(Digest of pp.1211 -1217   of Deivathin Kural, 6th volume, 4th imprn.)


Smita-jyotsnA-jAlaM tava vadana-candrasya pibatAM

cakorANAm-AsId-ati-rasatayA canchu-jaDimA /

atas-te shItAmshor-amRta-laharIm-Amla-rucayaH

pibanti svac-chandaM nishi nishi bhRshaM kAncika-dhiyA // 63 //


This is another shloka of poetic charm, now dealing with the charm that flows from ambaal’s smile. Earlier in shloka 42 She was said to have the moon in  Her crown. Now Her face (vadanaM) itself is the moon (vadana-candra). VadanaM also means ‘mouth’. The root word ‘vad’ is ‘to speak’. Satyam vada’ – Speak the truth. Therefore one can say that the primary meaning of ‘vadana’ is ‘mouth’.  But here it is ‘vadana-candra’ – the moon-like face. There is no expression like ‘moon–like mouth’!


Moonshine flows from the moon–like face. The moon in  the sky displays a dark spot on it. But ambaal’s face-moon (vadana-candra) has, in its centre,  arrays of sparkling teeth.


tava: Your

Vadana-candrasya : moon-like face

Smita-jyotsnA-jAlaM :  (smile – moonlight – luminous sweep) luminous sweep of the moonshine of your smile


In other words, it is the smile that illuminates as moonlight from your face. Now what happens to this moonlight? The cakora bird drinks it. There is a tradition in Sanskrit literature that the cakora bird feeds on the nectar flowing from moonlight rays.


pibatAm cakorANAM : of the cakora birds which drank


Here the cakora birds have drunk the moonlight flowing from ambaal’s face.  What then happened to the cakora birds? They became insensitized by saturation of the sweetness of the drink.


ati-rasatayA: by the extreme sweetness

canchu: the peaks

cakorANAM : of the cakora birds

jaTimA AsIt : became numb  (were numbed).


Now how to correct this? The cakora birds were intelligent enough to make the correction themselves.


ataH: Therefore (i.e., because of the numbness of their peak)

te : these cakoras

Amla-rucayaH: (seeking to have) a taste of the sour

bhRshaM : heavily

pibanti :  drink

nishi nishi : night after night

amRta-laharIM : the wave of nectar (i.e., the moonlight)

shItAmshoH: of the cool-rayed moon,

svacchandaM : to their heart’s content

kAncika-dhiyA : taking it to be the sour antidote (for the satiation of sweetness).


Usually it is the privilege of Sanskrit poets to take great pride in fancying that the cakora birds drink the nectar flowing from moonlight for their very sustenance. This certainly makes the category of cakora birds unique  among all birds or beings, because they are the only ones which live on just moonlight.  But our Acharya soars higher, in his poetic fancy, over all other poets. He makes the cakora birds even higher on the scale by saying that they drink the grandest nectar that flows from ambaal’s smile. That makes the ordinary moonlight nectar pale into insignificance because it is, as depicted here, a sour drink when pitted against the divine drink of moonlight flowing from the smile of ambaal’s moonshine-face.


In the first part, Anandalahari, it was said that Lord Shiva is the only one who survives even the pralaya whereas these divines who partook of the nectar would all be consumed by that pralaya. And the reason was said to be that ambaal Herself is the Nectar of Consciousness, far superior to the material nectar and it is the eternal association with Her that protects Him.  Now we know that, even superior to that material nectar churned out of the milk ocean, there is the Nectar of the smile from Her moonshine face. So higher  than the Nectar of Consciousness (chaitanya-amritam) is the nectar of  Her Beauty (saundarya-amRtam), which is Her form, nay, Her face; not even  that, it is Her smile from that face.


All this the poet in the Acharya could have said simply that Her smile is more fascinating in beauty than moonlight. On the other hand he brought in the cakora bird, made moonlight the tasteful food for the cakora and pronounced ambaal’s smile sweeter than that taste. Putting together all these ideas, we see that it is the wave of Consciousness (chaitanya-laharI) that becomes a tasty food for the eyes by becoming the wave of ambaal’s beauty (Soundarya-laharI) and becomes also a tastier-than-nectar object for the tongue. Thus Chaitanya (Consciousness), Soundarya (Beauty) and Madhurya (Tasteful excellence) – all of these are in essence Her shower of Love.  It is that moonlight shower of Love that we should be consuming, in the form of cakoras, deliciously  relishing the moon light-food!


