In Hindu Mythology, we talk about a lot of gods especially the “Devis”. Devis have their significance presence from the beginning in Hindu Mythology. In Shakt Parampara, it is believed that Adimayashakti was the first goddess from whom the three Lords came. There different kinds of Devis which are worshipped either as Kumaris or Matas. We also know that Devi Shakti has many forms – Shailputri, Katyayani, Skandmata, Kali etc. and we worship her 9 forms during Navaratris.
The Sapta-Matrikas – 7 Motherly Incarnation of Goddess Shakti
But today we will talk of the MATRIKAS. They have their presence as early as in The Rig-Veda and are among the oldest worshiped goddesses. Sooner or Later, they came to be associated with the Tantra System. Prevalence of the worship of the divine mothers is believed to be as early as 3rd millennium B.C., when the Indus Valley Civilization flourished. The earliest epigraphic reference to the Matrikas is to be found in the Gangadhara inscription of Vishwa Varman, in Malwa Samvat 480 or 423-424 A.D. The Matrikas also figure in the Viharstambha inscription of Skandagupta. The Sapta-Matrikas were earlier connected with Skanda (Kumara) as his adopted-mothers and in later times, associated with the sect of Shiva himself as his attendants.
They have their different stories of origin with respect to Rig-Veda, Devi-Mahatmaya, Mahabharata, Shiv Purana, Matsya Purana, Vamana Purana, Varaha Purana, Kurma Purana and the Suprabhedagama. Their name and number also varies. In some parts of India and Nepal, they are 8 in number (Ashta-Matrikas). Whereas at other places, they are 7 in number and called the Sapta-Matrikas.
Before coming to their forms, let us read four major stories of their origin which are stated in The Rig-Veda, Mahabharata, Shiv Purana and Devi Mahatmaya (part of the Markandeya Purana).
The Rig-Veda (IX 102.4) speaks of a group of seven Mothers who control the preparation of Soma, but the earliest clear description appears in select chapters of the epic Mahabharata dated to 1st century AD.
Mahabharata mentions the Maha-matrikas (the great mothers), a group of the wives of six of the Saptarishis, who were accused of being Skanda’s real mothers and thus abandoned by their husbands. They request Skanda to adopt them as his mothers. Skanda agrees and grants them two boons: to be worshipped as great goddesses and permission to torment children as long as they are younger than 16 years and then act as their protectors. The Shalya Parva of the Mahabharata also mentions characteristics of a host of Matrikas, who serve Skanda. Ninety-two of them are named but the text says there exist more.
The story in Shiv Purana is associated with Shiva and demon Andhakasur. During ancient times, there lived a mighty demon named ‘Andhakasur’. Andhakasur had become arrogant because of a boon of immortality received from Lord Brahma. Being tormented by Andhakasur, all the deities went to seek Lord Brahma’s help. Lord Brahma took the deities to Lord Shiva who agreed to kill the wicked demon- Andhakasur.
The battle commenced and a fierce dual fight broke out between Lord Shiva and Andhakasur. Shiva attacked Andhakasur with his trident. Stream of blood oozed out from the wound, but to Shiva’s utter amazement each drop of blood falling on the ground resulted in into the creation of numerous Andhakasuras. In a short time the battlefield was overcrowded with countless Andhakasuras. Now Shiva’s anger crossed all limits and he thundered loudly. To stop the flow of the blood, Siva created a goddess called Yogesvari from the flames issuing out of his mouth. Brahma, Vishnu, Maheswara, Kumara, Varaha, Indra and Yama also sent their saktis to follow Yogesvari in stopping the flow of blood. Thus the Sapta Matrikas originated and Andhakasur finally lost his power and was defeated by Siva.
This story portrays a beautiful allegory. Siva is the spirit of Vidya (knowledge). Andhaka represents ignorance or the darkness of Avidya. The more Vidya attacks Avidya the more it tends to arise and increase. This is represented by the multiplication of Andhaka and secondary asuras. The Matrikas represents eight evil qualities. Unless the eight evil qualities, Kama, krodh, lobha, mada, moha, matsarya, paisunya and asuya are completely brought under the control of Vidya and kept under restraint, it can never succeed in putting down Andhakara. The Varaha Purana state that the Matrikas are Atma-Vidya warring against Andhakara.
In Devi Mahatmaya, there is a similar story associated with Goddess Durga and Demon RaktBija. RaktBija was similar to Andhakasur. Each drop of blood shred from his body can give rise to new RaktBija. Hence, Durga created Matrikas from herself and with their help slaughtered the demon army. In this version, Kali is described as the Matrika, who sucked all the blood of demon RaktBija. Kali is given the epithet Chamunda in the text. When demon Shumbh challenges Durga to a single combat, she absorbs the Matrikas in herself and says that they are her different forms. In the Vamana Purana too, the Matrikas arise from different parts of Devi and not from male gods although they are described and named after the male deities.
