The Devisukta of the Rig Veda
Explanations based upon the writings of
Shree Devadatta Kali
Devisukta is a hymn of eight verses found in the most ancient
Hindu sacred text, the Rig Veda (in the 10th mandala).
The Devisukta (RV 10.125) declares that the Goddess is the power expressed through all the gods, that they are united in her who shines with consciousness, that her presence is all-pervading, that she supports all of creation, that she is the source of righteousness and the revealer of truth, that she is the source of all worlds, yet that she shines transcendent beyond them. Among Shaktas this Vedic hymn is held in high esteem and is considered to be the source from which the entire Chandi sprang. Later, the Chandi itself was elaborated upon in the Puranas and Tantras.
The Chandi goes by two other names. The most common and widely recognized is Devimahatmya [The Glory of the Goddess]. The other is Sri Durga Saptashati [Seven Hundred Verses to Sri Durga].
Durga Saptashati Katha
Explanations from other sources
Abridged and paraphrased in a few places
This Katha can be divided into three sections:
The demons Madhu and Kaitabha destroyed by Lord Vishnu
Demon Mahishasur destroyed by Mahamaya (Mother Durga– the united light or combined power of the gods.)
The destructions of demons Shumbha and Nishumbha.
The demons Madhu and Kaitabha destroyed by Lord Vishnu
The Slaying of Madhu and Kaitabha
Markandeya said (to his disciple Krasustuki Bhaguri):
There was a king by the name of Suratha who ruled the kingdom of Kola. He was a good king who protected his people and treated them as his sons. Some ministers of Kola plotted against king Suratha and deposed him. Deprived of his kingdom, king Suratha rode alone on horseback into a dense forest. There he came to the hermitage of sage Medhas, where the sage's disciples enhanced the atmosphere of the place and the wild animals looked mild as if influenced by the tranquil vibrations that emanated from the hermitage.
The sage received king Suratha with due hospitality. While on a walkabout near the hermitage, king Suratha reflected in his own mind. Overcome with attachment, he thought:
'I do not know whether the capital (which was) well guarded by my ancestors and recently deserted by me is being guarded righteously or not by my servants of evil conduct. I do not know what enjoyments (care) my chief elephant, heroic and always elated, and now fallen into the hands of my foes, will get. Those who were my constant followers and received favour, riches and food from me, now certainly pay homage to other kings. The treasures which I gathered with great care will be squandered by those constant spendthrifts, who are addicted to improper expenditures.'
The king was continually thinking of these and other things.
Near the hermitage of the sage the king saw a merchant, and asked him:
‘Who are you? What is the reason for your coming here? Wherefore do you appear as if afflicted with grief and depressed in mind?'
Hearing this speech of the king, uttered in a friendly spirit, the merchant bowed respectfully and replied to the king.
The merchant said: 'I am a merchant named Samadhi, born in a wealthy family. I have been cast out by my sons and wife, who are wicked through greed of wealth. My wife and sons have misappropriated my riches, and made me devoid of wealth. Cast out by my trusted kinsmen, I have come to the forest grief-stricken. Dwelling here, I do not know anything about the welfare of my sons, kinsmen and wife. How are they? Are my sons living good or evil lives?'
The king said: 'Why is your mind affectionately attached to those covetous folks, your sons, wife and others, who have deprived you of your wealth?'
The merchant said: 'This very thought has occurred to me, just as you have uttered it. What can I do? My mind does not leave attachment; it bears deep affection to those very persons who have driven me out in their greed for wealth, abandoning love for a father and attachment to one's master and kinsmen. I do not comprehend although, I know it. O noble hearted king, how is it that the mind is prone to love even towards worthless kinsmen? On account of them I heave heavy sighs and feel dejected. What can I do since my mind does not become hard towards those unloving ones?’
Markandeya said: . Then the merchant Samadhi and the noble king Suratha together approached the sage (Medhas); and after observing the etiquette worthy of him and as was proper, they sat down and conversed (with him).
The king said: 'Sir, I wish to ask you one thing. Be pleased to reply to it. Without the control of my intellect, my mind is afflicted with sorrow. Though I have lost the kingdom, like an ignorant man- though I know it- I have an attachment to all the paraphernalia of my kingdom. How is this, O best of sages? And this merchant has been disowned by his children, wife and servants, and forsaken by his own people; still he is inordinately affectionate towards them. Thus both he and I, drawn by attachment towards objects whose defects we do know, are exceedingly unhappy. How does this happen, then, sir, that though we are aware of it, this delusion persists? This delusion besets me as well as him, blinded as we are in respect of discrimination?'
The Rishi said: ‘Sir, every being has the knowledge of objects perceivable by the senses. And object of sense reaches it in various ways. Some beings are blind by day, and others are blind by night; some beings have equal sight both by day and night. Human beings are certainly endowed with knowledge, but they are not the only beings (to be so endowed), for cattle, birds, animals and other creatures also cognise (objects of senses).
