PATH OF DEVOTION
In Lalitha Sahasranama Stotram, Sloka 2 and 3, Devi is called:
“उद्यद्भानु-सहस्राभा चतुर्बाहु-समन्विता । रागस्वरूप-पाशाढ्या क्रोधाकाराङ्कुशोज्ज्वला ॥
मनोरूपेक्षु-कोदण्डा पञ्चतन्मात्र-सायका । निजारुण-प्रभापूर-मज्जद्ब्रह्माण्ड-मण्डला ॥“
“Udyadbanu saha-srabha chatur-bahu saman-vita
Raga-svarupa pashadya krodha-karanku-shojvala
Mano-rupekshu kodanda pancha tanmatra sayaka
Nijaruna prabha-pura majabhramhanda mandala”
(Hindu Temple of Hong Kong. S.L.S.S. n.d., Sanskrit Documents. S.L.S. 2013)
Meaning we who live chasing behind materials with the notion of ‘mine’, the Divine Mother, in a glimpse, like a lightening, can wipe off that illusions and free us from our own bondage, showing us the path to devotion. Without Her luminescence, one cannot take even a single step towards Ishwara, and so will continue to dwell aimlessly in the illusion of desire in this materialistic reality. It’s the Divine Mother who creates the illusions among prakruti (nature and its reality) making a man chase these illusions in the concept of desire. One day those curtains of illusion are brought down opening paths to realizing the omniscience and the compassion of the supreme singular conscience. The Divine Mother unties the bonds of illusion and tethers us with a rope of devotion pulling us closer to Ishwara. It’s similar to realizing that all gold ornaments are nothing but gold as it’s base metal, and all earthen pots with different shapes are all actually earth. When this notion is realized, man will be released from the illusion, which creates the limitations on the shape and from.
‘Pancha Tanmatra Saayaka’, till now these eyes saw the glitters of the material word and since this creation is an illusion these glitters and its mysteries are endless, making us forever in bondage with these materials. However, the path of devotion will lead to us seeing Ishwara in the same beauty of prakruti (nature and material creation). These ears, which once wished to seek joy in listening to meaningless and purposeless compositions, now will seek to listen to the glorified accounts of Ishwara and those magnificent poems and slokas passed on to us by extraordinary sages. The mouth and tongue, which only eat seeking taste and pleasure, will now eat with gratitude considering everything as Ishwara’s prasadam. These hands will now wish to touch the flower at the feet of Ishwara. Only a path of devotion will allow us to enjoy the same creation and its beauty with our five senses considering everything as Ishwara’s creation. And as we discussed earlier, to get devotion one needs to urge Ishwara to bless us with devotion. Devotion and faith are not commodities that can be purchased nor are they a formula or routine. Devotion is a change in one’s perspective that arises when one’s conscience seeks to reason with one’s ego and pride. This attempt to reason with ego will help us realize the reality from Maya (illusion) and helps us realign our priorities in life. It gives us focus on the important things like Parents, Guru, family, compassion, and realizes one’s potential. Sri Ramana Maharshi once said, the highest form of devotion and karma is the introspection and self examination of one’s own atma. The manas(u) of a Guru is like a sugar cane, no matter where we cut or squeeze or chew we get the same sweetness. Similarly, when all the five ‘tanmatras’ (human senses) are surrendered to Ishwara and walk the path of dharma, then one day this will lead to realizing that Ishwara is everywhere and everything and that He has always been within the self and the notion of ‘I’ or ‘mine’ will disappear becoming one with Ishwara. When we said ‘surrendering tanmatra to Ishwara’ it does not mean to forcefully subjugate one’s desire, it means to enjoy desires in line with dharma and cherish them as Ishwara’s prasadam. It’s when the soil is rich and fertile, allows a seed to sprout when the rain wets the soil, similarly a person should first strive this host body to be rich and fertile by performing karma inline with dharma and one day under the rays Ishwara the seed of devotion will sprout. Moving forward we will see how Sri Shankara explains on how the devotion like a flower should bloom in our hearts under the light of Kanakadhara, because this very effort is for the light of this dhara to fall on us. (Srichaganti. K.D.S, n.d., p.15)
At this state of mind, the person is untouched or rather unblemished by desire, hate, fear, sadness or pleasure. One becomes a witness to the existence and the creation around. Such a state is like viewing creation through the eyes of Ishwara, not that Ishwara has physical eyes like us, but metaphorically to see creation beyond the limitations of a human who is but an entity within the fabric of this reality. (pic)
Forcefully subjugation desires is like holding a snake’s head under the feet just to get bitten the moment it’s removed. Suppressing desires, when in despair and desperation, will overthrow our logic and reasoning and makes us submit to weakness, which will consume us, pushing us deeper into the abyss of darkness and hate.
