Devi Mahatmya – Introduction

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Introduction

The Devi Mahatmya or Devi Mahatmyam (“Glory of the Goddess”) is a sacred text describing the Parashakti, the supreme power. The text contains 700 verses arranged into 13 chapters.

It is one of the Parayana books ( books read repetitively) in obtaining the grace of Devi.Devi Mahatmyam is also known as the Durgā Saptashatī or Caṇḍī Pāṭha.

The Devī Māhātmya consists of chapters 81-93 of the Mārkandeya Purana, one of the earliest Puranas, which is a set of stories being related by the sage Markandeya to Jaimini and his students (who are birds). The thirteen chapters of Devi Māhātmya are divided into three charitas or episodes. At the beginning of each episode a different presiding goddess is invoked.

The framing narrative of Devi Mahatmya presents a dispossessed king, a merchant betrayed by his family, and a sage whose teachings lead them both beyond existential suffering. The sage instructs by recounting three different epic battles between the Devi and various demonic adversaries (the three tales being governed by the three Tridevi, respectively, Mahakali (Chapter 1), Mahalakshmi (Chapters 2-4), and Mahasaraswati (Chapters 5-13).

Most famous is the story of Mahishasura Mardini – Devi as “Slayer of the Buffalo Demon” – one of the most ubiquitous images in Hindu art and sculpture, and a tale known almost universally in India. Among the important goddess forms the Devi Mahatmyam introduced there is Kali and the Sapta-Matrika (“Seven Mothers”).

The Devi Mahatmyam describes the battle between good and evil, where the Devi manifesting as goddess Durga leads the forces of good against the demon Mahishasura. In peaceful prosperous times, states the text, the Devi manifests as Lakshmi, empowering wealth creation and happiness.

The entire text is considered as one single Mantra and a collection of 700 Mantras.
It is recited particularly during Navratri celebrations, the Durga Puja festival

Preceding texts

Durga Saptasloki also known as “Amba Stuti” – They are introduced as one-verse query from Siva who asks about the means of achieving what is desired, and a one verse response from the Goddess who says she will proclaim the relevant discipline (sadhana) by revealing Amba Studi which consists of the seven verses indicated.

Devi-kavacham – The Devi Kavacham consisting of 61 Slokas is also in Markandeya Purana. This Kavacham (armour) protects the reader in all parts of his body, in all places and in all difficulties.

Argala-stotram – Here Rishi Markandeya is telling his disciples in 27 inspiring couplets on the greatness of Devi. She has been described in all aspects and names and at the end of each Sloka, prayer is offered to Devi for material prosperity, physical fitness, fame and victory.

Keelakam – Here also Rishi Markandeya tells his disciples in 16 Slokas, the ways and means of removing obstacles faced by devotees, while reading Devi Mahatmya.

Ratri Suktam (Vedic) – Ratri Suktam (8 Slokas) has been taken from Rig Veda, 10th Mandala, 10th Anuvaka, 127 th Sukta,which shows that Devi was worshipped from time immemorial. Devi is described as the all-pervading Supreme Lord of the Universe appearing in Omkara. Here Ratri is the Goddess who fulfills our prayers.

Kunjika Stotram is also a beautiful hymn written in the saptashati which is said to be the mixture of the three hymns i.e.,Kavacham,Argala stotram,Keelakam and also Rahasya parvam (Murthy Rahasyam and Vaikrutika Rahasyam).It is said that Lord Shiva had recited this shloka to Parvathi at her attainment of BramhaGyaan. This shloka plays an important role in Devi Saptashati. It is at the ending of the text.

Some selected slokas from the Devi Mahatmya are added here.

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