Monday, October 03, 2011

Bhakti Hymn Composed by the Great Vedantist Adi Shankaracharya, around 810 AD

This song used to blast from the stalls at the top of Chamundi Hill in Mysore.

On my first trip, in 2002, I got hooked on the tune and bought the CD.

I've been playing it ever since.

The hymn is about the the slaying of the demon Mahishasura, from whom city of Mysore derives it name (there's also an elaborate dance that goes with it).

Mahishasura was the king of the Mysore area until he was slain by the goddess Chamundi. She is a variation of Durga - a fierce incarnation of Shakti or Parvati (the wife of Shiva), who rides a lion. The temple at the top of Chamundi Hill is devoted to Chamundeswari. (I keep a picture of her slaying the demon on the desk, next to the laptop. I love that her face is impassive, even though she's committing violence because it has to be done.).

Tonight the swami at the Sivananda Center read part of the Devi Mahatmya - the story of the fierce battle between the Goddesses and the various demons - as part of Devi Puja.

It is auspicious hear such stories, especially during Navratri (the Nine Nights of the Goddess).

(And it is especially wonderful to hear them read in an English accent).

Afterwords, to my surprise, we chanted the Sri Mahishasura Mardini Stotram.

It was amazing, to finally chant the song that has been rolling around in the head for the past nine years.

And they're doing it again tomorrow.

This version of the hymn includes an explanation of each lyric:

This more traditional version, by the Bellary Sisters, is similar to the way we did it last night and is by far my favorite (plus it's easy to chant along to it):


  1. Yes, those UK accents are easy on the ears! Back in grad school, my husband's roomate had a crowd of women admirers, all wanting to hear him talk. Ultimately he "married" surface science; full professor and still single last I heard.

    Listening to my phone this morning, I'm realizing I need to expand my musical horizons. My iTunes playlist seems a bit "dark" lately.

  2. Yes, the dark music can be problematic during the dark months.

    Do you like this song?

    I think it was part of the playlist at last winter's workshop.

  3. Yes, I do like it (thank you). It's definitely not my usual fare, but that's the point.

    Is the text at the beginning of the video a translation? If not, what do the lyrics mean? When would this be sung/played?

  4. I would assume so. Most of it is in English, it seems.

    I think it can be played anywhere, any time since it is a popped-up American take on a Durga chant (the artist used to be one of Madonna's backup dancers).

  5. Well, no wonder I like it. It hits that middle ground between traditional Sanskrit Hymns and Liz Phair.

    Yes, my collection would make a music critic cringe. But I have a really good excuse for Liz Phair.

    "Elizabeth" was randomly assigned to be my freshman-year college roommate. Mom helped me write a nice long letter to her introducing myself and discussing what color sheets and comforters we should buy so everything would "match." She wrote me back a nice long letter all about her sex habits. Mom panicked, and I ended up in a room on the other end of campus.

    I still crack up every time I think of this (hope you are laughing too...).

    Anyhow, thanks again for the music suggestion.