A Peep into the Candi Text
BY: RAJKISHORE MISHRA
Shesha-shayi Vishnu, Madhu-Kaitabha and Adishakti
Feb 17, INDIA (SUN) Saptasati Chandi.
Sri Candi is not exclusively a single independent treatise, rather it is a portion of the Markandeya Mahapurana. To be precise, it contains the narrations described in the 81st to 93rd chapters of the said text. In the Markandeya Mahapurana, this portion is otherwise known as Devi Mahatmya or Saptasati as it comprises seven hundred mantras.
Narration of Prodigious Birds
Once sage Jaimini (the author of Mimansasutras and the disciple of Vedavyasa) approached Markandeya Rsi to get some intricate questions raised in the Mahabharat clarified. Since Markandeya was otherwise busy he advised Jaimini to approach the erudite sons of Dronamuni -- Pingaksa, Viradha, Suputra and Sumukha -- who were then transformed to birds on account of A paternal curse. They were perching in a cave-habitat on the Vindhya mount. When approached, they clarified all doubts of Jaimini. Being glad, Jaimini further asked the bird-shaped sons of Dronamuni about the 14th manvantara. In reply, the birds reiterated what they had heard in the past when sage Markandeya was enlightening Kraustuki (or Bhaguri), the son of a brahmin.
Savarni and the 8th Manvantara
The sage Markandeya first told Kraustiki about the seven manvantaras, i.e. Svayambhuva, Svarocisa, Uttama, Tamasa, Raivata, Caksusa and Vaivasvata. Being further asked, Markandeya enlightened Kraustiki about the evolution of the eighth Manu Savarni. Savarni was son to Savarna and Surya who later became sovereign in the 8th manvantara (a period spanning over 4320,000 solar years).
Earlier in the second manvantara (i.e. during the regime of Svarocisa), Maharaja Suratha, who was born in Caitra clan, was a great devotee of Candi. By her grace, he was blest to be born a Manu in the eighth Savarnika manvantara. This episode and the stories relating to the slaying of Madhu-Kaitabha, Mahisasura and Sumbha-Nisumbha form the corpus of the Candi, running over 13 chapters.
Medhas Narrates Before Suratha
Back in the hoary past, it was Medhas Muni who narrated the glories of the Devi before the king Suratha, who was in the company of a merchant named Samadhi. Markandeya knew this. So he narrated it before Kraustiki (alias Bhaguri). The bird-shaped sons of Dronamuni who were privileged to hear this now narrated the same before the sage Jaimini.
Devi Mahatmya in Other Texts
This Devi Mahatmya, as described in the Markandeya Purana, also finds a place in other Puranas, either in clipped or extended formats. The episode of Maharaja Surath finds mention in chapters 32, 34, 35 of the 5th canto and in the 10th chapter of the 10th canto of Devi Bhagavat. It is also narrated in 61-64 chapters (Prakrtikhanda) of Brahama Vaivartta Purana (said to predate Markandeya Purana).
The slaying of Madhu-Kaitabh finds mention in the 6th-9th chapters and 11th chapter of the 10th canto of Devi Bhagavat. Besides, it is also mentioned in the 72nd chapter of the Uttara kanda of the Ramayana and in the 347th chapter of the Santi Pava of the Mahabharat. So also the mention of Mahisasura's death is mentioned in the Devi Bhagavat (5/2- 20, 10/12), in Vamana Purana (ch. 17-30) and in Skanda Purana (Ch. 83, Prabhas Khanda, ch. 36 Arbuda Khanda, ch 67 Brahmakhanda and chs. 119-121, Nagara Khanda). The death of Sumbha-Nisumbha is reflected in Devi Bhagavat (5/21-31), Vamana Purana (Ch 55 & 56) and in Skanda Purana (Arbuda-24).
