Traditionally the ‘Devi Mahatmyam’ is a portion of the Markandeya Mahapurana
The Devi Mahatmya is variously known as Sri Durga Saptashati, Sri Chandi or Saptashati. It is referred to as Saptashati as it comprises of seven hundred mantras. It is more popularly known as Chandi because it describes the glory of the Goddess as Chandika, the terrible. Like the god Rudra, the Goddess too has two forms- a malevolent form and another benevolent form. In Her terrible form She destroys the evil demons. Yet in Her destruction, one can see the light of a resplendent regeneration too. This resplendent and benevolent form is Her compassionate form as the Mother of the Universe. Among the sacred texts that laud the glory of the Mother, Lalita sahasranamam and Devi Mahatmyamare most popular. Both are considered to be extremely auspicious and powerful as tools of transformation. Both can be recited daily. Whilst Lalita sahasranamam describes the victory of the Goddess over Bhandasura, the Devi Mahatmyam describes the victory of the Goddess over the asuras Madhu-Kaitabha, Mahishasura and Shumbha-Nishumbha.
‘Devi Mahatmyam’ literally means ‘Glory of the Goddess’. Simply put the word ‘Devi’ means ‘Goddess’. While the word ‘devi’ may be used to refer to any goddess, here it is used to denote the Supreme Goddess adored as the Divine Mother of the entire universe. The Devi mahatmyam is a highly occult text. “Only those who have inner eyes will perceive the hidden truths; others know not”. It is held that Markandeya the seer of this myth had seen the ever-existent glory of the goddess with the inner eye. Sri Bhaskararaya named his commentary on the Devi Mahatmyam as ‘Guptavati’ thus denoting the hidden and highly occult nature of Devi mahatmyam.
The Meru tantra proclaims that even Vishnu knows only three-quarters of the inner sense, Brahma knows half, Vyasa knows only a quarter while others know only a fraction of the true significance of the Devi mahatmyam. Part myth and part philosophy, the text addresses some very important existential questions that have plagued mankind since time immemorial. Whilst its stories can be taken as metaphors relating to our own psycho-spiritual landscape as well the challenges we face in life, there isn’t a single approach to the Devi Mahatmyam or the Chandi. The various hymns to the Goddess in theDevi Mahatmyam inspire us to devotion for the personal forms of God as Mother while “its deeper, philosophical and esoteric interpretation leads us to the realization of God as the impersonal supreme reality”.
(to be contd…..)