16. Kanakadhara Sloka 10

Kanakadhārā STOTRAM SLOKA 10

“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 Kanakadhārā Stotram, n.d.).

Oh, Divine Mother, You are the Vakdevi/Sarasvatī (Giir-Devate[aa-I]ti ) of knowledge and wisdom, You are the beloved beauty (Sundarii) to the one riding Garuda (Śrī Viṣṇu), You are the ever nourishing Mother (Shaakambhari) to all life, You are the exuberant adoring consort (Vallabhe) of the one who wears a crescent moon (Shashi Shekhara = Pārama:Śiva). Oh Mother, Your playful formation (Samsthitaayai) is Creation (Srsstti), its sustenance (Sthiti), and its dissolution (Pralaya). I offer You (Tasmai) my servitude (Namas) oh youthful Devi to the Guru of all three worlds (Śrī Viṣṇu).

All the slokas till now were an argument presenting evidence to Śrī Lakṣmī in defense of the poor lady. Śrī Śankara already rests his arguments in the previous sloka. From here, he continues his dhārā (flow) for those who seek knowledge, and for those who ask to shine in the light of jñana, hence called jñan:agni (the light of wisdom, also known as enlightenment). As we have discussed, jñana blooms when kama (desire) falls in line with Ḍharma, resulting in sat:karmā. Such a lifestyle opens doors for devotion, and when performed with śrāddha, results in peace and content in life. Hence, Śrī Śankara is delivering this last sloka for those who wish to take the next step towards jñana.

The sloka ‘Srsstti-Sthiti-Pralaya-Kelissu Samsthitaayai’ refers to Śrusti as in the concept of creation, Sthiti as Preservation, and finally, the concept of dissolution of both avidya & creation back to its original state is called laya. Śrī Śankara is referring in a unified sense of Śakti (Divine Mother) who operates as phenomena constituting creation, sustenance, and dissolution, and since this sloka is about jñana, it is addressing Iśvara as ‘Guroho’, meaning Guru. It’s under the light of a Guru that one realizes Iśvara, hence, a Guru gives jñana, so expecting anything other than jñana from a Guru is an ill-thought. But why address Iśvara as Guru? For this Maharśi Patañjali profoundly explained in his Yoga Sutras sloka 26 as :

Sa pūrveṣām api guruḥ kālenana-vacchedāt (26)

Meaning, It’s in Him (Iśvara) lies the highest (niratiśaya) seed of Jñana (omniscience), making Him the source or Principle. In Him lies the Sanskaras and information of limitless Brahmanda as He is beyond the concept of time (Kaal) and so is the Guru even to the Ancients.

“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]kaGuros-Tarunnyai ||”

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

In this phrase ‘Tri-Bhuvanai[a-E]kaGuros-Tarunnyai’ Śrī Śankara is addressing Śakti as a Ḍharma pathni to the Guru of triloka (three lokas or three worlds). Since this sloka is primarily addressed to Śrī Lakṣmī as the Śakti, this makes Śrī Viṣṇu the Guru of triloka. Now, how is that Śrī Viṣṇu who is the preserver of creation a Guru to all triloka? This can be seen in the sloka from Advaita Guru Paramparā:

“नारायणा समारंभम व्यास शंकर माध्यमम
असमद आचार्य पर्यंतं वनडे गुरु परंपराम”

“narayana samarambhamVyāsa sankara madhyamam
asmad aacarya paryantamvande guru paramparaam”

(Wikipedia. A.G.P. 2017)

Another form of the same sloka from Advaita Guru Paramparā through the concept of Śiva tatva:

“सदा शिव समारंभम शंकराचार्य माध्यमम
अस्मत आचार्य पर्यन्थं वनडे गुरु परंपराम”

“Sada Śiva Samarambham Sankaracharya Madhyamam
Asmat aacharya Paryantham Vande Guru Paramparaa”

(Wikipedia. A.G.P. 2017)

Jagad:guru Sri Adi Shankaracharya (2017)
Dvaipayana (Titled as Vedā Vyāsa) (University of Toronto Collection).(2012)

