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 the concept of creation and Sthiti as preservation. The concept of dissolution of both avidya & creation back to the original state is called laya. Śrī Śankara brings into play 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 is 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? Maharśi Patañjali explained in his Yoga Sutras sloka 26:

Sa pūrveṣām api guruḥ kālenana-vacchedāt (26)

Meaning, in Him (Iśvara) lies the highest (niratiśaya) seed of Jñana (omniscience), making Him the source or Principle. In Him lie 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 the phrase “Tri-Bhuvanai[a-E]kaGuros-Tarunnyai” Śrī Śankara is addressing Śakti as a Ḍharma patni to the Guru of triloka (three lokas or three worlds). Since this sloka is primarily addressed to Śrī Lakṣmī as 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 looking through any of the three windows of this reality – its creation, preservation, and its dissolution. Iśvara is the supreme entity and supreme singular consciousness, which exists even in the absence of creation since Iśvara is devoid of a host. He Himself manifests as a host to foster Creation and its various realities, and finally dissolve 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, succeeded by Vyāsa (also a manifestation of Śrī Viṣṇu, who compartmentalized the Vedā, and composed various Puráńa, Upanishad, the Itihaasa(m)). Somewhere in the middle of this hierarchy is Śrī Śankara (who revitalized Sanātana Ḍharma, which was at the brink of corruption and dismay) and this succession constitutes as the legacy of the 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 reasons Śrī Śankara established a culture wherein all the successors of the four matts (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 name “Nārāyaṇa” three times means they forward or redirect our namaskar(am) to Nārāyaṇa.  It is 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 Vibhuti (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 a student in the presence of a Guru – Iśvara simulates and gives us the experience of reality as three concepts, and is hence known as “Tribhuvanaika Guru”. One should eradicate the ignorant notion that Śrī Śankara is a propagator of Śivam. It is Śrī Śankara who gave us the profound Bhaja Govindam, revitalized Kṛṣṇa temples and the panchayatana of Smartism sampradaya (worship of five deities including Ganapati, Viṣṇu, Surya, Śiva, Śakti), and in every literary work he always performed his vandanam (salutations) to Govinda as his Guru. This very Kanakadhārā is also referenced in the famous Astalakṣmī Stotram, popular in Vaishnava 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? Let us 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 consort 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 Garuda, which is Śrī Mahā Viṣṇu; and Sundari means the embodiment of beauty, love, and compassion, which is Śrī Lakṣmī (the consort and the Śakti of the Preserver).

Next should be the Śakti of dissolution, but Śrī Śankara stated, “Shaakambhariiti”, so who is Shaakambhariiti? Let us come back to that a little later.

Umamahesvaramurti (British Museum) 2010

Next, He said “Shashi-Shekhara-Vallabheti” – wherein Shashi Shekhara 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 is 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, differentiating one day from the next and gauging the progression of days 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, the Sun is stationary in this solar system (but not in the flow of the expanding universe), whereas the moon revolves around the earth, distinguishing one day from another. The moon goes through 14 phases of decrement and 14 phases of increment, along with a full moon and a 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 occurrences. Hence “Shashi Shekhara” represents Pāraśiva proclaiming that He is devoid of kālá(am) (time), hence the title kālá:aathita (kālá means time and Athita means devoid), which 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, “Vallabheti” means beloved or dearest, and refers to Devi Pārvatī who is the only witness to dissolution (laya). Hence the title “Maha Pralaya Sakshini”. (Srichaganti. K.D.S, n.d., p.18)



Saṃsāra: Often misinterpreted as a person entering gruhastu ashram(am) (married state of life), it actually refers to the never-ending loop of a Jīva performing kriya (action) with the associated karmā, gaining its respective karmā:phala (fruit of karmā), and exhausting this karmā:phala through 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 the process, gaining more. Since gruhastu ashram(am) involves various karmā associated with taking care of not just the self, but the entire family, this has created the notion that gruhastu ashram(am) poses a challenge when 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. It is only on the path towards jñana that a human reaches a state of vairagyam, at which point the ashram(am) and its associated karmā are no more applicable. A Jīva in such a state, through its Ātman, realizes itself 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 and Pārvatī witnessing it. (n.d.)

