Lalita Sahasranama

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Lalita Sahasranama (IAST: lalitāsahasranāma) is a text from Brahmanda Purana. It is a sacred text of the Hindu worshippers of Goddess Lalita Devi, considered to be a manifestation of the Divine Mother (Shakti) or Goddess Durga. Etymologically, "Lalitha" means "She Who Plays". In the root form (vyutpatti), the word "Lalitha" means "spontaneous" from which the meaning "easy" is derived and implicitly extends to "play".

Names[edit]

Lalita Sahasranamam contains the thousand names of the Hindu mother goddess Lalita.[1] The names are organized as hymns (stotras). It is the only sahasranama that does not repeat a single name[citation needed]. Further, in order to maintain the meter, sahasranamas generally use the artifice of adding words like tu, api, ca, and hi, which are conjunctions that do not necessarily add to the meaning of the name except in cases of interpretation. The Lalita Sahasranama does not use any such auxiliary conjunctions and is unique in being an enumeration of holy names that meets the metrical, poetical and mystic requirements of a sahasranama by their order throughout the text.

Lalita Sahasranama begins by calling the goddess Shri Mata (Revered Mother), Shri Maharajni (Revered Empress) and Shrimat Simhasaneshwari (The goddess in the most revered throne).[2] In verses 2 and 3 of the Sahasranama she is described as a Udayatbhanu Sahasrabha (the one who is as bright as the rays of thousand rising suns), Chaturbahu Samanvita (the one who has four hands) and Ragasvarupa Pashadhya (the one who is the embodiment of love and the one who is holding the rope).[3] Chidagnikunda Sambhuta (one who was born from the altar of the fire of consciousness) and Devakarya Samudyata (one who manifested Herself for fulfilling the objects of the devas) are among other names mentioned in the sahasranama.

Composition[edit]

Lalitha sahasranama is said to have been composed by eight vaag devis (vaag dhevathas) upon the command of Lalitha. These vaag devis are Vasini, Kameshwari, Aruna, Vimala, Jayinee, Modhinee, Sarveshwari, Koulini. The sahasranama says that "One can worship Lalitha only if she wishes us to do so". The text is a dialogue between Hayagriva (an avatar of Mahavishnu) and sage Agastya. The temple at Thirumeyachur, near Kumbakonam, is said to be where Agastya was initiated into this sahasranama. An alternative version is that the Upanishad Bramham Mutt at Kanchipuram is where this initiation happened.

This sahasranama is held as a sacred text for the worship of the "Divine Mother", Lalita, and is used in the worship of Durga, Parvati, Kali, Lakshmi, Saraswati, Bhagavathi, etc. A principal text of Shakti worshipers, it names her various attributes, and these names are organized in the form of a hymn. This sahasranama is used in various modes for the worship of the Divine Mother. Some of the modes of worship are parayana (Recitations), archana, homa etc.

Story[edit]

This stotra (hymn of praise) occurs in the Brahmanda Purana (history of the universe) in the chapter of discussion between Hayagreeva and Agasthya. Hayagreeva is an incarnation of Vishnu with the head of a horse who is held to be the storehouse of knowledge. Agasthya is one of the sages of yore and one of the stars of the constellation Saptarishi (Ursa major). At the request of Agasthya, Hayagreeva is said to have taught him the thousand holiest names of Lalita. This has been conveyed to us by the sage Maharishi Vyasa. Lalita Sahasranama is the only sahasranama composed by vagdevatas under Lalita's direction. All the other sahasranamas are said to have been passed on the writings by Maharishi Vyasa. Note that even before Vyasa many worshipped the Devas with Sahasranamas. Vyasa did not compose sahasranams, but only popularized them through his writings.

Paramashiva is one of the trinity of Hindu pantheons, in charge of moksha (layam). He married Sati, the daughter of Daksha. Daksha and Shiva did not get along and consequently Daksha did not invite Shiva for one of the great fire sacrifices that he conducted. However Sati went to attend that function in spite of Shiva’s protest. Daksha insulted her husband and she jumped into the fire and ended her life. Consequently, at the behest of Shiva, Daksha was killed and later resurrected with a goat’s head. This incident upset Paramashiva and he entered into deep meditation. Sati reincarnated as daughter of Himavat, king of the mountains, and his wife, Mena. Naturally, Pārvatī sought and received Shiva as her husband.

