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Chandika

Updated on July 26, 2017

Chandika is a Hindu Goddess of some significance but she is rarely worshiped in orthodox Hindu circles and though she is mentioned in various shlokas and in the Devi Kavacham (armor of the Goddess) her worship is anything but common.

She is more worshiped in Nepal, especially among the hill tribes than anywhere else, and many of the rites and rituals accorded to her are shamanic in essence.

Before I go any further let me first elaborate on the word Chandi and the various meanings attached to it. The word Chandi simply means mistress and denotes a feminine power of greater authority. It has different connotations or implications and its interpretation depends on the context it is used in but all of them relate to a higher feminine power, for example the Chandi Path (the path of the Goddess).

Chandi in South-East Asia refers to small places of worship constructed in some of the South-East Asian nations like Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, Vietnam, and Cambodia by visiting traders (most likely).

These places of worship include, in addition to intricate carvings and sculptures, clay and terracotta representations of Hindu deities and other heavenly and celestial beings associated to Hinduism (Chandi No. 11 – Lembah Bujang, Kedah). It is safe to say that these Chandis were constructed at least a thousand years ago, if not earlier.

In addition to being places of worship I am convinced that these Chandis were markers that marked a trade route that connected various parts of ancient India to Southern China and the initial voyage to the Malay Peninsula and the Isles of Indonesia was made by sea i.e. the route was part maritime and part land.

If the origins of these Chandis were uncovered or unraveled, it would most likely shed more light on the mysterious religious rites and rituals of Angkor. It is in reality a facet of Hinduism that we know very little about.

These Chandis may have also served another purpose and I’m inclined to think that some of them were mausoleums that were erected to honor high-ranking members who died along the journey or local chieftains of some note.

They may have been an outflow of a unique blend of Hinduism that culminated in Angkor and the total shift outwards may have erased all tangible evidence of the source of these archaic rites and rituals that without doubt originated in the sub-continent. This can be adduced by the clearly discernible Vedic and Sanskrit influences.

The next meaning that is attached to Chandi is shamanic and it is tribal in essence. Chandi in this context refers to the returning spirit of a young maiden usually in the prime of her youth, deprived of the pleasures of existence because of an untimely death that occurred in a particularly brutal manner i.e. accidents or murders. It is usually the latter and it does not exclude ritualistic murders.

This is the reason why some sources refer to Chandi as a malevolent deity or a deity that is found in the most uncommon places. This type of worship is however limited only to specific hill tribes (Nepal).

Having clarified the meaning of the word Chandi, let me now elaborate on the Goddess Chandika. The Goddess is an extremely potent form or manifestation of the Goddess Durga and very much akin to the Goddess Chamunda (Chamundi), the slayer of the asuras, Chanda and Munda.

They are similar in that they both emanate from Durga but they are not the same. Chamunda is a Goddess that is worshiped in contemporary Hindu circles and this is made evident by the popular recital of her mantra “om aim hreem kleem chamundaye vichche”.

Chandika on the other hand is rarely worshiped in orthodox Hindu circles because it is, to put it mildly, difficult to channel the energy that one derives from her worship.

In most instances, she in only worshiped by those who are willing or competent enough to make the required sacrifices and in most cases this is limited to orthodox kysastrias including those who belong to the hill tribes of Nepal. She is a bali-devata and therefore she is a Goddess that is worshiped with offerings, often sacrificial in nature, made or performed in a stipulated manner.

According to most sources (shamanic) Chandika is a Goddess that picks or selects her worshipers and therefore her worship is not as popular as one would expect it to be.

© 2016 Kathiresan Ramachanderam and Dyarne Jessica Ward

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