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Song of Prayer to Spiritual Mother for Forgiveness – Traditional Hymn to Durga

A representation of the Goddess Durga or Parvarti. Image By Damian N. Boodram (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons

The Devi Aparadha Kshamapana Stotram is a traditional Hindu Sanskrit hymn, written as a prayer of penitence to the Goddess Durga. It captures the essence of something essential in the Religion of the Sun — the personal relationship a practitioner has with their Spiritual Mother, and the need to repent and ask for her help to be rescued from inner darkness.

Veneration of the Spiritual Mother – an ancient tradition alive in Hinduism

Sekhmet

The Egyptian goddess Sekhmet, who represents the mother goddess in her destructive aspect. Note her association with the lion, an association shared with Sumerian Goddess Inanna and the Hindu Goddess Durga. Image By BluesyPete (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

In the ancient Religion of the Sun — once practiced by a lost global civilization forgotten to history which arose at the end of the last ice age — the Spiritual Mother was venerated as part of the divine trinity of Spiritual Father, Mother and Son.1

This feminine aspect of divinity was represented by numerous Goddesses in many cultures and traditions which descended from this lost civilization of the sun. Examples include Inanna (Sumer), Isis and Sekhmet (Egypt), Athena and Hecate (Greece), Coatlicue (Central America), and Senge Dongma (Tibet), etc. She was often depicted as a warrior, to signify her role and ability to eliminate a person’s ego states (like anger, fear, jealously and lust) thereby rescuing an aspirant from the darkness within and increasing inner light (consciousness).2

Left: Goddess Durga, fighting Mahishasura, the buffalo demon, c. early 18th century. Public domain image Via Wikimedia Commons Right: A painting of Kalika at Dakshineshwar Kali Temple, photo by Nahsik01 under CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Many of those great ancient cultures and civilizations, like those of Egypt, Greece and Sumer, have come and gone, and are now relegated to history along with their religions. In many parts of the world, traditions venerating the Spiritual Mother were sidelined or supplanted by the rise of other traditions where the role of the divine feminine was mostly forgotten, distorted, heavily suppressed and diminished — or in some cases completely erased.3

Hinduism is one of the exceptions to this however: in India, the veneration of the Spiritual Mother has been kept alive through the worship of various Goddesses who represent her various qualities. Perhaps the most prominent are the Goddess Durga and Kali, who embody her role as a warrior and destroyer of evil.

While mythological tales of the Goddess doing battle with demons are told and retold, there is also the understanding that this conflict can represent a personal inner spiritual battle between light and darkness within.4

The Devi Aparadha Kshamapana Stotram

The tradition of Goddess veneration survives not only in Indian spiritual texts, but is renewed and kept alive in the lives of everyday people through cultural expression like song, dance, religious holidays like Navratri, art, sculpture and even through TV shows and movies in India.

This cultural expression has been going on for thousands of years. The Devi Aparadha Kshamapana Stotram is a devotional hymn said to have been written in the 8th century which is still performed today, under various musical arrangements. The lyrics have been attributed to the noted Hindu theologian and philosopher Adi Shankara.

An upbeat rendition of this hymn has been recorded by Ashit Desai and Hema Desai, a husband and wife duo from India. It appears on their 2002 album “Maa Shakti” under the title “Bhavani Stuti”; this song features as a resource on the traditional and folk music section of this website.

Another rendition of this song has been performed by the North American artist Krishna Das under the title “Prayer to the Goddess For Forgiveness”, which features on his 1996 album “One Track Heart“:

According to Das, this song as written by the noted 8th century Indian theologian and philosopher Adi Shankara, and there is a story behind its composition which he relates on his website:

The story behind the prayer is that Shankaracharya was traveling through the Himalayas on his way to a debate. In those days Shankaracharya was a believer in Non-Dualism, the doctrine of Absolute Monism. He did not believe in the reality of the Divine Mother (Shakti) and Her Creation which, according to his philosophy, was all Maya (illusion). Keep in mind that the word shakti also means ‘power’ or ‘energy.’ Shankaracharya was climbing up a steep hill when he suddenly became very ill with dysentary. He had to lie down and finally he passed out. He was awakened by the feeling of water on his face. Opening his eyes, Shankaracharya saw a very beautiful young girl smiling at him and sprinkling him with water. He passed out again. He was awakened by the girl and once more he passed out. The third time he awoke, the girl leaned over to him and asked in a sweet childlike voice,”Maharaj, what is wrong with you?”

