle of transmigration itself
is called an ailment. The Mother, as She is called Bhava Tarini, makes one
easily cross the sea of phenomenal existence, its ups and downs. The eight
deities of this level are called Vag-devatas, who preside over speech. They are
Vasini, Kameswari, Modini, Vimala, Aruna, Jayini, Sarveswari and Kaulini.

siddhi maya

The eighth enclosure is a triangle.
Here the Mother is called Kamakala, the personification of fulfillment. She
signifies the desire of Isvara for cosmic sport. She is worshiped in eight
forms in this level, with the names Banini, Capini, Pashini, Ankushini, Maha
Kameswari, Maha Vajreswari, Maha Bhagamalini and Maha Sri Sundari.

ananda maya

The ninth or inner most enclosure is
the bindu. It is called a dot, and also a minute triangle with edges almost
falling into each other. The Mother resides here, united with Lord Kameswara,
and is called Siva-Sakti-eka-rupini. Here Siva and Sakti are united, and are

She is worshiped with nine names in
the bindu, Tripura, Tripuresi, Tripura Sundari, Tripura Vaasini, Tripura Sri,
Tripura Maalini, Tripura Siddhi, Tripuraamba and Maha Tripura Sundari.

side of Sri Vidya

Sri Vidya is most popular in Tamil
Nadu and Andhra Pradesh, two of the major states in south India. There are two
major schools in Sakta, Candi and Lalita. The Mother is worshiped as Durga,
Candi, Camundi in Candi tradition, and as Lalita, Bala, Rajarajeswari in Lalita

There are many common aspects in
both the traditions, with minor variations. Both are navarna, worshiped in nine
levels. There are nine forms of Durga and She is worshiped in those nine forms
in the navratri before Vijaya Dasami (Dussera festival). In fact, Candi Vidya
itself is navarna, in the sense that the two main mantras have nine letters.
The concept of nine levels of worship in Lalita tradition is visible in the
nine levels of Sri Cakra.

It can be said that Candi is an
older tradition, and Sri Vidya is a more recent and refined form. Tantric
practices were extreme in India, with animal sacrifices and similar practices.
Adi Sankara is said to have pacified those deities by installing Sri Cakra in famous
Sakta temples through out the country, and prohibiting animal sacrifices in
those places[1]. These include Sakti peethas like
Kamakhya (Guwahati, Assam) and Jogulamba (Alampuram, Andhra Pradesh) where such
practices were rampant[2]. Apart from these, he visited and
installed Sri Cakra in many other temples like Sri Sailam, Kancipuram, Kanya
Kumari, Kashmir and so on.

Though Sri Vidya was an older
school, it gained popularity with Adi Sankara and Advaita philosophy. Today Sri
Vidya followers go by Sankara's Advaita[3].

Vidya and other Devatas

Though Tripura Sundari is the deity
of Sri Vidya, most of the Goddesses like Lakshmi, Durga, Parvati are worshiped
in Sri Cakra. Not only forms of Devi, but in general any God can be worshiped
in Sri Cakra. Besides, there are Sri Vidya samputikaranas (compositions of
verses/mantras) for different Gods. For example, when Ganesha and Dakshinamurty
are worshiped in Sri Vidya tradition, they come to be known as Sri Vidya
Ganesha and Sri Vidya Dakshinamurty respectively.

In case of a Goddess, this difference
is not usually maintained. That is to say, Lakshmi is worshiped in Sri Cakra
but not called Sri Vidya Lakshmi. Durga is not called Sri Vidya Durga or
Candi-Durga when She is worshiped in Sri Vidya or Candi traditions. This is
because, She is either worshiped with the same verses meant for Sri Cakra
worship or with Lakshmi hymns, and not with separate verses. In case of Sri
Vidya Ganesha, the worship is done with verses which are a combination of Sri
Vidya and Ganesha vidya. Same is the case with Sri Vidya Dakshinamurty.

