Esoteric Meanings of Soundarya Lahari, the Confluence of Beauty and Power of Shridevi !

 

Picture of Durga Devi

Soundarya Lahari Shridevi Durga: Waving with Beauty and Power!*

Folks,

Hari Om! Namaste!!

This is a Vagartha article, that unpacks various secret and hidden meanings of words or phrases. As discussed earlier, Soundarya Lahari is a mystical and powerful hymn addressed to Shridevi Lalita Maha Tripura Sundari. It was partly revealed and  partly composed by our Great Universal Master Shri Shankaracharya Bhagavatpadah.

Length advisory: This article is going to be very long. Relax. It is easy to grasp! But,  it really demands your patience and time. So, keep them reserved well ahead!

Time-pressed executives and social media busy bees, please excuse. All uninterested people should exit reading immediately, since they won’t get any interest  for investing their time and energy. Other qualified ones only may continue reading.

We intentionally did not split the article into two.  It is simply to facilitate you to  enjoy the meaning fully and to understand it meaningfully, uninterrupted! :)

Are you still courageous to take a plunge into the mysterious pond of meanings with powerful waves of beauty of Shridevi? ;)  Don’t be scared: you are in safe hands of Shridevi Durga.

Welcome aboard and all the best. Enjoy reading. Have fun!

Usual Meaning of  Soundarya Lahari

In Sanskrit, the word Soundarya means beauty and Lahari means wave. So, the word Soundarya Lahari literally means wave of beauty. Since the hymn is addressed to Shridevi Lalita Maha Tripura Sundari, it means wave of beauty of Shridevi. Accordingly, in the hymn Shridevi’s celestial beauty has been described from top to bottom.

There are multiple shades of meaning too, just like Vagarthaviva verse of great poet Shri Kalidasa. Let us try to understand them.

Esoteric Meanings of  Soundarya Lahari

Perspective #1: In Sanskrit, the word Sundari means a any lady with soundarya, meaning beauty, great attributes.  In this context, it means divine powers. Therefore, Soundarya Lahari means wave of supreme powers of Shridevi Lalita Mahatripura Sundari.

Perspective #2: Here is another angle to the meaning. Sundari refers specifically to Shridevi Lalita Tripura Sundari. Soundarya means attributes or the great powers of Sundari. So, again, Soundrya Lahari means wave of great powers of Shridevi.

Perspective #3: The word Soundarya means beauty and Lahari means powerful wave. Together, Soundarya Lahari means powerful wave of beauty of Shridevi.This meaning clearly suggests that each shloka of Soundarya Lahari is a very powerful wave of Shridevi’s extraordinary powers!  Therefore, by definition, the hymn is  extremely energetic.

Perspective #4: The word Soundarya means beauty which suggests fundamental aspect, desire(Iccha). Lahari is powerful wave that implies the primordial aspect, dynamism or action(kriya). The ruling deities of these two aspects Iccha and Kriya  are  Shri Lakshmi and Shridevi Parvati respectively.
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What about the third fundamental aspect Jnana(Knowledge) ruled by Shridevi Saraswati? The powerful words of Soundarya Lahari are themselves that! This means Soundarya Lahari hymn deals with all three fundamental powers of Shridevi Lalita Maha Tripura Sundari.

Perspective #5: The word Soundarya implies luxury or great asset. So, it is representative of ruler of luxuries, i.e. Shridevi Lakshmi. Lahari means great force, which is indicative of Shakti(power) which is nothing but Shridevi Parvati.
Therefore, Soundarya Lahari incorporates the aspects of Shri Lakshmi and Shri Parvati.  These two deities viz. Shri Lakshmi and Shridevi Parvati are also the rulers of material prosperity(bhoga) and liberation(moksha) respectively. This means that Soundarya Lahari has the intrinsic power to bestow prosperity and liberation to its devotees and practitioners.

Perspective #6: The hymn Soundarya Lahari is the embodiment of Shridevi herself. The word Soundarya is equivalent to Shri, i.e. Shri Lakshmi and Lahari is suggestive of Devi Parvati. So,  Soundarya Lahari refers Shridevi Lalita Maha Tripura Sundari.

Perspective #7: Soundarya(beauty) is the static aspect of Universal Self, which is Lord Shiva. Lahari relates to the Shakti(Force) which is the dynamic attribute of Lord Shiva, i.e. Shridevi. So, Soundarya Lahari deals with the intricate oneness of Lord Shiva and Sridevi Parvati. The first shloka of Soundarya Lahari  itself is an example and testimony for this perspective.

Perspective #8: Now, let us think from another dimension about the word Soundarya Lahari. In simple terms, Soundarya means beauty, which is extrinsic pleasing aspect of Shridevi. Lahari means powerful wave, which is the intrinsic power characteristic of Shridevi. Together these two words describe Shridevi and also the hymn. In other words, both Shridevi and the hymn both are beautiful and powerful!

