Significance of Recitation of Sri Durga Saptashati – Sri Durga Paath

Categories : Spirituality

Sri Durga Saptashati is a section of Markandeya Puran in which the details of the stories relating to Mahadevi are available. The section consists of 700 shlokas divided into three sections: Pratham Charitra, Madhyam Charitra and Uttar Charitra. The Pratham Charitra has one chapter, the Madhyam Charitra has three chapters and Uttar Charitra has nine chapters. Thus, the book contains thirteen chapters. In addition, the six limbs of Kavach, Argala, Keelak and three sections of Rahasyam are also found for inclusion in Durga Paath. There are details of Rituals and Prayers also. Gita Press Gorakhpur has published all these in book form.

The complete book with limbs and rituals is recited once daily for continuously nine days during the Sharad Navaratra by a large number of devotees in India. If personal recitation is difficult, priests are appointed to complete the Paath and rituals for nine days. Many perform the Paath and rituals during Chaitra Navaratra also.

Bhagavat Gita is a similar type of holy scripture containing 700 shlokas divided into eighteen chapters. Both Markandeya Puran and Mahabharat are compositions of Ved Vyas to which Sri Durgasaptashati and Bhagvat Gita respectively belong. The Bhagavat Gita links us with Srikrishna and Sri Durgasaptashati links us with mother powers Mahakali, Mahalakshmi and Mahasaraswati. Both of them teach us about Karma yoga, Dhyan yoga and Gyan yoga. The various names of Asurs and Mahashakti found in Sri Durgasaptashati are symbolic. A Charitrawise analysis has been given below to understand the messages behind stories.

Pratham Charitra (Chapter 1)

This chapter’s main theme relates to the creation process after Pralaya (dissolution). It is a night of Kalratri and Mohratri and only Mahakali is conscious. The total environment is similar to the type described in the Nasadiya Sukta of Rigveda. Vishnu is fast asleep under the spell of Yogmaya on this Sheshshaiya.

The Asurs Madhu and Kaitabha had incarnated from the ear wax of sleeping Vishnu and were lurking around. Brahma had incarnated to begin the process of creation. However, he found himself completely unsafe by understanding the intents of Madhu and Kaitabha. There was no one to help and he was going to do pious work and could not choose violence.

Brahma begins praying Yogamaya which is the form of Mahalakshmi herself. The prayer by Brahma is the best among the four prayers found in Durgasaptashati. It is known as Tantrokta Ratrisuktam and is generally included before starting the main Paath. Brahma prayed to Yogamaya for: –

  • Awakening the sleeping Vishnu
  • For making Vishnu ready to kill the Asurs.
  • For spreading the net of Maya for weakening the powers of the Asurs.

Yogmaya/Mahalakshmi did not utter a word. But she responded. She lifted the spell of Maya. Vishnu awoke. He saw Madhu and Kaitabha. He battled with them. The Asurs thought themselves almighty under the spell of Maya. They asked Vishnu to have a boon from them. Vishnu demanded a boon for killing them then and there. They agreed to this boon and lost their lives. The story teaches the following.

  • Even if you are almighty Vishnu, you can’t be indifferent to your allotted duties. Ever Vigilance is the prime necessity of a ruler. Adversities come unannounced.
  • The separateness between Vaishnava and Shakta gets blurred in this story because Yogamaya/Mahalakshmi is the Shakti of Vishnu himself. It becomes clear also that the assistance of Shakti is necessary.
  • The story also explains that mental power is superior to physical power. The Asurs were low-witted and agreed to a boon for their death.

One shloka from Ratrisukta has been given below.

“Tvameva Sandhya Savitri Tvam Devi Janani Para

Tvaita Dharyate Vishvam Tvaita Srijayate Jagat”

Madhyam Charitra (chapters 2,3,4):

The second chapter relates to the story of Dev-Asur Sangram. Indra was the King of Deva Loka who was defeated by the army of Asurs led by Mahishashur. Gods were thoroughly defeated and were even deprived of their shares in sacrificial offerings. Defeated gods went to Shiva where Vishnu and Brahma also arrived. Gods narrated the entire disgraceful events. A solution was provided. Spiritual powers of Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva as effulgence of lights concentrated into one spot and incarnated into Mahadevi Ambika/Durga. Other gods also contributed their energies and provided weapons to Mahadevi.

