The Devi Gita: Chapter Eight
(HIMALAYA ASKS ABOUT IMPORTANT PILGRIMAGE SITES, RITES AND FESTIVALS OF THE GODDESS: SHE RESPONDS BY STRESSING HER ALL PERVASIVE NATURE)
O Ruler of the Gods, what scared dwelling places here on earth should one see? Which ones are preeminent, purifying, and most pleasing to the Goddess?
What rites provide satisfaction, and also what festivals?
Tell me all about these matters, Mother, where by a person becomes completely fulfilled.
The Goddess spoke:
Every site is my dwelling place is worth seeing, all moments are fit for observing rites, and festivals may be held on any occasion, for I pervade all times and places.
Yet loving my devotees as I do, I shall be more specific. Listen attentively to my words, Mountain King.
(THE GODDESS COMMENCES TO ENUMERATE HER SACRED DWELLING PLACES AND THE NAMES OF THE GODDESSES ASSOCIATED WITH THEM)
Kolapuram is a great dwelling place, where Lakshmi ever lives. Matrpuram is a second prime abode, where Renuka resides.
Tulajapuram is a third, Saptasrnga yet another. Hingula is a great dwelling place, and so is Jvalamukhi.
There is the prime dwelling place of Sakambhari, and excellent dwelling place of Bhramari. There is Sriraktadhantika’s dwelling place and Durga’s is yet another.
The dwelling place of Vindhyacalanivasini is most excellent. There is Annapurna’s great dwelling place, and the unsurpassed Kanchipuram.
There is Bhimadevi’s prime dwelling place, and Vimala’s dwelling place as well. And the great dwelling place of Sri Candrala, and Kausiki’s dwelling place too.
There is Nilamba’s prime dwelling place on the summit of Mt. Nila, As well as Jambunadesvari’s dwelling place, and the beautiful Srinagara.
Guhyakali’s great dwelling place is established in Nepal, while Minakshi’s supreme dwelling place is in Cindambaram, so it is proclaimed.
Sundari resides in the great dwelling place of Vedaranya. The Supreme Shakti has established her great dwelling place at Ekambaram.
Mahalasa is a prime dwelling place, and that of Yogesvari is yet another. And there is Nilasarasvati’s dwelling place, famous among t he Chinese.
Balala’s dwelling place in Vaidyanatha is considered most excellent. The Jeweled Island is my abode, where I dwell as the auspicious and glorious Bhuvanesvari, as tradition affirms.
The sacred zone of the Devi’s womb at Kamakhya is the site of the auspicious Tripurabhairavi. It is the best of hallowed places in the earthly realm, and here Mahamaya dwells.
There is no better dwelling place on earth than here, where every month Devi herself resides during her menses.
All the deities of that place have assumed the form of mountains. Even the great deities dwell within those mountains.
The whole earth there is the very essence of the Devi, so think the wise. There is no better dwelling place then this sacred zone of the womb at Kamakhya.
(THE GODDESS CONTINUES THE ENUMERATION OF SACRED DWELLING PLACES)
And Gayatri’s prime dwelling place is the auspicious Puskara, so it is proclaimed. In Amaresa dwells Candika; in Prabhasa is Pushareksini.
In the great dwelling place Naimisa is the Devi Lingadharini. Puruhuta is in Puskarakasa, just as Rati is in Asadhi.
In the great dwelling place of Candamundi is Dandini Praramesvari. In Bharabhuti dwells Bhuti, in Nakula Nakulesvari.
Candrika is in Hariscandra, in Srigiri is Sankari, according to Tradition. In japyesvara is Trisula; Suksma is in Amratakesvara.
Samkari is in Mahakala, Sarvani in the place named Mahyama. In the hallowed site called Kedara is the Devi Margandayini.
In a p lace called Bhairava is Bhairavai; in Gaya is Mangala, according to tradition.
Sthanupriya is in Juruksetra, and Swayambhuvi in Nakula.
In Kanakhala dwells Ugra, Visvesa in Wimalesvara. In Attahasa is Mahananda; in Mahendra is Mahantaka.
In Bhima, Bhimesvari is proclaimed to be; in the dwelling place called Vastrapatha, Bhavani Samkari is proclaimed, while Rudran is in Ardhakotika.
In Acimukta dwells Visalaksi, Mahabhaga in Mahalaya. In Gokarna dwells Bhadrakarni; Bhadra dwells in Bhadrakarnaka.
Utpalakshi is in Suvarnaksa, Sthanisa in a place called Sthanu. In Kamalalaya is Kamala; Pracanda is in Chagalandaka.
At Jurnandala dwells Trisandhay; at Makota, Mukutesvari. In Mandalesa dwells Sandaki, and Kali at Kalanjara.
In Samkukarna, Dhavni is proclaimed; Sthula dwells in Sthulakesvara. In the lotus-hearts of the wise dwells Hrllekha, the Paramesvari.
