56

(Digest of pp.1091- 1098  of Deivathin Kural, 6th volume, 4th imprn.)

 

VaidarbhI rIti” and “GaudI rIti” are two styles in Sanskrit poetry. The former conveys delightful thoughts by very gentle words,  flowing like  a river of honey. The latter, which originated in Bengal, has not only difficult thoughts, but they are also expressed in a high-sounding noisy style. The Acharya has used both the styles in Soundaryalahari. He has just finished the Anandalahari portion with the mention of ‘jananI’, thus bringing the Goddess as near as a Mother to us. But, lest that should make Her very familiar and simple for us, and lest that might make us under-estimate Her majesty and grandeur, he starts the Soundaryalahari portion, with a bang, through the 42nd shloka, with a complicated thought and with a torrent-like flow of language.

 

The subject is the description of ambaal’s head. We see in the shloka the dazzling shine of the bright hot sun and the cooling comfort of gentle moonshine, through the poet’s imagination and his language.

 

Gatair-mANikyatvaM gagana-maNibhis-sAndra-ghaTitaM

kirITaM te haimaM himagiri-sute kIrtayati yaH /

sa nIDeyac-cchAyAc-cchuraNa-shabalaM chandra-shakalaM

dhanuH-shaunAsIraM kim-iti na nibadhnAti dhishhaNAM // 42 // 

 

 

himagiri-sute : Oh Daughter of the snow-capped mountain

yaH : Whoever

kIrtayati : describes

te : your

haimaM kirITaM: golden crown

sAndra-ghaTitaM: studded densely with

mANikyatvaM gataiH gagana-maNibhiH: the (twelve) suns that  have become the precious ruby stones (on the crown)

kim saH na nibadhnAti dhishhaNAM: why would he not record the idea (that)

chandra-shakalaM: the crescent moon (on the crown)

nIDeyac-cchAyAc-cchuraNa-shabalaM : (bird’s nest –shadow –reflected shine – enveloped  - variegated colour) which reflects the variegated colours from the shadows of the (gems) in that nest (of the crown)

dhanuH-shaunAsIraM  iti  : is  (nothing but) Indra’s bow (rainbow)?

 

The whole metaphor pours like a torrent from the heavens as Ganga did on Shiva’s head. Once this description of Amba’s crown on the head is done in this shloka,  the style changes from the next shloka to a softer one. ‘Chandra-sekhara’ is a name of the Lord, because the half moon is on His head. Already in shloka No.23 Devi was described as having the Moon on Her hairdo. So She is also ‘Chandra-sekhari’.  Shiva has also the name ‘Surya-sekhara’ because in many of the Shiva-kshhetras, there are certain days on which the rising Sun’s rays  directly fall on the linga in the sanctum sanctorum.  Here we have also a Surya-shekharI, because not just one Sun but twelve Suns are supposed to be sitting in the form of ruby gems on the crown of Devi. The very first line of the shloka thus brings before us the grandeur of Her enthralling form with the blinding dazzle of twelve suns radiating from the gems of Her crown.

 

The use of the word ‘hima-giri-sute’ is significant.    hima’ means ‘snow’. So ‘hima-giri-sutA’ means ‘the daughter of the snow-capped mountain.  The first line has brought  the heat of twelve suns  in  the picture. As a contrast the second line cools it off and brings in the coolness of ‘hima-giri’. Also the daughter of ‘hima-giri’ that is Parvati is said to be of cool greenish colour. It is Sati, the daughter of Daksha who immolated herself in the Fire of Daksha-yajna; and the same Sati, immediately after that heat of the immolation,  was born in Her next birth as the daughter of the Himalayas, fresh as green, in the form of hima-giri-sutA, called Parvati.  In modern times in the time of jnAna-sambandhar, the argument with the Jain saints ended up only after the palm leaves of his devotional songs (tevAraM) survived the heat of the fire into which they were placed, and they emerged as green leaves with the writing unscathed.

