Chinnamastā is one of the most feared Mahavidya-s in the KaliKula tradition. She is shown having cut off her own head, and allowing two of her companions to drink from the jet stream that flows from her throat. Chinnamasta sadhanas started during the 4th century in India and slowly passed onto Mahayana Buddhism in the form of Vajrayogini.
Her stunningly ferocious imagery naturally invokes fear and trepidation, matched only by the effects that her sadhana can cause to a seeker.
In Tibetan Buddhism theogony, she is also referred to as Chinnamunda, who, some scholars believe is a form of Vajravarahi. The term vajra denotes an indestructible purity and is often added as a prefix to the names of different spiritual beings. One of the earliest texts which mention Chinnamastā is the Hindu Chinnamastākalpa and the Tantrasara. The latter is the most authentic sadhana compendium for almost all KaliKula practices and it is among this particular stream of Shaktas where upasana of Chinnamastā has been popular historically. The Buddhist equivalent text is the sadhanamala of 12th century where details of Vajravairochani mantra, tantra and sadhana has been mentioned. Whatever be her exact origins, by the 9th century she was already an established Mahavidya among the Tantrics.
The typical iconography of the Goddess depicts her in deep red color of a hibiscus flower radiating the effulgence of a million suns. Digambari, with a munda-mala (skull garland) and a snake for her yagyapovita, standing in the pratyAlIDha posture, she has cut off her own head and holds it in one of her hands. From her neck erupts three streams of blood which is eagerly consumed by her attendants on two sides, ḍākinī and varini. The third stream goes into her own severed head which she holds in her left hand. Her other hand holds a khadga, and oftentimes she has a blue-lotus in her heart.
Raja Krshnachandra of Bengal, a contemporary of shakta-poet Ramprasad Sen, was reputed to be a sadhaka of Chinnamastā. The Tantric author Taranath mentions that Kanipa or Krshacharya, one of the 84 Mahasiddhas of Tibetan Buddhism, had two female disciples from the area of Maharashtra, Mekhala and Kanakhala, who were experts in Chinnamastā sadhana having attained communion with the goddess. These two female adepts were also considered as Mahasiddhas in the tradition. In the Hindu Mahavidya tradition, Chinnamastā is accompanied by Krodha Bhairava, and among the twenty-four avatars of Vishnu mentioned in the Bhagwatam, Chinnamastā is equivalent to the Narasimha avatāra.