India, known for its rich tapestry of culture and spirituality, is home to a myriad of gods and goddesses, each with their unique attributes and significance. Among the many revered deities, three goddesses stand out prominently in the Hindu pantheon, they are Meenakshi, Kamakshi, and Vishalakshi. These three goddesses represent the multifaceted nature of the divine feminine in Hinduism. They embody the qualities of strength, compassion, wisdom, and the power to fulfill the desires of their devotees.
Meenakshi Amman, a revered Hindu deity is an avatar of Goddess Parvati, the consort of Lord Shiva. The name "Meenakshi" means "fish-eyed," meaning eyes shaped like a fish. She is renowned for her beauty and is considered a powerful and benevolent Goddess who blesses her devotees with protection, prosperity, and fertility. Meenakshi is often seen in her typical graceful standing pose on a lotus, adorned with layers of beautiful jewelries and a tall golden crown depicting her royal status as the queen of Madurai, with her right hand holding a lotus, which is a symbol of purity, and a parrot sitting on the lotus, a bird associated with love and devotion in Hindu mythology. Her beautiful face, expressive eyes, and gentle smile, portrays a sense of wisdom and benevolence. Goddess Meenakshi is a symbol of strength, courage, and devotion. She is worshipped primarily in the South India, and the principal deity of the famous Meenakshi Amman Temple located in Madurai, Tamil Nadu, one of the oldest and most significant temples in India.
Story of Goddess Meenakshi Amman: According to Hindu mythology, Meenakshi was born to King Malayadwaja Pandya and Queen Kanchanamala. The royal couple was childless for a long time and prayed to Lord Shiva for a child. The couple was blessed with a baby girl, who was born with three breasts. A divine voice told the parents that the extra breast would disappear when she meets her future husband. The couple were happy and named her Tadaatagai, means “beautiful eyes”. Meenakshi grew up to be a courageous and powerful ruler. During her reign, she embarked on a military expedition and conquered various kingdoms. It was during one of these conquests that she met Lord Shiva, and upon seeing him, her third breast disappeared, indicating that he was her destined husband. Meenakshi then married Sundareswarar, the handsome youth form of Lord Shiva in Madurai, and their wedding ceremony was a grandeur event, that is reenacted every year in Madurai as “Meenkashi Thirukalyanam” or Chithirai festival attracting thousand of devotees and tourists from all over the world. Meenakshi became the queen of Madurai, and both Lord Shiva and Meenakshi ruled the kingdom together, their divine presence made Madurai a center of culture, art, and spirituality. The Meenakshi Amman Temple in Madurai is dedicated to the worship of Goddess Meenakshi and Lord Sundareswarar and the temple is a significant pilgrimage site and a masterpiece of the Dravidian architecture worshipped by millions of devotees till today.
Kamakshi Amman is the form of the Hindu Goddess Parvathi, and consort of Lord Shiva. She is worshipped as the Goddess of fertility, devotion, progeny, and protection. She is an incarnation of Shakthi, the Universal Mother, and also the ultimate form of Goddess Shri Lalitha Maha Tripurasundari. The word Kama means desire or love, and Akshi means eyes. Thus, Kamakshi is referred to as the the "love-eyed" goddess of kanchipuram. Kamakshi Amman descend to the earthly realm to bless and guide her devotees, and chose Kanchipuram as the place for her divine presence. The sanctum of Kanchipuram temple depicts Kamakshi with four hands. In her rear hands, she holds a sugarcane bow, symbolizing the mind, and the other hand holds five arrows, representing the five senses. The other two hands are in the gestures of protection and blessings. The Goddess is seated in a yogic posture, signifying her supreme spiritual power. In other representations of the Amman, she holds a goad and a noose in her rear hands, and sugarcane and arrows in the front hands. The crescent moon on her head is a symbol of divine energy that governs the cosmos, and the moon also symbolizes her connection with Lord Shiva. Yoni placed at the feet of the Goddess represents women’s womb, and yoni worship is very commonly practiced in Kamakshi worship. Metaphorically, the womb represents Prakriti or nature, and she is worshipped in the form of womb. The famous Kamakshi Amman temple is in Kanchipuram, Tamil Nadu, and hence she is referred to as Kanchi Kamakshi. She is worshipped as the Parabrahma Swaroopini, and it is also said that her furious form Ugra Swaroopini was pacified by Adhi Shankara as he wrote the Saundarya Lahiri to make the Goddess peaceful. Kamakshi is a symbol of love, and associated with fertility and motherly care. The festival of Navaratri is significant at the temple and the Goddess is celebrated in a grandeur manner during the days of Navratri. The temple remains an important pilgrimage site, drawing devotees from far and wide who seek the divine blessings of Goddess Kamakshi Amman.
