CHANTING THE DEVI MAHATYAM
Note to readers: This post was written back in 2012 and has been read many thousands of times across the world. Since then, the blogger’s own practice has moved to other spiritual texts, but still celebrates the awe-inspiring beauty and benefits of the Chandi Path. But, to be clear from the outset: the blogger has been flooded with requests for chanting etc… which would take all day to do! So read this post carefully, it contains everything needed for a serious devotee and practitioner… so, with great respect to you, please do not ask for someone else to do the work for you or use it as a reason to plea for help from your troubles..
This wonderful text is made to be chanted, not just read, and if you commit to this, it can take you, along with attendant pujas, up to 4 hours at a time, so it’s not for the faint-hearted. It has been popularised in the west recently by the wonderful work of the saintly Shri Maa and her American disciple Swami Satyananda – a fantastically eccentric character – and you can read all about their activities at their Devi Mandir in the US on the The Ramakrishna Mission also has a text in English and Devanigri, but not with some of the important opening chants.
Most Hindus will look at the Devi Mahatyam, or hear it recited, during Navaratri, the famous 9 days of the mother in autumn each year. On the surface it is a “vivid” or grisly rendition of how Sri Durga defeats various demons in a blur of charges, assaults and fights. But the esoteric meaning of this will unfold for you in secret and in private. She, the Mother, will richly reward anyone who seeks her through chanting the Devi Mahatyam, and it is only by Her will that you will be impelled to chant it.
A sweet story I read the other day is how one of Paramahansa Ramakrishna’s closest disciples, Sashi (who became Swami Ramakrishnanda), who was brought up in strict orthodoxy, was very dismissive of the text, saying he wasn’t into all of the gory stuff and fighting: His guru promptly insisted he chant it every day, and so reluctantly he began to do so. The transformation happened.
What transformation? Well, it is hard to explain, and you can only experience this for yourself. But when you become aware of the Mother playing in the universe, you realise a truly wonderful joy.
No faith, no spiritual practice is ever going to truly flower without recognising both the eternal feminine and the eternal masculine, the unmanifest unbounded and the manifested reality – and the image of Durga or Kali standing on the inert Shiva is redolent with very primordial meaning. Love of the Mother, when it dawns in your life, has no escape. It will drown your pride, your plans, your identity. It will dance your heart and move your feet! Truly, if the Mother chooses to reveal Herself to you, then you are very blessed indeed. and the fact that you are reading these words mean that She is helping you in your search for life’s mysteries and peace of mind.
I have been chanting the Devi Mahatyam off and on for some years – the longest chant that I do – but aim to treat this each time as a very special occasion. I came to it late in my spiritual life, and for a while simply pondered it as an impossible mountain peak that I could not hope to scale. It would take too much effort. Then finally I took the plunge.
The very first time I sat to chant it a few years ago now (with no selfish aim in mind), I was so exhausted, discouraged, dispirited and fatigued I crawled into bed thinking “no one could possibly ehave enjoyed that!” because I had chanted the text so very clumsily and ultimately with great weariness. Yet within 24 hours a new car was sitting outside my house (a strange miracle of prosperity). The next time, within 24 hours an enlightened saint, Sri Sri Sri Shivabalayogi, burst into my awareness and my life and since that day I accept Him as my Guru.
These days nothing quite so dramatic happens, and I tend to chant it only rarely. It is a major undertaking, a major tapasya and involves intense concentration. But some little miracles have also unfolded for others. In 2012 I chanted the whole Chandi Path every day for 108 days, a massive undertaking.
Home Puja (6ft poster of Sri Sri Sri Shivabalayogi you can just
see at the back). Devis are (l to r) Durga, Sri Hrishikesha Kesava (from Rishikesh) and Durga devi
together with Lord Naramsimha, Maheshwara, Sri Ganesh and Sri Dattatreya
just visible at Lord Krishna’s right foot.
Gurus pictured include Sivananda, Gurumayi, Muktananda, Nityananda, and a young Sri Sri Sri Shivabalayogi.
Other pics in the room include Gayatri Ma, Maha Saraswati, Mahalakshmi, Mahakali
This is the mysterious murti of Durga
that came my way during the chanting 108 day Chandi Path.
