Jaganmaatha (Divine Mother)

Sapta Matrika with Shiva and Gashesh on both ends (Los Angeles County Museum of Art). (2015)

Jaganmaatha (Iśvari or Jagathjanani) also addressed as ‘Lokajananai’ (the one who gave birth to lokas) is a concept explained by Sanatana Dharma literature as a duality corresponding to the concept of Ishwara (Iśvara), in a feminine sense (not as biological female). The principles behind the concept of Ishwari can be understood through sloka 5 from Kanakadhara, composed by Sri Adi Shankaracharya.

“कालाम्बुदालिललितोरसि कैटभारेर्
धाराधरे स्फुरति या तडिदङ्गनेव
मातुः समस्तजगतां महनीयमूर्तिर्
भद्राणि मे दिशतु भार्गवनन्दनायाः”

“Kaala-Ambu-Da-Ali-Lalito[a-U]rasi KaittabhaArer
Dhaaraadhare Sphurati Yaa Taddid-Anggane[a-I]va
Maatuh Samasta-Jagataam Mahaniiya-Muurtir
Bhadraanni Me Dishatu Bhaargava-Nandanaayaah”

(Green Message Kanakadhara Stotram, n.d.).

Meaning, the mother of all creation whose manifestations and their characteristics are immeasurable and also splendid. We might have undoubtedly accepted Her as the Mother of creation, but have we ever thought why, and try to comprehend Her role rather than just reaching out to Her with a desire or a wish? Let’s concentrate on one such characteristic which is most vital, ‘anunayana(m)’. Anunayanam means to have affection along with the concern towards a child’s well being with unconditional love. A love, even while punishing Her child (herself or through the child’s father), She makes sure that it’s for the child’s well-being and prosperity. Even after the punishment, she makes sure the child doesn’t foster hatred or anger towards their parents. She consoles the child by explaining the love and affection of the father and His effort to provide a better future. She helps the child understand how the father would feel proud of the child’s good behavior. Now, let’s focus on this aspect very carefully, because it’s in this nature, lies a deep secret of creation and the reality in which we currently dwell.

When a mother notices, the child ignoring studies or proper behavior, she watches, warns but also waits patiently up to a point, let’s say till the grades show up. Now the child needs to understand the severity of studies and good behavior, however, she doesn’t necessarily take matters into Her own hands, nor will she throw a blind eye towards Her child’s mischief. She discusses with the child’s father and sparks momentary anger in him, at the same time she stands very vigilant to make sure that anger is in check, and jumps in if she senses any likelihood of risk. Later she soothes Her child by explaining the father’s love and also tried to calm Her husband telling him not to carry his anger since the child is just a child, delicate, young and yet to learn. She makes sure to bring out Her husband’s affection back, so as to pamper, console and express their love towards the child. She explains to the child that their anger was momentary and towards the well-being. It’s to be carefully noticed that the mother’s nature in this event is to both trigger the event and also stand witness to the anger. She herself doesn’t necessarily take matters into Her own hands, at the same time doesn’t lose Her composure. It’s certain that this scenario might bring back many of our own nostalgic memories from childhood.

Cit Shakti

Creation is attributed to ‘Resonance’ of ‘A Vibration’, as Rishi Vasistha calls it ‘A throbbing’ so, essentially ‘A Sound’. This sound is the energy that manifests as matter, color, flavors, emotions, gunas, samskaras, and Prakriti as a whole hence, the title Cit Shakti. The source or the principle of all resonance is the one ultimate vibration titled as Sabdabrahman (Sabda:Brahman). And the progression of this resonance (in the form of creation) is called Brahmacaitanya (Brahmā:caitanya). In the spectacular composition of Patanjali Yoga Sutra, translated by I.K Taimni in the book ‘The Science of Yoga’, states:

“Each particular vibration of sound produces perception of the corresponding note in consciousness”
“Each sensation of taste, smell and touch is matched by a corresponding vibration of some kind. What is true on the lowest level is true on all levels of manifestation and therefore there is nothing inherently unreasonable in supposing that consciousness can be influenced or reached by means of vibration or to put it in other words particular states of consciousness can be brought about by initiating particular kinds of vibration. Not only can consciousness be effected by vibration but consciousness by initiating particular vibration can also influence matter.”
“The broad and general principles pointed out above forms the basis of Mantra Sastra.”