Though these are mainly schools of
sadhana, there are temples too, where those forms are primary deities. There is
a temple for Sri Vidya Ganesha in Bangalore. There is another installation of
Sri Vidya Ganapati in Swetha Sringachalam.

Vidya, Sakta and Mantra Sastra

Most traditions in Sakta overlap,
and Sri Vidya shares several mantras with other Sakta traditions. Bhuvaneswari,
Candi, Kali, Matangi mantras are found in Sri Vidya, and are independent
vidyas. Similarly Sri Vidya mantras are found as part of other traditions like
Candi. Sri Vidya mantras are based on and are part of the Sakta mantra sastra,
its beejas and matrikas. In turn, the Sakta mantra sastra is based on and is
part of the broader understanding of mantra sastra that is common to all the
traditions including Vaishnava, Saiva, Srauta and Bauddha. Sakta's contribution
to mantra sastra is not only the variety of matras but the foundational

Sri Vidya Practitioners and Lineages

Sri Vidya is practiced by many great
seers. The Puranic seers like Agastya, Durvasa and Lopamudra (the wife of
Agastya) followed Sri Vidya. Adi Sankara was a great exponent of Sri Vidya. The
Soundarya Lahari hymn composed by him, is famous and chanted even today by many
devotees - both practitioners of Mantra Sastra and followers of popular
religion. There are many commentaries and translations of Soundarya Lahari, a
few authors to mention - Lakshmi dhara pandita, Kaivalyashrama Swamy,
Acyutananda Swamy, Vishnu Teertha and Narasimha Thakur. Practice of Sri Vidya
is coming down for centuries, in teacher-disciple tradition. In some cases it
is imparted from parent to the eldest offspring, in others it is from another
teacher. Adi Sankara also gave a commentary on Lalita Trisati, the hymn-form of

Kalidasa, a renowned poet and
devotee of Devi, is said to have primarily worshiped Kali and Matangi. However
his praises of the Mother include multiple forms, including Tripura Sundari -
he calls Her Aruna (red in Hue, Lalita) and also Kali (black).

Adi Sankara established four
monasteries in India, called Amnaya mathas (Amnaya means Veda, and matha in
this context is monastery). Each of these specializes in one of the four Vedas.
He also installed Devi in different forms, apart from Lord Siva in these
mathas. To this day, all these are worshiped according to Sri Vidya. Apart from
these, he established many other monasteries like Kanci matha. Devi is
worshiped according to Sri Vidya School, in all these. For example, Saradamba is
worshiped in Sringeri matha. Kamakshi is worshiped in Kanci matha. Besides,
there are many other ashramas like Siddheswari Peetha of Kurtalam (a
monastery), Kailasa Ashram of Hrishikesh, Lalita Peetha, Sri Vidya Vimarsana
Peetha and innumerable local ashramas that primarily worship according to Sri
Vidya discipline.

Sri Vidyaranya Swamy of 14th century
AD was a great saint and scholar of Adi Sankara's tradition. He gave a
commentary on the Veda, along with many other works like Vedanta Pancadasi. Sri
Vidyarnava, a compilation on the philosophy, practices and secrets of Sri
Vidya, is said to be his work.

Bhaskara Raya from Bijapur area of
Karnataka was a great Sri Vidya practitioner in the recent centuries. He
belonged to 18th century. He lived in Varanasi for many years, and there are
many stories about his devotion and the Mother's divine grace over him. He was
famous as a practitioner and an exponent of Sri Vidya in his times, and later.
His name marks a lineage of practice in Sri Vidya. To this date, many
generations after his times, Bhaskara Raya lineage is famous. Bhaskara Raya
Mandali of Chennai, are among the practitioners of his school. Bhaskararaya's
commentary on Lalita Sahasra nama is said to be one of the greatest

