The Devi Mahaatmya is a 700 verse poem and a part of the Markandeya Puraana. It is auspicious to read the Devi Mahatmya Katha on or before Dassera, but the same can also be read any time.
The best technique for the achievement of ‘Moksha’ is worship. Moksha consists of the march of the human soul to its freedom. Freedom from what? It is freedom from desires that goad a man from birth to death and the dissatisfaction that results despite their fulfillment. The object of any form of worship is the attainment of Divine Grace. The Devi Mahatmya is a brilliant poem in Sanskrit, that describes the three stages of transformation of the obstacles that a human soul encounters in the journey towards freedom. What are these obstacles?
- Desire and anger.
- Restlessness of the mind.
The narration starts with the story of king Suratha. He is dejected because he has been defeated by his enemies. He lands up in the hermitage of Sage Medha. There he meets a merchant called Samadhi. Samadhi had not only lost his wealth but his own family, as the latter has turned him out.
Both Samadhi and king Suratha are confounded at the fact that their mind keeps reverting to the very family and circumstances that have been the cause of so much sorrow in their lives.
They both request Rishi Medha to throw light on this mysterious aspect of the mind.
The Sage replies that this sorrow that they were experiencing was due to the veiling power of the Divine Mother which is called ‘Maya’. This delusion emanates from the Lord Himself. It is through this power that the Lord creates, preserves and dissolves back everything into its Pure State.
It is depicted in the Devi Mahatmya that Ma Durga, Ma Kali, MahaLaxmi and MahaSaraswati are not different. They are three separate aspects of the same ‘Shakti’ energy.
MADHU AND KATABHA
Once Lord Vishnu withdrew His power of Maya and went into a Yoga Nidra (sleep). The whole Universe at that time was dissolved in the causal waters. Brahma, the creative power of the Lord had also gone to sleep. The earth had been broken up and was floating around in the causal waters, These pieces of dirt lodged themselves in the ears of the Lord. He swept these out with His fingers. That dirt, because of the Lord’s touch sprang into life and became enormous demons ‘Asuras’. They were called Madhu and Kaitabh. They attacked Brahma. The latter invoked the Divine Mother to wake Vishnu. The Lord took the Asuras and placed them on His thighs and cut their heads off.
The Lord then created the earth with the fat (Medas) of the demons. That is the reason for the earth being called ‘Medini’ It is believed that the earth is situated in the thighs in the Cosmic Body of the Lord. It is interesting to note that the earth was created again from the fat of the same demons, Madhu and Kaitabh.
Mahishaasura was a buffalo-headed demon . He was granted a boon whereby he would be protected from anyone. Intoxicated by the above gift, he set out to conquer the world. Mahishaasura defeated Indra, the king of the gods. Indra implored Brahma, Vishnu and Mahesh to help him. The Divine Trio amalgamated their shakti (power) and created Durga. Ma Durga fought Mahishaasura for 9 days and beheaded him on the 10th day. The 9 days are those of Navratri and the 10th victorious day is called Vijaydashami..
A point to note is that as Mahishaasura was attacked, the latter would change its forms to elephant, bull, buffalo, until ultimately it is killed. The buffalo also represents the base animal instinct in a human being. Goddess Durga is powerful enough to control Evil that comes in disguise. She ends this tyranny and protects Her devotees.
These transformations of Maahishaasura also denote the fickle mind and different desires that manifest in some manner or another. The Trident that Mother uses to destroy the Impure is a 3 pronged weapon which protects the mental, intellectual and physical aspects of life. Her sword cuts the evil of ignorance. Her bell drives away unholy thoughts and the twang of Her bow instills alertness in Her devotees.
DHOOMRA-LOCHANA AND CHANDA MUNDA
Ma then proceeded to annihilate Dhoomra- Lochana. The latter was a powerful general of the terrible Asura, Sumbha. Mother uttered the sound ‘Hum’ and the demon turned to ashes by the powerful vibration of the sound.
The form of Ma Kali who emerged from the forehead of the angry face of the Mother killed the Asuras Chanda and Munda. Chanda means a person who is short-tempered and Munda means a shaven-headed man. Together they imply the anger of a champion fighter. Because of this victory over Chanda and Munda , Kali Mata is known as Chamunda.
Hearing the news of the death of Chanda and Munda, the infuriated King Sumbha mobilised the Asuric forces and surrounded the Mother from all sides. Then, from the Great Devas (Spiritual Beings) emerged Powers which entered the Form of the Mother.
- From Brahma, emerged the power called Brahmaani.
- From Lord Shiva, emerged Maheshwari and Veer Bhadra.
- From Lord Shiva’s son Kartikeya, emerged the power of Kaumari.
- From Lord Vishnu emerged the power of Vaishnavi, Vaaraahi and Naarasimhi.
- From Indra emerged the power of Indraani.
Raktabeeja was the son of Krodhaavati, the sister of Sumbha and Nisumbha. Krodha means anger. Raktabeeja was an Asura who enjoyed a unique blessing. If a drop of blood were to drop from his body and touch the earth, then a demon of his might and form would spring from it. So if he were to get wounded during battle, the drops of blood would give rise to a thousand demons like himself. It is for the above reason that Kali spread her tongue so that she could suck Raktabeeja’s blood before it touched the earth. Raktabeeja fell on the ground dead as his body was completely drained of blood.
SUMBHA AND NISUMBHA
Finally Sumbha and Nisumbha were slain by Mother Saraswati. Ma Saraswati stands for knowledge and Wisdom. Knowledge and Wisdom are forever victorious over Ignorance and delusion.
The first 3 days of ‘Navratra’ are dedicated to ‘Ma Kali’ to annihilate the enemies within The next 3 days are dedicated to ‘Ma Laxmi’ and the last 3 days are dedicated to Ma Saraswati. After 9 days of struggle, Ma Durga beheaded Mahishaasura on the 10th day. This victorious day is called Vijaydashmi. On this day Shri Ram killed the 10 headed Ravana. This day is known as Dassera.
On the 10th day a Bonfire is lit to burn the Self arrogating Ego. So on this Vijaydashmi day or call it Dassera if you wish let us also sound the bugle of Victory over our struggle with our base nature tendencies .
But how do we do that? Lord Krishna advises the Spiritual seeker in the Geeta, “Verily this divine Maya of mine made up of the three gunas is difficult to cross over. Those who take refuge in Me, they alone cross over it”.(VII-14)