66

(Digest of pp.1180 -1185   of Deivathin Kural, 6th volume, 4th imprn.)

 

The next rasa is karuNa-rasa, that is, the rasa of pitiability and miserability.  This is also called shoka-rasa, the rasa of sorrow and misery.  But the Acharya does not want to depict ambaa in this rasa. Earlier in shloka 47 also, when he used the words “bhuvana-bhaya-bhanga-vyasanini”, though She was shown to have had feelings of sorrow (“vyasanini”) for the people of the world, it was more because of Her karuNA (divine compassion) that She was sad, than because of the ‘bhuvana-bhaya’, the horror of samsAra of the people. She wanted to help them rid of this ‘bhuvana-bhaya’ and so She was intent on ‘bhuvana-bhaya-bhanga’, namely the destruction of the fear of the world; and thus it was more an expression of karuNA (compassion) than karuNA (=shoka, sorrow).  In the same way here also it is the karuNA-rasa that exhibits itself; thus the shoka-rasa is only shown by implication from the rasa of divine compassion, that comes out of the words “te mayi janani dRshhTis-sakruNA” – meaning, Oh Mother, Your glances that show different rasas, are full of compassion when falling on me.

 

Note the use of the word “mayi  (on me), here. All along the Acharya was using the word “naH  (to us, on us), whenever he was asking for the Grace or blessing to descend from the divine. But now the matter is so personal that he makes himself the representative of the entire world, and asks for the Grace to descend on him, and through him to every reader of this shloka. All the other rasas can be objectified as operating on a third person, but the KaruNA-rasa has to be received as a divine blessing by each and every one.

 

The shloka is over. But we have covered only 8 rasas so far. Where is the ninth rasa, shAntaM – that of peace and serenity?  The rasa that is a unification of  all these eight rasas into one is the shAnta rasa. It is the basic rasa from which all others emerge! It is the Shiva rasa. The first word “shive” in this shloka denotes that. In the beginning of Soundaryalahari, in the very first shloka, we were told that without Shakti, ShivaM is nothing but shAntaM. This shloka begins with “shive” and thereby indicates that it is that shAnta state that became dynamic and evolved into the other eight rasas. The whole stotra of Soundaryalahari depicts ambaaL as the ‘kArya-brahman’; so the shAnta state of Hers where there is no action has been only subtly indicated  here.

 

Another interesting observation!. The stotra itself begins with ‘Shiva’. This shloka, which is exactly in the middle of the whole stotra – it is the beginning of the 51st shloka – begins with ‘shive’. Thus Shakti occurs in the very centre of the whole stotra, just as the shiva mantra occurs in the middle of the four vedas.

 

There is another tradition in the science of ‘alankAra’ however on the concept of  shAnta-rasa. According to this tradition, there are only eight rasas. ShAntaM is not a rasa at all. Experience, experiencer, feeling, excitement – all these and their original sources together constitute what is called a rasa. But in the state of shAnta, all these have no place; for they are all dormant therein. Then how can we call it a rasa?  But there is quite an opposite tradition in the same ‘alankAra’ school of experts. They have detailed in their writings what originates the shAnta rasa, what would be its background, what are the symptoms, and what are the accessories for this rasa and so forth. They call shAnta rasa the  rasa of all rasas’!

 

But the argument about there being only eight rasas doesn’t seem to be acceptable to the Acharya; for he has used the words “nava-rasAsvAda-taralau” (shloka 50), “nava-rasa-mahA-tANDava” (shloka 41).

 

There is also a tradition where not only shAntaM is the ninth rasa but there is one more rasa added to the list, namely ‘vAtsalya’. Acharya’s words “mayi janani dRshhTis-sakaruNA” (May your glance, Oh Mother, be on me!) remind us that She is the Mother Supreme and this manner of the Acharya making himself a child of the Mother, is exactly what brings the vAtsalya rasa also! Thus the Acharya has explicitly mentioned eight rasas and implicitly brought in the other two rasas – all in reference to that single organ, the eyes of the divine!

 

There is a lot of beauty implicit in Soundaryalahari. One of these is the mention of ‘Meenakshi’.  This also concerns the ‘eye’. ‘Meenakshi’ itself means the ‘fish-eyed’.  Her very fame from ancient times has always been centred upon the beauty of her eyes. Of such a great Devi, apparently neither of the two great works on Devi have spoken. These two are Lalitasahasranama and Soundaryalahari.  But this is only a first impression. If we carefully look into these works, we would come to know there is no necessity to default them for this.

