Mahāvidyas (Skt., ‘great’ + ‘knowledge’). Ten Hindu goddesses who represent the ten forms of transcendent knowledge and tantric power, through the worship of whom one can gain knowledge of Brahman, since they are all personifications of Brahman's Śakti. They are Kāli/Lalitā; Tārā (an emanation of Kāli); Soḍaśī (a girl of 16, the number of perfection, thus the perfection of the cosmic whole); Bhukaneśvari (the material world); Bhairavi (the infinite variety of desires and the inevitability of death); Chinnamastā/Vīrarātrī (eternal night, depicted naked drinking blood from her own self-severed head); Dhūmāvatī (the destruction, pralaya, of the cosmos, when only smoke, dhūma, remains); Bagalā (emotional forces of hate, jealousy, etc.); Mātaṇgi (power and domination); Kamalā (the girl of the lotus, pure consciousness). The Mahāvidya cult was prominent in medieval Bengal.
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