From the Back of the Book
Durgasaptasati, from the Markadeya Purana deals with a description of the effulgent acts of the Supreme Mother. A mere reading of it in a devout frame of mind has an ennobling influence. The present work aims at giving a simple narrative of the events described in that part of the purana, the epic.
A reading, repetition or contemplation on the power and glory of Devi, Chandi or Durga would bless us with peace and joy.
About the Author
Dr. V.V. B. Rama Rao (b. 1938) an academic and a retired ELT (English Language Teaching) Professional, is a creative writer and translator with lots of Published work to his credit.
Smt. Rama Rao (b. 1941) with a Devout bent of mind, had her education in Hindi Medium institutions. The two have been married for the last forty four years.
The supreme Creatrix is seen as the Yogamaaya of Vishnu
in Durgasapatashati, which belongs to the Tantra Sastra tradition.
Sri T. Y.Kapali Sastry who has written extensively on tantra
describes it as "the science of mantras":
"By the use of the mantra, mystic syllables, powers of
concentration are developed to open the centres that are ordinarily
closed in the human system. And these centres, when opened,
become steps in a stair case in the rising tiers of consciousness
functioning as windows upon a wider existence, of a larger world
teeming with forces and beings whom one may contact on the
way, or ignore and move onward towards the highest reach, the
Supreme Consciousness. The Tantric Yoga at its highest aims at
the realization of the highest consciousness and the powers natural
If so, what use is a translation of the Mantric text into an
alien language like English? However, though Durgasptashati is
mantric in utterance, it is also dramatic in impulsion. Knowing its
content is a first step for an aspirant. He can now model himself
on the humble King Suratha and the merchant Samadhi who receive
knowledge of the Divine Mother from the sage Sumedha. The
aspirant should attain preliminary understanding of the Divine
Forces as also of the diverse Powers of Darkness before receiving
the deep vibrations of the mantras. An English translation of
Durgasaptashati is thus a welcome and appropriate help for the
educated Indian who has been alienated from his rich tradition.
Recitation of the text of Durgasaptashati is itself mantra
japa. According to Kapali Sastry, "Every verse in it is treated as
mantra in the Katyayani Tantra. And this is done in spite of the
fact that all the 700 verses do not describe the glory of the goddess.
as there are many verses which narratives relate to the origin and
end of the stories of the Devi." But there is a remarkable integral
togetherness of the tale and the prayers addressed to the Mother.
It is as if the Mother's assurance of constant guardianship
helps humanity cross the ocean of samsaara. Indeed the text
itself is the Mother, our Guardian eternal.
The Durgasaptashati speaks of the Divine Mother's
personalities as Mahakaali, Mahalakshmi and Maha Saraswati.
Of course, Her personalities are inexhaustible and they are quite
close to us. We only need to invoke Her in the right meditative
spirit. Sri Aurobindo, the great yogi, had mastered the experience
and conveyed a portion of his visionary understanding in The
Mother.. Mahasaraswati is described thus:
"A Mother to our wants, a friend in our difficulties, a
persistent and tranquil counsellor and mentor, chasing away with
her radiant smile the clouds of gloom and fretfulness and
depression, reminding always of the ever present help, pointing to
the eternal sunshine, She is firm, quiet and persevering in the deep
and continuous urge that drives us towards the integrality of the
Dr. Rama Rao has indeed performed an important service
to our spiritual life by bringing us closer to the great scripture,
Durgasaptashati, with this easy to read and faithful translation.
I thank him for this gift to the aspirant for the life divine and invoke
the Divine Mother's blessings upon his venture:
"She is the golden bridge, the wonderful fire.
The luminous heart of the Unknown is she,
A power of silence in the depths of God:
She is the Force, the inevitable word,
The magnet of our difficult ascent
All nature dumbly calls to her alone
To heal with her feet the aching throbs of life
And break the seals on the dim soul of man
And kindle her fire in the closed heart of things.
And here shall be one day her sweetness 's house. "
Even after half a century of winning national
Independence, we could not stage a come back to learn
our devbhasha with any alacrity.
