Vindhyavasini (she who dwells in the VINDHYA MOUNTAINS) is an example of a local indigenous GODDESS who was incorporated in the larger tra-dition of the great Goddess in ingenious ways. Among the many Hindu local goddesses she is rare in maintaining the face of a bird and not a human, in keeping with non-Aryan tribal notions of divinity.
   Vindhyavasini is depicted with the face of a bird and the body of a woman, having four arms. K 488 Vimalananda
   In her hands are a conch, a club, a war discus, and the “fear not” gesture of the hand (ABHAYA MUDRA). Her vehicle is a lion. She is also depicted as KALI is with a garland of human skulls. To her right is the elephant GANESHA and to her left is a yogini, a demigoddess, seated on an elephant. Vindhyavasini is mentioned in the Devi Mahatmya, an important text that presents the various incarnations or forms of the great Goddess (Mahadevi). She is also men-tioned in an early 19th-century local text called the Vindhya Mahatmya. In both she is understood to be the BRAHMAN, or ultimate reality, in its totality. She is also assimilated to Mahalakshmi, or LAKSHMI, conceived of as the ultimate divinity.
   Vindhyavasini is primarily connected with the Vaishnavite tradition. The story goes that when KRISHNA was given to his foster mother Nanda to escape being killed by the evil king Kamsa, in exchange VASUDEVA, Krishna’s father, received a divine child, Vindhyavasini. Kamsa, getting word that a birth might have occurred, went to Krish-na’s mother DEVAKI’s house and tried to seize the new girl child. She escaped the king’s grasp and prophesied, before returning to the Vindhyas, that Kamsa would be killed by Krishna.
   A different account of Vindhyvasini’s birth (resembling the tale that KALI emerged from PARVATI) tells of a goddess, Kaushiki, who was formed when Parvati shed her dark complexion to become golden or light in color (earning her the standing epithet Gauri, or white one). Kaushiki immediately went to the HIMALAYAS to take up her role as Vindhyavasini.
   There is an active and elaborate PILGRIMAGE to Vindhyavasini around the village of Vindhyachal at the northern foothills of the Vindhyas, where they touch the GANGES between ALLAHABAD and BENARES (Varanasi). The temple of Vindhyavasini has elements that resemble those of Kali, and ani-mal sacrifices are performed.
   Further reading: John Stratton Hawley and Donna Marie Wulff, eds. Devi: Goddesses of India (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1996).

Encyclopedia of Hinduism. . 2007.

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