War with Bhandasura

Om cid agni kuṇḍa sambhūtāyai namaḥ
(who was born in the fire pit of Pure Consciousness)
Om deva kārya samudyatāyai namaḥ
(who is intent on fulfilling the wishes of the gods. ( to kill Tharakasura)

Om udyad bhānu sahasrābhāyai namaḥ
(who has the radiance of a thousand rising suns.)
Om catur bāhu samanvitāyai namaḥ
(who is four armed with pasham, ankusham, ikshudandam and pushpabanam in each of the hands)

All the Gods praised Devi. Tharakasura had attained a boon that only the son of Shiva & Parvati can slay him. Lord Shiva was in His penance after His consort Goddess Sati burnt away Her body in the great sacrifice of Daksha. Goddess Sati has reincarnated as Mother Parvati. Parvati was assisting Lord Shiva and the Lord was in an unshakable penance. All the devas thought, how can Shiva and Parvati bear a child if the Lord continues his penance like this? They devised a plan to send Kama Deva (the God of desire) to interrupt Lord Shiva’s penance. Kama Deva went to Kailas and started shooting his floral arrow on Lord Shiva, the Lord was furious and opened His third eye and Kamadeva was burnt into ashes. The one who went to help devas is now nothing but dust. Gods were worried about thinking about the state of the one who went to help them.

A demi-god named Chitrasena gathered the ashes of Kamadeva and made a form out of it. Not only it didn’t resemble Kamadeva but was heavily deformed. Since Lord Brahma did not create this form, seeing the deformity Lord Brahma mocked at it saying “Bhanda, Bhanda!” as the form was such. Thus that deformed figure turned into a daemon named Bhandasura. Since this form was the creation of the gods, each of them blessed him with various powers and weapons. He made a huge city named Shoonyaka Nagara aka Shonitapuram. In the beginning, all the gods helped him, he was considered one among them. He had two brothers Vishukran & Vishangan. He had many sons. Unlike other asuras, they were devoted to Lord Shiva. They performed various sacrifices every day for the prosperity of their kingdom. Because of all these, they became highly powerful. It is an inherent quality of Asuras to harm Devas. Now, all this have started from trying a solution to slay Tharakasura but Bhandasura and his team have become more menace than Tharakusra. Nobody even bothered about Tharaka at the moment. All the Gods performed a strenuous and very long sacrifice and received the Grace of Mother Lalita. Mother appeared from the fire of their sacrifice and they narrated how they sent Kamadeva to shake Shiva’s penance for the purpose of slaying Tharama and he was turned into ashes and now has become Bhandasura. Mother has to slay him and bless us all. Mother assured tat She will slay Bhandasura.

Devi assured all the Gods to slay Bhandasura. They named Mother as Kameshwari, Lalitambika. Mother was married to Lord Kameshwara (Shiva). A huge kingdom was built and palace made of Chintamani (as mentioned in earlier episodes) were constructed for Devi. The city was named Sri Nagara as opposed to the Shunyaka Nagara of Bhandasura. All the devas were living in that city and after some time, Devi started to wage a war against Bhandasura. There were no devas other than Lord Kameshwara in Devi’s army. The entire army was created by Devi which came to be known as Shakti Sena.
Om bhaṇḍāsura vadhodyukta śakti senā samanvitāyai namaḥ
(who is endowed with an army of Shaktis intent on slaying Bhandasura.)

Goddess Sampatkari was in-charge of the elephantry.
Om sampatkarī samārūḍha sindhura vraja sevitāyai namaḥ
(who is attended by a herd of elephants ably commanded by Sampatkari.)

Goddess Ashvarudha was in-charge of the cavalry.
Om aśvārūḍhādhiṣṭhitāśva koṭi koṭibhir āvṛtāyai namaḥ
(who is surrounded by a cavalry of several million horses which are under the command of the shakti Ashvarudha.)

Om cakra rāja rathārūḍha sarvāyudha pariṣkṛtāyai namaḥ
(who shines in Her chariot Chakraraja, equipped with all kinds of weapons.)

Om geya cakra rathārūḍha mantriṇī pari sevitāyai namaḥ
(who is served by the shakti Mantrini riding the Geyachakra chariot.)

Om kiri cakra rathārūḍha daṇḍanāthā puras kṛtāyai namaḥ
(who is escorted by the shakti Dandanatha, seated in the Kirichakra chariot.)

Om bhaṇḍa putra vadhodyukta bālā vikrama nanditāyai namaḥ
(who delights in seeing the valour of the goddess Bala who is intent on killing the sons of Bhanda.)
As per the custom the sons of Bhandasura came for the war first. A war of unseen scale was fought.

Mantrinin Devi (The Chief Minister) killed Vishukran and Dandanatha Devi killed Vishangan, the brothers of Bhandasura
Devi’s daughter Bala Tripurasundari killed the sons of Bhandasura.


Various paths of Sadhana

A true spiritual seeker analyses the world well through the grace of Mother and penance breaks out of the illusion and understands the entire creation is nothing but the union of Shiva & Shakti. This can be achieved through various paths of Sadhana, it can be that of Devotion (Bhakti), hence Devi is praised as
Om bhakti priyāyai namaḥ (who is fond of (and pleased by) devotion.)
Om bhakti gamyāyai namaḥ (who is attained only through devotion.)
Om bhakti vaśyāyai namaḥ (who is to be won over by devotion.)
Om bhayāpahāyai namaḥ (who dispels fear.)
Om śāmbhavyai namaḥ (who is the wife of Sambhu (Shiva).)
in Lalita Sahasranama.

