This Suktam is from Rig Veda. The Rig Veda is accorded primacy among the four Vedas. So it is possibly the first hymn or prayer to the eternal Divine Mother Kali revealed in the Vedas for the benefit of all mankind. Darkness of the night can be an enemy; it is also symbolic of ignorance. Ratri Suktam invokes Devi for removing Avidya-ignorance and inner nocturnal enemies such as sleeplessness, lust etc. Ratri in the Rig Veda Samhita 10.127 is one and the same Supreme Absolute Brahman in the Tantras from Devi Mahatmyam.
HYMN OF THE NIGHT: This hymn from the Rig-Veda, the world's most ancient book is the Ratri sukta. The word ratri-night is derived from the root ‘ra’ which means ‘to give’ implying that Mother is the giver of bliss, of peace of happiness. The Vedic Sukta notes two types of nights experienced by mortal beings and the other by divine beings. In the former all ephemeral activity comes to a standstill, while in the latter the activity of divinity also comes to rest. Kala means time. This absolute night is the night of destruction, the power of kala. And Mother Kali derives her name from this word.
Therefore she is the timeless night for both ordinary mortals and for divine beings. Just like those from the animal kingdom, at night we nestle in happiness like birds in their nests. Man all over, “the village dwellers, their theirs cows and horses, the birds of the air, men who travel on many a business, and jackals and wild beasts, all welcome the night and joyfully nestle in her; for to all beings misguided by the journey of the day she brings calm and happiness, just as a mother would”.
TANTRIK RATRI SUKTAM: The hymn in the first chapter of Devi Mahatmyam is the Tantrik Ratri Sukta. Bhaktas either chant Vedic or Tantrik Ratri Suktam. This depends if the ritual is Vaidic or Tantrik. Ratri Suktam is also the 5th Chapter in Purva Bhaga of Devi Mahatmyam. It is also known as Vanadurga Suktam. Pauranika Ratri Suktam a slection of Devi Stuti from Chapter 1 of Devi Mahatmyam is chanted in lieu of Ratri Suktam.
DEVI MAHATMYAM: Literally means ‘Glory of the Goddess.’ Is also known as Durga Saptashati and Chandi. It describes the glory of Mother Parashakti in the form of Chandika, the terrible. Devi Mahatmyam is found in one of the Mahapuranas, the Markandeya Purana. It consists of 700 slokas and considered to be the gem of Markandeya Purana, just as the 700 slokas of Gita are the gems of Mahabaratha.
Then one has Lalita Sahasranamam which describes the victory of the Goddess over Bhandasura while Devi Mahatmyam describes the victory of the Goddess over the Asuras. So, it can be said that Chapters 81-93 of the Markandeya Purana which constitute Devi Mahatmyam is not merely part of the Purana but has an intrinsic independent status by itself. In other words it does not derive its significance from its Puranic background but is a full-fledged scricpture by itself.
Like the god Rudra, Goddess Devi too has two forms – a malevolent form and another the benevolent form. In her terrible form, She destroys the evil demons. However in Her destruction, there is also the light of resplendent regeneration also. Thus She is also the resplendent and benevolent Mother of the Universe. Devi Mahatmyam describes the story of Parashakti conquering the Asuras, evil forces such as Madhu, Kaitabha, Mahishasura, Dhumralochana, Chanda, Munda, Raktabija, Nishumbha and Shumbha.
PRADHAMA CARITRA STORY. Mahatmyam was revealed by Sage Vasishta to King Surata. It is the story of two unlucky losers who meet in the forest taking place at the end of seventh Manvantara. Surata reaches Vasishta’s hermitage in a depressed state.
He had lost his kingdom to his enemies; his army went against him and his Ministers and own people empty the treasury. He got on a horseback and rode alone into dense forest to reach the hermitage of the sage Medhas. The hermitage is inhabited by wild animals tamed for their ferocity. Medhas’ disciples grace him and he spends some time. Then again he still has deep attachment to what he had lost, especially his royal elephant which Surata’s worries about its treatment in enemy hands.
