Anandalaharii verse, Shankara's hymn to the Goddess

Thu Oct 2 15:23:52 CDT 1997

  The Anandalaharii is a hymn in praise of the Goddess, ascribed to Adi
  Shankara. There was some confusion regarding the relation of this hymn
  to the Saundaryalaharii. I have looked at both and it appears that the
  Anandalaharii is an independent work.

  bhavaani stotuM tvaaM prabhavati chaturbhirna vadanaiH
   prajaanaamiishaanas-tripuramathanaH paJNchabhirapi |
  na shhaDbhiH senaaniir-dashashatamukhairapyahipati-
   stadanyeshhaaM keshhaaM kathaya kathamasminnavasaraH ||

  bhavaani - O Bhavani (durgaa, Paarvatii)
  stotuM - to praise
  tvaaM - You
  prabhavati - is perfect
  chaturbhirna - not even with four
  vadanaiH - faces (mouths)
  prajaanaamiishaanaH - Brahmaa the Creator
  tripuramathanaH - Lord Shiva, the destroyer of tripura
  paJNchabhirapi - even with five
  na shhaDbhiH - not with six
  senaaniiH -  Kaartikeya
  dashashatamukhairapi - even with a thousand mouths
  ahipati - Adi Sheshha
  tadanyeshhaaM - therefore for others
  keshhaaM - whose
  kathaya - pray tell me
  kathamasmin.h -  How can there be here
  avasaraH - scope, opportunity

   O Bhavaani, Spouse of Shiva! Brahmaa the Creator cannot perfectly describe
   You with his four mouths! Nor can Lord Shiva do so even with five mouths!
   Lord Kaartikeya cannot possibly describe Your glories with his six mouths.
   Let this be as it may, but even Adi Sheshha (who bears Lord Vishnu) cannot
   describe You with his thousand mouths. Therefore, tell me O Bhavaani, how
   is there any scope for others (like me) to praise You perfectly?

   Shankara is worshipping Brahman in the form of the Goddess here. The
   point being made is that Brahman or the Goddess is beyond the reach of
   words or the mind. In order to describe something we have to have the
   imagination and the vocabulary to construct the description. But Brahman
   is beyond the grasp of the mind and words. As the taiitiriiya upanishad
   proclaims, "yato vaacho nivartante apraapya manasaa saha ...", words and
   the mind fail to reach Brahman, and also the Katha upanishhad,
   "naiva vaachaa na manasaa praaptuM shakyo...", (Brahman) cannot be
   attained by words or by the mind.

   This being the case, it is little wonder then that even gods cannot
   describe the Supreme Reality. So Shankara asks Goddess Bhavaani,
   "How can I praise You perfectly?" The same sentiment is echoed slightly
   differently by Pushhpadanta in the famous hymn to Shiva called the
   Shiva-mahimna stotra. If it be said that the description of those who do not
   know the greatness of Shiva (Brahman) is inappropriate, then even the words
   of Brahmaa and the other gods are inappropriate to praise Shiva. But if it
   be said that the description according to one's mental capacity is
   blemishless, then any description that we offer to the best of our mental
   ability is blemishless too.


>From  Thu Oct  2 16:51:53 1997
Message-Id: <THU.2.OCT.1997.165153.0400.>
Date: Thu, 2 Oct 1997 16:51:53 -0400
Reply-To: chandran at
To: "Advaita (non-duality) with reverence" <ADVAITA-L at TAMU.EDU>
From: Ram Chandran <chandran at TIDALWAVE.NET>
Organization: Personal
Subject: Re: Vedas
Comments: To: Advaita List <advaita-l at>
MIME-Version: 1.0
Content-Type: text/plain; charset=us-ascii
Content-Transfer-Encoding: 7bit

On Thu, 2 Oct 1997, Martin Gifford wrote:

> The Vedas are a useful source of information but they are not
> infallible as claimed. This subject doesn't really lend itself to
> debate because this fact is self evident. As Allan pointed out,
> only one internal contradiction or one external contradicting
> proof is required to end the debate of infallability
> (which means utterly without error). Allan has provided that.
> I think some orthodox members are responding...........

Govind Rengarajan gave this fitting answer:

        Regarding Vedas: there is ocean, and in a lot of places
        there are backwaters into the mainland; in some places, the
        backwater might be dirty, and in some places, it might be
        clear. And the ocean itself contains everything. So,
        one *may* be standing in some backwater, claiming
        that the ocean and the other waters are dirty, little
        realizing that the water in his yard is from the same ocean.
        So you have your choice. You can see the true nature of the
        ocean or claim it is dirt

        What a pretty answer for an ugly doubt!  Govind has reestablished peace
and serenity using the above simile. On behalf of the list family, I
want to thank you for this beautiful example.  I sincerely request
Martin to read the scholarly answers expressed by Vidyasankar, Jaldhar,
Anand and Govind before making his judgement and conclusion.  I consider
all those who participate belong to one family and I do not like us, the
members to construct obscure riddles and puzzles to hurt the feelings of
other members. When we hurt the feelings of one member, we invariably
hurt the feelings of everybody.   A win-win proposition is  to ask
questions with sincerity and read, listen and appreciate the thoughtful
answers. When we don't agree, we have the right point out a specific
point of disagreement.   But without any explanations, if we derive our
own conclusions then what rights do we have to waste the time of others?
Vidyasankar in spite of his dissertation commitments was kind enough to
put his valuable time and has given profound answers to those ridiculing
questions.  I want to admire the politeness, scholarship and patience
shown by Vidya.
        The tone of the questions raised by Allan and the disrespectful
explanations of Martin have no place in enhancing our spiritual growth.
On the other hand, those questions and explanations did damage the peace
in the family.  I hope that Allan and Martin will take steps to rectify
the damage done.  Vidyasankar serves this list for quite sometime and
his contribution always followed the Pareto Law.  Pareto Law requires us
to our express ideas benefitting at least one and hurting none.  Why
don't we all adopt this simple net ethics for our family?

More information about the Advaita-l mailing list