The devas faced an enemy in Tarakasura who had a boon that he could be killed only by a son of Shiva and Parvati. So, to rouse Shiva from his deep meditation, the devas deputed Kamadeva, the God of love who shot his flower arrows at Shiva. Shiva ended his meditation and in anger for being disturbed, opened his third eye which reduced the God of love to ashes. The Devas and Rati, the wife of Kamadeva requested Shiva to give life to her husband Heeding their request Paramashiva stared at the ashes of Manmatha. From the ashes emanated Bhandasura, who made all the world impotent and ruled from the city called Shonita pura. He started troubling the devas. The devas then sought the advice of Sage Narada who advised them to conduct a fire sacrifice. From the fire rose Tripura Sundari.

Lalitha[edit]

In Lalitha Sahasranama, the beginning of the text describes the formless Lalitha with an explicit female form and along with an equally charming consort. This divine couple is named as Kameshwari and Kameswara. Kameswari is described as extremely beautiful, having dark thick long hair with the scent of champaka, ashoka and punnaga flowers. She had the musk tilaka on her forehead, eyelids which appeared as if they were the gate of the house of the God of love, and having eyes like fish playing in the lake of her face. She had a nose with studs that shone more than the stars, ears with the sun and moon as studs, cheeks which were like the mirror of Padmaraga, beautiful rows of white teeth, and she was chewing thambula with camphor. She had a voice sweeter than the sound emanating from veena of Saraswati, and having such a beautiful smile that Kameswara himself could not take his eyes off her. She was wearing a mangala sutra and necklaces, with beautiful breasts which were capable of buying the invaluable love of Kameswara, having wisps of beautiful hair raising from her belly, her stomach having three pretty folds, and she was wearing red silk tied with a string with red bells. She had thighs which steal the heart of Kameswara, knees which looked like crowns made of precious gems, voluptuous legs, upper part of the feet resembling the backs of tortoises, feet which resembled lamps made of gems which could dispel worries from the mind of devotees and a body with the golden red color. She was given in marriage to Kameswara and made to stay in Nagara at the top of Maha Meru Mountain.

Nagara[edit]

Nagara has 25 streets circling it, made of iron, steel, copper, and lead. An alloy made of five metals, silver, gold, the white stone (pushpa raga), the red stone (padmaraga), onyx, diamond, vaidurya, indranila (topaz), pearl, marakatha, coral, nine gems and a mixture of gems and precious stones. In the eighth street is a forest of kadambas. This is presided by Syamala. On the fifteenth street lives the eight directional guardian deities. In the sixteenth lives Varahi (alias Dandini) who was her commander in chief. Here Syamala also has a house. In the seventeenth street live the different Yoginis. In the eighteenth street lives Maha Vishnu. In the nineteenth street lives Esana, in the twentieth Tara Devi, twenty first Varuni, the twenty second Kurukulla who presides over the fort of pride, twenty third Marthanda Bhairava, twenty fourth the moon and twenty fifth Manmatha presiding over the forest of love.

Center of Nagara[edit]

In the center of Nagara is the Maha Padma Vana (the great lotus forest) and within it the Chintamani Griha (The house of holy thought), in the north east is the Chid agni kunda and on both sides of its eastern gate are the houses of Manthrini and Dhandini. On its four gates stand the Chaduramnaya gods for watch and ward. Within it is the chakra. In the center of the Chakra on the throne of Pancha brahmas on the Bindu Peeta (dot plank) called sarvanandamaya (universal happiness) sits Maha Tripura Sundari. In the chakra are the following decorations viz., the square called Trilokya mohanam (most beautiful in the three worlds), The sixteen petaled lotus called Sarvasa paripoorakam (fulfill-er of all desires), the eight petaled lotus called Sarvasamksopanam (the all cleanser), the sixteen cornered figure called Sarva sowbagyam (all luck), the external ten cornered figure called Sarvartha sadhakam (giver of all assets), the internal ten cornered figure called Sarva raksha karam (All protector), the eight cornered figure called Sarva roga haram (cure of all diseases), the triangle called Sarva siddhi pradam (giver of all powers) and the dot called Sarvananda mayam (all pleasures).