So how does one attain a state of unification with Ishwara? This happens when knowledge unifies with devotion through the exploration of Shastra and listening and reading the accounts and stories of Ishwara, similar to the efforts we are making now. For a human mind to even think in this direction, the Divine Mother must nurture us, because to get devotion one has to urge Ishwara for devotion. One who realizes the creation to be Ishwara’s illusion and proclaim Him the creator, then such person moves closer and closer towards the unification with Ishwara.
Please note, not everyone at every state can understand Ishwara, but one can always clear their mind of predefined conclusions or self-proclaimed justification and explore the vastness of this reality being truthful to oneself. With such an exploration if one can relinquish ego and pride even for a moment and accept that we are not it’s creators and that we don’t know anything, and ask the universe itself for its knowledge so as to understand it, such submission leads to the exploration of things and its comprehension without prejudice. This statement is the very essence of Gayatri mantra. (Srichaganti. K.D.S, n.d., p.1-19)
This is the reason why Sri Lakshmi is compared to the lightening which emulates the magnificence of Sri Vishnu. Our minds without Her luminescence will never even think to take Ishwara’s name truthfully. It’s She who gives Sri Vishnu’s compassion and generosity a reason. As we discussed earlier, a person needs to have the potential to help, just having a thought to perform a good deed is a good thought and a good start, however, it requires the potential and resources so as to help others. Sri Vishnu with His compassion and kindness also has the potential to help and uplift those who urge devotion and seek wisdom. This potential of Sri Vishnu is from Sri Lakshmi and it’s through Her that Sri Vishnu’s compassion and kindness are noticed. By Her very nature, She is Sri (good will), She is Lakshmi (prosperity) and so the entire creation looks towards the preserver as Sri Lakshmi accompanying Sri Vishnu as His Sri. If Sri Vishnu wishes to bestow prosperity, then it’s through Sri Lakshmi’s anugraham (grace) and sight. In the same way, if a person wishes to contemplate on Sri Vishnu it’s under the brilliance of Sri Lakshmi.
A famous poet, Kaasula Purushotamakavi composed Sri Andhra Nayaka Shatakam, in its sloka 26 he said:
“ఆలు నిర్వాహకురాలు భూదేవి యై యఖిలబారకుందనునాఖ్యం దెచ్చె
నిష్ఠసంపన్నరా లిందిర భార్య యై కామితార్దదుండన్న ఘనాతం దెచ్చె౦
గమలరుండు సృతికర్త తనూజుండై బహుకుటుంబకుండన్న బలిమి౦ దెచ్చె౦
గలుష విద్యంసీని గంగ కుమారి యై భాతిత పావనుందన్న ప్రతిభం దెచ్చె
అండ్రుబిడ్డలు దెచ్చు ప్రఖ్యాతిలేవి మొదటినుండియు నీవు దామోదరుడవె
చిత్ర చిత్ర ప్రభావ దాక్షిణ్యభావ హాత్ విమతజీవ శ్రీకాకుళంద్రదేవ”
(Kasula Purushotama Kavi. S.A.S. n.d)
Meaning, Bhu:devi (the manifestation of Earth and its consciences), is known for Her immense tolerant nature and an adobe of immense wealth and riches (since all riches come from Earth, hence the title Vasundhara). The poet continues by saying, Bhu:devi alongside Sri Lakshmi accompanies Sri Vishnu as His consort, and Brahma (the concept of creation) along with Manmadha (who institutes the Kama) are both highly renowned and respected sons of Sri Vishnu. The poet then asks Sri Vishnu, you have gained a lot of prestige and respect because of your consort and your sons, but what greatness do you have for yourself? This poem might sound harsh and disrespectful. However, it is also a stuti (poems or compositions to admire the qualities and forms of Ishwara) called as Ninda Stuti, meaning a stuti towards blame and insulting Ishwara (Ninda means to blame).