Maybe we are not able to ‘eat’ moonlight like the cakora.  But we take delight in eating our own food under moonlight, especially on a full moon night. The moon then  cools the very atmosphere that surrounds us and makes it very pleasant to us. The full moon is certainly  very pleasant to all of us. But the Sun of Wisdom is not so pleasant. Ignorance is darkness; wisdom is light. Though the wisdom is given by jnAna-sUrya (the Sun of Wisdom), it may also be unpleasantly hot, because it is the Sun that is giving it. On the other hand the moon gives both light (of wisdom) and pleasant experience. The Goddess of jnAna (JnAna-ambaal) removes our Ignorance while at the same time being pleasant. In the Purushha sUkta we are told that mind arose from the moon. So the mind should be both cool and pleasant. That is why ambaal who is most pleasant to us is always associated with the moon. She Herself resides in the region of the moon. ‘Chandra-maNDala-madhyagA’ says the sahasranAma. And that is again the reason why the Pournami (full moon) day is important for ambaal and we do special pUjA for ambaal on that day.


She wears the Moon on Her head. In the head of the Yogi She descends as the full moon and pours out the nectar. For us laymen also, our Acharya has brought to us the moonshine of Her smile.May we cherish and remember it for ever. May we  become the little cakoras drinking to our heart’s content the nectar-shower of Her Grace!


(Digest of pp.1218 -1221  of Deivathin Kural, 6th volume, 4th imprn.)



raNe jitvA daityAn-apahRta-shirastraiH kavacibhiH

nivRttaish-caNDAmsha-tripura-hara-nirmAlya-vimukhaiH /

vishAkh-endro-pendraiH shashi-vishada-karpUra-shakalA

vilIyante mAtas-tava vadana-tAmbUla-kabalAH //65 //


caNDAmsha-tripura-hara-nirmAlya-vimukhaiH: (Chanda’s share -  Shiva – leavings –looking away) : Rejecting the offering-remnants  of  Shiva as the share of the devotee Chanda,

vishAkh-endro-pendraiH :  the celestials KumAra, Indra and Vishnu

jitvA : after having conquered

daityAn : the asuras

raNe : in battle,

nivRttaiH : return to you

mAtaH : Oh Mother,

apahRta-shirastraiH : with their head-dresses (helmets, etc.) removed

kavacibhiH : but with their armour-jackets on,

tava vadana-tAmbUla-kabalAH : (eager to receive) as Your gracious gift (Prasada) the betal rolls used by You

vilIyante : and chew them

shashi-vishada-karpUra-shakalAH : (until) they dissolve along with the moon-white pieces of refined camphor contained in  them.


Just in the previous shloka (#64) the Acharya has said that Goddess Saraswati who dwells on the tip of Her tongue, gets Her crystal-like white complexion changed into the colour of a red ruby because of the ruddiness of the tongue that defies the japa (habiscus) flowers in its redness. I have already told you about this.

(Note by VK: See DPDS – 58)


Here this shloka talks about the symphony of red and white that the betal-chewing gives to ambaal’s tongue. You may ask wherefrom  comes this whiteness. Betal-chewing only produces a reddish tinge.


I take resort to the words “shashi-vishada-karpUra-shakalAH”. Maybe the Acharya thought : “We only talked about the white Saraswati at the tip of ambaal’s tongue becoming red. But while writing bhashyas, and while composing stotras we have been propitiating only ShAradA the white Goddess. Then why not bring Her whiteness into ambaal’s tongue that dwells on the betal rolls?”!


That the mouth is full of betal rolls is a characteristic attribute that we use in all our descriptions of a sumangali. Even the Sahasranama says of Her: “tAmbUla-pUrita-mukhI”, meaning, “The One whose mouth is full of chewing betal”. Ambaal, who is Auspiciousness personified should always be visualised by us only this way.