(I.K.Taimni. 1975)

This ‘Resonance’ or ‘Vibration’ or ‘Energy’ or ‘Power’ of this Infinite Consciousness is what causes a change in creation and is always in motion, resulting in the inevitable future of all. It is this energy which emulates in every object in creation. The title given by Rishis to this energy is ‘Cit Shakti’, further, the Rishis classified the characteristic qualities emulated within creation as:
Mahasatta = Great Existence
Mahaciti = The Supreme Intelligence/Awareness
Mahasakti = The Great Energy
Mahadrsti = The Supreme Vision
Mahakriya = The Great Process
Mahodbhava = The Great Becoming
Mahaspanda = The Great Reaction

Please note that the above classification is neither independent nor servile to Brahman, they are the absolute Brahman. To explain this Rishi Vasista in his Yoga gives an analogy of an ocean and a wave not being separate from each other, similarly, a sprout in a seed or the liquidity in water and sweetness in milk are not separate. He further stated that making divisions and sections of Brahman is ignorance and this ignorance arising out of the unenlightened appearance of creation, this ignorance is also that infinite consciousness (Brahman). The awareness of this energy/power, or the recognition of this power by the Supreme Awareness is titled as Niyati or Daiva, meaning ‘divine makeup’. Its Niyati that ordains every act, decision and thought in the creation and applies to all including Devas and Devi. (Swami Venkatesananda. 1993)

From this throbbing or vibration of Brahman, the concept of creation and preservation emerged as a thought, this concept is titled as Vishnu (Viṣṇu), hence Viṣṇu is an aspect of Cit Shakti. From Vishnu, emerged a concept of creation, which is titled as Brahmā. This is why both Vishnu and Devi (as Prakriti) take responsibility for Creation and its continuity (using Dharma which acts as the universal order). (Swami Venkatesananda. 1993)

Now, what is the above occurrence had to do with a hidden secret pertaining to the creation and its realities? The secret lies in the phenomenon of mahapralayam (maha:pralayam), which is the dissolution of creation and its universes by Pramashiva (yes it’s plural because there are many universes with different realities which are explained in Sri Devi Puranam, Srimad Bhagavatam and in Sri Lalitha Sahastranama Stotram). Pramashiva in His Rudhra Trandavam (Cosmic dance of dissolution) devours creation into Himself, to which only Devi Parvathi (Call Her Gowri) bears witness (please note that Rudhra is not a destroyer, He is the concept of Dissolution).  She later sparks an event to foster a new creation through Pramashiva. Countless such dissolution and creations have happened and for all this, She stands witness, hence in Sri Lalitha Sahastranana Stotram, She is called

‘महा प्रलया शक्षिणी’
‘Maha Pralaya Shakshini’

Shiva (Nataraja) performing a cosmic dance, while Parvati witnessing it (n.d.)

Maha:pralaya(m)’ meaning the supreme dissolution of creation and ‘Shakshini’ meaning witness. Even in the state of preservation of creation, She is the one who triggers the transformation of Shiva to Rudhra when Her children need to be taught a lesson and then back to Shiva when things calm down. Daksha Yagna, an event from Shiva Maha Puranam is an excellent example to understand this concept of the Devine Mother, wherein She steps into the yogagni making Shiva become Rudhra. She Herself very rarely becomes Rudhrani, incidents of which can be found in Sri Devi Puranam. She again calms Rudhra back to Shiva, for example when the Halahala(m) (anti-creation entity) emerged as a part of Kshera:sagara Madan(am) (an event recorded in Srimad Bhagavatam, wherein the milky ocean is churned), all Devatas and Daityas ran to Parama:shiva for help. Lord Shiva consoled Devi Parvathi to allow Him to consume Halahalam in order to save creation and in return make Sri Vishnu (Viṣṇu) happy, for which She agreed with extreme ease and confidence. It’s to be noted that, it’s Ishwara (Iśvara), who both saves and also punishes, it’s He who both creates and later dissolute, it’s He who shows both anger and also compassion, yet He, in His true essence of Parabrahma (Para:brahma) is devoid of these contradictions and concepts. Similarly, the Divine Mother both triggers and also consoles, She both witnesses the dissolution and instigates creations. Hence, the title in Parvati Astotarashatanamavali  ‘Srisstiroopai namaha‘ and ‘Srisstisamhara Karinai Namaha‘. She is both vigilant but also witnesses everything with composure. She opens the path for us towards understanding our Father, She can also toss us further away from knowing Iśvara, deep into the abyss of Her Maya (illusion) making us dwell in desire and into an ever ending cycle of kama and karma. She as Parashakthi (Para:Shakthi) (energy) that manifests as Prakruti can cover us with materials and imaginations in Her Prakruti and make us forever loop the cycle of janma and karma, or She can open the path towards the Purusha by detaching our bonds to Prakruti, so that we understand the supreme singular conscience who is our father. She makes us use His Prakruti (call it the physical realm) as a bridge for a jiva to both cherish its existence and walk towards the Purusha, hence, in Sri Lalitha Sahastranana Stotram, She is addressed as:

