(Digest of pp. 856-860 of Deivathin Kural Vol.6, 4th imprn)
parikshhINA madhye pariNata-sharac-candra-vadanA /
dhanur-bANAn pAshaM sRNimapi dadhAnA karatalaiH
purastAd-AstAM naH puramathitu-rAho-purushhikA // 7 //
kAnchI-dAmA: (She who is) wearing the girdle with jewelled bells
kvaNat: tinkling and jingling (of jewels)
kari-kalabha-kumbha-stana-natA: (She who is made to) lean forward by the breasts that resemble the forehead of an young elephant
parikshhINA madhye : (She who is) slender in the middle (of the body)
pariNata-sharac-candra-vadanA: (She whose) face is like the autumnal full moon
dadhAnA karatalaiH : (She who is) wearing in Her hands
dhanur-bANAn: the bow and arrows
pAsham: the noose
sRNim-api : (and) also the goad
Aho-purushhikA : (She who is) the ‘I’–ness ( =Ego, in the positive sense)
pura-mathithuH: of the destyroyer of (the demon named) pura — i.e. of Lord Shiva
AstAM : may She appear
purastAt : before
naH : us.
(Please see DPDS – 10
for an explanation of “Aho-purushhikA” - VK)
A girdle is called ‘mekhalA’. If there are tingling bells in it it is called ‘kAnchI’. The name ‘raNat-kiNkiNi-mekhalA’ that occurs in the LalitA-sahasranAma is just this ‘kvaNat-kAnchI-dhAmA’, namely, the jingling girdle with bells. The string of bells is also called ‘maNi’. So ‘kAnchI’ is also known as ‘mani-mekhalA.
In Tamil literature ‘Mani-mekhalai’ is one of the five great epics. The
heroine of that epic is Manimekhalai. At the end of the story she finally comes
to the town of
By the mention of ‘KanchI’ the author has
hinted at the deity of his devotion. There are scores of feminine deities in
this country from
(Note: The Paramacharya does not seem to have
mentioned the names of the regions in the above list.
These names have been supplied
by Ra. Ganapathi in a footnote.
The Paramacharya seems to have
just reeled off the names of the deities only. – VK)
Thus there are several several deity-forms of ambAL. But, there is only one deity which conforms to the form of LalitA-tripura-sundari as delineated in the ShrI-vidyA tantra with certain characteristic physical features and arms and weapons and that is the deity ‘KamAkshi’ of Kanchipuram. The author of Soundaryalahari who does not mention the name of the deity of his devotion throughout the text, has perhaps hinted it here, by using the word ‘KanchI-dAmA’ !
The word ‘dAmaM’ means ‘twisted rope or string’. It was because
YashodA bound child
The whole earth is personified as BhUmA-devI. When one visualises that form, the geographical location of the navel for that form on the earth is said to be Kanchipuram. When the girdle with bells is also imagined at its location on the waist, the facade of that girdle comes at the position of that navel; and that is why the kshetra (place) also gets the name of Kanchi !
A girdle which circles the globe must be really big. When that is supposed to be the ornament around the waist of ambaaL, then that waist also should be big. But that is not so, says the description: ‘parikShINA madhye’. ‘kShINa’ means ‘lean’ . The preposition ‘pari’ indicates that the leanness is extra-ordinary. Thus ‘parikShINA madhye’ means She is really very slender in Her middle. The miracle is that this ‘slender’ waist covers the whole universe. ‘The macro within the micro’ !
Let it be. But what about the face? The face is the ‘mukhya’ (= important, significant) part. It is from the word ‘mukhya’ the word ‘mukha’ (face) arose. How is ambaaL’s face? She is ‘pariNata sharat chandra-vadaNA’. Her face is like the moon, with all the coolness and the whiteness of the autumnal full moon. Later, (in the 63rd sloka), the Acharya puts this thought in more poetic terms: ‘smita-jyotsnA-jAlaM tava vadana-chandrasya ’ – which, in effect, means ‘your moon-like face radiates miraculous moonlight through its smile’.