 

The crown on the head of Devi is made of gold. ‘hema’ means gold. ‘haimam’ means ‘made of gold’. In Kenopanishat, the Goddess appears as Brahma  VidyA and teaches the divines led by Indra.  There the word used for the Goddess is ‘haimavatI ’. Our Acharya interprets it in two ways: one, as ‘hima-giri-sutA’, namely Parvati and the other as, the One who shines with the shine of ‘hema’, that is ‘a golden shine’.  It is perhaps his intention to show the connection with  the Upanishad that the Acharya in  the very first shloka of the Anandalahari portion, uses both the words ‘hima-giri’ and ‘hema’.  To boot, let us remember that in the Upanishad, Her disciple was Indra; and here also ‘Indra-dhanus’ is mentioned as ‘dhanuH shaunAsIraM’, the rainbow.

 

The golden crown is studded with ‘suns’ as gems. So the ‘suns’ are specks on the crown; but on the crown there is the big crescent moon. In the real world the Sun is far far bigger than the Moon. Here it is the other way. The moon pours out nectar as well as the cool snow. So its cool downpour from the moon are the snowflakes on the crown. The bright light from the sun-gems falls on them and gets refracted as a multi-coloured rainbow: This is the ‘nIDeyac-chAyAcchuraNa-shabalam’. This extraordinary poetic imagination -- that the self-effulgent moon’s rays  receive the sun’s light and thereby the rainbow appears  -- beats all scientific understanding. That, of course,  is the privilege of poetic liberty. 

 

In the very first shloka that starts describing the beauty of ambaaL, the idea of white light being refracted into the several constituent colours of the rainbow is brought in, as if to indicate esoterically that the nirguNa brahman manifests itself as the varied multipliciy of the universe by the magic of parAshakti.

 

But why imagine refraction? One can also imagine it to be reflection.  Instead of taking that the light of the Sun falls on the cool rays of the moon  and in that flow of cool snow it becomes the multicoloured rainbow, one can also imagine that there are several suns whose lights are in various colours and they get reflected in the mirror-like crescent moon and produces the rainbow effect.

 

In fact the poet here implies that it is not just his imagination; this is what anybody would say if he wants to describe the multicoloured radiance from the gems of the golden crown on the head of the Goddess.

Another point which comes out here is the modesty of the Acharya in underplaying himself and speaking so highly of others who might be in  his position of describing the Devi’s glory.  The modesty with which he begins this very first shloka of the Soundarylahari part  goes on till the very end.

 

57

(Digest of pp.1107- 1114   of Deivathin Kural, 6th volume, 4th imprn.)

 

tanotu kshhemaM naH tava vadana-soundarya-laharI

parIvAha-srotaH saraNiriva sImanta-saraNiH /

vahantI sindUraM prabala-kabarI-bhAra-timira-

dvishhAM bRndaiH bandhIkRtam-iva navInArka-kiraNaM //44//

 

[Since the word-by-word meaning is

automatically coming out of

the Paramcharya’s explanations,

it is not given here separately. VK]

This shloka has an added significance since it has contributed to the title of the stotra ‘soundarya-laharI’.

naH kshhemaM tanotu” : Let there devolve auspiciousness on all of us. Thus begins the shloka auspiciously. What is supposed to devolve the auspiciousness?

sImanta-saraNiH” :  The line of the parting of hair (on the head). ‘SImanta’ is the parting of hair. ‘saraNiH’ means path, route, line, wave, flow. The particular meaning will depend on the context. Here it is ‘line’. The word ‘SImanta-unnayanaM’ denotes a special ritual that is done  for pregnant women for the benefit of the foetus. The ritual consists of drawing a line along the sImantaM of the woman with the chanting of certain mantras. This is good for the foetus. The word sImantaM is a union of ‘sImA’ and ‘antaM’.  SImA means boundary, here, the boundary that parts the two sides of the hair. Its ‘antam’ is the end of that boundary. Technically it should have been ‘sImAntaM’ but the middle long ‘a’ has been shortened. This is actually an exception to the usual grammatical rule. A similar exception, but in the opposite direction, takes place in the name ‘VishvAmitra’ where it should have been only ‘Vishvamitra’, thus meaning, friend of the world. On the other hand as ‘VishvAmitra’ (‘Vishva’ + ‘amitra’) it now means ‘the enemy of the world’.  Again this is an unusual grammatical exception.

