[Advaita-l] Digest of Paramacharya's Discourses on Soundaryalahari (DPDS-21)

V. Krishnamurthy profvk at yahoo.com
Mon Sep 15 08:50:05 CDT 2003


FOR NEW READERS of this series, it may be worthwhile to go back to  the Introduction  about the objective of this Digest and the Note on the Organization (both at advaitin Message No.18425; ambaa-L message no.5273; advaita-L message No.14046; Sadhana_shakti message no.334). 

Let us recall that  the entire contents of the Digest are from the Paramacharya’s ideas and words, including the first person reference to himself,  except for my English rendering. Wherever he uses specific English words himself, I have drawn the attention of the reader to that fact. Recall particularly that ‘our Acharya’ or ‘The Acharya’ in the discourses, means ‘Adi Sankaracharya’.

V. Krishnamurthy


A Digest of Paramacharya’s Discourses on Soundaryalahari -  21

(Digest of pp. 856-860 of Deivathin Kural Vol.6, 4th imprn)


kvaNat-kAnchI-dAmA kari-kalabha-kumbha-stana-natA

parikshhINA madhye pariNata-sharac-candra-vadanA /

dhanur-bANAn pAshaM sRNimapi dadhAnA karatalaiH 

purastAd-AstAM naH puramathitu-rAho-purushhikA  // 7 //


kAnchI-dAmA: (She who is) wearing the girdle with jewelled bells

kvaNat: tinkling and jingling (of jewels)

kari-kalabha-kumbha-stana-natA: (She who is made to) lean forward by the breasts that resemble the forehead of an young elephant

parikshhINA madhye : (She who is) slender in the middle (of the body)

pariNata-sharac-candra-vadanA: (She whose) face is like the autumnal full moon

dadhAnA karatalaiH : (She who is) wearing in Her hands

dhanur-bANAn: the bow and arrows

pAsham: the noose

sRNim-api : (and) also the spear

Aho-purushhikA : (She who is) the ‘I’–ness ( =Ego, in the positive sense) 

pura-mathithuH: of the destyroyer of (the demon named) pura  — i.e. of Lord Shiva

AstAM : may She appear

purastAt : before 

naH : us.

(Please see DPDS – 10 

for an explanation of “Aho-purushhikA”  - VK)


          A girdle is called ‘mekhalA’. If there are  tingling bells in it it is called ‘kAnchI’. The name ‘raNat-kiNkiNi-mekhalA’ that occurs in the LalitA-sahasranAma is just this ‘kvaNat-kAnchI-dhAmA’, namely, the jingling girdle with bells. The string of bells is also called ‘maNi’. So ‘kAnchI’ is also known as ‘mani-mekhalA. 


In Tamil literature ‘Mani-mekhalai’ is one of the five great epics. The heroine of that epic is Manimekhalai. At the end of the story she finally comes to the town of Kanchi where she feeds the poor from her inexhaustible vessel (akshaya-pAtram). This work ‘Manimekhalai’ is slanted towards Buddhistic religion. Accordingly the heroine reaches salvation after getting the initiation from a Buddhistic Guru.  But the incident of feeding the poor from an ‘akshaya-pAtram’ is a traditional story of the Goddess Kamakshi of Kanchi from age-old times. Even in the Sangam Age (of Tamil) there was a woman by name ‘KAmak-kaNNi’ which is nothing but the Sanskrit ‘KamAkshi’. Well, all this is a digression from my thought that ‘Mani-mekhalai  finally comes to the town (Kanchi) which has the same name as hers!


          By the mention of ‘KanchI’ the author has hinted at the deity of his devotion. There are scores of feminine deities in this country from Kashmir to Kanyakumari. KshIra-bhavAni (in Kashmir), Bhagavati (in Kerala), ChamunDeshvari and ShAradAmbA (in Karnataka), JnAnAmbA, BhramarAmbA and Kanaka-durgA (in Andhra), TulajA BhavAni (in Maharashtra), ambAji (in gujarat), Vindhya-vAsinI and anna-pUrNeshvarI (in Uttarpradesh), KALi (in Bengal), KamAkhyA (in Assam), VaishNavI (in Jammu) and finally, MeenAkshI, akhilANDeshvarI, dharma-samvarddhanI, KamalambAL, BalAmbAL, and Shiva-kAma-sundarI (in Tamilnadu).