Another point. The second line of the sloka has two words both beginning with ‘pari’ : ‘parikShINA’ and ‘pariNata’. When you read the whole line the sound of the alliteration creates a pleasant feeling. Such beauties are the specialities of great poets.
Note by VK: At this point I checked all the slokas of Soundarya-lahari. Almost all of them have in their second and fourth lines
such alliterations or similar-sounding words which create the lilting effect
which the Paramacharya mentioned even earlier.
Just a few examples:
Sloka 1: Na cedevam devam devo; praNantum stotum;
Sloka 7: parikShINA … pariNata…;
purastAd AstAm, … puramathithuH ;
Sloka 17: saha janani sanchintayati;
Sloka 97: patnIm, padmAm; hareH, hara-sahacarIm;
- 22 –
(Digest of pp.861-866 of Deivathin Kural Vol.6, 4th imprn)
The third line of the seventh sloka is:
‘dhanur-bANAn pAshaM sRNimapi dadhAnA karatalaiH’.
‘Holding by the hands the bow, the arrows, the noose and the goad’ is the meaning. ‘sRNi’ means ‘ankusha’, the goad. These four are the specifics that determine now the deity of dedication in this stotra. And so we may be certain now that the deity that is being praised is the deity of the ShrI vidyA mantra, namely lalitA-tripura-sundari or Kameshwari. If we are not very ‘technical’ about it, it is also the same as Raja-Rajeshwari. When ambaaL is in this form, She has four hands, with the noose and goad in the two upper hands and the bow and arrows in the two lower hands. Manmatha, the God of Love has the same bow of sugarcane and the same arrows of flowers.
There are two things: rAga (attachment and liking); and dvesha (hate and dislike). The former gives rise to
‘rAga-swarUpa-pAshADhyA’ , meaning, She who holds the noose, which is ‘rAga’ in physical form -- is one of Her many names in the lalitA-sahasranAma. Similarly, another name is ‘krodhA-karAnkushojjvalA’, meaning, She who shines by the goad, which is ‘krodha’ in physical form.
Of the twin of Desire and Anger, desire has the form of ambaaL’s noose (pAshaM). When you talk of ‘yama-pAshaM’ it is the noose. When you talk of mother’s pAsham (tAip-pAshaM, in Tamil) it is her attachment and affection and therefore her concern, her desire (AshA). It is the desire that binds us. It binds us like a rope.
Anger has the form of ambaaL’s goad. Anger pierces you like a goad. But it does not pierce the other man on whom you are angry. He may go away just like that, indifferently. Our anger pierces only ourselves. The pierce of the goad will be felt by us only. And we hurt ourselves. Modern science tells us how energy is wasted during anger and how much. What is more interesting is the further scientific fact – with which our scriptures agree – that whereas we exhibit anger (krodhaM) at something we don’t like and thus waste energy, the energy loss is more while we like something, desire it and happily indulge in that desire (kAmaM). In fact, Desire is the ‘hita-shatru’ – enemy in the disguise of a friend.
The words ‘pAsham’ and ‘ankusham’ both ring a bell and bring the ‘elephant’ to our minds. The elephant is always tethered by a heavy chain to an anchor. The chain is actually a ‘rope of attachment’ (pAshak-kayiru, in Tamil) for the elephant. The twins ‘kAma’ and ‘krodha’ are elephant-like in their strength; so they have to be controlled with effort in the same way an elephant is controlled by a ‘pAsham’ (rope) and ‘ankusham’ (goad). The man who rides and monitors the elphant uses the goad to control it. The elephant-like evils of Desire and Anger are both in the mind. So it is the mind that has to be controlled. In fact in Sivanandalahari (sloka 96) our Acharya compares the human mind to a ‘madhepa’, meaning, a mad elephant.
Our ambaaL is always shown with a pAsham (noose) and ankusham (goad). This itself is Her leelA. They are Her important accessories. This is one way of looking at it.