There is nothing that can excel the leavings of her “tAmbUla” (betal roll). It is called ‘tAmbUla-ucchishhTaM’ (betal-leavings). Only we humans have to consider another human’s food-leavings as something demeaning. That of ambaal is sacred. Our body is nothing but meat. But the divine body is akshhara. It encompasses all from “a” to “kshha”. That is why it is called ‘akshhara’, which also means ‘immutable’. The divine body is nothing but all the mantras personified; because no mantra goes outside of “a” to “kshha”. Over and above all that, it is Love personified. And hence it is that Her betal leavings are most sacred.


And who is receiving it?  Not just a devotee, a poet or a rishi. Her own son, KumAra; Her own  devotee, Indra, who received Brahma-vidyA from Her (refer Kenopanishad); and Her own masculine form in the form of Vishnu. The Acharya has woven a really marvelous dramatic scene in which these three receive Her betal leavings.


senAnInAM aham skandaH”, says Krishna in the Gita. “I am KumAra among the warriors of the world”. His trident (‘Vel’, in Tamil) is victorious, wherever it appears. Its very name is shakti. It is nothing but parA-shakti Herself. And it was this KumAra who went as the chief of all the divine forces to wage war with the enmies of the divines. Naturally the King of the divines, Indra, goes along with Him. Vishnu has another name Upendra – because He was born as a son (VAmana) to the same parents that bore Indra.  Thus these three, VishAka (KumAra), Indra, and Upendra (Vishnu) are returning to Mother Goddess after their victory over the asuras. The first thing that they look for is the gift of ambaal’s betal leavings.


Earlier to the brith of KumAra, once the divines did win over all  the asuras. That was when they were all puffed up with pride. They thought it was their own Power (shakti) that brought them the victory. The parA-shakti made them realise how incomplete their Power was, in each one of them. She put before them a piece of straw which stood like a rock before all their might. This  story of their becoming just a speck of dust in the presence of the supreme Shakti is told very graphically in Kenopanishad. It was only after this that Indra, among them all, immediately became very humble and he was taught the Brahma Vidya by ambaaL.


KumAra, Indra and Vishnu very modestly want to offer their victory over the asuras, at the feet of ambaal and partake as prasad, of Her betal leavings.  Ambaal usually revels in feeding others rather than enjoying the food Herself. Different varieties of sweet dishes are usually accepted by Her as offerings, not for Her own sake, but for the sake of Her devotees. For Herself She is content with the betal rolls!. But then, who eats all that food in Her house? It is the Lord!—so that He may not go ‘begging’ for food in His style as a ‘BikshhATana’ (the roaming mendicant). When the three divines return from their victorious war, it was just the time when the Lord had finished His dinner. But they (the celestials) did not care for the Prasad of Lord Shiva – because they were heading towards ambaal for Her betal leavings!


And the Acharya excels here, by ascribing a reason to this action of the three celestials. 


(Digest of pp.1221 - 1226  of Deivathin Kural, 6th volume, 4th imprn.)



The three celestials – KumAra, Indra and Vishnu – did not care for Shiva’s prasAdam, because they were heading towards Ambaal’s betal leavings. The Acharya excels here by ascribing an enjoyable reason for this action of theirs. “chaNDAmsha-tripura-hara-nirmAlya-vimukhaiH” –not having their mind on Shiva’s prasAdam ‘because it is the share of ChanDa’!. (‘tripura-hara’ is Shiva). The first prasAdam of food left over   by Shiva belongs rightfully to ChanDa (ChanDikeshvara). This is the rule. All the world considers this offering of Shiva’s prasAdam first to Chandikeshvara as our foremost obligation and privilege. It is remarkable that ChanDa was born in this human world just like us all, but rose later to become the fifth deity after the primal four, namely, Shiva, Parvati, Vighneshvara and Subrahmanya. In all Shiva temple festivals these five deities are the ones that are taken out in procession. To receive Shiva’s prasAdam after it has been offered first to this saintly devotee, ChanDa, is truly a great blessing to all of us.


But to KumAra, the very offspring of Shiva Himself, to Vishnu who shares half the form of Shiva in the manifestation as Shankara-Narayana and to Indra the king of all the divine world, it must be demeaning to receive Shiva’s prasAdam after it has been offered to a human, ChanDa, however saintly he may be. All this is built into the expression “chaNDAmsha-tripura-hara-nirmAlya-vimukhaiH”. Here ‘vimukha’ can also be interpreted to mean ‘turning their faces away from’.