 

So ‘SImantaM’ means ‘the end of the boundary or border’. Of what is it the border or boundary?  For a human body there are two boundaries. One is the foot and the other is the head.  In the boundary that is the head, the line of parting of the hair goes up to the position of ‘brahmarandra’ and ends there. So it is called ‘the end of the boundary’ or ‘sImantaM’.

Goddess Mahalakshmi permanently resides in five places. A lotus, the frontal lobe of an elephant, the hind part of a cow, the spine on the  back of a bilwa leaf, and the sImantaM of  a sumangali.

 

It is interesting to note that the Acharya has used “vadana-soundarya-laharI’ (waves of beauty of the face) in this shloka and this has become the title of the whole stotra. We do not know who made it the title, but what we may conclude is that it is quite apt. What is further interesting is the fact that this beauty-wave occurs in the shloka where the sImanta of the Devi is talked about. It is this flood of facial beauty that should bring us the auspiciousness that we need. ‘tanotu kshhemaM naH tava vadana-soundarya-laharI’.

 

Now let us find out what is so special about the sImanta here. “vahantI sindUraM” : It (the sImantaM : the parting in the hair) bears the vermilion. The word ‘sindUraM’ also means ‘red lead’ which is used for medicinal purposes in Siddha medicine. In North India almost all Ganesha deities would be totally soaked in this sindUraM. And in the same way they would do it for the Anjaneya deity also. Maybe the indication is that the beginning and the end are the same!

 

In traditional books, kumkumaM is spoken of as sindUraM.  The Veda-mAtA (Mother Goddess representing Shruti) bows down in obeisance to ambaa. It is the kumkumaM from the sImantam of Veda-mAtA that has sprinkled itself on the feet of ambaa. This idea occurs in LalitA-sahasranAma. ‘SImanta-sindUri’ is the expression there. It is in the parting of the hair that kumkumaM is applied. On the forehead however, that is, between the eyebrows where one applies the tilakam  what is applied is ‘kastUri-tilakam  -- this is what one gathers from the sahasranAma.  Recall the name: “mukha-chandra-kaLankAbha-mRga-nAbhi-visheshhakA”. It says, just as there is a spot (kaLanka) on the disc of the moon, so also is the kastUri-dot on the face of ambaa. This name occurs (in the sahasranAma) between the name that describes the forehead  (aLika-sthala) and the name that describes the eyebrows (cillikA). Therefore it is clear that the name ‘mukha-chandra- kaLankAbha- ...  describes the centre of the eyebrows.  So kumkumaM at the parting of the hair (SImanta-sindUri) as well as the kumkumaM at the centre of the eyebrows – both are called ‘sindUraM’ by the Acharya.

 

According to the shAstras, the place where sumangalis (women with living husbands) have to adorn the kumkumaM is the parting of the hair, at the place where it starts from the forehead.  The practice of adorning the centre of the eyebrows is only a cosmetic addition. It is at the centre of the eyebrows where one concentrates  the Supreme.  It is in that manner one wears the vibhUti or sandal-paste, etc. at that spot; so also kumkumaM is also applied there. Whatever it be, the characteristic of a sumangali is only the kumkumaM at the parting of the hair. Women of  olden days applied the kumkumaM first at the parting of the hair and then only on the forehead between the eyebrows.

 

The location of the central parting of the hair is a kind of residential address of the Goddess Bhagya-lakshmi of Prosperity. Goddess ambaa has the kumkumaM along the entire parting of the hair. That is what this shloka says. ‘SImanta-saraNI’ means only that. In fact as the shloka goes, it appears that there is a round spot of kumkumaM at the point where this ‘saraNI’ (the path) starts at the top of the forehead and thereafter along the path of the parting, it goes as a streak of red. There is no greater bliss than the pleasure of visualising ambaa with this SImanta-sindhuram. In other words the place of residence of mahAlakshmi has been decorated with kumkumaM. In fact there  is much more in this.

 

58

(Digest of pp.1115 -1119  of Deivathin Kural, 6th volume, 4th imprn.)

 

[Note by VK: The  delightful commentary in Tamil 

of the Paramacharya on this shloka, #44,

has been really  a difficult one for me

to present in English (in DPDS – 57, 58 and 59).

