The Divine Invocation Of The War Goddess – Katyayani Prayed To For Victory By The Gods

Illustration: ‘Rama’s Sharadiya Durga Puja’ – Ratan Acharya

Something that I feel deserves greater prominence when we speak of Indo-European theology – is the fact that Our Gods Have Gods. Or, more pointedly – Goddess.

This isn’t just a Hindu thing. It is also encountered – at least, inferentially – in the Hellenic sphere. There, per Hesiod’s Theogony, we have Zeus “honour[ing] above all” Hekate and making great Gifts to Her.

In this, Zeus is not alone – we also hear that She “is honoured exceedingly by the [other] deathless Gods” as well. Something that the mortal man is enjoined to ‘follow’ in the example of immediately afterward – “For to this day, whenever any one of men on earth offers rich sacrifices and prays for favour according to custom, he calls upon Hecate. Great honour comes full easily to him whose prayers the Goddess receives favourably”, and She is Mighty in all the Three Worlds.

Now, tonight is the Sixth Night of #NavRatri – and that means, per our custom (there are, of course, others), the Night is dedicated to Devi as the Warrior Form, Katyayani.

And, in much the same fashion as Hekate – well, “And when men arm themselves for the battle that destroys men, then the Goddess is at hand to give Victory and grant glory readily to whom She will.” [that being a further quote from Theogony, as with all previous passages from it, in the Evelyn-White translation]

Echoing this sentiment most strongly is, perhaps surprisingly to some, the words of Krishna in the Mahabharat:

“Sanjaya said, — “Beholding the Dhartarashtra army approach for fight, Krishna said these words for Arjuna’s benefit.”

“The Holy One Said,–‘Cleansing thyself, O mighty-armed one, utter on the eve of the battle thy hymn to Durga for (compassing) the defeat of the foe.”

This, Arjuna does – and we shall not reproduce the full Hymnal here. But suffice to say it meets with Her Approval:

“Sanjaya continued,–Understanding (the measure of) Partha’s devotion, Durga Who is always graciously inclined towards Mankind, appeared in the Firmament and in the presence of Govinda, Said these words.

‘”The Goddess Said,–‘Within a short time thou shalt conquer thy foes, O Pandava. O invincible one, thou hast Narayana (again) for aiding thee. Thou art incapable of being defeated by foes, even by the Wielder of the Thunderbolt Himself.'”
[Mahabharat VI 23, Ganguli translation]

It is interesting, indeed, to hear in the context of what is usually thought of as the major Vaishnava saliency – Arjuna, under Krishna’s Divine Guidance, Hail our Devi as “Thou that art identical with Brahman.”

However, our main purpose (and inspiration) in writing comes to us from another account – of another Vaishnava Avatara Who had a great destiny (and a great necessity) both in and upon the field of war.

That is Lord Ram. A figure Whose potent invocation of Devi is, per one explanation, why we observe (Autumnal) NavRatri as we do today.

This case is most interesting as, of course, Ravana (yes, that Ravana) is also described as being a pious (if ultimately … heavily imperfect in certain key respects – namely, his lack of respect) Devotee of Devi and Mahadeva.

Therefore, Rama’s devotions are doubly necessary – so as not only to win Her Support for Him (although, in truth, this is already Her Intent – long story, we’re writing a lengthier piece upon it right at this moment !), but also to cause His opponent to become bereft of Her Protection and vital Empowerment, likewise.

We shall quote from the Devipuran (Mahabhagwat)-Ramayan [Chhawchharia translation]:

II 36:

“Lord Vishnu Said— ‘I shall assume the form of Dashrath’s son (Sri Ram) and kill that wicked fellow along with [h]is sons, kith and [kin].
But the Gods must also assume the form of bears and monkeys [i.e. Vanaras] and help Me in My endeavour on the surface of the Earth (24).
Oh Brahma! There is one more thing that I must tell you. There is one big hurdle in killing that rascal, and You must find out a way to overcome it (25).
That wicked Ravana worships the Mother of the Three Worlds known as Katyayani with great devotion, sincerity and reverence (26).