“पुरुषार्थप्रदा पूर्णा भोगिनी भुवनेश्वरी ।”

Purushardhaprada purna bhogini bhuvaneshvari

This is but a very tiny glimpse of the Divine Mother, so we in the interim of our momentary physical form can make an attempt to comprehend that the Divine Mother’s love is incomprehensible yet tranquil and comforting.

The Divine Mother as we have discussed many times comes as a daughter to many of Her devotees. One important aspect of a father, which is very common in Sanatana Dharma, is to see one’s mother in his daughter, this is the reason for addressing one’s daughter as ‘ma’ or ‘talli’ (talli means mother in Telugu and Tamil languages). It’s an inherent nature of a father to search for his mother’s qualities in his daughter because one’s mother is the pure embodiment of soundaryam (not physical beauty, but the beautiful warmth of a mother) and anunayana(m). It’s very common to address a girl in Telugu and Tamil cultures with the word ‘amaayi’, wherein ‘amma’ meaning mother and ‘aayi’ means ‘to become’ when read as a whole, its to bless Her one day to be happily married and be a mother herself. Such is the relationship a father cherishes for having a daughter. This is the reason one should never think or speak ill of one’s mother. Our very physical existence is the blessing and is a part of one’s own mother. She becomes that nourished womb where every element of Her body is shared to foster our growth. She goes through enormous pain while carrying us and giving birth. Even after birth, she wishes Her own health and life to be given to the child so that her children can grow and cherish the joy of this creation. No matter how difficult the circumstances, one should never be ungrateful and should never foster hatred towards their mother, since this would be a worse character a person can foster.

Sloka from Srimad Bhagavatam (Sri Bhagavata Puranam) composed by a Telugu poet and scholar Bammera Pothana, said:

‘కలుగనేటికి తల్లుల కడుపు చేటు (చక్రవాకం)’
“Kaluganetiki tallula kadupu cheatu”

(Eemaata. M. n.d).

Meaning, a person who hates or disrespects their mother is an abomination to the womb of the mother who suffered greatly to give birth to such a person.

It’s impossible to define and explain the nature of a mother in mere words, and coming to the Divine Mother Herself, it’s an exploration of many lives and a never-ending journey that has to dwell in joy and content.

Sloka from Srimad Bhagavatam (Sri Bhagavata Puranam) composed by a scholar Bammera Pothana, said in the Veerabadhra Vijayam canto, wherein the mountain king Himavat to whom the Divine Mother came as His daughters, took the name Himavati or Parvathi since She is a Parvata Raja Putri (Parvat means Mountain, Raja means king and Putri meaning daughter). King Himavat told Her with joy that She has brought pride and glory to him, who is just but a mountain. Similarly, all fathers should expect their daughters to bring the same pride to one’s family.

