Sidelights on Tantra
The sacred text that is most important and universally used in the Worship of Durga especially during the Dasara is called Devi-Mahatmya, “The Glory of the Goddess”, or Chandi as it is popularly known in Bengal. It covers thirteen chapters of the Markandeya Purana ( Chs. 76-88 ) containing seven hundreds verses, Saptashati and is narrated by the sage Markandeya to Kroshtuki. Though it forms part of a Purana, the Tantras recognize its deserved preeminence in the field of sacred literature devoted to the worship of Shakti, the Female Energy or Mother of the Worlds; and in fact, the Katyayani Tantra treats each of the seven hundred verses as a mantra mentioning its use in accordance with the formulae prescribed for the elaborate ceremonials in Tantric rites. The Saptashati is held in so much reverence that the very text is worshipped as identical with the Goddess, manifest in its mantras or inspired verses. Even on ordinary days, its parayanam, sacred chanting, goes on in many households, for the warding off of evil influences, for the invoking of the blessings of the Devi, for the removal of earthly sufferings or for the attainment of higher and lasting happiness. Always it is the initiate alone who is competent to do the parayanam and others are prohibited.
There are three Charitas or Stories of the Devi contained in these seven hundred verses and the whole Saptashati is read every day, if possible; or one Charita, every day is read finishing the text in three days, or again in some parts of the country as in Kerala, the reading of the whole text of thirteen chapters is spread over the seven days of the week in the order of 1, 2, 1, 4, 2, 1, 2, chapters beginning every Sunday and completing the text every week; year in and year out this convention is preserved in the code word pa tho yem vi pra ka rah.
The three Charitas of the Goddess in the Devi Mahatmya are indeed illustrations of the Glory of the three outstanding Personalities and Aspects of the Mother, viz. Mahakali, Mahalakshmi, Mahasaraswati; and it is these three that are spoken of respectively in the first, second and third Charitas of the Chandi. The first Charita devoted to Mahakali is complete in the first chapter which commences the story. The second Charita is the story of Mahalakshmi given in the next three Chapters and the third, the story of Mahasaraswati, is given in the remaining chapters of the Saptashati.”
T. K. Kapali Sastry
COLLECTED WORKS OF T.V.KAPALI SASTRY – Volume 1 – THE BOOK OF LIGHTS-I
PUBLICATIONS – Sri Aurobindo Ashram – Pondicherry – India