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The Fifteen Nityās
“The cakra of the letters of the alphabet is based upon time and so is identical with the sidereal zodiac.” – Tantrarāja Tantra
The Nityās or Eternities of Lalitā represent the fifteen lunar days or tithis of the waxing Moon. Each has her own yantra, mantra, tantra and prayogas or ritual applications. The full circle of the Nityās also represents the 21,600 breaths a human being takes in a full day and night. As such, the Nityās are the Kālacakra, or Wheel of Time.
The information in this section is drawn from a number of tantras including the Tantrarāja, the Dakṣiṇamūrti Samhitā and the Jñānārnava Tantra, as well as the Kalpasutra, which seems to be the primary source. Readers will also find it useful to refer to Sir John Woodroffe’s digest of the Tantrarāja (Ganesh & Co, 1971), although here he fails to give sufficient idea of the number of prayogas (magical rites) associated with the Nityās. Yantras and mantras, where given, are drawn from Tantrarāja, although it is necessary to point out that the Dakṣiṇāmūrti Samhitā gives somewhat different versions.
You can find larger versions of the yantras – according to the Tantrarājatantra – on this page.
The 15 Nityās are modifications of Lalitā as red goddess with her three guṇas and her five elements of aether, air, fire, water and earth. As the moon remains itself, though appearing differently according to phase, so too does Lalitā. Each Nityā has her own vidyā (that is mantra), yantra and group of energies (Śaktis). Their names appear in the first chapter of Vāmakeśvara Tantra. The late Gopinath Kaviraj, a renowned scholar of tantra, describes the Kālacakra and the Nityās succinctly in the introduction to the Sanskrit edition of Yoginī Hṛdaya. (Sarasvati Bhavana Granthamala, 1963):
Hence Lalitā or Tripurasundarī is the 16th day or full moon, with her 15 digits. Each of the Nityās has a certain number of arms, the totality of arms (= rays) of the whole circle are 108. Because any unit of time is taken as a microcosm or parallel of any other valid unit, each of the fifteen Nityās thus has 1,440 breaths (see Bhavanopanishad). This identity between space, time, Tripurasundarī and the individual is elaborated at great length and with considerable sophistication by the author of the Tantrarāja.
According to that text, the Nityās are the vowels of the Sanskrit alphabet and are identical with both time and space. For example, if the number of tattvas or consonants (36) are multiplied by the 16 Nityās the number of letters is 576. The multiples of this number provide the number of years in the different Yugas. So the circle of the matrikas and the Nityās is identical with the sidereal zodiac as well as mantra.
This theme is further elaborated in the 28th chapter of the same tantra, where Śiva says that in the centre of the world is the Meru, outside of this being the seven oceans and beyond this the Kālacakra or wheel of time which moves in a clockwise direction by the power of Icchā (Will) Śakti. The circle is divided by 12 spokes and the planets or grahas are within this. Lalitā, says the tantra, is in the Meru, while 14 Nityās from Kāmeśvarī to Jvalamalini reside in the seven islands and seven oceans. Citrā, who is the 15th Nityā, occupies supreme Space or Paramavyoma.
In the Dakṣiṇamūrti Samhitā, the Nityās are identified with kalas or parts of the different stages of deep sleep, dreaming, waking, and full consciousness or Turiya. Here it is said that the Nityās, including Lalitā, are the 16 parts of the continuum of consciousness, while the 17th Kala is beyond all of this. Each of the Nityās has the respective vowel letter associated with her mantra vidyā.
Similar ideas are found in the Matrikachakra Viveka, as in the table above, drawn from the Sanskrit introduction to the 1934 Government Sanskrit College of Benares edition, which classifies the nine maṇḍalas of the Śrī Yantra according to Pramana – means of knowledge, Pramata – the subject, and Prameya – the object and relates the different states of consciousness to the yantra. See Tattvas on this site.
The images embedded in the text are taken from a sādhaka’s manuscript of the 1,000 names of Lalitā. The descriptions are mostly drawn from the lengthy English introduction to the Tantrarāja Tantra—by Sir John Woodroffe. The mantras are from Nityotsava, a Sanskrit work that details the pūja and nyāsas of Śrī and her many attendants.