These places proclaimed above are most dear to the Goddess.
(THE GODDESS INDICATES SPECIAL PROVISION FOR PILGRIMAGE, INCLUDING THE BENEFITS OF RECITING HER NAMES)
First one should listen to the particular virtues of these various sacred sites, Highest Mountain.
Afterward one should worship the Goddess in the prescribed manner. Alternatively, Highest Mountain, since all sacred sites exist in Kashi,
One may wish to live there always, even absorbed in serving he Goddess. By seeing those dwelling places, by reciting the names of the Goddess without pause,
By meditating on her lotus feet, one becomes freed from bondage. Whoever, arising at dawn, should recite these names of the Goddess,
burns to ashes all sins instantly, in that very moment, O Mountain. At the time of offerings to the dead, one should recite these holy names in the presence of Brahmans;
All one’s ancestors will be freed and go to the highest state.
(THE GODDESS ENUMERATES VARIOUS RITES)
Now I shall describe the rites to you, who are of firm resolve.
Both women and men should perform with diligence. The third-day observance called the Rite of Infinite Blessings, along with the Rite of Happiness and Prosperity,
And also the rite named the Bestower of Refreshing Bliss, should all be done on the third lunar day. Then there is the Friday Rite, the Dark Fourteenth Rite,
The Tuesday Rite, and the Evening Rite as well. In this rite, the god Mahadeva places the Goddess on her seat
And dances before her, together with the other gods, at the beginning of the night. In this rite, a person should fast at dusk, and during the evening should worship the Auspicious Goddess.
It should be observed once each fortnight, and is pleasing to the Goddess. And there are the two celebrations of the Rite of Nine Nights, highly pleasing to me.
Like wise, O Lord, there are other rites, both regular and occasional. However performs these rites unselfishly, just to please me,
Attains union with me. Such a person is devoted to me, is dear to me.
(THE GODDESS TURNS TO HER FESTIVALS)
One should also celebrate prominent festivals such as the Swing Festival, O Lord.
One should perform both the Going-to-Sleep Festival and one should perform my Chariot Festival, and the Jasmine Festival,
And likewise the pleasing Festival of the Thread Offering in the month of Sravana. So indeed should any devotee always perform the other great festivals.
One should gladly feed my devotees, and also well-dressed Maidens and young boys, regarding them as non other than me.
Without miserly regard for cost, one should worship them with flowers and the like. Whoever carries out all these acts every year, tirelessly and with devotion,
Is blessed and completely fulfilled. Such a person is truly worthy of my favor. All this that is pleasing to me I have related in brief.
Never impart these instructions to one who is not a disciple or devotee.
As I Understand It:
In the previous chapter the Devi describes the qualities of a supreme devotee. The one who is wholly intent on her and sees her embodied in all beings. He is eager to visit her sacred sites (pithas), recite her name (hrim & hrllekha), perform her rites (vratas) and participate in her festivals (utsava).
Although, in this chapter the Goddess recites long lists of sites, names, rites and festivals that are appropriate for worshipping her, it does not limit her pervasive and infinite nature. In 8.3 she emphasizes that ALL moments are fit for performing her rites, ANY occasion befits the celebration of her festivals and rituals because she pervades all times and all places.
While the long lists may be tedious to the twenty-first century readers their significance cannot be overlooked. The Great Goddess dwells in her Jeweled Island but she is also associated with the sacred spaces where hundreds of local and regional goddesses dwell. It is at these places that her devotees, tied up with their daily lives, can access the Goddess.
Through these places the Devi is rooted into the earth mother: under a tree, by the riverside, at the edge of a village where she presides as the tutelary deity of the men, women and children of a town. At such places her presence is not majestic. Her immediate concern is the care of her devotees. Her presence helps them during disease and death, childbirth and pain. She blesses them with water, food, fertility and longevity.
The vast land unites all the parts of the Devi. The correlation between her body parts and earth are place specific. They demonstrate that the earth itself is the living mother.
In her iconic form the Goddess is Bhuvanesari as well as the Yoni, the prime symbol of the creation. The Devi Gita singles out this form of the Goddess. In her form as the Yoni, she is the world mother as well as fecund earth and the fertility in women.
While the Goddess’s earthly forms are highly significant, the Devi Gita ultimately subordinates them to the Goddess’s more celestial and ideal form as Bhuvanesvari. In this form she is neither associated with her male counterpart nor with a specific locale on earth. Her sonic sounds and her sacred places are simply manifestations of her consciousness. The Devi eternally dwells in Mani Dvipa, her Jeweled Island
Brown, C. Mackenzie, The Devi Gita, The Song of the Goddess: A Translation, Annotation, and Commentary, Albany: State University of New York Press. 1998.
___________, The Triumph of the Goddess: The Canonical Models and Theological Visions of the Devi-Bhagavata Purana. Albany: State University of New York Press. 1990.