Ayi Giri Nandini!! Hail Mother..

Exploring the tone, story and a bit of lyrics..

Sujatha R
5 min readOct 23, 2020

Ayi Giri Nandini also known as Mahishasura Mardini stotram is a very popular Devi chant.The rhythym, energy and the periodic swing of the words makes it truly outstanding. It is said to be composed by Shankaracharya.

In the puranas is the beautiful story of Devi Mahatyam. Even the names of the characters are quite thought provoking. Outwardly, it might seem like winning battles with demons, it presents a very fine framework for the ladder of Self evolution and rising from tamas, rajas to sattwa.

The 3 fold ladder
Of being agile
Of being passionate, skillful and winning day to day battles and obstacles
Of rising from clutches of pride, delusion and embracing wisdom, serenity and Joy

One such story is of Mahishasura, a ruthless mighty buffalo. He had defeated the Devas and the Asuras. The Devas assemble in the mountains and their combined energies gives birth to the ruthless Goddess Durga. Mounted on a lion, she leads the battle and terminates Mahishasura.. Hence she is named Mahishasuramardini, the Killer of Mahishasura.

1. Exploring the Voice of the Chant..

With such brevity and elegance, the language uses the ‘calling out’ sambhodana style praising the Goddess for her beauty, valour, compassion etc.

In Sanskrit, the Feminine words typically end with aa or ii.. Like in Sitaa, Devii, Nandinii. In the calling out style, aa becomes e, ii becomes i..
Ayi Devi! O Site! [O Devi.. O Sita types..]

And hence nandinii becomes ‘nandini’, mardinii becomes ‘mardini’, nutaa becomes ‘nute’, sutaa becomes ‘suthe’.

अयि गिरिनन्दिनि
नन्दितमेदिनि
विश्वविनोदिनि
नन्दिनुते

Oh the daughter of the mountains!
The one filling the world with Joy !!
The one for whom the world is a play!!
The one who is worshipped by Nandi!!

जय जय हे महिषासुरमर्दिनि
रम्यकपर्दिनि
शैलसुते

Hail !! The slayer of Mahishasura!
The one with beautiful locks of hair!!
Daughter of mountain!!

This call out noun form is known as samboodhana. And it keeps running through the song.. Like a garland of names.. Almost no verbs or sentences.. Only call out of names.. Next time you chant.. have this emotion planted in the lotus of your heart and call out the names..

2. Frequent Words

‘Ayi’ ‘O mother’ comes quite a few times in this chant. Interestingly ‘aiiim’ sound is the beej mantra for Devi Saraswati. It activates the region near the brows. In Oriya, grandmother is called as ayi..

Suthe meaning daughter also occurs a couple of times..

Shailasuthe daughter of the mountain
Sindhusuthe
daughter of the ocean
Raajasuthe
daughter of the king

3. Chanting Tip

The chant might seem complex at first. There is almost a periodic simplicity in the chant.. like the constant nod of the head.. singular beat of the hand.. Latch on to this and it should get easy.

Laa.. La La kind of long syllable followed by 2 short syllables is the dominant chanting pattern.

Nan..di ni
Vis..wa vi
No..di ni

Observe how Viswa and Nandi are split. This way of splitting aids in the fluidity in the mouth..

4. Characters in the Chant

As the grammar bit is done, let us get through some of the verses. This song is refering to Devi Mahatmyam, an episode from the Puranas describing the victory of the Goddess Durga over the demon Mahishasura and the other demons.

A virtuous king named Suratha, dispossessed of his kingdom meets the merchant Samadhi who too has been dispossessed of his wealth and cast out by his own wife and children. And they are counseled by the sage Medha.

In a hidden sense, the demons and devas are the forces prevailing within us. This song is about conquering the demons within us. The names are so interesting. This inner message is not very different from Bhagawad Gita.

Madhu & Kaitabha aka Sweet n Bitter.. our weaknesses for likes and dislikes..

Mahishasura.. The gigantic bull .. The beast of passion and ego in us..

Dumra Lochana.. Hazy Perception and Vision of the world.. It needs purification and correction..

