Worship of the Divine Mother or Goddess worship is one of the six streams of Devotion. Known by the name of Shaktism or Shakti worship, it has been practiced by various saints. Devi Mahatmayam mantra occurs in the Markandeya Purana, one of the 18 puranas compiled by Sage Veda Vyasa. It is one of the authoritative texts of Shaktism and Mantra Shastra.
The main text of the Devi Mahatmayam contains 700 mantras. The preliminary mantras are
This method of chanting is called as Navanga parayanam since there are nine preliminary stotras to be chanted before chanting the Saptashati. Then Vedic or tantric Ratri Suktam is chanted. It is followed by the Durga Saptashati chapters. The Uttaranga Mantras are Tantric or Vedic Devi Sooktam,Rahasya Trayam(Pradhana Rahasyam,Vaikritika Rahasyam,Murti Rahasyam),Aparadha Kshamapana Stotram.
The Navakshari Mantra ( 9 lettered mantra on Goddess Chandi who is the very embodiment of Maha Kali , Maha Lakshmi , Maha Saraswathi ) is chanted before and after chanting the saptashati. It has to be chanted after taking Mantra Upadesa of Maha Ganapathy Moola Mantra and Chandi Navakshari Moola Mantra from a Guru.
Devi Mahatmayam is called as sapthasathi since it contains 700 verses(saptha means seven). It is also because seven devis - Bramhi, Maheswari, Vaishnavi , Kaumari, Indrani, Varahi, Chamunda, are worshipped in the mantras.
Goddess Chamunda also represents the 3 Shaktis:
- Icha Shakti ( Power of Will) as Goddess Kali or Durga
- Kriya Shakti (Power of Action) as Goddess Lakshmi
- Gyana Shakti (Power of Knowledge) as Goddess Saraswathi
Devi Mahatmayam contains 13 chapters. The Devi Mahatmyam contains the dialogue between a dispossessed king Suratha, a merchant Samadhi betrayed by his family and a sage named Medhas. The sage instructs by recounting three different epic battles between the Devi and various demonic adversaries.The three tales being governed by, respectively, Maha kali (Chapter 1), Maha Lakshmi (Chapters 2-4) and Maha Saraswathi (Chapters 5-13). By doing upasana of Chandika Parameshwari Devi, the king and the merchant regain back their lost possessions and finally liberation. Each chapter of the Saptashati has a presiding deity as described below:
- Chapter 1 - Madhu Kaitaba Vadham - Sri Maha Kali
- Chapter 2 - Mahishasura Sainya Vadham - Sri Maha Lakshmi
- Chapter 3 - Mahishasura Vadham - Sri Shankari Devi
- Chapter 4 - Chakradhi Stuti - Sri Jaya Durga Devi
- Chapter 5 - Devi Dhoota Samvadham - Sri Maha Saraswathi
- Chapter 6 - Dhoomralochana Vadham - Sri Padmavathi Devi
- Chapter 7 - Chanda Munda Vadham - Sri Raja Mathangi Devi
- Chapter 8 - Raktabeja Vadham - Sri Bhavani Devi
- Chapter 9 - Nishumba Vadham - Sri Ardhambika Devi
- Chapter 10 - Shumbashura Vadham - Sri Kameshwari Devi
- Chapter 11 - Narayani Stuthi - Sri Bhuvaneshwari Devi
- Chapter 12 - Devi Charitha Mahatmyam - Sri Durga Devi
- Chapter 13 - Sri Maha Tripura Sundari Devi