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There are two broad stories about the origins of the Mahavidyas:

The Shakta Mahabhagwat Puran states that they emerged from the body of Sati:

Sati, the daughter of Daksha and first wife of god Shiva, feels insulted that she and Shiva are not invited to Daksha's yagna and insists on going there, despite Shiva's protests. Shiva refused and even forbade her from going at which the enraged Sati transforms into the Mahavidyas.

The second, from the Devi Bhagwat Puran states that they emerged from Devi Parvati when she had to face the demon Durgam, the demon after killing whom she received the name of Durga.

Goddess Parvati (who had first turned into Shakambhari) again transformed her appearance and now she looked ferocious. She was well equipped with all sorts of lethal weapons and was mounted on a lion. She thundered loudly and challenged Durgamasur.................At this moment, came out of the body of the Devi, the principal Shaktis named Kali, Tarini, Tripura-Sundari, Bhuvaneshwari, Bhairavi, Chinnamasta, Dhumavati, Bagalamukhi, Matangi and Kamalatmika.

Of course both Sati and Parvati are different forms of the same goddess and the Mahavidyas may have appeared more than once but which of these two is more likely to be the original 'origin' story?

  • What's difference between Sati and Parvati? Is there any? As par my knowledge, no difference. – Rishabh Sep 6 '17 at 8:06
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    As I mentioned in the question itself they are different forms of the same goddess BUT they did exist at different times in the life of Shiva. Sati came before and Parvati later so there definitely is a difference. – Dr. Vineet Aggarwal Sep 6 '17 at 8:15
  • Doesn't matter on which time they came. Sati and Parvati both are incarnations of Aadi shakti. Aadi Shakti first took birth as Sati, later took birth as Parvati. So where is the difference? – Rishabh Sep 6 '17 at 8:18
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    @RakeshJoshi No Shakambhari actually shows the true form of Parvati, that of Aadi Shakti. But even then my question is different. When did the Mahavidyas first emerge? – Dr. Vineet Aggarwal Sep 6 '17 at 16:03
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    Didn't you read the question? I mentioned Parvati had first transformed into Shakambhari and then the Mahavidyas emerged from her. Check this link if you want to read the whole episode - sacred-texts.com/hin/db/bk07ch28.htm – Dr. Vineet Aggarwal Sep 6 '17 at 18:47
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As shown in this answer, the Devi PurAna account gives the widely known 10 MahAvidyAs. The account from the Devi BhAgavatam, on the other hand, does not include the origin of 2 MahAvidyas namely- DhumAvati and Bhuvaneswari.

The Devi PurAna account gives:

Lord Shiva asked " Who are you ShyAmA (the dark complexioned one)? Where is my beloved Sati?"

Devi laughingly replied " Can't you recognize me? I am your own Sati. I'm the SrishtistithisamhArakArini SukshmA Parkriti. For being your wife i have become fair complexioned (Gauri). The ten Devis that you see around you are also my forms. Hence, O MahAmati Shambhu, do not fear.

Sati said to her husband who was afflicted with fear " The Goddess who is in your front is BhimanayanA MahakAli, in the sky (or in the antariksha direction) is TArA, on the right side is ChinnamastA, on your left is Bhuvaneswari, behind you is BagalAmukhi, at the south-east corner (Agni Kona) is DhumAvati, in the south-west corner (Nairitkona) there is KamalA, in the north0west corner (VAyukona) there is MAtangi , in the north-east corner (IshAna kona) there is Shodashi (Tripura Sundari) and in your own self i am existing as Bhairavi.

Now, if you want i can teach that proud Daksha a lesson by destroying his Yajna

So, this story mentions all the usual ten names of the MahAvidyAs we find in the Tantras viz:

KAli tArA mahAvidyA shodashi bhuvaneswari |
Bhairavi chinnamstA cha vidyA dhumAvati tathA ||
BagalAmukhi siddhavidyA mAtangi kamalAtmikA |
EtA dasha mahAvidyA siddhavidyA prakirtitAh ||

MundamAlA Tantram.