The superb majesty of his discourse

should be enjoyed in the original]

 

In the Assembly of ambaa, on both sides of Her, Lakshmi and Saraswati are said to be fanning Her. This is what the name “sa-cAmara-ramA-vANI-savya-dakshhiNa-sevitA” says in the Lalita-sahasranAma. Instead of having  them as Her assistants, She has them both as Her very eyes – this is what the name “kAmAkshhi” means. “kA” means Saraswati and “mA” means Lakshmi. And “akshha” means ‘eye’.  So “kAmAkshhi” is the One who has ‘kA’ and ‘mA’ as Her eyes!

 

Later,  shloka 64 says that Saraswati dwells in Her tongue. In fact, the grace of ambaa in  bestowing power of expression to devotees is well known. That is why Saraswati is spoken of as dwelling in Her own tongue. And the poet in the Acharya plays gymnastics with the word japa in that shloka, where it says: Your tongue defies the japa (hibiscus) flowers in its redness because it is constantly engaged in the Japa (mantra-repetition) that gives expression to the glories of Lord Shiva; the redness of Her tongue is so intense that the Goddess of Speech, Saraswati, who dwells therein, gets Her crystal-like white complexion changed into the colour of a ruby (noted for its reddishness). We already saw in Shloka 16 that poets have spoken of Her as ‘shRngAra-laharI’ in Her form as the ‘red’ Saraswati (aruNa-saraswati).

 

Thus, of the two fanning divines, one of them, Saraswati, is elevated to the position of residing in the divine tongue of ambaa. So, the other of them, namely Lakshmi, is now elevated in this shloka (#44), to even a higher position, namely, the top of the divine head itself. Lakshmi resides in the sImanta of ambaa; and it is that Lakshmi who is decorated with the kumkuma-ornamentation of redness.

 

So the parting of the hair goes like a white streak amidst the jet black forest of hair  (cikura-nikurumbaM’ of shloka 43)  which looks like waves of blue-black on either side of it. It is the whiteness of the sImanta (parting line) that is usual; but here ambaa’s sImantaM has been made reddish by the sindUraM. So the blackness of the locks of hair on either side and the redness of the parting line make the imagination of the poet run riot. Many of us do not appreciate such poetic licence, because of our preoccupation with the utilitarian value of everything we see or experience. But a poet does not just see beauty; he invents original analogies and that is what makes us enjoy both the poetry and the devotional sentiment built into it.

 

prabala-kabarI-bhAra-timira-dvishhAM  bRndair-bandhIkRtaM iva navInArka-kiraNaM’   -- these are the words.

 

arka’ is the Sun. ‘arka-kiraNaM’ means the Sun’s ray. ‘navIna  is new. So ‘navIna-arka-kiraNaM’ means the rays of the rising Sun. Certainly it is reddish. Only when the Sun comes up higher and higher it loses its redness of appearance and becomes pure white. But at the point of rising it is red. The Acharya sees the sImanta-sindUraM on the divine head as one of the red rays of the rising Sun. At the beginning of the parting, namely at the top of the forehead, the sindUraM is a big dot (red) and so is the Sun itself (rising) and the saraNi, namely the line of parting, is the red ray emanating from that Sun.

 

prabala-kabarI-bhAra-timira-dvishhAM bRndair-bandhIkRtaM’. Does this not sound like a cluttering chatter of teeth? Why this hard construction ? The very words speak of a thunderous noise of battle. Who is battling with whom? The talk is about the sImanta-saraNi. Then who is warring with it?

 

kabarI-bhAra-timiraM’ means the darkness shown by the jet black dense hair. The adjective ‘prabala’ prefixed to it, indicates a further strength to that darkness. When something is ‘strong’ it can be expected to be aggressive also, in the worldly ways of thinking. So whom will this darkness challenge or contest?  Only Light. What is opposed to darkness is light. It is the sun  which dispels the darkness of the night and brings the day.  It is not even just the sun; it is the morning sun that night considers as the  harbinger of its doom.  Because darkness  never ‘sees’ the full Sun. As soon as the first ray of the morning sun appears, darkness has to wind up and run.