Saptasati with Technical Divisions
Sri Candi is otherwise known as Saptasatistava, which apparently means that it comprises 700 verses (slokas), but in fact, it contains only 518 slokas which are spread over 100 mantras. Tantracarya Bhaskar Ray, alias Bhasurananda Nath of Tanjore, in the 17th C. has made a clear-cut division of Saptasati Candi as per the following:
1. Slokatmaka(verse-oriented) Mantra - 537
2. Ardhaslokatmaka (half-verse) -do- - 38
3. Tripad (three-lined ones) -do- - 66
4. Uvaca (Thus said) -do- 57
5. Punarukta (Said again) -do- 2 700
Three Primal Manifestations of Candi
The Candi treatise is divided into three segments. The first segment or Prathama carita refers to the 1st chapter, the second segment or Madhyama carita refers to the whole of 2, 3 and 4 chapters whereas the third segment or Uttama carita refers to the narrations starting from the 5th to the conclusive 13th chapter. Three deities, i.e., Mahakali (or Yoganidra who was instrumental in slaying the demons Madhu and Kaitabha by Narayana), Mahalaksmi (a unique deity who was recipient of all valour and glamour of the demigods and who crushed the fierce demon Mahisasura) and Maha Sarasvati (who sprung from the body of Gauri to kill Sumbha and Nisumbha) are verily the primordial forms of Candi as described in the above-mentioned segments.
Mahakali presents a fierceful dark figure with ten faces, ten hands and twenty eyes. She holds in her hands a sword, arrow, mace, club, conch, disc, an iron bar, a fire arm, a clubshaped bludgeon etc and a bleeding human skull. She embodies the tamas attribute of Sri Candi.
Mahalaksmi is of myriad colours as she is the recipient of multiple hue from numerous demigods and divinities. Her face is white, here hands are blue, and her feet are crimson. She is eighteen-armed, and carries in her hands a japamala, lotus, arrow, sword, thunder-bolt, mace, disc, trident, conch, gong, noose, spear, drinking vessel and a kamandalu. She embodies the rajas attribute of Sri Candi. she confers on her devotee great erudition (esa sampujita bhaktya sarvajnatvam prayachhati).
Maha Saraswati is eight-armed, and she embodies the sattvik aspect of Sri Candi. She holds in her hands an arrow, a club, a pestle, conch, disc, gong, a plough and an arch, etc. She confers wisdom on her devotee.
Efficaciousness of Candi
Obligatory Prelude to Candi Patha Before reciting the Candi text one should bear in mind that the Rg Veda (125th hymn of Xth mandala) contains the essence of the Mother Spirit. The famous hymn therein is known as Devi Sukta or Vak Sukta, expressed through a woman-seer named Vak, daughter of Maharsi Ambhruna. This Devi Sukta is the gateway to the Candi text.
It has also been prescribed that a dedicated devout should, before the commencement of reading of Candi, read Argala Stotra, Kilaka Stava and Devi Kavaca in a sequential order. Argala is a door-closing device. One should unhook it for smooth passage. It contains 27 couplets. Soon after reading out the Argala one should concentrate on the Kilak Stava.
The Kilaka is another device for obstruction. It is a curse levied by Mahadeva on the Candi text so that no layman can have access to Candi for selfish purposes. The Kilaka Stava contains 16 couplets. The Devi Kavaca then follows it. Kavaca means a shield. By reading this, a devotee shields both his mind and body for an unimpeded journey in life.
So many divinities, including nine forms of Durga, seven Matrkas, ten Dikpalas, etc., are invoked in this stava to make the devotee invincible and inviolable and worthy of studying the Candi text.
Japet saptasati candim krtva kavacamaditah
Nirvighnena bhavet siddhiscandijapa - samudbhava
This kavaca authored by Hariharabrahma contains sixty couplets. After reading out all these and complying with all instructions therein, one should commence on reading the Candi text with profound concentration.
1. Chakravartty Rasmohan, Sri Candi, published by M. Bhattacharya & Co., Calcutta, 1360 (Bengali Year). Shri Raj Kishore Mishra former Secretary Orissa Sahitya Akademi lives at N1/A-27, IRC Village, Nayapalli, Bhubaneswar.