Iśvara can be comprehended by seeing through any of the three windows of this reality, which is through its creation, preservation, or its dissolution. Iśvara is the supreme entity and supreme singular conscience, which exists even in the absence of creation since Iśvara is devoid of a host. He Himself manifests as a host to foster the creation and its various realities, and finally dissolute it to its original state. All this happens within Him, hence there is no secondary entity other than Iśvara. In this sloka Śrīman Nārāyaṇa is the first Guru in the legacy of Gurus, followed by Vyāsa in succession (also a manifestation of Śrī Viṣṇu, who compartmentalized the Vedā, and composed various Puráńa, Upanishad, the Itihaasa(m)) in the middle is this hierarchy is Śrī Śankara (who revitalized Sanātana Ḍharma at its brink of corruption and dismay) and this succession constitutes as the legacy Gurus to whom we perform our Vanday (salutation).

As discussed, this reality can be preserved through any of the three windows or concepts, and so Śrīman Nārāyaṇa is not limited to the concept of Preservation, He is none other than Iśvara (Vishnu tatvam). This is one of the main reason, Śrī Śankara established a culture, wherein all the successors of the four matt (institutions) worship Śrīchakram (the disk held by Śrī Viṣṇu) and chant ‘Nārāyaṇa, Nārāyaṇa, Nārāyaṇa’ whenever someone bows down to them. Since a sanyasi shouldn’t expect anything, including a namaskar, chanting the title ‘Nārāyaṇa’ three times means they forward or redirect our namaskar(am) to Nārāyaṇa.  It’s widely misconstrued that Śrī Śankara is a Śivait (one who follows the discipline of Śivam or a follower and a propagator of Śiva and family) mainly because He and His successors apply the three stripes of Vibhudi (ash) on their forehead. However, this very Kanakadhārā with its references to Śrī Viṣṇu and the concept of one Iśvara tells us otherwise. Like a person who plays different roles in a day as an employee at work, a father or a son at home, and as a student in the presence of a Guru, similarly, Iśvara simulates and gives us the experience of reality as three concepts, hence known as ‘Tribhuvanaika Guru’. One should eradicate an ignorant notion that Śrī Śankara is a propagator of Śivam. It is Śrī Śankara who gave us the profound BajaGovindam, the Kṛṣṇa temples he revitalized, the panchayatana of Smartism sampradaya (5 approaches of worship including Ganapati, Viṣṇu, Surya, Śiva, Śakti), and in every literature he always performed his vandanam (salutations) to Govinda as his Guru. This very Kanakadhārā is also referenced in the famous Astalakṣmī Stotram, popular in Vaishna Traditions.

Now that we have discussed the three concepts of Iśvara, why and how did Śrī Śankara depict the fourth concept of Śakti as Shaakambhari, so let’s decipher this sloka?

“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 Kanakadhārā Stotram, n.d.).

Brahmā & Sarasvatī Mallikarjuna temple Basaralu (2014)

Giir-Devateati’ also addressed in many other versions of Kanakadhārā as ‘Vaag Devateati’ refers to Vakdevi or Devi Sarasvatī, the concert and the Śakti of the Creative aspect Brahmā.

Lakshmi Nārāyaṇa at Shaivism Temple Karnataka (2017)

Garudda-Dhvaja-Sundariiti’ wherein Garudadvaja means the one who rides the great Garudha, which is Śrī Mahā Viṣṇu and Sundari meaning the embodiment of beauty, love, and compassion which is Śrī Lakṣmī (the concert and the Śakti of the Preserver).

