Matangi the Goddess who Loves Pollution – Uccishtha


Matangi the Goddess who Loves Pollution

Once Parvati, seated on Shiva’s lap, said to him that he
always gave her anything she wanted and that now she had a
desire to visit her father. Would he consent to her visiting
her father, Himalaya, she asked? Shiva was not happy about
granting her this wish but eventually complied, saying that
if she did not come back in a few days, he would go there
himself to ask for her return. Parvati’s mother sent a crane
to carry Parvati back to her family home. When she did not
return for some days, Shiva disguised himself as an ornament
maker and went to her father’s house. He sold shell
ornaments to Parvati and then, seeking to test her
faithfulness, asked that she have sex with him as his
payment. Parvati was outraged at the merchant’s request and
was ready to curse him, but then she discerned with her
yogic intuition that the ornament vendor was really her
husband, Shiva. Concealing her knowledge of his true
identity, she replied: “Yes, fine, I agree. But not just


Sometime later, Parvati disguised herself as a huntress
and went to Shiva’s home, where he was preparing to do
evening prayer. She danced there, wearing red clothes. Her
body was lean, her eyes wide, and her breasts large.
Admiring her, Shiva asked: “Who are you?” She replied: “I am
the daughter of a Chandala. I’ve come here to do penance.”
Then Shiva said: “I am the one who gives fruits to those who
do penance.” Saying this, he took her hand, kissed her, and
prepared to make love to her. While they made love, Shiva
himself was changed into a Chandala. At this Point he
recognized the Chandala woman as his wife Parvati. After
they had made love, Parvati asked Shiva for a boon, which he
granted. Her request was this: “As you [Shiva] made
love to me in the form of a Chandalini [Chandala
woman], this form should last forever and be known as
Uccishtha-matangini (now popularly known as Matangi).”


The key to this legend is the essence of the word
‘Chandala.’ The Chandalas are believed to constitute the
lowest strata of the caste hierarchy in orthodox Hindu
belief. Associated with death and impurity they have always
survived on the fringes of mainstream society. Derogatory in
the extreme sense, The label chandala itself has become the
worst kind of slur. Thus by disguising herself as a
Chandalini, Parvati assumes the identity of a very low-caste
person, and by being attracted, Shiva allows himself to be
identified with her. Both deities self-consciously and
willingly associate themselves with the periphery of Hindu
society and culture. The Chandala identity is sacralized
therefore, in the establishment of Goddess Matangi. This
goddess summarizes in herself the polluted and the


Another myth related to Matangi reinforces this belief.
Once upon a time, Vishnu and Lakshmi went to visit Shiva and
Parvati. They gifted Shiva and Parvati fine foods, and some
pieces dropped to the ground. From these remains arose a
maiden endowed with fair qualities. She asked for leftover
food (uccishtha). The four deities offered her their
leftovers as prasada (food made sacred by having been tasted
by deities). Shiva then said to the attractive maiden:
“Those who repeat your mantra and worship you, their
activities will be fruitful. They will be able to control
their enemies and obtain the objects of their desires.” From
then on this maiden became known as Uccishtha-matangini. She
is the bestower of all boons.


This legend stresses Matangi’s association with leftover
food, which is normally considered highly polluting. Indeed,
she herself actually arises or emerges from Shiva and
Parvati’s table scraps. And the first thing she asks for is
sustenance in the form of leftover food (uccishtha). Texts
describing her worship specify that devotees should offer
her uccishtha with their hands and mouths stained with
leftover food; that is, worshippers should be in a state of
pollution, having eaten and not washed. This is a dramatic
reversal of the usual protocols for the worship of deities.
Normally, devotees are careful to offer particularly pure
food or food that the deity especially likes. After the
deity has eaten it, the food is thought of as blessed and
returned to the worshipper to partake, and is believed to
contain the grace of the deity. The ritual give-and-take in
this case emphasizes the inferior position of the devotee,
who serves the deity and accepts the deity’s leftover food
as something to be cherished. In the case of Matangi
however, worshippers present her with their own highly
polluted leftover food and are themselves in a state of
pollution while doing so.


In some rituals she is known to have been offered a piece
of clothing stained with the menstrual blood in order to win
the boon of being able to attract someone. Menstrual blood
is regarded as taboo in the performance of religious
functions, but in the case of Matangi these strict taboos
are disregarded, indeed, are flaunted.



Kamala as the tenth and last of the Wisdom Goddesses
shows the full unfoldment of the power of the Goddess into
the material sphere. She is both the beginning and the end
of our worship of the goddess.


The canonical texts are quite specific regarding her


‘She has a beautiful and golden complexion. She is being
bathed by four large elephants who pour jars of nectars over
her. In her four hands she holds two lotuses and makes the
signs of granting boons and giving assurance. She wears a
resplendent crown and a silken dress.’


The Ten Mahavidyas : Kamala






The name Kamala means “she of the lotus” and is a common
epithet of Goddess Lakshmi. Indeed, Kamala is none other
than the goddess Lakshmi. Though listed as the last of the
Mahavidyas, she is the best known and most popular. Several
annual festivals are given in her honor. Of these, the
Diwali festival is most widely celebrated. This festival
links Lakshmi to three important and interrelated themes:
prosperity and wealth, fertility and crops, and good luck
during the coming year.





Lord Vishnu with Lakshmi on Sheshnag


The elephants pouring nectar onto her are symbols of
sovereignty and fertility. They convey Kamala’s association
with these highly desirable qualities.


Though equivalent to Lakshmi, important differences exist
when Kamala is included in the group of Mahavidyas. Most
strikingly, she is never described or shown accompanying
Vishnu, who otherwise is her constant and dominating
companion in all representations.


In this respect unlike Lakshmi, Kamala is almost entirely
removed from marital and domestic contexts. She does not
play the role model of a wife in any way, and her
association with proper dharmic or social behavior, either
as an example of it or as the rewarder of it, is not
important in the Mahavidya context. Here a premium seems to
be put on the independence of the goddesses. For the most
part, the Mahavidyas are seen as powerful goddesses in their
own right. Their power and authority do not derive from
association with male deities. Rather, it is their power
that pervades the gods and enables them to perform their
cosmic functions. When male deities are shown, they are
almost in supporting roles (literally as when they are shown
supporting Shodashi’s throne), and are depicted as
subsidiary figures.