Smashan tara, a form of Kali?

The mystery of the draupadi ratha has indeed made me post again. Dwelling into the tantric cult of west bengal, here is something of interest:

At midnight on the dark night of the moon an aghori sits alone in the great cremation ground (smashan) of Tarapith ­ the 'sacred site of Tara' ­ in Bengal, India. He is naked or 'sky-clad', fearless and unashamed, and gazes in wonder at the resplendent form of his beloved goddess, Smashan Tara. His matted hair is piled up into a topknot ­ symbolizing that he upholds his tantric vows, and the rest of his hair hangs down freely ­ representing
that he is completely free from the restraints of conventional reality. His right hand holds a skull, indicating that he has realized the insubstantial nature of all phenomena and the ultimate truth of selflessness. With his left hand he counts the beads of a rosary made from rudraksha seeds as he invokes the goddess with her mantra. He is seated upon a stone plinth and surrounded by pieces of bone from the charnel ground, and has created a protective circle around himself by hammering pegs of bone into the ground and binding them with black thread ­ a ritual practice known as kilana.

Behind the aghori's head is a small Shiva temple crowned with an iron trident, whilst in the background are a range of triangular mountains and the ascending columns of smoke from smoldering funeral pyres. Behind his back is a shrine to Bhairava and Bhairavi ­ the wrathful forms of Shiva and his consort Parvati ­ which are represented by a stone boulder with a wrathful face painted upon it, and a trunk of wood painted with the three eyes of the goddess. In front of this shrine are three skulls, which represent Shiva's mastery over the three gunas or qualities of nature ­ dynamic (rajas), pure (sattva), and inert (tamas). At the back of this shrine is a leafless bel or bilva tree ­ a tree that is especially sacred to Shiva and to all manifestations of the goddesses or shaktis. In front of the aghori is a female jackal, who serves as the 'messenger' or emissary of Smashan Tara. The jackal bares her teeth and gazes back lovingly towards her Mistress, after she has crossed the boundary of the aghori's protective circle with her right paw. Behind the jackal is a wrathful lamp fashioned from an upturned human skull. The skull rests upon a square block representing the element of earth, and is fuelled by human fat and a wick twisted from the hair of a corpse. From the flames of this lamp arises the symbol of a tantric staff or khatvanga, which is fashioned from a small skull mounted upon a handle of human vertebrae. At the top of this skull-staff is a flaming iron trident, which symbolizes the goddess's victory over the three realms (beneath, upon, and above the earth), three times (past, present and future), and three poisons (ignorance, desire and aversion). [Note: The wrathful lamp image is on the spine of the book and not pictured here.]

Smashan Tara ­ 'Tara of the Cremation Grounds' - is deep blue in color, with one face, three eyes, and four arms. She arises amidst the blazing heat of a funeral pyre, and stands in 'warrior- stance' upon the fire-consumed skeleton of a male corpse ­ with her right foot pressing upon the breast of the skeleton (the place of desire), and her left foot pressing upon the skeleton's legs (the place of worldly ambition or progress). The roaring flames of the funeral pyre represent the 'fire at the end of time' (kalagni) ­ the ultimate conflagration of the universe, which transmutes all phenomenal appearances into the unified ashes of selflessness. Her body is formed of pure light and the flames can be seen through her lower legs. She is unrestrained, wild, terrifying and fearless, with a beautiful midnight-blue complexion that represents her immutable and indestructible nature. She is the color of space ­ vast and measureless like the night sky ­ and she is beyond all concepts or qualities (nirguna). Her breasts are large or pot-shaped (ghatastani) ­ symbolizing the spiritual nourishment of her devotees, and her stomach is full and rounded (lambodari) ­ symbolizing her hunger for the corpses of selflessness and the blood of ecstatic bliss. She is naked or 'clothed in the sky' (digambara), symbolizing her freedom from the veils of emotional defilements. Around her waist she wears a girdle of eight blood-dripping forearms, which symbolizes her severance of all actions or karmas and the eight worldly dharmas of loss and gain, praise and blame, pleasure and pain, ignominy and fame. Her long black hair is disheveled and hangs freely behind her back, symbolizing that she has untied the knot of appearances and revels in her unconditional freedom.

Courtesy: Robert Beer. 06/09/2002

Of course there is also Anubis, who is the God of death and enbalming for the ancient Egyptians!

Read more on Smashan Tara


Anonymous said...

How does Smashan Tara relate/compare to Kali?

Are the Mantras & Yantras different?

Please forgive my ignorance

prema said...

I wish I could remember all that is written by you and read by me!!

kavitha said...

Smashan tara and kali are various forms of the mother goddess. mantras and yantras help in the performance of certain rituals which are beyond the common man's imagination. mantras have power in sound and yantras have energy stored in certain diagramatical representations. none of this can be seen or felt or appeal to the senses of human beings... its beyond all that. i cant explain .. it has to be experienced.

