Sacred Texts  Tantra  Index  Previous  Next 
Buy this Book at
Buy this Book on Kindle

Hymn to Kali, by Arthur Avalon (Sir John George Woodroffe), [1922], at

p. 1


THIS celebrated Kaula Stotra, which is now translated from the Sanskrit for the first time, is attributed to Mahākāla Himself. The Text used is that of the edition published at Calcutta in 1899 by the Sanskrit Press Depository, with a commentary in Sanskrit by the late Mahāmahopādhyāya Kṛṣhṇanātha Nyāya-pañcānana, who was both very learned in Tantra-Śāstra and faithful to his Dharma. He thus refused the offer of a good Government Post made to him personally by a former Lieutenant-Governor on the ground that he would not accept money for imparting knowledge.

Some variants in reading are supplied by this commentator. I am indebted to him for the Notes, or substance of the notes, marked K. B. To these I have added others, both in English and Sanskrit explaining matters and allusions familiar doubtless to those for whom the original was designed, but not so to the English or even ordinary Indian reader. I have also referred to the edition of the Stotra published by Gaṇeśa-Candra-Ghoṣa at Calcutta in 1891, with a translation in Bengali by Gurunātha Vidyānidhi, and commentary by Durgārāma-Siddhāntavāgīśa Bhattācārya. I publish for the first time Vimalānanda-Svāmī's Commentary to which I again refer later. When in this Introduction or in the Commentary I have not mentioned these two works my authorities are the Tantras or Tāntrik works which I cite, or. the information I have gathered from those whom I have consulted.

p. 2

One of the chief features of this Stotra is that it gives the mantroddhāra of the Dakshina-Kālikā. It not only gives us the Dhyāna, Yantra, Sādhana and Svarūpa-varnanā of the Mahādevī, but it also contains the chief Mantras of Dakṣiṇakālikā. The adjective "Tava manu-samuddharaṇajanu" qualifying "idam stotram" in Śloka 21 expressly states this fact.

Among the various Mantras of Dakṣiṇā Kālikā the greatest is the "Vidyā-rājñī" consisting of 22 syllables (Dvāviṁsākṣarī). This mantra gives the fullest and the truest symbol of the Svarūpa of Her. This mantra is contained in the first five Ślokas.





Krīṁ, Krīṁ, Krīṁ

(3 akṣaras)



Hūṁ, Hūṁ

(2    „   )



Hrīṁ, Hrīṁ

(2    „   )



Dakṣine Kālike

(6    „   )



Krīṁ, Krīṁ, Krīṁ, Hūṁ, Hūṁ, Hrīṁ, Krīṁ, Svāhā

(9 akṣaras)

So the first five Ślokas give us altogether 22 akṣaras i.e. the full Vidyārājñī.

In Vimalānanda-Svāmī's Tīkā of the 5th Śloka in the revised Sanskrit text he has proved by quotations from the 9th patala of Śāktānanda-tarangiṇī that this 22-syllabled mantra is the full and true representation of the Svarūpa of the Mahādevī. See the quotation which begins with

"Krīm-kāro mastakaṃ devi Krīm-kāraśca lalātakaṁ"

and ends with

"Svā-śabdena pada-dvandvam hā-kāreṇa nakhaṁ tathā"

The words "Svarūpaṁ" (5th sl.) and "Sakalaṁ" (6th sl.) point to this Vidyārājñī. After the full Vidyā-rājñī has

p. 3

been given in the first five Ślokas, the 6th Śloka gives the various other Mantras of less importance and significance—ranging from one syllabled to nine-syllabled, 15-syllabled, 21-syllabled and so forth.