Next should be the Śakti of dissolution, but Śrī Śankara stated, ‘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.  What does the moon signify in this case? For this world, mainly Earth, the moon is the celestial body that represents kālá(am) (progression of time). One can say it’s the 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 around the earth 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 specific celestial occurrence. Hence ‘Shashi Shekara’ represents Pāraśiva proclaiming that He is devoid of kālá(am) (time), hence the title kālá:aathita (where kālá means time and Athita is devoid, when read as a whole it means devoid of time). kālá(am) for us, is a progression of events, but for Iśvara this happens within Him through the concept of constant dissolution. Finally, ‘Vallabethi’ meaning beloved or dearest, referring to Devi Pārvatī who is the only witness to dissolution (laya) hence the title “Maha Pralaya Shakshini”. (Srichaganti. K.D.S, n.d., p.18)



Saṃsāra: Often misinterpreted as a person entering gruhastu ashram(am) (married state of life), actually refers to the never-ending loop of Jīva performing kriya (action) with associated karmā and gaining its respective karmā:phala (fruit of karmā) and exhausting this karmā:phala thought another action which is also karmā with its own karmā:phala. In this way a Jīva hops through various upādhi (forms of existence) trying to exhaust its karmā:phala, but, in-return gaining more. Since gruhastu ashram(am) involves various karmā associated with taking care of not just the self, but the entire family, created the notion that gruhastu ashram(am) posses a challenge towards walking towards jñana, which is not true. The only way this cycle is broken is to move towards jñana through devotion and reach Jīvan mukti. Its only in the path towards jñana that human reaches a state of viragyam, at which point the ashram(am) and its associated karmā are no more applicable. A Jīva in such a state, through its Ātman, realizes oneself to be an extension of Para:mĀtman and detaches itself from its host body yet operates through it treating it like a disposable shell or a cloth.

Śiva as Nataraj performing the cosmic dance as Pārvatī witnessing it. (n.d.)

Śrī Śankara chooses to specify Śiva as ‘Shashi Shekara’ and not as a Pralaya:kartha (the dissolution of creation). Earlier we discussed how Śrī Śankara explained to us that Śiva and Śivā (Devi Pārvatī) are both Pralayakartha (who dissolute) and Pralayashakshini (Pralaya:shakshini) (who witness the dissolution) and also never to be worshiped separately. One should never misinterpret Śiva as the destroyer, it would an insult to identify Him in such a way. Everything that emerges, dissolves back into its source, even Ātman should one day be realized as PāramĀtman (supreme consciousness) and this happens through gyana (jñana). Jñanais a state wherein the self or Ātman realizes and recognizes itself, or in other words, the self which associates itself to this physical body recognizes itself and stops representing itself from the physical realms, to unify as one with ParaBrahmā (Para:Brahmā). This concept of Ātman unifying with PāramĀtman is called laya. During the dissolution of creation (with all its realities and countless universes), wherein it becomes a singularity when Prakṛti (both physical manifestation of energy and pure energy) is unified with Parama:Śiva. In the same state, as per Vishnu tatvam (same tatva different perspective), Śrī Viṣṇu is depicted as Vatapatra Sai. During this state, He alone (the supreme singular conscience) dwells in the absence of creation and all its realities devoid of kālá (time). It’s to be noted that Iśvara is always alone since there is no secondary entity other than Him, however, in the creation and its various realities, He manifests differently. After maha:pralaya(m) when He decides to restart creations, His Śakti drips out of Him as Prakṛti, or rather we should say, His Śakti emulates within Him to manifest as Prakṛti, which eventually unifies with Him through the concept of mahapralayam. Countless such creations and dissolutions take place, or rather one should say taking place within Iśvara because the time for us might be linear, but for Iśvara, He is kāláathita (kālá:aathita, where ‘kālá’ means time and ‘athita’ means devoid, when read as a whole it means devoid of time). This is the reason why ParamaŚiva is depicted with a garland of skulls which belong to previous Brahmā’s (creators) who came and left, and out of respect as the creator of each Śrusti (creation), Śiva tags them to His garland. Similar messages of multiple creations and realities existing in parallel can be seen both in Srimad Bhagavād Gita and Sri Devi Bhagavātam (Sri Devi Bhagavāta Puráńa). In Vishnu tatva, when Śrī Viṣṇu restarts creations, similar to the way a lotus flower blooms, so does Śrī Lakṣmī blossoms in His hrudaya (which is His Śakti) to become strusti (creation) and manifest as Prakṛti. In a single word, Śrī Viṣṇu becomes viśvām (entire creation and its realities) encompassed within Him. This is the reason Śrī Viṣṇu Sahastranama Strotram starts with the word ‘Vishnvam’ and every other name in this stotram is but analogies and subtitle to ‘viśvām’.

