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  • Writer's pictureT'dad Hanuman Datta Mala

Lalita Sahasranama

With Navaratri Festivities in the air and the long awaited inauguration of the New Rajarajeshwari Devi Temple in Avadhoota Datta Peetham Mysore, Pujya Sri Appaji has blessed us with the opportunity of chanting and writing Lalita Sahasranama continuously until the inauguration. There is so much greatness attributed to these 1000 names of Mother Goddess.

Recently, His Holiness completed Tripura Rahasya in the Kannada Language with English translation and it was quite a delight. No matter how many times this epic is told, listened to or read, there is always something to understand and learn, both within ourselves and the outside world. Such is the depth of this story.


Pujya Sri Vijayananda Teertha Swamiji spoke about the greatness of Lalita Sahasranama during Chaturmasya 2006.

Lalita Sahasranama is a unique composition of 1000 names of the Divine Mother.

It is the sacred scripture (shastra) which teaches the essence of the Supreme Mother, Her complete form, Her divine plays (leelas), Her greatness, Her power (shakti), Her mantras, the various methods and procedures of yoga, the essence of devotion, many valuable facts about Advaita (non-dualism) and much more.

No one can claim authority for having composed it. The Divine Mother Herself, through the medium of the Vag Devatas, got it recited. Vag Devatas are the guardian deities of speech- the deities who inspire and give us the power to speak. These deities of speech (Vag devatas) are manifestations of Saraswati Devi (Goddess of Knowledge) and are the presiding deities for all forms of knowledge – worldly and spiritual. 

These guardian deities of speech (Vag Devatas) were instructed to compose a hymn that contained Her thousand sacred names. They composed millions of such compositions yet every one of them was rejected. As a last resort, they took refuge under Lord Ganapati, the poet of poets, and with feelings of complete surrender towards the Divine Mother, composed a hymn. The Divine Mother called for a divine congregation of the Gods (Deva sabha) within which they were asked to recite this hymn. This divine composition, the Lalita Sahasranama was thus recited for the very first time in this divine congregation. 


Three words assume greatest significance in the worship of the Divine mother.

They are – Srimata, Srichakra and Srividya. It is essential to maintain this order, Srimata-Srichakra-Srividya or reverse order only. Through the knowledge of Srividya, using the medium of Srichakra, a vision (darshan) of Srimata (the Supreme Divine Mother) is achieved. 


What is Srividya?

The knowledge (Vidya) that teaches us about the Supreme Mother (Sri), about the hidden essence (tattva) behind this nature (prakriti), the secrets of creation, absorption and dissolution is Srividya. It teaches us about the divine light (Chaitanya) and its essence (tattva). It is not any tantric worship but is very pure knowledge (suddha vidya). The word ‘Sri’ is neither male nor female. It is not stri (feminine) vidya, but Srividya.

It is purely an internal worship without the necessity of any external materials and is comparable to Yoga. 

Chaitanya is the supreme light or knowledge that glows secretly and naturally within the being. This divine light (chaitanya) is visible to different people in different forms based on their tastes. Some see it as Ganesha, some others as Subrahmanya or Shiva or Devi and the like.


There are 2 methods (kramas) of understanding this great knowledge:

1) Sristi krama (method/basis of creation)


2) Samhara krama (method/basis for destruction, laya).


What is Shristi krama? This is the process of digging deeper into the secrets behind the process of creation. This is the bottom up approach (bottom of Srichakra and moving to the top), moving from being to non-being. For example- how did this vast creation come into existence? Who is the first parent to this creation? This question is there in every mind including that of children. This should be the incessant question or the deep burning desire (tapatraya) in every mind. The Bhajan ‘traipuragra vase’ (Tripura cd) summarizes this.

The other approach is the top down approach – the Samhara krama. The word ‘Samhara’ means absorption and merger (uniting) and should not be confused with destruction. In this we question, after death, what happens? Which plane (loka) does one go to after death? Does the person merge into the infinite? If not why? Is this body real? How can we merge into that Almighty? In this approach, we begin from the top-most dot (bindu) on the Srichakra and after understanding about absorption/ merger (pralaya) come down to the base. 

Sushupti is deep sleep state when being does not remember its name, gender, form or existence. Through this daily quota of sleep, God makes the beings aware of the deep truth of the reality. We should think – who is it that sleeps? Is it the hand, the leg or the stomach etc.? Great secrets are hidden behind both death and sleep.