Anonymous said...

jai baba ki
i am abhinav from delhi.. and also a national level pistol shooter.initially i belong to meerut u.p.
always was intrested intantra mantra, then got a book aghora at the left hand of god.by robert e svoboda.. and after that 2 more in its succession after reading the three parts..
i was totally transformed. i was thinking to leave everything and become an aghori insted.. but dad mum ki expectations bhi hain but one day with in 4,5 yrs after a fulfil my parents dreams i am gonna go to kamakhya devi. or manikarnika ghat benaras. and be one of them. b coz my fav is shiv and i can only realize her through understanding mother tara. that is shamshan tara or call her shamshan kali and those who say that this is evil are not able to understand the left hand intense form to reach god.that is bcoz bhagwan bhi nahi chahta ki sab uss k bare mein jaane. and these things cannot be captured in words this u also understand. these are to be seen. i know that i have that courage inside me to sit naked inside a shamshan ghat and do my sadhna. but i am waiting for my guru.. prerna
my e mail is abhinavsaxena@india.com..
feel free to contact me any time you want i will be a regular aghori on this forum bcoz this is the best that suits me from inside that is to be a true aghori and seeing that this world is a cremation ground and ppl are dead maving corpses as they will bcom some day or other.no one can escape death,and that is the only ultimate truth of life.nothing is permanent.. that is what the true aghori always has in mind..and he tries to get the permanancy which is only to be in shiva .i hope i wrote something of sense.. wat ever came to me i wrote.sorry for making it so long. see you all who are intrested
jai baba ki
om aghoraye vidhmahey mahadevaya dheemahee tanno rudra prachodayat

kavitha said...

interesting, i have read other versions of the shloka on rudra. shiva is indeed a great god!!!

Anonymous said...

kali maa is really powrful.she is always there for u.i have seen that.she comes into my dreamz n give me instructions.she is always there to protect me n take kare of me.i m so fortunate to have her by my side as a mother.if any1 has any question send me an e-mail on tanzdhaliwal@hotmail.com

Taurean said...

Great site!

Aswin Kini said...

HI Kavitha,
nice descriptive post about the goddess Smashan Tara.
If i am not wrong, Smashan(Pronounced as MASHAN refers to Burial Ground), Am i right???

You had beautifully described the form of the goddess, but why didn't you post a picture of the divine mother!! Didn't you find any images.

Are there any stories about the goddess Smashan Tara, if so, please share with us!! We would like to know more!!

Dr.Anil Joshi said...

Kavitha,Who is Mr.Robert Beer?
Your disclaimer ws quite interesting!

Anonymous said...

har har mahadev. what fantastic timing. i am looking for an image of goddess tara and in first go i hit your blog.its mahashivratri and time is about 12 midnight.the image is fantastic.the smashan platform asana on which the sadhak is sitting can be panch mundi aasan- as described in some tantric texts.thats the invisble part in the image shown by you.yours image is really loaded with meanings, which can be understood at different levels.hope to hear from u on this blog. i will keep in touch.

Anonymous said...

s trying to know tantra , aghor shaiv mishra, then be ready . have some noble objectives.

raja roy said...

tara maa or tara devi is one of the feirce forms of the 10 forms of kaali which was revealed to lord shiva .when parvati asked lord shiva for permission to go to her fathers house who was holdind an yagna in which shiva was not invited, shiva refused to let parvati go knowing whatwas coming. it is then in a fit of anger parvati showed shiva the ten forms. it is said that even shiva was frightened when he saw the ten forms and finally allowed her to goto her fathers yagna. you want to know more? send mail.

raja roy said...

hi abhinav. read about your interest in tantra mantra. same here want to compare notes?mail me. its rajaroybe@yahoo.com

Jaipal said...

hello to all friends

the description about Maa(Smashan Tara) is as it is in book i read named "Agora: At the left hand of god" by Robert E. Svoboda. If any one want e-book of it,contact me @ jpr576@gmail.com

Jai Smashan Tara.

geeta said...

hi friends ,
i want to know more about DEVItana

Anonymous said...

i friends my self siddharth sood and i want to know, how i m control the shamshaan ke devi-devta or how i worshiped them.

Kavitha said...

Why would you ever want to control the Goddess. The vey thought of it is bad. Worship her...don't control her. There is a lot of greed in that thought.

Sankar said...

I follow your blog and it has been a great stuff and some of the write ups are so nice i treasure them to read again. I am follower of Maa Tara and live in her compassion. If you have her moola manthra and dhyana sloka, would you share it if it is within your purview. Thanks

Audhoot Dr Vishal Rampuria. said...

You can search for Bamankhepa Maa Tara bhakt on google

SAISWAMY said...

iam at andhara pradesh. iam do ing tara sadhana with blessings of my guru.iwish to know more abt smasana tara sadhana.if available any book pl send adress or pdf.tq