Sri Muthuswamy Dikshitar who lived
in 18-19 centuries was another exponent of Sri Vidya tradition. He was a
multi-faceted personality, a genius. He was a great musician, a devotee, a
Vedantist, expert in Mantra Sastra and a scholar. He belonged to Dakshinamutry
tradition of Sri Vidya practice. (There are three main traditions in Sri Vidya,
called Dakshinamurty, Ananda Bhairava and Hayagriva traditions.) He called Devi
Kamalamba, and composed kritis (songs in Carnatic music) that extol the
greatness of Her. Since they follow the progression in the worship of Sri
Cakra, they are called as Navavarana Kritis. Kamalamba is the main deity in the
temple at Tiruvavur whom he worshiped during his stay there. It was during that
time he composed the songs, which expound Sri Vidya Tantra in an unmatched way.
The songs that praise the deities in each enclosure of Sri Yantra, are composed
in a separate Raga. So nine Ragas were used to compose the songs. Another
uniqueness of these hymns is that they have different vibhaktis [Vibhakti is the
suffix added to noun, that determines the role and state of noun, such as
singular/plural, subject/actor. In Sanskrit, verb/noun is self-sufficient, and
does not depend on other words. For instance, Rama, "Rama did", "By Rama",
"Rama's", "to Rama" all these are independent words like Ramah, Ramasya, Ramou,
Rame. And these words are formed by appending different vibhaktis to the
word-root Rama. There are eight vibhaktis and one common to all. These nine
forms are used by Sri Dikshitar in his songs corresponding to the nine
enclosures of Sri Yantra].

Another great exponent of Sakta
Tantra of the previous century is Kavyakantha Vasistha Ganapati. He is said to
have worshiped many forms of Devi, including Sri Vidya, Chinnamasta and Tara.
He contributed greatly in spreading and popularizing worship of Devi, initiated
thousands of seekers into these schools. His disciples have in turn done that,
along with establishing ashramas for the same. He was an associate of Ramana
Maharshi of Arunacalam (Tamil Nadu). He produced great literature not only on
Sakta but on Vedic knowledge in general. His consort was a teacher herself, and
was primarily a Sri Vidya practitioner. Kapali Sastry, a disciple of both Sri
Aurobindo and Kavyakantha Vasistha Ganapati, was a Sri Vidya practitioner too.
He was the author of Siddhanjana, a commentary on Rigveda.

The previous head of Kanci matha,
Late Sri Candra Sekharendra Saraswati, was a great exponent of Sri Vidya. He
also gave an elaborate commentary on the Soundarya Lahari hymn.

There are different levels of
practice in Sri Vidya. Usually, practitioners are initiated with Bala mantra
first. After some practice, they will be initiated to Pancadasi or Shodasi, and
Khadgamala. Khadgamala is the hymn, which is used to worship Sri Cakra. It
enumerates the names of deities in each enclosure of the Sri Cakra. They are
worshiped in the order they come in the hymn. Beyond, there are different
stages like Paduka deeksha (roughly translated as the worship of Devi's shoes).
However, many will be happy in continuing their worship at one of these stages,
without necessarily taking the later initiations. There are seers who do
Pancadasi, Shodasi, Khadgamala, Paduka deeksha or even Bala alone. Tadepalli
Raghava Narayana Sastry and Addanki Krishna Murthy of previous century are
examples of people who worshiped Bala. There is also a practice of worshiping
Devi with Sri Sukta.

Worship is done in many modes. Some
worship everyday and some do collective worship on occasions. However some
serious practitioners follow deeksha, for a certain period of time. During
that, they follow severe austerities, worship Devi with red flowers and kunkum
(vermilion), wear red clothes during worship and sleep on the floor. Being red
in hue Herself, such practice is said to please Devi.

In recent years in Andhra Pradesh
there started a practice of collective worship of Lalita, chanting and worship
with Lalita Sahasra Nama hymn. This is done in various occasions and regularly
(weekly) in groups by many. They include Laksha Kunkumarcana, in which a
hundred thousand names of the Mother are chanted along with worship with
Kunkum. (Sahasra nama hymn having thousand names is chanted hundred times - ten
times each by ten persons). While there is a general trend of rise in Sakta practices,
most of them follow Sri Vidya. There is also a general practice to worship
Lakshmi in Sri Cakra domestically.

