It is the night before the great battle. Brother was going to be pitted against brother, disciples against their gurus, sons against their fathers. On such a night, Lord Krishna, the divine charioteer, advices Arjuna, our hero, to pray to Goddess Durga to achieve victory over his enemies (Bhishma Parva, Section XXIII of Mahabharata).
Arjuna creates this beautiful hymn, the third verse of which is –
कात्यायनि महा-भागे, करालि विजये जये,
शिखि पिच्छ-ध्वज-धरे, नानाभरण-भूषिते।।
O Durga! Great Being, fierce bestower of victory! O Personification of victory! You who bear a banner of peacock plumes, you who are bedecked with every kind of ornament!
The fourth and fifth verses are given below. Bombay Jayashri has sung them in her album Salokyam with slight differences.
गोपेन्द्रस्यानुजे ज्येष्ठे नन्द-गोप-कुलोद्भवे||
She who wields a lofty spear, the holder of sword and shield, born as the younger sister of the chief of cow-herds (Lord Krishna), eldest child of the family of the cowherd Nanda.
महिषासृक्-प्रिये नित्यं कौशिकि पीत-वासिनि
अट्टहासे कोक-मुखे, नमस्तेऽस्तु रण-प्रिये||
She who is fond of buffalo’s blood, born of Kushika’s clan, draped in yellow garments. She who laughs aloud, is wolf-faced (legend of killing of asuras in the form of a wolf). I bow to you who are fond of battle.
The Goddess grants Arjuna a vision and blesses him. A beautiful and powerful sloka, it is a prayer to Shakti (power and potency).
I normally do not like my classical music to be messed with; I like its purity, its ageless quality so I don’t take to fusion music. Yet the music I have selected today falls into that category. It is a beautiful combination of two Voices (capital intended) which stroke every sensory input that you could have as a human. The song is titled Katyaayani and it is by Bombay Jayashri in Raga Durga and Ustad Rashid Khan in Raga Charukeshi. To learn more about the raga Durga, click here. To learn more about Charukesi, click here.
Bombay Jayashri’s album Salokyam has her singing Katyaayani Maha Bhage with more traditional accompaniments. Listen to track 5 here to appreciate her beautiful voice.