The knowledge that men have, birds and beasts too have; and what they have men also possess; and the rest (like eating and sleeping) is common to both of them. Look at these birds, which though they possess knowledge, and are themselves distressed by hunger are yet, because of the delusion, engaged in feeding grains into the beaks of their young ones. See with what devotion they put the food grains into the beaks of their young ones? Men, O king, are full of desires. Human beings are, O tiger among men, attached to their children because of greed, expecting rewards in return.
Do you not see this? Even so men are hurled into the whirlpool of attachment, the pit of delusion, through the power of Mahamaya (the Great deusion), who makes the existence of the world possible. Marvel not at this. This Mahamaya is the Yoganidra, of Vishnu, the Lord of the world. It is by her the world is deluded. Verily she, the Bhagavati, the Mahamaya forcibly drawing the minds of even the wise, entangles them into delusion. She creates this entire universe, both moving and unmoving. It is she who, when propitious, becomes a boon-giver to human beings for their final liberation. She is the supreme knowledge, the cause of final liberation, and eternal; she is the cause of the bondage of transmigration and the sovereign over all lords.’
The king said: . 'Venerable sir, who is that Devi whom you call Mahamaya? How did she come into being, and what is her sphere of action, O sage? What constitutes her nature? What is her form? Wherefrom did she originate? All that I wish to hear from you, O you supreme among the knowers of Brahman.'
The Rishi said:
She is eternal, embodied as the universe. By her all this is pervaded. Nevertheless she incarnates in manifold ways; hear it from me. When she manifests herself in order to accomplish the purposes of the devas, she is said to be born in the world, though she is eternal. At the end of a kalpa when the universe was one ocean ( with the waters of the deluge) and the adorable Lord Vishnu stretched out on Sesa and took the mystic slumber, the terrible asuras (demons) the well-known Madhu and Kaitabha, sprung into being from the dirt of Vishnu's ears, and sought to slay Brahma.
Brahma, the father of beings, was sitting in the lotus (that came out) from Vishnu's navel. Seeing these two fierce asuras and Janardhana (Vishnu) asleep, and with a view to awakening Hari (Vishnu), Brahma with concentrated mind extolled Yoganidra, dwelling in Hari's eyes (appeared as Sleep in the eyes of Vishnu). The resplendent Lord Brahma extolled the incomparable Goddess of Vishnu, Yoganidra, the queen of cosmos, the supporter of the worlds, the cause of the sustenance and dissolution alike (of the universe).
Brahma said: ‘O great Mother! 'You are Svaha (the energy of Devas). You are Svadha (the energy of Pitris). You are verily the Vasat (the emblem of sacrifice). You are the embodiment of Svara (Vedic accent). You are Sudha (the nectar). O eternal and imperishable One, you are the embodiment of the threefold mantra. You are Savitri and the supreme Mother of the devas. You are the goddess of good fortune, the ruler, modesty, intelligence characterized by knowledge, bashfulness, nourishment, contentment, tranquillity and forbearance. Armed with sword, spear, club, discus, conch, bow, arrows, slings and iron mace, you are terrible (and at the same time) you are pleasing, yea more pleasing than all the pleasing things and exceedingly beautiful. You are indeed the supreme Isvari, beyond the high and low. O Devi, bewitch these two unassailable asuras Madhu and Kaitabha with your superior powers. Let Vishnu, the Master of the world, be quickly awakened from sleep and rouse up his nature to slay these two great asuras.'
The Rishi said: There, the Devi of delusion extolled thus by Brahma, the creator, in order to awaken Vishnu for the destruction of Madhu and Kaitabha, drew herself out from every part of Vishnu’s body, and appeared before Brahma. Janardana (Vishnu), Lord of the universe, rose up from His couch on the universal ocean, and saw those two evil (asuras), Madhu and Kaitabha, of exceeding heroism and power, with eyes red in anger, endeavouring to devour Brahma. Thereupon the all-pervading Lord Vishnu got up and fought with the asuras for five thousand years, using his own arms as weapons. And they, frenzied with their exceeding power, and deluded by Mahamaya, exclaimed to Vishnu, ' Ask a boon from us.'
Lord Vishnu said: 'If you are satisfied with me, you must both be slain by me now. What need is there of any other boon here? My choice is this much indeed.'
The Rishi said: Those two (asuras), thus bewitched (by Mahamaya), gazing then at the entire world turned into water, told Lord Vishnu the lotus eyed One, 'Slay us at the spot where the earth is not flooded with water.' The Rishi said: Saying 'Be it so', Lord Vishnu, the great wielder of conch, discus and mace, took them on His loins and there severed their heads with His discus. Thus she (Mahamaya) herself appeared when praised by Brahma. Now listen again the glory of this Devi that I will tell you. Here ends the first chapter called 'The slaying of Madhu and Kaitabha' of Devi Mahatmya Sri Durga Saptashati in Markandeya Purana, during the period of Savarni, the Manu.