The path of Sadhana can be of the non-attribute one (Nirguna), hence Devi is praised as
Om nir guṇāyai namaḥ
(who is beyond all three gunas of nature, namely, Sattva, Rajas, and Tamas.)
Om niṣ kalāyai namaḥ (who is without parts.)
Om śāntāyai namaḥ (who is tranquil.)
Om niṣ kāmāyai namaḥ (who is without desire.)
Om nir upaplavāyai namaḥ (who is indestructible.)

The path of Sadhana can also be of Kundalini, hence Devi is praised as
Om kula kuṇḍālayāyai namaḥ
(who abides in Kulakunda (the centre of Muladhara chakra).)
Om kaula mārga tatpara sevitāyai namaḥ and so on. There are amore than 70 mantras dedicated to this path in Lalita Sahasranama

The path of yoga Sadhana constituting various chakras namely Muladhara, Svadhishthana, Manipura, Anahata, Vishuddhi, Ajna, Sahasrara is also extensively described in Lalita Sahasranama.

Whether through Bhakti, Jnana, Yoga, sadhana, it is through excelling in Sadhana alone or a sadhak alone get the special blessings of Devi. That is why Devi is praised as
Om abhyāsātiśaya jñātāyai namaḥ
(who is known only through the strenuous practice of spiritual discipline) in Lalita Sahasranama.

Hence through Creation, Sustenance, Dissolution, Disappearance and Blessings (the 5 actions described in the previous episode). The truth disappears with the power of illusion and through the blessings of the divine, the illusion is overcome and become enlightened. We understand that the entire creation is the union of Shiva & Shakti. LalitaSahasranama, in a nutshell, points out that understanding this truth is the ultimate aim of one’s life.

Let us see about the story of manifestation of Goddess Lalita. The word Lalita has many meaning. The one who is beautiful is the most popular, laliteti sundaram. Another meaning is, one who can be approached by anyone, from small kids to the old aged ones.
Om ābāla gopa viditāyai namaḥ (who is known well by all)
Devi is known by all, from the shepherds to the small kids. No much special wisdom, scriptural knowledge and any other eligibility is needed to go to Her. She can be achieved by pure devotion. Hence this name.

Once a demon king named Tharaka, started spreading havoc in all the worlds. He cast fear and sorrow to Devas and all the goodhearted ones.
यदा यदा हि धर्मस्य ग्लानिर्भवति भारत |
अभ्युत्थानमधर्मस्य तदात्मानं सृजाम्यहम् || Gita 4.7
Whenever there is a decline in righteousness and an increase in unrighteousness, at that time I manifest says Lord Krishna to Arjuna. There is. similar sloka in Devi Mahatmyam
इत्थं यदा यदा बाधा दानवोत्था भविष्यति
तदा तदावतीर्याहं करिष्याम्यरिसङ्क्षयम् – Devi Mahatmyam 11.54-55
whenever there are chaos and disturbances to the good people because of danavas (evil ones), I incarnate and eliminate the evil every time.

So, when Tharakasura’s chaos became unbearable, the Devas started a sacrifice under the protection of Lord Vishnu. It was said in the puranas that this sacrifice continued for a very long time, around 4000 years. All the Devas were participating. Even after a strenuous and long yaga, Devi didn’t appear, at that time all the Gods started to sacrifice themselves to the pyre. From that fire, emanated the Divine Mother.
Om cid agni kuṇḍa sambhūtāyai namaḥ (who was born in the fire pit of Pure Consciousness)
Om deva kārya samudyatāyai namaḥ (who is intent on fulfilling the wishes of the gods.)


Devi’s Tatanka & 3 forms

Om tāṭaṅka yugalī bhūta tapanoḍupa maṇḍalāyai namaḥ
(who wears the sun and the moon as a pair of large earrings) praises Lalita Sahasranama about the earrings of Devi.

The Indian time scales are based on the solar and lunar calendars. We have nazhika (the time taken by earth to rotate by 6 degrees.), day, night, vaaram (a week), paksham ( the period either side of the Full Moon Day), uttarayana, dakshinaya, varsha (year), manwantara and so on. By saying that the sun and moon are the earrings of Devi, we mean that Devi is beyond the time, who is presiding the time. Devi is omnipresent. Her hairlocks is compared to Space. The sun and moon is a mere ornament on Her ears.

The importance of Devi’s earring is described in Saundarya Lahari. The story of the churning of the milky ocean (Palazhi) by the devas and asuras is well known to all of us. So many things emerged from the ocean and the most deadly Halahala poison also emerged from the churning about to destroy the creation, when Lord Shiva drank it to save the world. Mother held her hands at the Lord’s neck and Lord Shiva became NilaKanda (the blue-throated one). When the dissolution of the world happens, everything ceases to exist except Shiva & Parvati.

LalitaSahasranama describes Devi as
Om maheśvara mahākalpa mahātāṇḍava sākṣiṇyai namaḥ
(who is the witness of the great Tandava dance of Maheshvara (Shiva) at the end of the great cycle of creation.)
Om mahā pralaya sākṣiṇyai namaḥ
(who is witness to the Great Dissolution)

सुधामप्यास्वाद्य प्रति-भय-जरमृत्यु-हरिणीं
विपद्यन्ते विश्वे विधि-शतमखाद्या दिविषदः ।
करालं यत् क्ष्वेलं कबलितवतः कालकलना
न शम्भोस्तन्मूलं तव जननि ताटङ्क महिमा
Saundarya Lahari 28

Oh! Goddess! even after taking amrita (nectar) which is capable of removing the dangerous ageing and death (jaraanara and marana), all devaas including Lords Brahma, Indra get destroyed during mahaa-pralaya. But you alone are the witness, Oh! Goddess! Who witnesses the tandava of Sada Siva. For Lord Siva, who consumed poison, there is no death or end and it is because of your divine earring, Oh! Janani!

