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Are the consorts or energies of the Hindu gods: thus Parvati is the sacti of Siva; Lakshmi, that of Vishnu; and Suraswati, Brahma or Brahmini, of Brahma. As their energies, they participate in their various avatars or incarnations; Lakshmi, in those of Vishnu, being Varahi, Narasinhi, Sita, Radha, &c., and in like manner are the other sactis.
In the eighth volume of the Asiatic Researches, Mr. Colebrooke calls them also Matris or mothers, and says " they are named Brahmi, &c., because they issued from the bodies of Brahma and the other gods respectively." These important lords of the Hindu pantheon appear, like the lords of the creation in many countries, to lead a tolerably idle sort of life, contenting themselves to will an act, and leaving the execution of it to their ever-ready partners, who on these occasions are endowed with the full power and attributes of their husbands. Durga and the sactis are thus seen fighting the battles of the gods with the giants. See fig. 1 in the frontispiece, and fig. 1, plate 20, of Durga; and fig. 2, plate 7, of Lakshmi, as Varahi, with three heads (one a boar's) and numerous hands, armed with various instruments of war.
As the gods are the regents of the eight divisions of the world, so are the sactis protectors of them; though some of them appear to have jostled into places not under the immediate dominion of their lords. These trifling incongruities are, however, of little moment in Hindu mythology, as the ladies are as devoutly invoked by their worshippers for favours and protection, as if they were in their proper positions.
The sactis have numerous followers, who worship them exclusively. The emblem of worship is the yoni. One branch of these worshippers is so grossly licentious and addicted to debauchery, that they are held in the utmost detestation by the other sects, and even by a large portion of their own.
In the wars of the gods and the giants, the Amazonian Matris rendered themselves highly conspicuous. Mr. Colebrooke, to whom the learned world is so eminently indebted for his researches into the mythology and literature of the Hindus, has thus described their military array. "The energy of each god, exactly like him, with the same form, the same decorations, and the same vehicle, came to fight against the demons. The cacti of Brahma, girt with a white cord and bearing a hollow gourd, arrived on a car yoked with swans: her title is Brahmani. Maheswari came riding on a bull, and bearing a trident, with a vast serpent for a ring and a crescent for a gem. Caumara, bearing a lance in her hand, and riding on a peacock, being Ambica in the form of Kartikeya, came to make war on the children of Diti.* The sacti named Vishnaivi also arrived sitting on an eagle, and bearing a conch, a discus, a club, a bow, and a sword, in her several hands. The energy of Hari, who assumed the unrivalled form of the holy boar, likewise came there, assuming the body of Varahi. Narasinhi, too, arrived there, embodied in a form precisely similar to that of Narasinha, with an erect mane reaching to the host of stars. Aindri (Indrani) came bearing the thunderbolt in her hand, and riding on the king of elephants, and in every respect like Indra, with a hundred eyes. Lastly came the dreadful energy named Chandica, who sprung from the body of Devi, horrible, howling like a hundred shakals. She, surnamed Aparajita, the unconquered goddess, addressed Isana, whose head is encircled by his dusky braided locks."
With these were the demons conquered and slain. Mr. Colebrooke mentions, from other Puranas, some trifling variations respecting these heroines and their vahans; but it will be unnecessary to describe them here, beyond saying, that Kuveri, the energy of Kuvera, the god of riches, not (as is also found in modern times) an unimportant arm in war, was likewise one of the warlike sactis; as was Chamunda, sprung from a frown of Parvati.
We may here learn that the sactis, in these contests, multiplied themselves into the various forms of the several avatars of their lords; and that Parvati, who, as Durga, possessed an independant power, having been armed with the attributes of all the gods, created female warriors at will from her frowns; of which, if we may judge from her images, she was not in the least sparing. In the foregoing extract, Maheswari and Chandica are forms of Parvati; and Narasinhi, Vishnaivi, and Varahi, those of Lakshmi.
* The giants, or Assoors.
Of the detestable worship of the degraded sactis the Abbe Dubois relates: "They bring before the idol Vishnu all sorts of meat that can be procured, without excepting that of the cow; they likewise provide abundance of arrack (the brandy of the country), of toddy, of opium, and several other intoxicating drugs. The whole is presented to Vishnu. Then he who administers tastes each species of meat and of liquor, after which he gives permission to the worshippers to consume the rest. Then may be seen men and women rushing forward, tearing and devouring. One seizes a morsel, and while he gnaws it another snatches it out of his hands; and thus it passes on from mouth to mouth till it disappears, while fresh morsels, in succession, are making the same disgusting round. The meat being greedily eaten up, the strong liquors and the opium are sent round. All drink out of the same cup, one draining what another leaves, in spite of their natural abhorrence of such a practice. When the liquors are exhausted, they have nothing left but to scramble for the leaves of betel. On such occasions they regard not the pollution that must ensue when they eat and drink in a manner so beastly and disgusting. When arrived at a state of drunkenness, men and women being all indiscriminately mixed, there is no restraint on any sort of excess. A husband sees his wife in the arms of another man, and has not the right to recall her, or to find fault with what is going on. The women are there in common. All castes are confounded, and the Brahman is not above the Pariah.
It cannot well be doubted, that these enthusiasts endeavour, by their infamous sacrifices, to cover with the veil of religion the two ruling passions, lust and the love of intoxicating liquor. It is also certain, that the Brahmans, and particularly certain women of the caste, are the directors of these horrible mysteries of iniquity. Fortunately, the great expense of these ceremonies prevents their frequent recurrence."
This god is the king of the immortals and the lord of the firmament. He is represented as a white man sitting upon his celestial vahan, the elephant