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Vasanta Panchami: Raja Matangi - Raja Shyamala

Shak­ti refers to the fun­da­men­tal ener­gy that gov­erns the uni­verse. It rep­re­sents all of cre­ation and man­i­fes­ta­tions in the uni­verse. Though in many parts of the world, fem­i­nine wor­ship was prac­ticed, only in India we see it being cel­e­brat­ed even today. Navara­tri is a sig­nif­i­cant occa­sion in all of India and is an oppor­tu­ni­ty for every­one to show their grat­i­tude to this fem­i­nine ener­gy that per­vades this uni­verse. Nava means nine and ratri means night. Navara­tri rep­re­sents nine nights ded­i­cat­ed to the wor­ship of the God­dess­es Dur­ga, Lak­sh­mi and Saraswathi. Four Navaratris are celebrated in year. Sharadiya, Chaitra, Ashada and Magha of which the first two are popular. 

Vasanta Panchami, also known as Saraswati Puja, is a Hindu festival celebrated in the spring season, typically falling in the Hindu month of Magha, which corresponds to January or February in the Gregorian calendar. The festival marks the onset of spring and is dedicated to the worship of Saraswati, the goddess of knowledge, wisdom, arts, and learning. The word "Vasanta" means "spring," and "Panchami" refers to the fifth day of the lunar fortnight. Vasanta Panchami is celebrated on the fifth day (Panchami) of the bright half of the lunar month of Magha.

Vasanta Panchami is dedicated to the worship of Maa Saraswati or Raja Matangi, the tantric or Dasa Mahavidya form of Maa Saraswati. 

सरस्वति नमस्तुभ्यं वरदे कामरूपिणि ।

विद्यारम्भं करिष्यामि सिद्धिर्भवतु मे सदा ॥

Salutations to Devi Saraswati, Who grants boons and fulfills wishes. O Devi, as I begin my vidya, bestow upon me its fulfillment always. 

Dasa Mahavidyas rep­re­sent the ten aspects of Parashak­ti and are very sig­nif­i­cant for tantric prac­ti­tion­ers. Each of the aspects rep­re­sent a unique form of ener­gy that will yield spe­cif­ic ben­e­fits when invoked. Mahavidya sad­hakas are strict­ly ini­ti­at­ed by a Guru and usu­al­ly ini­ti­at­ed only on one of the Vidyas. The mantras chant­ed for the God­dess­es com­press all aspects of Shak­ti — both gen­tle and fierce. The Mahavidyas rep­re­sent the mul­ti­fac­eted aspects of the fem­i­nine: she can sit on the cre­ma­tion ground, she can van­quish.

Sati the daugh­ter of Dak­sha was mar­ried to Shi­va. Dak­sha had orga­nized a yagya for which he did not invite Shi­va. Dak­sha thought of Shi­va as an unre­fined being who spends time with gory ganas, who sits in the grave­yard and who dressed like a beg­gar. Sati insist­ed to Shi­va that they should par­tic­i­pate in the yagya as every­one was head­ing there. Shi­va did not agree as they had not been invit­ed.  In her anger her eyes become red and bright and her limbs trem­ble. See­ing her fury, Siva clos­es his eyes. When he opens them, a fear­some female stands before him. As he looks at her, she becomes very old, her grace­ful appear­ance dis­ap­pear­ing. She devel­ops four arms, her com­plex­ion becomes fiery and her hair disheveled, her lips are smeared with sweat, and her tongue lolls out and begins to wave from side to side. She is naked except for a gar­land of sev­ered heads; she wears the half moon as a crown. Stand­ing before Siva, she blazes like a mil­lion ris­ing suns and fills the world with earth-shat­ter­ing laugh­ter.  Shi­va tries to flee but obstruct­ed at var­i­ous exits by the ten dif­fer­ent forms — the Dasa Mahavidyas.

One might think that this is a dis­play of “female” ego but each of the avataras or man­i­fes­ta­tions hap­pen for a rea­son and they hap­pen at an appro­pri­ate time and place and are trig­gered by a spe­cif­ic inci­dents. This sto­ry of Dak­sha is often nar­rat­ed only from the per­spec­tive of Shi­va. This inci­dent is an oppor­tu­ni­ty for all of us to know the mahi­ma of Shak­ti, the divine ener­gy and moth­er God­dess.

Matangi or Raja Shyamala

Matan­gi is the ninth of the Mahavidyas. She is the god­dess of Music, Learn­ing and Knowl­edge. She is both fero­cious and sweet spo­ken. The sto­ry of Matan­gi accord­ing to one of the tantric texts goes like this. Vish­nu and Lak­sh­mi vis­it­ed Shi­va and Par­vati and offered them var­i­ous foods. When the Gods were par­tak­ing the food, some of food dropped on the ground. A beau­ti­ful maid­en arose from it and asked for the food that was left over. The Gods hap­pi­ly offered their left-over food. Hence Matan­gi is known to be fed with left-over food. The Shya­mal­adan­dakam text describes Matan­gi as the daugh­ter of Sage Matan­ga.

The Dhyana mantra, which outlines the deity's form for meditation, within the Brhat Tantrasara elucidates Uchchhishta-Matangini, a widely revered manifestation of the goddess. Matangi sits atop a corpse adorned in crimson attire, crimson ornaments, and a necklace of gunja seeds. Depicted as a youthful maiden of sixteen, she bears mature features, including fully developed breasts. With a skull bowl and a sword in hand, she is portrayed as accepting offerings of leftovers.

Maa Matangi is described as the Goddess of knowledge, learning and speech. She also represents the words of the Guru that enlightens us. She is also known as Mantrini for her mastery over the mantras and bestower of such a capability to a sadhaka. Matangi embodies the potency of verbal expression (Vaikhari), reflecting the articulation of thoughts and intellect. Additionally, she embodies the capacity for attentive listening and comprehension, transforming speech into wisdom and understanding. Beyond verbal communication, Matangi governs all forms of inner creativity and knowledge, including art, music, and dance. Even the transformation of ideas to speech- Madhyama is attrubuted to her. She resides in the Vishuddhi chakra there by purifying the power of speech, creativity and expression. 

Maa Matangi’s is worshipped in the main shrine of Maa Kamakhya along with Maa Kamala. Goddess Meenakshi is considered to be a form of Maa Matangi. 

Kavi Kalidasa describes beautifully in his Shymala Dandakam

भक्तिभाजां परं श्रेयसे कल्पसे । योगिनां मानसे द्योतसे । 

छन्दसामोजसा भ्राजसे। गीतविद्याविनोदातितृष्णेन कृष्णेनसंपूज्यसे भक्तिमच्चेतसा वेधसा स्तूयसे । 

विश्वहृद्येन वाद्येन विद्याधरैर्गीयसे ।

O Mother! You bless your devotees with material and spiritual welfare. You shine in the hearts of yogis. You shine by the powerful Vedic chants. You are worshipped by Krishna who very much likes gitavidya( the fine art of music). Brahma sings your praises with deep devotion. Vidyadharas sing your glories with instruments which captivate the hearts of all.

Listen to Anaadi Foundation’s Matangi Strotram

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