Sri Kamakoti Mandali  
shrImAtre namaH  
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Saptashati or Navashati?

 

shukAmodamadopetAm shukahastAm surUpiNIm |
shukasammohinIm vande shyAmalAm shukadhAriNIm ||

Though it is the general practice to refer to the normal recitation of saptashatI [prathama, madhyamottama charitrA-s], vArAhI tantra lists the eight types of recitation based on the order of the chapters recited. Each of these eight variations grants different results.

mahAvidyA mahAmantrashchaNDI saptashatIti cha |
mR^itasa~njIvinI nAma pa~nchamaM parikIrtitam ||
ShaShThaM chaiva mahAlakShmI saptamaM rUpadIpikA |
aShTamaM to chatuHShaShTiyoginI chaNDikA parA ||

The eight variations are:

mahAvidyA
mahAmantraH
chaNDI
saptashatI
mR^itasa~njIvinI
mahAlakShmIH
rUpadIpikA
chatuHShaShTiyoginI

It is variously debated whether these variations can be used by even those upAsakas who perform a niShkAma japa. As puruShArtha chatuShTaya, which includes mokSha, is a promised result in each of these eight variations, this doubt is baseless. Moreover, sampuTa is characteristic of the kAmya pakSha:

sakAmaiH saMpuTaM jApyo niShkAmaiH saMpuTAM vinA [kAtyAyanI tantra]

niShkAma japa never involves sampuTIkaraNa.

It should be noted that the difference in results in these eight types is for the kAmya pakSha. The utility of the eight variations, for the niShkAma pakSha, is in a pattern involving nakShatra, tithi, yoga, R^iti, vAra and the part of the day. One of these eight variations is used for recitation based on these six criteria. The exact usage of these should be learnt from a competent deshika. During shAradIya navarAtri, it is the tradition to start recitation with mahAvidyA and conclude with yoginI on the aShTamI tithi. The ninth form, termed vishva chaNDI is recited during mahAnavamI, the sandhi between aShTamI and navamI at mahAnishA.

There are debates on whether the mAlA mantra is really saptashatI and some claim that the original mAlA was navashatI. This claim seems baseless. markaNDeya purANA clearly says:

mArkaNDeyo jaiminaye svavAkyaghaTitAmimAm |
sapAtsaptashatIM mAlAm tathaiva bhuvi vishrutA ||

saptashatI itself becomes navashatI without any changes to the mUla pATha, when the angas, sUta vAkya, R^iShi vAkya etc are counted:

brahmoktA~Nga R^iShyAdyupA~Ngaishcha madvAkyairnavashatyabhUt [sUtoktiH]

The pUrvA~Nga of saptashatI includes the kavacha, argalA and kIlakam, composed respectively by brahmA, shiva and viShNu:

argaLam shambhurachitam kIlakaM viShNunirmitam |
kavacham brahmaNA proktam trayaM prAthamyamuchyate ||

The R^iShyAdi nyAsa etc. are considered as the upA~Nga of saptashatI. shApoddhAra and utkIlana are again of two types. Specific mantras recited for the purpose is prescribed by DAmarAdi tantras. Other tantras and also sAmpradAyikas like bhAskararAya prescribe recitation of saptashatI itself with re-ordered sequence of chapters for shApoddhAra, utkIlana and dIpana.

It is yet another view that the following stotras do not require shApoddhAra, utkIlana etc. Stotras, other than these, are said to be cursed by Parashurama:

bhIShmaparvaNi yA gItA sA prashastA kalau yuge |
viShNoH sahasranamAkhyaM stotraM pApapraNAshanam ||
gaendramokShaNaM chaiva tathA kAruNikastavaH |
nArasimhaM tathA stotram stotram shrIrAmasaMj~nakam ||
devyA saptashatI stotram lalitAyAH stavaM shubham |
shlokAShTakam nailakaNTham shaivanAmasahasrakam ||
tripurAyAH prasAdAkhyam stavarAjam manoharam |
sUryasya stavarAjam cha indrAkShI stotrameva cha ||
vaiShNavaM cha mahAlakShmIstotramindreNa bhAShitam |
bhargavAkhyena rAmeNa shaptAnanyAni kAraNAt ||

kAmeshi vajreshi bhageshirUpe
kalye kale kAlavilopadakShe |
kathAvasheShIkR^itadaityasainye
kAmeshakAnte kamale Namaste ||