Tripura Bhairavi

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Tripura Bhairavi :

Bhairavi, meaning the "Terrible or Terrifying", is the female counterpart of Bhairava, the wrathful form of Rudra-Shiva, and appears as the fifth of the ten Mahavidya or "Great knowledge" goddesses. Like Bhairava she has many different forms, and is depicted here in her four-armed aspect as Tripura Bhairavi, the "Frightful lady of the Three Cities". In Vajrayana Buddhism she is identified with Kalaratri, the "Dark Night", the seventh of the nine Navadurga Goddesses, whose emaciated form appears under the feet of both Heruka Chakrasamvara and Vajrayogini, with Bhairava-Shiva as her consort.

The complexion of Tripura Bhairava is likened to the radiance of a thousand rising suns, and she is youthful, lusty and ruby-red in colour, with three lotus-like intoxicated eyes and four arms. Her breasts are full and firm with aroused nipples and smeared with fresh blood, and she sits in vajra-posture upon the golden seed-head of a multicolored lotus that arises from the turbulent and misty waters of a lotus lake. She wears lower garments of embroidered silks, a long billowing green silk scarf that entwines about her body, and a garland of freshly severed heads, and the golden ornaments of jeweled earrings; bracelets, armlets and anklets; and short, medium and long necklaces. Her elaborate five-skull golden crown is adorned with jewels, five long silver Newar kikinpa blades, and two golden vicory flags. With her lower right hand she makes the boon-granting varada-mudra or supreme generosity, and with her upper right hand the abhaya-mudra of dispelling fear. And with her lower and upper left hands she holds her attributes of a sacred text and a rosary of ruby-red beads.

Bhairavi’s blue inner aura is decorated with roundels and encircled by a ring of white skulls and an outer aura of fire, with flowers and clouds surrounding it. Above her halo is the yantra of Tripura Bhairava, with a central dais inscribed with two intersecting triangles that create a six-pointed star, with a downward-pointing yoni or female triangle at its centre. A lotus circle of sixteen petals encircles the dais, with the square and four directional gateways of the bhupura or ‘earth-city’ outside. Each quadrant of the bhupura has a central lotus petal and is coloured: white (east), yellow (south), red (west), and green (north).

© text by Robert Beer