By Swami Harshananda
Lalitāsahasranāma literally means ‘one thousand names of the Divine Mother Lalitā’.
The Sanskrit stotra literature or hymnology in the religion is very vast. Some varieties of stotras are considered as very powerful like mantras or mystical formulas. Their chanting, either simple or ceremonial, but with faith and devotion is said to confer on the votaries whatever they want. The sahasranāma stotras belong to this group.
The Lalitasahasranāma is the work which is not only famous but also popular even today especially in South India. Actually, it forms the 36th chapter of the work Lalitopākhyāna which is a part of the Brahmāndapurāna. It was taught by the sage Hayagrīva to the sage Agastya at the latter’s earnest entreaties. This wonderful and powerful hymn was composed by the Vāgdevatās or the goddesses presiding over the power of speech like Vaśini and her companions after being commanded by the Devi herself.
The thousand names beginning with the word ‘Śrīmātā’ and ending with the word ‘Lalitāmbikā’ spread over 183 ślokas or verses reflect an infinite variety of the Divine Mother Lalitā’s beauties, splendors, powers and doings. Many of the names are highly esoteric in nature and difficult to comprehend without the help of a teacher who is an adept in the science called Śrividyā.
There are five commentaries on this text. Out of these, the Saubhāgya Bhāskara of Bhāskararāya also known as Bhāsurānandanātha is considered to be the best.
Recitation of Lalitasahasranāma
The ceremonial recitation is generally accompanied by the worship of the Śrīcakra with bilva leaves (Aegle marmelos) or tulasī leaves (holy basil) and repetition of the pañcadaśāksarimantra. The chanting can also be done without these formalities.
The phalaśruti is that part of the hymn which narrates the fruits of the recitation. It gives a long list of the benefits that a votary gets who chants it with due respect and faith. This list includes such results as the merit equal to that of establishing millions of Śivaliṅgas at Kāśī destruction of the effects of even the most heinous sins. It is equal to the merits of performing numberless Aśvamedha sacrifices and so on.
- The Concise Encyclopedia of Hinduism, Swami Harshananda, Ram Krishna Math, Bangalore