Next comes their dress while presenting themselves before ambaal. The head dress worn on the field or when they are on duty, by the soldiers in the army,  are usually taken off when they want to show respect. Here the three celestials take off their head dress before they enter the presence of ambaal.


But the question arises: Why did the Acharya say in shloka #25 that the crowns of Brahma, Vishnu and Indra are doing the neerajana ceremony to Her divine feet at which they were prostrating.? Why again did he say in shloka #29 that when She started in haste to walk over to welcome the homecoming Lord, She ran the risk of tumbling over the crowns of Brahma, Vishnu and Indra, who were then prostrating at Her feet? The situation  in both cases is clear that they were prostrating with the crowns still on their heads.


Well, the only explanation could be that in their intense mood of devotion that overwhelmed them at those times, they just forgot (!) the formality of the obligation to remove their crowns from their heads in the august presence of ambaal.


Let us  now come to the “tAmbUla-ucchishhTaM” – the betal leavings. It has only been said that these three celestials consumed or swallowed the betal prasAdam of ambaal. There is no mention, however,  of the fruit of such an action, or about what fruits will accrue to the chewing of the betal leavings. Of course we can infer that, to these war-lords who have come back victorious after a war with the asuras, more victories are bound to accrue in the future by the blessing of ambaal.


On the other hand, that the fruit of taking the ‘tAmbUla ucchishhTaM’ of ambaal gives extraordinary poetic talent, is borne out by the fact that three great poets – Kalidasa, Kalamegar, and Mukar  -- became great poets only by the power of the ‘tAmbUla-prasAdam’ from ambaal.  It was the mahAkAli of Ujjain, AkhilAnDeshvari of Jambukesvaram and KamAkshhi of Kanchi, respectively,  who blessed these three. Our Acharya himself has composed  a stotra called ‘ambAshhTakaM’ ,


[Note by VK:

 I am not able to  locate this stotra.]


wherein he says that ambal’s betal leavings will endow one with poetic talent that will ride higher than the stately gaits of a high-class race-horse. The very style of that shloka, such as:


kavitva-paripATI .... koTI-kulA-dadhika-tATImudhara-

mukhavITI-rasena tanutAM


mimics the beat of the hoofs of the racing horse!


Whereas according to  Soundaryalahari, what bestows the poetic talent is (in shloka #75) Her breast milk, or (in shloka #98) the water that has washed Her feet. Nowhere is it mentioned that the ‘tAmbUla-ucchishhTaM’ of ambaal would bestow poetic talent. In shloka #98 it is said that the poetic talent that is usually granted by the ‘tAmbUla-ucchishhTaM’ of Saraswati is already bestowed by the ‘charana-tIrtha’, the water that has washed the  feet of ambaal. In that sense the ‘charaNa-tIrtha’  is placed higher in the ladder of spiritual benefaction. The red paint on the feet makes the water that washes it reddish as the betal juice. “kalita-alaktaka-rasam” : the water that gets mixed up with the deep red of lac. ‘alaktaka’ is lac. ‘lAkshhaa’ is also lac. Both sanskrit words could very well be the source of the English ‘lac’. And again ‘alaktaka’ is what becomes ‘arakku’ in Tamil.


‘As a student when will I  have the opportunity to drink that charaNa-tIrtha?’ , wails our Acharya in that shloka. The words ‘prakRtyA mUkAnAm-api’ (meaning, even for those who are dumb by nature) indicate that even the dumb (mUka) ones can become great poets by that ‘charaNa-tIrtha’. The Acharya here is perhaps seeing into the future, when one day there would exactly be such a mUka-kavi!


