When we are standing before the huge gates of gold fort, we find there is a huge palace, surrounded by divine fragrance of kadamba flowers. We go towards this palace, which has gold steps and a huge hall built with precious rubies (one of the precious gems). There we find a huge throne fully studded with precious gems. On the throne we find Mantriṇi Devī seated majestically. Immediately, we recollect Lalitā Sahasranāma 75, Mantrinyambā-viracita-viśaṅgavadha-toṣitā. We request our Guru who is guiding us in our journey to Śrī Cakrā, to explain about Mantrini Devī.

Now Guru explains; “Lalitāmbikā was delighted with the destruction of demon Viśaṅgavadha by Mantrinī Devi, who is also known as Śyāmalā Devi). She helps us in attaining super natural powers and also eradicates evil influences on us.  Mantrinī Devi represents the potency of mantra-s.  Mantrinī Devi destroys evil desires of the devotees of Lalitāmbikā. Mantrinī Devi has her own chakra, which consists of bindu, innermost triangle, five-faced angle, inner eight petal lotus, outer eight petal lotus, sixteen petal lotus and outer square. This chakra is known as “Geyacakra” and this is explained in Lalitā Sahasranāma 69, which says Geyacakra-rathārūḍha-mantriṇī-parisevitā. The chariot in which she travels is also known as Geyacakra ratha. She is one of the important ministers of Lalitāmbikā. There is one more nāma in Lalitā Sahasranāma (786) which says, Mantrinī-nyasta-rājyadhūḥ.  Mantriṇi is the feminine gender for minister (mantri).  Śyāmalā Devi presides over all the alphabets of Sanskrit. If we worship Her, mantras will fructify easily. She is also known as Rāja-Mātaṅgī and Rāja-Śyāmalā. Let us now worship her and take her blessings, as without her permission, we cannot go anywhere near Lalitāmbikā.” After carefully listening to Guru’s explanation, we go near her to worship.

She appears in multi coloured complexion like the wings of peacock. She is wearing ear studs made out of palm leaves. Her mouth chews betel leaves which emit pleasant fragrance. Her lips are deep red in colour. She has embellished saffron paste all over her body. She is wearing a crown with radiating moon. Her feet are red in complexion. She has a melodious voice. She is wearing red and white coloured garments. She is wearing a beautiful garland made out of kadamba flowers that are grown in kadamba forest. She is also wearing another garland of basil leaves. Her hair is falling on her left shoulders. She has four arms. She holds a parrot in one hand and a lotus flower in another hand. With other two hands, she is playing a veena, a stringed musical instrument and she appears overwhelmed with the melody of her tune. Since, she is so fond of music, she is also known as Saṁgīta Mātṛkā (mother of music). We now stand before her seeking her blessings to have personal darśan of Lalitāmbikā. When she sees such a good gathering of great devotees, headed by the right Guru, She blessed all of us without any hesitation and told us that all our afflictions, such as sorrow, anguish and distress now stand eradicated. With tears of joy, we now move to the next fort.

We now move to the entrance gates of gold fort (fort number 8) and walk through the fort and reach the other end of the fort. By walking through exit gates, we once again see huge open space. This place is very well lit by the next fort (fort number 9) made of puṣparāga (topaz. Wearing this stone is said to give wealth. It is worn, when Jupiter is afflicted). When we walk through this open space, we are able to see Siddha-s (Self-realised persons, who constantly affirm Śivoham – I am Śiva - meditating on Lalitāmbikā. When we go around this space, we could see a number of well known Siddha-s. All of them keep their eyes closed. When we go past them, we have goose bumps (goose bumps are possible when divine energy enters into our body). Every one of them appears radiating and this place is not only lit by the effulgent puṣparāga fort, but also by the presence of great Siddha-s, from whom radiating light emerge. They also recite Ṣoḍaśī and Pañcadaśī mantra-s apart from reciting Śivoham. After paying our obeisance to the great Siddha-s, we now move to the next fort, puṣparāga fort.

We stand before the entry gates of puṣparāga fort (fort number 9) and walk through this fort to reach the other end of the fort. On exiting this fort, we find another open area where cāraṇa-s sing in praise of Lalitāmbikā. Cāraṇa-s are those who have surrendered to Her totally. They have got this name because they have made śaraṇāgati to Her. Śaraṇāgati means taking refuge in Her. They are complexly purified from all their sins and they take care of maintaining Śrī Nagara. They are very fond of true worshippers of Lalitāmbikā. After paying our respects to them we now move to the next fort padmarāga fort.

We now stand before the gates of padmarāga fort (fort number 10, made of ruby) and enter the fort, only to exit through the other end. We now enter into another open area, where we see many young bachelors known as Vaṭuka-s. All of them are meditating on Lalitāmbikā. Along with them live certain types of yoginī-s (yoginī-s are female demons attending on Goddess Durgā). They also worship a goddess by name Saṁkarṣinī After paying our obeisance to Saṁkarṣinī, Vaṭuka-s and yoginī-s, we move towards the next fort.

We now proceed towards the entrance gates of the eleventh fort made of gomedaka (known as zircon. It is said to alleviate the evil effects of Rahu. It is also believed that by wearing this gem, one will get rid of all his sins – source: Manimālā, an ancient treatise on gems). When we leave this fort, we now enter into another huge open space. From the point where we are standing now, we are also able to see the next fort made of vajraramaṇi (known as thunderbolt gem, a type of diamond), which is extremely glittering. In the open space that exists between the forts of gomedaka and vajraramaṇi, there are a number of huge flower gardens, rivers, lakes and several beautiful palaces. In this beautiful place live divine damsels like Rambā, Ūrvasī and others. They sing and dance in praise of Lalitāmbikā. There is a rivulet by name Vajrā (vajra means thunderbolt). It is also said that the river is invisible. Water is gushing through this rivulet making a thundering sound. In quiet area of this rivulet, there are swans. On the banks of this river, there is a goddess by name Vajreśī. She is adorned with diamond ornaments. She is worshipped by Indra, the chief of gods. (Vajreśī referred here does not mean Vajreśvarī, nāma 468 or Vajriṇī, nāma 944 of Lalitā Sahasranāma. Both of them are the names of Lalitāmbikā). After worshipping Vajreśī, who constantly worship Lalitāmbikā, we proceed towards vajraramaṇi fort.

Vajraramaṇi fort glitters like blinding lights. We walk through this fort to reach the other end of the fort. When we exit this fort, we enter into a huge garden. There are a number of well crafted palaces in which live eight huge serpents like Ananta, Vāsuki, Takṣaka, Karkoṭaka, etc. Apart from these gigantic nāga-s, some devoted demons like Bali (he was humiliated by Viṣṇu).  After paying our respects to them we move on to the next fort.

This fort (fort number 13) is made up of vaiḍūrya (cat’s eye). We walk through this fort to enter into another open space. When we stand at the exit gate of vaiḍūrya fort, we could see another huge fort resembling the sky and it is difficult to distinguish between the colour of the sky and this fort. We are now in the open space between this fort and vaiḍūrya fort. In this place, there are a number of huge palaces. This place is meant for those who never deviated from dharma. In this place live Manu, Bharata, etc. All of them worship only Lalitāmbikā. After paying our obeisance to them, we move to the next fort, fort number 14, which is made of indranīla (sapphire) gems.  We are now at the entrance gates of indranīla fort.

(to be continued)