(Note: The Paramacharya does not seem to have 

mentioned the names of the regions in the above list. 

These names have been supplied

 by Ra. Ganapathi in a footnote. 

The Paramacharya seems to have 

just reeled off the names of the deities only. – VK)


Thus there are several  several deity-forms of ambAL. But, there is only one deity which conforms to the  form of LalitA-tripura-sundari as delineated in the ShrI-vidyA tantra with  certain characteristic physical features and arms and weapons and that is the deity ‘KamAkshi’ of Kanchipuram. The author of Soundaryalahari who does not mention the name of the deity of his devotion throughout the text, has perhaps hinted it here, by using the word ‘KanchI-dAmA’ !


The word ‘dAmaM’ means ‘twisted rope or string’. It was because YashodA bound child Krishna with a ‘dAmaM’ around his waist, He is called ‘dAmodara’ (udara means stomach). ‘KanchI-dAma’ is so named because the jewel-belled girdle is made up of twisted golden strings. When ambaaL gracefully walks over, not only the ornaments round her ankles but the jewels of the girdle also jingle !


The whole earth is personified as BhUmA-devI. When one visualises that form, the geographical location  of the  navel for that form on the earth is said to be Kanchipuram. When the girdle with bells is also imagined at its location on the waist, the facade of that girdle comes at the position of that navel; and that is why the kshetra (place) also gets the name of Kanchi ! 


A girdle which circles the globe must be really big. When that  is supposed to be the ornament around the waist of ambaaL, then that waist also should be big. But that is not so, says the description: ‘parikShINA madhye’.  ‘kShINa’ means ‘lean’ . The preposition ‘pari’ indicates  that the leanness is extra-ordinary. Thus ‘parikShINA madhye’ means  She is really very slender in Her middle. The miracle is that this ‘slender’ waist covers the whole universe. ‘The macro within the micro’ !


Let it be. But what about the face? The face is the ‘mukhya’ (= important, significant) part. It is from the  word ‘mukhya’ the word ‘mukha’ (face) arose. How is ambaaL’s face? She is ‘pariNata sharat chandra-vadaNA’. Her face is like the moon, with all the coolness and the whiteness of the autumnal full moon. Later, (in the 63rd sloka), the Acharya puts this thought in more poetic terms: ‘smita-jyotsnA-jAlaM tava vadana-chandrasya ’ – which, in effect, means ‘your moon-like face radiates miraculous moonlight through its smile’. 


Another point. The second line of the sloka has two words both beginning with ‘pari’ : ‘parikShINA’ and ‘pariNata’. When you read the whole line the sound of the alliteration creates a pleasant feeling. Such beauties are the specialities of great poets.


Note by VK: At this point I checked all the slokas of Soundarya-lahari. Almost all of them have in their second and fourth lines 

such alliterations or similar-sounding words which create the lilting effect 

which the Paramacharya mentioned even earlier.

Just a few examples: 

Sloka 1: Na cedevam devam devo; praNantum stotum;

Sloka 7: parikShINA …   pariNata…;

purastAd AstAm, … puramathithuH ;

Sloka 17: saha janani sanchintayati;


Sloka 97: patnIm, padmAm; hareH, hara-sahacarIm;

Bhramayasi, parabrahma-mahiShI.


(To be Continued)


PraNAms to all advaitins ands Dev otees of Mother Goddess.












Prof. V. Krishnamurthy
My website on Science and Spirituality is http://www.geocities.com/profvk/
You can  access my book on Gems from the Ocean of Hindu Thought Vision and Practice,  and my father R. Visvanatha Sastri's manuscripts from the site.

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