One chant of Devi that enjoys rockstar status is the Mahishasura Mardini Stotram. The twenty-one verses of this hymn are poetic and rhythmic. Tradition has attributed this chant to Sage Adi Shankaracharya. Despite its popularity and attributions, there’s still some ambiguity surrounding it.
The Legend of Mahisha Asura
The buffalo-like demon Mahisha Asura lusted upon an enchanting form of Devi. For his lewd and derogatory attitude towards women, Devi Maha Lakshmi slaughtered him. After that, the Divine Mother came to be known as Mahishasura Mardini, the slayer of Mahisha Asura. That’s a famous story from the Devi Mahatmyam. That text is also known as Durga Saptashati and Chandi Paath.
On the surface, the Puranic stories of Devi appear to be a series of never-ending battles. Still, they carry profound meanings. In the path of self-transformation, a spiritual seeker comes across many inner conflicts. The Devi Mahatmyam, a part of the Markandeya Purana, dramatizes these internal struggles.
Esoteric Meaning of Mahisha Asura
In the ancient Vedic scriptures, the Devas and Asuras represented the good and the evil. By the time of Itihasa like Mahabharata, the Devas and Asuras became actual clans of people. Presently, the Devas and Asuras have gone back to representing good and evil.
Keeping that in view, the Asura named Mahisha is a forceful demon. He denotes all forms of internal aggression. Of those, lust and anger are primary. The strength of our inner turbulence is immense, like a buffalo. When Mahisha Asura overpowers us, our reasoning takes a backseat.
Why conquer Mahisha Asura?
Uncontrolled anger and overindulgence in lust affect our physical health. According to Ayurveda, these cause imbalances in our body’s energy flows. In the long run, these irregularities show up as many diseases. These include disorders of the stomach, bladder, uterus, and testicles. Further, it causes ailments like diabetes and accelerates the aging process as well.
Also, the Yogic texts suggest that lust and anger are simply energies. So, if we could find a way to harness these, we can experience rapid spiritual growth. Hence, the sages advised us to remove our anger and reserve our lust purely for procreation.
Willpower and Mindfulness
We may know the perils of internal aggression. Still, how do we remove these from our system?
The answer to that is in the story of Mahisha Asura. Just like Devi destroys Mahisha mercilessly, we must brutally murder lust and anger! In other words, we’ve to exercise the brute force of willpower.
Even so, willpower is a limited resource. In order to sustain the power of our will for longer, we must build mindfulness. Specifically, developing the ability to drop a thought at will helps. When that becomes a habit, we can accomplish a lot with just a fraction of our willpower.
Just like everything else, lust and anger are merely thoughts. All thoughts are like fire. One spark gone haywire can cause a massive wildfire. When we’re mindful, we can extinguish that spark as soon as it arises.
In addition to building mindfulness, there’s another ingredient to overcome lust and anger. That’s where the magic of Devi Lakshmi helps.
In Sanskrit, Laksha means target or aim. Derived from that, Lakshmi denotes our worldly goals. In general, our life becomes meaningful when we pursue something worthwhile. It could be anything – performing arts, writing blogs, pursuing a career, or building a business. Whatever it is, working towards some purpose helps us remain motivated.
Now, how does having a purpose subdue Mahisha Asura? Our thoughts are sparks of creative energies. Lust, anger, and other forms of internal aggression are misdirected creative energies. When we find a progressive outlet for our creativity, we can observe our lust and anger diminish.
Devi Maha Lakshmi
Pursuing some purpose can channelize our creative energies. Adding mindfulness to that can significantly diminish our internal aggression. Still, those aren’t enough to annihilate Mahisha Asura. For that, we need Devi Maha Lakshmi.
Lakshmi denotes our worldly purposes. Maha Lakshmi represents our Greater Purpose. From experience, the ancient saints identified the greatest goal of any human being. That is to recognize the Divine in us.
In other words, working towards discovering our divinity is seeking Maha Lakshmi. That includes raising above conditioning and self-purification from insecurities and afflictions. When we walk the path sincerely, we will experience the Divine within. As a result, we radiate unconditional love.
Where there is unconditional love, there is no lust or anger. Those are inversely proportional. Such a seeker who emits unconditional love is worthy of worship! Hence, the Mahishasura Mardini form of Devi is highly revered.
In short, we can’t flick a switch and expect lust and anger to disappear! Even if we succeed in controlling its external expression, it may remain bottled up within us. So, we must attack Mahisha Asura from various angles. It is an organic step-by-step process.
Further, when devotion gets added into the mix, our progress skyrockets. In this, the Mahishasura Mardini Stotram is a great tool to invoke the Divine Mother. It helps strengthen our faith. Also, the complex word formation in this chant assists in building mindfulness.
Currently, there are two main versions of the Mahishasura Mardini Stotram. We can recite any version to build mindfulness and devotion. Even so, mantras are a lot more than that. These chants have a subtle effect on our subconscious mind. Hence, it helps to get some basic information about the hymns before chanting them.
The most common version of this hymn is credited to Ramakrishna Kavi. Scholars suggest that this is the same person known as Tenali Rama. An ardent devotee of Devi, he was famous for his wit and wisdom. He lived in the Vijayanagar empire of King Krishnadeva Raya. The Mahishasura Mardini Stotram is part of his work tilted Bhagavati Paadya Pushpanjali Stotram.
Another version of this Stotram is Sri Sankata Stuti. Its author is unknown. Though, the rich language of this hymn points towards Adi Shankaracharya. Based on my understanding, my confidant Om Swami, an expert in mantra science, chants the Sri Sankata Stuti.
The Final Word
To sum up, there are five key ingredients to eliminating Mahisha Asura. Those are:
- Using our willpower.
- Building the ability to drop a thought at will.
- Redirecting our creative energies towards some cause.
- Pursuing self-transformation.
- Building devotion to speed up self-transformation.
Mindful chanting of Mahishasura Mardini Stotram aids with that process. Finally, we perceive the Divine in us and radiate unconditional love. At that point, when we’ve destroyed Mahisha Asura, we feel tranquil like Mahishasura Mardini herself!
Note: Sri Sankata Stuti is relatively rare to find online. So, I’ve created my rendition of the same. Please note that I’m not a professional vocalist! This video is for educational purposes. You can find it on my YouTube Channel: Sri Devi Om.
Here’s a direct link to the video: