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Devi Swaroopa Darpanam

(Vision of Devi through Devi Mahatmyam Chapter#4)

My mother discovered an old book while cleaning her house while she was still in school. It was a book on Devi Mahatmyam, also known as Durga Sapatashati. When she finished reading it, something clicked. It struck a deep chord with her. Durga Saptashati became her constant companion. She did not go a day without reading the Devi Kavacham and a few chapters from the Saptashati. She felt an instant connection with Devi, and her devotion to Bhagavati lasted till the day she departed for Devi’s Abode in January last year. She introduced me to Devi Mahatmyam when I was in fifth or sixth grade. Every Sunday, she had me read at least one chapter of the Durga Saptashati (the translated Hindi portion). As a bookworm, I read more than one chapter. The divine personality of the Goddess described in the text captivated me as I read the text. After finishing college, reading the entire Durga Saptashati during Navaratri became a ritual for me. I looked forward to Navratri, when I might re-live the experience of the Divine Leela of Devi defeating the Asuras and defending the Devas. Thus, my biological mother had a direct role in instilling Shraddha and Bhakti to the Universal Mother. This Shraddha would manifest many years later as a deep desire to learn Vedanta. I dedicate this piece to my mother, without whom I would not be who I am today.

The Relevance of Devi Mahatmyam

Durga Saptashati, also known as Devi Mahatmyam, is a text found within the Markandeya Purana. It is divided into thirteen chapters. It is called Devi Mahatmyam because it explains the Devi’s greatness. Because it has 700 verses (combining it with all the Angas like Kavacham, Argala, Keelakam, Pradhanika Rahasyam, Murti Rahasyam etc.), it is also known as Durga Saptashati. Its recitation is also known as the Chandi Path. Bhagavati’s Divine Leela is intertwined with the narrative of an exiled monarch named Surath and a vaishya named Samadhi. Surath and Samadhi find themselves at the ashrama of Rishi Medha after losing all they care about, their kingdom and families. They discover that they are persistently thinking about things they once claimed as their own. They struggled to remain objective and discovered that they were emotionally attached to the very things that had caused them so much suffering. This is truly relevant to the problems we encounter in the contemporary world. We frequently find ourselves in terrible situations we did not intend to be in. The people, things, and circumstances that hurt us are constantly on our minds. The more we try to get away from them, the more they occupy our thoughts. Like Arjuna’s predicament in the Bhagwad Geeta, it is not just a psychological problem but also a spiritual one. Only a spiritual solution will work because the issue’s root cause is spiritual in nature; a psychological solution may help temporarily. For the same reason, Sri Krishna does not just tell Arjuna to fight in the Mahabharata war but instead jumps right into an explanation of the true nature of the Self.

Samadhi and Suratha go to Rishi Medha to learn what caused this attachment and subsequent sorrow and how to get rid of it. Rishi Medha informs them that all beings in the universe are deluded by the great Devi Mahamaya. She alone takes the form of ignorance and makes us identify with transient and ephemeral things, which results in sorrow. She alone makes herself known as Knowledge, allowing us to see things as they truly are and allowing us to enter into the Bliss of our own nature.

Devi Mahatmyam

The three sections of the Devi Mahatmyam are referred to as Prathama Charitra, Madhyama Charitra, and Uttara Charitra. Prathama Charitra consists of chapter#1 and deals with Devi’s Leela with respect to Madhu-Kaitabh Vadh. Devi presides over this section in the form of Mahakali. Madhyama Charitra consists of chapter#2, 3, and 4, and deals with Mahishasura Vadh. Devi presides over this section in the form of Mahalakshmi. Uttara Charitra consists of chapters 5 to 13 and deals with Shumbha-Nishumbha Vadh. Devi presides over this section in the form of Maha Saraswati.

Chapter#4 is the last chapter of the Madhyama Charitra. In Chapter#3, Durga Devi killed Mahishasura. The fourth chapter is composed of a Stotra, or praise for Devi, sung by Devatas and Rishis. Durga Saptashati contains several embedded Stotrams, but this one stands out. These verses present the entire Shakta viewpoint. They serve as excellent guidelines for devotees on how to think about and contemplate on Devi. This chapter is unmatched in its level of poetic and philosophical beauty. The chapter ends with Devi giving a boon to the Devas. This boon leads to the growth of Mahavishvasam on Devi, the belief that Devi will always and in all circumstances protect her devotees.

In my studies, I have used Sri Bhaskara Raya’s well-known commentary, Guptavati. Sri Bhaskararaya was a great Shakta Scholar and practitioner of Sri Vidya tradition. He has also written a detailed commentary on the Lalita Sahasranamam. The Sri Chaturbhujdhar Mishra/Chaturdhar Mishra’s Chaturdhari Tika, which I also found to be highly informative, is another source.

