THE GODDESS KUBJIKA
One of the most obscure goddesses in the Hindu religion is the Tantric goddess Kubjika. The obscurity is due to the fact that she is mainly worshipped by a small Newar cult called the Transmission of the Mother (avvakrama) in Nepal (Dyczkowski 2004: 253). Although recognized as a great Indian goddess (Mahadevi), comparable to Kali, she is practically unknown outside Nepal. The proof of her once being an Indian goddess comes from the Kubjika Tantras. They describe her as the goddess of the city of Candrapura and the land of Konkana, India (Dyczkowsi 2004: 129). While she is quite a unique goddess physically and figuratively, she also shares many common characteristics with other, better known goddesses, specifically those worshipped in India. Another cause of her obscureness is the fact that she is found only in the Kaula Tantras, specifically the Sakta Kaula Tantras, which are mostly unexplored to those outside the Newar cults (Dyczkowski 2004: 193). The unusualness of this is that these Tantras are very large for such an unknown goddess. Although it has been determined that Kubjika was at one point a Southern Indian goddess, most of the manuscripts dedicated to her, the most celebrated being the Kubjikamatatantra, come from Nepal, where Kubjika is primarily worshipped (Dyczkowski 2004: 175-176).
The Kubjikamatatantra is a very large Tantra with over 66 manuscripts. A Tantra is a text composed of many scriptures that describe techniques and rituals including meditative, sexual practices, yoga, and religious practices. As a great goddess, Kubjika is the energy of universal, absolute consciousness and is said to be both creative and destructive (Dyczkowksi 2001: 43). Today Kubjika is most well-known as an erotic goddess and a hunchback. Though there are other goddesses in Hinduism who are considered erotic and are ugly, Kubjika stands out among them, by the methods by which she is worshipped and those who worship her. She is also unique in that she incorporates other goddesses into her own appearance and actions.
Kubjika and the cult associated with her were not discovered until the late 1980’s due to the secretive nature of her story. In actuality, the first texts on Kubjika date back to 11th century, in the Kathmandu Valley in Central-Eastern Nepal. These are Tantric texts that describe the following and worshipping of the goddess Kubjika, such as the Kubjikamatatantra and the Manthanabhairavatantra. The schools dedicated to the worship and study of the goddess Kubjika are known as the Kubjikamata, where the Kubjikamatatantra is studied (Dyczkowski 2004: 112). These schools are most commonly found in Nepal, the center for the cult of Kubjika. This cult consists of the Newar people of Nepal.
The Newar people make up approximately half of the current population of the Kathmandu Valley (“Newar People”: 2007). Their language comes from the Tibeto-Burman family, compromising of 250-300 languages, spread throughout Asia. The Newar people were strongly influenced by Indian religious institutions as their population is mostly Hindu and Buddhist. Although influenced by India, the religious tendencies in Nepal were unique in their own right. They are known for combining older forms of practicing Hinduism with newer, more modern approaches as well (Dyczkowski 2001: 2). While they do still focus on more common, major, typically male gods such as Visnu and Siva who fit within the outer domain, the cults like those of the Newar people, have tendencies to put their religious focus on smaller, more obscure, typically female goddesses such as Kubjika, who are found within the inner domain (Dyczkowski 2001: 2).
Another unusual practice of the Newar people is that they believe strongly in ancestral worship. They believed that elderly men and women had the opportunity to achieve the level of a deity by going through specific rites of passage (Dyczkowski 2001: 17-18). This belief caused the uncommon and odd religious tendencies of the area. This abnormal form of faith explains why said cults were not discovered by outsiders until quite recently, as they remain to this day, quite secretive. It is common practice in Hinduism to keep the teachings of the Tantras a secret and the Newar people are strong believers in this tradition (Dyczkowski 2001: 2). Mark Dyczkowski was one of the first outsiders who discovered Kubjika in 1981 when he received a copy of the Kubjikamatatantra as a wedding gift from another scholar, which inspired him to further investigate the subject. He found that Kubjika was a Hindu Tantric goddess who originated in India but is mostly unknown to all those except the Newar people. The proof of worship was not existent until Dr. Dyczkowski found himself as part of the Kubjika cult in 1987. Dr. Dyczkowski’s acceptance into the cult allowed him to share their traditions and beliefs with the world, allowing other people and scholars to explore it aswell.
The initiation into the Newar cults of Kubjika was not a simple nor common occurrence. Intiation was restricted to only high caste, or twice-born Newar people. Another restriction is that only the Rajopadhyaya Brahmins, the former family priests of the Malla kings, can give initiation to those who do not belong to their own family. The Malla kings ruled Nepal from 1201-1779CE and declared themselves Ksatriyas (“Malla”: 2018). Also known as Karmacaryas, they were able to initiate their own family members into the cult. The Karmacaryas were also unique in the sense that they focused their worship on the mother goddesses, such as Kubjika, who were believed to be protecting their community. These initiates made up a small group who were the sole worshippers of Kubjika and other goddesses. They worshipped in private shrines that were only accessible to the cult members. The worship of Kubjika is not traditional in the sense that she does not have a clear iconic form and is mainly only worshipped in her mandala. At home initiates perform daily worship by tracing a triangular diagram into the palm of their hand with one of their fingers and at the beginning of the rite, imaging said triangular diagram as the yoni (vulva) of Kubjika (Dyczkowski 2004: 176).
Another unusual aspect of the cult is that it consists primarily of householders. The householder stage (grhastha) is the middle/second stage of life. It is the stage for marriage and achieving kama (pleasure) and artha (skill/power) which appeals to the erotic tendencies of the goddess Kubjika (Dyczkowski 2004: 176). In addition to all the specifics, Kubjika was also regularly worshipped through stones (pitha) instead of the more common methods of openly worshipping other Hindu gods and goddesses in temples (Dyczkowski 2001: 19). The stones were found in human settlements and the countryside and were believed to be watching over and protecting the area in which they are found. The size of the protection zone was dependant on the status of the stone.