Story of Goddess Kamakshi Amman: The story of Goddess Kamakshi Amman is deeply rooted in Hindu mythology and have few versions that explains how the goddess evolved in Kanchipuram. Kamakshi Amman is believed to be an incarnation of Goddess Parvati, the consort of Lord Shiva. According to the story, there was a powerful demon named Bandasura who had gained a boon from Lord Shiva, making him nearly invincible. He became arrogant and misused his powers causing havoc in the three worlds. Unable to bear the tyranny of Bandasura, gods and other celestial beings approached Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva seeking a solution. Lord Shiva asked them to seek the help of Shakthi to control Bandasura. Shakthi also called Parvathi, took the form of Kamakshi Amman, to battle the demon. A fierce and prolonged battle ensued between Kamakshi and Bandasura, during which the goddess displayed her immense power and prowess. Finally, Kamakshi slayed Bandasura restoring peace to the world. The goddess then decided to reside in Kanchipuram, where she is worshipped as Kamakshi Amman. The temple dedicated to her in Kanchipuram is one of the most revered and ancient shrines in South India. There is a belief, that after her incarnation as Kamakshi for killing Asur Bandasura, she sat there in her kanya form worshipping Lord Shiva by creating the mud idol of Shiva in Kanchi. Lord Shiva incarnated himself as Kamba River that has high tides, and tried to destroy the mud idol made by Kamakshi. But the Goddess did not let the mud idol erode away in tides, and grasped it closely with her hands. Seeing the benevolent nature of kamakshi, Lord Shiva became happy with her worship and married her.
There are various Shiva temples in Kanchi, but “Sri Kamakshi Amman Temple” is the only one with the Goddess Sanctorum. Eight Shakthi Goddesses also surround the temple. Kamakshi is referred to as the Goddess living in Kanchi and Goddess Saraswati, and Lakshmi are her both eyes. The place where Sri Kamakshi resides is known as “Nabisthana Ottiyana Peetam.” The temple is considered one of the Shakti Peethas, which are sacred places associated with the goddess Shakthi, and is believed that this is the place where the Navel or Nabhi of Goddess Sati fell when Lord Vishnu’s Sudarshana Chakra severed Goddess Sati’s body. The story of Goddess Kamakshi Amman reflects the essence of divine love, devotion, and the belief that the divine can manifest in various forms to guide and bless humanity. The temple in Kanchipuram stands as a testimony to the enduring faith of countless devotees who find solace and strength in the benevolent gaze of Kamakshi Amman. Devotees believe that the goddess's eyes in the temple have a powerful and compassionate gaze that can fulfill their wishes and bring them peace and prosperity. The temple is a magnificent structure with intricate architecture and is dedicated to the worship of Goddess Kamakshi Amman.