More or less at the same time, a merchant by the name of Samadhi also reaches the hermitage. Surata sees his afflicted with grief and depressed in mind and enquires why so. Samadhi tells the king of unworthy sons and wife, through greed of wealth, scooted off. His wealth has been misappropriated. His trusted kinsmen cast him out and he had come to the forest, grief stricken also. He is depressed also but still worries about his wealth and family. King Surata, asks Samadhi, as if questioning himself, “why is your mind affectionately attached to those covetous folks, your sins, wife and others, who have deprived your wealth”. Samadhi replies, also as if he is replying for both “this very though has occurred to me, just as you have uttered it....but what can I do? I am unable to detach my mind which bears deep affection to those persons who have driven me out,,,I do not comprehend how the mind is prone to love even towards worthless kinsmen; what can I do since my mind does not become harsh towards those unloving ones?”
Both of them then approached Medhas. Medhas means ‘intelligence or wisdom’. In Tamil ‘medhavi’ means wise man. Medhas is addressed the issue of Moha-attachment despite being abandoned by subjects and family. Medhas does not start advising them directly; Surata and Samadhi’s predicaments are addressed indirectly as a wise counsellor would do so. Knowledge, intelligence and wisdom are not merely intellectual but intuitive and insightful. For a start Medhas replied: “Sir, every being has the knowledge of objects
So Vasishta, in the name of Medhas, explains that humans fall prey to their senses, desires and attachments due to the hide and seek games of Maha Maya. The entire universe is bound by Maha Maya, the Great Delusion, who is the Yoga Nidra form of Maha Vishnu, he explains. His narration of the glory of Maha Maya is Devi Mahatmyam organised into 13 chapters on 3 sections.
The First section, the Prathama Charitram describes the story of Parashakti conquering Madhu Kaitabha. In this section Parashakti is attributed in the form of Maha Kali. The second section, the Madhyama Charitram, describes the story of Parashakti conquering Mahishasura and his army. In this second section, Parashakti is attributed in the form of Maha Lakshmi. The third section, the Uttama Charitram describes the story of Parashakti conquering Dhumralochana, Chanda, Munda, Raktabjia, Nishumbha and Sumbha. In this third section, Parashakti is attributed in the form of Maha Saraswati.
CHANTING: Mahatmyam is said to be a highly occult text and it is widely held that only those with inner eyes will perceive the hidden truths; other know not. It is said that Markandeya the seer of this myth had seen the ever existent glory of the goddess with the inner eye. Opinions vary as the chanting of Devi Mahatmyam. One states that it must not be chanted unless one is initiated by a guru and that one is to have completed Chandi Navakshari Japam for 9 lakh times before chanting Devi Mahatmyam.
But in the Bhakti path, there are lesser restrictions. Devi Mahatmyam is available to all for self-purification, self-improvement and a pure bhakta has overriding reasons for chanting. The relationship with Mother Goddess is a personal one and it would be within Her not to deny her children anything. Then again it is always advisable to get some guidance as half-knowledge is no knowledge.
In Shaktam, Mother Goddess worship, the feminine is at the centre stage. The Goddess is worshipped by all irrespective of any distinction. The Divine Mother is synonymous with Shakti, the unifying force of existence. Shakti is the Power of creation, sustenance and transformation; the inherent Power of the Supreme Divine. Since the Power of Energy cannot be worshipped in its essential nature, it is worshipped through various symbolic manifestation that symbolise Shakti. Therefore, in one way or other, all beings in the universe are Shakti worshippers, for there is no one who does not love power or energy in one form or the other.
PURVA BHAGA: There are 6 chapters in Purva Bhaga: Parayana Kramam, Devi Kavacham, Argala Stotram, Kilaka Stotram, Ratri Suktam and Navakshari Nivechanam. There is usually a sequence in the chanting of the mantras in these chapters.