I will limit myself to just the Bhagwad Geeta, even though hundreds of Pramana from every conceivable text, including Upanishads, Vedas, Puranas, and Tantras, can be quoted for each word used in the Durga Saptashati. In that it contains 700 verses, the Bhagwad Geeta is also a Saptashati. The resolution of existential suffering through understanding the true nature of oneself and Ishvara is the topic of both texts. The Ishvara/Brahman of the Vedanta alone is presented in the Durga Saptashati as Bhagwati Durga.

Dhyaana Shloka

ॐ कालाभ्राभां कटाक्षैररिकुलभयदां मौलिबद्धेन्दुरेखां
शड्‌खं चक्रं कृपाणं त्रिशिखमपि करैरुद्वहन्तीं त्रिनेत्राम्।
सिंहस्कन्धाधिरूढां त्रिभुवनमखिलं तेजसा पूरयन्तीं
ध्यायेद् दुर्गां जयाख्यां त्रिदशपरिवृतां सेवितां सिद्धिकामैः
(oṃ kālābhrābhāṃ kaṭākṣairarikulabhayadāṃ maulibaddhendurekhāṃ
śaḍ‌khaṃ cakraṃ kṛpāṇaṃ triśikhamapi karairudvahantīṃ trinetrām।
siṃhaskandhādhirūḍhāṃ tribhuvanamakhilaṃ tejasā pūrayantīṃ
dhyāyed durgāṃ jayākhyāṃ tridaśaparivṛtāṃ sevitāṃ siddhikāmaiḥ॥)

The chapter commences by revealing Durga Devi’s stunning form, for the purpose of meditation. She also goes by the name Jaya because she consistently remains victorious against the forces of Adharma. The pointers for her meditation are:

  1. With just the look of her ominous, cloud-like eyes, she makes the entire enemy army shudder.
  2. She wears the moon as a headpiece, but it only looks like a curving line, possibly because the moon’s radiance has been dimmed by hers.
  3. She holds Shanka, Chakra, Kripaana and Trishula in her hands.
  4. She has three eyes.
  5. She is mounted on a lion.
  6. All the three worlds are pervaded by her Radiance.
  7. She is surrounded by all the Devas.
  8. She is revered by everyone who seeks Siddhis in the form of Bhoga and Moksha.

शक्रादयः सुरगणा निहतेऽतिवीर्ये
तस्मिन्दुरात्मनि सुरारिबले च देव्या ।
तां तुष्टुवुः प्रणतिनम्रशिरोधरांसा
वाग्भिः प्रहर्षपुलकोद्गमचारुदेहाः ॥ Devi Mahatmyam-4.1
(śakrādayaḥ suragaṇā nihate’tivīrye
tasmindurātmani surāribale ca devyā ।
tāṃ tuṣṭuvuḥ praṇatinamraśirodharāṃsā
vāgbhiḥ praharṣapulakodgamacārudehāḥ  ॥)

Beginning with the defeat of the powerful and Papachaari Mahishasura by Devi, Rishi Medha describes how the Devas and Rishis approached Devi. They began praising the devi for her pleasure with their heads bowed in humility and their hair standing on end in shock at what they had witnessed.All Bhaktas should take note of this subtle guidance on how to approach the Devi. Approaching her should be done with the utmost respect and an alert mind.

The Stuti

देव्या यया ततमिदं जगदात्मशक्त्या
निःशेषदेवगणशक्तिसमूहमूर्त्या ।
तामम्बिकामखिलदेवमहर्षिपूज्यां
भक्त्या नताः स्म विदधातु शुभानि सा नः ॥Devi Mahatmyam-4.2
(devyā yayā tatamidaṃ jagadātmaśaktyā
niḥśeṣadevagaṇaśaktisamūhamūrtyā ।
tāmambikāmakhiladevamaharṣipūjyāṃ
bhaktyā natāḥ sma vidadhātu śubhāni sā naḥ ॥)

The Devi is first identified by the Devas as the source of the Maya that has pervaded the entire Jagat.

मयाततमिदंसर्वंजगदव्यक्तमूर्तिना।
मत्स्थानिसर्वभूतानिनचाहंतेष्ववस्थितः॥B.Geeta 9.4 ॥
(mayātatamidaṃsarvaṃjagadavyaktamūrtinā।
matsthānisarvabhūtāninacāhaṃteṣvavasthitaḥ)
(All this world is pervaded by Me in My Unmanifest form (aspect); all beings exist in Me, but I do not dwell in them.)

She embodies the combined power of all Devas. Devi is eternal and unborn, but even so, she is said to appear when she does so of her own volition through a Divine Leela. She first appeared in Chapter 2 of the Devi Mahatmyam to free the Devas from Mahishasura’s tyranny using the collective Shakti of all the Devas.

अजोऽपिसन्नव्ययात्माभूतानामीश्वरोऽपिसन्।
प्रकृतिंस्वामधिष्ठायसम्भवाम्यात्ममायया॥B.Geeta 4.6 ॥
(ajo’pisannavyayātmābhūtānāmīśvaro’pisan।
prakṛtiṃsvāmadhiṣṭhāyasambhavāmyātmamāyayā॥)
(Though I am unborn and am of imperishable nature, and though I am the Lord of all beings, yet, ruling over My own Nature, I take birth by My own Maya.)

