We not only derive sufficient strength but also proper direction. If we pray with full faith, God responds to our prayers. Offering prayers has been in practice in India since ancient times.
The worship of Mother Goddess is believed to be even earlier than the Vedic period. There is a particular reference to Adithi in the earliest Vedic records, who is described as the Mother of the Universe. The Rigveda, glorifies the Goddess of Earth (Prithvi), who is invoked as ‘Great Mother’. There is a very ancient prayer “Let not Mother Earth get angry with us at any time. Earth is my mother, I am the son of the Earth” was the belief. This kind of intimacy and respect made the sages (Rishis) bow down to Mother Earth and pay homage to Her.
The Mother Earth is identified with ‘Sri’ or ‘Lakshmi’ (the Goddess of harvest and fortune) in the Aithareya Brahmana and also the later Upanishads. The earth is also described as power or Sakthi associated with Vishnu. In fact Vishnu is associated on either side of Him with ‘Sri’ (the Goddess of wealth) or Bhu (the Goddess of the Earth). Gradually ‘Sri’ is identified with the name of ‘Narayani’.
The Vedic scriptures refer to Goddess Saraswathi, as the Goddess of learning. Saraswathi was important and sacred in the Rigvedic Age, and was recognized as the river Goddess as well. In one of the verses of the Rigveda, She has been praised as the best among the Mothers. She is respected not only in India, but also in countries like Tibet, Java and Japan where stone images of the Goddess have been discovered. The worship of Durga, Lakshmi and Saraswathi, represent the Sakthi’s of Shiva, Brahma and Vishnu. In fact, Saraswathi finds a place as an important goddess in Buddhism as well. She is generally associated with Manjushri, the God of learning. In one of the Buddhist texts, She is described as Maha-Saraswathi.
The concept of Mahalakshmi (Sri) is one of the richest in Hindu literature. She is the Goddess of prosperity, splendour, glory, wealth and beauty. Her origin is traced to the fifteen verses known as ‘Sri Suktha’, is found in the fifth book of the Rigveda. In the Sri Suktha, the Goddess Lakshmi, is described as the colour of a red lotus. Seated on a red lotus, wearing a garland or red lotuses and is Herself called the deity of the lotus (Padma). Reference to ‘Sri’ is also found in the Dharma Sutra of Bodhyana.
The Hindus particularly the womenfolk worship Her as the domestic Goddess of fortune and beauty. Just as in our daily life the mother stands like an intermediary between the father and the son, so does Lakshmi stand as an intermediary between God and the living being (Jiva). Thus, Sri, is the bestower of all benefits, the giver of prosperity, splendour and glory. In fact, She symbolizes auspiciousness. This aspect is glorified by Shankaracharya in his Kanakadhara Sthava.
Shakti as the Great Mother has found an elaborate exposition in the Devi-Mahatnya Section of Mankandeya Purana. This section consisting of thirteen chapters is regarded as the most sacred text and if familiarly known as ‘Chandi’. It consists of three sections. The first section includes the first chapter named after Maha Kali. The second section includes chapters two, three and four, named after Mahalakshmi and the third section includes the remaining nine chapters named after Maha Saraswathi.
The killing of demons Madhu and Kaitabha is narrated in the first chapter. In the second chapter, the divine Mother destroys the army of Mahishasura. The third chapter highlights the killing of Mahishasura himself and thereby, the Mother got the name Mahishasura Mardhini. The fourth and the fifth chapters reveal the prayers offered to the Divine Mother by the Devas led by Indra. The Sixth chapter narrates the destruction of Dhumralochana by Mahasaraswathi. By slaining Chand and Munda, the Divine Mother got the name ‘Chamundi’. This aspect is highlighted in the seventh chapter. The eight chapter refers to the killing of Raktha Beejasura by the Divine Mother. The ninth and tenth chapters highlight the killing of Nishumbha and Shumbha.
The eleventh chapter is the most significant chapter, where it is referred that after the destruction of the Asuras by the Divine Mother, all the Devas express their gratitude to the Divine Concept in the name of ‘Narayani Sthuthi’. Here, the divine mother appears to bless the Devas and show Her exquisite beauty in the form of Vishwa, Roopa Darshana (cosmic form). It almost resembles the Bhagavad Gita, where Lord Krishna appeared before Arjuna and offered him the Viswa Roopa Darshana. The twelfth chapter refers to the assurance made by the Divine Mother for the sincere prayers. The thirteenth chapter refers to the blessings offered to the Suratha and the Vaishya by the Divine Mother.
The Devi Mahatmya, also known as ‘Chandi’ and ‘Saptha Shathi’ is a collection of beautiful hymns to Mother Divine. The Divine Mother gradually came to be called Durga who saves us all from all sorts of misery and affliction and from all sorts of dangers and difficulties. In the Devi Kavacha attached to the Chandi is the Devi as Navadurga is described. They are Shilaputhri, Bharamacharini, Chandraghanta, Kushmanda, Skandamata, Katyyani, Kalarathi, Mahagauri and Siddhidati. Also described as the Seven Mothers of the Earth (Sapta Mathulas) are Brahmi, Maheswari, Kumari, Varahi, Vaishnavi, Indrani and Chamunda. A popular Goddess with the Hindus is a famous Buddhist Goddess ‘Chinnamasta’ may be said to be a Hindu version of the Buddhist Goddess Vajrayogini.
To conclude, the Divine Mother is prosperity in the house of the honest and ruin in the house of the evil minded. She is in all our wisdom and merit; She is in all our ignorance and vice. She is in Brahma, the first created and the greatest and She is equally in the smallest of insects. She is in our highest state of liberation and bliss; She is in the worst state of bondage and suffering. She shines in the best of smiles and She darkens everything by the most terrific frowns.
Complete surrender to the will of God, to the power of God was the watch word of many saints. A complete surrender to the Mother brings out a unity not only with all men but with all the beings as children of the same Universal Mother. In fact service to humanity has been recognized as the best form of worshipping the Divine Mother.