The Goddess named Katyayani too is very pleased with his devotion and submission towards Her so much so that She lives in Lanka with Her Companion Yoginis and gives constant protection to him (27).
If that Goddess becomes pleased with Me and leaves (abandons) Lanka, it is only then that I can kill him, otherwise it is not possible for Me to do so (28).

Oh the One who sits on the divine lotus (i.e. Brahma)! Do whatever You think proper and fit for this purpose. No one can conquer that enemy (Ravana) without Her Grace ( i.e. without the help of Goddess Katayani) (29).
Oh Brahma! As long as Goddess Katyayani is pleased with and benevolent on him, that most valiant, valorous, strong and powerful Ravana would continue to destroy the weak and meek world, which is no match for his strength, with impunity (30).
And though I am the sustainer and protector of the world, I am still unable to harm him’ (31).”

Needless to say, a proper and pious approach to Devi is made – and She sets forth the Vision via which Ravan shall ultimately become most heavily undone. As, it should appear, was Her (Divine) Plan (Her Rachana ? ) All Along !

Vishnu is to incarnate as Rama, as we have seen – however one side-effect of this is that He forgets much of His previous suite of knowledge and experience. Thus, Brahma must remind Him (as Ram) of the (fortuitous) Truth of Their Situation:

To quote again from the Devipuran (Mahabhagwat)-Ramayan [Chhawchharia translation]:

VII 41

Lord Shiva Said (to Narad) — ‘Hearing these words of Sri Ram Chandra, the Grandfather of the Creation, Brahma, reassured Sri Ram and Said to Him publicly as follows— (11).
Brahma Said, ‘Oh king of kings (i.e. Sri Ram)! Oh Kamlapati (literally, the Lord of Laxmi Who is also known as Kamla because She holds a lotus flower in Her Hand and also stands upon a divine lotus at the time She is worshipped by Her Devotees)! Oh Jagganath, the Lord of the whole World ! You know everything (because You are omniscient and allknowing), yet I shall tell You what you have asked me about, i.e. how to obtain Victory in the War (12).

You should worship Goddess Katyayani Who is the Mother of the Three Worlds (the Celestial, the Terrestrial, the Subterranean worlds), Who is an Embodiment or Image of the dynamic powers of the supreme transcendental almighty Brahm[an], and Who is therefore
Eternal, Infinite, Imperishable and Truthful. She can eliminate the greatest of fears that haunts anyone from any source whatsoever (13).

She remains Unconquerable Herself and gives Victory to all others (who worship Her). Oh the most brave One with strong arms (i.e. Sri Ram)! You must pray to Goddess Durga Who can relieve all distress, troubles, problems and misfortunes (14).

Oh Shatrushudan, the Vanquisher of Enemies! Without Her Grace, Benevolence and Showing of Favour, You shall not [be] able to get Victory over Ravana and other demons in the War (15).

Lord Shiva had remembered (invoked) Her Divine Name and had drunk the most potent and corrosive poison to conquer Death, and had survived. That is why He is called ‘Mritunjai’ (literally, the One Who has Conquered Death) (16).
Oh the best in the clan of Raghu (i.e. Sri Ram)! Oh the great and wise one! You should please Her and, thereafter, conquer Lanka. Oh Lord! She is a slayer of wicked and evil fellows, and Her Companions also provide similar Victory (17).
You must certainly worship and invoke Her to Win the War as well to protect the World from the torments of the demons (18).

Oh Lord! Ravana is greatly devoted to Goddess Chandika (Who is the Great Goddess of War and one of the fiercest Forms of the Cosmic Goddess). Without obtaining the blessings and favours (literally, a favourable and benign view or glance) of that Great Goddess, who can ever win him in war? (19).
Oh the Wise One! She had advised You this very thing in front of Me and the Lord of Gods (i.e. Shiva) (20).
Oh Madhusudan (Vishnu; Sri Ram)! You know everything Yourself. Still, since You have asked Me, I shall tell You the way to obtain Victory (in the war against the demon Ravana)’ (21).