She’s actually very big, and I travelled 200 miles to find Her…
But most recently, a day or so after chanting this, something miraculous did happen in a very different way: I found my heart pulsating with waves of love, and for a day or so everything I saw and everything I witnessed seemed, simply, the Divine Mother at play. The “I” remained, but for just that brief moment I seemed to catch a glimpse of this fantastic camouflaged reality, giant and all-encompassing. And after it faded away, I remembered the same sense of shock and awe had come when at the Ganges for the first time, seeing what looked liked spirits and figures playing in the torrents of sparkling turqoise water at Rishikesh. This sense of everything being saturated by Her presence is no fantasy. It all comes down to Her in the end.
The other wonderful aspect of the Devi Mahatyam is the “curse lifting” side of it. Many of us are unconsciously infested with thought forms and presences that greatly hinder our lives in the form of addictions, compulsions, rages, excessive self-pity etc etc. Furthermore within us all is what is called in Hinduism “papa-purusha“, the “body of sin”… a sort of personal devil made up of every bad tendency that we have grown in this and other lives.
Chanting texts is like using the “sword” of Durga to lessen and thin out papa-purusha. So if you are in inner trouble and turmoil, and really need help, email me if you are desperate and I’ll chant. NOT for your prosperity, but for your illumination. The Devi Mahatyam is not an exercise in begging, in “gimme this, gimme that”, in “poor me”, in “I want a Porsche”.But the penultimate chapter, ch12, lists some of the help it gives, especially if you in deep trouble and do not know where to turn, andin this modern society people can very easily slip into dreadful trouble of all sorts.
The text I use is the one published by Devi Mandir, and as a word of warning you only get to chapter 1 by page 108 or so! So there is a lot of preparatory chanting, lots of unlocking the power of the recitation. And you will most probably feel pretty wiped out after doing it. But it is also possible to finish chants and pujas after about 2hrs.
The other aspect is what “tune” to use, to put it in western terms. There are in fact many options indeed. It’s a complicated area. But don’t just speak the verses, sing them. Sincere devotion is the key to it all. The Mother will know and appreciate your efforts, will make a 1000 steps to you even if you take one tiny faltering step to Her. She knows we are blind, helpless, and inclined to wander off. She will help you. Go on Youtube, tho and check out some of the tunes. Again, Devi Mandir has CDs to buy, which gives you one possible tune. Devi Mandir also has a wonderful little book on ways to chant the Chandi Path… fancy standing in icy water for 4 hours? Well, that might be a bridge too far, but have courage, make a resolution, just tackle it once even and without any expectation, just as an exercise of love and devotion. Then the Mother will come.
But what joy, what joy, what a fortune to be able to chant this! And what grace comes from it, what wonderful inspiring praises of the great Devi!
There are many secrets this chant posseses, but perhaps the greatest gift it can give you is absolute conviction that all these tales of gods, goddesses, mukti, samadhi, the whole world of indian spirituality, all of it is profoundly true and profoundly relevant. What better way to spend a bit of your life than chant the Devi Mahatyam!
Perhaps another aspect: spirituality is not necessarily a grim and humourless affair. This chant is really zestful, full of incident and colour, and life and movement and the vibrations of these wonderful mantras vibrate inyour blood cells, sparkle everywhere in you as they find a home. The Devi is composed of mantras woven out of light. That is Her body that manifests in the recitation.
Treat this with awe and reverence and if you decide to do this even just once in your life, know that blessings from Divine mother will surely flow to you and ease the pain of your life. You are Her beloved child, always, always, always…
Below, I’ve cut and pasted some extra info that may be of help… they are not my words but give you an idea of the benefits of chanting the Chandi Path.
Many seekers want to rush to this chant I think more out of desire for rewards than as an exercise in devotion, and they immediately get confused about WHAT introductory chants to do, and WHERE to get the text. You do need the text!
My other advice would be to SERIOUSLY CONSIDER whether you actually have the stamina to do this. The easier and very sweet option is to chant intead the SRI LALITA SAHASRANAM and there is a long post about this in the May or June 2013 blogs on this blog. The SLS is a sweet, intoxicating and easy and blissful recitation of 1000 names of the Mother, a beautiful and far less punishing practice, so if you feel that zing of devotion and want to sing out her praises don’t think the Chandi Path is your only option…
Finally, it is very easy and more than a little lazy to ask the Blogger to do the heavy lifting and chant for you. This is your undertaking, no one elses.
