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!
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