Shankaracharya replied in voice weakened by pain, “I have no shakti.” On hearing this the girl leaned close to him again and said, “Oh? But you don’t believe in Shakti!” And laughing, she changed right before his eyes into the form of the Goddess called Bhawani, the Mother of the World, and disappeared! He was completely healed, and from the depths of his heart he composed this prayer.

While it’s impossible to know whether this legend is true or not, what is clear is that the lyrics of the hymn carry a profound sense of repentance, and convey the author’s deep longing to humbly reach out to his Spiritual Mother for help. Krishna Das provides an English translation of the some of the first verses of this hymn on his site:

I don’t know how to recite Your mantra, how to worship You with yantra,
Nor do I know how to welcome you or meditate upon you.
I don’t know how to pray to you or how to do Your mudra.
Nor do I know how to open my heart to you and tell you of my suffering.
But this I know, Oh MA!
That to take refuge in you will destroy all my sorrow.

Because of my ignorance, poverty and sloth,
I have not been able to worship Your feet.
But Oh Mother! gracious Deliverer of all,
All this should be forgiven,
For a bad son may sometimes be born,
But a bad mother, never…

Oh MA! You have so many worthy sons on earth
But I am a worthless,
Yet it isn’t right that You should abandon me
For a bad son may sometimes be born in this world
But a bad mother, never…

Oh Ma! Mother of the World.
I have not worshipped Your feet
Nor have I given wealth to You
Yet the love and affection You bestow on me is without compare.
For a bad son may sometimes be born in this world,
But a bad mother, never…

A more complete translation of the entire hymn is provided on another website by greenmesg — some of the later verses from the hymn shown translated below speak of the longing to change one’s own inner states and conduct and seek help from one’s Spiritual Mother for this to occur:

(O Mother) I have not worshipped You as prescribed by tradition with various rituals,
(On the other hand) What rough thoughts did my mind not think and my speech utter?
O Shyama,5 in-spite of this, if You indeed, to a little extent, to this orphan have extended Your Grace, O Supreme Mother, It indeed only becomes You (i.e. is possible for You),

(O Mother) I have sunk in Misfortunes and therefore remembering You now (which I never did before), O Mother Durga, (You Who are) an Ocean of Compassion, …
… (Therefore) do not think of me as false (and my invocation as pretence),
(Because) When children are afflicted with Hunger and Thirst, they naturally remember their Mother (only),

O Jagadamba (Mother of the Universe), What is surprising in this!
The graceful Compassion of the (Blissful) Mother always remains fully filled,
(Because) Inspite of the son committing Mistakes after Mistakes,
The Mother never abandons the son,

(O Mother) There is no one as Fallen like me, and there is no one as Uplifting ( by removing Sins ) like You, Considering thus, O Mahadevi, Please do whatever is proper (to save me).

The goddess Durga pictured here conquering the demon Mahisasura6

In the Religion of the Sun, the Spiritual Mother is understood to be higher part of one’s own Being, whose role is to assist and rescue the human aspect of consciousness which is sent to live in matter in order to acquire knowledge and awaken.7 Observing ego states within oneself (the inner causes of sin and suffering) and appealing to the Spiritual Mother for their destruction is one of the core practices.

Read together, the above verses of this song capture the spirit of repentance which is essential for this process of inner change to take place, conveying how a person can can reach out to their spiritual Mother in humility with a genuine wish to change within, to find refuge and be rescued from suffering. It also captures the incredible love and compassion she can show to someone who sincerely admits their mistakes and defects and wants to repent — no matter how bad someone has been, she remains an “ocean of compassion” to turn to whose divine help is a saving grace.