The Sapta-Matrikas Names & Description
Now let’s see their brief descriptions:-
1. Brahmi or Brahmani is the Shakti (power) of the creator god Brahma. She is depicted yellow in colour and with four heads. She may be depicted with four or six arms. Like Brahma, she holds a rosary or noose and kamandalu (water pot) or lotus stalk or a book or bell and is seated on a Hans as her vahana. She is also shown seated on a lotus with the Hans on her banner. She wears various ornaments and is distinguished by her basket-shaped crown called karaṇḍamukuṭa.
2. Vaishnavi, the power of the preserver-god Vishnu, is described as seated on the Garuda(eagle-man) and having four or six arms. She holds Shankha (conch), chakra (Discus), mace and lotus and bow and sword or her two arms are in varadan mudra and abhaya mudra. Like Vishnu, she is heavily adorned with ornaments like necklaces, anklets, earrings, bangles etc. and a cylindrical crown called kiriṭamukuṭa.
3. Maheshvari, is the power of god Shiva, also known as Maheshvara. Maheshvari is also known by the names Raudri, Rudrani and Maheshi, derived from Shiva’s names Rudra and Mahesh. Maheshvari is depicted seated on Nandi and has four or six hands. The white complexioned, Trinetra (three eyed) goddess holds a Trishula (trident), Damaru (drum), Akshamala (A garland of beads), Panapatra (drinking vessel) or axe or an antelope or a kapala (skull-bowl) or a serpent and is adorned with serpent bracelets, the crescent moon and the jaṭāmukuṭa (A headdress formed of piled, matted hair).
4. Aindri, also known as Indrani, Mahendri, Shakri and Vajri, is the power of the Indra, the Lord of the heaven. Seated on a charging elephant, Aindri, is depicted dark-skinned, with two or four or six arms. She is depicted as having two or three eyes or like Indra, a thousand eyes. She is armed with the Vajra (thunderbolt), goad, noose and lotus stalk. Adorned with variety of ornaments, she wears the kiriṭamukuṭa.
5. Kaumari, also known as Kumari, Karttikeyani and Ambika  is the power of Kumara (Kartikeya or Skanda), the god of war. Kaumari rides a peacock and has four or twelve arms. She holds a spear, axe, a Shakti (power) or Tanka (silver coins) and bow. She is sometimes depicted six-headed like Kumara and wears the cylindrical crown.
6. Varahi or Vairali is described as the power of Varaha – the boar-headed form of Vishnu or Yama – the god of death, has a boar head on a human body and rides a ram or a buffalo. She holds a Danda (rod of punishment) or plough, goad, a Vajra or a sword, and a Panapatra. Sometimes, she carries a bell, chakra, chamara (a yak’s tail) and a bow. She wears a crown called karaṇḍamukuṭa with other ornaments.
7. Chamunda, also known as Chamundi and Charchika is the power of Devi (Chandi). She is very often identified with Kali and is similar in her appearance and habit. The identification with Kali is explicit in Devi Mahatmaya. The black coloured Chamunda is described as wearing a garland of severed heads or skulls (Mundamala) and holding a Damaru, trishula, sword and panapatra. Riding a jackal or standing on a corpse of a man (shava or preta), she is described as having three eyes, a terrifying face and a sunken belly.
In addition to these 7 Matrikas, few scriptures like Devi Purana and Varaha Purana presents an additional goddess making them Ashta-Matrika.
8. Narasimhi, power of Narasimha (lion-man form of Vishnu), is a woman-lion and throws the stars into disarray by shaking her lion mane.
Though the first six are unanimously accepted by texts, the name and features of the seventh and eighth Matrika are disputed. In Devi-Mahatmaya, Chamunda is omitted after the Saptamatrika list, while in sculpture in shrines or caves and the Mahabharata, Narasimhi is omitted. The Varaha Purana names Yami – the Shakti of Yama, as the seventh and Yogishwari as the eighth Matrika, created by flames emerging from Shiva’s mouth. In Nepal, the eighth Matrika is called Maha-Lakshmi or Lakshmi is added omitting Narasimhi. In lists of nine Matrikas, Devi-Purana mentions Gananayika or Vinayaki – the Shakti of Ganesha, characterized by her elephant head and ability to remove obstacles like Ganesha and Mahabharavi omitting Narasimhi.