Devi Parvathi is also called as Adi Kutumbini, meaning it’s She who has started the first family from whom the essence of motherhood arose and inherited by all mothers. She is also known as Triloka Maatha, meaning the mother of the triloka, (wherein ‘tri’ meaning three and ‘loka’ means worlds or universes). She is also the mother of all creation since Prakruti is Her very manifestation. Many have worshiped and urged Her to be born as their daughter, like Brughu Maharishi, King Daksha, Katyayana Maharishi and many more, but why? Because their devotion evolved to a state where they wished to express their affection to a physically manifested form of the Divine Mother and so wished to manifest as their daughter. As a person, one should foster such affection and wish for a privilege to be a parent to a daughter, and live with pride seeing their daughter play and grow in front of their eyes. This is the reason, She, the Divine Mother comes as a daughter to many and we referred to this aspect of the Divine Mother as ‘tadi’.

Sri Shankara uses a reference in Kanakadhara stotram by addressing Sri Lakshmi as ‘Bhaargava Nandanaya’ and reminding Her of Her ‘tadi’ on how She came as a daughter to Rishi Bhrigu or Bhargava and so got the name Bhargavi. Please note that Sri Lakshmi doesn’t need to be reminded or needs recollection, it’s Sri Shankara who is visualizing references for Sri Lakshmi’s ‘tadi’ and advocating on behalf of those who are cherishing Kanakadhara.

With this stance, Sri Shankara is stating that He is not asking anything special, He is merely requesting to shower Her (Sri Lakshmi) anugraham (grace) as a mother of all creation which is why he is addressing Her as ‘Mahaniya Murthi’ to provider ‘Bhadraanni Me’ wherein bhadram meaning safety and protection against all misfortunes. He is reminding Her of Her inherent nature to safeguard Her children by addressing Her as ‘Maatuh Samasta-Jagataam’ meaning She is the Mother to all Jagath because She is the embodiment of love and affection and it’s She who must shine the light towards the path of realizing Sri Viṣṇu.

Go Maata (CCO license-free image)

Sri is the essence of ‘Mahaniya Murti’ because She can’t separate one’s mother from someone. To make sure one is never away from their mother and never misses the ambrosia of eating by her hand, She the Divine Mother has installed four positions in Her creation which are equivalent to a mother. The first position is the physical mother who nourishes us and brings us up. The second position goes to Gow Maata (cow treated as a mother) because a cow like a mother feeds Her milk not just to Her calf but also to our children, to the sick, and both young and old. A mother can feed milk to her child for a few years, but a cow feeds us for the rest of over lives. A cow is considered as a member of the family. From her milk to her urine and dong, all are extremely useful to humans on various levels as food, sterilization, farming manure, fuel, and medicine. Her milk extends its retention into so many products like yogurt, butter, ghee (clarified butter), buttermilk, cheese and more. The evolved sense of affection and maturity shown by the cow towards its resident family is immeasurable. A cow sheds tears if anything happens to the family. A cow is revered as the Divine and so is addressed as ‘Paradevata’. The Divine manifestation of Sri Krishna as a cow heard is revered extensively in Srimad Bhagavata Puranam. Without a cow’s Panchagavya, many vital karmic rituals like Yagna, Yaga, Homa(m), Abhisheka and more are not possible. If one meets a cow on the way to a temple, its equated to visiting the deity of the temple. A cow is the only creature that was not created by Brahma Deva as a part of His design, she emerged out of the Satra Yagna performed by Vasus under the request of Prajapathi. It’s because of this Satra Yagna, thirty-three core Devatas and their essence reside in this one being. When Bhudevi (the Divinity of Earth) had to manifest on Bhumi (Earth), She took the form of a cow. Braham Deva and Lord Shiva (Śiva)   both took the form of a cow and calf during the era of Kaliyuga to nourish Sri Maha Viṣṇu who resided on Earth as Sri Venkateshwara. A cow’s presence becomes a consecrated space, meaning out of 12 consecrated areas defined by Shastra, the residence of a cow is one. The Vedic literature has countless references and stories emphasizing the significance of a cow. A cow is a source of livelihood and wealth to many families in the past and even today. The very karmic act of donating a cow to a sacred family can result in a significant Karmaphala and the nullification of past karma. Feeding a cow and taking care of her well being is equal to feeding one’s own mother and the Divine Mother. (Srichaganti. G.M.V, n.d., p.1)

What if one misses to rest one’s head in their mother’s lap and be pampered by Her? For this the Divine Mother installed the third position to one’s Desha Maata (motherland) or also Bhu Maata (Earth). No matter where we stand or sit, we are in the lap of our mother. The eye to see one’s mother in their motherland or Earth is to be a Rishi (a sage), hence the poem ‘Vande Mataram’ by Bankim Chandra Chatterjee.

