The Story of slaying of Shumbha & Nishumbha – Sri Durga Saptashati (Chapter 9 & 10)
On hearing that Dhumralochana, Chaṇḍa, Munda and Raktabija were killed by the goddess, the great Asura of commendable valour ordered his invincible followers who were thrilled at the very mention of the war. At my behest the Daityas born of the race of Kalaka have all assembled here with their armies and along with Kalakeyas, Mauryas, Daurhṛdas and others. Let them march on with hopes of victory.
After ordering the demons, Shumbha and Nishumbha mounted on their chariots and set out. Their armies too followed them like swarms of moths rising from a mountain for their destruction. Mṛdangas, Mardalas, Bherikas, Diṇḍimas, Jharjharas and Anakas were sounded. The warmongers rejoiced in the battleground. Those who wore afraid fled away for their life. Glad in their martial dress the soldiers came in their healthy spirits to the battleground. Holding various weapons and missiles they teased one another each eager for his victory. Soldiers on elephants, looked at the enemy with indifference. In the company of the lord of Asuras they rejoiced in the battle. The sound arising from the guns rose up repeatedly making the gods tremble. A great darkness enveloped the sky. Even the chariot of the sun was not visible. Foot-soldiers set out in excessive numbers desirous of victory. Soldiers in chariots, on horsebacks, elephants and others set out joyously in crores and crores. The rutting elephants like massive black mountains spread their trumpeting sound in the battlefield. Camels resembling small hills produced hoarse sounds from their throats.
On seeing the army of the enemy advancing thus, Ambika kept her bow well-strung. She sounded her bell that distressed the enemy. The lion too shook his manes and roared. Seeing her bedecked in fine ornaments, holding weapons and stationed on the Himalaya Mountain Nishumbha spoke words full of sentiments like a man clever in understanding the emotions of beautiful women. “Even a petal of the Malate (Jasmine) flower thrown on the beautiful body of women like you may distress you. O goddess, how will you carry on a terrible war with the self-same handsome body of yours?”
After saying thus, the great Asura became silent. Chaṇḍika spoke to him— “O foolish Asura, why do you prattle in vain? Either fight or else return to Patala. The heroic demon, becoming infuriated, made a wonderful shower of arrows on the battlefield just as masses of clouds shower water during rains. Along with his arrogant followers the demon fought with sharp weapons as spears, axes, iron clubs, parighas, bows, Bhusuṇḍikas, javelins, horseshoe-edged arrows, and great swords. In that war great elephants looking like black mountains with foreheads pierced ran here and there. The banners of Shumbha and Nishumbha white like flying cranes fluttered here and there. The demons were shattered by Kalika like fishes. The dreadful horses were beheaded and killed in the battle. The other demons were devoured by the lion. In the battlefield streams of blood flowed. The dead soldiers floated. Their tresses of hair resembled the moss. Their upper cloths resembled the white foam. A great fight ensued where soldiers of equal rank fought with one another. The cavalrymen fought their counterpart; the elephant-riders with those on elephants: the charioteers with those on chariots and the foot soldiers with foot soldiers.
Then Nishumbha thought to himself— “A terrible period has set in now. Even a poor man may become rich and rich man poor if the time is adverse. Indeed, this lady is the ancient prakriti, the great Chandika come here to achieve the task of the gods and harass the army of the Daityas. She can never be an ordinary woman. It is inglorious to be killed by a woman or to kill a woman for those who desire to taste the pleasures of war. Still how shall we show our faces to the king of Asuras without fighting? After thinking thus and sitting in a great chariot driven by a charioteer he hastened to the spot where the lady consort of Shiva was present; the goddess whose youth was sought after by the celestial damsels.
He addressed her thus— “O goddess, of what avail is it if the mercenary soldiers are killed? If you desire to fight, let both of us clad in martial dress fight with each other. The goddess addressed Kali then— “See the foolish ambition of the two Asuras. Time the instigator of good and bad actions renders the mind work in a different way when adversity is imminent.” Then Nishumbha attacked Chaṇḍika as well as Kali with thousands of arrows. With the volleys of her arrows Shiva split into a thousand pieces the arrows discharged by the Asura. He then lifted his lustrous sword along with the shield and struck the lion on its head. With her great sword she split it too as the woodcutters do to a tree with the axe. When the sword was split, he thrust an arrow into her chest. The arrow too was cut. He then hurled the trident which powdered it with her fist. Prepared to die the heroic Asura seized a mace and rushed at her. She reduced the mace into powder with the edge of her trident. The demon shattered the trident with another mace. Then she struck Nishumbha with her sharp, terrible serpentine poisonous arrows that were accustomed to drink the blood of Asuras and brought him down to the earth.
When his younger brother of great honour and strength fell Shumbha was furious. The eight-armed demon seated himself in a chariot and came to the place where Chandika was present. She blew the conch Arindama, produced unbearable bow-twang; the lion shaking its manes roared. The whole sky reverberated with the threefold round. Then the mother of the universe laughed boisterously making all the demons tremble with fear. The gods shouted cries of “Victory” when she challenged the Asuras in the battle. The king of Daityas hurled a spear of shining flames which was struck down by a meteor. Chandika shattered the arrows discharged by Shumbha. He too split the arrows discharged by her into a thousand pieces. She lifted her trident and struck the great Asura. He fell unconscious.