She is revered by all Devatas and Rishis because she is greater than the sum of all their powers.

नमेविदुःसुरगणाःप्रभवंनमहर्षयः।
अहमादिर्हिदेवानांमहर्षीणांचसर्वशः॥ B.Geeta 10.2 ॥
(nameviduḥsuragaṇāḥprabhavaṃnamaharṣayaḥ।
ahamādirhidevānāṃmaharṣīṇāṃcasarvaśaḥ॥)
(Neither the hosts of heaven, nor great Rishis know My origin; for, in every way, I am the source of all the Devas and the Rishis.)

The Devas declare that they prostrate themselves before Bhagwati in the form of Ambika/mother with Bhakti and pray for her auspicious blessing.

सततंकीर्तयन्तोमांयतन्तश्चदृढव्रताः।
नमस्यन्तश्चमांभक्त्यानित्ययुक्ताउपासते॥B.Geeta 9.14॥
(satataṃkīrtayantomāṃyatantaścadṛḍhavratāḥ।
namasyantaścamāṃbhaktyānityayuktāupāsate॥)
(Always glorifying Me, striving, firm in vows, prostrating before Me, and always steadfast, they worship Me with devotion.)

The Chaturdhari Tika defines Bhakti as living a life that is dedicated to serving Devi through everything we do or accepting the relationship of a Sevya (Master) and Sevak (Servant) with humility.

मन्मनाभवमद्भक्तोमद्याजीमांनमस्कुरु|
मामेवैष्यसियुक्त्वैवमात्मानंमत्परायणः॥B.Geeta 9.34॥
(manmanābhavamadbhaktomadyājīmāṃnamaskuru।
māmevaiṣyasiyuktvaivamātmānaṃmatparāyaṇaḥ॥)
(Fix your mind on Me; be devoted to Me, sacrifice to Me, bow down to Me;having thus united your (whole) Self with Me, taking me as the Supreme Goal, you shall come to Me.)

मन्मनाभवमद्भक्तोमद्याजीमांनमस्कुरु।
मामेवैष्यसिसत्यंतेप्रतिजानेप्रियोऽसिमे॥B.Geeta 18.65॥
(manmanābhavamadbhaktomadyājīmāṃnamaskuru।
māmevaiṣyasisatyaṃtepratijānepriyo’sime॥)
(Fix your mind upon Me; be devoted to Me; sacrifice for Me; bow down to Me; you shall come, surely then, to Me alone; truly do I promise to you, (for) you are dear to Me.)

 Why accept Devi as the Master?

यस्याः प्रभावमतुलं भगवाननन्तो
ब्रह्मा हरश्च न हि वक्तुमलं बलं च ।
सा चण्डिकाखिलजगत्परिपालनाय
नाशाय चाशुभभयस्य मतिं करोतु ॥Devi Mahatmyam-4.3
(yasyāḥ prabhāvamatulaṃ bhagavānananto
brahmā haraśca na hi vaktumalaṃ balaṃ ca ।
sā caṇḍikākhilajagatparipālanāya
nāśāya cāśubhabhayasya matiṃ karotu ॥)

Devas respond because even Brahma, Vishnu, and Siva are unable to describe her incomparable Prabhaavam, or Divine nature as Supreme Brahman, and Balam, or omnipotence. Even if they manage to put together a few words, it will not be enough to capture her full glory.

यतोवाचोनिवर्तन्ते। अप्राप्य मनसा सह
(yatovāconivartante। aprāpya manasā saha) – Taittiriya Upanishad

To overcome the fear brought on by Ashubha, or Asuras in the material plane and Asuric tendencies in the spiritual plane, the Devas pray to Devi Chandika (the one who killed the Demon Chanda), asking her to resolve to support the entire Jagat.

किं वर्णयाम तव रूपमचिन्त्यमेतत्
किञ्चातिवीर्यमसुरक्षयकारि भूरि ।
किं चाहवेषु चरितानि तवाति यानि
सर्वेषु देव्यसुरदेवगणादिकेषु ॥ Devi Mahatmyam-4.5
(kiṃ varṇayāma tava rūpamacintyametat
kiñcātivīryamasurakṣayakāri bhūri ।
kiṃ cāhaveṣu caritāni tavāti yāni
sarveṣu devyasuradevagaṇādikeṣu ॥)

Even the most powerful Devas and Asuras cannot comprehend her Roopa, or nature as Pure Consciousness, because She is beyond the intellect.

