The Grandmother Spirit
Dhumavati is the eldest among the Goddesses,
the Grandmother Spirit. She stands behind the other Goddesses as
their ancestral guide. As the Grandmother Spirit she is the great
teacher who bestows the ultimate lessons of birth and death. She
is the knowledge that comes through hard experience, in which our immature
and youthful desires and fantasies are put to rest.
Dhuma means “smoke.” Dhumavati
is “one who is composed of smoke.” Her nature is not illumination
but obscuration. However, to obscure one thing is to reveal another.
By obscuring or covering all that is known, Dhumavati reveals the depth
of the unknown and the unmanifest. Dhumavati obscures what is evident
in order to reveal the hidden and the profound.
Dhumavati is portrayed as a widow.
She is the feminine principle devoid of the masculine principle. She
is Shakti without Shiva as a pure potential energy without any will to
motivate it. Thus she contains within herself all potentials and
shows the latent energies that dwell within us. To develop these
latent energies we must first recognize them. This requires honoring
Dhumavati shows the feminine principle
of negation in all of its aspects. On an outer level she represents
poverty, destitution, and suffering, the great misfortunes that we all
fear in life. Hence she is said to be crooked, troublesome, and quarrelsome
– a witch or a hag. Yet on an inner level this same negativity causes
us to seek a greater fulfillment than can be achieved in the limited realms
of the manifest creation. After all, only frustration in our outer
life causes us to seek the inner reality. Dhumavati is whatever obstructs
us in life, but what obstructs us in one area can release a new potential
to grow in a different direction. Thus she is the good fortune that
comes to us in the form of misfortune.
Dhumavati represents the darkness on
the face of the deep, the original chaos and obscurity which underlies
creation. She is the darkness of primordial ignorance, Mulavidya,
from which this world of illusion has arisen, and which it is seeking to
Dhumavati represents the power of ignorance
or that aspect of the creative force which causes the obscuration of the
underlying light of consciousness. While Maya is the magic or illusion
power of the Lord that makes the one reality appear as many, ignorance
is a form of darkness which prevents us from seeing the underlying reality.
Dhumavati is the void, wherein all forms
have been dissolved and nothing can any longer be differentiated.
Yet this void is not mere darkness. It is a self-illumining reality
free of the ordinary duality of subject and object.
Dhumavati represents the negative powers
of life: disappointment, frustration, humiliation, defeat, loss, sorrow
and loneliness. Such experiences overpower the ordinary mind, but
to the yogi they are special doors of opportunity to contact the reality
which transcends desire.
Dhumavati is the elder form of Kali,
Kali as an old woman. She represents time or the life-force dissociated
from the process of manifestation. She is the timeless which never
really enters into the process of time.
Dhumavati is portrayed as a tall and
thin old woman with disheveled and matted hair. She is fearful, unattractive
and dark in complexion, with a wrinkled face, and her limbs are red.
She has a harsh look in her eyes and she is missing a number of her teeth,
which are otherwise large in size. Sometimes she is portrayed with
fangs and her nose is long and snout-like. She is dressed in old
or dirty clothes and her breasts hang down. She rides a chariot whose
insignia is a crow. In her left hand she carries a winnowing basket
and with her right makes the gesture of knowledge (Cinmudra). In
other accounts she carries a skull-cup and sword in her two hands.
She wears a garland of severed heads and is ever hungry and thirsty, always
provoking quarrels and misunderstandings.