[Advaita-l] Devi Mahatmya -- introduction

Jaldhar H. Vyas jaldhar at braincells.com
Thu Oct 14 11:59:41 CDT 2004

As we haven't had many posts lately and today is the first day of
Navaratri, I thought I'd begin a series of articles on the Devi Mahatmya.

The Devi Mahatmya is also known as Durga Saptashati or Chandi Patha.  It
describes the glorious deeds of the
Goddess.  It is perhaps the most well-known text of Goddess worship in the
Hindu tradition.

The shastras of contemporary Hinduism can broadly be placed into two
classes--Vedic and Tantric.  There is also a third class, "mixed" for
those works which have both a Vedic and Tantric character.  The Devi
Mahatmya belongs to this third class.  It is a section of the Markandeya
Mahapurana which is one of the 18 Puranas which were written by Maharshi
Vedavyasa as the essence of the Vedas.  But the methods for its' use are
described in the Katyayini Tantra according to the celebrated scholar
Bhaskararaya whose interpretations of the Devi Mahatmya in his commentary
Guptavati I shall follow here.

Readers should note that while Bhaskararayas' views are influential in
many parts of India, there are other traditions too so if you notice
discrepancies, you should consult a learned Pandit of your own locality
rather than blindly following what is written here.

A full reading of the Devi Mahatmya requires first the following three

* devI kavacham.h
* argalAstotram.h
* kIlakastotram.h

Then the thirteen chapters of the Mahatmya itself.  They are also divided
into three charitas (stories.):

* prathamacharitam.h

  1 madhukaiTabhavadha (The Defeat of Madhu and Kaitabha)

* madhyamacharitam.h

  2 mahiShAsurasainyavadha (The Defeat of Mahishasuras' Army)
  3 mahiShAsuravadha (The Defeat of Mahishasura)
  4 shakraadikrtadevyaH stuti (The Hymn to the Goddess by Indra and the Gods)

* uttaracharitam.h

  5 devIdUtasa.nvAda (The Conversation Between the Goddess and the Messenger)
  6 dhUmralochanavadha (The Defeat of Dhumralochana)
  7 chaNDamuNDavadha (The Defeat of Chanda and Munda)
  8 raktabIjavadha (The Defeat of Raktabija)
  9 nishumbhavadha (The Defeat of Nishumbha)
  10 shumbhavadha (The Defeat of Shumbha)
  11 devaiH krtA nArAyaNiistuti (The Hymn to Narayani by the Gods)
  12 devyAshcharitamahAtmyaM (The Glory of Hearing the Deeds of the Goddess)
  13 surathavaishyayorvarapradAnaM (The fulfillment of the Wishes of Suratha
     and the Vaishya)

Lastly three stotras called rahasyas:
* pradhAnikarahasyam.h
* vaikrtikarahasyam.h
* mUrtirahasyam.h

One should read the entire mahatmya along with the six ancillary stotras.
If this is not possible one should read acharita or if this is not
possible, one chapter.  But one should never stop in the middle of a

Jaldhar H. Vyas <jaldhar at braincells.com>

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