In the second chapter, the killing of the army of Mahishashur along with his mighty commanders is described. In the third chapter battle with Mahishashur and his killing are described. In the fourth chapter, the second prayer of Mahadevi by the gods has been given. The Madhyam Charitra gives some important lessons.

  • The gods lost their Deva Loka because they were engrossed in luxuries and disregarded their administrative duties.
  • This story also tells that individual strength may not be effective but collective strength will be more effective in achieving desired results. Durga was an outcome of the collective might of gods who scored the victory and won back the Deva Loka. One Shloka from the prayer of the fourth chapter is given below.

“Ya Shrih Svayam Sukritinam Bhavaneshya Lakshmih

Papatmanam Kritadhiyam Hridayenshu Buddhih

Shraddha Satam Kulajana Pravashya Lajja

Ta Tvam Natah Sma Paripalaya Devi Vishvam”

Uttar Charitra (Chapters 5 to 13):

Nine chapters of Uttar Charitra are relatively smaller. The fifth chapter begins with the story of Shumbha and Nishumbha brothers who were powerful Asurs. They had snatched the kingdom of Deva Loka from Indra and had become autocrats. They had taken control of every work allotted to different gods. The gods had no alternative but to go to the shelter of Mahadevi again. The third prayer by the gods before the killing of Shumbha and Nishumbha is the second most popular prayer known as Tantroktam Devisuktam. Contingency had arisen due to the mis-administration of Sachipati (Indra) which is a sarcastic expression for the king. One Shloka from the prayer is given below.

“Ya Devi Sarva Bhuteshu Shakti Rupen Sansitha

Namastasai Namastasai Namastasai Namo Namah”

The fourth chapter describes how the commanders of the army of Shumbha and Nishumbha get a view of Kaushiki who was a paragon of beauty. Chanda and Munda asked Kaushiki to accept Shumbha as her husband and be happy forever. However, Kaushiki said.

“Yo Ma Jayati Sangrame Yo Mey Darpam Vyapohati

Yo Mey Pratibalo Lokey Samey Bharta Bhavishyati”

She refused to accept the proposal to marry their Kings and said that whoever would defeat her in battle would automatically become her husband as per a vow she had taken. This blunt statement infuriated the commanders as well as the king brothers. The commanders were ordered to pull her to the king by grabbing her hair The fight begins.

In the sixth chapter, Dhumralochan is killed. In the seventh chapter Chanda and Munda are killed. In the eighth chapter, Raktabeeja is killed. The Mahadevi continues to transform herself as per exigencies. In the ninth chapter, Nishumbha is killed. In the tenth chapter, Shumbha is killed. In the eleventh chapter, we find the fourth prayer to Mahadevi by the gods. This prayer contains some of the most popular shlokas for Shakti Upasana.

“Sarva Mangal Mangalye Shive Sarvartha Sadhike

Sharanye Trayambake Gauri Narayani Namostute”

In the last part of the eleventh chapter and the twelfth chapter, Mahadevi addresses the gods and ensures them that she will incarnate seven times in the future to salvage them from distress. The thirteenth chapter concludes the story by solving the problems of the King named Surath and the merchant named Samadhi who were facing banishment from the kingdom and family members respectively but were under the spell of Maya even after such bad treatment. The Mahadevi blesses them with her boons.

The morals we find in this chapter are akin to those we find in Bhagavad Gita.

  • The names Chanda, Munda, Dhumralochan, Shumbha, Nishumbha, Raktabeeja, Sugrivapramukha etc. are merely symbolic. They represent the demoniac qualities of ego, arrogance, pride, anger, passion, selfishness, lust, coercive tendency and other vile methods. These have been well illustrated in the Bhagavat Gita also.
  • The promise of the Mahadevi that she will incarnate seven times in future is also akin to the statement of Sri Krishna.

“Yada Yada Hi Dharmasya Glanirbhavati Bharata

Abhyuthan Adharmasya Tadatmanam Srijamyaham”

On Being challenged by Shumbha that Kaushiki is fighting with the support of many female powers, the Mahadevi allowed all the female powers to dissolve into herself and declared that there is none except herself. She is Supreme. This supports the Advaita Vedanta concept.

Thus, Sri Durga Saptashati is a symbol of Sanatan Dharma. It is not all about several names creating confusion. The names may be many, the shakti for the Pratham Charitra is Mahakali, for the Madhyam Charitra is Mahalakshmi and for the Uttar Charitra is Maha Saraswati. However, finally, they merge into one and there is none other. Advaita remains intact.