 

And here, while darkness is in the form of ambaa’s hair, the morning sun has appeared in the form of the sindUraM  on the top of the forehead.  It is the crimson ray of the morning sun that is represented by the sindUraM-coloured parting of the hair. And it is this parting that prevents the darkness on either side to become one large mass of darkness. Further, it is the darkness of the hair that has been pampered by oil, shampoo, and flowers – as has been indicated by the words ‘ghana-snigdha-shlakshhNaM’ (luxuriant, soft and oily) in shloka #43.  Because it has been ‘pampered’ it has become ‘prabala’ (exceedingly strong) now. And that gives it the courage to dare challenge the redness of the sImantaM!

59

(Digest of pp.1122 -1128  of Deivathin Kural, 6th volume, 4th imprn.)

 

Darkness of night is the dominating factor all night. But the moment the rising sun with its crimson rays shows up,  darkness has to flee. It has always been the unfulfilled ambition of ‘darkness’ to settle this  score with the young sun. And here is ambaa having all the world’s darkness,  as it were,  collected in her hair. But She has also brought the young sun in the form of the sindUra-spot right in the midst of this dark forest of hair. It is a life-time opportunity for darkness. With gusto it swallows all the rays emanating from that sun, for once. But still there is one single ray of crimson which goes straight across the centre of all this dark hair. It is that crimson which gives a decorating hue to the black hair. And it is the jet black background which brings out the majesty of the crimson parting of hair.

 

Thus we can see darkness having vanquished all but one ray of the bright rising sun. Why did it not go all the way by its challenge and overpower that one remaining ray also? But for that single ray remaining in its place, how would it be established that darkness had vanquished the bright sun and its rays? It is the one remaining ray of the sun that tells us that the other rays have been vanquished.

 

[Note by VK: Though the Paramacharya did not say this,

I can hear him saying: “Don’t you remember,

in the  Sundara Kanda, every time Hanuman vanquishes

an entire army, he spares one person,

so that he may go back to Ravana

and say what happened in the battle”!]

 

dvishhAM bRndaiH” means ‘by the gangs of enemies’. It is from  the root ‘dvishh’ that the word ‘dveshha’, meaning ‘hate’ is derived.  bRndaM” means a crowd, a gang. The crowd of hair on ambaa’s head flows wave after wave and so looks like armies of black ready for fight. “bandIkRtam-iva” means ‘as if imprisoned’. It is the rising sun in the form of the sImanta-sindUraM that is imprisoned here by the armies of black hair.The word “bandIkRtaM” is significant. Not only have all the crimson rays of the rising sun  been vanquished, but even that one remaining ray has been imprisoned by the dark army surrounding it on either side so densely that it cannot move this way or that way!

 

Incidentally, if one wants divine presence, the parting of the hair has to be straight in the centre – not this side or that side – of the hair on the head. And the sindUraM has to come from pure turmeric,  not from any other artificial source.

 

Among the many meanings of “bandhaM” one is  ‘imprisonment’. The meaning of “bandIkRtaMis  ‘be imprisoned’.  The difference is between the active and the passive. So here ‘bandIkRtaM iva’ means ‘as if imprisoned’.

 

Well, what has all this – fight between darkness and light -- to do in  the devotional stotra “soundarya-laharI”? In shloka 43, it was said that Her black braid of luxuriant locks of hair itself will eradicate the  dense darkness of ignorance in us. In the same way  he says in this shloka that the sImantaM (parting of hair)  which in a sense has been imprisoned by the black forest of hair on either side, will grace us with all prosperity. In fact the sImantam is the residence of Lakshmi the Goddess of Prosperity. Its ‘imprisonment’ is only an imagination; ‘bandIkRtam-iva’ – as if imprisoned – is the word. Now we shall see the other side of this sImantaM. We shall indeed see its greatness.  I began with what appeared to be its negative side because I wanted to end up this shloka with the positive side. The Acharya of course begins this shloka only with the positive.

          Now look at the first  two lines:

tanotu kshhemaM naH tava vadana-soundarya-laharI

parIvAha-srotaH saraNiH iva sImanta-saraNiH /

 

Great poets do not waste their words. So when our Acharya uses ‘laharI’, ‘parIvAhaM’,  srotas’ and ‘saraNI’, which all convey more or less the same meaning ‘flood’, there should be something deeper in it. Yes, there is a deeper point. There are shades of differences in  the meaning. ‘laharI’ is the bubbling, wavy and noisy  water-flow. ‘parIvAhaM’ is the real flood of water which simply marches forward. ‘srotas’ could even be a silent rivulet. ‘saraNI’ is a straight flow of water, like that in an artificial canal. What starts as a ‘laharI’ , widens up into a ‘parIvAhaM’ and then flows like a controlled river ‘srotas’ between two banks and finally is channelised into a canal ‘saraNI’.