This Mantroddhāra has been made following the authority of Kālikā-śruti, Niruttara-Tantra and other Tantras. Many commentators, however, have apparently in the view of Vimalānanda failed to consult the above authorities, and have thus fallen into errors and have given a different Mantroddhāra. Some take the 1st Śloka to give a one-syllabled mantra, the 2nd sloka as also the 3rd, two two-syllabled mantras, the 5th a nine-syllabled one and so on: a view which it is contended is opposite to such passages as "atha hainaṁ brahmarandhre brahma-svarūpinīm āpnoti . . . . . . . . . . bṛhad-bhānu-jāyāṁ uccaret" in the 1st Sūkta of Kālikopaniṣad; or passages in Niruttara-Tantra (Ch. II) beginning with "Atha vaksye Kuleśāni Dakṣinā-kalikā-manuṁ" and ending with "Sarva-mantra-mayī vidyā sṛṣti-sthityanta-kāriṇī." The Svāmī further refers me to the end of the Kālikopaniṣad where dealing with the various Mantras of the Dakṣiṇa-Kālikā it is said "Atha sarvām vidyām prathamaṁ ekaṁ dvayaṁ vā trayaṁ vā nāmatrayaputitaṁ vā kṛtvā japet." The great Tāntrik Pūrṇānanda Giri explaining the passage says "Sarvām vidyām-iti pūrvoktadvāvimśatyakṣaryāh prathama bījaṁ vā bīja-dvayaṁ vā etc. (vide Śyāmā-rahasyaṁ, Rasikamohan's edition, p. 36.)

From the above consideration, it is clear that at the very beginning in the first 5 Ślokas the 22-syllabled Mantra is given and then the others. It may be added here that the fact of Mahākāla's composing the Hymn in 22 Ślokas not more nor less—is also an indication of the correctness of the Svāmī's view, who, in further support of it cites 5 Ślokas dealing with the Mantroddhāra from the Krama-stava of the

p. 4

[paragraph continues] Dakṣiṇa-Kālikā under the first 5 Ślokas of the Karpūrādi, which will be found in the printed text.

In course of revising his Vyākhyā Vimalānanda-Svāmī has in the first six Ślokas given good grounds to prove that the Stotra not only contains the Mantroddhāra and the Sādhana of Śrī-Śrī-Dakṣina-Kālikā but also in it are given the Mantras and Rahasyapūjā of Śri-Śri-Tārā and Śrī-Śrī-Tripura-sundarī.

In addition to the Mantroddhāra the following matters are contained in the Stotra.


No. of Slokas


1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 11




10, 11, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20








21, 22

The Ślokas 9, 12, 14 contain stuti only.

Ślokas 10, 15-18, 20 refer to the Tāntrik vīrācārasādhana. Vīrācāra is for the class of sādhaka who are vīrabhāva and abhiṣikta. To those who follow paśvācāra this ritual is strictly forbidden. The nature of the rahasyapūjā is indicated in the text, to which I have added an explanatory commentary in English and Sanskrit.

To the Paśu, sādhana by night is prohibited, for it connotes in Śākta-sādhana, worship with the Pañcatattva. The Paśu is still bound by the pāśa (bonds) of desire, etc., and he is, therefore, not adhikārī, for that which, if undertaken by the unfit, will only make these bonds stronger. For him, on the contrary, there are severe restrictions in this matter, for, as the Śāktakrama cited by the commentator says, "Maithunaṁ tatkathālāpaṁ tadgoṣṭhīṁ parivarjayet."

p. 5

[paragraph continues] (The Paśu should avoid maithuna, conversation on the subject, and the like.) The Paśu should avoid the eight forms of maithuna known as aṣtāṅga maithuna—viz., smaraṇaṁ (thinking upon it), kīrtanam (talking of it), kelih (play with women), prekṣaṇam (looking upon women), guhyabhāṣaṇaṁ (talk in private with women), saṁkalpah (wish or resolve for maithuna), adhyavasāyah (determination towards it), as well as kriyāniṣpattih (actual accomplishment). The Nityā Tantra, which the commentator cites, says: "Rātrau naiva yajed deviṁ sandhyāyāṁ vā’parāhnake"—"He (the Paśu should never worship the Devī during the latter part of the day or in the evening or at night." To this, from amongst many other authorities, I may add the Svatantra, which says that the Paśubhāva Sādhaka should do one lakh of japa in day time and that a Vīra devoted to his own Ācāra should do one lakh of japa at night;

Paśubhāvarato mantrī divā lakṣa japaṁ caret.
Svācāranirato viro rātrau lakṣa japaṁ caret

In connection with this verse I must observe that in the notes to verse 20 it is said that the first half of the 20th Śloka is meant for "Paśusādhakas" and that the 2nd half refers to the "pūrṇābhiṣiktavīrasādhaka," as also that the word "paraṁ" (afterwards) means and refers to the time when the ‘Paśu’ having received abhiṣeka enters vīrācāra and is adhikārī for the midnight puraścaraṇa. Vimalānanda tells me that this is wrong and that the whole Śloka has reference to the vīra or divya-sādhaka and that no portion of it refers to the Paśu-sādhaka.

