From Hindupedia, the Hindu Encyclopedia

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,[1] the special power of Viṣṇu responsible for creation, preservation and destruction.

The Mārkaṇḍeyapurāṇa[2] 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:
  1. Ikṣukodaṇḍa - bow of sugarcane
  2. Puṣpabāṇa - arrow of flowers
  3. Pāśa - noose
  4. 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.


  1. Bhagavadgitā 7.14
  2. Mārkaṇḍeyapurāṇa 85.34
  • The Concise Encyclopedia of Hinduism, Swami Harshananda, Ram Krishna Math, Bangalore