(Digest of pp.1226 -1236  of Deivathin Kural, 6th volume, 4th imprn.)


vipanchyA gAyantI vividham-apadAnaM pashupateH

tvayArabdhe vaktuM calita-shirasA sAdhu vacane /


nijAM vINAM vANI nichulayati cholena nibhRtaM // 66 //


There is a whole dramatic scene here. It takes place in the very presence of ambaal. Ambaal is sitting totally relaxed and listening to a music performance. Whose music? That of Saraswati Herself! The word ‘VANI’ meaning, Saraswati, occurs in the fourth line of the shloka. She is playing on the Veena. Simultaneously She is also singing. The very Goddess of Arts, Music and all Knowledge is performing. One can only imagine the infinite grandeur of the sweet richness of such a performance.


VipanchI’ means Veena. ‘ParIvAdinI’ also means Veena. The Veenas belonging to particular celestials have particular names. Narada’s Veena is called ‘mahatI’. That of Tumburu is ‘KalAvatI’. Saraswati’s is ‘KacchapI’. The word ‘kacchapa’ means tortoise. The drum of Saraswati’s Veena is in the shape of a tortoise. Hence it is called ‘kacchapI’. Prof.Sambamurti (of Madras University) says that even today we can see it in the Phillipines, where they call it ‘katjapI’. In Lalita Sahasranamam we have the name: ‘nija-sallApa-mAdhurya-vinirbhatsita-kacchapI’. It means ‘One whose speech is more melodious than kacchapI, the Veena of Saraswati’. It is the idea contained in this single line that has been elaborated by our Acharya in a full shloka (#66) of Soundaryalahari and transformed into a fascinating dramatic scene!


VipanchyA gAyantI: playing on the Veena.


But I translate it as ‘playing on the Veena and vocally accompanying it also’. Why do I make this rendering? Because of the words:


Vividham-apadAnaM pashupateH : Variegated anecdotes pertaining to Lord Shiva.


How can these anecdotes be also performed by Saraswati without being vocalised? The surest way to please ambaal is to sing the praise of Her Lord. And the Glory of the Lord is endless. Saraswati is singing and praising the infinite glories of Lord Shiva. Naturally ambaal is enjoying both the music of the Veena and the singing of the Lord’s glories.


Now let us come to the second line of the shloka.


Calita-shirasA : by the nodding head.  Now and then She nods Her head in approval and appreciation. A nodding of the head (‘shirah-kampa’) can show more delicacy of appreciation than by an applause of the hand (karaH-kampa). Whether it is in music, or in writing, or in studies or in sports, one requires appreciation. And reciprocally, it is the appreciation of the audience or the respondent that provides further inspiration to the musician, writer, student or sportsman. The same thing is happening here. Ambaal is enjoying in appreciation and Saraswati is going on playing on the Veena and singing.


tvayA-Arabdhe vaktum sAdhu vacane : When you started speaking appreciative words.


It appears ambaal suddenly, instead of silently nodding Her head, also began to applaud orally by saying a few appreciative words: ‘sAdhu, sAdhu’.  These words mean ‘Good, Good’. They are the Sanskrit equivalent of the English usage: ‘hear, hear’.  But as soon as these words were spoken by ambaal something dramatic happened. This is the punchline of the story. It is in the third and fourth lines of the shloka.


tadIyair-mAdhuryair-apalapita-tantrI-kala-ravAM  : (By their – sweetness – degraded – strings –music) Before  the sweetness and melody of those words the sweet sound  of the Veena paled into insignificance.


Just one or two words only must have come from ambaal. ‘tvayA Arabdhe’ means ‘just when you began to speak’.  In our own way of thinking there could be nothing sweeter and more melodious than the music of Saraswati’s Veena; for She is the Goddess of Music. If there could be something more pleasant it must be Her own voice.  But now the few words that stemmed forth from ambaal, have transformed all that into nothing. Saraswati stopped her singing when She realised the overpowering sweetness of ambaal’s voice. Not only that. Her Veena-music also has been over-powered. What did She do to Her Veena?


nijAM vINAM vANI niculayati cholena nibhRtaM :


vANI :  Saraswati

niculayati : hides

nijAM vINAM : Her own Veena

cholena : by (its) cover, (in its case)

nibhRtaM : so that it will not show up.


Saraswati draws the cover on Her Veena and hides it! In other words She accepts that Her Veena is nothing before the sweet voice of ambaal and stops it then and there.