Another way is this. She shows pAsham (affection, attachment) to us; so with the ‘pAsham’ in her hand she binds us and pulls us away from all our worldly ‘pAshams’ (attachments) and makes us come back to Her with the cry ‘Oh Mother!’. And that gives us the attachment to the attachmentless Divine. ‘PatratrAn patru’ (in the language of Valluvar, in Tamil)! Again, when we fall into the Anger mode, She brings her ‘ankusham’ (goad) on us and subdues our anger, by that very ankusham which stands in her hand as the personification of Anger (krodham) ! When Desire is unfulfilled it turns into Anger. The same Desire and Anger, in Her hands, in the form of the noose and the goad, become the cure for the two evils in human minds.
Though our sloka in the Soundaryalahari mentions ‘bow’ and ‘arrow’ first and then mentions the ‘noose’ and ‘goad’, it is the ‘noose and goad’ that are special to ambAL. Manmatha the God of Love has the same bow and arrows both of which he uses to get mankind downward into sensuality. His bow draws man’s mind into sensuousness and his five arrows affect the five organs of cognition.
But the same bow and five arrows in the hands of ambaaL work in a positive way as is vindicated by two names (that appear just immediately after the two names about rAga and krodha I mentioned a little while ago) in lalitA-sahasranAma, namely, ‘mano-rupekshhu-kodanDA’ and ‘pancha-tanmAtra-sAyakA’.
The former means: ‘(She who has) the bow of sugarcane, the sugarcane being the figuration of the mind’. The latter name means: ‘(She who has) the five arrows that are the figurations of the five tanmAtras (= subtle principles behind the senses)’.
The same sugarcane bow, which in Manmatha’s hands, draws man downward into sensuality, in Her hands, leads us upward by producing the ‘desire’ for moksha. The same five arrows of flowers, which in Manmatha’s hands, lead man’s five senses outward toward sense objects, in ambaal’s hands, makes us desire, to see Her divine form, to hear the melody of music in devotion to Her, to taste the sweetness of the nectar flowing from Her Grace, to smell the fragrance of the flowers that adorned Her, and to feel the touch of Her lotus feet.
- 23 –
(Digest of pp.866-869 of Deivathin Kural Vol.6, 4th imprn)
Just a change of place of the weapons changes their purpose and effects! The same bow and arrows, that, in the hands of the God of Love, were the cause of man’s downfall into the sensual world, become, in the hands of the Mother Divine, the switches for turning our mind and senses towards the Eternal Bliss of Her Presence. It is something like the knife in the hands of the thief; if the same knife were in our hands, he runs away! When we submit to that magical switch of Hers, we overflow with bhakti; and this together with the outpouring of Her Grace drenches us in the flood of that spiritual Bliss, and we forget ourselves as separate entities. When we delude ourselves as separate it is mAyA ; this is the worst state of existence. When we forget ourselves as separate it is Knowledge; it is the best state.
Thus when we see that a change of place transforms the worst into the best, we may learn a lesson. Why not transfer all the beautifications and dressing-up that we do for ourselves into ornamentations and dresses for ambaal, thereby transforming their effect? When we decorate ourselves it brings in the Ego. When we decorate Her, it brings down our Ego. Decoration in Sanskrit is ‘alankAram’; and ego is ‘ahamkAram’. If we do the ‘alankAram’ to Her, our ‘ahamkAram’ is gone !
In short, the flower-arrows in ambaal’s hands grace us with the needed sense-control and the sugar-cane bow in Her hands bestows on us control of our mind. Nothing else is needed for Enlightenment ! As Muka-kavi says in Pancha-shati, ‘Mother! Whereas You sparked desire in Shiva Himself who had burnt the Lord of Desire to ashes, the same You, in our case, eradicate desires in the desire-filled Jivas’.
Mind and the five senses are together counted as six instruments for the human being. Instruments are called ‘karaNas’ in Sanskrit. The six ‘karaNas’ of man are like the ‘caraNas’ (feet) of a bee. So the jIva itself is nothing but a six-footed bee with six instruments of action. The analogy becomes apt when we think of the bee merging into the depths of a flower with all its (six) feet stuck in that depth. For, the jIva has to work its way to stick its six instruments out into the lotus of the divine feet of the Mother. This is the idea which our Acharya himself later builds into Sloka 90 of Soundaryalahari: ‘nimajjan majjIvaH karaNa-caraNaH shhaT-caraNatAm’, meaning, ‘plunging (into Your lotus feet), may this jIva of mine with its six instruments as the feet (become) the six-legged bee’ .
