Devi Mahatmyam is a Sanskrit work that narrates the victorious stories of Adiparashakti. It contains Mahatmya Katha of Mahakali, Mahalakshmi and Mahasaraswati which are the three aspects of Mahamaya including Mahishasuravadha, Sumbhanishumbhavadha, Chandamundavadha and praises of many other aspects of Bhagavathy. Part of the Markandeya Purana, it is considered to be a pivotal scripture in the Shaktha sampradaya. Tradition proclaims Sage Markandeya as the author of this composition.
This work is also known as “Durga Saptashati” which consists of 700 verses in praise of Goddess Durga Bhagavathy. It is also known as “Chandipatha”. Text refers to ritual reading. Its 700 verses are arranged in 13 chapters. The eleventh chapter of this is considered the most important. This chapter covers all aspects of Parashakti. It is believed that the eleventh chapter should be recited on Fridays. This chapter contains the Narayani hymn beginning with the famous “Sarvamangala Mangalye”.
सर्वमङ्गलमाङ्गल्ये शिवे सर्वार्थसाधिके ।
शरण्ये त्र्यम्बके गौरि नारायणि नमोऽस्तु ते ॥
Considered the most important text of the Shakteyas, this work is very important in their ritual rulings. Devimahatmya, contained in Chapters 81 to 93 of the Markandeya Purana, is a hymn very dear to Shakthi worshippers.
This stotra consists of stories about the glory of the goddess narrated by sage Markandeya to Jaimini and his disciples. There are mainly 3 stories in 13 chapters. The main characters in this are a king named Suratha, who is exiled from his kingdom, a merchant named Samadhi, who is deceived by his relatives, and a sage named Medhas, who makes them the objects of the goddess’s blessings through spiritual advice.
The plot of this stotra is that a sage named Medhas narrated to them (the king and the merchant) three stories describing the greatness of the goddess, and after listening to them, both of them performed austere penance with hearts full of devotion to the goddess. These three stories describe the slaying of the demons Mahishasura, Shumbhanishubha, Dhumralochana, Chandamunda and Raktabija in the forms of Mahakali, Mahalakshmi and Mahasaraswati.
There is a popular belief that each verse of this scripture has a magical power. Although the entire hymn is devotional, four chapters 1, 4, 5, and 11 are particularly beautiful and powerful enough to inspire the reader with devotion. (Ref: Link)
Significance of Devi Mahatymam
According to legend, Durga Devi performed a severe tapas to destroy Mahishasura by sitting on the tip of a needle for nine consecutive days. She meditated as Herself for the initial 3 days, as Mahalakshmi for the next 3 days and Sarasvati for the last 3 days. This represents the progression from tamo-guna to rajo-guna to sattva-guna respectively and thereby culminating in liberation. The tenth day during Sharada Navaratri is therefore celebrated as Vijayadashami.
Benefits of Devi Mahatmyam
It is, however, a long tradition that one reads the Devi-bhagavatam or
the Devi Mahatmyam (Durga Saptashati, 700 verses on Durga) during this
period. Devi herself declares in chapter 12 (Phala Stuti) that She would put down every trouble of the one reciting this hymn with devotion and concentration. Nothing wrong shall happen, nor calamities that arise from wrongdoings nor poverty and never separation from beloved ones. The Phalastuti goes on with a lot more material and spiritual benefits that accrue to devotees who chant or listen to this hymn.