 

This is how ambaaL’s beauty starts from Her face as a laharI and spreads like a pravAha. When it touches the top of the forehead it becomes a srotas. The banks on either side of this srotas is the hair on either side of the sImantaM. Actually the flood of beauty cannot be dammed by the forest of hair. What is the greatness of ambaaL’s beauty if one can dam it by holding it between two banks? ‘vaktra-lakshmI-parIvAhaM  (the flood of beautiful brilliance) says lalitA-sahasranAmaM. The brilliance starts from the face and overflows as a flood into the locks of hair on the head but is contained in the form of a ‘saraNi’ – sImanta-saraNi – between the dense forest of hair on either side.  It is this brilliance  (lAvaNya) of the Mother Goddess that bestows prosperity and happiness to all Her devotees. And since it all starts from the face, he calls it ‘vadana-soundarya-laharI’.  And legitimately, the whole work has been named – we do not know by whom – Soundarya-laharI.

 

This shloka ‘tanotu kshhemaM naH’ properly meditated on, will bring us divine help in controlling our mind and all its evil tendencies – ‘dvishhAm bRndaiH’ – by  which we are all  imprisoned – ‘bandIkRtaM’.

 

60

(Digest of pp.1130 -1140  of Deivathin Kural, 6th volume, 4th imprn.)

 

Here comes one shloka (#46) where the Acharya has done delightful innovation with the simple idea of the ‘moon-like divine face’.

 

lalATaM lAvaNya-dyuti-vimalaM AbhAti tava yat

dvitIyaM tan-manye makuTa-ghaTitaM candra-shakalaM /

viparyAsa-nyAsAd-ubhayam-api sambhUya ca mithaH

sudhA-lepa-syUtiH pariNamati rAkA-himakaraH // 46 //

 

lalATaM’ is the forehead. ‘lAvaNya-dyuti’ is the beautiful Light. ‘vimala’ means faultless. “AbhAti”, shines. So the first two lines mean: The forehead that shines in the pure brilliance of its divine  beauty may be thought of (‘manye’ – I think) as the second form of the crescent moon of your crown. ‘makuTa-ghaTitam candra-shakalaM’ means the crescent moon that ornaments the crown. In other words what is said is that there is the cresecent moon on ambaa’s head.

 

Traditionally, we all know that both Ishvara and Ambaa have only the third day moon on their head, not the half moon or ashhTamI-candra.In all images of both these deities we could have noticed that the third day moon  (the figure of the moon on the third day of its appearance) embedded in their head, would be showing the sharp corners of the curves on both sides  as two dots. If it is the ashhTamI-candra (the half moon ) that is depicted, we would also see the diameter joining those end points.  In  a crescent moon this diameter would not show nor would  the remaining portions of the moon – though we can imagine the full figure of the moon by mentally completing the crescent into a full moon. It requires quite an imagination to visualise this. But the key to this is the pair of sharp corners in which the crescent ends.

 

On the other hand the semi-circular forehead of Ambaa is actually a half-moon. No portion of the half-moon is missing here. In the sahasranAma also it is said of her forehead (aLika-sthala) :ashTamI-candra-vibhrAjad-aLika-sthala-shobitA”.

 

Thus we have a cresent moon above, and also below it in the form of the forehead the half moon. Now comes the fun in the third and fourth lines:

ubhayam api” – these two. The half moon in the crown and the half moon in the forehead.

mithaH” – mutually, with respect to each other.

viparyAsa-nyAsAt” – joined in the reverse order. “viparyAsa” means ‘the opposite order’.

They have to be joined in the reverse order because, the half moon in the crown is in the form of the lower half of a full moon and the half moon of the forehead is of the form of the upper half of a full moon.

