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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