 

For, though there is no explicit mention, Meenakshi is implicitly mentioned in Lalitasahasranama. In fact it is this very implicitness that adds a a greater importance to that. “vaktra-lakshmI-parIvAha-calan-mInAbha-locanA” is one of the names in the sahasranama. ‘vaktra-lakshmI’ means the brilliance of ambaal’s face. It is like a great flood (parIvAha). When the dalliance of the face runs as a flood of water, there ought to be fish in that flood! Where are the fishes? The long long eyes of ambaa are the fishes. ‘locana’ means ‘eye’. (lokana’ means ‘sight’ or ‘glance’. By the very fact that it is ‘seen’, the world is called ‘loka’). The ‘locana’ that resembles ‘a fish’ generates the word ‘mInAbha-locanaM’. Instead of saying ‘MinAkshhI’ explicitly, it is mentioned as ‘MinAbha-locanA’.  Well, that takes care of one ‘default’!

 

In Soundaryalahari, where the shloka 49 talked about the relationship of Her eyes to various cities, madhura  occurs. So by giving the name of the city of Minakshi, we may take it Minakshi has been mentioned.  In addition to this there is shloka 56.

 

67

(Digest of pp.1186 -1188   of Deivathin Kural, 6th volume, 4th imprn.)

 

The first two lines of Shloka 56 are:

 

tavAparNe karNe japa-nayana-paishunya-chakitAH

nilIyante toye niyatam-animeshhAH shapharikAH /

 

tavAparNe has to be broken as tava aparNe. aparNA is the name of ambaa. The name aparNA means ‘She who did not even eat the leaves’. In her manifestation as the daughter of the Mountain King, when She was doing penance in order to be wedded to Lord Shiva, She adopted such a terrific  self-discipline, wherein, She did not even have the fallen leaves as Her  food.

aparNe: Oh Goddess, who has the name aparNA,

niyataM : certainly,

shapharikAH: the female fishes

nilIyante : hide themselves

toye: in water

japa-nayana-paishunya-chakitAH: (talking – eyes – tell-tale – trembling) trembling in fear  that Your eyes (that extend up to the ear) are perhaps carrying tales of slander (about them)

tava karNe: to Your ears.

 

Why do fish never swim in the upper regions of the ocean and instead always stay in deep waters? The Acharya here imagines an interesting reason. They see ambaal’s eyes which extend up to Her  ears. She is always rolling Her eyes on all sides in order that not a single being in the universe misses Her blessed glance of protection. And so they now and then reach the extremities of the eye and appear as if they are touching the ears! And the fishes think that is when the eyes say something secretive  into the divine ears. They think defensively that the devi’s eyes are perhaps telling tales about them (the fishes); because they always think that the fish-eyed looks of the devi are only competing with them as rivals in terms of fast movements. And naturally they are afraid the devi might take it on them and therefore they stay in  deep water! They know that if they are really put to test they will lose in competition with ambaal’s eyes both in the beauty as well as in fast movement.

 

In the Meenakshi temple at Madurai, there is the tank called ‘The tank of the Golden Lotus’. There are no fishes in that tank. The folklore is that they don’t come there because they know they cannot compete with the beauty of the eyes of  Goddess Meenakshi.  Thus the Acharya in making a comparison of ambaal’s eyes with fishes and in painting a picture for us of the fishes  not wanting to show up before Her,  has really subtly hinted to us of Goddess Meenakshi in this shloka!

 

This takes care of the other ‘default’ – namely, that in Soundaryalahari, where is the mention of Meenakshi?

 

One more observation on this shloka before we move on . This is about the word ‘animeshhAH’. It means ‘without winking the eyes’.  By the way, the word ‘nimeshha’ means a unit of time equal to about one-fourth of a second.  The Tamil word ‘nimishhaM’ meaning ‘a minute’ must have come from this ‘nimeshha’. That ambaal does not wink Her eyes was effectively used by the Acharya in just the previous shloka (#55). There he says that Creation and Dissolution take place just during the winking of Her eyes. And so in order to prevent this universe (that has been created at the opening of Her eyelids) from dissolution She does not wink Her eyes at all !. Here the general traditional belief that the divines do not wink their eyes has been used by the Acharya as  a remarkable expression of Her protective feeling towards the whole universe. But we can also look at it in another way. The fraction of a second during which the winking takes place may deny the Compassionate Divine Glance to Her children of the world; and maybe that is why She does not wink Her eyes!