According to Hindu rituals, widows won’t wear ornaments especially earring. Shiva’s existence is protected by Devi’s earring. The tāṭaṅka were considered most auspicious by the married women in India.

Even in the great dissolution, The Lord and Devi are there. They are the witness. We praise them as माता च पार्वती देवी पिता देवो महेश्वरः । My Mother is Devi Parvati, and my Father is Deva Maheswara (Shiva). It is the power of Devi’s tāṭaṅka that Maheshwara is One without an end (Anashwara).

Lalita Sahasranama describes mainly three forms of Devi. Sthoolam (gross), Sookshmam (subtle) & Param (primordial). Sthoola means the visible form with hands and feet. We see idols and imagery of Devi, great Saints and Sages who exhibits Devi’s qualities, some are blessed to Her voice, yet others have heard the sound of Devi’s anklets. Many have had the vision of Devi in their dreams. Saints like Sambandhar as explained earlier had the blessings to get milk from the Mother. All these are the gross form.

In all mantras, Devi resides as the root cause. This is her subtle form. Those who chant the Mantras, practice and focus on the sounds are connected to the subtle form of Devi.

Param is the form without any attributes. Only with spiritual sadhana, hard penance and knowledge, one could grasp this form.
Om abhyāsātiśaya jñātāyai namaḥ
who is known only through the strenuous practice of spiritual discipline says Lalita Sahasranama. This means that only reak sadhaks and strenuous penance will lead to Devi’s blessings.

We praise the Lord as Jagan Niyantha, Jagadathmakascha. This means that God is the creation and one who sustains it. The creator and the creation are not separate. God has transformed Herself to this creation. It is also controlled and sustained by Her. Usually, Creation (Srishti), Sustenance (Sthithi) and Dissolution (Samhara) are the three functions talked about in scriptures, in Lalita Sahasranama 5 functions are described. Disappearance (Thirodhanam) & Blessing (Anugraham) are the other two. They are known as Pañca Kṛtya.
Om pañca kṛtya parāyaṇāyai namaḥ
(who is devoted to the five functions)
The first mantra of Lalita Sahasranama, Om śrī mātre namaḥ denotes the creation, the second one, Om śrī mahā rājñyai namaḥ denotes the sustenance and the third one Om śrīmat siṁhāsaneśvaryai namaḥ denotes dissolution. All the mantras that follow are about the power of her illusion. The second last mantra, Om śiva śaktyaikya rūpiṇyai namaḥ denotes anugraham.


Expansive Motherly nature

The meaning of mantra Om karpūra vīṭikāmoda samākarṣi digantarāyai namaḥ is who is enjoying a camphor laden betel roll, the fragrance of which is attracting people from all directions. This mantra is not used wit its literal meaning alone.

The shakta tradition says the devotee of the Mother should always speak softly that his words should spread fragrance around him. His words should not hurt others and should not utter words that are unpleasant for others. Devi is the biggest role model on how to talk.

There is a saying Purvavibhashi Susheelah Sukamukah, One’s actions and face are beautiful who opens the conversation without waiting for others to open a dialogue. It is said that Lord Sri Rama was a purvavibhashi and purvanamaskari, He opened the conversation and also he is the first to bow down anyone. Mother is also like that. She opens the dialogue, enquire our wellbeing. She talks in the sweetest way possible and even the scoldings won’t hurt us. It is because of the power of Her words that people are attracted to Devi.

Om kāmeśvara prema ratna maṇi pratipaṇa stanyai namaḥ

Who gives Her breasts to Kameshvara in return for the gem of love He bestows on Her says LalitaSahasranama about Devi’s bosom. In Dhyana sloka, Devi si described as āpīna vakṣoruhā. Devi resides with pride that I’m the mother of all. Apīna vakṣoruhā means the mother who is ready to give milk (of knowledge and auspiciousness) to all Her children. Sri Sankara described Mother’s bosom and Her breastmilk.

तव स्तन्यं मन्ये धरणिधरकन्ये हृदयतः पयः पारावारः परिवहति सारस्वतमिव । दयावत्या दत्तं द्रविडशिशु-रास्वाद्य तव यत् कवीनां प्रौढाना मजनि कमनीयः कवयिता Saundarya Lahari 75

I feel in my mind, That the milk that flows from Your breast, Is really the goddess of learning, Saraswathi, In the form of a tidal wave of nectar. For, milk given by you, who is full of mercy, Made the child of Dravida, The king among those great poets, Whose works stole one’s mind. It is not clear who is this child of Dravida.

This is related to many great saints. But the most popular one is associated with the divine saint named Thiru Jnana Sambandhar. When Sambandhar was 3-4 years old, one day went to take bath along with his father (Shivapadahridayar) in the temple pond. Since he was too young to take a dip in the waters, the father made him sit on the banks and wen to take a dip. The child became very hungry and started to cry out for milk. Shiva & Parvathi couldn’t bear even the smallest sorrow of Sambandhar, They appeared immediately in front of the child and Devi gave her breastmilk to Sambandhar. When the father returned after the bath, he could see the milk flowing from the child’s mouth. He asked “Who gave you milk?”, the child gave a reply with a poem!

