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Caṇḍikā's Manifestations

(What follows in this post is an assembly of verses from the Prādhānika and Vaikr̥tika Rahasyam, two texts appended to the Durgā Saptaśatī and which are said to reveal some of the latter's secrets. Here one finds a description of Caṇḍikā's manifestations, their names and qualities, as well as some of the spirit of Her worship.)

OṀ. Blessed one, you have told me about Caṇḍikā’s manifestations. Be pleased, O knower of what is sacred, to speak of their essential nature. Accepting my reverence, O twice-born, tell me everything of the Devī’s true being, and by what manner, by which ritual I am to worship.

The seer said:

(...) First and foremost is Mahālakṣmī, who holds the three forces of creation. She is the supreme sovereign. She is both defined by form and indefinably formless; having manifested in every way, she abides in everything. She holds a citron, mace, shield, and drinking vessel. On her head, O king, she bears a serpent, linga, and yoni. Her complexion is the color of molten gold, and like molten gold, her ornaments shine. She filled the entire void with her radiant light.

Seeing the entire universe a void, the supreme sovereign conceived a surpassing form through her power of tamas. She became a woman, shining black like collyrium, teeth glistening in her lovely mouth, her eyes wide, her waist slender, her four hands adorned with sword, drinking-cup, head, and shield, her neck garlanded with strands of headless torsoes and a necklace made of skulls. The dark one, this fairest of women, asked Mahalakṣmī, “Mother, give me my names and deeds. Salutations to you again and again.” Mahālakṣmī answered her, the dark one fairest among women, “I give you the names [you will be known by] and the actions [you will perform]. Mahāmāyā, Mahākālī, Mahāmārī, Kṣudhā, Tr̥ṣā, Nidrā, Tr̥ṣṇā, Ekavirā, Kālarātri, Duratyayā — these are your names, and their meanings will be revealed by your actions. Understanding your actions through them, whoever reflects on them will attain happiness.”

O king, when she had spoken to her thus, Mahālakṣmī, through her surpassingly pure power known as sattva, assumed another unequaled form, lustrous like the moon. She became an exquisite woman, holding prayer beads and goad, vīṇā, and book. And to her Mahālakṣmī gave names: Mahāvidyā, Mahāvāṇī, Bhāratī, Vāk, Sarasvatī, Āryā, Brāhmī, Kāmadhenu, Vedagarbhā and Dhīśvarī.

Then Mahālakṣmī said to Mahākālī and Mahāsarasvatī: “Goddesses, bring forth couples, male and female, according to your own natures.” Having spoken thus, Mahālakṣmī produced her own female and male couple, born of the golden womb, resplendent, and seated on a lotus. The Mother called the male Brahmā, Vidhi, Viriñca, Dhātr̥; and she called the female Śrī, Padmā, Kamalā, Lakṣmī.

Likewise Mahākālī and Bhāratī each produced a couple. I shall tell you their forms and names. Mahākālī brought forth a blue-throated, red-armed, white-limbed, and moon-crested male, and a white female. He is Rudra, Śaṅkara, Sthāṇu, Kapardī, and Trilocana. The woman is Trayī, Vidyā, Kāmadhenu, Bhāṣākṣarā, and Svarā. [Mahā]sarasvatī brought forth a shining white female and a blue-black male, O king. I shall tell you their names. [His are] Viṣṇu, Kṛṣṇa, Hr̥ṣīkeśa, Vāsudeva, Janārdana; [hers are] Umā, Gaurī, Satī, Caṇḍī, Sundarī, Subhagā, Śivā. In that way, the three young women at once assumed maleness. Those who are able to see will certainly see, but not the rest who remain uncomprehending.

Then, O king, Mahālakṣmī presented Trayī as a wife to Brahmā, Gaurī to Rudra, and Śrī to Vāsudeva. Viriñca united with Svarā and created an egg. The blessed, heroic Rudra, together with Gaurī, broke it open. Within the egg, O king, was the primary matter, destined to evolve into all the universe, moving and unmoving, consisting of the five gross elements. Keśava, together with Lakṣmī, nourished and protected it. Maheśvara, along with Gaurī, dissolved all the universe.

O great king, Mahālakṣmī is the supreme sovereign, the true essence of all that is. She is both formless and with form, bearing various names. She can be described by different names, yet by no other name [can she truly be known].

(...) OṀ. The Devī, who appears manifest in three ways—as containing the three guṇas, as dark, and as brilliantly pure—is called Śarvā, Caṇḍikā, Durgā, Bhadrā, and Bhagavatī.

She is said to be Viṣṇu’s mystic sleep, Mahākālī, whose energy is tamas, whom Brahmā, seated on the lotus, praised that she might destroy Madhu and Kaiṭabha. She has ten faces, ten arms, and ten feet. She is lustrous as collyrium; she shines radiantly, as if garlanded with her thirty eyes. O king, even though she is of frightful appearance with glistening teeth and fangs, she is the beauty in form, the foundation of all loveliness and great splendor. (...) She is Viṣṇu’s deluding power, the inscrutable Mahākālī. When pleased, she brings all that is moving and unmoving under her worshiper’s control.

She who emerged from the bodies of all the gods as boundless light is Mahālakṣmī, who contains the three energies, and who became embodied as Mahisa’s slayer. White is her face, deep blue her arms, brilliant white the orbs of her breasts, red her waist, red her feet, deep blue her arousing shanks and thighs. Many-colored is her lap. Bedecked with multihued garlands and raiment, she is variously anointed and abounds in a beauty that is pure loveliness. (...) She whose arms are adorned with these weapons, she who is seated on the lotus, the sovereign who encompasses all the gods, this Mahālakṣmī is to be worshiped, O king. Doing so, one becomes the master of all the worlds and of the gods.

She who was born from the body of Gaurī and who embodies the sole energy of sattva is proclaimed to be [Mahā]sarasvati, the destroyer of the demon Śumbha. (...) When worshiped with devotion, she grants omniscience. She is the goddess who crushed Niśumbha and destroyed the demon Śumbha. (...) When the eight-armed slayer of the demon Śumbha is worshiped, her nine śaktis should be worshiped and also Rudra and Vināyaka.

(...) In the worship of the three manifestations, the verses of their respective hymns should be uttered. The eighteen-armed slayer of Mahiṣa is to be worshiped [as foremost, for] she herself is proclaimed as Mahālakṣmī, Mahākālī, and [Mahā]sarasvatī, the great ruler of all worlds, reigning over the virtuous and the wicked. One who worships Mahisa’s slayer becomes master of the world. On the left side in front of the Devī, the great decapitated demon, Mahiṣa, should be honored, having attained union with her who is supreme. On the right side in front, the lion, who is the whole and mighty dharma, the Devī’s mount, should be worshiped, for he sustains all that is moving and unmoving. (...) Intent on devotion, with hands folded and head bowed in reverence, deeply collected in oneself, one should meditate on the supreme Caṇḍikā for a long while and become filled with her. One who daily worships the supreme sovereign in this way, having accordingly experienced all enjoyment with dispassion, attains union with the Devī.

(Translation by Devadatta Kali, in:

"In Praise of the Goddess: the Devīmahātmya and its Meaning")

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