Chamunda, also known as Sachchi Mata, Chamundi, Chamundeshwari, and Charchika, is a fearsome aspect of Devi, the Hindu Divine Mother and one of the seven Matrikas. She is also one of the chief Yoginis, a group of sixty-four or eighty-one Tantric goddesses, the name is a combination of Chanda and Munda, two monsters whom Chamunda killed. She is closely associated with Kali, another aspect of Devi. She is sometimes identified with goddesses Parvati, Chandi or Durga as well, the goddess is often portrayed as haunting cremation grounds or fig trees. The goddess is worshipped by ritual animal sacrifices along with offerings of wine and in the ancient times, as the times have changed, meat, and wine are no longer offered. As of today it has known that animal sacrifices have been discouraged by texts such as the Ramayan. Originally Devi Chamunda was discovered in Hinduism and later entered the Jain pantheon too, though in Jainism, the rites of her worship include vegetarian offerings, and not the meat and liquor offerings. Ramakrishna Gopal Bhandarkar says that Chamunda was originally a form of Devi worshipped by the Munda peoples of the Vindhya range of central India and these tribes were known to offer goddesses animal as well as human sacrifices along with ritual offerings of liquor. These methods of worship were retained in Tantric worship of Chamunda and he proposes the fierce nature of this goddess is due of her association with Vedic Rudra, identified with fire god Agni at times. The black or red coloured Chamunda is described as wearing a garland of severed heads or skulls. She is described as having four, eight, ten or twelve arms, holding a Damaru, trishula, sword, a snake, skull-mace, thunderbolt, standing on a corpse of a man or seated on a defeated demon or corpse. Chamunda is depicted adorned by ornaments of bones, skulls, serpents and she also wears a Yajnopavita of skulls. She wears a jata mukuta, that is, headdress formed of piled, matted hair tied with snakes or skull ornaments, sometimes, a crescent moon is seen on her head. Her socket eyes are described as so intense that it burns the evil of all three worlds and she is accompanied by fiends and goblins. She is also shown to be surrounded by skeletons or ghosts and beasts like jackals, the jackal are her fearsome companions. The severed head and corpse represents the severing of the ego, the corpse hence is conquered by the Devi, showing that the Ego is conquered. The symbolism of the Devi is made as to one is given the impression of the reality of life. This form as well as many of the other Eight Matrikas all show the reality of life and they show the bareness, non sugar coated version of reality
Image: Orissa State Museum, Bhubaneswar (5) Oct 2010
The Goddess Ambika (here identified with: Durga or Chandi) leading the Eight Matrikas in Battle Against the Demon Raktabija, Folio from a Devi Mahatmya - (top row, from the left) Narashmi, Vaishnavi, Kumari, Maheshvari, Brahmi. (bottom row, from left) Varahi, Aindri and Chamunda, drinking the blood of demons (on right) arising from Raktabija's blood and Ambika.
Chamunda, British Museum. Odisha, 8th - 9th century AD India.