தோடுடைய செவியன் விடையேறியோர் தூவெண்மதி சூடிக்        காடுடையசுட லைப்பொடிபூசிஎன் உள்ளங்கவர் கள்வன்         ஏடுடையமல ரான்முனைநாட்பணிந் தேத்தஅருள் செய்த          பீடுடையபிர மாபுரம்மேவிய பெம்மானிவ னன்றே.   

The God who wears a ring in his ears, who comes on the holy Bull who wears the flawless white Moon on his head who smears the ash from the cremation ground the thief (God) who stole my heart who blessed Brahma (the one on the Lotus) when Brahma prayed earlier He is none other than the Perumaan (the Lord ) himself of Piramapuram.

The father was very happy to hear this transformation of his son. He took Sambandhar to all the famous shrines of Lord Shiva in Tamil Nadu and everywhere Sambandhar composed Thevaram (hymns praising the Lord). He became the most revered saint poet from South.

There were many similar stories in the life of many great saints. There was a saint named Ramalinga Swami (Vallalar) in Vadathur. He was so compassionate to all the beings that he couldn’t even bear the sight of a small plant wilting. He wrote வாடிய பயிரை கண்டபோதெல்லாம், வாடினேன். I would shed tears on seeing the crops which are withering for want of water.

It is said that he has composed more than 6000 hymns on Lord Shiva. In his life also we could see that as a child when he was hungry Devi came in disguise and gave milk. What all these incidents denote is that all who had the great blessings to get Her Grace have become great poets. These incidents are to expound the greatness of Mother’s Love. This is why we call Devi as āpīna vakṣoruhā, the one who takes pride in being the Mother of All. The large bosom of Devi also symbolically depicts that expansive Motherly nature. She will not move an inch from that nature at all. Let us all remember that Divine Mother.


Karpura vitika – Devi’s Tambula

We never say we eat betel (tāmbūla), unlike other eatables. It is usually said that one ‘wears’ tāmbūla. It is not merely a food item but also is accompanied by areca nut, cardamom, and other aromatic ingredients that is worn (consumed) after food. The process is known as tāmbūla dharanam (wearing instead of eating) because it is not consumed fully. After chewing for some time, it is spitted out. Not only that it gives a red colour to the lips and tongue and is considered as an ornament hence the usage. There is a story behind this.

There was a demon named Tharaka. He got a boon that nobody else but only the son of Lord Shiva & Goddess Parvati could kill him. He became highly egoistic and disturbed all the worlds. Lord Muruga (Kartikeya) was born to Lord Shiva & Mother. There was a huge war fought against Tharaka under the leadership of Lord Muruga. Tharaka was killed at the end of the war. After the war, Lord Muruga and other Gods namely Indra, Upendra, Vishakendra etc were returning after the war. Before leaving Lord Muruga had the blessing of His Father and Mother. Devi had given a special weapon named ‘Vel’ with which Muruga could slay Tharaka.

After returning victoriously from the war, Muruga went to the Mother. They all were still in their war suits bathed in blood. They were eager to convey the news of victory to the Mother. Muruga, Indra and other Gods reached Mother’s abode and couldn’t even wait to take rest or remove their war suits. It was the time Devi had finished the feast and having tāmbūla. Om karpūra vīṭikāmoda samākarṣi digantarāyai namaḥ (who is enjoying a camphor laden betel roll, the fragrance of which is attracting people from all directions.); it is during that time the Gods and Muruga approached the Mother.

Lord Shiva was also waiting for them in Kailas to hear about the feat of Muruga and the war. Indra and others were thinking that the Lord will also give the sacred prasad. He usually gives it to Chandikeshwara first and then the remaining is given to rest of us. Even though the Lord was waiting for them, they went to the Mother first. We know that kids want to convey their feats first to Mothers. Father is more strict and might scold us.

There are certain rules to be followed to go to the Lord. One has to take a bath, wear sacred ash, new clothes, wear rudraksha, chant the 5 syllables and so on. One would not know if the Lord will get angry otherwise. But to go to Mother, no such rules are needed. Her ways are simple. Even if they were wearing blood-drenched clothes, all of them, straight away went to Devi.

After hearing all the feats of the war and the slaying of Tharaka, it is said in the scriptures that Mother gave the special tāmbūla named karpūra vīṭikā to all of them as prasad. Legends say that it is after taking the tāmbūla from the Mother, Kalidasa and others became great poets. The divine power of words can be attained by part taking Devi’s tāmbūla. Thus all of the Gods became happy and left Devi’s abode with the blessings and prasad in the form of karpūra vīṭikā.


A glance of Her Grace

In Devi’s eyes one could see all the 9 rasas (moods). Soundarya Lahari describes this as follows
शिवे शङ्गारार्द्रा तदितरजने कुत्सनपरा
सरोषा गङ्गायां गिरिशचरिते विस्मयवती ।
हराहिभ्यो भीता सरसिरुह सौभाग्य-जननी
सखीषु स्मेरा ते मयि जननि दृष्टिः सकरुणा
Soundarya Lahari 51

Moved by sentimental love for Shiva, resentful to any other person, With anger of jealously towards Ganga, as Ganga is Her co-wife. with transportations of wonder as Devi’s companions narrates various stories of Lord Shiva.