Ambaal, though She had all the musical sweetness in Her own voice, intended to honour Saraswati by nodding Her head all along and also saying the appreciative words ‘SAdhu’. But instead of encouraging the performer to perform more, it resulted in the performer bowing down  and stopping the performance. This incident brings into focus the greatness of both Saraswati and ambaal.Saraswati hung down Her head in shame and stopped singing. But what does the Veena do?  Even after being stopped, the music of the Veena  has a characteristic reverberation (anuraNanam, in Sanskrit; rIngAram in Tamil), due to the resonating vibrations of the strings. So Saraswati quickly silences it by hiding it under its own cover (‘cholena nibhRtaM’).


We can go on thus enjoying the scene by visualising it in various ways, scene after scene in this drama.


Maybe it was different. Maybe ambaal was not appreciating the music but was nodding Her head to the ‘vividham-apadAnaM pashupateH’ -- the different stories of the glories of Lord Shiva  -- maybe that was what was being enjoyed by Her in appreciation. Suddenly Saraswati might have realised this, at the time when ambaal opened Her mouth to say ‘SAdhu’.


There could be no end to such speculations of ours on the scene. On the whole the shloka brings out the melodious sweetness of Her voice, in addition to all the beauty of form that the other shlokas have been revealing all along. There can be no doubt that by meditating on this shloka one gains excellence both in music and the composition of it.



(Digest of pp.1236 -1243  of Deivathin Kural, 6th volume, 4th imprn.)


gale rekhAs-tisro gati-gamaka-gItaika-nipuNe

vivAha-vyAnaddha-praguNa-guNa-sankhyA-pratibhuvaH /

virAjante nAnAvidha-madhura-rAgAkara-bhuvAM

trayANAM grAmANAM sthiti-niyama-sImAna iva te // 69 //


The intensive knowledge in music and musical technicalities of the Acharya is manifest in this shloka. The words ‘gati’, ‘gamakaM’, ‘gItaM’ and ‘grAmaM’ are technical words understood well only by musicologists. One should actually refer to the latter part of Bharata’s ‘nATya-shAstra’, ‘SangIta-ratnAkaraM’ of Sarangadeva and ‘caturdaNDi-prakAshika’ of Venkata-makhi. I have only an incomplete knowledge of these.


Gati’ is procedure or path.  It denotes one of two kinds: ‘deshi’ and ‘mArgaM’.  The former is more regimented  like  a train  on its rails. The latter keeps changing with the times and caters to latest tastes.

GamakaM’ is undulation. It has five subtly different varieties in it.

GItaM’ of course is song. But it is not just the text (sAhitya) of the song; it also includes the svaras. 

Eka-nipuNa’ is unequalled excellence. So ambaa is the ‘Gati-gamaka-gItaika-nipuNA’ that is,  unequalled Mistress  of the musical technicalities of ‘gati’, ‘gamakaM’ and ‘gItaM’.


GrAmaM’ –the word occurs in the fourth line of the shloka – means the three-fold classification of rAgas, according to the shadja, madhyama and gAndhAra svaras. As music arises in the voice box of the body and as the voice box is situated in the neck, the Acharya is saying that these three ‘grAmas’ are manifesting themselves as the three lines in the neck of ambaal. Of course all women would have these three lines or folds in their neck. But that is because originally ambaal is having these three lines in Her neck! Men have ‘Adam’s apple’ in their neck, which is absent in women. The western story is that the original man ate the Eden Garden  apple and that started his involvement in the samsAra of the world. The Indian story is that the Lord swallowed the KAlakuTa poison which was, according to ambaal’s request,  stifled at the position of the throat of the Lord and that is why the bulge is showing in all male human necks. Both the stories only go to show that we all have the same origin and we are all brothers born of the same Father, irrespective of the religion we may profess. In one case the very nutritious apple that ‘keeps the doctor away’ becomes the original source of this dreadful samsAra. In the other case the dreadful poison sits there in the throat of the Lord without harming anyone. Both are cosmic mysteries.


All forms of men are nothing but the Lord and all forms of women are just ambaal. This is what the Adam’s apple of the male neck and the three lines in the female neck tell us.