The fourth position of motherhood was taking up by the Divine Mother herself. Understanding Her anunayanam, reading about Her matru:tvam (motherhood) provides immeasurable solace and strength. In this entire creation, what can a person not achieve with the devotion of treating the Divine Mother as one’s own?

Dhurjati a poet and a renowned devotee of Lord Śiva and one among the eight chief poets for the King Sri Krishnadevaraya (King of Vijayanagara Empire 1509 till 1529 CE) in his sloka addressing Lord Śiva as a part of his Sri Kalahastiswara Sathakam sloka 27 said:

“అమ్మా యయ్య యటంచు నెవ్వరిని నేనన్నన్శివా! నిన్నునే
సుమ్మీ! నీ మదిఁ దల్లిదండ్రులనటంచు న్జూడఁగాఁబోకు నా
కిమ్మైఁ దల్లియుఁ దండ్రియున్ గురుఁడు నీవే కాక సంసారపుం
జిమ్మంజీకంటి గప్పిన న్గడవు నన్ శ్రీ కాళహస్తీశ్వరా!”

(Vaidika Vignanam. S.K.H.S. 2011).

Knowing all this, and the importance of ‘bhadram’ (safety and protection), Sri Shankara out of the many titles of Sri Lakshmi, made sure to address Her as ‘Mahaneya Murthy’.

Now, let’s look at a unique aspect of the Divine Mother from Kanakadhara Stotram Sloka 10, by Sri Adi Shankaracharya.

“गीर्देवतेति गरुडध्वजसुन्दरीति
शाकम्भरीति शशिशेखरवल्लभेति 
सृष्टिस्थितिप्रलयकेलिषु संस्थितायै
तस्मै नमस्त्रिभुवनैकगुरोस्तरुण्यै ॥”

“Giir-Devate[aa-I]ti Garudda-Dhvaja-Sundarii-[I]ti
Shaakambharii-[I]ti Shashi-Shekhara-Vallabhe[a-I]ti |
Srsstti-Sthiti-Pralaya-Kelissu Samsthitaayai
Tasmai Namas-Tri-Bhuvanai[a-E]ka-Guros-Tarunnyai ||”

(Green Message Kanakadhara Stotram, n.d.).

 Please note that the word ‘Guroo’ here meaning Tibhuvanika Guru.

Brahma & Saraswati Mallikarjuna temple Basaralu (2014)

Giir-Devateati’ also addressed in many other versions of Kanakadhara as ‘Vaag Devateati’ refers to Vakdevi or Devi Saraswati, the concert and the Shakthi of the Creator Brahma.

Lakshminarayana at Shaivism Temple Karnataka (2017)

Garudda-Dhvaja-Sundariiti’ wherein Garudadvaja means the one who rides the great Garudha, which is Sri Maha Viṣṇu and Sundari meaning the embodiment of beauty, love, and compassion which is Sri Lakshmi (the concert and the Shakthi of the Preserver).

Next comes the Shakthi of dissolution, but Sri Shankara said, ‘Shaakambhariiti’, so who is Shakambhareti? Let’s come back to that a little later.

Umamahesvaramurti (British Museum) 2010

Next, He said ‘Shashi-Shekhara-Vallabheti’ wherein Shashi Shekara means the one who wears the crescent moon on His head who is none other than Śiva. What does the moon signify in this case? For this world, mainly Earth, the moon is the celestial body that represents Kaal(am) (progression of time). One can say it’s Sun which represents time, which is also true in terms of determining the beginning and the end of a day along with the seasons. However, to compare one day from the next, and in gauging the progression of days, it can be done through the progression and regression of moon phases relative to the Sun’s Hoora (predominance of Sun on a given day). Also, Sun in this solar system is stationary (but not in the flow of the expanding universe), whereas the moon revolves and rotates around the earth depicting various phases of distinguishing one day from another. Moon goes through 14 phases of decrements and 14 phases of increment, along with a full moon and no moon day, uniquely defining progression of time and the rate of change, this approach gave us the calendars and the ability to calculate future calendar days to identify a specific celestial occurrence. Hence ‘Shashi Shekara’ represents Śiva, who with the moon on His head represents that He is devoid of Kaal(am) (time), hence the title Kaal:aathita (where Kaal means time and Aathita is devoid, when read as a whole it means devoid of time). Kaal(am) for us, is a progression of events, but for Iśvara this happens within Him through the concept of dissolution. Finally, ‘Vallabethi’ meaning beloved or dearest, referring to Devi Parvati. (Srichaganti. K.D.S, n.d., p.18)

