Yasmin Boland in her March 2021 Seven Day Moonology Challenge taught everyone a mantra she had learned at an ashram in India. The mantra OM NAMO NARAYANI is one used by Amma (1). The January/February/March 2011 issue of Hinduism Today devoted a special feature to the Sri Mahalakshmi Narayani Temple in Vellore.
Rajiv Malik writes that Vellore is “considered one of the oldest settlements in India”. It is located “almost equidistant between Thiruvannamalai and Tirupati, two temples of repute and legend”. The new temple was built over a period six years and was consecrated on August 27, 2007. “The chief architect was Subbaya Sthapati from Kanchipuram, an expert in Vastu (the sacred art of Hindu temple and home building)”. I will be writing a separate blog devoted to temple building next week. Vastu will also be another blog post as it’s like feng shui but different in many respects.
Malik goes on to stress that Amma “has given his devotees a unique mantra, Aum Namo Narayani, to be repeated daily by those who want to be connected with the Goddess”. The mantra Om (AUM) Namo Narayana is ancient.
Malik explains that
“The Deity at Sripuram is Goddess Mahalakshmi Narayani, an aspect of the Goddess Narayani, who, according to Amma, is the unification of Durga, Lakshmi and Saraswati. Amma explains, “Narayani is the Supreme Goddess, ‘Adi Parashakti,’ as clearly explained in the 12th chapter of the Devi Mahatmya, the most authoritative scripture on the Goddess.”
The name Narayani had been seldom used in recent centuries. Malik mentions Kerala as one place where Narayani has been used but apparently not by many. It would normally refer to any one of the three main Goddesses, not to a being comprising them all. Narayani is most commonly identified with Lakshmi, Vishnu’s feminine counterpart, since Lord Narayana is another name for Vishnu, meaning “refuge of men.”
To Sakthi Amma, this is not a new tradition. Goddess Narayani is eternal; She has been the consummation of Durga, Lakshmi and Sarasvati since time immemorial. “Narayani is a mirror in which you can see the reflection of any of the three Devis you want to worship,” says Amma. “Man does wrong when lacking strength, prosperity or wisdom. Each form of Narayani provides for one of these.”
So, let’s back up. The Devi Mahatmya is found in chapters 74-86 of the Markandey Purana. I downloaded a PDF of a 1904 translation that Cornell University has put into the public domain. Hindu Online has a detailed summary of the entire tome. When I first started watching Vighnaharta Ganesh I tried emailing the producers to ask for the source of the story arcs. To my delight, I found a number of them in this particular Purana.
According to P. R. Ramachander, the Devi Mahatmyan “relates the story of how the Devi
- in the form of Lakshmi, killed Mahishasura (episodes 96-107)
In Vighnaharta Ganesh it is the goddess Katyayani who slays the buffalo asura (demon). However, you might have heard the same tale told except that it is the goddess Durga who slays the demon. In the TV series Maharakshak Devi, it was a revived (restored to life), Mahishasur, as a high school senior, that tries to woo Gauri (who is also a high school student) only to reveal his true form towards the end and be defeated once again.
- in the form of Saraswati, killed Shumbha and Nishumbha. (episodes 217-255)
In Vighnaharta Ganesh it is the Goddess Kaushik with the help of the shakti (female) form of Ganesha – Vinayaki – that defeats Shumbha and Nishumbha.
Ramachander goes on to say that in “South India, this text is known as Devi Mahatmya. It is known as Chandi in West Bengal and as Durga Sapthasathi in the northern parts of the country including Varanasi”.
Going back through my notes on documentaries and films, I finally found the temple which had 108 statues of the Divine Mother. And this is where it gets confusing – VERY CONFUSING! Several more posts are needed JUST to discuss the many avatars. In the series Vighnaharta Ganesh, the actress (Akanksha Puri) who portrays the goddess Parvati, also portrays all of her avatars. The actress Madiraskshi Mundle took over the role in episode 743. The same holds for the actor (Malkhan Singh) who portrays Lord Shiva.
Actresses Anshu Malik and Deblina Chatterjee portray the goddess Lakshmi (often spelled Laxmi). Actresses Preetika Chauhan and Bhawna Kanwar Hada portray the goddess Saraswati.
The Goddess Mahalakshmi Narayani is “unification of Durga, Lakshmi and Saraswati”. So, if you have not immersed yourself in the metaphysics of how multiple personages emerge out of one deity as depicted in the famous paintings of Lord Krishna manifesting all of his “forms” to Arjuna, the idea that you are given the opportunity to connect to whichever manifestation you need is truly remarkable.
(1) Note: Amma is a very interesting word. It has almost the same meaning in many languages. In Chinese amah is what you call a nanny. In India someone who is thought of as a spiritual mother is called Amma. During the Tang dynasty in China, the word amah was used as an informal and poetic title for the Taoist goddess, the Queen Mother of the West!
To be continued