The quotation just made from the Svatantra-Tantra no doubt seems to lend support to the view that the first part of the Śloka refers to the Paśu, but he informs me and I fully accept the correction that he and other followers of the Śāstra knew the passage to bear a meaning which is consonant

p. 6

with his view, that is, it means this:—Mantrī means the vīrasādhaka; the mantrī should perform lakṣa-japa in the day time following the ācāra of the paśu (paśu-bhāvaratah). The vīra-sādhaka should perform lakṣa-japa in the night following his own ācāra (svācāra-niratah). The word "svācāra" (own ācāra) points to his interpretation being correct.

In support of his view the Svāmī cites the following Verses which all say the same thing namely that the initiate should be Brahmacārī during day and at night worship according to Kulācāra. Kaulāvalī says:

Naktaṁ-bhojī haviṣyānnaṁ japed vidyām divā śucih.
Dvivāsāh sarvathā vīro brahmacārī bhavet sadā.
Rātrau saṁpūjayed devīṁ kulācāra-krameṇa tu
Dvijanmanāṁ tu sarveṣam dvidhā vidhi-rihocyate

Again, Kālikopaniṣad says:

Sāṁbhava-dīkṣāsu ratah śākteṣu vā divā brahmacārī rātrau nagnah sadā maithunāsaktamānasah Japa-pūjādi-niyamaṃ kuryād iti.

Kaulāvalī again says:

Unmukhyāh Kālikāyāśca viśeṣah kathyate ’dhunā.
Divase brahmacaryeṇa sviyasaṁkhyājapaṁ caret.
Rātrau māṁsāsavairmatsyairmudrābhir maithunod-bhavaih

The reason of the vīrasādhaka being instructed to adopt the ācāra of brahmacārī in the day-time is the necessity for the concealment of the vīrācāra from the public which Tantra so often insists upon. Śiva says that vīrācāra cannot be understood aright by the common people and therefore must be concealed, as closely as a man should conceal his own mother's sin "gopayet mātṛ-jāra-vat."

p. 7

Moreover, the worship of Kālī in "paśvācāra" is totally forbidden by Śiva. The Paśu is precluded by Tantra from the worship of Kālī. For example the Niruttara-Tantra says:

Divya-bhavaṁ vīra-bhāvaṁ vinā Kālīṁ prapūjayet.
Pūjane narakaṁ yāti tasya duhkhaṁ pade pade.
Paśubhāva-rato devi yadi Kālīṁ prapūjayet.
Rauravaṁ narakaṁ yāti yāvad ābhūta-samplavaṁ

(By the worship of Kālī without Divyabhāva and Vīrabhāva the worshipper suffers pain at every step and goes to hell. If a man who is of the Paśubhāva worships Kālī then he goes to the Raurava Hell until the time of final dissolution).

Vimalānanda-Śvāmi says: The worship of Kālī without the use of wine, though seen in many places, is Paurāṇik and not Tāntrik (i.e. sanctioned by the Tantra.)

Verses 1-8, 11, the first part of verse 20, and 21 (except at midnight) deal with japa of the mantra of, and dhyāna upon, the Devī, which, of course, may be done by the Paśu. Verses 9, 12, 13, and 14 are stuti, and 22 is the usual phala-śloka, which states the reward to be gained by the reading of the Stotra.