The great saint Appar has sung a song beginning with the words ‘mAdar piRaikkaNNiyAn’ in the kshetra of Tiruvaiyaru. He saw the male and female forms of the elephant, chicken, peacock, swan and parrot and had the spiritual experience of visualising all of them as the divine couple, Shiva-Shakti. ‘kaNDen-avar tiruppAdam, kaNDaRiyAdana kaNDen’, says he – ‘His divine feet did I see; things that had never been visualised, did I witness’.   If we care to  use our intelligence and look for the Divine around us with intense Bhakti we can also have this darshan  of Shiva-Shakti always and everywhere.


Shiva is white; Shakti is red – that is the way we have explained how the changeless White Shivam (Cause) sprouted out as the Red Kameshvari (Effect). Just like this Shiva-Shakti, the white-red coexistence can be seen in many of our worldly matters.  In fact once we begin to recognize this spectacle in all matters of this world as well as of the other world, we would be amazed as if we have had the very darshan of Shiva-Shakti. Particularly, what pertains to the male is white and what pertains to the female is red – this principle will help us get into the spiritual sAdhanA of witnessing Shiva-Shakti all around us.


The ‘tejas’ of man is called ‘shuklaM’ (white) and that of woman is called ‘shoNitaM’ (red).  What he wears on his forehead is  white ‘vibhUti’ and what she wears is red ‘kunkumamM’. In the ‘nAmaM’ of the Vaishnavas, it is the white part that belongs to the Lord, whereas the red part is that of the Mother Goddess. In fact that is why it is called ‘Shri-chUrNaM’ – the powder of the Goddess.  What man dons is white ‘veshti’ and what she does is the saree, which is ‘kusumbA’ (red). The word ‘kusumbA’ means saffron. That is the ideal colour for the wedding saree (kUraip-puDavai). ‘aruNaruNa-kausumbaM’, where ambaal’s saree is described as the reddest of the red.


Again, in this interplay of red and white, we have our own blood which has both red cells and white cells.  Just as in ambaal’s red, the white of Shivam is merged, so also the red corpuscles of the blood dominate the whiteness of the white corpuscles and show the colour of blood as red!


In the ordinary decorative drawings (kolam, in Tamil) in front of the house or the deity, though the kolam is in white, it is usually bordered by red. For the same reason the markings on the outside walls of temples are in red and white. Even though the inside deity may be a Vishnu deity (whose colour is blue), the outside walls are striped only with white and red.


If it is an abhishekam of the deities, we have milk and honey. If it is the fragrance  we have ‘pachaik-karpuram’ (which is green) and saffron. If it is offering of flowers through an archana, we have jasmine (white) and ‘arali’ (red). If it is food that is offered, we have curd rice (called dadhyannam) and ‘sarkaraip-pongal’. Even with the ordinary white idli, we combine the red chili powder or sambar!


Here the idli is bland and peacefully white; whereas the chili powder that goes with it is fearfully red! White is Peace and Red is Power and Action. So when we want to stop a war we show the white flag. A revolutionary activity is manifested by a red flag. Thus Shiva-Shakti is all around us in the forms of Peace and Rajas (activity). But again, nor should we separate Shiva and Shakti as two different entities; and that is what exactly is shown by the symbiosis of red and white corpuscles in the blood. The white corpuscles fight with the invasion of disease and the red ones nurture us with oxygen.  When there is bloodshed in a battle, it is the red cross that brings relief and cure!


Even in the ordinary colour spectrum, it is red that shows up first on the side of white. The opposite colour that is violet is on the other extreme. It is this violet (linked with blue) that is the direct opposite of the peaceful Shivam, that goes with Vishnu who denotes Vishnu-mAyA sharing the colour with Vishnu-DurgA and MahA-kALi. It is the Shiva-kAmeshvari that has contact with both the Peace of Shiva on the one side and the dynamism of  MAya on the other side. For the same reason, in the apex work  of philosophy called ‘pAdukA-mantram’, the Light that is the Cause of all that is gross as well as subtle is called ‘traipuram mahas’ and when one talks of the unfoldment of the same as Jiva and the Universe it is mentioned as “rakta-shukla-prabhA-mishraM  -- red and white confluent effulgence – thereby indicating both the outward dynamism of the Effect and the inward Peace of the Cause.


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.16, 2004



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