Rishi Vedavyas’s Mahabharata contains a very interesting episode of invocation of Goddess Durga by Arjuna on the battlefield of Kruskshetra.
This appears in Book 6, the Bhisma Parva, Section 23 : on seeing the approaching Kaurava army, Krishna urged Arjuna to utter his hymn to Goddess Durga for ensuring victory over the adversary.
On Krishna’s advice, Arjuna alighted from the chariot and invoked Goddess Durga with folded hands.
The hymn is a beautiful one running into couplets and is a Durga Stuti (praise). It goes like this:
श्रीअर्जुन उवाच –
नमस्ते सिद्ध-सेनानि, आर्ये मन्दर-वासिनी ।
कुमारी कालि कापालि, कपिले कृष्ण-पिंगले ॥१॥
भद्र-कालि! नमस्तुभ्यं, महाकालि नमोऽस्तुते।
चण्डि चण्डे नमस्तुभ्यं, तारिणि वर-वर्णिनि ॥२॥
कात्यायनि महा-भागे, करालि विजये जये ।
शिखि पिच्छ-ध्वज-धरे, नानाभरण-भूषिते ॥॥
अटूट-शूल-प्रहरणे, खड्ग-खेटक-धारिणे ।
गोपेन्द्रस्यानुजे ज्येष्ठे, नन्द-गोप-कुलोद्भवे ॥४॥
महिषासृक्-प्रिये नित्यं, कौशिकि पीत-वासिनि ।
अट्टहासे कोक-मुखे, नमस्तेऽस्तु रण-प्रिये ॥५॥
उमे शाकम्भरि श्वेते, कृष्णे कैटभ-नाशिनि ।
हिरण्याक्षि विरूपाक्षि, सुधू्राप्ति नमोऽस्तु ते ॥६॥
वेद-श्रुति-महा-पुण्ये, ब्रह्मण्ये जात-वेदसि ।
जम्बू-कटक-चैत्येषु, नित्यं सन्निहितालये ॥७॥
त्वं ब्रह्म-विद्यानां, महा-निद्रा च देहिनाम् ।
स्कन्ध-मातर्भगवति, दुर्गे कान्तार-वासिनि॥८॥
स्वाहाकारः स्वधा चैव, कला काष्ठा सरस्वती ।
सावित्री वेद-माता च, तथा वेदान्त उच्यते ॥९॥
स्तुतासि त्वं महा-देवि विशुद्धेनान्तरात्मा ।
जयो भवतु मे नित्यं, त्वत्-प्रसादाद् रणाजिरे ॥१०॥
कान्तार-भय-दुर्गेषु, भक्तानां चालयेषु च ।
नित्यं वससि पाताले, युद्धे जयसि दानवान् ॥११॥
त्वं जम्भिनी मोहिनी च, माया ह्रीः श्रीस्तथैव च ।
सन्ध्या प्रभावती चैव, सावित्री जननी तथा ॥१२॥
तुष्टिः पुष्टिर्धृतिदीप्तिश्चन्द्रादित्य-विवर्धनी ।
भूतिर्भूति-मतां संख्ये, वीक्ष्यसे सिद्ध-चारणैः ॥१३॥
I SALUTE Thee, leader of Yogis, one with the Brahman,
Dweller in the Mandāra forest.
Virgin, Kālī, Spouse of Kāpāla, of tawny hue.
Salutation to Thee, Bhadrakālī.
Reverence to Thee, Mahākāli,
Of the race of Kata greatly worshipful,
Dreadful one, Giver of victory, Victrix,
Who holdeth a peacock’s tail for Thy banner,
And art adorned with various jewels,
Bearing formidable spear, sword, and shield (made of skin).
Younger Sister of the chief of cowherds,
Eldest one, born in the family of the cowherd Nanda,
Delighting in the blood of Mahiṣa,
With auspicious smile,
Whose mouth devoured all demons,
Salutation to Thee, delighter in battle.
Umā, giver of shāka,
In the form of Maheśvara, and in that of Vāsudeva,
Destructress of Kaitabha,
Golden-eyed, with half-opened eyes , grey-eyed,
Veda and Śruti, and most sacred.
Propitious to Brāhmanas engaged in the sacrificial rites,
Thou art Jātaveda,
And art ever present in the sacred shrines in the chief cities of Jambudvīpa.
Of Sciences Thou art the knowledge of Brahman,
Thou art the liberation of embodied beings,
Mother of Skanda.
O Bhagavatī Durgā! Thou liveth in inaccessible regions–
Svāhā, Svadhā, Kalā, and Kāṣṭḥā,
Mother of Vedas and Vedānta art Thou called.
I praise Thee from the pure depth of my heart.
By Thy favour let us be victorious in battle.
Ever dost Thou abide in inaccessible regions,
In places full of fear and difficulty;
In the houses of Thy devotees, and in Pātāla.
In battle Thou conquereth the Dānavas.
Thou art drowsiness and slumber.
Thou hast power to show wonderfully the world,
Modesty, and beauty.
Cause of creation and destruction,
Creatrix, Mother, contentment, nourishment, constancy,
Light, Supportress of the sun and moon,
Power of Him who possesses power,
In ecstasy Thou art perceived by Siddhas and Cāranas.
On getting to know the Bhakti and devotion of Partha (Arjuna), Goddess Durga appeared in the sky and assured the following in presence of Krishna : Within a short time, all of Pandava’s enemies would be defeated. Arjuna had Narayana (Krishna) for company. Nobody could defeat him hence, not even Indra !
Soon the Goddess disappeared after blessing Arjuna on his victory and Arjuna too felt successful and mounted his chariot and blew his celestial conch along with Krishna.
Person reciting the hymn rising at dawn, knows no fear from Yakshas, Rakshasas, Pisachas. He can have no enemies; no fear, from snakes, wild animals and even kings. He is sure to be victorious in all disputes, and freed from all bonds. He is sure to get over all difficulties, freed from thieves, be ever victorious in battle and win the goddess of prosperity forever. With health and strength, he lives for a hundred years.
In essence, the Durga Stuti episode echoes what has been said in the sattvika Puranas : that Goddess Durga is the shadow energy of Lord Narayana. Whatever He wishes, Maa Durga blesses along the lines of the text “Shrishti-sthiti-pralaya-sadhana-shaktir eka chayeva yasya bhuvanani bibharti Durga” !
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