Now, before we go ahead and try to comprehend the poem and the poet’s intent, let’s clarify few things. Sri Vishnu is the supreme singular conscience who operates through Shakti (Sri Lakshmi), so when He wishes to provide riches, comfort, wealth, gyana (enlightenment), He does it through Sri Lakshmi. Then what is the difference between the Supreme singular conscience and Shakti? Supreme singular conscience and Shakti are the same as Prakruti and Purusha. Prakruti (also spelled as Prakriti) can be understood as anything that’s energy, both as pure energy and tangible material (which is also energy), in short, it’s the nature around us. Purusha is the singular conscience out of which every other conscience (within a jiva) is but an extension to that supreme conscience. Its this conscience which identifies one’s own existence, and so, is autonomous to recognize and perceive without limitation to aadi (a beginning) or antam (end) hence is known as anantam. It’s this very conscience that is depicted and interpreted as various concepts of God or Ishwara, and which also manifests as a subset entity within its own creation, combining itself with Prakruti (material and pure energy) as a host. For example, an object like a vehicle is a tangible entity (ultimately formed of energy) which when combined with another form of energy tends to operate and moves, but has no conscience or awareness of itself, however a human construct is more than just that. It has a tangible body, constructed out of the elements of prakruti known as Sthula:shareera(m) also known as Pancha:bhootika Shareera(m) (Pancha means five, Boothika meaning the elements of nature and Shareera(m) meaning body) which also has the energy to grow and move. It also has a second set of entities, like manas which feels emotions and desires, and Prana(m) which is the life source for a living being to function without decay, together known as Sukshma:sharera(m). Then there is the jiva, the entity that inherits this body, or rather tethers both the Sthula:shareera(m) and Sukshma:sharera(m), and wears it like a cloth. Finally, the atma, the unique consciences which is an extention of Para:matma, dwells within each jiva trying to free itself and make the jiva realize its existence to be an extension of Para:matma. This jiva makes us recognize oneself and one’s own existence in a given time and place, and explores its true self with its decisions and feelings like compassion, but in many cases, a jiva falsely associates itself to be this body. This message can also be found both in Srimad Bhagavad Gita and Devi Bhagavata(m) (Devi Bhagavata Purana(m)).
Coming to the concept of Bhudevi to be Sri Vishnu’s concert, it’s to be noted that She is not a human like us, though depicted in a feminine sense, She is more a concept and a manifestation of a Mother who is an adobe to millions of species that flourish in Her richness. This makes Her an image of Sri Lakshmi (or in a broader sense the Divine Mother).
The concept of marriage allows humans to entwine Kama with dharma so as to achieve artha. Artha means ‘meaning’ or ‘fulfillment’ and that meaning is through gaining a companion for life (as a spouse) to walk the path of dharma and to have children to pass on one’s legacy and continue to inhabit the physical plane in the form a son or a daughter. But, this is not the same when it comes to Ishwara, since He is devoid of karma as He doesn’t belong or rather say, is not finite to the reality and creation in which we reside. He is all the creation and the reality that we perceive, in fact, He is devoid of many creations and realities that sprout and dissolute in the concept of kaalam (time) that we are yet to comprehend for He is the creator and also the one to dissolute.
Then the obvious question, why does He behave and mimic us (living beings) by manifesting in forms and relationships similar to us? Ishwara manifests in forms that are more appealing and comprehensible to us. He lays path by making Himself an example for us, which is the reason why He comes as an anomaly and takes birth among us to guide us and to show us how to cherish and uplift ourselves in the path of dharma. He stands as an example, lays a path for us, and becomes a target for us to focus. When we say He comes and takes birth among us, it means a subset or a flavor of His conscience seeks a host body, unlike a jiva which seeks a host body because of its Karma. Ishwara Has no karma to shed, hence He comes as an anomaly to implement the message in Shastra and makes a path for us to follow. If He performs things as Paramatma or supreme singular conscience, which is not limited to a form or concept, then for us it would look impossible to follow His word (Veda) since there is no limit to what He can achieve. As a reader, it’s to be understood that, Ishwara doesn’t really have to walk like us to reach a certain destination, nor perform any physical actions if He wishes to accomplish something. He with His very thought and Sri (Devi) with Her very sight can change creation and its reality. Yet, in situations that are exceptions in the realms of this physical reality, and to show those who are yet to understand the tatvam of Ishwara, He in different times, manifests in a different way to prove that devotion can make Him behave like us. He manifests in a physical form to stand as an example by performing actions similar to humans, showing that we can also follow His footsteps. This is again a reminder to us that Sri and Purusha should be worshiped together as Shiva Shakthi, Sri Vishnu, Vaani Pathi and more.