  1. Belsebuub and Angela Pritchard, The Path of the Spiritual Sun: Celebrating the Solstices & Equinoxes (Mystical Life Publications: July 2017) p. 208-214 

  2. Belsebuub and Angela Pritchard, The Path of the Spiritual Sun, p. 73-81 

  3. Angela Pritchard, “Reestablishing the Feminine in Godhead: The Role of the Mother Goddess in Divinity”,  https://belsebuub.com/articles/reestablishing-the-feminine-in-godhead-the-role-of-the-mother-goddess-in-divinity 

  4. Dr. Satya Prakash Choudhary, The Glory of the Goddess – Devi Mahatmyam, 4-5 

  5. Note: “Shyama” is another name of the Goddess Kali 

  6. By ಶ್ರೀ ಶಿಲ್ಪಿ ಸಿದ್ದನ್ತಿ ಸಿದ್ದಲಿಂಗ ಸ್ವಾಮಿ (1885 – 1952) – ಜಗನ್ಮೋಹನ್ ಅರಮನೆ, ಮೈಸೂರ್ (Jagmohan Palace, Mysore), Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=36642862  

  7. Belsebuub and Angela Pritchard, The Path of the Spiritual Sun, p. 73-81 

About the author

Matthew Butler

Matthew Butler is Chief Editor of SpiritualSun.com, a website exploring the history and practice of the ancient Religion of the Sun. A keen writer since his youth, he holds a Bachelor of Arts in Journalism and has a natural interest in probing hidden truths and higher knowledge. He felt called to study spirituality in 2004 and has pursued it ever since. On The Spiritual Sun, he directs his skills and inquisitive nature towards shedding light on the ancient Religion of the Sun, which he investigates both as a writer/researcher and practitioner.

24 Comments

  • I also liked this hymn and the story.
    For me, it grasps the significance of the personal experience on that matter and how then when the understanding is solid, the action becomes more honest and precise.
    Even looking on my forgetfulness on that connection, and the need for Her help, I think it comes to the level of my understanding and the overall approach I have to the inner work.

    Thanks for posting them, Matthew
    were food for thought… at least 🙂

  • Thank you for posting it has affirmed on a deep level that the Divine can do what we can’t. It was exactly what I needed. It expressed our need for Divine assistance and the humble feeling that would allow it to work within us. It will become one to meditate on.

  • Very interesting to read and listen to.
    Even though the words are foreign, in the videos, the depth and meaning can be felt.

  • Really lovely videos. I particularly like second one and the story, supposedly at least, behind the prayer. It shows how our divine mother is always there waiting to help us, no matter how unworthy we may feel.

    It is good to know that, despite all that has been lost, the veneration of the mother goddess has survived in Hinduism, with the images revealing her role and power.

  • I really enjoyed all of this information and I loved both videos. I’ve listen to second one from Krishna Das several times and I find it very powerful and deep.

    I love all information about our Divine Mother. Upon true reflection, it’s so evident that we need her in every single moment of our lives.

    Thanks for sharing Matthew, brilliant work.

  • Thanks for posting. They are beautiful songs and a unique way to pray to the Divine Mother. I particularly like the honesty from the singer. Although it comes from one who did not believe in Shakti it relates to people universally.

  • Was listening to both versions of this song last night and reading the words. It really helped to kickstart a very, and much needed, uplifting evening. Thanks for that.

    • I’m glad to hear it 🙂 These renditions had a similar effect on me the first time I heard them and read the translations.

  • Very beautiful story, prayer and songs.
    I like both versions.
    Not sure which translation is more accurate but I really like the second one. There is something very sacred in the way it is expressed.

    I wonder how can hinduism, being one the of the most – if not the most – ancient surviving religions, be so close to the universal principles of the spirituality of the sun. I can relate so much to this little story and recitation. How many times I forget the divine mother when things are smooth and how many times I remember her when things are hard and she is there to help.