The first Nityā in the cycle is Kāmeśvarī, a name which means Lady of Desire. Her vidyā (mantra) according to the Tantrarājatantra, is Aiṃ Hrīṃ Śrīṃ Am Aiṃ Sa Ka La Hrīṃ Nityaklinne Madadrave Sauh Am Kāmeśvarī Nityā Śrī Padukam Pujayami Tarpayami Namah.
The same tantra gives her dhyana or meditation image as red like 10 million dawn suns, having a diadem of rubies, wearing throat ornaments, necklaces, waist chains and rings. She is red, has six arms and three eyes, and bears a crescent Moon, smiling softly. She holds a bow of sugar cane, flowering arrows, noose, goad, and a nectar-filled begemmed cup, showing the mudra of bestowing boons. The five arrows of desire (Kāma) in the five petals are Longing, Maddening, Kindling, Enchanting and Wasting. These five Kāmas are five forms of Kāmadeva, Lalitā as Kṛṣṇa, who are Kamaraja (Hrīṃ), Manmatha (Klīṃ), Kandarpa (Aiṃ), Makara (Blum) and Manobhava (Strīṃ) with the colours yellow, white, red, purple and blue. Each of the Kāmadevas has two eyes and two arms, the hands holding sugar cane bow and flowering arrows, the very form of the five elements.
Nityā Bhagamālinī, whose name refers to the flowering yoni, is the second of the cycle of the waxing Moon and has a remarkable and very long vidyā (mantra) which runs: Aiṃ Hrīṃ Śrīṃ Am Aiṃ Bhagabuge Bhagini Bhagodari Bhagamale Bhagavahe Bhagaguhye Bhagayoni Bhaganipatini Sarvabhagavashankari Bhagarupe Nityaklinne Bhagasvarupe Sarvani Bhagani Me Hyanaya Varade Rete Surete Bhagaklinne Klinnadrave Kledaya Dravaya Amoghe Bhagavicce Kshubha Kshobhaya Sarvasatvan Bhagodari Aiṃ Blum Jem Blum Bhem Blum Mom Blum Hem Blum Hem Klinne Sarvani Bhagani Me Vashamanaya Strīṃ Hara Blem Hrīṃ Am Bhagamalini Nityā Śrī Padukam Pujayami Tarpayami Namah.
She has six arms, three eyes, sits on a lotus and holds in her left hands a night water lily, a noose and a sugar cane bow and in her right a lotus, a goad and flowering arrows. Around her is a host of Śaktīs all of whom look like her, according to the Tantrarājatantra.
The Dakṣiṇamūrti Samhita has a different image (dhyana). Here (chapter 41), she is described as dwelling in the middle of a flowery forest, adorned with various gems, holding noose, goad, book, scales, nail (?) and writing implement, showing the mudras or hand gestures of allaying fears and bestowing boons. Her yantra is described differently, too, as triangle, hexagon, 16 petals, eight petals, then the bhūpura or fence.
Her name means Wet Nityā, or Always Wet. The third Nityā’s mantra is Aiṃ Hrīṃ Śrīṃ Nityaklinne Madadrave Svāhā im Nityaklinna Nityā Śrī Padukam Pujayami Tarpayami Namah.
She is surrounded by 19 Śaktīs, according to the Tantrarāja, who are Kshobhini, Mohini, Lila, Nityā, Niranjana, Klinna, Kledini, Madanatura, Madadrava, Dravini, Vidhana, Madavila, Mangala, Manmatharta, Manashvini, Moha, Amoda, Manomayi, Maya, Manda and Manovati. The Nityaklinna herself, the same tantra says, is restless with desire, smeared with red sandal paste, wears red clothes, smiles, has a half moon on her head, and holds noose, goad, cup and makes the mudra dispelling fear.