Then what about the various forms that are depicted on sculptures and paintings? One needs to understand that poems and sculptures and paintings are depictions resulting from a devotee’s feeling, or analogy of events in Puranas and imaginations from our interpretations towards the stories in Puranas. There are some exceptions like swayambhu (self manifested entities, not carved or forged by us, like swayambhu Lingas, Idols and kshetras), but the rest are physical manifestation of our devotion, our understanding and our imagination which we intern use these physical entities as targets towards focusing and channeling our devotion by performing various acts of seva (services) and upacharas by treating such physical entities as member of our family or loved ones. Such practice should one day evolve to a state where one can visualize Ishwara in all, irrespective of shape or color, living or nonliving, friend or foe, tangible or not, finally reaching a state where one realizes one’s own atma to be an extension of Paramatma. Hence, its foolish to take such analogy which are depicted as sculptures or images and try to formulate our own baseless self imagination and understanding, and proclaim them to be meaningless. One needs to use such entities to explore the event behind it and in-turn realize the tatva (essence) behind such deceptions, since it’s the tatva which is our goal. In this path of exploring our tatva one has to cherish these stories whether one feels they are real or fictional and cherish our existence in the course of our time.
Now coming back to the poet’s intent, one should only find the freedom this poet has towards Ishwara. This freedom should arise from devotion and not from hate or sarcasm or ego. This freedom is what a young child has towards his/her father. The poet is trying to convey that Sri Vishnu, Sri Lakshmi, Bhudevi, Brahma Deva, and Manmadha are all the same Para:matma (supreme singular conscience) that acts in different concepts. Sri Vishnu and Sri Lakshmi never overrule each other, they are one entity operating in two modes, where Sri Lakshmi’s potential emulates in Sri Vishnu and Sri Vishnu’s compassion is expressed towards us through Sri Lakshmi’s potential.
If Sri Vishnu and Sri Lakshmi are one, then before Kshera:sagara Madanam (from which Sri Lakshmi emerged) was Sri Vishnu just Vishnu (along)? Kshera:sagara Madanam was an event in kaal (time) that was enacted by Ishwara to give perspective and a lesson to those who were interested in the amrutam (elixir of immortality) as they were not satisfied with what was already given to them. As a father, Ishwara helped both Devatas and Dayityas (since both are children) by manifesting as a Kurma (Sri Vishnu who manifested as a tortoise) holding the mountain. And as Shiva He consumed the halahala(m) (anti-creation element) that emerged from it, to protect His children. The rest of the story about Sri Lakshmi residing with Samudra as his daughter was already discussed earlier, so let’s move on. (Srichaganti. K.D.S, n.d., p.16)
Sri Lakshmi is an icon for Her bhakthi (devotion) for Sri Vishnu in terms of Her seva (service) as She sits at the feet of Sri Vishnu massaging them during His Yoga Nedhra. Let’s understand a little about the Nava Vedha Bhakthi, ‘Nava’ means nine, and ‘vedha’ meaning approach, so when read as a whole it means nine approaches of Bhakthi to reach Ishwara. Why nine, why not just one? Before we dive into the ‘why’ let’s make sure we get an understanding on what Bhakthi is? Bhakthi has no simple definition so please explore the concept of Bhakhi and its fundamentals as explained by Sanatana Dharma (Hinduism) on this portal?
Why nine, why not just one? Creation and reality accommodate all or rather numerous possibilities of thoughts and approaches. Everyone is different in their mind and thought process because of their Vasana. If there was one specific approach to devotion then, every individual’s psyche must either fit in that specific approach or should make themselves in line with such an approach. Also there are only nine digits mathematically and every other number is constituted with these nine digits. Shuniyam (zero) as per Shastra is not equal to nothing, it means everything and so anything that goes into shuniyam becomes a part of shuniyam, and everything that exists came out of shuniyam. Hence with any one or a combination of these nine approaches of bhakthi, we reach ten (technically 1 & 0) its ‘ONE’ and ‘SHUNIYAM’, meaning when we realize the ONE (who is Ishwara), that realization makes us become Him, and since He is everything or Vishvam, we become Vishvam, or we realize that ‘I’ doesn’t exists and we are from shuniyam. This is the reason why Sri Vishnu Sahastranama Stotram starts with the title ‘Vishvam’ and every other title in it is but a flavor or a synonym of Vishvam.
In Srimad Bhagavatam (Sri Bhagavata Purana) Rishi (Sage) Naradha tells Pandavas how differently Sri Krishna is worshiped. Rishi Narada says, Rishis (sages) reach out to Sri Krishna with respect and devotion, Pandavas show their affection as a relative and as a friend, Gopikas try to reach Him with love and Kama, Sishupala constantly mesmerizes Sri Krishna by cursing Him out of hate and enmity, through different approaches, all reached Sri Krishna. Poundariksha another king during Dwapara Yuga also hated Sri Krishna, rather than to saying hated, he mostly wanted to be like Him, he desired to dress, walk and talk like Krishna. He used to try and mimic Sri Krishna’s appearance and His gestures and so constantly discussed about Him with his staff and others. In a way, he was jealous of Sri Krishna and so wanted only himself to exist. When he went to war with Sri Krishna, even before they could fight Sri Krishna burst in laughter and instead of fighting, He dissolute Poundariksha’s physical form and unified him with Himself. By behaving and constantly thinking about Sri Krishna, at the end, became one with Sri Krishna.