    • Hi Christos, just thought I’d clarify, in case there was any confusion, that the two translation passages I shared above are of different sections of the same hymn. They are not the same verses, so there is no double-up so to speak.

      Krishna Das only sings the first five verses of the hymn in his rendition, so he only provides a translation of those on his site, starting from the opening verse.

      The Ashit Desai and Hema Desai rendition is a fuller version of the hymn, and to provide an English translation of the later verses I felt were most poignant (including the closing lines) I shared an extract from the other source to show the meaning of those later verses.

  • What a beautiful and moving prayer, especially the last paragraph ending with the humble and sincere “and do whatever is proper (to save me).” The end there really gets to the core of the compassion and power of the mother goddess, as without her, we would be lost.

    This was a very uplifting article and it gives me a greater resolve today to build that connection with my Divine Mother.

  • Very touching words with so much behind them.
    One part in particular which caught my thoughts was the part that said when children are affected by hunger and thirst they always remember there mother. To me this was saying when we are truely struggling in life with a problem we remember our divine mother and ask for help constantly, but when all is settled and a struggle is over I myself tend to not pray and ask for help as much as I should be.
    This is definitely something I have been made aware of and something I need to work on.

    • I know what you mean Neal. Sometimes in the difficult times I can feel more of an urgency to reach up for something higher, because things are not so good within or without, and the need and wish for change is more apparent.

      But when everything is going well it can be easier to lose the sense of urgency for spiritual change and get caught up in material things and the fascination with mundane life. I personally find that caring about the welfare of others give an impetus to keep going with it and not lose a sense of perspective, or fall into a self-absorbed mindset, as it helps to keep aligned with and in touch with spiritual forces and a higher purpose.

      Since the egos have both their positive and negative sides I guess both the “good times” and the “bad times” test us in different ways, giving the opportunity to see and understand different aspects of what is within.

  • Beautiful mantra and prayer. It’s incredible that you can still find remnants of real Goddess worship somewhere on earth.

  • Really great musical renditions of this prayer. They’re both good in their own ways – you can see how varied different interpretations can be.

  • Thank you for finding this beautiful hymn and the inspiring legend behind it Matthew. The words of the hymn are very touching indeed, depicting the absolute love of the Divine Mother who never abandons her children, and comes to their rescue whenever they sincerely stretch their hands to her.

    The song is also very nice, especially the first one, and when listening to the sample recordings of the other pieces on that album, I think I could listen to all of it. 🙂

  • That account of Adi Shankara is very touching. I think we can all, unfortunately, relate to having forgotten about our Mother. Not even knowing we lost her. Foolishly thinking we could somehow manage…, not even realising what we’re missing. Until we are faced with the fact that we need to work with her, are dependent upon her, to go anywhere and for our journey to be filled with this ‘life.’ Yet with her everything is possible.

    Really like devotion the Krishna Das version is sung with.

  • Thanks for sharing this. I really enjoyed reading both translations, and especially feel drawn to the second translation. It puts into words the feeling of repentance and reaching out to connect with the divine beautifully.

  • Thanks very much for sharing this beautiful hymn. I was very touched reading the translations of it, and I really enjoyed the 1st musical rendition of it posted.

  • Love this song and prayer. From the first time I heard it, I found it very moving. It’s so honest, heartfelt, and relatable. It really reaches me deeply.

    It’s also nice seeing the threads drawn together concerning the relevance of the Spiritual Mother through history across different cultures, it’s so beautiful to see how she was venerated in so many different ways.

  • Thanks for sharing this. Both the legend and the hymn are very beautiful and express a touching sense of repentance and faith in the compassion and power of the divine mother to relieve one from suffering.

    It’s wonderful that the veneration of the mother goddess is so alive within the Hindu tradition, both in terms of formal religion and in popular culture. Makes one reflect how tragic it is that so many societies have had the notion of the sacred feminine cut right out of them or heavily suppressed.

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