Once a demon named Bhasmasura did along severe penance on Lord Shiva. Pleased on the penance, the Lord appeared in-front of him. Bhasmasura asked for a boon and the Lord said “You can ask anything.”. Bhasmasura then asked that he be granted the power that anyone whose head he touched with his hand should burn up and immediately turn into ashes (bhasma). Lord granted the boon without any thoughts as He was compassionate to His devotees. Bhasmasura then wreaked havoc across the world with his new found power torturing everyone in sight as he was of low moral fibre. So the rishis ran to Vishnu for help. Vishnu, in the form of Mohini, appeared in front of Bhasmasura. Mohini was so exceedingly beautiful that Bhasmasura immediately fell in love with Mohini. Bhasmasura asked her to marry him. She told him that she was very fond of dancing, and would marry him only if he could match her moves identically. Bhasmasura agreed to the match and hence they started dancing. The feat went for days at an end. As Bhasmasura matched the disguised Vishnu’s move by move, he began to let his guard down. While still dancing, Mohini, struck a pose where her hand was placed on top of her own head. As Bhasmasura imitated her, he was tricked into touching his own head, and hence Bhasmasura immediately burnt up and turned into ashes, due to the power he had recently gained.

When Devi’s companions narrate these stories, Devi’s face would be lit up in wonder. She would ask “Oh really! Did such things happen?” When Devi sees the great serpents forming the ornament of Lord Shiva, She is with full of fearful surprise. Her face is as fresh as an un-plucked lotus flower and for companions, it gleams with a jestful smile. As a source of lotus-red grace, your regard, oh Mother, for me will remain only of Compassion. Even though you exhibit all the moods, Karuna, that if Compassion is alone what I seek. Devi is Naanaa-Bhaava-Prakashini, the one who exhibits several moods. We can see this in Amma’s Darshan, each of the moment the emotions and moods changes according to the devotee in front of Amma. One moment She would be cracking jokes with a Devotee, the next moment we could see Amma shedding tears and sharing the sorrow of another devotee. We usually don’t like Amma getting angry at our faults, what we need is only Her mood of Compassion. This is exactly what Sri Sankara describes in the above sloka.

In the Samudrika Shastra, (the study of face reading, aura reading, and whole body analysis), it is said that the best woman will have three colours in her eyes. Black in the centre, white in the next ring and red colour in the corner. The three colours represents the three gunas. Black-Tamas, White- Sattva and Red-Rajas.

The pure qualities of Sattva or (12) : (1) Kindness (Anarishanyam), (2) Discretion in the use of articles (Samvibhagaruchita), (3) Forgiveness (Titikshna), (4) Truthfulness (Satyam), (5) Righteousness (Dharma), (6) Belief in God (Astikyam), (7) Knowledge (Jnyanam), (8) Wisdom (Buddhi), (9) Intelligence (Medha), (10) Memory (Smriti), (11) Firmness (Dhriti), (12) Non Attachement (Anabhisangshcha).

The wrathful qualities of Rajas are (11) : (1)Excessive Miseries (Dukhabahulata), (2) Roving – Spirit (Atanshilata), (3) Impatient (Adhriti), (4) Pride (Ahankara), (5) Falseness (Anrutikriva), (6) Unkindeness (Akrunyam), (7) Arrogant (Dambho), (8) Vanity (Mano), (9) Pleasure (Harsh), (10) Lust (Kama), (11) Anger (Krodhashcha).

The ignorant qualities Tamas are (8) : (1) Despondency (Visaditavam), (2) Atheism (Nastikyam), (3) Unrighteousness (Adharmashilata), (4) Unintelligence (Buddhenirrodho), (5) Ignorance (Ajnynam), (6) Dull headedness (Duramegha), (7) Lethargy (Akarmashilata), (8) Sleepiness (Nidralutvam).

All the three colours representing the three gunas can be seen in the eyes of Devi.

We use to go for many pilgrimages. Taking bath in the Triveni Sangama (the conjuncture of three great rivers Ganga, Yamuna & Saraswati) is considered an auspicious ritual of any pilgrimage in India. But the most auspicious than all these pilgrimages is the glance of Grace from the Great Saints. Their eyes have all three colours. All these three rivers also are associated with three colours. Ganga is white, Yamuna is black & Saraswati is red. Being blessed by the glance of Mahatmas is considered more auspicious than a dip in the Triveni Sangam.


Submerge in Her form

We mediate the forms of the Divine in mainly two different ways.

From the Divine Feet up to the Head (Padadi Kesha),
From the Head to the Feet (Keshadi Pada).
Masculine forms are usually described from Keshadi Pada and feminine forms in Padadi Kesha. But in Lalita Sahasranama, since Devi is the supreme aspect of all divinity, Devi cannot be attributed to any gender. Hence we could see the description of Devi as Keshadi Pada (from Head to Feet), unlike other feminine forms.

Lalita Sahasranama describes Devi as Om anavadyāṅgyai namaḥ whose body is worthy of worship., on whom we cannot find any faults.

Devi is also praised as Om sarvābharaṇa bhūṣitāyai namaḥ [who is resplendent with all types of ornaments.]

Normally the person gets benefitted from wearing ornaments. But for Devi, that is not the case. Amma often says ”Do we need to decorate a golden pot?”. Devi doesn’t need any ornaments. By adorning ornaments, the lustre of the ornaments is increased not Devi’s. Even though Mother doesn’t need any ornaments, for the sake of Her children, for others to enjoy and meditate on Her form.

