In Hinduism, Chamunda (Sanskrit: चामुण्डा, ), also known as Chamundi and Charchika, is a fearsome aspect of Devi, the Hindu Divine Mother and one of the seven Matrikas (mother goddesses). She is also one of the chief Yoginis, a group of sixty-four or eighty-one Tantric goddesses, who are attendants of the warrior goddess Durga. The name is a combination of Chanda and Munda, two monsters whom Chamunda killed. She is closely associated with Kali, another fierce aspect of Devi. She is sometimes identified with goddesses Parvati, Chandi or Durga as well. The goddess is often portrayed as haunting cremation grounds or fig trees. The goddess is worshipped by ritual animal sacrifices along with offerings of wine and in the ancient times, human sacrifices were offered too. Originally a tribal goddess, Chamunda was assimilated in Hinduism and later entered the Jain pantheon too. Though in Jainism, the rites of her worship include vegetarian offerings, and not the meat and liquor offerings.
These characteristics, a contrast to usual Hindu goddess depiction with full breasts and a beautiful face, are symbols of old age, death, decay and destruction.
In Hindu scripture Devi Mahatmya, Chamunda emerged as Chandika from an eyebrow of goddess Kaushiki (a goddess created from "sheath" of Durga) and was assigned the task of eliminating the demons Chanda and Munda, generals of demon kings Shumbha-Nishumbha. She fought a fierce battle with the demons, ultimately killing them. Goddess Chandika took the slain heads of the two demons to goddess Kaushiki, who became immensely pleased. Kaushiki blessed Chandika and bestowed upon her the title of “Chamunda", to commemorate the latter's victory over the demons.
According to a later episode of Devi Mahatmya, Durga created Matrikas from herself and with their help slaughtered the demon army of Shumbha-Nisumha. In this version, Kali is described as a Matrika who sucked all the blood of the demon Raktabija. Kali is given the epithet Chamunda in the text. Thus, the Devi Mahatmya identifies Chamunda with Kali.
In Varaha Purana, the story of Raktabija is retold, but here each of Matrikas appears from the body of another Matrika. Chamunda appears from the foot of the lion-headed goddess Narshmi. Here, Chamunda is considered a representation of the vice of tale-telling (pasunya). The Varaha Purana text clearly mentions two separate goddesses Chamunda and Kali, unlike Devi Mahatmya.
Matsya Purana tells a different story of Chamunda's origins. She with other matrikas was created by Shiva to help him kill the demon Andhakasura, who has an ability - like Raktabija - to generate from his dripping blood. Chamunda with the other matrikas drinks the blood of the demon ultimately helping Shiva kill him. Ratnakara, in his text Haravijaya, also describes this feat of Chamunda, but solely credits Chamunda, not the other matrikas of sipping the blood of Andhaka. Having drunk the blood, Chamunda's complexion changed to blood-red. The text further says that Chamunda does a dance of destruction, playing a musical instrument whose shaft is Mount Meru, the spring is the cosmic snake Shesha and gourd is the crescent moon. She plays the instrument during the deluge that drowns the world.
Devi Purana describe a pentad of Matrikas who help Ganesha to kill demons. Further, sage Mandavya is described as worshipping the Māṭrpaňcaka (the five mothers), Chamunda being one of them. The mothers are described as established by creator god Brahma for saving king Harishchandra from calamities. Apart from usual meaning of Chamunda as slayer of demons Chanda and Munda, Devi Purana gives a different explanation: Chanda means terrible while Munda stands for Brahma's head or lord or husband.
In Vishnudharmottara Purana - where the Matrikas are compared to vices - Chamunda is considered as a manifestation of depravity. Every matrika is considered guardian of a compas direction. Chamunda is assigned the direction of south-west.
Chamunda, being a Matrika, is considered one of the chief Yoginis, who are considered to be daughters or manifestations of the Matrikas. In the context of a group of sixty-four yoginis, Chamunda is believed to have created seven other yoginis, together forming a group of eight. In the context of eighty-one yoginis, Chamunda heads a group of nine yoginis.
In the Kangra District of Himachal Pradesh, around west of Palampur, is the renowned Chamunda Devi Temple which depicts scenes from the Devi Mahatmya, the Ramayana and the Mahabharata. The goddess's image is flanked by the images of Hanuman and Bhairava. Another temple, Chamunda Nandikeshwar Dham, also found in Kangra, is dedicated to Shiva and Chamunda. According to a legend, Chamunda was enshrined as chief deity "Rudra Chamunda", in the battle between demon Jalandhara and Shiva.
The Chamunda Mataji temple in Mehrangarh fort, Jodhpur, was established in 1460 after the idol of the goddess Chamunda - the Kula-devi (clan goddess) and Ishta-devi (tutelary deity) of Parihar rulers - was moved from the old capital of Mandore by the then ruler Rao Jodha. The goddess is still worshipped by the royal family of Jodhpur and other citizens of the city. The temple witnesses festivities in Dussehra - the festival of the goddess.
Another Jain legend tells the story of conversion of Chamunda into a Jain goddess. According to this story, Chamunda sculpted the Mahavir image for the temple in Osian and was happy with the conversions of Hindu Oswal clan to Jainism. At the time of Navaratri, a festival that celebrates the Hindu Divine Mother, Chamunda expected animal sacrifices from the converted Jains. The vegetarian Jains, however, were unable to meet her demand. Jain monk Ratnaprabhasuri intervened, and as a result, Chamunda accepted vegetarian offerings, forgoing her demand for meat and liquor. Ratnaprabhsuri further named her Sacciya, one who had told the truth, as Chamunda had told him the truth that a rainy season stay in Osian was beneficial for him. She also became the protective goddess of the temple and remained the clan goddess of the Osvals. The Sachiya Mata Temple in Osian was built in her honour by Jains. Some Jain scriptures warn of dire consequences of worship of Chamunda by the Hindu rites and rituals.