Oil on Canvas, 2018
62 × 77 cm
The two aspects of the ultimate reality, Brahman, according to Hinduism, are the Purusha and Prakṛitī. In the Soul of the Universe, the Self is personified by Purusha, and Prakṛitī personifies the materialism of the Universe. The pairing of the two is celestial and inseparable, as their union represents reality. The Eight Mother Goddesses – Aśtamātrikā - are known to be the consorts of various male deities representing the Purusha-Prakṛitī pair.
Within Shaivite Tāntric literature, the wrathful form of Śiva is known as Bhairava. Bhairava himself has eight esoteric forms, known as the Aśtabhairava. Caṇḍa Bhairava is the third among these eight forms. “Caṇḍa” means the fierce, which the deity looks like, hence the name of the Bhairava.
Within esoteric Hinduism, where the lines blur between the various tāntric forms representing Purusha and Prakritī, the Aśtamātrikā are also seen to be consorts of the Aśtabhairava. Traditionally, Kaumārī is the consort of Kumāra, but within this school becomes the consort of Caṇḍa Bhairava. Bhairava, known to be an Amsa of the divine Śiva, embodies the male within him, whereas Kaumārī, an Aṃsa of Śakti, embodies the feminine.
The Kathmandu Valley encompasses numerous locations that hold significance concerning the esoteric aspect of Śakti, which are referred to as the Aśtamātrikā. The Śakti Piṭha, encompassing the entire valley, includes open sanctuaries dedicated to these mother goddesses who serve as guardians or protectors. The deities are venerated and held in high esteem through many artistic mediums, such as paintings, sculptures, and traditional mask dances.
In the context of Paubhā and other traditional art forms, it is customary for the focal point on the canvas to be reserved for the primary god to which the Paubhā is devoted. The primary deity is depicted in an exuberant size, whereas the companion to that deity is portrayed in a significantly reduced size. The term “consort” can be used interchangeably to refer to both male and female deities.