Three forms of Laya (Dissolution)

Swalpakalika (Swalpa:kalika) Laya is a phenomenon of our conscience momentarily detaches itself from the body, the reality, and the outside physical world to slide into a resting state. The Ātman still exists but dwells in a different state, commonly known as a dream. This type of laya providers our body and mind with rest so as to rejuvenate and restructure itself to perform karmā after being awake. The physical body and mind continue to function during this state but in the background.

Ramakrishana Paramahamsa. (n,d.)

Aatyantica (Aatyan:tica) Laya is to ignite gyana(m) so that the Ātman recognizes the PāramĀtman or itself to be the ParaBrahmā. We have read earlier that it’s the Divine Mother who has to bring us close to Iśvara by fostering devotion that leads to gyana.

Finally, pralaya(m) is a temporary reset of Bhumi (Earth) either through a calamity or by the beginning of a new era. Pralaya(m) has an extended version known as mahapralaya(m) (maha:pralayam), which is the complete dissolution of creation and all its realities to unify with its source, which is ParaBrahmā unified with Śakti becoming a singularity. Hence, Parameshwari  (Para:meshwari) (the Śakti also Devi Pārvatī) is the only one to witness this dissolution, hence known by the title ‘Maha Parlaya Shakshini’. PāramĀtman (the supreme singular conscience) using its Śakti stores the information required to restate a new creation. His Śakti eventually oozes out of Him to form both the physical matter and also pure energy with which He (Iśvara) as Brahmā structures and builds a reality, as Śrī Viṣṇu He strives towards its preservation and as Śiva, He gives us rest, gyana, and eventually takes back this Śakti within Him. Many such realities exist in His creation, and so, many respective Brahmā and Śrī Viṣṇu and Śiva exist for these realities, who are but one Iśvara (this topic can be explored in the Puráńas of Sri Devi Bhagavātam and Srimad Bhagavātam). Through the process of pralaya and mahapralaya(m), Iśvara Himself seeks to unify the Jīva who was unable to realize the ParaBrahmā. A good analogy is a ball of moist clay when falls on beads making them stick to itself, hence Iśvara reaches those who couldn’t reach Him (Iśvara).

Above are the three major forms of pralaya performed by the concept known as Śiva and Śivaa. Based on this we should carefully contemplate that there is no anger involved in the phenomenon of mahapralaya. In fact, it is done out of Karunyam (affection from kindness and empathy), because a Jīva hops through millions of lives and dwelling in the never-ending loop of saṃsāra. Jīva unable to realize Ātman eventually gets exhausted, at which point Iśvara Himself reaches them and assimilates them with Himself, hence, this concept is not something to be feared, rather one must contemplate upon the tatva(m), and when understood, life and its unanswered questions automatically fall in place.  (Srichaganti. K.D.S, n.d., p.1-19)

Now that we discussed the concept of pralaya, let’s revisit the fourth aspect mentioned by Śrī Śankara by the title Shakambhari. 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 its role in the process of creation, preservation, and dissolution.

In Śāstra there is a phrase called ‘Bhavadaaridram’ (Bhava:daaridram), it refers to the quality of a human to seek endless desires, even if those desires fall in line with Ḍharma. For example, let’s say to recite this very Kanakadhārā with an endless desire to obtain more and more in life, without content or a state of satisfaction with what’s already acquired. This is the reason why karmā can only take us to a certain level, its devotion which evolves to jñana that takes us to a state of content and meaning for our existence. Riches, power, fame, intellect, beauty and more, are not defined or categorized as a:Ḍharma, one should, as per Śāstra hope and wish for such wealth and recognition in life, but in an approach that is in line with Ḍharma. However, if in an endless cycle of desire, if one uses their riches to gain more riches and recognition, even if that approach is in line with Ḍharma, then when will one utilize these resources to free oneself and explore Shastra (Śāstra) with an intent to evolve towards jñana? Content in life is the real aishwarya (wealth), as it leads to peace if our wealth, fame, and power cannot give us this content or lead to this content, then what good are such resources to Jīva? We can always see those who have much but are never satisfied, and then there are those to have few but are content and satisfied.