The same names are also mentioned in the Brihaddharma PurAna:

MahAvidyA imAh proktA nAmAnyAsantu varnaye |
KAli tArA mahAvidyA shodashi bhuvaneswari ||
BhairvaichinnamstA cha sundari bagalamukhi|
dhumAvati cha mAtangi mahAvidyA dashaiva TAh ||

Brihaddharma PurAna, MadhyabhAga.

Also, here the MahAvidya word has been used explicitly.

On the other hand, from the the Devi BHAgavatam we find:

As a result of that penance, Goddess was pleased and Devi Bhuvaneswari, Maheswari, PArvati displayed her spectacular form which is endowed with infinite number of eyes.

Iti samprArtitA devi bhuvaneshi maheswari |
anantAkshimayam rupam darshyAmAs pArvati ||

Devi BhAgavatam 7.28.31-33

From those infinite number of eyes of Goddess PArvati, for nine days, continuously flowed tears.And as a result the dry and lifeless earth got rejuvenated. The Gods came out of the caves and started eulogizing Goddess. Durgama got informed of all the happenings from spies and came to fight Goddess.

Now, during this battle from Goddess SatAkshi's body emerged 32 MahAshaktis and 64 Divyashaktis and numerous Shaktis all equipped with many weapons. Among the 32 MahAshati we find the names of all the MahAvidyas except DhumAvati and Buvaneswari.

KAlikA tArini bAlA tripurA bhairvai ramA|
bagalA chaiva mAtangi tathA tripurAsundari ||
KAmAkshi kulajA devi jambhini mohini tathA |
ChinnamastA guhyakAli dashasAhasra bahukA ||
DvAtrimshacchayashchAnyA devyah samudbhutAstu sAyudhAh ||

Devi BhAgavatam 7.28.55-57

So, not all the 10 traditional names are found in this account. The word MahAvidyA is also not used anywhere. That's why the 10 MahAvidyas emerging from Goddess Sati's body should be taken the more comprehensive account of their origin IMO.

Interestingly, in the Dasha MahAvidyA Stuthi found here, Goddess Bhuvaneswari is praised as:

She is the goddess of the universe. She is normally depicted with four hands, with goad, rope and the other two showing giving boons and another protection.

........

Pasankusa dari durgam asura samharini,
Shatakshi sakambari nama Vikhyathe
BHuvaneswari namosthuthe
.

So, Goddess PArvati's form, which is endowed with an infinite number of eyes, is Goddess Bhuvaneswari herself. And the Devi BhAgavatam mentions that from Bhuvaneswari or PArvati the remaining MahAvidyAs have emerged (with exception of DhumAvati).

So, that's why Goddess Bhuvaneswari's name is not found in the list of the Goddesses who emerged out of Goddess PArvati's body. However, this does not explain why DhumAvati is not mentioned.

Anyways, an interesting point to note here, is that apart from KAlikA, the only other Dasha MahAvidya who is also called as AdyA (or the primordial one) is Bhuvaneswari.

From the DhyAnam of Goddess Bhuvaneswari's three-lettered mantra we find:

VarAnkushau pAsham bhiti mudrAm karairvahantim kamalAsanasthAm |
BAlArka koti pratimAm trinetrAm bhajeham AdyAm bhuvaneswarim TAm ||

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    Splendid answer! Thanks so much for the clear justificaton of which story to be considered more pertinent to the origin of Mahavidyas. – Dr. Vineet Aggarwal Sep 10 '17 at 15:23
  • I think Devi Bhagavatam doesnt mention all Mahavidyas emerged from Devi Parvati. But i think Skanda Purana mentions similar story. let me check. But i think we can't say who is original source between Sati and Parvati as both are aspects of Adi Para Shakti. – The Destroyer Sep 10 '17 at 16:51
  • OK and yes u are right ..Goddess Sati and Goddess PArvati are both Adi Para Shakti. @TheDestroyer – Rickross Sep 10 '17 at 16:52

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