The message in the above examples is ‘all paths lead to one Ishwara’. No matter which path, the destiny is the same, however, there are paths that are more suggested and more optimal, and those are nine types of Bhakthi.
What are the different types or approaches to foster bhakthi (devotion)?
There exists nine approaches as explained in Srimad Bhagavatam canto 7, chapter 5 and sloka 23 says:
‘सर्वनाम कीर्तनं विश्नोह स्मरणं पादसेवनं
अर्चनं वन्दनं दास्यां सकयं आत्मनिवेदनं’
‘sravanam kirtanam visnoh smaranam pada-sevanam
archnam vandanam daasyam sakyam atma-nivedanam’
Shravanam: Meaning to immerse oneself into listening to the accounts of Ishwara, His forms, actions, manifestations, appearance and more. The icon for such an approach was King Parekshith, he was the last descendant and grandson of Pandavas to whom Rishi Shuka:brahma (Son of Veda Vyasa) narrated Srimad Bhagavatam (Sri Bhagavata Purana(m))
Kirtanam: Rishi Shuka:brahma, son of Vyasa and the narrator of Srimad Bhagavata(m) (Sri Bhagavata Purana(m)) became an exemplar for this approach. In this approach one constantly chants and narrates about Ishwara’s accounts. It could be poetic or descriptive or both.
Smaranam: This approach is to constantly dwell in the thoughts of Ishwara, recollecting Ishwara’s actions and beauty and His glory. King Prahlada is the quintessence of this approach. Prahlada saw Sri Vishnu every where and in everything, anything he saw or felt made him to think about Sri Vishnu.
Daasyam: Daasyam means to become a slave to Ishwara. A slave might sound negative but the meaning is to be totally servile to Ishwara and submit oneself to Him. The summit for such humbleness and servility is Sri Hanuman. His strength and His wisdom was unparalleled yet was humble and servile to Sri Ram and Sita Devi. No wonder He is one among the seven Chiranjeevi (One among the seven immortals) and on His way to becoming the next Brahma.
Archanam: Is a constant act to worship a Deity with various titles of Ishwara recollecting their significance and accounts to have received such a title. The icon for this approach of bhakthi is Pruthu Maharaj, one of the many incarnations and manifestations of Sri Maha Vishnu, from whom Earth got the title as Prutvi.
Vandanam: Vandanam is a salutation to Ishwara. Akrura (minister at King Kamsa) who was ordered by Kamsa to bring Sri Krishna and Balram, is considered an epitome for his Vandanam. Kindly read the topic Namaskar to further explore its significance.
Sakyam: Meaning to have a friendship with Ishwara. Arjuna before the Srimad Bhagavad Gita upadesha (dialog) at the beginning of Maha Kuru:kshetra war, was very close to Sri Krishna like a friend, they shared so much freedom among each other. Arjuna after understanding His supremacy urged Sri Krishna to forgive him for the liberty he took towards Sri Krishna similar to a young child who takes towards one’s father. It’s in this dialog between Sri Krishna and Partha (Arjuna) that Bhakthi Yoga (one of four classification of yogas) was explained.
Atma-Nevedanam: This approach is to present ones atma (closest reference is soul) to Ishwara as an offering making oneself a tool to Ishwara giving up complete ownership towards karma. The icon for this approach of bhakthi is King Bali. Since He submitted everything including himself to Vamana Murthi (One of the manifestation of Sri Maha Vishnu) even though he had the option to say no.