Though there is a different Yantra
for different Sakta deities like Durga and Lakshmi, it came to be a practice
that any form of Devi is worshiped in Sri Cakra in Sri Vidya procedure. In some
places both Candi Navarna and Sri Vidya procedures are followed, for example
Kanci. The main priests of all these temples are usually initiated into Sri

There are many practitioners of Sri
Vidya today. They not only initiate many seekers into the path and guide them,
but popularize the school through lucid explanations and popular discourses,
collective worship. Some of the famous teachers and practitioners include Dr
Sri Veerabhadra Mahadev and Sri Samavedam Shanmukha Sarma. Sri Mahadev is
primarily a teacher and practitioner of Sri Vidya. Sri Shanmukha Sarma has
reached out to people through his discourses, about the practice of religion.
His discourses include praises and expounding the philosophy of all the major
schools, Vishnu, Devi and Siva. He is a living example of how, having
experienced the deeper reality, one can easily understand and see the same
spiritual philosophy in different religions or theistic schools like Vaishnava,
Saiva, Sakta. The same holds true in case of many seers - Vasistha Ganapati,
Ramana Maharshi, Sri Aurobindo, Kapali Sastry, Candra Sekharendra Saraswati.

Vidyas in Sri Vidya

There are several mantra vidyas that
are practiced as part of Sri Vidya worship. Broadly, there are two kinds of
mantras - mula vidyas (the central or root vidyas) and anga vidyas (subsidiary


There are four main or mula vidyas
in Sri Vidya

(a) Gayatri: Vedic Gayatri, the primary
Vidya that one is initiated into, before the Sri Vidya mantras like Bala or

(b) Bala: The three lettered Vidya.
The presiding devata, Bala Maha Tripura Sundari, is a child. Bala is said to be
one of the most attractive and wonderful forms of Devi. Holding book and japa
mala and sitting in a white flower, She presides over knowledge and bliss, and
grants all the boons that the devotees ask for. It is a general practice to
initiate Sri Vidya practitioners into Bala before initiating them into
Pancadasi. However there are several sadhakas who are happier practicing Bala
Vidya alone and have attained salvation. There are multiple Bala mantras, such
as the Mala mantra and Bala Hridayam.

(c) Pancadasi: Pancadasi is the
famous fifteen lettered Sri Vidya mantra. Dakshinamurty is said to be the seer
of Pancadasi. There are several variations to pancadasi. There are twelve major
variations, and are called dwadasa vidyas in Pancadasi. First two of them are
the famous "ka-adi" vidya (begininning with ka) and "ha-adi" Vidya (begininning
with ha). The remaining ten are said to be practiced by, and hence named after
Manu, Candra, Kubera, Agastya, Nandikeswara, Surya, Indra, Vishnu, Sankara and

The Pancadasi is set of three putis
or groups of beejas. Each puti is said to represent a level of consicousness, a
kuta in mantra Sastra, and a granthi in kundalini yoga and in general a level
in sadhana. Each puti ends with Maya or Bhuvaneswari beeja. Symbolically Devi
is called Tri-pura Sundari, since there are three Bhuvanas or Puras She is
ruling. Presiding Devatas of mantras with Maya beeja are usually pleasant
forms, and Tripura Sundari is one of the most pleasant and beautiful forms.

(d) Shodasi: Shodasi is the sixteen
lettered Sri Vidya. Pancadasi with an additional beeja (usually Sri beeja)
becomes Shodasi. Tripura Sundari, the presiding Devata is said to be sixteen
years old. Practitioners say that there is no form of Devata which is more
beautiful and pleasant than Shodasi. The very incarnation of Devi in this form
is to restore desire, creation and bliss in the world.