This, Brahma of course then does; and it is a point of interest that this also incorporates facility for Rama to carry out worship of Her in a manner that would ordinarily contravene certain rules as to the timing of the observance. She, after all, Is the Rule – and so some leeway is, of course, via Her Divine Grace, available to Those Whom She Favours.

Now, the climax for all of this comes in Devipuran (Mahabhagwat)-Ramayan X 44 – and we shall not quote the full invocation given by Lord Ram at this point.

We shall however, observe that Rama’s Victory Prayer both begins and ends with the specific invocation of the Katyayani (War-)Form.

To quote, then, again in the Chhawchharia translation, the beginning:

“Sri Ram prayed to the Goddess most earnestly and Said— ‘Oh the One Who is Revered and Honoured by the Three Worlds and is the Bestower of Victory in War! I repeatedly bow before You. Oh Goddess Katyayani! Be pleased with Me and give Me Vctory over the enemy (1).
You are All Powerful and Almighty, You are the Vanquisher of the wicked enemies , and You are the Slayer of evil and sinful ones. I bow before You reverentially. Bestow Victory on Me in the War (2).”

And, in its concluding verse:

“Oh Shive (i.e. the Divine Consort of Lord Shiva; Parvati) ! You remove/eliminate the troubles, tribulations, sorrows and miseries of those who have taken shelter with You. You provide welfare, goodness, well-being, happiness and auspiciousness to them.
Oh Katyayani! Give Victory to Me in the War and always Protect Me from fear’ (16).”

This, again, had met with (predestined – by Her Will) Approval, as what immediately thereafter follows:

“Shiva said to Narad — ‘Oh the most exalted Sage! When Sri Ram had prayed to the Goddess as narrated above, there was an Announcement from the Sky (17).
The Formless Voice (from the Sky) said, ‘Oh the Lion in the clan of Raghu! Do not be afraid at all. You will soon be able to kill the most formidable, strong, valiant and powerful demons and Conquer Lanka (18).
Oh the Vanquisher of enemies! The Creator Brahma has worshipped Me under the Vilwa Tree (the wood apple tree). Hence I shall grant You Your Desired Boon’ (19).

Oh the best amongst Sages ( i.e. Narad)! When the best among the Raghus ( i.e. Sri Ram) heard this Divine Voice from the Sky, He felt reassured of His Victory (20).”

Now to this we could, of course, add numerous other exemplars – situations wherein the assembled Pantheon had Called Upon (indeed, Called Into ‘Being’) the Goddess in order to lead Them in war and deliver victory even in the face of seeming-insurmountable odds.

The situation of Mahishasur is perhaps the best known (and of pointed saliency for Katyayani Herself), and we have also often spoken of the scenario wherein Shakambhari (a theonym also referenced by Arjuna in the course of His Invocation to Her) is brought forth due to the clever demon Tarakasur having wiped from the minds of men the knowledge of the Vedas and Their pious rites (thus weakening the rest of the Gods in the face of the demonic onslaught that he had lead right to the Gates of the Heavens).

Indeed, speaking of the Vedas – we are also reminded of that occurrence elucidated in SBr III 5 2 wherein the Priest can choose to call upon Vak as an immense Wrathful and Fiery ‘Roaring’ and ‘Devouring’ quality with which his foes can be “exorcised” (involving a libation of ‘burning water’). She has become as the Lioness – and it is Her Formidable Fury and Displeasure that is sent forth to conquer in the sacrificer’s name (or, rather, to conquer the name proffered by the sacrificer as the enemy of Right …).

