In the story of Chinnamasta, the detailed background behind the transformation of Sati or Uma, the youngest daughter of Prajapati Daksha and wife of Lord Shiva, into ten transcendent forms, known as Mahavidyas, was discussed. Dhumavati was one among the Mahavidyas, who surrounded Shiva to make him frightened and compelled him to allow Sati to go to her parents' home to attend the grand yajna (sacrifice) arranged by her father, despite the fact that they were intentionally not invited.
The gods and goddesses of the Hindu religion are usually described as beautiful, celestial, radiant and powerful, with heavenly virtues like, kindness, grace, knowledge and others. However, Dhumavati is exceptional and is different from the others. She is associated with all the things considered inauspicious and unfavourable and is thought to be appeared during the time of cosmic dissolution. Many Hindu spiritual scholars believe that Dhumavati is the void, the absolute emptiness that exists after dissolution, known as Mahapralaya and before creation. Strangely enough, despite being generally associated with only inauspicious qualities, Dhumavati is also described as a rescuer from all troubles, and a granter of all earthly desires, including the ultimate knowledge and salvation.
Devi Dhumavati is often associated with Nirriti, the goddess of disease and misery, Alakshmi, the sister of Lakshmi and the goddess of misfortune and poverty and Jyestha, who is unable to tolerate any auspiciousness. She is normally portrayed as an old, thin and ugly widow with disheveled hair, often depicted on a horseless chariot with a winnowing basket in her hands or riding a crow and holding a trident, usually in a cremation ground. Her complexion is smoky and unlike other Mahavidyas, she is devoid of any jewelry. Her hair is grey, eyes are fearsome, nose is long and crooked, breasts are dry and teeth crooked and missing. However, alternative paintings show her as young and adorned, attractive and sexually tempting, but actually an inauspicious widow. She is said to enjoy sexual intercourse, like to be intoxicated and to be worshiped by intoxicated people. In the Tantric ritual, she indulges of breaking the five taboos, which include ritual sex.
Apart from the Mahavidya group, Dhumavati hardly has an independent existence, but she always appears to stay within a Tantric context. According to the Shaktisangama Tantra, when Daksha insulted Shiva in his absence and in the presence of Sati, Sati committed suicide by jumping in the fire of the Mahajagna and Dhumavati came out of the fire, blackened from the smoke of Sati’s burning body, as her outraged and insulted incarnation. Another story about her origin is depicted in the Prantishini Tanta, which says that once Sati swallowed Lord Shiva to satiate her extreme hunger, as Shiva was not in a position to provide her food. Subsequently, at the request of Shiva, when she disgorged him, Shiva rejected to accept her and cursed her to assume the form of a widow, although actually she is not a widow.
Temples dedicated to Dhumavati are extremely rare. The most famous temple of the goddess is located in Varanasi. Married people are advised not to worship Dhumavati, as it is said that her worship creates a feeling of willingness for solitude and distaste of worldly things. Married women are also barred from worshipping Dhumavati for the safety of their families. According to their rituals, the Tantrics are supposed to worship her in the night in a cremation ground, bare-bodied with the exception of a loin cloth and sitting near a Dhumavati Yantra.
The Yantra is a geometrical design used for trance and meditation, through which a devotee develops deeper concentration in prayer and meditation. It consists of a triangle, drawn inside a star, like the Star of David, bordered by a circle and on the top of a lotus. The colours used in the Yantra are usually yellow, red and green and the entire structure is enclosed inside a square. It is believed that the installation and worshipping the Yantra helps to overcome depression, sorrow, diseases and poverty.