Rakta Bheeja.. one drop of blood from that demon falls, countless demons are born.. Our desires are like that.. One after another..

Chanda & Munda.. Passion/Internal Conflicts/villainy in Head..

Shumbha & Nishumbha..

After fighting these demons.. boon is given to Surath and Samadhi.. Our body is that Surath.. fine chariot.. And we can get Samadhi in this body..

Some Markers from the verses

The chant is in the callout style to the Goddess.. We have seen the background and the characters. A few familiar words and markers from each verse. This helps in establishing the connection during the chant. Look at the references for the detailed meaning.

1. This world is your Play

Hail Daughter of the mountain..
This world is your play..
Hail the Slayer of Mahishasura..
Beautiful haired one..
Hail the Daughter of the Mountain..

Ai Giri Nandini
Vishwa Vinodhini

Jaya Jaya Hey Mahishasura Mardhini
Ramya Kapardhini Shaila Suthe

2. Destroyer of the Demons, Danavas and Daityas.. Nourishes the Three Worlds

Durdhara & Durmukha -2 demons
Dhanujani Roshini, Dhithisutha Roshini -children of dhanu & dhiti

3. Destroyer of the Demons Madhu and Kaitabha

Madhu Madhure Madhu Kaithabha Ghanjini Kaithabha Bhanjini

4. Destroyer of the Demons Chanda and Shunda

Ripugaja Ganda Vidharuna Chanda Parakraama Shunda Mrigaadhi Pathe

5. 4 strategies in use. Shiva is sent as emmisary..

Chatura Vichaara Dhureena Maha Shiva Dhoothakritha Pramadhipathe

6. Her lotus feet performing the tandava in the battle.. the beating of drums.. her resplendid face

Dhumi Dhumi Thamaara .. Dhundhubi Nada.. Maho Mukha Reetkritha ..Thigmakare

7. Destroyer of the Demons Dhumralocana, Raktabija. Liberating Shumbha Nishumbha

Dhoomra Vilochana Dhoomra Shathe
Samara Vishoshitha Shonita Beeja Samudhbhava Shonitha Beeja
Shiva Shiva Shumbha Nishumbha Mahaahava Tharpitha Bhutha Pishaacharathe.. By chanting Shiva Shiva, she liberates them.

8. She destroys the Chaturanga formation of the enemy

Kritha Chaturanga Balakshiti Ranga

9. The world is dazzled by her battle dance. She unites with Shiva as half him in this cosmic dance

Jaya Jaya Japya Jaye Jaya Shabdha
Bhana Bhana Bhinjjini Bhinkritha Noopura
Nattita Nattaardha Nattii Natta Naayaka

Union of a Fine Mind and a Charming Appearance

Ayi Sumanah Sumanah Sumanah Sumanohara-Kaanti-Yute

Fights an Army of Wrestlers with her Jasmine like Troop

Mallama Thallika Mallitha Rallaka Mallarathe
Viracita-Vallika Pallika-Mallika

Her elephant troop charging rampant

Avirala Ganda Galanmadha

Lotus like Face.. Voice is Sweeter than Flute and Cuckoo..Radiant Toe Nails

Kamala Dhalamala Komala Kaanthi Kallakali Thamala
Khara Murali Rava Veejitha Koojitha Lajjitha Kokila Manjumathe
Dhanshula Sannakha Chandra Ruche

She is pleased with devotional contemplation like that of Surathi & Samadhi

Suratha Samaadhi Samaana Samaadhi Samaadhi Samaadhi Sujatharathe

Master of Arts & Beauty. Abode of Mahalakshmi & Saraswathi. A beautiful meditative moon like face

Kanakala Sathkala Sindhu Jalairanu
Thava Vimalendhu Kulam Vadhanaendhu

O Mother show grace on us.. Whatever befitting

Ayi Mayi Deena Dayalu Daya
Yaduchita Mathra

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Sujatha R

I write.. I weave.. I walk.. कवयामि.. वयामि.. यामि.. Musings on Music, Linguistics & Patterns