It is important to note here that Lalita Sahasranama teaches this entire essence in totality.

It is a great science within which many scientific secrets about this universe and creation are embedded. It is a treasure house of unbelievable knowledge. 

Lalita Sahasranama has been divided into 9 chakras (9 enclosures or avaranas). The first 100 names describe the (gross, subtle and supreme) form of the Divine Mother and thereafter with the remaining 900 names worship is offered to Her. These 9 chakras are the nine avaranas (enclosures) in our body. 

The first 111 names from ‘Srimata’ to ‘Bisatantu Taneeyasi’ are known as the moola grantha (base, foundation of the subject). The remaining 889 names are the commentaries of the above. Before setting on to understand the essence contained within these 1000 names, it is essential to understand the background that led to the origin of this Sahasranama.


Why did the Divine Mother get this Sahasranama recited through the Vag Devatas? 

Once upon a time, Shiva’s father-in-law Daksha conducted a very grand yagna towards which all the deities with the exception of Shiva were invited. Without heeding to her husband’s request, Shiva’s wife Sati went to attend the yagna. She was deeply humiliated by her father and unable to withstand the insults being thrown at her husband, she immolated herself then and there. An infuriated Lord Shiva together with his attendants arrived there and destroyed the yagna in entirety and cut off Daksha’s head. Daksha who pleaded mercy was restored to life with a goat’s head being stitched on to his neck.

Separation from Sati caused great sorrow to the Lord and carrying her dead body on His shoulders, He began to wander in the universe. To reduce Shiva’s distress, Lord Vishnu using His discus cut Sati’s body into 51 pieces, which fell in 51 centers. These centers are the great spiritual centers known as the Panchadasa shakti peethas.

Shiva was still desolate and departing to the Himalayas He undertook severe penance. Himalaya represents pure essence (suddha tattva). 

‘Prakriti’ is that which is devoid of ‘vikrati’ (modifications and changes). It means observing God’s creation as He has designed, without any modifications.

Shiva represents the natural state of prakriti (without any modifications). His attire, His vehicle, His residence, His jewels (abharana) all represent nature ‘as is’. He wears a tiger’s skin around His waist, snakes as ornaments around his neck, has a bull as his vehicle, smears ash on his body and so on. 

Prakriti with modifications becomes Vikriti. For example, we decorate the deity per our desire (we modify to suit our taste) and appreciate God in that.


Why was Shiva meditating in the Himalayas? Upon whom was He meditating?

He was meditating on Himself. He was meditating for us – His devotees. Why? Does He not possess powers without this meditation?

We should understand that He is showing us the way by living through example. He is teaching us to meditate. 

While He was thus deeply seated in meditation, both the heaven and earth were shaken by the deeds of the cruel Demon Taraka. Taraka had secured a boon that only the son of Shiva could kill him. To destroy Taraka it was essential that Shiva remarried. The Devatas deeply debated about this and having come to a conclusion, planned to get Shiva married. They then approached Parvati, the daughter of the Lord of Mountains, Himavant, and beseeched her to go and offer her services to the Lord who was in deep meditation. Parvati approached Shiva and served Him diligently. Days passed into months. But Shiva did not even notice her presence. 

There exists a secret here. Without Shakti (energy), Shiva is motionless and remains a statue; without Shiva, energy (Shakti) is ineffective and useless. Only their union will create action (kriya). Intentions can materialize only then. Without Shiva’s willingness, Devi could not win Him over. 

Realizing that the plan had misfired, Indra (Lord of Devatas) devised other plans. He approached Manmatha, the Lord of desire and requested him to create an attraction in Shiva towards Parvati. Manmatha’s powers had made him overly conceited. In his ego, Manmatha was overconfident that overpowering Shiva was a very simple task. However, as he neared the Himalayas a sense of nervousness overtook him. Had he not been over-confident and had he placed his trust in God, he could have moved ahead fearlessly. Instead he had bragged. A strange fear now gripped his heart. ‘How am I to lift my bow and strike this great Lord’, he feared. Vasanta and Malayamaruta, his friends too joined him in this mission. Hiding behind a tree, Manmatha nervously awaited the opportune moment when he could strike Shiva with his arrows of desire (kama). 

