Whenever the autumn season arrives we also become happy and even ecstatic because Maa Durga too arrives with her full family to the earth. Goddess Durga is the destroyer of evil and harmful creatures and that is why, in the traditional way of offering reverence to the goddess, we mark her with all sorts of weapons in her arsenal. She can visit all the three realms – heaven, hell and earth. Even the eldest Pandava brother Judhistir worshipped Her.
In the Mahabharata, at the end of the fifth chapter of Virat Parva, the obeisance to Durga by Judhistir is a great matter. It is also a sort of self-surrender. Judhistir promised to go to the forest along with his brothers and wife after losing everything in the game of dice. He also agreed to go for one year 'Agyatvas', which means remaining somewhere without revealing his identity. Durjodhan and his supporters became elated. After spending 12 years of living in forest along with his brothers and wife, Judhistir started looking out for hibernation for one year. They were going on foot. They forgot that they had blood of royal inheritance and they easily mingled with ordinary human mortals. They were searching for a new country and after many days they arrived at Viratnagar. After reaching there, Judhistir entreated his brothers not to forget their oath. He said that Dharma would protect them and it would be their refuge. Just one year but danger at every step. The danger of being recognized. He warned them so that nobody could identify them and he said that they had to forget their real names for one year.
According to many scholars, the Durgabandana of Jdhistir or his obeisance to Durga is an interpolation in the Mahabharata. According to many critics, some poet or a group of poets have added this part to the mythological tale to glorify the image of goddess Durga. Some scholars kept Durgabandana out of the narrative in spite of textual authenticity and veracity. According to them this prayer to power is linguistically variant and interpolated. But in Kaliprasanna Sinhas translation of the Mahabharata, the already mentioned Durgabandana has been added. It is now well known that the translation of the eighteenth chapter of the Mahabharata was done by the financial help of Kaliprasanna Sinha and it was patronized by Iswarchandra Vydiasagar. Other pundits and scholars also helped in this venture. The translation even came out in the name of Kaliprasanna. Vidyasagar and other scholars did not consider the Durgabandana as an interpolation. Not even the scholars of Sanskrit. The Durgabandana provided by Sidhantavagish in his book is also narrated in Kaliprasannas translation. Both of them made a few alterations. Seeing these sorts of alterations and additions, the scholars of the Mahabharata deemed those to be interpolations. Judhistir was consoled by his father Dharma but still then he worshipped Durga. This debate has been pending in mythological discourse and nobody has found a satisfactory answer. But in many other junctures of the Mahabharata the Durgabandana is found. The storehouse of power and piety and also the destroyer of evil Durga becomes salutable to other great warriors because of her own strength.
Judhistirs Durgabandana has similarities with Markandeyapuran. Both have linguistic and thematic similarities. The eldest Pandava worshipped Durga in time of crisis. He also uttered Durgabandana silently but with full devotion and utmost respect. He not only unconditionally surrendered but also sought protection as he became bereft of crown. Thus goddess Durga appeared before Judhistir and promised that he would soon get back his crown due to her blessings. She promised that the Kauravas would be defeated because of her positive energy radiated to the Pandavas. She said that he along with his brothers would happily live in their royal castle.He was blessed with a happy and healthy life. He was not only blessed with a happy life but also a life of expertise. They were asked to stay in Viratnagar. She blessed that no one would be able to identify them.
Crownless, defeated, determined to go to hibernation, Judhistir was inspired by the words of Durga and started preparation for staying in Viratnagar. His Durgabandana did not go in vain. But this is not the ending of Durgabandana in the Mahabharata. Readers again found a glimpse of the goddess in Vishma parva which is larger in scope and full of perception of life. It is the Udyogparva in the Mahabharata. Then started Vishmaparva. Thus we find that in one of our great ancient Indian epics the Goddess Durga appears as a reservoir of power and piety.
Traditionally Durga puja was very conventional but now-a-days it has become theme based. Everything is being commercialized in the contemporary society. If we look at the urban puja places, we would be awestruck by its glamour and pomp. A drastic change has occurred even at the rural puja celebrations. However we must not forget our cultural root of which the above mentioned narrative is a part.