Thereupon Nishumbha, regaining consciousness, seized his bow again and struck the goddess, and Kali and the lion with arrows. And the Danava lord, that son of Diti, putting forth a myriad arm, again covered Chaṇḍika with a myriad of discuses. The goddess then enraged, she, Durga who destroys the afflictions of adversity, split those discuses and those arrows with her own arrows. Then Nishumbha seizing his club rushed impetuously at Chaṇḍika to slay her outright, with the Daitya host surrounding him. As he was just falling upon her, Chaṇḍika swiftly clove his club with her sharp-edged scimitar. And he took hold of a dart. Chaṇḍika with a dart hurled swiftly pierced Nishumbha, the afflicter of the Immortals, in the heart, as he approached with dart in hand. When he was pierced by the dart, out of his heart issued another man of great strength and great valour, exclaiming “Stand!” When he stepped forth, the goddess laughing aloud then struck off his head with her scimitar; thereupon he fell to the ground.
The lion then devoured those Asuras whose necks he had crushed with his savage teeth, and Kali and Shivaduti devoured the others. Some great Asuras perished, being pierced through by the spear held by Kumara’s Energy; others were driven back by the water purified by the spell uttered by Brahma’s Energy; and others fell, pierced by the trident wielded by Shiva’s Energy; some were pounded to dust on the ground by blows from the snout of Varaha’s Energy; some Danavas were cut to pieces by the discus hurled by Vishnu’s Energy; and others again by the thunderbolt discharged from the fingers of Indra’s Energy. Some Asuras perished outright, some perished by reason of the great battle, and others were devoured by Kali, Shivaduti and the lion.
Seeing his brother Nishumbha slain, who was dear to him as his life, and his army being slaughtered, Shumbha in wrath spoke thus— “O Durga, who art tainted with the arrogance of strength, bring not thy pride here, thou who, trusting in the strength of the other goddesses, dost fight in exceeding haughtiness!”
The goddess spoke:
Alone verily am I in the world here; what other goddess is there besides me? See, vile one! that these goddesses, who have their divine power from me, are entering into me indeed. Then all those goddesses, Brahmani and the others, became absorbed into the goddess’ breasts; Ambika then remained alone indeed.
Whereas I existed with my divine power in many forms here—that has been drawn in by me, truly alone I stand now. You also keep steadfast in combat!
Thereupon commenced a battle between them both, the goddess and Shumbha, while all the gods and the Asuras looked on —a battle without quarter. With showers of arrows, with sharp weapons and with pitiless missiles both engaged anew in a combat which set all the world in fear. And the lord of the Daityas broke the heavenly missiles, which Ambika discharged in hundreds, with weapons that parried them. And the supreme goddess in merest play broke the heavenly missiles that he discharged, with fierce shouts, ejaculations, and other sounds. Then the Asura covered the goddess with hundreds of arrows, and the goddess enraged thereat split his bow also with her arrows. And when his bow was split the lord of the Daityas took up his spear. The goddess split it, as he held it in his hand, with a discus. Next the supreme monarch of the Daityas, seizing his scimitar and sun like shield, on which a hundred moons were portrayed, rushed at the goddess at that moment. Just as he was falling upon her, Chaṇḍika hastily split his scimitar with sharp arrows shot from her bow, and his shield also which was spotless as the sun’s rays. With his steeds wounded, with his bow split, without a charioteer, the Daitya then grasped his terrible mace, being ready to slay Ambika. As he was falling upon her, she cloves his mace with sharp arrows; nevertheless, raising his fist he rushed swiftly at her. The lordly Daitya brought his fist down on the goddess’ heart, and the goddess also smote him on his breast with her palm. Wounded by the blow of her palm the Daitya king fell suddenly on the earth; and again, indeed he rose, and springing upward he seized the goddess and mounted on high into the sky. There also Chaṇḍika, being without any support, fought with him. The Daitya and Chaṇḍika then fought at first with each other in the sky in a close combat, which wrought dismay among the Siddhas and munis; after carrying on the close combat for a very long time with him, Ambika lifted him up. then and whirled him around and flung him on the earth. When flung thus he touched the earth, he raised his fist hastily and rushed, evil of soul as he was, with the wish to kill Chaṇḍika. Seeing him, the lord of all the Daitya folk, approaching, the goddess then pierced him in the chest with a dart and felled him down on the earth. Shattered by the point of the goddess’ dart he fell lifeless on the ground, shaking the whole earth and its seas, islands and mountains.
When that evil-souled demon was slain, the universe became placid, the earth regained perfect well-being, and the sky grew pure. Portent-clouds, which were full of flame before, became tranquil, and the rivers kept within their channels, when he was stricken down there. All the bands of gods then grew exceedingly joyful in mind, when he was slain; the Gandharvas sang out sweetly, and others of them sounded their instruments, and the bevies of Apsaras danced; and favourable breezes blew, very brilliant grew the sun, and the tranquil sacred fires blazed freely, and tranquil became the strange sounds that had occurred in the regions of the sky.
After death of Shumbha and Nishumbha, the rivers with clear water flowed along their paths; the winds blew very gentle to the touch; the sky became clear. Fire-sacrifices were revived by the gods and the sages, Lord Indra and the gods felt blissful again.
This story of Uma is holy and meritorious. It describes the destruction of the king of Daityas. He who regularly reads this with faith enjoys all worldly pleasures inaccessible even to the gods and attains the abode of Uma hereafter by the very grace of the goddess.