As told earlier, in LalitaSahasranama, Devi’s form is being described from head to toe starting from Om campakāśoka punnāga saugandhika lasat kacāyai namaḥ [whose hair has been adorned with flowers like campaka, etc.] and ending with Om śiñjāna maṇi mañjīra maṇḍita śrī padāmbujāyai namaḥ [whose auspicious lotus feet are adorned with gem-studded golden anklets that tinkle sweetly.]

Devi’s hair is adorned with flowers like champaka, asoka, punnaga. She is wearing a beautiful crown named Navamani Mukutam (the crown studded with 9 gems), the crown has a crescent moon. She is wearing a tilak and a bindi on Her forehead. The earrings, various necklaces, finger rings, ornaments worn on the hips, ornaments on the feet and fingers, weapons on Her various arms. 26 types of ornaments were seen various scriptures adorned on Devi. It is not the ornaments that gives lustre to the Mother but the other way round. Thus making all Her children happy, the mother dwells resplendent with all types of ornaments.

Lalita Sahasranama describes Mother’s smile as Om manda smita prabhā pūra majjat kāmeśa mānasāyai namaḥ [who submerges even the mind of Kamesha (Lord Shiva) in the radiance of Her smile.]

This is an everlasting smile. Mother is always smiling. Lord Parameshwara likes to see Mother smiling always. Sri Sankara poetically describes this in a story.

Devi’s garden had many chakora birds (the legendary birds that lived off consuming only the moonlight from a full moon day). Devi used to visit the garden sometimes and play with the chakora birds. On a very rare occasion, Devi came to the garden. The chakora birds who were contemplating only on the full moon saw the soft smile radiating from Mother’s face. It is said that when compared to Mother’s smile, the resplendent moonlight was nothing for the chakora birds.

When go for a feast, if anyone consumes more sweet pudding, will result in a nauseating feeling. This will be neutralized instantly when you consume the sour ginger-tamarind pickle. In a similar way the chakora birds, by seeing Mother’s smile entered a an eternal blissful state. For them, seeing the full moonlight became like having the ginger pickle in between an amazing feast.

स्मितज्योत्स्नाजालं तव वदनचन्द्रस्य पिबतां
चकोराणामासीदतिरसतया चञ्चुजडिमा
अतस्ते शीतांशोरम्रुतलहरी अम्लरुचयः
पिबन्ति स्वच्छन्दं निशि निशि भृशं काञ्जिकधिया
Soundarya Lahari 63

The Chakora birds, feel that their beaks have been numbed, by forever drinking, the sweet nectar-like light emanating fromMother’s moon-like face, and for a change wanted to taste something sour. Thus, they have started freely drinking, the white rays of the moon in the sky, night after night, thinking that is is sour rice gruel.

The full moon in a spring season is usually considered as something that evokes happiness in everyone. But Mother’s face is considered more beautiful than that. The living examples for this were the great souls like Sri Rama, Sri Krishna, and divine beings like our Amma. You can always see a smile on their face. In Amma’s dhyana sloka, we chant Manda-smitha-sri-mukhim . The famous Swami Ramdas of Anandasram, Kanhangad use to smile always even if he is alone in his room. This is due to the overflow of the infinite bliss they were experiencing. We could see such great beings smiling and being happy whatever the situations may be.


The Importance of Devi’s Feet

I’m going to narrate a story of an ardent devotee who attained the glance of the Lotus Feet of the Divine Mother. This is a story from the famous Aithihyamala. There was a Namboothiri in North Kerala. He was well settled, but a sudden poverty stuck him and he was ousted from his home by relatives. He didn’t know what to do next. He walked into a nearby forest. He walked for the entire day and was tired. It was late in the evening by then and he searched for a place to rest. He found an ashram of a great rishi and thought he could take refuge there. The compassionate rishi welcomed him, gave him fruits to eat and a place to sleep. The next day morning, the sage asked his whereabouts and he narrated all his life and the problems he faced. He said “ All my relatives now hates me, I’ve been ousted from my own home and no refuge.” The rishi replied, “Do not worry. You can stay here along with me as long as you wish”.

He started to stay with the rishi. The rishi understood with his divine vision that it is because he didn’t do his spiritual practices properly, he has attained this state. He had chanted all the mantras in a wrong way all these time! The master taught him the proper way of chanting and doing the sadhana. He started to do his practices properly under his master’s guidance. He became a good disciple of the rishi.

After many years, he found that his master never sleeps in the night. Also he could hear strange sounds from the master’s room. He became eager to find out what was happening. One night, he went to the master’s room at midnight. To his surprise, he found that a lot of celestial beings are visiting his master every night and are conversing with him! He focussed on what they were talking about and could find that the devatas were inviting his master for a festival in Kailas.

The next day morning, the namboothiri went to the rishi and confessed, “I had committed a grave mistake. I peeped into your room yesterday night. I saw the devatas inviting you for a festival in Kailas. Please take me also along with you. I too have the desire to attend that festival.” Hearing this, the rishi replied “Only a very few selected and divine beings were allowed to attend such events. I don’t think you are ready yet.” But the disciple was not ready to hear that. He insisted on taking him along. He pleaded to the master to show mercy. The master replied “Ok. But there are some strict guidelines you should follow. You have to always hold to my little finger throughout our visit. Never ever raise your head, always look down. Whatever you may see, do not utter a word”. The disciple agreed.

