By Swami Harshananda
Durgāsukta literally means ‘hymn in praise of Durgā’.
This is a short but famous Vedic sukta composed of seven mantras. These mantras, though forming a part of the Mahānārāyana Upaniṣad, are spread over in the Ṛgveda, Taittiriya Samhitā and Taittiriya Brāhmana. Out of the seven mantras only the second manta is concerned about goddess Durgā. The seventh is a prayer addressed to Indra. The other five are related to Agni. Yet, tradition has considered all the mantras as one unit and called them Durgāsukta.
Its recitation is specially recommended for overcoming the difficulties in life as Durgā (the Divine Mother) and Agni (the deity of fire) protect us from internal and external enemies.
A brief summary of the hymn is as follows:
May we extract the soma juice in order to offer as oblation to Jātavedas, Agni who is all knowing. May he destroy our enemies. May he take us across all perils just as a ship takes us across the sea. May he also protect us from all wrongs.In some of the readings, a Gāyatrī-mantra of Durgā is added thus:
I take refuge in her, the goddess Durgā, who is lustrous like fire, who is radiating power through her tapas (austerity), who belongs to Paramātmā or the Supreme God and who is worshiped by the votaries through various rites to get their fruits. Our salutations to you, who is skilled in taking us across the ocean of sansāra.
O Agni! You are worthy of praise. Through auspicious means take us to the other shore, beyond all the difficulties. May our home-town and home-land become extensive and may the plot of agricultural land also be ample. Further, may you be pleased to bless our children and grandchildren with joy.
Durga, impel our understanding in the right direction!
O Agni! You destroy all our sins and take us beyond all troubles. You protect us just as one who takes a person across the sea by a ship.
O Fire-god! Guard our bodies and take care of its safety like the sage Atri who always prayed mentally (for the good of all).
We invoke from the highest place of assembly, Agni (the Fire-god) who is the conqueror of enemies, the charger of foes, and who is fierce. May he, the Fire-god, take us across all our difficulties and wrongs, and all that is perishable, and protect us.
You are lauded in sacrifices. You increase our happiness. You are seated in the sacrificial place as ancient and modern sacrificer. O Agni, be pleased to make us happy, we who are your own selves. Grant us good fortune from all sides.
O Indra! You are not connected with sin and sorrow. You pervade in all the sacrifices. Desirous of good fortune comprising cattle and overflowing with the current of immortal bliss, may we serve you. May the gods who dwell in the highest region of heaven delight me practicing loving adoration of Viṣṇu here on earth by granting my wish.
It means that:
Kātyāyanāya vidmahe Ikanyakumāri dhimahi I tanno durgih pracodayāt II
We know Kātyāyani. We meditate upon Kanyākumāri! May goddess Durgā impel our understanding in the right direction!
- Mahānārāyana Upaniṣad 2.1-7
- Kātyāyani was the daughter of the sage Katyāyana.
- The Concise Encyclopedia of Hinduism, Swami Harshananda, Ram Krishna Math, Bangalore