By Swami Harshananda
Mahāmāyā literally means ‘the goddess of great delusion’.
This is one of the names of Durgā since she has unlimited creative energy and delusive power.<ref. Mahā means great, māyā means creative energy or delusive power.</ref> She is often identified with Viṣṇumāyā, the special power of Viṣṇu responsible for creation, preservation and destruction.
The Mārkaṇḍeyapurāṇa describes her as a secondary manifestation of Mahākāli, the tāmasik aspect of Mahālakṣmī. She is generally portrayed as:
- having complexion of red hibiscus flower
- Three eyes
- Four arms carrying:
- Ikṣukodaṇḍa - bow of sugarcane
- Puṣpabāṇa - arrow of flowers
- Pāśa - noose
- Raktotpala - red lotus
The goddess associated with Amaranātha Śiva in the cave of Amarnāth, Kashmir, is also called as Mahāmāyā. This is one of the Śaktipīṭhas where the neck of Satī-Dākṣāyaṇī is supposed to have fallen.
- Bhagavadgitā 7.14
- Mārkaṇḍeyapurāṇa 85.34
- The Concise Encyclopedia of Hinduism, Swami Harshananda, Ram Krishna Math, Bangalore