This, too, is a case of ‘Mythic Recurrence’ and ‘Eternal Return’ – as the Priest is acting in the stead of the Priest of the Gods … and declares that She shall receive First Share of the Offering, even afore Agni (just as the Gods had done in order to worship Her in the Mythic ‘times’ mentioned earlier in the SBr for the same conceptry – and just as, we might suggest, it should sound like Zeus had done , in that deed referenced in the Theogony : the securing of Her (Hekate’s) Status as ‘Honoured Above All’, throughout the Three Worlds).

We have earlier written upon the occurrence of ‘Vaishvadevi’ [‘Of All the Gods’] in line 53 of AV-S XII 5, and shall not repeat that contextualization here. Suffice to say that it should seem, once again, a recognition of Her having been Called (Prayed To) by ‘All the Gods’ in order to come forth and (to quote the Griffith translation):

“51 Rend, rend to pieces, rend away, destroy, destroy him utterly.
[…]
56 Thou bearest off the tyrants’ strength, their store of merit, and their prayers.
57 Bearing off wrong, Thou givest in that world to him who hath been wronged.”

Rather apt, you would have to say, for that which thence ensues toward Ravana at Her Hand.

Meanwhile, in the Skanda Purana’s account (I 120) of Her Arrival, we find a slightly different style of Invocation for Her.

The assembled Gods, having been beaten back by Mahishasur and his armies, are fairly boiling over with rage. Indeed, the actual word utilized here is Gharma (घर्म) – a term that we would most usually encounter in relation to (heavily heated) ritual preparations.

This anger then issues forth via ‘Vak’s Gate’ (Vaktradvāra – i.e. the Mouth), darkening the skies. It is joined and ‘ignited’ (or ‘incepted’, perhaps) via the addition of the similarly super-tangible vocal expression of Wrath (‘War-Fury’ would be the apt translation for Kopa ( कोप ) here, I think) of the War God, Kartikeya – likewise emanated out through His ‘Vak’s Gate’, and thence congealing (‘Samagata’ – both ‘to join together’ and ‘to arrive’) with the ‘Gharma’ of Anger of the rest of the Pantheon combined.

And it is out of that terrific swirling storm of Rage that Katyayani strides forth.

The Prayers of both Gods and mortals alike to invoke Her are often of a similar character and essence – howls of righteous anger and wounded fury given metaphysically potent shape via the formulas of ritualistic invocation. Or, here, without a detailed liturgy mentioned – phrased, instead, in terms of another form of ritual operation: the producing of a Gharma, a liquid offering which, it should seem, is the necessary libation in order to culminate Her invitation to ultimately arrive.

So, with all of that above in mind (and, in mouth) … what else is there to be said?

Two verses from the Durga Suktam spring to mind:

पृतनाजितँसहमानमुग्रमग्निँ हुवेम परमात्सधस्थात् ।
स नः पर्षदति दुर्गाणि विश्वा क्षामद्देवो अति दुरितात्यग्निः ॥

“We Invoke From The Highest Place The Ugran Agni [Powerful/Furious Fire], The SahaMana [‘Conquering/Overpowering/Powerful Spirit/Anger/Sentience’] Unvanquishable In Battle ;

May She Greatly Protect Us From The Universe’s Durgaani [‘Dangers’], Divinely Incinerating [‘Ksamad-Devo’] The Great Evils [‘Durita-Ati’ – also means ‘very difficult path’] [With Her] Living/Sacred Blaze [‘Agni’]”

And, not least as it is a Katyayani invocation – the Hymnal’s summative (yet also inceptive) mantra:

कात्यायनाय विद्महे कन्याकुमारि धीमहि
तन्नो दुर्गिः प्रचोदयात् ॥

Jai Mata Di !

One thought on “The Divine Invocation Of The War Goddess – Katyayani Prayed To For Victory By The Gods

  1. Pingback: The Divine Invocation Of The War Goddess – Katyayani Prayed To For Victory By The Gods – Glyn Hnutu-healh: History, Alchemy, and Me

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