The important thing to note here is what has not been said. It is not said that the mind and the five senses should submit themselves to the bow and arrows of ambaal. It is only said that they should dissolve themselves into the divine feet. Recall from sloka 4 that ‘She need not give abhaya and vara by Her hands; Her feet themselves are capable of doing that’. In this sloka 7, instead of the vara and abhaya mudras in the two hands, the bow and arrows are mentioned. They have been said to give the mind-control and the sense-control. But one may question: Why can’t these controls be also a Grace from Her feet? That is why it has been said that the mind and the five senses should merge in the lotus of Her feet as a bee gets lost inside the flower. The noose and the goad in the other two hands would then be not necessary at all to quell the Desire and Anger in the human mind.
But then, the question arises: Why four hands, instead of just two?
(These things are not amenable to logic, said the Paramacharya earlier. But here he does not repeat himself. VK)
That the four hands add to the beauty of this beauty Queen is to say it naively. But remember She is the Queen of the Universe. The majesty of that status is shown by the bow and arrow in the two forehands. But She is also the Benefactor of the bliss of Moksha; therefore She is the Queen of the Empire of Enlightenment (jnAna-sAmrAjyam). Raga (Attachment) and dvesha (hatred, enmity) are two arch-villains that constitute the obstacle to moksha. These two are killed by the noose and the goad in Her other two hands, thus establishing that She is the Queen of ‘jnAna-sAmrAjyam’.
The bow and the arrows in the forehands has also another significance. What we have to surrender to Her feet, namely our mind and the senses, She draws by Her own initiative to Herself; the bow draws the mind and the arrows the senses, to Herself. It is as if a loving mother says to her child: ‘Dear child, why do you have to fall at my feet; I will take you onto my lap’!
This whole sloka is a fit sloka for meditation. It reminds us that the bow and arrows that turned the Ishwara Himself – the Supreme who is nothing but a bundle of Knowledge, cit – into a creation-mode through the artifice of making Him fall in love with Ishwari, who thereby became Shiva-kAma-sundari; that same bow and arrows now draw the medley of minds and senses of the jIvas and keep them under its control, thus protecting them (spiritually). In fact the bottom line is that even this action of ‘drawing’ and ‘protecting’ is not done by the bow and arrows but by just Her feet.
Indeed weapons in the hands of Gods and Goddesses are powerful not because they are weapons but because they are given that Power by the supreme shakti, that is, ambaaL. What She is said to do by Her weapons and other instruments is all just Her Will. She wills it and it is done. What a mysterious play! Just catch hold of Her feet. That is enough. She wills to shower Her Grace and there is a downpour of abhaya (fearlessness), vara (boon), control of the five senses, control of the mind, and what-have-you!. As a cosmic play, She may use Her weapons, or She may not; She may show mudrAs or She may not.
- 24 –
(Digest of pp.869-883 of Deivathin Kural Vol.6, 4th imprn)
Having described Her four arms and what She held in them, having portrayed Her general physical features including the autumnal full moon of the divine face, the sloka 7 ends with the svarUpa-lakshaNa (Inherent Definition) of ambaal. This is the core of the core. She is the personification of the ‘I – ness’ of the Absolute Brahman. I have talked about it earlier. In other words She is the cit-shakti Itself. She is jnAna in form. She is jnAna-ambaaL.
‘purastAd AstAm naH’ – May She appear before us. May She become cognizable for us. Note the use of the word ‘us’ (‘naH’) here. Our Acharya is praying for us all. It is not ‘me’, but ‘us’. The purpose of the graphic description in this sloka is for us to keep Her before our mental vision.