Vishalakshi Devi is a form of the Hindu Goddess Parvati, and the consort of Vishwanath Shiva. She is revered as the Goddess of Kasi (City of Varanasi), which is one of the holy cities as per Hinduism. The name Vishalakshi means “wide eyed”, and she is the embodiment of divine beauty and grace. The worship of Vishalakshi is associated with seeking blessings for marital harmony, prosperity, and spiritual well-being. She is referred to as Kashi Vishalakshi, and is considered a powerful and benevolent deity. Vishalakshi is depicted in both standing and sitting posture. She holds lotus flowers in her rear hands which is a symbol of purity, and spiritual awakening. In certain depictions, the Goddess is seen in standing posture, with the lingam, and Ganesh on the lotus, as a symbolic representation of Shiva and Ganesh present in the main sanctum, with Vishalakshi being the primary deity at Kashi Vishalakshi temple. Her other attributes are rosary used for spiritual practice, symbolizing the meditative aspect of the Goddess, and a holy pot that symbolizes her devotion to Lord Shiva. In other representations, she has a trident, a crescent moon, a third eye, and all of these are attributes showing her faith and devotion to Shiva. One of Vishalakshi’s most prominent attribute is a mirror signifying self realization and self awareness which is seen in some forms of the Goddess. It is important to note that the iconography of Vishalakshi can vary in different artistic representations, and not all depictions may include all of these attributes. The core symbolism revolves around her identity as a Goddess of compassion, and spiritual wisdom, as well as her connection with Kashi (Varanasi) and Lord Shiva. Her temple, The Kashi Vishalakshi temple in Varanasi is a significant pilgrimage site for thousand of visitors from around the world.
Story of Kashi Vishalakshi Devi: Different regions and communities have different stories and traditions associated with the worship of Goddess Vishalakshi. As per Hindu mythological stories, the story of Vishalakshi is associated with Goddess Sati, and the formation of the Shakthi peethams. Sati, an incarnation of Parvathi, and the daughter of Daksha a proud King, married Lord Shiva against her father’s consent. In a grand Yajna, where all the gods and celestials were invited, Daksha did not invite Lord Shiva. Sati attended the yajna, and was insulted by her father, which carried a disrespect to Lord Shiva. At this instance Sati immolate herself in the yajna fire. Hearing this, the enraged Lord Shiva took the corpse of Sati, and wandered throughout the universe with grief which caused universal imbalance. To calm Lord shiva, Lord Vishnu cut the corpse of Sati into 52 pieces with his sudarshana chakra, and each piece fell on earth at various places which led to the formation of the Shakthi Peethams (Holy place). According to the Puranas, Vishalakshi Manikarnika or Vishalakshi Manikarni is one of the 52 Shakthi Peethas, and Vishalakshi Temple is a powerful Shakthi Peetham dedicated to the divine mother, who protects her devotees with immense blessings. Kasi Visalakshi temple is supposed to be the place where the karna kundala (earring of Sati) fell at this particular spot in the holy city of Varanasi.
Some stories explain that Vishalakshi was born into a humble family in Varanasi, and from a young age she grew up with a natural inclination towards spirituality, and was determined to find a true connection with the divine. Vishalakshi dedicated her life serving the poor and destitute in the holy city of Kashi. Vishalakshi's teachings primarily emphasized devotion, and selfless service, and her disciples who were inspired by her wisdom and grace, dedicated themselves to a life of spiritual practice and service to the community. Her selflessness nature, her unwavering faith in Lord Shiva, and meditation helped her to attain spiritual enlightenment, and communion with Lord Shiva.
According to Skanda Purana, when sage Vyasa was not given food in the city of Varanasi, he cursed the holy city. Vishalakshi, appeared as an ordinary woman and offered food to the sage. This act of Vishalakshi, is similar to that of Goddess Annapoorani who offered food to Shiva. Gratified by her kind nature, Shiva blessed Annapoorani and established her as the presiding Goddess of Varanasi. The Kashi Vishwanath Temple, dedicated to Lord Shiva, is a famous temple and the presence of Goddess Annapoorani is associated with the spiritual sanctity of Varanasi. It is important to note that Hinduism encompasses a vast array of traditions and beliefs, and interpretations of Goddess forms vary across different regions and communities. The worship of Vishalakshi is one such tradition in the broader Hindu pantheon.
The three Goddesses are not only deities of worship, but also sources of inspiration for people, reminding us of the profound role of the divine feminine in our lives and in the universe.