Verses 10, 15-18, and the second portion of verse 20 deal with Latāsādhana. The śakti of this sādhana is ordinarily the own wife of the sādhaka, married according to the Vaidik injunctions; the svaśakti or ādyāśaktī, as she is technically called in Tantra. One's own wife is Ādyā-Śaktī and Sādhana should be done with her aid (Ādyā-śaktīh svadārāh syāt tāmevaśṛtya sādhayet). With her is practised that śaktīsādhana, the aim of which is the acquirement of self-control, which, checking the outward-going current, places the sādhaka upon the path of nivṛtti. Indeed, the Kaulikārcanadīpikā says, "Without ādyā śakti worship is but evil magic". (Ādyāśaktiṁ vinā pūjā abhicārāya kalpate). It is only the siddha, which term is here used in the special sense of one

p. 8

who has obtained complete control over his passions, to whom is permitted another śakti (paraśakti). So the Prāṇatoṣinī quotes, "a man shall obtain siddhi with his own śakti, and afterwards (that is, when he is siddha) he should make japa with paraśakti" (Svaśaktau siddhim āpnuyāt paraśaktau tadā japet). And similarly Niruttara Tantra says, that the sādhaka who is siddha in Kulācāra may worship "another" woman. (Siddhamantrī kulācāre parayoṣām prapūjayet). In both these cases paraśakti has a double meaning viz., "another" woman that is corporeal woman, or "Supreme" that is the Supreme Woman who in the body is Kuṇdalinī-Śakti. This latter appears to be sense in the quotation which speaks of the siddhamantrī. It has been said also, as in the Mahānirvāṇa Tantra, that paraśakti must (if unmarried) be married either by Vaidika or Śaiva rites, or (if married and the husband is dead) according to the latter rite. Further, that which determines the moral character of an act is the intention with which it is done. As the Kaulāvalīya says, when a man's intention is bad then his act is so, otherwise there is no fault:

Ata eva yadā yasya vāsanā kutsitā bhavet.
Tadā doṣāya bhavati nānyathā dūṣaṇaṁ kvacit

As an example of the same act and varying intention, it is aptly said: "A wife is kissed with one feeling and a daughter's face with another". (Bhāvena cumbitā kāntā bhāvena duhitrānanam). A Mantrin who is given over to lust, for the subjugation of which the sādhana is prescribed, goes, as is said in the Tantrasāra, to the Hell called Raurava. (Lingayonirato mantrī raurakang narakang brajet). In the words of the Āhārabheda-Tantra—Vāmācāro bhavet tatra vāmā bhūtvā yajet parām. "One may be a Vāmācārī if one can worship Vāmā being oneself a woman." This is on the principle that a worshipper should always be like the

p. 9

object of his worship. Woman is Devatā, and the embodiment of the Supreme Śakti, and is as such honoured and worshipped, and is, when pūjyā śakti, never the subject of enjoyment.

Verses 15 and 16, as sufficiently appears from their context, refer to the sādhana of those who are not siddha.

Verses 10, 17, and 18 apply to both sādhaka and siddha, as to verse 20, see pp. 4, 5 ante.

By such sādhana the last vestiges of the most powerful of such bonds is sought to be destroyed, and with such destruction the seed of karma and rebirth. He, like Śiva, becomes destroyer of Smara, and Śiva Himself. Verses 4, 18, and 20 refer directly to this fruit of sādhana. Others indicate the material and intellectual greatness on earth of the sādhaka, who devoutly worships the Devī. To him is given mastery over all persons and things of the world, which on death, if siddha, he leaves for the dwelling by the Supreme Feet (verse 17), or Nirvāṇa. As Śiva says in the Kālīvilāsa-Tantra "I have told you, my beloved, all about the five Tattvas, Sādhana in the cremation ground and with the funeral pyre now listen to the doctrine of the Siddha-vīra."

Madyaṁ matsyaṁ tathā māṁsaṁ mudrāṁ maithunam-eva ca.
Śmaśānasādhanaṁ bhadre citāsādhanam eva ca.
Etat to kathitaṁ sarvaṁ siddhaviramataṁ śṛiṇu

It is the sādhana of the cremation-ground on which all passion is burnt away. There are two kinds of cremation-ground, of which the one is the funeral pyre (citā), and the other yonirūpā mahākālī. As the first Chapter of the Niruttara-Tantra says there are two cremation grounds namely that which is the funeral pyre and the yoni which, in its sūkṣma sense, is the Devī, the śmasāna being in the same sense dissolution or pralaya. (Śmaśānam dvividhaṁ 

p. 10

devi chitā yoni prakīrtitā). In even the sthūla sense the sādhaka must be susādhaka, for union without right disposition—japa, dhyāna etc.—is the animal maithuna of a paśu.