The Dakṣiṇamūrti Samhita (chapter 42) gives her root mantra as being of 11 syllables, Hrīṃ Nityaklinna Madadrave Svāhā. The image is similar except that she holds a noose, a goad, a skull and dispels fears. Her face is bathed in sweat and her eyes move with desire. Here the yantra is described as trikona, eight petals, and earth square (bhūpura). She bestows enjoyment and liberation and subdues the three worlds for one siddha (successful) in her vidyā (mantra).
Bherunda, the fourth Nityā, has three eyes and eight arms, with her body the colour of molten gold, wearing beautiful ornaments on her hands, feet, arms and around her waist. She smiles sweetly with her hands holding noose, goad, shield, sword, mace, thunderbolt (vajra), bow and arrow.
The vidyā mantra is: Aiṃ Hrīṃ Śrīṃ Im Om Krom Bhrom Kraum Jhmraum Cchraum Jraum Svāhā Im Bherunda Nityā Śrī Padukam Pujayami Tarpayami Namah, says Tantrarāja. Using her mantra destroys poison.
The DS describes her yantra as being triangle, eight petals and bhūpura. In the triangle are Shikhini, Nilakanthi and Raudri. Bherunda, according to this source, rules the Vetalas. The vidyā mantra also differs.
Vahnivasini is the fifth Nityā (Eternity) in the cycle, her name meaning the dweller in fire. Her mantra is Om Hrīṃ Vahnivasiniyai Namah. The Śaktīs in the eight trikonas are Jvalini, Visphulingini, Mangala, Sumanohara, Kanaka, Ankita, Vishva and Vividha. In the 12 petals are the 12 signs of the Hindu (sidereal)zodiac. Her description in the Tantrarāja Tantra is as a beautiful young woman, the colour of gold, with eight arms, dressed in yellow silk garments, adorned with rubies. She holds a red lotus, a conch, a bow of red sugarcane and the full moon in her left hands; in her right a white water lily, golden horn, flowery arrows and a citron. Around her are numberless Śaktīs who look like her. She is the dweller in fire who devours the universe.
Her vidyā-mantra is Um Hrīṃ Klinne Aiṃ Krom Nityamadadrave Hrīṃ Um Mahavajreshvari Nityā Śrī Padukam Pujayami Tarpayami Namah.
She is described in the Tantrarāja as having four arms, three eyes, garmented in red, red in colour, wearing red jewels and strewn with red flowers, wearing a crown of rubies. She sits on a throne on a golden boat which floats on an ocean of blood, and holds noose, goad, sugar cane bow and flowering arrows. She is surrounded by a host of Śaktīs similar to her and sways while she smiles mercifully.
The description in the DS differs. Here, she is described as resembling the china rose, wearing red clothes, and holding noose, goad, skull and dispelling fear. She is swaying from having drunk pure wine. The yantra here is described as having a triangle, four petals, eight petals and a bhūpura.
According to Nityotsava, an expansion of the Kalpasutras, the vidyā-mantra of Shivaduti Nityā is Aiṃ Hrīṃ Śrīṃ Shivadutyai Namah Shivadutinitya Śrī Padukam Pujayami Tarpayami Namah. She is called Shivaduti because she makes Shiva her messenger (Duti).
The Tantrarāja describes her as being dressed in red, with nine jewels in her crown, surrounded by Rishis singing her praises and having eight arms and three eyes. She looks as bright as the summer sun at midday and smiles sweetly. Her hands hold horn, shield, mace, cup, goad, cleaver, axe and lotus.
Tvaritā is the ninth Nityā (Eternity) in the cycle. Also called Totalā Devi. She is called Tvaritā (“Swift”) as She grants fruit to the sadhaka quickly. She is of auspicious form, in the first flush of youth, and dark in colour. She has 3 eyes and 4 hands and Her beautiful lotus- like face smiles gently. She is clad in new leaves. She is adorned with 8 fierce and great serpents of 4 kinds, and with waist chains and anklets. On Her head is a crystal crown with a crest of peacock feathers. Her arms are adorned with bangles made of beautiful peacock feathers. She has an umbrella and a banner made of peacock feathers. She wears strings of (red) gunja berries around Her throat, and Her breasts are smeared with red sandal and kumkum. She holds noose, goad, dispels fear, and grants boons.