इन्द्रियाणिपराण्याहुरिन्द्रियेभ्यःपरंमनः।
मनसस्तुपराबुद्धिर्योबुद्धेःपरतस्तुसः॥B.Geeta 3.42॥
(indriyāṇiparāṇyāhurindriyebhyaḥparaṃmanaḥ।
manasastuparābuddhiryobuddheḥparatastusaḥ॥)
(They say that the senses are superior (to the body); superior to the senses is the mind; superior to the mind is the intellect; one who is even superior to the intellect is He, (the Atman).)

Her Virya/valor in the battle with the Asuras is equally indescribable because it is beyond anything that has been witnessed up to this point. Like this, her Charita—acts of defending the Devas, bestowing blessings on devotees, etc., are wonderful and indescribably wonderful, Adbhuta.

If she is so great that even the great trinity cannot describe her, then she must be far off somewhere in the farthest heaven.

या श्रीः स्वयं सुकृतिनां भवनेष्वलक्ष्मीः
पापात्मनां कृतधियां हृदयेषु बुद्धिः ।
श्रद्धा सतां कुलजनप्रभवस्य लज्जा
तां त्वां नताः स्म परिपालय देवि विश्वम् ॥ Devi Mahatmyam-4.4
(yā śrīḥ svayaṃ sukṛtināṃ bhavaneṣvalakṣmīḥ
pāpātmanāṃ kṛtadhiyāṃ hṛdayeṣu buddhiḥ ।
śraddhā satāṃ kulajanaprabhavasya lajjā
tāṃ tvāṃ natāḥ sma paripālaya devi viśvam ॥)

Devas continue, “She alone resides as Sri Devi in the homes of those who are Punyasheelas.”Sri is more than just material wealth.

कीर्तिःश्रीर्वाक्चनारीणांस्मृतिर्मेधाधृतिःक्षमा॥ B.Geeta 10.34
(kīrtiḥśrīrvākcanārīṇāṃsmṛtirmedhādhṛtiḥkṣamā॥)
(among the feminine qualities (I am) fame, prosperity, speech, memory, intelligence, firmness and forgiveness.)

Goddess Lakshmi is described as having eight forms as Adi Lakshmi (New Beginnings), Dhanya Lakshmi (Food), Dhairya Lakshmi (patience), Gaja Lakshmi (material comforts), Santaana Lakshmi (progeny), Vijaya Lakshmi (victory/success), Vidya Lakshmi (knowledge/wisdom), Dhana Lakshmi (Wealth). She appears as wealth in the homes of Sukritas, or those who perform virtuous deeds as prescribed by the Shastras. In the homes of Papatmas, or those who follow the path of Adharma, she appears as Alakshmi. She appears as Sad Buddhi, or the Right Resolution, which is Knowledge, to help KritaDhiya, or those with pure minds, achieve Svarga or Moksha. She appears as Shraddha, or unwavering faith, in Astikas who follow the Dharma and Shastra.

श्रद्धावाँल्लभतेज्ञानंतत्परःसंयतेन्द्रियः।
ज्ञानंलब्ध्वापरांशान्तिमचिरेणाधिगच्छति॥३९॥
(śraddhāvā~llabhatejñānaṃtatparaḥsaṃyatendriyaḥ।
jñānaṃlabdhvāparāṃśāntimacireṇādhigacchati॥39॥)
(The man who is full of faith, who is devoted to It, and who has subdued the senses, obtains (this) ‘Knowledge’; and having obtained ‘Knowledge,’ ere long he goes to the Supreme Peace.)

She appears in those born into cultured families as Lajja, which is modesty and dignity. The Devas bow down before such a Devi.

 यस्याः समस्तसुरता समुदीरणेन
तृप्तिं प्रयाति सकलेषु मखेषु देवि ।
स्वाहासि वै पितृगणस्य च तृप्तिहेतु-
रुच्चार्यसे त्वमत एव जनैः स्वधा च ॥ Devi Mahatmyam-4.7
(yasyāḥ samastasuratā samudīraṇenatṛptiṃ prayāti sakaleṣu makheṣu devi ।svāhāsi vai pitṛgaṇasya ca tṛptihetu-ruccāryase tvamata eva janaiḥ svadhā ca ॥)

Only she, the Swaha Devi, is capable of accepting offerings made to the Devas during Yajnas to appease them. She is the only Swadha Devi who brings offerings made by devotees to the Pitris for their fulfilment. The implication is that without Swaha and Swadha Devi, it is impossible for anyone to receive the blessings of the Devas or the Pitris.

मेधासि देवि विदिताखिलशास्त्रसारा
दुर्गासि दुर्गभवसागरनौरसङ्गा ।
श्रीः कैटभारिहृदयैककृताधिवासा
गौरी त्वमेव शशिमौलिकृतप्रतिष्ठा ॥ Devi Mahatmyam-4.10
(medhāsi devi viditākhilaśāstrasārā
durgāsi durgabhavasāgaranaurasaṅgā ।
śrīḥ kaiṭabhārihṛdayaikakṛtādhivāsā
gaurī tvameva śaśimaulikṛtapratiṣṭhā ॥)

She alone manifests herself as Saraswati Devi, Medha who knows the essence of all the Shastras. She is Durga Devi who acts like a boat for, crossing this difficult ocean of Samsara.