He did not have to wait long. As per her daily norm, Parvati arrived there for offering her services. Realizing that this was the most opportune moment, Manmatha picked up his bow and adjusted his arrow. So powerful are his arrows that even before he could shoot, a change came over Shiva. He, who had never observed the lady serving him so far, now looked into her face. A desire to worship prakriti (mother nature) came to his mind. Instantly He wondered about the reason behind his desire and spotted Manmatha hiding behind the bushes with a bow in his hand. No sooner had he spotted him, than the agni (fire) burst out from his third eye, reducing Manmatha into ashes.

The destruction of Manmatha (Manmatha dahanam) symbolizes the destruction of all desires, intentions (sankalpas) etc. of the world. It means reducing every being to a state wherein there are no more desires, thoughts or intents.

Parvati was clueless as to what was happening. Shiva instantaneously decided that Himalayas themselves had been rendered impure and even before Devi could realize, along with his troops He disappeared from there. Leaving his retinue at another spot, He completely disappeared. 

Shiva went over and above the creation (Brahmanda) i.e. over and above the mind. Yato vacho nivartante – a place where speech and mind cannot reach.

The Devatas were now a worried lot. Parvati Devi undertook intense tapas with an aim of securing Shiva as her husband. Of course, pleased with her austerities Shiva appeared before her and as per her request accepted her as His bride. All of us know this. However in this process 60,000 divine years had elapsed. This calculation is as per God’s time. 

Let us see what happened during this intermediate period of 60,000 years. Shiva’s retinue (Shiva ganas) got disturbed when Shiva deserted them suddenly and disappeared.

Chitrakarma, one of the Shiva ganas (troops), using his newfound freedom in the absence of His Lord, came to the place where the ashes of Manmatha were scattered. He created a doll with the ashes and using the Sanjeevani mantra (art of restoring life into the dead) that he had learnt earlier, He breathed life into the doll. Lord Brahma who was observing all this tried to stop him and warned him that this task was not as per Shiva’s approval. Chitrakarma did not heed to this advice. Brahma cried, ‘Bhanda, bhanda, bhanda’. It means ‘no, no, no’ or ‘fool, fool fool’. Thus this being created got the name Bhanda. As he was of demonic tendencies, the title asura (demon) was added to him later, making him Bhandasura. 

The last rites were not performed for Manmatha. Hence the demonic tendencies began to dominate. Every being, be it a mosquito or bacteria invisible to the naked eye, has a mind and an intellect (manas, buddhi). It can feel hunger and even has thoughts. 

The evil and demonic energy of Manmantha in the form of Bhandasura brought forth two companions/ two demons namely Vishukra and Vishanga. Vishukra means He who pulls out the substance (saara, essence) from everything in the world. Vishanga means He who makes the world devoid of sanga (companionship). Here we should understand that only satsanga (good companionship) is removed. 

Devatas, troubled unduly by all these demons, remembered Shiva and began to meditate upon Him. Shiva then initiated the Devatas into Sri yaaga. Sri yaaga or Chid yaaga means realizing the supreme knowledge (Jnana) and performing the yaaga (sacrificial ritual) with that knowledge. 

It was then that the Devatas realized that they had completely forgotten the Supreme Energy and now began to worship her in great fervor. It was no ordinary fire sacrifice. Into the fire of the Chid yaaga, the Devatas offered their muscles and their body parts. It means that they gave up their ego, attachment towards their body and pain. 

This yaaga went on for many years. Disappointed that She did not appear, the Devatas thought of surrendering themselves fully in the yaaga fire. As they were about to jump into the fire, there emanated from the fire, a brilliant light and an exquisite form. It was like thousands of rising suns (Udyat bhanu sahasrabha). Hence this Devi, who emerged from the Chid Yaaga is called Chidagni kunda sambhoota. Devatas began to sing Her praises.

The Supreme Mother then gave them Her protection (abhaya hasta) and asked the Devatas to continue to contemplate upon Her while she tackled the demons. The war lasted for 4 days. She created other Goddesses such as Shyamala, Dandini, Mantrini, Balatripura sundari and entrusted them with the responsibility of helping the world. The Saptamatrukas, ashtamatrukas or navadurgas are all various forms that emerged from the Supreme Mother. Just as small sparks emerge out of the huge burning fire, all these Goddesses emerged from the Divine Energy. After 4 days of battle, Bhandasura was destroyed. 