 

But how can the same non-winking of eyes apply to fish? Of course there is the  traditional belief that fishes by nature don’t sleep.  But again this belief has been elevated to a poetic imagination by the Acharya visualising that the fish don’t wink because they, being afraid of the effect of slander about them by Her eyes, want to be alert all the time against any ‘attack’ by Her even while they hide themselves in deep water!

 

Next comes one of the most touching shlokas  (#57) of Soundaryalahari. Here we have to melt our hearts in prayer. Maybe this particular shloka was done by the Acharya when He was  overcome by Her KaruNA in all its fullness. But the Acharya shows his humility even here. Instead of saying “Your Grace has descended on me with all its overflowing fullness”, he says, in talking of Her Grace, “Would it not also reach me?” Look at the humility of our Acharya in spite of his being at the apex of Bhakti, JnAna, Spiritual Power and Poetic Excellence!

 

Indeed all the great nAyanmars, and Alwars, when they sing about their love of God vie with each other in expressing the sentiment of humility coupled with grief and self-pity. “Oh Lord, Would you not condescend to shower your grace on this poor little devotee of Yours?” – this is the running theme in many of their compositions. Our Acharya also does this. My own opinion is this.  These great giants of devotion do not have to belittle themselves so much. They are all already realised souls. But they sing in this strain because they want us ordinary folk to be able to appeal to the Almighty in that strain. Ignorant as we are, we lack that humility and we don’t even know how to pray. And that is why they give us the very words to pray with that kind of humility.  And here, in this shloka #57, ambaal has prompted our Acharya to pray to her in that style with superlative humility!

 

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(Digest of pp.1190 - 1196  of Deivathin Kural, 6th volume, 4th imprn.)

 

dRshA drAghIyasyA  dara-dalita-nIlotpala-ruchA

davIyAmsaM dInaM snapaya kRpayA mAm-api shive /

anena-ayaM dhanyo bhavati na ca te hAnir-iyatA

vane vA harmye vA samakara-nipAto himakaraH //57 //

 

dRshA” denotes ‘by the eye’ as also ‘by the glance’.

drAghIyasyA” means ‘longer than anything’. The comparison is with any thing else in the world. Therefore the  expressiondRshA drAghIyasyA’ connotes the eye-glance that can outreach any distance.  In other words ambaal’s glance falls on those even in the farthest corners of  the universe. And naturally it does not distinguish among them; it falls on all of them equally.

 

dara-dalita-nIlotpala-ruchA” : Usually ‘ruchi’ is taken to mean the taste that the tongue feels. But the feeling of ‘light’ that is associated with the eye-sense is also called ‘ruchi’. In shloka #48 earlier, the Acharya used ‘dara-dalita-hemAmbuja-ruchiH’ – the ‘ruchi’ corresponding to the golden lotus slightly in bloom – for ambaal’s third eye.  Thus the light of fire that comes from the third eye is the golden lotus and the other two eyes are blue water-lilies (‘nIlotpala’). The two sounds of ‘la’ in ‘nIlotpala’ give the soft gentle touch of sweetness to the description. It befits the deity whose name itself – ‘lalitA’ – contains the same two soft sounds of ‘la’. Just as an expert jewel-maker chooses the right colour and nature of the gem-stones to be studded in  his jewels so as to maximise the attractiveness and majesty of the jewel that he makes, the poet in the Acharya chooses his words meticulously to fit the subject and produce the delightful sound effect!

 

The nIlotpala radiates cool beauty. The coolness compares to the compassion that radiates from  the graceful eye-glance of ambaal. And it permeates the whole universe.  This radiation is not the eye-blinding brilliance of the golden lotus (hemAmbuja) – which belongs to the third eye. The Lord’s opening of the third eye is known  to radiate terror. We have no instance of ambaal’s opening of Her third eye. So what is prayed for here is the nilotpala-glance of the right and left eyes.