Given the present scenario, political, social and
economic, it may take several decades for us to realize
what we have missed. More of our educated people
know English better than our own languages.
It may take years for the average Indian to look to
Sanskrit for purposes by far nobler, and for that reason
higher, than the merely mundane.
Hence this effort - inadequate and imperfect though -
to present the essence of a great composition in English
for those many strayed faraway from our own
(Durgasaptasati is from Markandeya Purana
Theists are believers in the Supreme Power as the basis
of all creation, maintenance and destruction of all things and
all beings in the universe. Hinduism believes in the Divine and
we worship the Divine, Supreme Being. Supreme is the term
for Brahman also. The Upanishad defined it as Brahman, the
one without beginning or end, the limitless.
Jnaana. the quality and state of 'knowingness'. Truth,
Beauty, Goodness, Light and Joy are all aspects of the Supreme.
We believe that Existence, Knowledge and Freedom from Grief
alone are the manifestation, the Supreme, Brahman. That is
without quality or appearance, uirguna and niraakara, without
alternative, and from that alone Maaya has taken birth. It is
the prime reason for all worlds and the universe including the
power that sustains all. Maaya (great illusion) and Brahman
are dharma and dharmi, masculine and feminine, the indivisible,
same. They are also called prakriti and purusha (broadly the
Male and Female principles).
Purusha enters Prakriti in a part (amsa) and thus
becomes one called "Jeeva". Jeeva comes to be under the
control of Prakriti (Avyaktam or Maaya) and under the
influence of , my ness' and forgetting the knowledge of the Self
becomes subject to the agencies of Moha and Grief. Thus
distancing himself from Light and Joy, owing to 'Karma', Jeevi
gets entangled in the wheel of life-death. This is the stage of
difficulty. Disentangling one's self from this and once again
merging one's self into the state of everlasting joy and light is
salvation, Mukti . This is the end of human life, prushaartha.
The means for the achievement of the goal are three: Bhakti
(devotion), Jnaana (Knowledge or Gnosis) and Vairaagya
(total unentanglement and detatchment). Saadhana (Practice)
and upaasana (contemplation and worship as laid down in the
Holy Books) are paths that lead to accomplishment.
Truth variously called Brahman, Atman, and God is
'unarticulable', beyond definition. It transcends the distinctions
of sex: it is described as being neither male, female or neutral.
It is referred to as all the three sexes. Rasovaisaha
(masculine): om tat brahma - Tat twam asi (neutral) and
parorajasi saa vadom devi aksharam brahma sammitam
(Feminine). Pranava (the cosmic sound of OM) and the
unexpendable are symbols of Atman, God or Brahman. God
can be contemplated as any of these. Those who believe that
Purusha is masculine call Him Siva, those who call that Vishnu
are Vaishnavites. Those who worship Her as Sri Maata, the
Supreme Mother and Adi Sakti are saakteyaas.
Purusha and Prakriti are construed as father and
mother. In practical experience we see the female having
greater responsibility for bringing up children. The part of
Prakriti is unique, even in the body. The mother bestows all
attention on the child, sustaining and fostering the offspring.
Our scriptures say that the life of a motherless infant is
insufferable. For these reasons, it has been our tradition to
worship Prakriti, the female principle. The Supreme Lord is
looked upon in the shape of both Prakriti and Purusha. The
Supreme Mother is considered to be the source from which all
energy and powers flow. For people like us, for ends both
mundane and other-worldly, worship of Prakriti is essential.
The worship of the Supreme Mother is called Sri Vidya
also. That is the worship of Lalita and Chandi. Both are the
same: only the names and forms are two: in fact there are
many describing the same Supreme. Lalita, is based on
ponchadasi mantra with fifteen aksharas (letters). Chandi
is worshipped with the navaakshara, nine lettered mantra.
The description of the power and the glory of Chandi in
saptashati, seven hundred slokas or hymns, is called,
Chandisaptashati , Durgasaptashati and also Devi
Maahatmya. The basic secret is described thus:
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