Śloka 19 refers to animal and human sacrifice to Kālī. Reference to this sacrifice is also made in the Kālikā-Purāṇa, and the Tantrasāra speaks of a substitute in the figure of a man made of the paste of cereals. The latter work also says that by the sacrifice of a man one acquires great prosperity, and the eight siddhis. (Naradatte maharddhih syād aṣtasiddhir-anuttamā). But it adds that this is not for all. For the Brāhmaṇa may not make such a sacrifice. (Brāhmaṇānāṁ narabalidāne nādhikārah). And if he does so, he goes to Hell. Moreover according to K. B., who cites as his authority the Yāmala quoted in the Kālīkalpalatā, the King alone can make such a sacrifice.

This leads one to point out that the Hymn has other than these gross (Sthūla) meanings. In Brāhamanism everything has three aspects—Supreme (Para), Subtle (Sūkṣma) and Gross (Sthūla). Thus the nineteenth Śloka when referring to the sacrifice of various animals and of man himself intends according to the subtle sense the six great sins for which they stand, ranging from Lust (goat) to Pride (man). It is these which must be sacrificed by the knowers who are worshippers of the Mother the age of material sacrifice, so universal throughout the world, having passed away. So again the word Paraśakti may refer to the Supreme Śakti or may be used in the sense of a Śakti other than the svaśakti or Sādhaka's wife who, may in the case of the competent (adhikārī) be an associate in the worship on the principle stated in the Guhyakālīkhaṇda of the Mahākāla-Saṁhitā.

"As is the competency of the Sādhaka, so must be that of the Sādhikā. In this way only is success attained and not otherwise even in ten million years".

p. 11

Yādṛśah sādhakah proktah Sādhikā’pi ca tādṛśah
Tatah siddhim-avāpnoti nānyathā varṣa-kotibhih

This principle rests on the fact that man and woman together make one whole and can only co-operate in the rites where the attainments or Adhikāra of each is the same. But this does not necessarily mean that such co-operation is by Maithuna in its sexual sense; quite the contrary. In the same way in the Vaidik ritual the wife is Sahadharmiṇī. But such ritual is only for the competent within the bounds of Śāstric injunction for, as the Śaktisaṇgama Tantra (Part IV) says,—"Though a man be a knower of the three times, past, present and future and though he be a controller of the three worlds, even then he should not transgress the rules of conduct for men in the world were it only in his mind".

Yadyapyasti trikālajñas-trailokyāvarṣaṇakṣamāh.
Tathā’pi laukikācāram manasā’pi na laṅghayet

But Paraśakti again may mean no woman at all, but Supreme Śakti or the Mother Herself whose forms they are and in such sense the union of the Sādhaka is with the "woman" within himself—the Kuṇdalinī Śakti who in Yoga unites with Her Supreme Husband Paramaśiva. (See A. Avalon's "Serpent Power"). The context must be known as in the misunderstood saying "Maithunena mahāyogī mama tulyo na saṁśayah," which does not mean, as a recent English work on Hinduism suggests, that by sexual connection (Maithuna) the Mahāyogī becomes without doubt the equal of Śiva or God. This is on its face absurd and had it not been that such criticism is clouded with prejudice the absurdity would be recognised. How can sexual connection make any one God or His equal? The person spoken of is a Mahāyogī who, as such, has no connection physical or otherwise with women. Maithuna means "action and

p. 12

reaction" and "coupling" and sexual intercourse is only one form of such coupling. Thus when Mantra is said there is a coupling or Maithuna of the lips. In Yoga there is a coupling (Maithuna) of the active and changeless Principles of the Universe. The saying means that the Mayāyogī who unites Kuṇdalī-Śakti in his body with Paramaśiva becomes himself Śiva.