The Supreme Mother then created a holy city called Srinagara which is also known as Manidweepa or Mani mantapa. After this destruction of Bhandasura, the marriage of Shiva and Parvati took place. In between was this time gap of 60,000 years. 

Devatas went back to their abode, happy and contented. They had no gratitude towards the Divine Energy that had assisted them. In their happiness, they forgot even to recollect her. The Divine Mother did not lose anything by this act of theirs, but realized that in future, if this continued, the Devatas could be losers.

It is normal for people to forget God in good times. But God tries to remind us and pull us back on track even if we forget.

So She made a divine intent to pull them back into Her fold. She called for a divine congregation (Deva sabha) wherein she could teach the Devatas the complete essence of the Supreme.


The guardian deities of speech recited the Lalita Sahasranama for the first time. 

As per the Brahmanda Purana, Renuka Purana and Tripura Rashasya Purana, in the divine congregation, in the presence of crores of Brahmas, Vishnus and Shivas, this Sahasranama was recited for the very first time. Crores of Brahmas, Vishnus and Shivas means that the past, present and future Lords, were invited. 

By the time the Vag Devatas completed the recitation of the first 4 lines, the Devatas recollected all the past happenings and simultaneously they went into a state of Samadhi and lost consciousness of their body and of their existence. They realized that it was supreme most composition. It was a treasure house of infinite energy and that it contained innumerable secrets in it. They waited for the completion of the recital and then asked the Divine Mother to explain to them the secrets (rahasya) contained in it. 

Here the Devatas were just a medium, the true message and this invaluable knowledge was meant for the humans. The Devatas thrilled to know the secrets begged that this knowledge should be passed on to other beings as well so that they could benefit. 

At once, Devi thought of Vishnu. Vishnu was, at that time, after a tiresome battle, resting with His chin rested on the tip of ‘Shrungi’, His bow. Supreme Mother then created an insect Bhramara (Bee) and sent it with the task of awakening Vishnu. 

The insect went forth and snapped the thread/rope of the bow. The thread that was held in great tension, snapped with a great force and cut off the head of Vishnu. Seeing Vishnu headless, the Devatas turned nervous.

The Divine Mother then brought forth from her residence, Manidweepa, a face of Hayagreeva (horse face) and asked them to fix it to Vishnu’s neck. A lot of significance exists behind the horse’s face. Hayagreeva swamy was thus created. Hayagreeva swamy represents knowledge.


The hymn of Lord Hayagriva is:

Jnaananandamayam Devam nirmalas sphatika kruteemAdhaaraam sarva vidyanaam Hayagreeva mupaasmahe


Meaning- He is the Lord of all the knowledge. He is like a pure crystal (sphatika). I pray to that Lord, who is the support for this knowledge.


Dakshinamurty, Hayagriva and Saraswati are also our Gurus and should be prayed to everyday. Knowledge procured without acknowledging the deities who have taught them is of no use. If we don’t think of our teachers (Gurus), it means we do not have gratitude (krutagna). We are then burdened with this great sin.

No sooner was He created, than Hayagreeva began to recite new and great hymns and mantras. Great secrets relating to the creation, absorption (pralaya) etc. were being explained by him. Who was making Him speak thus? After all he was wearing the head gifted by the Divine Mother. It was her desire that this supreme teaching and preaching should be passed on to other beings through Him. 


Hayagreeva swamy is the Lord of many beejaksharas (seed letters) and of Srividya upasana.

Among his disciples, the most prominent one was Agastya Maharishi. Agastya together with Lopamudra Devi worshipped Hayagreeva and asked for initiation into Srividya. Instead of imparting this knowledge directly, Lord Hayagreeva created from within Him a sage by the name of Hayagreeva. This Sage Hayagreeva initiated Agastya into Lalita Sahasranama and method of Srividya worship. 

Detailing this, Lord Datta compiled Dattatreya Samhita in which are 16000 sutras about the Supreme Mother. Parashurama obtained initiation into this knowledge from Lord Datta and he in turn composed 6000 sutras on this and taught them to Maharishi Sumedha, who in turn composed this as Tripura Rahasya. This Tripura Rahasya is available in 3 portions (khandas)- Charya, Mahima and Jnana khandas. This Tripura Rahasya also originates from this Sahasranama. All these are detailed in our ancient scriptures such as Brahmanda Purana, Tripura Purana. 


Jaya Guru Datta


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