In front of this Goddess is a black servant carrying a mace, who is worshipped for the attainment of the desired fruit. On either side of Her are Her two Śaktīs Jaya (conquering) and Vijaya (Victorious) who are like Her and who carry and swing gold canes.
The 8 Serpents are: Ananta & Kulika, fiery in colour, each with 1000 hoods, Her ear ornaments. Vasuki & Shankhapala, yellow in colour, each with 700 hoods, Her upper arm bangles. Takshaka & Mahapadma, blue in colour, each with 500 hoods, Her girdle. Padma & Kartataka, white, each with 300 hoods, Her toe ornaments. Her Śaktīs are Humkari, Khechari, Chandi, Chedini, Kahepani, Strikari, Dumkari, Kahemakari — these are similar to the Lokapalas, and the Śaktīs in the eight petals of the yantra. Her mantra is Om Hrīṃ Hūṃ Khe Ca Che Ksah Strīṃ Hūṃ Kse Hrīṃ Phat.
Taking up a position facing East, and having done three pranayamas, one should do the following Nyasa: Hail to the Rishi Saura on the head: Hail to the Metre Virat on the mouth: Hail to the Devi Tvaritā Nityā in the heart: Hail to the Bija Om in the genitals: Hail to the Śaktī Hūṃ on the feet: Hail to the Linchpin Kse on the navel. Then making the anjali gesture near the heart one should do the following Nyasa: Cm Khe Ca to the heart Namah: Ca Cche to the head Svāhā: Cche Ksah to the peak Vasat: Ksah Stri to the armour Hūṃ: Stri Hūṃ to the 3 eyes Vaushad: Hūṃ Kse to the Missile Phat.
Then one should do the Tvaritā Nyasa: (Head) Hrīṃ Om Hrīṃ Namah: (Forehead) Hrum Hūṃ Hrīṃ Namah: (Throat) Hrīṃ Khe Hrīṃ Namah: (Heart) Hrīṃ Ca Hrīṃ Namah: (Navel) Hrīṃ Cche Hrīṃ Namah: (Muladhara) Hrīṃ Ksah Hrīṃ Namah: (Thighs) Hrīṃ Stri Hrīṃ Namah: (Knees) Hrīṃ Hūṃ Hrīṃ Namah: (Legs) Hrīṃ Kse Hrīṃ Namah: (Feet) Hrīṃ Phat Hrīṃ Namah: End with a diffusion.
After placing the yantra in front of you, visualise Devi Tvaritā in the heart. Take Her to the head, resolve to do Her puja, place the flower on the yantra centre. Worship the triple Guru line first, as being in the three circles, then Devi’s servitor who is in the west of the Yantra. Worship Jaya and Vijaya on both sides of the door. Worship Humkari, Khecari, Canda, Cchedini, Ksepini, Strikari, Dumkari, Ksemakari in the eight petals. Tvaritā Devi in the centre.
Her vidyā-mantra is given as Aiṃ Hrīṃ Śrīṃ Aiṃ Klīṃ Sauh Kulasundari Nityā Śrī Padukam Pujayami Tarpayami Namah.
She has twelve arms and six faces, says the Tantrarāja. In her right hands she holds coral mala (rosary), lotus, a gem-studded pitcher, drinking cip, lemon and displays the exposition mudra. Her left hands hold book, red lotus, golden pen, garland of gems, conch shell with the last showing the boon mudra, according to the same tantra. Around her are hostes of Kinnaras, Yakshas, Devas and Gandharvas.
The letters of the vidyā Aiṃ Klīṃ Sauh comprise the Tripura bulb which is the united state of knower, knowledge and object of knowledge; the three humours of Vata, Kapha and Sleshma; and Fire, Sun and the Moon. According to the DS (chapter 48), Kulasundari is identical with Bala and placed in the Eastern lion-seat.
The Kalpasutra’s version of Nityā Nityā’s mantra runs Ha Sa Ka La Ra Daim Ha Sa Ka La Ra Dim Ha Sa Ka La Ra Dauh Nityā Nityā Śrī Padukam Pujayami Tarpayami Namah.