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

Now let’s come back to the title of Shakambhari, 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:Ḍharma, that man suffers, but if a king does a:Ḍharma 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 flora (plants) 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 because people were starving and had no strength or time to cultivate crops 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 Śrī Śankara refer to the Divine Mother with a title avert from the concepts of creation, preservation, and dissolution? While dwelling or reciting Kanakadhārā, 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 explicitly requesting Her, so that we can continue to cherish dwelling in Kanakadhārā leading us in the path to jñana. (Srichaganti. K.D.S, n.d., p.18)

When one reaches content in life (note, this doesn’t mean to reject prosperity if presented itself as a part of karmā:phala) and continue to explore Kanakadhārā, he or she will reach a point of the pure joy of this Dhara. From Iśvara’s stories and accounts, and with the glimpse of the Divine Mother’s tatva, our world will now look different. When we see a representation of the Divine Mother in a picture, an idol, a sculpture in a temple, or read about Her, we will now see and comprehend Her at a different level than before. Now that we are part of this dhara, our perspective will now be much more evolved. This joy will make us wish to learn more about Śrī Viṣṇu and Śrī Lakṣmī and relate to what we have learned till now. It will make us wish to hear or read about them again and again and recollect their stories. It’s similar to a song we like, and even after memorizing it, we wish to hear it again and again and sing or hum in joy. This very approach is a path to jñana. It’s to be noted that anomalies like Śrī Śankara are different in this aspect to have achieved jñana at such a young age and walk to a house and make golden amlas rain.

Śrī Śankara hence incorporated this sloka into Kanakadhārā from Śrī Lakṣmī Astotara Shatanamavali. It’s in this stotram wherein a critical fact is hidden in plain sight, where-in Śrī Lakṣmī is addressed by the title ‘Brahmā Vishnu Śivatmikayi Namaha’ meaning it’s She the Para:Śakti is the Ātman swarupam (Ātman’s manifestation) as Vagdevi (to manifest as Vedā which is the breath of Iśvara) to support creation alongside Brahmā, and as Śrī Lakṣmī to provider prosperity in order to support the preservation of creation alongside Śrī Viṣṇu and to provider jñana and witness dissolution (unification) alongside Rudhra as Rudhrani.

Sloka from Srimad Bhagavātam (Sri Bhagavāta Puráńa) composed by a scholar Bammera Pothana:

అమ్మలఁగన్నయమ్మ ముగురమ్మల మూలపుటమ్మ చాలపె
ద్దమ్మ సురారులమ్మకడుపాఱడిపుచ్చినయమ్మ తన్ను లో
నమ్మినవేల్పుటమ్మలమనమ్ముల నుండెడియమ్మ దుర్గ మా
యమ్మ కృపాబ్ధి యిచ్చుత మహత్వకవిత్వపటుత్వసంపదల్”

ammala-aMgannayamma mugurammala muulapuTamma caalape
ddamma suraarulammakaDupaaraDipuccinayamma tannu lO
namminavElpuTammalamanammula nuMDeDiyamma durga maa
yamma kRpaabdhi yicchuta mahatvakavitvapaTutvasampadal”

(Pothana Bagavatham Audio. P.I. 2015).

Hence Kanakadhārā is not a stotram for wealth or any specific desire, but a ladder to Iśvara, a ladder to jñana paripusti (wholeness or to ripen in jñana), for people in all states and stages of life. (Srichaganti. K.D.S, n.d., p.19)

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