Padasevanam: Meaning to serve Ishwara in content, unified with his charm and glory. Sri Maha Lakshmi is the pinnacle for this approach. The Padmanabha posture of Sri Vishnu is usually depicted with Sri Lakshmi seated at His feet massaging them while Sri Vishnu is in His Yoga Nedhra. It’s Sri Lakshmi who wishes to sit at His feet mesmerized in His charm for which Sri Vishnu placed Sri Lakshmi in His hrudaya(m) as Her eternal adobe. (Srichaganti. K.D.S, n.d., p.17, Srichaganti. D.N, n.d., p.4)
DHARMAPATHNI & KANYADAN
Why and how did Sri Lakshmi reach such a pinnacle in Her devotion towards Sri Vishnu? Sri Lakshmi is Sri Vishnu’s Dharmapathni (Dharma:Pathni) and there is no equivalent word in English for that title. The word wife will not suffice because a wife can be related to the word Bharya. There are many Dharmic rituals laid out by Shastra for a man to uplift oneself towards attaining joy and to repent for past deeds, but many are inapplicable in the absence of a dharma pathni, such is the significance given to Gruhastu Ashram and to dharma pathni. Shastram upheld the title of dharma:pathni with high esteem and to a significance. In the temporary absence of dharmapathni, Shastra gave a small liberty for the husband to hold the wife’s blouse (piece of cloth belonging to wife) while performing such karma. Sri Ram in the absence of Sita Devi had to perform dharmic karma in the presence of an idol of Sita Devi and suffered an ocean of pain that one cannot even dare to put into words. In the absence of dharmapathni a father cannot give way his own daughter in marriage as Kanyadanam, and so must urge a relative couple to perform that ceremony as his proxy.
As a dharma:pathni Sri Lakshmi understood Sri Vishnu more than He could understand Himself and hence is called Nityayapayani. She conquered His heart and made it Her adobe, She dwells within Him and He within Her. When a man’s soul becomes one with his Pathni then nothing can come between them and separate them. This is the reason why, when Sri Vishnu manifested as Vamana Murthy (the story of King Bali which we discussed earlier) as a young boy, Sri Lakshmi never was separate, She comes a His jewel which He wore around His ankle. Now that we know this secret, if we recall King Bali and His dharma:pathni, Vindyavali who washing the feet of Vamana Murthy, actually washed that very jewel that was around His ankle, meaning they both were worshiped as one.
The title ‘Pathi’ usually is related to a male, however its doesn’t necessarily mean husband, Pathi means that one to be attained or a target to be reached or followed, like a steer or a shepherd. And ‘Patni’ is not a female or a wife, it means the one who does ‘Anuvartana’ meaning the one who follows and strives towards reaching a Pathi. These two titles are given to a husband and wife in Sanatana Dharma sidhantham (fundamentals of a concept) who enter Gruhast Ashram and follow its dharma through a system known as Vivaha (marriage). Hence we (human beings), are all considered as ‘Pashu’ meaning animals who need to be steered by Ishwara, hence the title ‘Pashupathi’, meaning the lord or steer of animals, as He is the one we all have to attain and follow. Therefore He (Ishwara), is the only pathi and we (irrespective of human gender) are all who have to attain Him and Him alone.
During the process of Kanyadanam, the father of the bride has his daughter seated in a basket, where all cousins (especially uncles, brothers of the bride’s mother) carry the bride in the basket to marriage. The brides continue to sit in the basket during the course of the marriage ceremony. The father does this because he treats his daughter as Sri Lakshmi and the basket represents a lotus flower. It’s through this ceremony he intends and wishes for his daughter to reach her adobe which is Sri Vishnu, who in this case if the groom. This is the reason why the bride’s father washes the feet of the groom even though the groom is younger. The brides father visualizes him as Sri Vishnu and presents his daughter for marriage, with a promise from the groom that the bride is a dharmapatni, meaning a person who is a companion in the journey life towards implementing dharma and aid in each others upliftment towards dharma. This is the reason why in Sanatana Dharma, a wife is a dharmapatni and not a kamapatni (kama:patni). The father of the bride also claims that at any point if the groom abuses this promise then he will bring his daughter back, this is the reason its called Kanyadanam, meaning donation of one’s daughter so that she and the groom can journey a life of dharma.
She in return with Her Anuvartana (follow and accompany) should win her husband’s hrudaya(m) (heart), compensate each other’s setbacks and uplift each other in their journey. To win over is to reach a state where both become one conscience dwelling in two separate bodies, unable to hide anything from each other, and always share with each other and looking after each other’s well-being. This promise and institution are called Vivaha(m) and so is the greatness of Kanyadanam in Sanatana Dharma (Hinduism). It’s called Daanam (Donation) because the father gives his daughter to the groom and his family so that his daughter can help and accompany her husband in his path of dharma and in-return explore their journey as one entity.During the process of Kanyadanam, the father of the bride has his daughter seated in a basket, where all cousins (especially uncles, brothers of the bride’s mother) carry the bride in the basket to marriage. The brides continue to sit in the basket during the course of the marriage ceremony. The father does this because he treats his daughter as Sri Lakshmi and the basket represents a lotus flower. It’s through this ceremony he intends and wishes for his daughter to reach her adobe which is Sri Vishnu, who in this case if the groom. This is the reason why the bride’s father washes the feet of the groom even though the groom is younger. The brides father visualizes him as Sri Vishnu and presents his daughter for marriage, with a promise from the groom that the bride is a dharmapatni, meaning a person who is a companion in the journey life towards implementing dharma and aid in each others upliftment towards dharma. This is the reason why in Sanatana Dharma, a wife is a dharmapatni and not a kamapatni (kama:patni). The father of the bride also claims that at any point if the groom abuses this promise then he will bring his daughter back, this is the reason its called Kanyadanam, meaning donation of one’s daughter so that she and the groom can journey a life of dharma.