The Tantrarāja describes her as like the dawn sun, ruling the Śaktīs of the bodily dhatus (Dakini, Shakini, Rakini &c), dressed in red clothes and wearing rubies. She has three eyes and 12 arms and holds in her hands noose, white lotus, sugar cane bow, shield, trident, and favour mudra, goad, book, flowering arrows, sword, skull, mudra dispelling fear.
Her name means Sapphire Banner and her mantra is Aiṃ Hrīṃ Śrīṃ Phrem Strum Krom Am Klīṃ Aiṃ Blum Nityamadadrave Hūṃ Phrem Hrīṃ Em Nilapataka Nityā Śrī Padukam Pujayami Tarpayami Namah.
The Tantrarāja says that she is nila (sapphire) in hue with five faces and ten arms, wearing red clothes and beautiful gems. Her left hands show noose, banner, shield, horn bow, and the mudra granting gifts. Her right hands show goad, dart, sword, arrows and the mudra banishing fear. She sits on a lotus surrounded by hordes of Śaktīs like her. She rules the Yakṣiṇīs and the 64 Cetakas and has an uncanny collection of siddhis or magical powers to grant to her sadhaka or sadhika, including a sword unbeatable in battle (Khadga siddhi), Treasure, the power to see through walls (Anjana), the ability to travel miles in an instant (Paduka Siddhi) and lots, lots more.
She brings victory in battle and success in buying and selling, hence her name, Victorious.
According to Nityotsava, her vidyā mantra is Aiṃ Hrīṃ Śrīṃ Bha Ma Ra Ya Aum Aiṃ Vijaya Nityā Śrī Padukam Pujayami Tarpayami Namah. According to the DS she has one head and 10 arms and wears a garland of human skulls but the dhyana or meditation image in the Tantrarāja differs from this. There she has five heads and 10 arms which hold conch, noose, shield, bow, white lily, discus, goad, arrows and lemon.
Her name means “all auspicious” and her vidyā mantra is Aiṃ Hrīṃ Śrīṃ Svaum Om Sarvamangala Nityā Śrī Padukam Pujayami Tarpayami Namah. She has two arms and one head, sits on her lotus yantra and has eyes which represent the sun and the moon, while she smiles sweetly. In her right hand she holds a citron and with the left shows the boon-giving mudra. All her 76 attendants surround her, they are solar, lunar and fiery.
She rules over the kalas (parts or digits) of the sun (12), the moon (16) and fire (10). This numbers 38 and her attendants are doubled because each is with her consort.
Her name means “garlanded with flames” and her mantra, according to Tantrarājatantra, is Om namo bhagavati Jvalamalini devadevi sarvabhutasamharakarike jatavedasi jvalanti jvala jvala prajvala prajvala Hrīṃ Hrīṃ Hūṃ Ram Ram Ram Ram Ram Ram Ram Jvalamalini Hūṃ Phat Svāhā.
As the Nityā of flame, she is surrounded by Śaktīs, each of whom resembles her and she herself has a body of flaming fire, with six faces and 12 arms. Each of her faces, each with three eyes, smile sweetly.
Her 12 hands hold noose, goad, arrow, mace, tortoise, spear, flame and she shows two mudras – granting boons and dispelling fear.
The DS gives a different yantra to the Tantrarāja, with one of the maṇḍalas having forty rather than 32 petals.
The Śaktīs and her description also show variants. She is described as sitting on a lion-seat, and holds different weapons which include the damaru drum and a jar of wine.
The last Nityā in the cycle is Chitra, whose mantra is Aiṃ Hrīṃ Śrīṃ Ckaum Am Chitra Nityā Śrī Padukam Pujayami Tarpayami Namah. Her name means variegated and she wears a silk garment of different colours, has four arms, one head and holds noose, goad, and shows the gestures granting boons and dispelling fears.
Artwork is © Jan Bailey, 1975-2022. Translations are © Mike Magee 1975-2022.Questions or comments to firstname.lastname@example.org