Bhandasura[edit]

The depiction of Lalita

The devas prayed to her to kill Bhandasura. When she started for the war with Bandasura, she was accompanied by the powers called anima, mahima, Brahmi, Kaumari, Vaishnavi, Varahi, Mahendri, Chamundi, Maha Lakshmi, Nitya Devaths and Avarna Devathas who occupy the chakra. While Sampatkari was the captain of the elephant regiment, Aswarooda was the captain of the cavalry. The army was commanded by Dhandini riding on the chariot called Giri Chakra assisted by Manthrini riding on the chariot called Geya Chakra. Jwala malini protected the army by creating a fire ring around it. Para Shakthi rode in the center on the chariot of Chakra. Nithya destroyed a large chunk of Bandasura’s armies, Bala killed the son of Bandasura, and Manthrini and Dhandini killed his brothers called Vishanga and Vishukra. When the asuras created a blockade for the marching army, Tripura sundari created Ganesha by a mere glance of Kameshwara’s face remove the blockade. Then Bandasura created the asuras called Hiranyaksha, Hiranya Kasipu and Ravana. The devi created the ten avatars of Vishnu and destroyed them. She killed all his army using Paashupathastra and killed him with Kameshwarasthra. The gods then praised her. She then recreated Manmatha for the good of the world. This story is contained in the first 84 names of the first 34 slokas of Lalitha sahasranama. All together it contains one thousand names. This is also called the Rahasya Nama Sahasra (the thousand secret names). Reading it, meditating on the meaning of the names would lead to the fulfillment of all the wishes of the devotees.

Structure[edit]

The slokas are organized in such a way that Devi is described from "Head to Feet" (Kesadhi Padham).There are basically five works of God (pancha krtyam). They are creation (srishti), protection (sthiti), destruction (samhAram), hiding (thirOdhAnam) and blessing (anugraham). Devi herself has been described as "pancha krtya parAyanA" in the sloka and the five tasks are described as follows:

This means Devi is the aspect of Brahma, while creating srishti, aspect of Vishnu while sustaining sthiti, aspect of Rudra during dissolution samhara, aspect of Ishwara while concealing ”thirodana”, and aspect of Sadashiva while blessing.

These five entities (Brahmma, Vishnu, Rudra, Isvara and Sadashiva) are known as "pancha-brahma" and also “pancha-pretha”. Lalitha has designated the five functions to these brahman(s). Sometimes, Devi will take away the life from these five brahmam and make them inactive, performing all the five tasks herself. At that time they will be called "pancha pretam" that is lifeless bodies.

Now the first three slokas are: Srimata, the (great mother) Srishti; Sri Maharajni the (great ruler) Sthithi; Srimat Simhasaneswari the (one who sits on the simhasanam and manages) Samharam. Here there is no direct reference to samharam. Managing here includes creating balance between birth and death.

The rest of the slokas cover thirodhanam and anugraham.

Now the next namas - "chidhagnikunda sambhutha devakarya samudhyatha" tells us that devi arose from the fire of knowledge to help devas in their task (war against asuras - bhandasura).

From the namAa- Udhyath bhanu sahasraba till sinjanamani manjeera manditha sree padambuja, all her parts like her face, fore head, eyes, mouth, tongue, voice, hands, hip, legs have been described.

Thereafter, Devi's place (Chintamani gruham), her war against bandasura, kundalini shakti, her properties (such as who can reach her and who cannot, etc.) have been described.

The General picture of the Goddess depicts a Parrot and a Sugarcane stick with her. Sugarcane represents the sweetness of her mind.[4]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Dalal, Roshen (2010). The Religions of India: A Concise Guide to Nine Major Faiths. Penguin Books India. p. 207. ISBN 978-0-14-341517-6.
  2. ^ Venkatasubramanian, Krishnaswamy (1999). The Spectrum: festschrift, essays in honor of Dr. K. Venkatasubramanian. Variant Communications. p. 343.
  3. ^ Deshpande, Madhusudan Narhar (1986). The Caves of Panhāle-Kājī, Ancient Pranālaka: An Art Historical Study of Transition from Hinayana, Tantric Vajrayana to Nath Sampradāya (third to Fourteenth Century A.D.). Archaeological Survey of India, Government of India. p. 108.
  4. ^ Tripura Sundari

Further reading[edit]

  • S.K. Ramachandara Rao, Lalitaarchana-Chandrika, Hymns to Lalita, Form of Tripurasundari, Delhi: Devine Books, (Lala Murari Lal Chharia Oriental Series.) ISBN 978-93-81218-45-7
  • V. R. Prabodhachandran Nayar's reader-friendly annotations of Lalithaasahasranaamam, "Kaithiri" published by Thunchan SmarakaSamithi, Trivandrum in 2011, offers word-by-word meaning of the Sanskrit scripts.

External links[edit]