[Advaita-l] Digest of Paramacharya's Discourses on Soundaryalahari (DPDS-56)

V. Krishnamurthy profvk at yahoo.com
Sun Feb 1 11:07:47 CST 2004

Recall the Note about the organization of the ‘Digest’, 
from DPDS – 26 or the earlier ones.
V. Krishnamurthy
A Digest of Paramacharya’s Discourses on Soundaryalahari - 
(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

The whole metaphor is pouring 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

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.

To be Continued
Thus spake the Paramacharya

PraNAms to all advaitins and Devotees 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.
Also see the webpages on Paramacharya's Soundaryalahari :

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