दैवीह्येषागुणमयीमममायादुरत्यया।
मामेवयेप्रपद्यन्तेमायामेतांतरन्तिते॥B.Geeta 7.14॥
(daivīhyeṣāguṇamayīmamamāyāduratyayā।
māmevayeprapadyantemāyāmetāṃtarantite॥)
(Verily, this divine illusion of Mine, made up of GUNAS(caused by the qualities) is difficult to cross over; those who take refuge in Me, they alone cross over this illusion.)

What exactly is her relationship with the Jagat as we know it?

हेतुः समस्तजगतां त्रिगुणापि दोषै-
र्न ज्ञायसे हरिहरादिभिरप्यपारा ।
सर्वाश्रयाखिलमिदं जगदंशभूत-
मव्याकृता हि परमा प्रकृतिस्त्वमाद्या ॥ Devi Mahatmyam-4.6
(hetuḥ samastajagatāṃ triguṇāpi doṣai-
rna jñāyase hariharādibhirapyapārā ।
sarvāśrayākhilamidaṃ jagadaṃśabhūta-
mavyākṛtā hi paramā prakṛtistvamādyā ॥)

Devas responds, “She is the universe’s primary cause as Adya Prakriti, or its material cause.”

भूमिरापोऽनलोवायुःखंमनोबुद्धिरेवच।
अहङ्कारइतीयंमेभिन्नाप्रकृतिरष्टधा॥B.Geeta 7.4॥
(bhūmirāpo’nalovāyuḥkhaṃmanobuddhirevaca।
ahaṅkāraitīyaṃmebhinnāprakṛtiraṣṭadhā॥)
(Earth, water, fire, air, ether, mind, intellect, egoism – these are My eightfold PRAKRITI.)

The three Gunas (Sattva, Rajas, and Tamas ) that make up this Jagat, are all caused by Her alone, but She is never affected by their corresponding Doshas. She even is the cause for Hari and Hara. She supports the entire world, just as clay supports a pot, and is therefore known as the Ashraya.

Even if we assume that she underwent a real transformation while transforming into this Jagat, this Jagat represents a minute fraction of her full glory.

अथवाबहुनैतेनकिंज्ञातेनतवार्जुन।
विष्टभ्याहमिदंकृत्स्नमेकांशेनस्थितोजगत्॥ B.Geeta 10.42॥
(athavābahunaitenakiṃjñātenatavārjuna।
viṣṭabhyāhamidaṃkṛtsnamekāṃśenasthitojagat॥)
(But, of what avail to thee is the knowledge of all these details, O Arjuna? I exist, supporting this whole world by one part of Myself)

She is Parama, which means the Supreme, Efficient Cause, and Avyakrita, which means not subject to any modification.

अपरेयमितस्त्वन्यांप्रकृतिंविद्धिमेपराम्।
जीवभूतांमहाबाहोययेदंधार्यतेजगत्॥B.Geeta 7.5॥
(apareyamitastvanyāṃprakṛtiṃviddhimeparām।
jīvabhūtāṃmahābāhoyayedaṃdhāryatejagat॥)
(This is the ‘lower’ PRAKRITI; different from it, know thou, O mighty armed, My ‘Higher’ Prakriti, the very Life element, by which this world is upheld.)

एतद्योनीनिभूतानिसर्वाणीत्युपधारय।
अहंकृत्स्नस्यजगतःप्रभवःप्रलयस्तथा॥B.Geeta 7.6॥
(etadyonīnibhūtānisarvāṇītyupadhāraya।
ahaṃkṛtsnasyajagataḥprabhavaḥpralayastathā॥)
(Know that these (two Prakritis), are the womb of all beings. So, I am the source and dissolution of the whole universe.)

मत्तःपरतरंनान्यत्किञ्चिदस्तिधनञ्जय।
मयिसर्वमिदंप्रोतंसूत्रेमणिगणाइव॥B.Geeta 7.7॥
(mattaḥparataraṃnānyatkiñcidastidhanañjaya।
mayisarvamidaṃprotaṃsūtremaṇigaṇāiva॥)
(There is nothing whatsoever higher than Me, O Dhananjaya. All this is strung in Me, as clusters of gems on a string.)

What is the Relation between Devi and Moksha?

या मुक्तिहेतुरविचिन्त्यमहाव्रता त्वं
अभ्यस्यसे सुनियतेन्द्रियतत्त्वसारैः ।
मोक्षार्थिभिर्मुनिभिरस्तसमस्तदोषै-
र्विद्यासि सा भगवती परमा हि देवि ॥Devi Mahatmyam-4.8
(yā muktiheturavicintyamahāvratā tvaṃ
abhyasyase suniyatendriyatattvasāraiḥ ।
mokṣārthibhirmunibhirastasamastadoṣai-
rvidyāsi sā bhagavatī paramā hi devi ॥)

Devas respond, “She appears as Parama Vidya, the Supreme Knowledge, which leads to Moksha, in addition to appearing as Avidya/Maya to delude the Jeevas and keep them trapped in Samsara. The knowledge that assumes the form of “knowing which nothing else remains to be known “belongs only to her.”