 

Then there is the qualification ‘dara-dalita’ for the nIlotpala. When  the waterlily is fully closed but ready to blossom, the cool shine of the moon falls on it and it starts to open  up. ‘dalita’ indicates  the just-opened state of the petals of the lily. ‘dara’ – meaning, ‘a little’  -- indicates that the blossoming is not full but very little.  If the lily opens out fully, it won’t give the eye-shape.  Nor is it totally a bud. Only a closed eye would look like a lily-bud. And we know that ambaal never closes her eyelids! She has to cast Her glance on all the world all the time!

 

Nor can we say Her eyes are fully open. Actually such a fully open look from the eyes would not radiate compassion; only in anger the eyes will radiate such a full stare.  In a compassionate look, the eyelids are half closed and half-open. In complete shAnta (Peace) state the eyes will be almost closed though a little of it is visible.  So when ambaal casts Her graceful compassionate glance, the eyes have the half-blossomed state of the nIlotpala. It is in this state that the flower also has a subtle attraction, for what is inside is not visible, but what is inside is also showing a little! A poet also enjoys and revels in such a state where he dares not say something explicitly but still is not totally implicit.

 

When you look at a nIlotpala petal, it shows up as blue  in the outer fringes but as you look more and more inside and follow it up to its base, the blue colour fades and brightens up into white. This happens even in the petals of a red lotus. Thus when a nIlotpala flower shows up as a silken blue with a polished oily surface, with no  other colour spoiling the blueness, then it must be only in its half-blossomed state.  When it has fully blossomed, the white colour at the bottom will begin to show up. Hence the words ‘dalita( just blossomed) and ‘dara’ (only a little). What an accurate matching of words!

 

Now let us go to the second line of the shloka:

 

davIyAmsaM dInaM snapaya kRpayA mAm-api shive

 

Note that the first line had a number of words sounding with ‘da’. ‘dRshA’, ‘draghIyasyA’, ‘dara’, and ‘dalita’.  And the same flooding of words with ‘da’ continues even in the second line: ‘davIyAmsaM’ and ‘dInaM’.  And again the sound effects of ‘drAghIyasyA’ and davIyAmsaM  are the same. All this is of course gymnastics of words. That is only the tip of the iceberg. The gymnastics of the contents of the words is thousand times more superb.

 

davIyAmsaM’ is also a word denoting a degree of comparison just as ‘drAghIyasyA’ was in the first line.  davIyAmsaM’ denotes ‘farther than anything’. So it indicates the person who is praying is farthest removed from Her.  dInaM’ indicates lowliness, pitiability, worthlessness,and a state of total fright. All these meanings are together applicable here. The Acharya has put in this word so as to have all its meanings relevant here.

 

Such a lowly person is to be bathed (snapaya) in the rain of compassion from the Mother Goddess.  But where is the rain of compassion supposed to come from?  It is not ‘from’; it is ‘by’.  By Her glance. By Her ‘kaTAkshha’ – glance of grace.

 

But if you look at the first line there doesn’t seem to be any need for such a prayer. For ‘drAghIyasyA’ is the nature of Her eye-glance; that means it is far-reaching and covers the entire world.  Not only it covers universally every one, but it does not also make any distinction from person to person. So there is no reason to assume that somebody has been left out.

Why then is this prayer ‘snapaya kRpayA’ – meaning, please deign to bathe (this devotee)  in Your compassion?

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(Digest of pp.1197 -1205   of Deivathin Kural, 6th volume, 4th imprn.)

(Shloka 57 continued)

 

snapaya kRpaya mAm-api shive” – ‘Bathe even me by Your grace, Oh Mother’ : Why this prayer,  when the first line of the shloka has already assured us that ambaal’s compassionate glance is ‘drAghIyasyA’ , that is, it reaches the farthest corners and extends to every one without any distinction?  That is because this ‘lowly one’ (dInaM) is davIyAmsaM (far removed even from the ordinary range of people – in that sense, the lowliest).  And the Acharya’s stamp of humility comes out not only in these two words, but in the additional word ‘mAM api’ – meaning, ‘even me’. He asks for ambaal’s grace ‘even on this poor me’.