So again it is said in an apparently alarming verse quoted by Tarkālaṁkāra, in his commentary on the Mahānirvāṇa.

Mātṛ-yonau kṣipet liṁgam bhaginyāh-stanamardanaṁ
Guror-mūrdhni padaṁ dattvā punarjanma na vidyate

This verse in its literal sense means that if any one commits incest with his mother and sister and places his foot on the head of his Guru he is liberated and is never again reborn. But of course that is not the meaning. The first half of the line refers to the placing of the Jīvātmā in the triangle situated in the Mūlādhāra centre with the Svayaṁbhuliṅga in it which triangle is called Mātṛ-yoni. The Liṅga is the Jīvātmā. From this point upwards, after union with Kuṇdalinī, the Jīvātmā is to be led. The union of jīvātmā with Kuṇdalinī is spoken of in the second half of the first line. Kuṇdalinī is the sister of the Jīvātmā both being in the same body. The meaning of the last line is as follows:—after union of Kuṇdalinī and Jīvātmā the united couple are led up to the Sahasrāra or thousand-petalled lotus in the head which is situated above the twelve-petalled lotus which again is the abode of the Guru. When the Yogī is above the twelve-petalled lotus his feet may be described as being on the head of the Guru. Moreover it is said that at this point the relationship of Guru and disciple ceases. Mātṛ-yoni is also the term given to those sections of the fingers between the joints on which count of the Japa or recital of the mantra is not to be done. If Matṛ-yoniṁ suggests incest, then this verse

p. 13

is a prohibition of it—Mātṛ-yoniṁ parityajya viharet sarvayoniṣu. There are many other technical terms in Tantra-Śāstra which it is advisable to know before criticising it. One of the tests to which an intending disciple may be put consists in being questioned as to such passages. If he is a gross-minded or stupid man his answer will show it.

In order therefore that the Hymn may be understood in its various aspects I have given in the notes explanations of or in respect of its Sthūla or gross meaning. This is followed by the valuable commentary given to me, some years ago and now first published, by Vimalānanda-Svāmī which is called Svarūpavyākhyā; that is, it gives the subtle (Sūkṣma) or, as we should say in English, the inner sense or esoteric meaning according to the teaching of his own Guru Mahāmahopādhyāya-Rāmānandasvāmī-Siddhāntapañcānana. The text books and Commentary are preceded by an admirable little essay of Svāmī Vimalānanda by way of Introduction to the Vimalānandadāyinī svarūpa-vyakhyā on his "Lord of Hymns" which is commonly known as the Karpūrādi Stotra chanted by Mahākāla to, and in honour of, Dakṣiṇā-Kālikā. It, as also the inner-sense Commentary are written for those liberation-seeking Sādhakas who, worshipping Śrīvidyā, meditate not on the gross form (Sthūlamūrti) but on the Svarūpa-tattva of Brahmavidyā Kālikā. As such many will be glad, as I was, to read it and will derive benefit therefrom.

I may note here that the Svāmī while revising the Vyākhyā, has given a new interpretation of the line "te Lakṣmī-lāsya-līlā-kamala-dala-dṛśah vāma-rūpāh bhavanti" in the 5th Śloka and of "rati-rasa-mahānanda-niratām" in the 13th Śloka.

On the attainment of siddhi, ritual ceases. There is neither sacrifice nor worship, nor yoga, puraścaraṇa, vrata, japa, or other karma. For all sādhana ceases when it has

p. 14

borne its fruit in Siddhi. The Siddha-Kaula is beyond all rules.

For the meaning of these and other terms, the reader is referred to the Author's "Principles of Tantra, (Tantra-tattva)," "Śakti and Śākta," "Serpent-Power" and "Garland of Letters" which is a study on the Mantra-Śāstra; and for other Hymns to the Devī, his and Ellen Avalon's "Hymns to the Goddess," translated from the Sanskrit of the Tantra, Purāṇa, and the Devī-stotra of Śaṁkarācārya, which gives other specimens of the Hindu Hymnal, of which that now published is but one and a special type.


30, May 1922.

Next: Introduction