ज्ञानंतेऽहंसविज्ञानमिदंवक्ष्याम्यशेषतः।
यज्ज्ञात्वानेहभूयोऽन्यज्ज्ञातव्यमवशिष्यते॥B.Geeta 7.2॥
(jñānaṃte’haṃsavijñānamidaṃvakṣyāmyaśeṣataḥ।
yajjñātvānehabhūyo’nyajjñātavyamavaśiṣyate॥)
(I shall declare to thee in full this knowledge combined with realization, which being known, nothing more here remains to be known.)

Numerous times throughout the Durga Saptashati, it is emphasized how Devi is both Shastra and Vidya. This is done to encourage Bhakta to take the Vidya and the Shastra seriously. How frequently do we come across Devi Bhaktas performing various Anti-Shastric acts in the name of Devi Bhakti? A genuine Devi Bhakta recognizes that Bhagavati alone takes the form of the Shastras, cultivates respect for them, and adjusts his life in accordance with the Shastras.

यःशास्त्रविधिमुत्सृज्यवर्ततेकामकारतः।
नससिद्धिमवाप्नोतिनसुखंनपरांगतिम्॥B.Geeta 16.23॥
(yaḥśāstravidhimutsṛjyavartatekāmakārataḥ।
nasasiddhimavāpnotinasukhaṃnaparāṃgatim॥)
(He who, having cast aside the ordinance of the scriptures, acts under the impulse of desire, attains neither perfection, nor happiness, nor the Supreme Goal.)

तस्माच्छास्त्रंप्रमाणंतेकार्याकार्यव्यवस्थितौ।
ज्ञात्वाशास्त्रविधानोक्तंकर्मकर्तुमिहार्हसि॥B.Geeta 16.24॥
(tasmācchāstraṃpramāṇaṃtekāryākāryavyavasthitau।
jñātvāśāstravidhānoktaṃkarmakartumihārhasi॥)
(Therefore, let the Scriptures be your authority, in determining what ought to be done and what ought not to be done. Having known what is said in the commandments of the Scripture, you should act here (in this world).)

The Devas assert that this knowledge is the immediate cause of Liberation in response to further questions about the nature of this Parama Vidya.

इदंतुतेगुह्यतमंप्रवक्ष्याम्यनसूयवे।
ज्ञानंविज्ञानसहितंयज्ज्ञात्वामोक्ष्यसेऽशुभात्॥B.Geeta 9.1॥
(idaṃtuteguhyatamaṃpravakṣyāmyanasūyave।
jñānaṃvijñānasahitaṃyajjñātvāmokṣyase’śubhāt॥)
(To you who do not cavil, I shall now declare this, the greatest secret, the most profound knowledge combined with experience (or realization); which having known, you shall be free from the sorrows of life.)

राजविद्याराजगुह्यंपवित्रमिदमुत्तमम्।
प्रत्यक्षावगमंधर्म्यंसुसुखंकर्तुमव्ययम्॥B.Geeta 9.2॥
(rājavidyārājaguhyaṃpavitramidamuttamam।
pratyakṣāvagamaṃdharmyaṃsusukhaṃkartumavyayam॥)
(Royal Science, Royal Secret, the Supreme purifier is this, realizable by direct intuitive knowledge, according to the Dharma, very easy to perform, imperishable.)

Yoga, or Achintya Mahavrata, is an anga or component of this Vidya. Munis who have mastered their Indriyas and rid their minds of raga-dvesha and other agitations are those who practice this knowledge.As a result, they have developed and gained the ability to understand the subtle Tattvas of the Vedas.

योगयुक्तोविशुद्धात्माविजितात्माजितेन्द्रियः।
सर्वभूतात्मभूतात्माकुर्वन्नपिनलिप्यते॥B.Geeta 5.7॥
(yogayuktoviśuddhātmāvijitātmājitendriyaḥ।
sarvabhūtātmabhūtātmākurvannapinalipyate॥)
(He who is devoted to the Path-of-action, whose mind is quite pure, who has conquered the self, who has subdued his senses, who realizes his Self as the Self in all beings, though acting, is not tainted.)