As a dharmapathni she follows step by step through every obstacle and every joy. She corrects him (her husband) and uplifts him in his path of dharma and by doing so uplifts herself. She becomes the wealth of the family (hence is called the Lakshmi of the house). She moves the family forward by becoming a nourishing womb and a mother. She makes her parents proud when she dissolves herself into Her in-laws so much that she becomes concern to leave them to visit her parents. She assimilates and wins over her husband so much that, in her temporary absence regular things become invisible to him, simplest tasks look complicated in the home, because she won over his daily life so much that she become a sanctuary of peace and serenity.
In the story of Gajendra Moksha, an account from Srimad Bhagavatam (Sri Bhagavata Purana(m)), Sri Vishnu in haste to protect His devotee, Gajendra, forgot Himself and his weapons but subconsciously never left Sri Lakshmi’s pallu (the corner tip of Her Sari worn over the shoulder) and so dragged Her with Him. This event is most beautifying to read and to cherish during dhyana (meditation). So, is the significance of Sri Vishnu and His love towards those who urge His help wholeheartedly along with His Sri (Sri Lakshmi). This is the reason why during festivities, Shastra advice to invite the in-laws or at least the husband and children along if they wish to see their daughter. The true destiny of performing Kanyadanam is to have Sri Lakshmi reach Her adobe, which is Sri Vishnu.
Following sloka from Sri Valmiki Ramayanam, Sundara Kanda, book 5, Sarga 37, sloka 2 and 5:
“अमृतम् विष संसृष्टम् त्वया वानर भाषितम् |
यच् च न अन्य मना रामो यच् च शोक परायणः ||
शोकस्य अस्य कदा पारम् राघवो अधिगमिष्यति |
प्लवमानः परिश्रान्तो हत नौः सागरे यथा ||”
“amRitam viSha samsRiShTam tvayaa vaanara bhaaShitam |
yac ca na anya manaa raamo yac ca shoka paraayaNaH ||
shokasya asya kadaa paaram raaghavo adhigamiShyati |
plavamaanaH parishraanto hata nauH saagare yathaa ||”
(Valmiki Ramayana. S.K. n.d.)
Meaning Sita Devi asks Hanuman, “Sri Ram in Her absence is like a breeze or like a windstorm lost in sorrow? Is He strong or has He deprived of peace and will? And if He is determined and focused towards finding Her?
When all this is summarized, Sri Lakshmi is Sri Vishnu’s very compassion, making us recognize Him in Her radiance by becoming His advocate of compassion and empathy. With Her maya (illusion) She in times pushed a man further from Sri Vishnu so as to make them realize the absence of a father, this is the magnificence of Sri Lakshmi. An attempt to define Her separate from Sri Vishnu gets very difficult, and its this message that Sri Shankara shared with us in a very concise way. (Srichaganti. K.D.S, n.d., p.15-16).
Jaganmaata (Divine Mother)
धाराधरे स्फुरति या तडिदङ्गनेव
मातुः समस्तजगतां महनीयमूर्तिर्
भद्राणि मे दिशतु भार्गवनन्दनायाः”
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)’. Anunayana(m) 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 thought 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 provider 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 a 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 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.