BIJA MANTRA: Brahma Vidya is the knowledge of Brahman while Sri Vidya is the knowledge of Mother Goddess. Paramatman is represented through the Pranava Om in Brahma Vidya. Mother Goddess is represented by the seed sound ‘Hrim’ in Sri Vidya. This bija-seed mantra is called Maya Bijam or Bhuvaneshvari Bujam.
RIG VEDA 10:127:1-8.
Om. raatree vyakhyadaayatee purutraa devyakshabhih
vishvaa adhi shriyo (1)
Om. O Divine Mother Ratri (Kaali), may you, who are the original primordial darkness, both the source and Final destination of all, omnipresent, controller of bondage and liberation alike, come forth to save us — may your presence, effulgent, right within us, be awakened now through spiritual realization. Auspicious protectress of all, you see and pervade your entire creation, reigning everywhere, over everything, in all your glory.
orvapraa amartyaa nivato devyudvatah
jyotishaaba adhate tamah (2)
Eternal divine mother, you ﬁll the vast celestial regions, and the earth. May you dispel all the ignorance of our embodied souls through your divine effulgence, the light of Truth.
niru svasaaramaskritoshasam devyaayatee
apedu haasate tamah (3)
Divine Mother, you alone can bring forth the dawn of the highest liberating knowledge to dispel all the darkness of our ignorance.
saa no adya yasyaa vayam ni te yaamannavikshmahi
vrikshe na vasatim vayah (4)
May you compassionately give us refuge from your own as‐if‐endless movements, bringing us home instead to rest in you, just as at nigh me, a bird re‐enters its nest upon a tree.
ni graamaaso avikshata ni padvanto ni pakshinah
ni shyenaasashchidarthinah (5)
For all of humankind, for animals who traverse by foot, and for birds who ﬂy in the air — even for the ambitious hawk — your rest, liberation, is the only true object, of our desperate search.
yaavayaa vrikyam vrikam yavaya stenamoormye
athaa nah sutaraa bhava (6)
Drive away the she‐wolves of confusion and the he‐wolves of egotism, the thieves — hunger, thirst, delusion, grief, decay, and death. Then, certainly, we will cross safely, to the other side.
upa maa pepisha amah krishnam vyaktamasthita
usha rineva yaataya (7)
Divine Mother, do not subject us anymore to this dark ignorance that has enveloped us. Please forgive our many debts, and come to us now instead as the dawning light.
upa te gaa ivaakaram vrineeshva duhitardivah
raatri stomam na jigyushe (8)
O Divine Mother Ratri (Kaali), expression of the heavens — you are the milk‐giving cow, the source of Illumination. Please accept this, our prayer to You — and grant us Victory!
TANTROKTAM RATRISUKTAM : Praise of the Goddess Night Revealed in the Tantra, from the Devi Mahatmyam of Markendeya Purana.
Om Viśveśvarīṃ jagadhātrīṃ sthitisamhārakārinīṃ
Nidrāṃ Bhagavatīṃ Viṣṇoratulāṃ tejasaḥ prabhuḥ (1)
I worship the Goddess controlling this universe, the support of this world, maintainer and destroyer. The beneficial sleep, the incomparable splendor and authority of Vishnu.
Tvaṃ Svāhā tvaṃ Svadhā tvaṃ hi vaṣaṭkāraḥ svarātmikā; Sudhā tvamakṣare nitye tridhā mātrātmikā sthitā (2)
O Devi, you are Svaha, Svadha, Vashatkar. The Svara are a form of yours only. You are the nectar giving life. You are present in the form of the three matras A, U and M of the indestructible syllable AUM.
Ardhamātrāsthitā nityā yānuccāryā viśeṣataḥ
Tvameva sandhyā sāvitrī tvaṃ devī jananī parā (3)
You are the unpronounceable half matra at the end of AUM. You are Sandhya, Savitri, O Devi, you are the original Mother.