शब्दात्मिका सुविमलर्ग्यजुषां निधान-
मुद्गीथरम्यपदपाठवतां च साम्नाम् ।
देवि त्रयी भगवती भवभावनाय
वार्तासि सर्वजगतां परमार्तिहन्त्री ॥ Devi Mahatmyam-4.9
(śabdātmikā suvimalargyajuṣāṃ nidhāna-
mudgītharamyapadapāṭhavatāṃ ca sāmnām ।
devi trayī bhagavatī bhavabhāvanāya
vārtāsi sarvajagatāṃ paramārtihantrī ॥)

The Devas claim that Devi is Shabdatmika, or in the form of the words of the Shastras, and further explain her manifestation as Veda and Shastra. She is subject matter of the three Vedas. She is expressed by the Rig and Yajur Veda verses, which are pure and have the power to bestow purity on whomever chants them. She is the only one who appears as the Sama Veda’s beautiful songs. She is Laukika Achara in addition to being Trayi or taking the forms of the Vedas and Vaidika Achara. To keep the Samsara Chakra spinning, she expresses herself as knowledge from various professions. She alone removes the Parama arti, or distress, of her devotees by expressing as both Vaidika and Laukika kriya. That is to say that Devi grants both Bhoga and Moksha as Anugraha to her devotees.

 What does Devi’s Anugraha Look like?

ते सम्मता जनपदेषु धनानि तेषां
तेषां यशांसि न च सीदति बन्धुवर्गः ।
धन्यास्त एव निभृतात्मजभृत्यदारा
येषां सदाभ्युदयदा भवती प्रसन्ना ॥ Devi Mahatmyam-4.14
(te sammatā janapadeṣu dhanāni teṣāṃ
teṣāṃ yaśāṃsi na ca sīdati bandhuvargaḥ ।
dhanyāsta eva nibhṛtātmajabhṛtyadārā
yeṣāṃ sadābhyudayadā bhavatī prasannā ॥)

According to the Devas, when Devi is pleased with her Bhaktas, she transforms into Sada Abhyudayada, or the giver of great and consistent success in material life. They gain social respect, material success, and fame. There is no end to their punya. Not only does everyone consider them to be blessed by divinity, but their wives, children and servants too touched by the Anugraha of the Devi become humble.

धर्म्याणि देवि सकलानि सदैव कर्मा-
ण्यत्यादृतः प्रतिदिनं सुकृती करोति ।
स्वर्गं प्रयाति च ततो भवती प्रसादा-
ल्लोकत्रयेऽपि फलदा ननु देवि तेन ॥ Devi Mahatmyam-4.15
(dharmyāṇi devi sakalāni sadaiva karmā-
ṇyatyādṛtaḥ pratidinaṃ sukṛtī karoti ।
svargaṃ prayāti ca tato bhavatī prasādā-
llokatraye’pi phaladā nanu devi tena ॥)

Devas go on to say that Punyatmas can only carry out their Dharmic acts with Her blessing. By the Divine Grace of Bhagavati alone, they then acquire Svarga and other Lokas in accordance with their Punyas. No reward in the three worlds is too great for Bhagavati to give to a deserving devotee. Here, her Karmaadhyakshita is being established.

 If she is a Karma Phala Dayikaa, then is she emotionally stone-cold like a judge?

दुर्गे स्मृता हरसि भीतिमशेषजन्तोः
स्वस्थैः स्मृता मतिमतीव शुभां ददासि ।
दारिद्र्यदुःखभयहारिणि का त्वदन्या
सर्वोपकारकरणाय सदार्द्रचित्ता ॥ Devi Mahatmyam-4.16
(durge smṛtā harasi bhītimaśeṣajantoḥ
svasthaiḥ smṛtā matimatīva śubhāṃ dadāsi ।
dāridryaduḥkhabhayahāriṇi kā tvadanyā
sarvopakārakaraṇāya sadārdracittā ॥)

No, she is the one whose heart melts with love for everyone who remembers her. She dispels the fear of anyone who thinks of her when they are in danger. She gives the person who remembers her with a pure mind, the right resolution and extreme auspiciousness. She alleviates the grief and anxiety brought on by poverty. Her entire Leela Charitra is enacted to protect her devotees and Devas.

 एभिर्हतैर्जगदुपैति सुखं तथैते
कुर्वन्तु नाम नरकाय चिराय पापम् ।
सङ्ग्राममृत्युमधिगम्य दिवं प्रयान्तु
मत्वेति नूनमहितान्विनिहंसि देवि ॥ Devi Mahatmyam-4.17
दृष्ट्वैव किं न भवती प्रकरोति भस्म
सर्वासुरानरिषु यत्प्रहिणोषि शस्त्रम् ।
लोकान्प्रयान्तु रिपवोऽपि हि शस्त्रपूता
इत्थं मतिर्भवति तेष्वहितेषुसाध्वी ॥ Devi Mahatmyam-4.18
(ebhirhatairjagadupaiti sukhaṃ tathaite
kurvantu nāma narakāya cirāya pāpam ।
saṅgrāmamṛtyumadhigamya divaṃ prayāntu
matveti nūnamahitānvinihaṃsi devi ॥ )
(dṛṣṭvaiva kiṃ na bhavatī prakaroti bhasma
sarvāsurānariṣu yatprahiṇoṣi śastram ।
lokānprayāntu ripavo’pi hi śastrapūtā
itthaṃ matirbhavati teṣvahiteṣusādhvī ॥)

She is so strong that she can reduce these Asuras to ashes with just her Sankalpa or by glancing at them, but out of compassion she fights them with Celestial Weapons so that they, too, can gain Uttama Lokas by being purified by her grace during battle. She cares about all her children because she is the Universal Mother.