 

The whole thing implies “My Mother! You have probably kept me so far removed from you, because I do not deserve the universal kaTAkshhaM (divine glance of grace) that you bestow on all. I am probably of such poor spiritual merit. But now I pray to you. Would you not deign to cast your glance even on me?”! “Please do not just glance, but really bathe me by a downpour of your grace” (snapaya kRpayA).

 

Why this poor self-estimation? Obviously, the Acharya is praying for all of us. We usually do not deign to rise to this pedestal of humility when we pray to God. Because our ego prevents us from becoming so humble. But the Acharya is teaching us how to pray. It is said that Jesus took all our sins on himself and got himself crucified on the Cross. Here the Acharya is speaking for us and taking on himself all our faults as if they are his and pleads for Divine Mother’s Grace to descend on him (for us)  in the fullest sense!

 

The Acharya usually prays for all of us; he uses the word “naH” (cf. Shlokas 7 and 44). But in shloka #51, where he was referring to the nine rasas oozing forth from Her eyes, he used “mayi” (on me), which was a little puzzling to us. But the explanation for that comes here. The Compassionate Glance mentioned there happens to be  the subject of this shloka #57. By itself Her divine glance is ‘dRAghIyas’, that is, reaches the farthest.  Therefore nobody need pray to Her for that Glance. But here the speaker (the Acharya) considers himself the lowliest of all; so he has to pray for that divine benefit of Her Glance. And that is why in shlokas 51 and 57 he uses “mayi” !

 

[Note by VK: In shlokas 22 and 51 also,

the Acharya uses the word “mayi”.

But the Paramacharya’s explanation

fits there also !]

 

The followers of the tradition of Shri Krishna Chaitanya, who follow the dvaita-bhAva bhakti, are well known for their attitude of extreme humility in their prayers to God. But in that kind of modesty our Acharya excels them here!

 

Well ! You have yourself accepted that you have been banished from My Grace  and that too deservingly, by your own admission. Then why do you still pray to Me?” – ambaaL might ask. And the Acharya, as if anticipating this possible rejoinder from ambaal, puts in the third and fourth line of this shloka:

anena ayaM dhanyo bhavati na ca te hAnir-iyatA

vane vA harmye vA  sama-kara-nipAto hima-karaH //

 

Though I am undeserving according to shastraic rules and regulations, where comes a rule or restraint when pure love is the principal matter? There are things which have an equanimous relationship with everything else irrespective of norms and regulations. In fact this kind of equanimous view is what the Gita raises to the sky. There have been people of that kind; and there are things of that kind. Take for instance the moon. It is always ‘hima-karaH’ – that which makes everything cool. The moon does not make any distinction as to which place on earth should receive its cool moonlight. Does he make any discrimination between a high tower and a low pit? Whether it is a forest (“vane vA”) or a mansion (“harmye vA”)  he pours his moonlight equally. Neither does he pour more of it in the quadrangle of the king’s palace nor does he pour less of it in the shrubs of the thorny forest.  He is “samakara-nipAtaH” – that is, one who falls equally everywhere.  In the same way, can you not Oh Mother, dispense your cool Grace on me, even though I am covered by the rough and tough dirt of worldly sins!

 

In other words, all this argument is to say that the Mother Goddess should not  take into account my quality; She should have ‘sama-dRshhTi’!

 

But then it appears the ambaal raises another question. “Suppose the weight of your sins boomerangs back on my “kaTAkshha” (divine Graceful Glance) itself?  And the Acharya replies: “na ca te hAnir-iyatA”. ‘iyatA’: by this. ‘te’: for you. ‘hAniH na’: there is no loss.  The additional word ‘ca’ makes the ‘te’ as ‘te ca’, meaning, for you too.

 

Your dRshhTi, glance, will not be affected by the object on which it falls. Just like the moon. Its light falls on all and sundry; but the moon itself is not affected by any such object on which its light falls. When the moon itself is not affected by the object that benefits by it, what to speak of Your compassionate Glance. On whomsoever it may fall, even though it be a faulty object such as me, how can it affect Your dRshhTi? “na ca te hAnir-iyatA” – By this you are not affected either.

 

When it is said that ‘for you too’ there is no loss, then there should be something else mentioned which has necessitated that word ‘too’. Just as “you too” there has to be a ‘me’ on the other hand. The answer is in the expression “anena ayaM dhanyo bhavati” – This person (namely, I) also becomes blessed.