Shakambari Devi (Shakambari Mata Temple, Sambhar Rajasthan, India). (2015)

So, who and what is the concept of Shakambhari? Let’s start by saying that this is a very crucial concept that one needs to put their thoughts to understand it’s a role in the process of creation, preservation and its dissolution. Once in a time of severe drought, people, animals, and plant life were in deep suffering (note we read earlier that when a person performs a:dharma, that man suffers, but if a king does a:dharma the entire kingdom suffers). The Divine Mother who couldn’t tolerate the suffering of the people, come forth and manifested, but instead of showing rain and riches, She manifested Herself into the flora, or rather into edible vegetation. This vegetation was not just one particular tree but bears many types of vegetables, fruits, and other edible flora. The people and the animals ran towards Her to quench their hunger and thirst. The reason She took this approach was that the people were not in a state to cultivate their own food even if it rained. They had no strength or availability to purchase anything even if provided with riches. It’s a mother’s nature to feed the children, She did exactly that. There is a difference between hunger and other necessities compared to a craving for riches or fame because once the stomach is full the hunger disappears even if more delicious food is present, but when a person becomes rich, there is no end to one’s appetite for wealth and its preservation. Now that we understood who Shakambhari is, why did Sri Shankara refer the Divine Mother with a title avert from the concepts of creation, preservation, and dissolution? While dwelling or reciting Kanakadhara, one can always urge and make sure their primary necessities are met. One can always urge for more, like good health, wealth, prosperity, children and more. Even if we don’t, like a mother, the Divine Mother Shakambhari will always keep an eye on us and will always make sure to suffice our necessities without we requesting them, so that we can continue to cherish dwelling in Kanakadhara leading us in the path to gyanam. (Srichaganti. K.D.S, n.d., p.18)

REFERENCE ENTRY (APA Style citation)

Sri Chaganti Koteshwar Rao (Orator). (n.d.). Kanaka Dhara Stotram [Audio Part 1-19, Recorded by Srichaganti.net]. Guntur, Andhra Pradesh, India. Retrieved from http://www.english.srichaganti.net/KanakaDharaStrotram.aspx.

Sri Chaganti Koteshwar Rao (Orator). (n.d.). Go Maata Vaisistam [Audio Part 1, Recorded by Srichaganti.net]. Guntur, Andhra Pradesh, India. Retrieved from http://www.english.srichaganti.net/GoMata.aspx.

Green Message Kanakadhara Stotram. (n.d.). In Sanskrit with meaning – Stotra on Devi Lakshmi. Retrieved from http://www.greenmesg.org/mantras_slokas/devi_lakshmi-kanakadhara_stotram.php

Vaidika Vignanam. (May 8, 2011). Sree Kaala Hastiswara Satakam – Telugu. Retrieved from http://www.vignanam.org/veda/sree-kaala-hastiswara-satakam-telugu.html

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Sapta Matrika with Shiva and Gashesh (Los Angeles County Museum of Art). (Nov 3, 2015). Wikipedia File:The Seven Mother Goddesses (Matrikas) Flanked by Shiva (left) and Ganesha (right).jpg. Retrieved from https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/a/ad/The_Seven_Mother_Goddesses_%28Matrikas%29_Flanked_by_Shiva_%28left%29_and_Ganesha_%28right%29.jpg

Shiva (Nataraja) performing cosmic dance while Parvati witnessing it.(n.d.). Pininterest, Shiva Nataraja – Lord of the Dance Sculpture Hindu Art statue. Retrieved from: https://goo.gl/images/4EkcgC

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Swami Venkatesananda. (1993). Vasistha’s Yoga. New York,  Albany: State University of New York Press