Kubjika was a goddess who was described with many identities and forms, although there is little photographic/artistic evidence of said forms. The Tantras describe her origin as an embodiment of the creature of desire (iccha) of the god Bhairava [her “father”] (Dyczkowski 2001: 41). In one of her iconic forms she is shown with six faces. Amongst those six faces, the uppermost face is the goddess Para and is described to be as white as milk and possessing 17 energies (Dyczkowski 2004: 182). The top head is Malini, the face of the sky and is white to represent peacefulness. The eastern face is Siddhayogesvari, a face described to be full of rage, which is also adorned with the form of the mantra. The southern face is Kalika, the worst looking face with large protruding teeth and described like a dark-blue lotus. The northern face is that of the goddess Tripura. This face is red like a pomegranate flower and is round like a full moon, portraying peace and bliss. The last face is the face of Umakhecari and is also white. Each of the six faces was said to have three eyes, one for the sun, one for the moon, and the one in the middle was for fire.
Although there are stories in the Kubjikamatatantra describing her origin, there are no stories or myths as to how and why these other goddesses came about as Kubjika’s faces. In this form she had 12 arms each carrying a different item. These items included, the stick of the world, a great lotus [symbol of beauty and fertility], an ascetic’s staff (khatvanga), a noose, a rosary, a bouquet of brilliant jewels, a number of scriptures held along with a conch (sankhapala), a skull, a trident, the gesture of fearlessness, the gesture of granting favours, the mirror of Karma, and the five immortal substances (Dyczkowski 2004: 182). She is depicted sitting on a lion throne, adorned with many ornaments. The lords of snakes serve as her anklets (connection to Siva), zone, belt, chock, and tiara. She also wore scorpions as rings on her fingers. On her head she wears a garland of vowels and a necklace of letters along with a necklace of 50 scorpions around her throat (Dyczkowski 2004:182).
Kubjika’s iconic form is generally described as bright and often blue, and the goddess Kali and her darkness is the shadow-like counterpart of Kubjika (Dyczkowski 2001: 39). Her heart shines like a clean mirror, her face shines like a newly risen sun, her hair in a topknot made of light that emulates lightning, and her breast place made of brilliant energy. Her weapon is the Fire of Time that was known to lick up the worlds and was hard to bear which starts to describe her destructive side (Dyczkowski 2004: 182)
Some of the most interesting aspects of Kubjika is how she is described as many different goddesses. The primary being the goddess of pottery which is still very known today but the others being more definitive. In her Kubjikamata schools, she is known as a tree goddess (Dyczkowski 2001: 70). She is also considered a lunar goddess, similar to the goddesses Kali and Tripura, who she shares connections with. Kubjika’s creative and destructive tendencies are perpendicular to the shift between light and dark we see with the moon. Her lunar whiteness is also representative of Sukra which means female sperm, thus matching her eroticism. Along with these two qualities, she is also considered a goddess of fire which closely relates to her destructive side.
Kubjika is known as a creator, as described in her erotic ways, but also a destroyer, comparative to the goddess Kali (Dyczkowski 2001: 62). She had darkness within her that was feared. The creator aspect of Kubjika’s personality is also associated with her hunchback figure. The purpose of her being hunchbacked is so that she was able to impregnate herself without a second party by licking her own vulva and creating her own bliss and pleasure (Dyczkowski 2004: 242). This benefits the goddess and makes it easy for Kubjika to expand the universe as she can do it independently. As explained in her origin myth found in the first three chapters of the Kubjikamatatantra, she becomes hunchback due to the embarrassment of being asked to be the god Bhairava’s teacher by giving him a favour of empowerment (ajna), which in simple terms, comes from her vulva (Dyczkowski 2004:179). This event also explains how the goddess Kubjika is androgynous. During her realization (as told in the myth, see Dyczkowski 2004: 176-184) she takes the form of Linga (phallus). During her embarrassment, she must transition from Linga to Yoni (vulva). This transition explains how she is capable of being male and female, thus meaning androgynous. When Kubjika is in the form of Yoni she is aroused and fertile and the energy that comes with this is the flow of her emission, which is Sukra (female sperm) and Sukravahini (she who causes sperm to flow) (Dyzckowski 2004: 181). These factors are what makes her the most well known as being an erotic, hunchbacked goddess.
The goddess Kubjika, although widely unexplored, is very unique and full of depth. The small Newar cult that worships her has chosen to remain secretive and exclusive. Still centered in a small region in Nepal, they embody Hindu orthodoxy while also creating and following their own methods of practicing Hinduism and worshipping the gods and goddesses. The Newar people have very strict initiation rites and keep to themselves which explains why the goddess Kubjika was not made known to the rest of the world until the 1980’s. The goddess herself has very few evidential forms and is worshipped primarily by her mandala, stones, and very small, private shrines, very unlike the large one’s seen dedicated to better known Hindu gods and goddesses. She is know known mainly as the erotic, androgynous, hunchbacked goddess who embodies the faces and characteristics of other goddesses such as Tripura. She has a very detailed iconic form that is similar to other great goddesses in India, as represented by her multiple heads and arms, which indicate power. It is proven that she was originally from India, though she is practically unknown in that region today. The goddess of pottery, trees, and fire is very important in the Sakta Kaula Tantras and the Hindu religion in general.
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Related Topics for Further Investigation
Sakta Kaula Tantras
Transmission of the Mother
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Article written by: Shay Routly (October 2018) who is solely responsible for its content.