केनोपमा भवतु तेऽस्य पराक्रमस्य
रूपं च शत्रुभयकार्यतिहारि कुत्र ।
चित्ते कृपा समरनिष्ठुरता च दृष्टा
त्वय्येव देवि वरदे भुवनत्रयेऽपि ॥ Devi Mahatmyam-4.21
(kenopamā bhavatu te’sya parākramasya
rūpaṃ ca śatrubhayakāryatihāri kutra ।
citte kṛpā samaraniṣṭhuratā ca dṛṣṭā
tvayyeva devi varade bhuvanatraye’pi ॥)

Devi has many contradictory characteristics because she is the only one who can justifiably have them since she alone is the Jagat. Her skill and bravery in battle are both terrifying to her adversaries and strikingly beautiful to the Devas. Only Bhagavati has demonstrated the ability to be tough in battle while having a compassionate heart.

Kavacham

शूलेन पाहि नो देवि पाहि खड्गेन चाम्बिके ।
घण्टास्वनेन नः पाहि चापज्यानिःस्वनेन च ॥ Devi Mahatmyam-4.23

प्राच्यां रक्ष प्रतीच्यां च चण्डिके रक्ष दक्षिणे ।
भ्रामणेनात्मशूलस्य उत्तरस्यां तथेश्वरि ॥ Devi Mahatmyam-4.24

 सौम्यानि यानि रूपाणि त्रैलोक्ये विचरन्ति ते ।
यानि चात्यन्तघोराणि तै रक्षास्मांस्तथा भुवम् ॥ Devi Mahatmyam-4.25

खड्गशूलगदादीनि यानि चास्त्रानि तेऽम्बिके ।
करपल्लवसङ्गीनि तैरस्मान्रक्ष सर्वतः ॥ Devi Mahatmyam-4.26

(śūlena pāhi no devi pāhi khaḍgena cāmbike ।
ghaṇṭāsvanena naḥ pāhi cāpajyāniḥsvanena ca ॥

 prācyāṃ rakṣa pratīcyāṃ ca caṇḍike rakṣa dakṣiṇe ।
bhrāmaṇenātmaśūlasya uttarasyāṃ tatheśvari ॥

saumyāni yāni rūpāṇi trailokye vicaranti te ।
yāni cātyantaghorāṇi tai rakṣāsmāṃstathā bhuvam ॥

khaḍgaśūlagadādīni yāni cāstrāni te’mbike ।
karapallavasaṅgīni tairasmānrakṣa sarvataḥ ॥)

The Devas then chant a prayer called Kavacham. There is a longer Devi Kavacham which is chanted before the Durga Saptashati as an anga. But this Kavacham consists of just four verses and is equally effective. Kavacham is a class of prayer where a devotee asks for protection from various sources of danger. The bhakta also asks specific forms of the Deity to protect his specific body parts using specific weapons. The original Devi Kavacham goes so far as to say that a person who wants to live a happy life won’t step out of his house without chanting the Devi Kavacham.

In the first verse the Devas ask for protection from the Devi using her Shula, Khadagam, sound of her bell and the bow string. In the second verse they ask that Devi protect them from all the four sides by rotating her Shula in every direction. In the third verse they ask Devi to protect her with all her forms whether they be calmer forms which create and preserve the Jagat or terrifying forms which cause destruction. In the fourth verse they ask the Devi to protect with all the weapons that she holds in her hands.

The Boon

With this the Devas worship Bhagavati with flowers from Divine Nandana Vana, sandal paste, divine scents. Bhagavati asks them to ask for a boon.

The Devas reply, “There is nothing left for us to ask from you, as you have given us everything by killing our enemy, the Asura Mahishasura. Bless us with the boon that whenever we remember you consistently, please destroy the reason for our distress. Those bhaktas who constantly chant and meditate upon these verses may get both Bhoga and Moksha.”

Bhagavti, Parmeshwari says “So be it”.

May we all learn and chant this stuti and gain Bhagavati’s anugraha to fight against Adharmic and Vidharmic forces both within and without us.

References:

  1. 1. KUMARA DIXITA, G. (2003). DURGA SAPTASHATI WITH SEVEN COMMENTARIES(2nd ed.). SAMPOORNANANDA SANSKRIT VISHVA VIDYALAYA.
  2. Chinmayananda, Swami. The Holy Geeta. Central Chinmaya Mission Trust. Kindle Edition.

Feature Image Credit: istockphoto.com

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article belong to the author. Indic Today is neither responsible nor liable for the accuracy, completeness, suitability, or validity of any information in the article.

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