“Though Devi Mahatmyam looks like stories, there are very valuable lessons on Her nature in it. The deeper you go, the more you can understand and appreciate the lessons in the stories.”
The benefit of reading Devi Mahatmya several times is given below:
- Three times – to get rid of effects of black magic
- Five times – to get rid of difficulties caused by planets
- Seven times – to get rid of great fear.
- Nine times – achieves Peace,
- Eleven times – to get over fear of death, attention of the king
- Twelve times – getting desires fulfilled and destruction of enemies
- Fourteen times – to attract partners as well as destroy enemies
- Fifteen times – Pleasant life and obtaining of wealth
- Sixteen times – to get sons and grand sons
- Seventeen times – to get rid of fear of the King
- Eighteen times – to get occult powers
- Twenty times – For war to end
- Twenty-five times – To come out of prison
- Hundred times – to get rid of great sorrow, banishment from caste, Loss of life, salvation
- Hundred and eight times – Fulfilling any wanted desire
- One thousand times – Goddess Mahalakshmi will visit him and he will get all wealth
And, from me
IF YOU WANT TO DO THIS TAPASYA, SOME TIPS:
- Pronunciation of the mantras correctly is essential, unfortunately. If you don’t really know how to pronounce sanskrit, this could be a problem.
- Having said that: devotion is the real essence of this, devoted concentration and one pointedness.
- Meaning is also really important: make sure you know what is going on, what is being said, when you recite. I’ve had to adjust my text so that I can easily see what is the meaning of what is being chanted.
- Preparatory mantras are crucial, as are closing mantras. The only place I’ve actually found these in English is the Devi Mandir printed version is by the American Sadhu Swami Satyananda (picture below), and there are at least 4 extra chants you need to do, especially the siddha kunjika stotram . Plus the Devi Kavachyam – which lets you put on “the armour of the goddess” as protection. Most deities have their own kavacha texts
- Water: if you are completely austere, you’ll chant without a sip. If you are a little more humane to yourself, make sure you have some water. I always take a sip at the beginning of every new chapter.
- Shifting your asana/seating position: again, depends how flexible you are. I sit in either 1/2 lotus or siddhasana, but with a crippled back I find I have to shift positions as follows, following the natural flow of the text: After ch4, after ch 7, after ch10… but the aim is not to get up out of your asana until the chant is completed.
- REVERENCE! easy for mind to wander: be hard on yourself and make sure you pay attention when you chant, and keep the proper attitude. This may sound wierd, but when my mind really begins to go here there and everywhere, I slap my own cheeks to bring the mind back again.
- Timing: when you chant is of course up to you. I live in the world and have to work for a living, so it is early evening for me. Early morning is a great time, but this chant definitely feels at its most appropriate in the evening. Don’t get put off by wondering what the most auspicious times are or you’ll find yourself wandering in a thicket of lost intentions. The Slokas themselves suggest 8th, 9th and 14th days of the Lunar fortnight as days to chant (read this in Chapter 12) if you want to be doubly sure, and to calculate that you need access to a panchang, an almanac, which is easily available online at, for
- Place is crucial , the right isolated spot either in your house or outside. This is a ritual, after all, and rituals derve their own place and space in order to unfold.
- Remember the concept of what has been called limnal space: you are creating a sacred moment which is on the edge of time, just on the edge, where time gets a bit blurry and fuzzy and fluid. Linear time tends to get shaken about when you chant this regularly, because you are creating on a different plane of reality a yantra, a living breathing evocastion of the Goddess, a vibratory essence which has life and super-intelligence. And you are doing something that has been done in essence for many thousands of years: This is ancient worship of the divine as the feminine, it is something deeply appropriate to our nervous systems, it activates deep cellular memories and helpful tendencies buried in that complex interwoven strand of karmas which is the individual soul. Religions tend to get a bit strange when this Divine feminine principle is ignored (and I’m sure yoiu know which religions I’m talking about…)
- Chant the whole Chandi Path every day, not just one or two chapters. Experience has shown that many people make a big song and dance about doing it… then come the emails along the lines of “how little can i actually get away with”. If you have not got the time or energy DO NOT DO THIS TAPASYA. Pray instead. Ma hears you either way.
Om aim hreem shreem dum Durgayi namaha!