 

So we have to join them in the reverse order. “sambhUya” means ‘attached’. What is the means of attaching them?  It is the “sudhA-lepa-syUtiH” of the moon itself. “sudhA” means ‘nectar’. “lepa” is ‘paste’ or ‘gum’. “syUtiH” means stitching or sewing. In fact the English word ‘sew’ comes from ‘syUtiH’ of Sanskrit. Thus if one attaches the half moon on the head of ambaa and the half moon of her forehead, with the former as the lower part and the latter as the upper part, and use the nectar which oozes out of the moon for pasting them then the full moon itself shines! “rAkA himakaraH pariNamati”!

 

The next shloka (#47) is  more complicated.  But it is the complication and the poetic inventiveness that make us stay long  at the shloka and therefore longer in the thought of ambaa.

 

Bhruvau bhugne kimcit bhuvana-bhaya-bhanga-vyasanini

tvadIye netrAbhyAM madhukara-rucibhyAM dhRta-guNaM /

dhanur-manye savyetara-kara-gRhItaM ratipateH

prakoshhTe mushhTau ca sthagayati nigUDhAntaram-ume // 47 //

 

bhruvau kimcit bhugne  : ‘frowning a little’.  bhruvau  means the pair of eyebrows. When the eyebrows are contracted either in anger or in thought, we are said to frown.  Incidentally, the Sanskrit word bhrU  must have originated the English word ‘brow’ and also the tamil word ‘puruvaM’, all meaning ‘eyebrow’! Here we are talking about the eyebrows of ambaa. If the frowning is complete, the natural bend in the eyebrows disappears and they align themselves in a straight line. Here ambaaL’s eyebrows are not contracted in anger, but they are more ‘bent’ than normal; that is why, the word ‘kimcit’ is used. She is frowning in the thought of encountering a fear for Her children,  namely, us, the people of the world.

 

The words ‘bhuvana-bhaya-bhanga-vyasanini  mean ‘sorrowed (by compassion) with the worry of the need to destroy the fear (of samsara) of all the world’. She is a flood of bliss, certainly – Ananda-lahari. But She is constantly thinking about how to redeem this world from its endless misery of ignorance and consequent suffering in samsara. It was Her snap-of-the-finger decision once  that  created the five Cosmic functionaries for the good of the world; cf. “kshhaNa-calitayoH bhrU-latikayoH  - ‘by a movement of Thy creeper-like brows’  - of shloka #24.

 

Of course it is not explicitly stated that Her frowning is because of Her worry about the world. It could even be because of  Her alertness at the onset of a ‘bhaya’, danger to Her beloved children of the world. If She is intending to eradicate the fear from people even before the danger occurred, then ‘bhuvana-bhaya-bhanga-vyasanini’ does not fit here. Only when the situation is confronted with a danger, and a consequent fear in the people, only then the ‘bhanga’ (destroying) of that ‘bhaya’ makes sense. We can go on analysing the verse-line in this manner endlessly. That is the beauty of the poetry in this shloka!

 

But note, whether it is sorrow or anger that is the cause of the frowning, it is not a thing for enjoyment; on the other hand, the Acharya here seems to be enjoying the scene with all his heart. So the contracting of the eyebrows is not the usual kind. It is more profound than that. And that is the content of the other three lines of the shloka. In  short, the words ‘dhanur-manye’ of the third line are the key to this puzzle. ‘I think it is the bow’, says he. That is, the two eyebrows are thought of as one bow. But the wonder here is that both the eyebrows are considered not as two bows but one single bow. ‘dhanur-manye’ –in the singular.  Then what about the gap between the two eyebrows, where there is no growth of hair? Actually there should not be; for, as a Tamil preoverb goes,  if the brows meet, it harbingers destruction of everything – “kUDina puruvam kuDiyaik-keDukkuM”.

 

So then how come, the two eyebrows are compared to a single bow? Whose bow? Is it just a comparison? What is great about all  this except some poetic gymnastics?  We shall see.

 

 

Thus spake the Paramacharya

 

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Acknowledgement of Source Material:

Ra. Ganapthy’s ‘Deivathin Kural’ (Vol.6)  in Tamil published by Vanathi Publishers, 4th edn. 1998

 

Copyright of English Summary  © V. Krishnamurthy

 

Mar.11, 2004

 

 

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