These seven verses are from the Devi Mahatmyam, an important 5th century scripture taken from the Markandeya Purana that invokes the power of Goddess in her form as the Great Goddess (Mahādevī) by chronicling Her triumph over evil. These verses, taken from various chapters, hold the essence of the entire scripture and may be recited together as a short hymn to the Goddess as a means of cultivating pure devotion.
Truth, high and potent Law, the Consecrating Rite, Fervour, Brahma, and Sacrifice uphold the Earth.
May she, the Queen of all that is and is to be, may Prithivī make ample space and room for us. || 1
“In the earlier age, during the period of Svayambhuva, in the beginning of Krtayuga, the goddess who is known as Mahamaya, Yoganidra, Jagaddhatri, and Jaganmayi, assuming a mighty figure with sixteen arms, renowned by the name Bhadrakali (appeared) on the northern shore of the Milk Ocean with a view to destroy Mahishasura and with a desire to do good to the world. Continue reading »
“When offerings are made in worship, with or without proper knowledge, I will receive them gladly, and also the fire offerings made in a similar way.”
– Devi Mahatmyam 12.11
In this verse from the twelfth chapter of Devi Mahatmyam (also Chandi Path or simply the Chandi), the Goddess tells us that She accepts all worship, regardless of whether it is performed with proper knowledge. What is proper knowledge? The “right” mantras, the “right” procedures, the “right” pronunciation, the “right” gestures, the “right” understanding. There is another kind of “right” understanding, which is quite personal and flows from pure devotion.
Kamakhya is one of the most important goddesses in the history and development of Tantra and Shaktism, but she remains obscure today, somewhat fitting for a goddess presiding over esoteric rites and rituals. Many people have never heard her name, nor do they understand what her name means. But even those who do understand the Sanskrit meaning of her name, and its explanations in various Tantras and Puranas, often do not know the pre-Vedic, hidden history of this truly ancient Mother Goddess.
The Devisukta, or Hymn to the Goddess, is found in the Rg Veda (RV 10.125), the earliest of the four Vedas or sacred wisdom texts that form the scriptural foundation for modern Hinduism. It is traditionally recited with the Devi Mahatmyam, one of the most important texts of the vast Shakta canon, and is a companion to the beautiful Ratrisukta.
The Mahishamardini Stotra, from the Kulachudamani Tantra, is a beautiful hymn meant to be recited by the sadhaka (Tantric practitioner) to glorify Devi. In this hymn, the violent struggle represents the struggle within, the necessary battle with ahamkara, literally the “I-maker,” and often referred to simply as the ego. It is that function of the mind which creates the illusion of separateness. The ego is a wily creature, constantly taking on different forms, as the buffalo demon Mahishasura does in the mythology. But step for step, Chandi (Durga, Mahamaya, Mahadevi) transforms along with him, chasing right behind him and outwitting the demon at every turn, until she finally defeats him with a stroke of Her sword.
The Ratrisukta is a beautiful poem in praise of the Vedic Goddess Ratri, the Goddess of the Night. The hymn itself is indicative of the culture of the Vedic people, reflecting some of the dangerous realities of village and agrarian life. It is a request for protection and peace, a very practical sort of prayer. In later philosophical development, Ratri is Maya, the power that creates the world and also plunges it into spiritual darkness. Ratri is also the symbol of our embodied human state. She may also be seen as an early whisper of the imagery of Kali, with her luminous darkness and protective ferocity.