The next sloka of Soundaryalahari (Sloka
No.8) describes her location, her own world in the Cosmic Geography. Just as
(Re: the five brahmAs, see DPDS – 10. –VK)
And right there, She is seated, as an inundation of Bliss that is of pure Cit, Knowledge. This is what one has to visualize in one’s meditation.
After this sloka come two slokas, nos.9 and 10, wherein we are told how to propitiate ambaal through the Kundalini Yoga and mantra yoga. Sloka 9 describes how one achieves the bliss of advaita by moving the Kundalini shakti through the six chakras (also called lotuses). From bottom up, in these chakras, the kundalini shakti is in the form of the five elemental principles – earth, water, fire, air, and space and then in the sixth, as the mind principle. The nADi (nerve, approximately) which has all these chakras is called the sushhumnA nADi.
When Kundalini is taken up via this nADi through all these chakras and finally is unionised with the shiva-tattva in the thousand-petalled lotus at the top of the head, that is when She causes the realisation of the bliss of advaita. What is in the micro is also in the macro. When ambaaL is in her virAT (universal expansion) state, the five elemental principles and their origin, the mahat principle, are all in the experience of a yogi who sees them in the kundalini chakras. And that very mahat, which is the Cosmic Mind, merges itself in the brahman, namely, the shivam in the sahasrAra (thousand-petalled) chakra, thus causing the advaita-siddhi.
This experience of the ‘rasa’ (flavour) of advaita is actually the experience of the taste of nectar, says the next sloka (#10). When advaita is ‘experienced’ there cannot be two things: one, ‘the taste’ and two, the One that gives that taste, namely ambAL; and much less another thing called a jIva. So the word ‘experience’ is just a ‘formality’ (‘upacAram’ in Sanskrit) for saying what cannot be said formally. However, just before that ‘experience’ and after it, there is something like a sentiment similar to an ‘experience’, the benefactor of that experience and the recipient of that experience – in fact, a triad or ‘tripuTi’.
I talked of lotuses earlier. They are not lotus flowers of our familiar village pond. The lotus flower of a pond blooms only in sunlight. In moonlight they close up. On contact of the heat of fire they disintegrate. On the other hand, in these kundalini lotuses, whether it is agni-khaNDam, sUrya-khaNDam, or candra-khaNDam, the lotuses corresponding to the khaNDam blossoms, when the kundalini reaches there. And in the end, the full moon itself blooms the thousand petalled lotus at the top of the head. And the nectar of moonlight flows from the moon.
That is the ‘rasa’, the flavour, the juice, the essence. Who is giving that ‘rasa’? It is the ambaal. Her divine feet is there in the reflection of the moon as the Guru’s Grace. That is where indeed the nectar flows from. That it flows from the moon is only a way of saying. The one who receives and realises the flow of that nectar-rasa is the jIva. But the advaita bhAvanA (attitude) that She is Herself the ‘rasa’ and She is also the ‘rasAsvAda’, the taster of the ‘rasa’ – this feeling will also be there.
Maybe you are all thinking : ‘(The Speaker) is neither going into the subject of Kundalini, nor is allowing us to go near it. How, in the world, can we ever have such profound experiences? At least he (the speaker) could have gone on without mentioning these!’
Well, it is not necessary to have them as the Kundalini yoga. …
(Digest of pp.883-887 of Deivathin kural)
Note: This is a difficult part. So I have given almost
a close translation rather than a ‘Digest’. - VK
It is not necessary to go the Kundalini way. Whatever path you take, whatever method of upAsanA (spiritual worship) you follow, without having to go through the regimen of the kundalini yoga, if you sincerely follow any one path with an one-pointed faith, you will, when you reach a certain advanced stage, get those breathing-in and breathing-out experiences exactly as you would, in a yoga sAdhanA, all by itself. You may not even feel it. It will get transformed by itself. In a still more advanced stage, when we are in one-ness with the object of our upAsanA, the breathing may even be stationary in the kumbhaka state.