 

The moment Your compassionate Glance falls on someone, that someone is blessed with infinite bliss. You also do not lose anything. I get everything. That very undeservingness which removed me farthest from you has now been more than compensated by the beatific of Your dRshhTi.

 

The Acharya has composed this shloka only for us to get that treasure of beatification of Her Grace. We all live in this world seeking to decorate ourselves with fame, honour, position, power and what not. But all this ‘alankAra’ (=decoration)  is nothing before what that ‘alankAra’ of Her benign Grace that can bring in the ultimate jnAna to us in no time.

 

The shloka ends with ‘samakara-nipAto himakaraH’. By this he pleads with ambaal for her equanimous view of all. It is this very sama-darshana – that is the view which sees everything as brahman along advaitic lines – that the poet MUka praises in Shloka 48 of his ‘AryA-shatakaM’. Just as this Soundaryalahari shloka talks of moonlight falling equally on the forest as well as the mansion, MUka kavi compares ‘vipinaM’ (forest) and ‘bhavanaM’ (House)   and says that one who has ambaal’s graceful glance will consider both of these equanimously. Three things bother man. Lust, Anger and Fear. Fear disappears by ambaal’s Grace; even the forest becomes a home for him. Friend and Foe become equal to him. In other words the anger in the enemy disappears. And thirdly even an inert stone is not any lower in esteem than the sweet lips of an young girl; in other words, lust flies away from him. The bathing in Her Grace drives away all these three and gives one the treasure of advaita. The dhanya  (blessedness) that this shloka talks about is the one who has obtained the dhana (treasure) of that advaita.

 

Oh What a beautiful shloka! Deserves to be meditated on over and over again!

 

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(Digest of pp.1205 -1210   of Deivathin Kural, 6th volume, 4th imprn.)

 

There is a subtle matter of yoga-shAstra in shloka #61. In the order of description of the divine form from head to foot, the next, after the eyes, is the nose.

 

asau nAsAvamshaH tuhinagiri-vamsha-dhvaja-paTi

tvadIyo nedIyaH phalatu phalam-asmAkam-ucitaM /

vahaty-antar-muktAH shishira-kara-nishvAsa-galitaM /

samRddhyA yat-tAsAM bahir-api ca muktAmaNi-dharaH // 61 //

 

tuhina-giri-vamsha-dhvaja-paTi : (Snow-mountain  - lineage – flag ) Oh Flag of the House of the Mountain of Snow,

asau tvadIyaH nedIyaH nAsAvamshaH : this nose of Yours, which is more like  the hollow bamboo staff of that flag --

phalatu : May it bestow

asmAkaM : on us

ucitaM phalaM : the appropriate fruit.

vahati : (it   -- that is, the staff-like nose --) contains

antaH  : in its inside, 

muktAH : pearls.

yat tAsAM samRddhyA : for  it is out of their abundance

bahir-api ca  : that even on the outside

muktAmaNi-dharaH : (there appears) a nasal pendant, in the form of one pearl,

shishira-kara-nishvAsa-galitaM : (moon-cooled – outgoing breath – pushed out) pushed out, as it were,  by the moon-cooled breath of the left nostril.

 

It is natural for the bamboo to be hollow. Ambaal’s smooth nose has also the hollows of the nostril. And it is natural for ambaal to have nasal pendants. Here we are talking of pearl pendants – cf. muktAmaNi-dharaH.  In Madurai and Kanyakumari, the diamond nasal pendant of the Goddess is famous. “tArA-kAnti tiraskAri nAsAbharaNa-bhAsurA” is one of the names in Lalita Sahasranama. It means She excels even the lustrous light of the stars by means of the dalliance of Her nasal ornaments. A star radiates light of all colours. The light of the star is also of the diamond-type.  So the ornament that is spoken of here in the Lalitasahasranama  must also be a diamond nasal ornament.  A pearl never radiates several colours.  The tradition of “pearl nasal pendant” (muthu-mookuthi – in Tamil)  always associated with ambaaL shows that perhaps at one time it was the pearl pendant that must have been dominantly in vogue.