The several subsidiary vidyas of
SriVidya are arranged into six Amnayas. Amnaya means Veda/Agama, and in Saiva
there are five Amnayas. They are represented by the five faces of Siva facing
Purva (eastwards), Dakshina(southwards), Pascima (westwards), Uttara
(northwards) and Urdhva (upwards). In Sri Vidya there is a sixth Amnaya called
Anuttara. Each Amnaya is associated with a guru mandala and several vidyas,
astra kamya and para. Besides, all the vidyas are grouped at different levels.
Some of the major vidyas are listed below.


The Purvamnaya contains vidyas for

  • three gurus sva-guru, parama guru and paramesthi guru

  • four peethas or seats of Devi, called Kamagiri,
         Purnagiri, Jalandhara and Odyana

  • Ganapati , various forms of Syamala, Mrityunjaya,


Dakshinamnaya contains vidyas for

  • eight Bhairavas

  • nine Siddhas

  • three Vatukas (celibates)

  • the two feet of Devi, the prakasha and vimarsa

  • forms of Bagala, Varahi, Dakshinamurty and Pasupata


Pascimamnaya contains vidyas for

  • ten Duti Devatas (messenger Devatas)

  • three mandalas (the Agni-Surya-Soma mandalas
         representing three putis of Sri Vidya)

  • ten veera Bhairavas or warriors

  • sixty four siddhas

  • forms and associate Devatas of Vishnu

  • nine grahas

  • Sura mantras or mantras for Devatas like Indra


Uttaramnaya contains vidyas for

  • Mudra Navakam or mantras for nine mudras

  • Viravali or the five presiding Devatas of the universe
         (Brahma, Vishnu, Rudra, Isvara and Sadasiva)

  • Forms of Durga, Candi, Kali etc.


Urdhvamnaya has vidyas for

  • Malini or Matrika varna mala (the alphabet mantras)

  • Guru Mandala

  • Para Vidyas like Para Sambhavi, Paramba, Para Shodasi,
         Khecari, Ajapa, Tarakamba, Nishkala


Anuttaramnaya has vidyas for

  • Catushpaat or Gayatri of four feet

  • Shodasi

  • Various forms of nyasa, sankalpa and paduka vidyas


There are fifteen Nitya Devatas who
preside over each day between a full moon and a new moon day. Each Nitya Devata
is worshiped through a Vidya named after Her. They are

  • Kameswari

  • Bhagamalini

  • Nityaklinna

  • Bherunda

  • Vahnivasini

  • Mahavidyeswari

  • Sivaduti

  • Tvarita

  • Kula Sundari

  • Nitya

  • Neela Pataka

  • Vijaya

  • Sarva Mangala

  • Jvala Malini

  • Vicitra


The Tantric texts like Rudra Yamala
expound Sri Vidya. Khadgamala Stotra, is the map and worship of Sri Cakra.
Besides there are several Sri Kula texts in the oral traditions, either as
compilations or as part of the mantra sastra texts like Mantra Mahodadhi,
Mantra Maharnava and sakta texts. A few of these texts are listed below -

  • Kamakala vilasa

  • Tantraraja tantra

  • Tripurarnava tantra

  • Sri Vidyarnava tantra

  • Jnanarnava tantra

  • Dakshinamurti samhita

  • Gandharva tantra

  • Nitya shodashikarnava

  • Yogini hridaya.

Brahmanda Purana has the story of
Lalita slaying Bhandasura. The Lalita Sahasra Nama in Brahmanda Purana expounds
Sri Vidya. Bhaskara Raya's Varivasya Rahasya, a commentary on the Sahasra nama
is a comprehensive text on Sri Vidya. Lalita Trisati, which is also found in
the same Purana, is the hymn form of Pancadasi Mantra. Sri Sukta, a hymn of Rig
Veda found in its Khila part is also used in Sri Vidya worship. In fact Tripura
Tapini Upanishad, an entire Upanishad is dedicated to Her. Adi Sankara's
prapanca sara tantra mentions some of the Sri Vidya mantras. Devi Bhagavata
describes Mani dwipa, which according to Sri Vidya is the Mother's abode.

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