Soundarya Lahari

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Adi Shankara with disciples, drawing by Raja Ravivarma, 1904
The Sri Chakra, frequently called the Sri Yantra.

The Soundarya Lahari (Sanskrit: सौन्दर्यलहरी) meaning "Waves Of Beauty" is a famous literary work in Sanskrit believed to be written by sage Pushpadanta and Adi Shankara.[1] Some believe the first part "Ananda Lahari" was etched on mount Meru by Ganesha himself (or by Pushpadanta).[2] Sage Goudapada, the teacher of Shankar's teacher Govinda Bhagavadpada, memorised the writings of Pushpadanta which was carried down to Adi Shankara. Its hundred and three shlokas (verses) eulogize the beauty, grace and munificence of Goddess Parvati / Dakshayani, consort of Shiva. W. Norman Brown translated it to English which was published as volume 43 of the Harvard Oriental Series in 1958.[3][4][5]

Tantra "textbook"[edit]

The Soundarya Lahari is not only a poem. It is a tantra textbook,[6] giving instructions on Puja and offerings, many yantras, almost one to each shloka; describes tantric ways of performing devotion connected to each specific shloka; and details the results ensuing therefrom. There are many interpretations and commentaries but best of these are arguably those that provide word-to-word translations, as also the yantras,[6] the devotion to be performed and the results of the devotion.

Two parts[edit]

It is said that once Adi Shankara visited Kailash to worship Shiva and Parvathi.[citation needed] There, the Lord gave him a manuscript containing 100 verses which described the many facets of the Goddess, as a gift to him. While Shankara was returning after visiting Kailash, Nandi stopped him on the way. He snatched the manuscript from him, tore it into two, took one part and gave the other to Shankara. Shankara, desolate, ran to Shiva and narrated the incident to him. Shiva, smiling, commanded him to retain the 41 verses with him as the initial part of the 100 verses and then, write an extra 59 verses in praise of the Goddess himself. Thus, verses 1 - 41 are the original work of Lord Shiva, shedding great light on the ancient rituals of Tantra, Yantra and various powerful Mantras. Verses 1 - 41 describe the mystical experience of the union of Shiva and Shakti and related phenomena. In fact, it opens with the assertion that Only when Shiva is united with Shakti does he have the power to create.[citation needed]

The remaining verses, i.e. 42-100 are composed by Adi Shankara himself, which mainly focuses on the appearance of the Goddess. All the 100 verses are collectively known as 'Soundarya Lahari'. The Soundarya Lahari is not only a poem. It is a tantra textbook, giving instructions on Puja and offerings, many yantras, almost one to each shloka; describes tantric ways of performing devotion connected to each specific shloka; and details the results ensuing therefrom. There are many interpretations and commentaries but best of these are arguably those that provide word-to-word translations, as also the yantras, the devotion to be performed and the results of the devotion.

Verses 42 100 are more straightforward; they describe the physical beauty of the Goddess and are sometimes referred to as the Soundarya Lahari itself.[citation needed]

Many scholars, however, refer to the entire text with one name, namely, Soundarya Lahari.

Concept of Kundalini[edit]

First 41 verses cover the detailed account of internal worship of the Mother. It consists of systematic exposition of the concept of kundalini, Sri Chakra, mantras (verses 32, 33). This depicts the Supreme Reality as non-dual but with a distinction between Shiva and Shakti, the power holder and Power, Being and Will. The Power, that is, the Mother or Maha Tripura Sundari, becomes the dominant factor and the power holder or Shiva becomes a substratum. The first verse itself clearly describes this idea. “United with Shakti, Siva is endowed with power to create; or otherwise, he is incapable even of movement.” The same idea is brought out in verse 24, “Brahma creates the universe, Vishnu sustains, Rudra destroys, and Maheswara absorbs every thing and assimilates into Sadashiva. On receiving mandate from thy creeper like brows, Sadasiva restores everything into activity as in the previous cycle.” Such dominance of the Mother can be seen in verses 34 and 35 also.

Legend[edit]

There are several legends about this work. One legend says that, once Adi Shankara visited Kailash to worship Shiva and Parvathi. There, the Lord gave him a manuscript containing 100 verses which described the many facets of the Goddess, as a gift to him. While Shankara was returning after visiting Kailash, Nandi stopped him on the way. He snatched the manuscript from him, tore it into two, took one part and gave the other to Shankara. Shankara, desolate, ran to Shiva and narrated the incident to him. Shiva, smiling, commanded him to retain the 41 verses with him as the initial part of the 100 verses and then, write an extra 59 verses in praise of the Goddess himself. Thus, verses 1 - 41 are the original work of Lord Shiva, shedding great light on the ancient rituals of Tantra, Yantra and various powerful Mantras. The remaining verses, i.e. 42-100 are composed by Adi Shankara himself, which mainly focuses on the appearance of the Goddess.[6]

Commentaries[edit]

There are many commentaries on Soundrya Lahari written by various authors.

Swami Satyasangananda Saraswathi, Pithadishwari of Rikhiapeeth (Swami Satyananda Saraswathi's lineage) has authored a modern commentary[6] with Sri Vidya meditations on Devi for each verse.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Dr. N., Nagaswamy. "Soundrya Lahari in Tamil". Tamil Arts Academy. Retrieved 14 August 2012. 
  2. ^ P. R., Ramachander. "Soundrya Lahari". 
  3. ^ Edgerton, Franklin (May 1959). "The Saundaryalahari, or Flood of Beauty by W. Norman Brown". The Journal of Asian Studies 18 (3): 417–419. JSTOR 2941628. 
  4. ^ Tucci, Giuseppe (March 1960). "The Saundaryalahari, or Flood of Beauty by W. Norman Brown". East and West 11 (1): 51. JSTOR 29754221. 
  5. ^ Burrow, T. (1959). "The Saundaryalahari, or Flood of Beauty by W. Norman Brown". Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London 22 (1/3): 617–618. doi:10.1017/s0041977x00066118. JSTOR 609560. 
  6. ^ a b c d Sri Saundarya Lahari The Descent by Swami Satyasangananda Saraswathi Published by Yoga Publications Trust ISBN 978-81-86336-70-0

External links[edit]