Thus, with the divine power of the rishi, both of them went to Kailas. There were celebrations at every corner. People were chanting Vedas on one side. The sounds of conch and drums could be heard. The entire place was decorated. Celestial dancers and musicians were performing on the other side. Lord Vishnu himself is standing and receiving the guests at the entrance! Everywhere one could see great celebrations. Chantings were going on in one corner, people were debating on scriptures in other, what to say! It was a divine sight to behold. It was noontime, a special lunch was prepared to serve everyone. Our Namboothiri also went along with his master to have lunch. Lord Vishnu, Shiva and other god and goddesses themselves were serving the lunch. Devi was serving payasam and reached near our Namboothiri. As he was not supposed to look up, he could only see Mother’s feet.

LalitaSahasranama describes Mother’s feet as follows

Om gūḍha gulphāyai namaḥ
[whose ankles are hidden.]
Om kūrma pṛṣṭha jayiṣṇu prapadānvitāyai namaḥ
[whose feet have arches that rival the back of a tortoise in smoothness and beauty.]
Om nakha dīdhiti sañchanna namajjana tamoguṇayai namaḥ
[whose toenails give out such a radiance that all the darkness of ignorance is dispelled from those devotees who prostrate at Her feet.]
Om pada dvaya prabhā jāla parākṛta saroruhāyai namaḥ
[whose feet defeat lotus flowers in radiance.]

Seeing the beautiful feet of Devi, Namboothiri couldn’t resist. He looked-up but couldn’t see Mother. The Lord’s servant Nandi understood that there is an uninvited guest among the crowd and kicked him. He fell back to a pond named Peringode (in Palakkad, Kerala). People who came to take a bath in the pond the next day saw him lying in the pond unconscious and took him. Since he got the divine vision of Mother’s feet, he later became very famous. Whatever he prescribed as a medicine for ailments started to work. Everyone started to revere him as a great devotee of the Mother.

Aithihyamala says that just a glance of Mother’s Feet uplifted the stature of this person. Let us remember that Divine Feet of Devi.


Devi is ready to offer moksha. We should ask the right thing

Devi has a name Bhakta-Namra in Lalita Sahasranama. The dhyana sloka says “bhaktanamrām bhavānīm”. It has a meaning that one who prostrates Her devotees. People come to Mother and are very happy to see Her, the same way Mother is also very happy to see Her children. Everyone prostrates before Mother and Mother prostrates before everyone.

Rameshwaram in Tamil Nadu derives its name from the meaning ramayah ishvarah; the lord who stands for the cause of Rama or ramasyah ishvarah; In the same way Devi can be bhaktena namra, the one who is worshipped by the devotees or bhaktaya namra, the one who worships/bow down in front of Her devotees. We can see various shades of Bhakti in different parts of Lalita Sahasranama.

Om sumeru madhya śṛṅgasthāyai namaḥ
[who sits on the middle peak of Mount Sumeru.]
Om śrīman nagara nāyikāyai namaḥ
[who is the Mistress of the most auspicious (or prosperous) city.]
Om cintāmaṇi gṛhāntasthāyai namaḥ
[who resides in a house built of the wish-fulfilling gem.]
Om pañca brahmāsana sthitāyai namaḥ
[who sits on a seat made of five Brahmas.]

What these mantras suggest is that Devi’s palace is built with the most auspicious of the materials. It is built with the Chintamani (the wish-fulfilling) gem. The Chintamani palace is situated in the middle of a garden full of Kalpataru ( a wish-fulling celestial tree). Legends say that worshipping one single Chintamani gemstone is enough to fulfil all the desires, Devi’s palace being built entirely with this Chintamani gem is symbolically stating that Mother fulfils all Her children’s wishes.

Devi is seated on a special throne held by 5 devatas which symbolizes that Devi is doing Srishti (Creation) as 1. Brahmma, Sthithi (Sustenance) as 2. Vishnu, Samhara (Dissolution) as 3. Rudra, Thirodhanam (Hiding) as 4. Eswara and Anugruham (Blessings) as 5. Sadasiva. Hence if we think about the palace, Devi’s abode, Her throne, it is very clear that we do not have to go anywhere searching for anything. She is capable of granting what we need.

Lalita Sahasranama also praises Devi as Kamakshi and Kamadayini. Once few devotees asked the Kanchi Paramacharya Sri Chandrasekhara Saraswati, “What is the reason that you propagate devotion to the Divine Mother so much?”, the Paramacharya remained silent for a while. The entire crowd around him were eagerly waiting to see what the answer is. He slowly replied “Look at what is happening now. Isn’t this alone enough to unravel the divinity of the Divine Mother? I’m a very old man, I’m not able to talk properly neither do I know how to tell jokes nor do I know how to speak in such a way that the lister becomes happy. Most of the time I’m fasting and is observing silence. In spite of all these, see all these crowds are eagerly waiting to hear what I’m saying. What can you call this if not Kamakshi’s Grace?”

There is sloka in Soundarya Lahari that goes like this
Naram varshiyamsam nayana virasam narmasu jadam,
Thava panga loke pathitha manudhavanthi sathasa
Gala dweni bhandha kuch kalasa visthrutha sichaya
Hatath thrudyath kanchyho vigalidha dhukoola yuva thaya
. (SL 13)

With dishevelled hair and with upper cloths slipping from their busts, with the lock of the golden belt getting open due to the haste, and with saris slipping away from their shoulders, hundreds of young women run after those who get your sidelong glance, even though they are very old, bad looking and not interested in love sports.