Tvayai tadhāryate viśvaṃ tvayai tat sṛjyate jagat
Tvayaitat pālyate devi tvamatsyante ca sarvadā (4)
You are supporting this Universe, you create this World, you sustain this World. At the end of the Universe, you absorb everything in yourself.
Visṛṣṭau sṛṣṭi rūpā tvam sthiti rūpā ca pālane
Tathā saṃhṛti rūpānte jagato’sya jaganmaye (5)
At the time of generation of this World you are Srushti – the Creation, while the world continues to exist you are Sthiti – its stability, and at the time of Dissolution you are Samhriti – the Destroyer.
Mahāvidyā mahāmāyā mahāmedhā mahāsmṛtiḥ
Mahāmohā ca bhavatī Mahādevī Mahāsurī.(6)
You are the ultimate knowledge, illusion, intelligence, memory, ignorance, goddess and controller.
Prakṛtis tvaṃ ca sarvasya guṇa traya vibhāvinī
Kālarātrir Mahārātrir Moharātriśca dāruṇā (7)
You are the Prakriti – the Fundamental material – which creates the three Gunas – the properties. You are three kinds of Night – Time, the Fundamental and Ignorance.
Tvaṃ Śrīs tvam Īśvarī tvaṃ Hrīstvaṃ buddhir bodha lakṣaṇā
Lajjā puṣṭistathā tuṣṭis tvaṃ śāntiḥ kṣāntireva ca (8)
You are Shri – the Wealth, Ishvari – the controller, Hri – modesty, and intelligence in the form of perceptions. You are bashfulness, enrichment, satisfaction, peace and forgiveness.
Khaṅginī śūlinī ghorā gadinī cakriṇī tathā
Śaṅkhinī cāpinī bāṇa bhuśuṇḍī paridhāyudhā (9)
You have these different forms of representations.
Saumyā saumya tarā śeṣa saumyebhyastvati sundarī
Parāparāṇāṃ paramā tvameva Parameśvarī (10)
You are beauty and more beauty. You are most beautiful amongst all the Saumya things. You are Parameshvari, the Supreme Goddess, beyond the things near and far.
Yacca kiñcit kvacidvastu sadasadvākhilātmike
Tasya sarvasya yā śaktiḥ sā tvaṃ kiṃ stūyase tadā (11)
Om Omnipresent Devi, whatever things are really there or not there, and whatever is their ability, you are verily that. Under this condition, how can we prayer to you?
Yayā tvayā jagat sraṣṭā jagat pātyatti yo jagat
So-pi nidrā vaśaṃ nitaḥ kastvāṃ stotumiheśvaraḥ (12)
You have put to sleep even Vishnu, who creates, maintains and destroys this World, under that condition, who is able to pray to you.
Viṣṇuḥ śarira grahaṇa Mahamīśāna eva ca
Kāritāste yato’tastvāṃ kaḥ stotuṃ śaktimān bhavet (13)
You have given a body (or a form) to myself, Lord Vishnu and Lord Mahadeva, so who has the ability to pray to you?
Sā tvamitthaṃ prabhāvaiḥ svairudārair devi samstutā
Mohayaitau durādharṣā vasurau madhu kaiṭabhau (14)
O Devi, you are praised due to your beneficial abilities. Please put these Asuras, Madhu and Kaitabha, difficult to battle with, under your spell.
Pradbodhaṃ ca jagat svāmī nīyatā macyuto laghu
Bodhaśca kriya tāmasya hantu metau mahāsurau (15)
Please awaken Vishnu and inspire him to destroy these two mighty demons (representing name and form).
Om Namaś Chaṇḍikāyai. Om, I bow to the Goddess Chaṇḍikā.
Hara Hara Mahadeva.
(draft Gods, Goddesses, Minor Deities and Sages)
By Yogi Ananda Saraswathi... copyrighted material