Now, what is the above occurrence had to do with a hidden secret pertaining the creation and its realities? The secret lies in the phenomenon of mahapralaya(m) (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 Purana(m), Srimad Bhagavata(m) 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. 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’
‘Mahapralayam’ 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 Purana(m) is an excellent example to understand this concept of the Devine Mother, wherein She steps into the yoga-agni making Shiva to become Rudhra. She Herself very rarely becomes Rudhrani, incidents of which can be found in Sri Devi Purana(m). She again calms Rudhra back to Shiva, for example when the Halahala(m) (anti-creation entity) emerged as a part of Ksherasagara Madanam (an event recorded in Srimad Bhagavata(m), wherein the milky ocean is churned), all Devatas and Daityas ran to Paramashiva for help. Lord Shiva consoled Devi Parvathi to allow Him to consume Halahala(m) in order to save creation and in return make Sri Vishnu happy, for which She agreed with extreme ease and confidence. It’s to be noted that, it’s Ishwara (Ishvar), who both saves and also punishes, it’s He who both creates and later dissolutes, it’s He who shows both anger and also compassion, yet He, in His true essence of Parabrahma is devoid of these contradictions and concepts. Similarly, the Divine Mother is both the triggers and also consoles, She both witnesses the dissolution and instigates creations. 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 Ishwara, 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 (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 relam) as a bridge for a jeva to both cherish its existence and walk towards the Purusha. 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 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 Bhagavata(m) (Sri Bhagavata Purana(m)) 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 are 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 Bhagavata(m) (Sri Bhagavata Purana(m)) composed by a scholar Bammera Pothana, said in the Veerabadhra Vijayam canto as follows:
“గిరిలలోన ఒకరి:గిరినైనా నా:పేరు వెలియచేసితివి ఇపుడు:ఇందువదనా
నీకు:తండ్రినైతి నా:కింత:చాలదే ఇది మహాద్భుతంబు ఇందువాదన”
“Girilaloona okari:girinaina naa:peru veliyachesitivi ipudu:Indhuvadana
Neeku:tandrinaiti naa:kintha:chalade idhi mah:adbhutambu indhuvaadana”
(Srichaganti. K.D.S, n.d., p.15-16)
From the above sloka 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 (Parvati means Mountain, Raja means king and Putri meaning daughter). King Himavat told Her in 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, (where in ‘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’.
धाराधरे स्फुरति या तडिदङ्गनेव
मातुः समस्तजगतां महनीयमूर्तिर्भद्राणि मे दिशतु भार्गवनन्दनायाः”
Dhaaraadhare Sphurati Yaa Taddid-Anggane[a-I]va
Maatuh Samasta-Jagataam Mahaniiya-Muurtir
Bhadraanni Me Dishatu Bhaargava–Nandanaayaah”
(Green Message Kanakadhara Stotram, n.d.).
Now, why have we been dwelling on this topic about the Divine mother and Her manifesting as a daughter to many? Because,
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, its 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’ where in 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 light towards the path of realizing Sri Vishnu.
Sri Shankara is also reminding of the ‘Madhuryam’ (the closest meaning is the affection of a mother towards Her children) shown by this brahmin’s wife, who upon seeing a young boy (Sri Shankara) standing in front of Her house, ran in and out of her house desperately searching for food for the boy. He is reminding Sri Lakshmi that the brahmin wife inherited this madhuryam from You, since you are ‘Maatuh Samasta-Jagataam’ (Mother of all creation) which made brahmin wife give the only edible item in their house.
From the above Sri Shankara presents His defense and asks Sri Lakshmi of what He can give in return for the brahmin wife’s madhuryam, except to ask for protection and safety to the brahmin’s wife and her family, hence the words ‘bhadrani me’. Without such a request, how can Sri Shankara eat that amla fruit with content? This was Sri Shankara’s argument, and this is the reason we had to discuss the nature of a Mother, especially Her anunayana(m) and madhurya(m).
We all know that Sri Lakshmi at the end of this stotram fulfilled Sri Shankara’s request. Also since Sri Shankara knew of Him becoming a Sanyasi in near future and that He would consider all humanity as His family, and feel the same gratitude as a son to all mothers who would give Him arms moving forward. This being the case, He now must win in presenting His defense and convincing Sri Lakshmi to bless this brahmin’s wife. This way Sri Shankara can prove His confidence in Ishwara to the world, so that tomorrow Sri Lakshmi can uplift all mothers and those who cherish this incident and drench themselves in the magnificence of Kanakadhara.
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 miss 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 children, to the sick, and both young and old. Feeding a cow and taking care of its well being is equal to feeding one’s own mother with their own hands.
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 anunayana(m), reading about Her matrutvam (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 Shiva 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 Shiva 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 take a pause and think again, shouldn’t Sri Lakshmi Shower Her blessing by now, especially after listening to Sri Shankara’s justification and His references of motherhood? Shouldn’t She be proud to have seen Her son (Sri Shankara), a five-year-old boy, compose just extraordinary composition advocating for this brahmin’s wife (as a mother) and not requesting anything in return for Himself? Just like earlier, Sri Lakshmi and Sri Vishnu waited, waited for this Dhara to flow so that we can continue to cherish under this unconditional generosity. So, let’s continue to cherish it with patience and joy. (Srichaganti. K.D.S, n.d., p.15-16)