Chander M. Bhat
The mother is the sole support of her child. In dangers and perils, in prosperity and happiness, it is the mother who is the safe refuge. That is why a child is inclined to its mother right from the movement of its birth. He knows that he has his mother, so he lives without fear. The idea of God as mother dates right to the Vedic age in the religious history of India. Brahman and the power of Brahman are one. The divine soul who is above all attributes and distinctness appears in reality full of attributes in playfulness. In the Vedic age, the affectionate mother was regarded as the all-prevailing divine soul. She imparted to the gods the knowledge of the truth by destroying their pride after manifesting herself. Brahma, Vishnu, and Mahesh are captivated by her charm. How insignificant is the condition of living beings? It is she who was bound her sons by the spell of her infatuating power. Again it is she who frees them mercifully from all bonds. That is why even the gods when they are in danger have sought the help of the Divine Mother the patrimonial power for deliverance. Living beings cannot get liberation without her mercy.
All the bonds…physical or spiritual are removed by her mercy. She is merciful to those sons who seek protection but she is frightful and ruthful to the wicked. She is then known as Candi that all-pervasive powers of Brahman appear then in the violent image of the killers of the demons. In the mythological age, Sage Markandia has created a unique image of the great Goddess of patrimonial power in his Markandiya Puran. Here, on the one hand, she is merciful as an affectionate mother and on the other hand, she is violently furious. Chamunda Candi having ruthful blood shut eyes. This supreme Goddess by means of her three Gunas, Satva, Rajas, and Tamas has manifested herself thrice and restored the peace and comfort of her creation. The part of the Purna in which the glory of the unthinkable power of the Goddess Mahamaya has been sung in 700 verses is called Sri Sri Candi or Sri Durga Saptishati. Here the story has been compiled into 13 chapters using a dialogue of different characters after being divided into three major sections as Prathamacaritra: Chapter 1; Madhyamacaritra: Chapter 2, 3, and 4 and Uttamacaritra: Chapter 5 to 13.
The Shakti cult is centered around the concept and the worship of God as the Divine Mother. To call on God as Mother is the most characteristic feature of Hinduism. The root of this cult can be traced to the Rgveda itself. The Ambhrnisukta and the Ratrisukta are pointers to this. Some of the minor Upanisads like the Devi Upanisad as also the tantras (Saktagamas) have expounded this cult in greater detail.
The first section starts with the story of a king, Suratha by name, and the merchant Samadhi, both of whom have been deprived of their wealth and possessions by their own near and dear ones. They met at the hermitage of the sage Sumedhas, to where they had come, seeking peace. After hearing from each other about the tragedies that had struck them, they approached the sage Sumedhas, with the question as to why they were still mentally attached to their possessions and their relatives even though the latter had deliberately wronged them. In his long reply, the sage described this blind attachment and infatuation as the direct result of the power of moha or maya, the spell cast by the Devi on all the living beings. When their curiosity to know more was roused, the sage started describing in detail, the stories related to her. In her first Charita the Goddess Mahahaxhmi who is formless and belongs to the original history of creation is the great power of God. She protects the whole universe and also Vishnu the preserve of the whole universe. In this role, she is the creator and having awakened by the prayer of Brahma who rose from the lotus-like the navel of Visnu and inspired her to kill Madhu and Kaitabha the two demons who came out the ears of the Bhagwan Vishnu. She is the image of bliss, content due to the ecstasy of creation and the prayer of Brahma.
In the intermediate charita she is Maha Lakshmi, the embodiment of energy and truth. She is the Divine Goddess, killer of the demon Mahishasur having a manifestation in all the gods. In this section, the king of the asuras or demons had usurped the kingdom of heaven and driven away all the devas or gods including Indra. Then these gods under the leadership of Brahma came to Visnu and Siva and recounted their tale of woe. As the two gods got angry, a brilliant light emerged from their faces, the energies of all the others too emerged similarly out of them, merging into one huge mass of brilliant blazing light and power, which took the form of Goddess Durga. As all the gods equipped her with their respective weapons, she went to Mahisasura, challenged him to the fight, and ultimately killed him. The heavenly region was restored to the gods. The Devi Durga promised to come to the rescue of the gods whenever they called upon her for help.
In the latter role, she is the supreme consciousness Maha Saraswati, the giver of wisdom. She freezes the demon from the thoughts of evil by manifesting the true identity to them and with her various forms killed Sumbha and Nisumbha and also Canda, Munda, and the other demons that rose to lives from the seeds of their own blood, “the rath beeju”. She is the Goddess Candi, the unified power of existence, consciousness, and bliss. This unified power of truth, consciousness, and bliss assumed the form of Goddess Candi, the all truth, wisdom, will, and achievement. She is without form but she takes up the form for the good of her worshippers.
The sage has expressed the blissful image as mentioned in the three charitas earlier and the glory of the Goddess in the language of magnificent poetry. The words of the courage of Goddess and the description of her war with demons all appear in a unique poetic suggestiveness.
Sri Sri Candi is read in the morning after a bath, after performing daily religious service. A self-restrained person should have a seat facing either the east or the north and should read Sri Sri Candi with devotion and understanding, chanting with the correct pronunciation. The best way is to chant it correctly from the memory without looking at the book. In case of inability to do it, it would be proper to place the book on a table or a desk after worship and then it should be read attentively and meaningfully neither in too loud nor in a too low voice, neither too rapidly nor too slowly. Before reading any charita, one should meditate on the image of the deity. A bell has to be rung at the beginning and at the end of each chapter. The reading of Sri Sri Candi would be most proper if it is done on Tuesday or Saturday, the meant for the Divine Mother, or on the day off meant for the worship of the Goddess such as the 8th, 9th, and 14th of new moon day and vice versa. In case of one’s inability to read the entire Candi, daily four elegies of the Goddess from the 1st, 4th, 5th, and the 11th chapter should be read. Reading should continue until a chapter is completed. The best reader of Sri Sri Candi pronounces the words rather than reads it mentally.
Chander M. Bhat