She has a body like pure crystal. She shines with the light of the rising sun. In her four hands she holds a noose, a goad, arrows, and a bow. She is seated on a throne like a queen, she wears many jewels, the crescent moon adorns her forehead, she has heavy breasts and a thin waist, and has a large bull as a vehicle.
Along with Kali and Tara, Shodashi is an Adi Mahavidya (primordial), which implies she has high place in the group, and like them, represents a complete vision of reality. She represents the penultimate vision of enlightened consciousness, a stage of consciousness suffused with sattvic qualities but lacking the completeness of fully enlightened consciousness, represented by Kali, which is beyond all quality and form.
It is said she has the power to attract people and that one can feel her strength when taking her darsan. No one is strong enough to spend the night in her temple, and after awhile she drives people crazy who stay in her presence. Her priests do not last long. Painted panels on the front of her throne show five male deities supporting her throne of which Brahma, Vishnu, and Siva have been identified.
Shodashi is quintessential shakti, the divine current sought after by Siva. Within the stillness of Siva, shakti plays. Siva is nothing without shakti.
She is also known as Tripura-Sundari – She Who is Lovely in the Three Worlds. In this identity she has been worshiped from a very early period, long before she was grouped in with the Mahavidyas. Her essential form is the sacred symbol of the Sri Yantra: An extraordinary diagram, to be covered in further writings here.
On a cosmic scale she undertakes the three principle cosmic functions of creation, maintenance, and destruction. She either performs these functions by herself or creates and directs Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva in these roles. She is said to give all blessings, grant all desires, embody purity, and be calm, peaceful and imbued with light and nourishing qualities. She is extremely attractive, beautiful, and erotically inclined. She infuses creation with desire. She Who is Filled With Erotic Sentiments. She Whose Form is the Desire of Women. She Who Enchants. She Who Overflows With Desire and Pleasure.
It is said that her worship has such an amorous effect that celestial females such as siddhas (accomplished ones) come to the devotee “with gazelle like eyes, breathing heavily, their bodies quivering… and moist with the pearly sweat of passion; and throwing away their ornaments and letting their clothes fall about them, bow themselves before him, and offer to do his will.” It is said that a worn-out old man, ugly and sluggish in the arts of love, can be restored to sexual attractiveness and vigor by her glance.
For the most part, Tripura-Sundari is characterized by names and features that emphasize her beautiful, auspicious, pure, fertile and gracious nature and that associate her with wealth, royal power, the protection of the order of dharma, and the defeat of demons. Other features of Tripura Sundari, however, suggest aspects of her nature that deviate from this portrait. She can be frightening, wild, and perhaps dangerous. In many ways she resembles Kali, with whom she is sometimes identified.
In this wild light, Shodashi is a Warrior. She produces many weapons from the noose and the goad she carries in her hands. She who slays demons. She who grants boons to warriors, ruler of armies. She who is worshiped by warriors, and the mother of warriors. She is a great battle queen on par with Durga. She is worshiped by kings, she takes pleasure in ruling and subdues all worlds. She is Queen of Kings.
The name Shodashi has hidden significance, yet on the surface, it means ‘she who is sixteen.’ It is common for deities to be described as eternally sixteen years old, which is considered the most beautiful and vigorous human age. Also the name implies ‘she who has sixteen good qualities.’ More esoterically, the name can mean the sixteenth, or she who is the sixteenth which likely refers to the phases of the moon, the lunar tithis, of which there are fifteen in the first half of the cycle ascending, and fifteen in the descending cycle, and these tithis are personified as goddesses. As the sixteenth, Shodashi is that which is beyond the phases, or the rhythms of time.
Shodashi is triple natured because she is identified with the three main channels of the subtle body in kundalini yoga that represent cosmic totality. There are three Devas, three Vedas, three fires, three energies, three notes (svaras), three worlds, three abodes, three sacred lakes… Whatever in the world is threefold, such as the three objects of human desire, belong to her name. Shodasi has the nature of Siva, Sakti, and Atman. She is triadic because she has her abode in the moon, Sun, and Fire. And lastly, She embodies the three principle powers of will, consciousness, and action.
References: Ten Mahavidias – Tantric Visions of the Divine Feminine – Kinsley
Lunar Cycle: Crescent Moon Sighting in the VIRGIN