Śrī Śankara chooses to specify Śiva as “Shashi Shekhara” and not as a Pralaya:karta (one who dissolves Creation). Earlier, we discussed how Śrī Śankara explained to us that Śiva and Śivā (Devi Pārvatī) are Pralayakarta (who dissolves) and Pralayasakshini (Pralaya:sakshini) (who witnesses the dissolution), respectively, and never to be worshiped separately. One should never misinterpret Śiva as the destroyer; it would be 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). Jñana is 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), 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 consciousness) dwells in the absence of Creation and all its realities devoid of kālá (time). It is to be noted that Iśvara is always alone since there is no other entity apart from Him; however, in 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 can say His Śakti emerges from within Him to manifest as Prakṛti, which eventually unifies with Him through mahapralayam. Countless such creations and dissolutions take place, or rather are taking place, within Iśvara because the time for us might be linear, but for Iśvara, He is kālá:aathita, where “kālá” means time and “athita” means devoid (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 blossom in His hrudaya (which is His Śakti) to become Śrusti (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 Stotram starts with the word “Vishvam” and every other name in this stotram is analogous to “viśvām”.

Three forms of Laya (Dissolution)

Swalpakalika (Swalpa:kalika) Laya is a phenomenon where our consciousness 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 provides our body and mind with rest so as to rejuvenate and restructure itself to perform karmā after waking up. 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 is 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 Sakshini”. PāramĀtman (the supreme singular consciousness), using its Śakti, stores the information required to restart a new Creation. His Śakti eventually oozes out of Him to form both the physical matter and the 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 and gyana, and eventually takes back this Śakti within Him. Many such realities exist in His Creation, and so, many respective Brahmās and Śrī Viṣṇus and Śivas 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. Just as a ball of moist clay that falls on beads makes them stick to itself, Iśvara reaches those who could not reach Him (Iśvara).

The above are the three major forms of pralaya performed by Śiva and Śivaa. Based on this, we should understand 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, dwelling in the never-ending loop of saṃsāra. The Jīva unable to realize Ātman eventually gets exhausted, at which point Iśvara Himself reaches it and assimilates it 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 have discussed the concept of pralaya, let us revisit the fourth aspect mentioned by Śrī Śankara – Shakambhari. So, who and what is the concept of Shakambhari? Let us start by saying that this is a very crucial concept that one needs to put their thoughts to in order to understand its role in the process of creation, preservation, and dissolution.

In Śāstra there is a phrase called “Bhavadaaridram” (Bhava:daaridram), which refers to the tendency of a human to seek endless desires, even if those desires fall in line with Ḍharma. For example, 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 has already been acquired. This is the reason why karmā can only take us to a certain level; it is devotion, which evolves to jñana, that takes us to a state of content and meaning for our existence. Riches, power, fame, intellect, beauty, etc. 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 a manner that is in line with Ḍharma. However, if one uses their riches to gain more riches and recognition, in an endless cycle of desire, 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 the Jīva? There are those who have much but are never satisfied, and then there are those who have little but are content and satisfied.

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

Now let us come back to the title of Shakambhari. Once, at 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 could not tolerate the suffering of the people, came forth and manifested; but instead of showering rain and riches, She manifested Herself into flora (plants) or, rather, into edible vegetation. This vegetation was not just one particular tree but bore 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 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 is 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 have understood who Shakambhari is, why did Śrī Śankara refer to the Divine Mother with a title different from the concepts of creation, preservation, and dissolution? While dwelling on or reciting the Kanakadhārā, one can always ask for and make sure their primary necessities are met. One can always appeal for more, like good health, wealth, prosperity, children, and so on. Even if we do not, like a mother, the Divine Mother Shakambhari will always keep an eye on us and will always make sure to satisfy our needs without our explicitly requesting Her, so that we can continue to cherish dwelling on the Kanakadhārā leading us on the path to jñana. (Srichaganti. K.D.S, n.d., p.18)

When one reaches content in life (note, this does not mean to reject prosperity if presented as a part of karmā:phala) and continues to explore the 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. This is 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 is to be noted that anomalies like Śrī Śankara are different in this aspect – to have achieved jñana at such a young age and made golden amlas rain.

Śrī Śankara hence incorporated this sloka into the Kanakadhārā from Śrī Lakṣmī Astotara Shatanamavali. In this stotram a critical fact is hidden in plain sight – Śrī Lakṣmī is addressed by the title “Brahmā Vishnu Śivatmikayi Namaha”, meaning it is She, the Para:Śakti, who 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 provide prosperity in order to support the preservation of creation alongside Śrī Viṣṇu, and to provide jñana and to witness dissolution (unification) as Rudrani alongside Rudra.

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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