What is implied is when you go after the devotees of Devi who has Her Grace, not only that devotee but those who follow him/her will also be liberated. They go beyond the body consciousness. They become one with the Mother. Each of their actions becomes the actions of the Mother.

Self Realisation is the ultimate goal in one’s life. Eating, drinking, sleep, fear, procreation all these are seen in all living beings but humans have developed the principles of discrimination, dharma & knowledge. Using these uplifting oneself to the supreme state should be the goal of human life. There are four purusharthas (goals of human existence) 1. Dharma (Righteousness), 2.Artha (Prosperity), 3.Kama (Pleasure) & 4.Moksha (Liberation). Out of these Moksha is considered. the most valuable and ultimate aim.

Devi is Moksha Daayini (One who liberates us). Imagine one became friends with a king. The king is the custodian of infinite wealth. How would it sound when the friend asks the king Rs.500! The king is capable of giving anything. How foolish would it be to return from his palace with a cucumber from the palace kitchen! Devi is ready to offer us the kingdom of moksha. We should ask the right thing, that’s all.


Devi is everywhere, her voice is as sweet as a veena

Sri Lalita Sahasranama praises Devi as Vyapini & Vividhakara. This means Devi is Omnipresent and all the forms that we perceive are of Her. In another place, Devi is praised as sahasra śīrṣa vadanā (who has a thousand heads and faces.), sahasrākṣi (who has a thousand eyes.), and sahasra pada (who has a thousand feet.) In Samskritam, sahasra also means infinite. Devi is Omnipresent, the energy that pervading everywhere.

There was a famous devotee of the Mother named Abhirami Bhattar who lives in a place known as Thirukkadavoor in Tamil Nadu. One he was asked the question “Where is Devi?”.

He uses to meditate upon Devi all the time and he couldn’t answer immediately. Some people say Devi is the consort of Lord Shiva always by His side yet some others say Devi is present inside the temple, many others say Devi is present in the various chakras and others say Devi resides in our heart and some people say Devi is in the milky ocean. So, Abhirami Bhattar couldn’t reply immediately. He said, “I don’t know exactly but I feel as if Devi resides in my heart”.

This is like the story of a great healer who was once walking through a narrow street. A cow was lying across the path. He didn’t feel like crossing-over the cow, hence he took a stick and tried to scare away the cow. Since he was a healer and knew all the vital points, wherever he tried to beat the cow he saw a vital point that would result in the death of the cow. Hence he was standing there not knowing what to do.

An ordinary man approached from the other side. Seeing him the healer asked to drive away from the cow. He simply took a stick and beat the cow and it ran away.

Since the ordinary man didn’t know about any vital points he could drive away from the cow but the healer couldn’t. In the same way, when Abhirami Bhattar was asked where is Devi, he couldn’t answer immediately as he was experiencing Devi everywhere. He praised Devi in his famous Abhirami Anthadi like this

Uraiginra nin thirukkoyil-nin kelvar oru pakkamo,
araiginra naan maraiyin adiyo mudiyo, amudham
niraiginra ven thingalo, kanjamo; endhan nenjagamo,
maraiginra vaaridhiyo?- pooranaasala mangalaiye

Abhirami! You are ever omnipresent, perfect, and auspicious. Is your abode the left- half of my father Shiva?, or is it the final truth of the Vedas or is your abode the white-moon full of Ambrosia. Is your abode the heart of this simpleton like me? or is it the sacred-milk sea? Would you condescend to tell me what your favorite abode is?

In LalitaSahasranama, Devi is also praised as
Om nija sallāpa mādhurya vinirbhartsita kacchapyai namaḥ
(who excels even the veena of Sarasvati in the sweetness of Her speech.)

In Soundarya lahari, Sri Sankara describes this as a story. The shloka goes like this

vipañchyā gāyantī vividha-mapadānaṃ paśupate-
stvayārabdhe vaktuṃ chalitaśirasā sādhuvachane |
nijāṃ vīṇāṃ vāṇīṃ nichulayati cholena nibhṛtam ‖

(Saundarya Lahari 66)

Each of the gods and goddesses has a name for their Veena. Narada’s veena is known as tumburu, Mother Saraswati’s veena is known as Kacchapi.

One day in the court of the Divine Mother, goddess Saraswati was singing a song on stories of Lord Shiva (Pashupati) which Mother likes the most. It was sung by the goddess Saraswati who is the source of all music and knowledge, so no need to say how beautiful it would have been! Mother was enjoying this and was about to say “Sadhu”, meaning “Good” to appreciate the music.

When Mother started to utter the word Sa, the entire court’s attention moved to the Mother and goddess Saraswati’s music lost its importance in front of the sweet voice of the Mother. Seeing this, goddess Saraswati understood that there is no more need for my music and covered the veena with the cloth so that the strings throwing sweetest music are not put to shame by Mother’s voice full of sweetness.

The above shloka in Soundarya Lahari is repeatedly chanted by music aspirants as part of their sadhana.

Devi stands as the perfect example of the art of communication. Purvavibhashi Sumukah. We shouldn’t wait for others to open a dialogue. We should open the conversation. We should speak the truth and whatever is pleasant to hear. Devi’s voice is as sweet as a veena. One should talk in a sweet and soft voice.

Madhu-kshira-drakhsa-madhurima-dhurinah phanitayah

Devi’s words are the sweetest rivaling the honey, milk, and grapes. The normal mutterings of Devi alone are enough to shame the veena of Goddess Saraswati.