Beliefs & Practices

A yantra is a sacred dwelling or receptacle that contains the essence of a divine being. It is also a symbolic representation of the divinity. Yantras comprise interlocking geometrical elements such as circles, triangles and floral patterns that form designs of elegance and beauty.

There is considerable variation in the configuration of yantras, but they all focus on the dot at the centre. Indian religious thought is built around the fundamental principle that all existence emerges from a single point of origin and it is to this point that everything ultimately returns. The dot in the centre of a yantra represents this point of origin and return. The central quest of Hinduism and Buddhism is to understand the relationship between the individual and universal and to achieve experiential realisation of the One. Yantras illustrate this fundamental notion in abstract form.

During rituals, practitioners make special offerings to the deity embodied by the yantra and use the diagram as a meditative support to stimulate latent psychosomatic energies. 

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Kali Yantra (above right) – unusual in both its scale and its use of iconic figures within the defined fields, this yantra has five superimposed, downward-facing triangles within an eight-petalled lotus. The central circle containing the five triangles was originally golden-hued, but the gold has now oxidised and darkened.

The central image is a standing Kali with her typically unkempt hair and emaciated body and her locale of a cremation ground.


Each of the surrounding eight lotus petals contains an image of a goddess, seemingly a regional Tantric variation of the Matrikas (protective mothers), and identifiable as (clockwise from the top):
Red-complexioned Indrani
Boar-headed Varahi
Lion-headed Narasimhi
Four-headed Brahmani
Chamunda standing on a corpse

Guardian deities Guardian deities Guardian deities patron Guardian deities Chamunda Maheshvari Vaishnavi Brahmani Narasimhi Varahi Ambika Kali Indrani patronLeft
Top: Kali Yantra India, Uttar Pradesh, Varanasi, early 1800s Private collection
Above left: Kali Yantra, India, 1800s Art Gallery of New South Wales. Purchased 2006

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Guardian deities Guardian deities Guardian deities patronGuardian deities Chamunda Maheshvari Vaishnavi Brahmani Narasimhi Varahi Ambika Kali Indrani patronLeft