Shakti, the Mother Goddess, is the all-pervading energy principle in the universe. She is the source of delusion and ignorance (maya) whereby beings cannot perceive themselves as eternal souls, or the world as a mere projection or illusion. She is responsible for the modifications in the world, desires and attachments, and evolution of forms.
She has both manifested and unmanifested aspects. In her manifested aspect she executes the will of God to bring forth the material world and beings by differentiating herself into multiple realities and triple attributes (Sattvika, Rajasika and Tamas).
She is known by many names such as Uma, Parvati, Prakriti, Devi, Durga, Chandi, Lalitha, Kali, Isvari, Maheshvari, and so on. She is the eternal consort of Sri Rudra or Lord Shiva as Devi Parvati. She has a variety of expansions as per various shastras. Her expansions comprise Nav Durga, Chausath yoginis, Shodash Matrikas, Dus Mahavidya etc.
Twice in a year, special celebrations and elaborate worship of Devi Durga are done for nine days, called as Navratri. These two Navratri periods fall near spring season (Vasant Navratri - in Shukla paksh of Chaitra month i.e., March – April) and near autumn season (Sharada Navratri - in Shukla paksh of Ashwin month i.e., September – October).
As stated in Argala Stotram (17):
विद्यावन्तं यशस्वन्तं लक्ष्मीवन्तञ्च मां कुरु । रूपं देहि जयं देहि यशो देहि द्विषो जहि ॥ १७॥
O Devi Durga! Kindly bless me with knowledge, fame, wealth, beauty, victory, glory and let me conquer all my enemies.
* Her worship benefits her devotees from all material angles.
* She is the remover of miseries
* She motivates the person to work hard and get a higher position in the terms of material prosperity.
* She blesses her devotees with material psychic powers and siddhis.
* She awards liberation from all sorts of negativities and lack of peace of mind.
* She awards wealth, fame, beauty, recognition, prosperity, progeny, strength, and all sorts of bodily comforts.
Durga Saptashati (also known as Devi Mahatmyam and Chandi Patha) is a religious text which is comprised in Markandeya Purana and Shiva Purana This text consists of 700 verses arranged into 13 chapters. The verses of this text are recited during Navratri celebrations, the Durga Puja festivals, and Durga temples. Durga Saptashati addresses the tale of a battle between good and evil. Ma Durga is the great Warrior Goddess, an embodiment of the lethal energy of divine anger when turned against evil. She conquered the evilest demon in the world – Mahishasura, who took many different forms during the battle with Durga.
There are two methods to start reading Devi Mahatmym – Trayangam and Navangam. Trayangam is a method in which we need to chant three prayers – Devi Kavacham, Argala Stotram and Devi Keelakam followed by Navakshari Mantram. Navangam is a method for which nine prayers are recited prior of starting to read the book. Navangam stotrams are - Devi Nyasa, Devi Avahana, Devi Namani, Argala Stotram, Keelaka Stotram, Devi Hrudaya, Dhala, Devi Dhyana and Devi Kavacha.
The Durga Saptashati is comprised of three Charitras, namely Prathama, Madhyama and Uttama in thirteen chapters. The Prathama Charitra describes the glories of the Divine mother as revealed by a Rishi to a Vaishya and Raja Suratha who prayed to the Rishi to alleviate his problems while roaming about the forest after being abandoned by his kith and kin.
Madhyama Charitra (In the Second), the Avatar of Goddess Mahalakshmi, the slaying of Mahishasura along with his entire army of warriors, Eulogy of the Divine mother by the Gods, and granting of boons to Indra and other Gods by the Divine Mother have been described vividly.
Uttama Charitra (The Third ) describes the slaying of Chanda-Munda and other demons by the Divine mother through her Fiery eye as an answer to the prayer by the Gods who were aggrieved by the pains inflicted by Shumba and other wicked demons, the Avatar of Brahmi, Maheshwari and other divine goddesses from the body of the Divine Mother, the slaying of Raktabija, Nishumbha and Shumbha by the Divine Mother, Eulogy of the Divine Mother by the Gods and her granting wishes to them, worship of the Divine Mother by Suratha and Samadhi, and vision of the pleased Divine mother granted to them, granting of Kingdom to King Suratha and Divine knowledge to the Vaishya.
Each chapter should be read in single sitting. Due to any reason, Parayana is stopped in between a chapter; the whole chapter should be read again.
Sri Durga Saptashati published by Gita press (Gorakhpur) has lucidly explained the methodology of its worship. The sequence of worship is – Ath Saptshaloki, Sri Durga ashtotarshatnam Strotam, Kavacham, Argala Strotam, Keelkam, Vedic ratri suktam, Tantric ratri suktam, Sri devythvarshersham, Navarn vidhi, Saptshati nayasa, thirteen chapters of Durga Saptashati, Shama Prayer etc.
Each chapter of Durga Saptashati corresponds to the hurdles in the journey of self-realization.
In coming days, various parts of Durga Saptashati shall be published. Also see articles already published on Navratri on the website.