[Advaita-l] Digest of Paramacharya's Discourses on Soundaryalahari (DPDS-61)

V. Krishnamurthy profvk at yahoo.com
Sat Feb 21 22:33:32 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.1141 - 1151  of Deivathin Kural, 6th volume,
4th imprn.)
(Shloka #47 continued)

The Acharya does not see the two eyebrows of ambaa as two
bows.  He conceives of both of them as one bow – not as one
arc from bottom to top, but as two arcs of the same bow. It
appears as if a skilful archer is at the point of stringing
his arrow through the bow, everything is in  tension, and
one can see even the little vibration as a wave of the two
arcs. Thus the two eyebrows together constitute a single
bow. But mark it! At the centre, there is a gap. Between
the eyebrows, just above where the nose begins, there is a
gap in what appears as the bow. Not only is this gap in the
bow, but the bow string also has a gap; for in the same
shloka the Acharya is saying in the second line  that the
two honey-beetle-like black eyes of ambaaL and their
brilliance  constitute the bowstring. And this bowstring
has a gap in the middle because there is the nose-ridge
that is dividing it.  If both the bow and the bowstring
have gaps right in the middle, then where is the bow, where
is the string? Then the whole analogy will crumble.

So we have to probe a little more deeply. The bow is
Manmatha’s bow – “ratipateH dhanuH”.  What is the authority
or rationale for thinking of it as  Manmatha’s bow?  The
rationale is:

“tvaDIye netrAbhyAM madhukara-rucibhyAM dRta-guNaM”. 

dRta-guNaM:  with the bow-string held
tvadIye netrAbhyAM: by Your eyes
madhukara-rucibhyAM : that  shine and move about like honey

The two black honey-bee-like eyes of ambaaL are radiating a
brilliance, which is not static, but is superlatively
dynamic; they are moving this side and that side fast
enough to cover all the beings in the world so that the
dRshhTi of ambaaL may shower grace and compassion on them.
This fast movement of the honey-bees (eyes) gives the
visual illusion of an infinite line of black sparkling dots
and that is what makes the  bowstring! And remember, only
Manmatha has such a  bow-string made up of honey-bees. And
that is why ‘ratipateH dhanuH’ is not unreasonable in this
context. And whom is he (manmatha) aiming at by this bow
and arrow? Obviously Lord Shiva. Any time He is prone to go
away and sit in isolation as Dakshinamurti. Then who will
be there with Mother Goddess to look after the world? It
was She who put Him in this seat of ‘One of the Triad’,
with a specific duty and also as Ishvara and Sadashiva with
duties of anugraha and tirodhana. 

We are still to untangle the problem of the bow and
bowstring not falling apart in the middle since they appear
to have gaps in the middle. The solution of the riddle is
found in the words (fourth line and part of the third
“savyetara-kara-gRhItaM prakoshhTe mushhTau ca sthagayati
nigUDhAntaraM ume”
‘prakoshhTa’ is wrist. ‘mushhTi’  is clenched fist.
‘sthagayathi’ means ‘hides’. ‘nigUDHa’ is ‘not visible’.
‘antara’ is interspace. So far we have arrived at the
following meaning: “By the wrist and clenched fist is
hidden an interspace, that is (therefore) not visible. 

Let us now visualize the imagery which the poet is bringing
before us. An archer (here, it is Manmatha) is holding the
bow.  The hand holding the bow will have its clenched fist 
in the middle of the bow and thus it is the fist  that is
hiding the middle of the bow. Similarly the other hand will
have its wrist in front of the middle of the bowstring and
thus will hide that middle. Thus if we do not further think
about it, both the bow and the bowstring will have a vacant
space in  their middle. And a little more observation will
tell us that it is the wrist and the fist that are filling
up the corresponding hidden space and so neither the bow
nor the bowstring is in two pieces. This is how the pair of
eyebrows of ambaaL with the vacant (browless) middle and
the two eyes with the nasal ridge in the middle  exhibit a
bow and bowstring with their middle hidden by the fist and
the wrist respectively. 

Now we have to further enquire  which hand is doing what.
The words “savya-itara-gRhItaM” (meaning, held by the
other-than-right hand) tell that story. Even in the very
next shloka  which talks about the right and left eyes of
ambaa as the Sun and Moon respectively, “savya” is used for
‘right’ , though “savya” also means ‘left’ in most other

Incidentally, there are some Sanskrit words which have
valid contradictory meanings for the same word. “chhAyA”
stands for both shadow and light. “nyAsa” means 
‘abandonment’ as well as ‘seizure’. “shiti” means both
‘black’ and ‘white’. 

In this shloka it is important to understand which hand is
holding the bow and which hand is ready to shoot off the
arrow. Recall also that Manmatha is also capable of
shooting arrows with left hand just as Arjuna is. But if he
is shooting the arrow with the left hand the bow will be in
his right hand. We are watching this standing before

First understand that Manmatha has to be in a lying
horizontal posture a little below the level of the eyebrows
of ambaal to shoot the arrow upward; because the line of
eyes (bowstring) is below and the central stem of the bow
(line of eyebrows) is above. Now if Manmatha is holding the
bow (of eyebrows)  in his right hand  and we are looking at
it from his left ( because on his right is ambaal’s face,
so we cannot be looking from that side), the two things
that are in our view at the middle portion of the whole
system are: one,  his right fist closing in on the middle
of the bow and two,  his right forearm on the farther side
from us. What we see of the fist is only the fingers
closing in on the middle of the bow, but they cannot
completely hide the bow as much as they would if we were
seeing from the other side. From the other side we would
have seen only the back portion of the palm and that would
have completely hidden what he is holding. Again, coming to
the right forearm hiding the middle of the bowstring, there
is no chance at all for such hiding, for the forearm is on
the farther side. 

On the other hand, if he were holding the bow by his left
hand the back portion of the clenched fist would be
completely, really completely hiding the middle of the bow;
not only that, the forearm (the prakoshhTa) being between
us (the viewer) and the bowstring, would be completely
hiding the middle of the bowstring. And this is exactly
what is happening. The  interspace between the eyebrows of
ambaal is hidden – in the poet’s imagery, by manmatha’s
prakoshhTa (forearm and wrist) - and the nasal ridge
causing the discontinuity in the line of the moving eyes –
in the poet’s imagery, this is hidden by the mushhTi
(clenched fist). 

This, I think, is what the shloka depicts in the last two
lines of this four-line verse!  But don’t think that it is
all only poetical gymnastics only. There is a great
significance for this shloka.
(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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