In ordinary mundane activities of ours we usually exhale by the left nostril. On the other hand, the same exhaling, if you carefully observe it, will come by the right nostril, when you have just had a noble elevating experience of peace like the darshan of a deity or of a saintly sage. At a higher stage, the exhaling will be equal in both nostrils, to the extent that, it will then be only one step short of staying in the kumbhaka state, but at the same time, without any tendency to suffocate, the whole system being light and comfortable – all these changes in the breathing will certainly occur.
And thus, at the end, one may even reach the penultimate state to advaita-siddhi, namely, the movement of breath reaches the top, touches the divine feet of ambaal and the nectar starts flowing! Even in our ordinary day-to-day life, if we have an extraordinary experiencee of happiness, we sometimes suffocate and swoon; that is actually a reflection of the taste of kumbhakam. That also is a fragment of a fragment of the experience of the sprouting of the nectar at the top of the head !
I am telling you all this just to point out that even in the path of bhakti such superlative experiences do occur.
Just have a look at the great devotional
songs and poems of confirmed devotees of God, like the shaiva saints of
Tamilnadu, the vaishnava Alvars, the devotees from
It is not just yoga and jnAna. We should also mention the experience of Love, premA. When we talked of fundamentals like ichA-shakti, Kameshvara and Kameshvari, it is all very subtle and pure Love. The word ‘kAmam’ brings to our mind various connotations. It may be thought that the fact of a sannyasi talking about it strikes a discordant note. But in reality, in terms of an esoteric context there is no fault there. It only indicates by symbols that Shakti intertwined with the substratum of Peace is what creates ‘Creation’. There is nothing wrong here. That is why ambaal brings the experience of premA (Love) along with those of yoga and of jnAna, to many great people, at the very end of their sAdhanA.
In the evolution of the Origin into
multiplicity, the very first thing that happens is the icchA (Wish, Desire) and the Love-pair. So also, at
the very end of the sAdhanA for the involution of the jIva into
the Source, the sAdhakA goes
through the nAyikA stage just before the last
stage of the
Then even that desire to merge in Shiva disappears and there remains only the Will of the Lord. In other words, the involution that the jIva made with deliberate effort merges in that first evolution of Shiva. At that point, as far as that jIva is concerned, Shiva Himself, without expanding in evolution, involutes within Himself and receives the jIva into Him. Think of a flood of flowing water. Put some object into it. The waves will toss it back and forth and push it over to the bank. This is natural. But when there is a great vortex in the current, it takes the object into itself and consumes it. This is what happens here also.
(In the above paragraph Ra Ganapathi in his Tamil version
does not use any Tamil or Indian language word
for ‘Involution’ and ‘Evolution’.
Obviously, the Paramacharya himself must have used
these english words only. – VK)
The first ‘wish’ of Shiva, and the last ‘wish’ of the jIva together coalesce into a symbolic Love here! We can get confirmations for this from the songs of great devotees across the world and acoss religions. The songs of Manickavasagar and Mirabhai have excellent parallels in the songs of Sufi Saints and Christian mystics. It is all an experience of Yoga, jnAna and PremA.
Though we have said that it is the ‘wish of Shiva’ and ‘wish of jIva’ , it is all only the cit-movement of ambaal only. Only when the complete merger has taken place it is shivam. So when we say that He takes something into Him, that action itself is Hers only.
I just talked about the highest yoga-experiences that occur in the path of bhakti. Without going into yogic sAdhanA or tAntric sAdhanA, if one follows the bhakti path with the attitude: “All this is beyond me, Oh Mother, You are my Refuge”, then even the self-pride that ‘I am doing a great sAdhanA’ will not arise. The Mother Herself will lift up even the lowliest and grant him the highest experience.
One might feel let down that he cannot get that flow of nectar from the full moonlight-glow that occurs when the prANa-shakti reaches the thousand-petalled lotus called sahasrAra. One need not regret the absence of this experience. ‘pariNata-candra-vadanA’ says the sloka 7. That full-moon-face is easy to be kept in mind. Stick to it. Think of the nectar flowing from the graceful glance from those eyes and the nectar of the blissful smile of that face . She gives you what you thought about and grants you the internal light of the moon and an internal flow of nectar.
Ó Copyright of English summary. V. Krishnamurthy