 

The fullness of both masculine and feminine beauty  is usually talked about in respect of Lord Krishna. So the deities of Krishna always show a nasal pendant.  There is a famous shloka starting with the words “kasturi-tilakaM ....” praising Krishna, in which you get the words “nAsAgre nava-mouktikaM” – ‘brand new pearl ornament at the tip of the nose’ .

 

Here the Acharya’s citing of  pearl pendant as the nasal ornament for ambaaL contributes well  to the metaphor of the bamboo flag-staff.  When a bamboo is of an excellent variety, there is an ancient tradition (handled as such by poets respectfully) that such a bamboo contains pearls inside it. A similar belief is there with respect to the frontal globe (mastakaM) of an elephant and also with respect to sugarcane. Indeed in shloka 74 of Soundaryalahari the Acharya tells us that ambaal’s chest is adorned with a necklace made of pearls got from the frontal globe of Gajasura, slain by the Lord. In the present shloka, ambaal’s nose which is, as it were, the hollow bamboo staff, is visualised to contain pearls as per the tradition about the bamboo.

 

But wait! Tradition says there are pearls within the bamboo, not outside it! Here the nasal pendant of ambaal is outside the nose. Isn’t it a flaw in the analogy?

 

The Acharya takes care of this beautifully. It is through the hollow of the nose (bamboo) that ambaal is exhaling her breath. When air passes through the hollow of a bamboo there results the music of the flute. Here the nasal breath exhales the pearls that are inside and pushes them out as a nasal pendant! It is the breath of the Almighty that is said to constitute the Vedas. The ultimate content of the Vedas is Mukti, the final Release. ‘Mukti’ and ‘mukta’ (pearl) are handled   by poets  for purposes of rhyme. Here the Acharya says that it is the mukti that is exhaled by ambaal in the form of the mukta!

 

There is a further play of words in the use of ‘vamsha’.  This word means ‘bamboo’. Recall the shloka beginning with the words ‘vamshI-vibhUshhita-karAt’ in praise of Krishna. It means that His hand is adorned by the flute of the bamboo. The same ‘vamsha’ also means ‘lineage’. So ambaal is addressed as the flag of the lineage of the Mountain King – ‘tuhina-giri-vamsha-dvaja-paTi’.

 

Now let us take up the Yoga matter, hidden in this shloka. The breath that comes out of ambaal’s nose and that brings the pearls outside is spoken of as coming out of the ‘left nostril’. But there is no word in the shloka which directly means ‘left nostril’. The only words are ‘shishira-kara-nishvAsa-galitaM’.

 

nishvAsa’ is exhalation;

uchvAsa’ is inhalation;

galita’ means ‘expelled (out)’.

shishira-kara’ is what indicates the left nostril, though its direct meaning is just ‘the moon’. Note that ‘shishira’ and ‘hima’ mean the same thing, namely, ‘cold’. Whenever the Acharya talks of the moon in relation to ambAl, he uses ‘hima-kara’ or ‘shishira-kara’ meaning that which gives a soothing of cold. Thus ‘shishira-kara-nishvAsa-galitaM’ means that which is exhaled by the ‘moon-exhalation’. How this becomes the ‘left- nostril-exhalation’ is  the hidden secret of Yoga in this shloka.

 

According to yoga-shAstra, when the mind is drawn towards desire or anger or the like, the inhalation is by the left nostril and exhalation by the right. On the other hand, when the mind stays deep in noble thoughts, the inhalation is by the right nostril and exhalation by the left. When there is no thought passing through the mind the breath stays as kumbhaka without exhalation or inhalation. AmbaaL is always engrossed in the most noble thought of compassion. So She inhales by the right nostril and exhales by the left!

 

Now the chandra-nishvAsa (moon-exhalation) of ambaal is explainable from Yoga. There are three nADis in the human body through which the spiritual current passes. On the right of the spinal column there is the ‘pingala,  on the left there is the ‘iDA’ and the central one is ‘sushhumnA’. Since there is identity between JivAtmA and ParamAtmA, the names ‘moon’ for the left eye, ‘sun’ for the right eye and ‘agni’ for the third eye translate into the names ‘moon channel’ for ‘iDA’ on the left, and ‘sun channel’ for ‘pingala’ on the right. Hence the meaning of ‘shishikara-nishvAsa’ is exhalation by the left nostril!

 

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

 

Apr.10, 2004

 

 

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