Beauty is more extrinsic,  i.e. we can see through our senses e.g. eyes and grasp by our mind. In the second part of Soundarya Lahari(i.e. verses 42-100), the focus is on this extrinsic celestial beauty of Shridevi.

The power of Shridevi is intrinsic aspect of Shridevi. It pertains to her special powers which  are very subtle and transcendental in nature.  So, we cannot easily grasp them by our limited mind and body machinery. However, it can be experienced through spiritual practices under the supervision of a Master. This aspect of Shridevi is emphasized in the Ananda Lahari (i.e. first 41 verses) part of Soundarya Lahari.

Thus, the name Soundarya Lahari refers to the confluence of both extrinsic divine beauty and intrinsic powers of Shridevi.  In a nutshell, it  is a hymn that unleashes Shridevi’s divine grandeur completely and comprehensively by covering both great intrinsic powers and extrinsic aesthetic aspects.

Now, if we apply this concept of beauty and power to the hymn itself, then the hymn must be extrinsically beautiful and intrinsically powerful. Right? Indeed it is a fact! Since the beauty is extrinsic, we can easily appreciate it if we read the verses focusing on beautiful words and literary decorations.

How about the aspect of Shridevi’s power? It is intrinsic and inherent in the words. In other words, the verses themselves are powerful mantras.  The power cannot be understood just like that. It needs a proper initiation from an adept Master who knows the tradition of Shrividya way of worship of Shridevi.

Here is an  interesting thought-provoking question:

Are these intrinsic powers and extrinsic beauty aspects of Shridevi implemented in Soundarya Lahari itself? If yes, how?

Yes, of course! Both intrinsic powers and extrinsic divine beauty aspects of Shridevi have been carefully blended within the hymn.

Appropriate words that are packed with energy are strategically used in the hymn to infuse infinite intrinsic power in each verse.  So,  it has become an extremely important  mantra in rituals and spiritual practices in Shrividya tradition of Shridevi’s worship.

Moreover, each verse of the hymn is loaded with beautiful homo-phonic pleasing words and literary decorations(alankaras) to stress the extrinsic celestial beauty of Shridevi.  So, from the literary perspective, it occupies a special summit in Sanskrit literature.  Moreover, it became one of the greatest jewels among stotras too.

What is the secret hidden message from the above analysis of Shridevi’s supreme beauty  in the context of the hymn?

It clearly suggests that:

The great hymn Soundarya Lahari is the embodiment of Shridevi herself, who is immensely powerful and beautiful.  Period. In other words, Soundarya Lahari  hymn is  nothing but beautiful Shridevi with all great powers!

This is a great insight, indeed. Do we have more support for it?

Why not? As we discussed earlier, first 41 shlokas of Soundarya Lahari emphasize the power aspect of Shridevi. Since the power is more amenable to experience, these verses are called Ananda Lahari, i.e. wave of bliss. So, these verses are nothing but the great powers of Shridevi in a form of a poem.

The next part of Soundarya Lahari stresses the beauty aspect of Shridevi. In these shlokas, Shri Shankara Bhagavatpada describes the beauty of Shridevi from Her head to toe. So, these verses represent these parts of Shridevi’s divine form.

From this discussion, it is crystal clear that:

Soundarya Lahari  is a hymn form  of Shridevi Lalita Maha Tripura Sundari !

This is why this hymn is so important, mystical, esoteric and unique among all the hymns. So, understanding the profound meanings of Soundarya Lahari is same as knowing ever-enchanting Shridevi herself. Got it?

Here is another very intriguing question:

Although, the hymn consists of two parts, viz. Ananda Lahari and Soundrya Lahari, why do we call the entire hymn as Soundarya Lahari?

Ananda means experience of bliss. The word is related Shridevi’s power, which can be experienced as pure bliss. It is an intrinsic faculty of Shridevi. Now, the word Lahari also relates to the power of Shridevi. So, the entire hymn cannot be called Ananda Lahari, because extrinsic aspect of Shridevi, i.e. beauty is not considered. Thus, this term cannot adequately describe the hymn.

On the other hand, the name Soundarya Lahari comprehensively describes the hymn. Soundarya is beauty, an extrinsic aspect of Shridevi. As discussed above, this term Soundarya Lahari implies several pairs of  aspects of Shridevi and the hymn itself,  in one go. Thus, it covers:

  1. Beauty and power
  2. Desire and action
  3. Shri Lakshmi and Shridevi Parvati
  4. Material prosperity(bhoga) and liberation(moksha)
  5. Material life and spirituality
  6. Literary beauty and power of mantra.

This is just extraordinary! Par excellence! Magic and power of Sanskrit words!!

If you are still reading, :) we hope you discovered the mystical  power of words and their meaning(Vagartha) throughout the journey of this article.  Remember, every word is a seed that has a potential to grow into a Big Banyan tree of meanings!  Is it clear now?

* About the picture: This picture is very special in many esoteric ways:
Perspective #1: Shridevi riding on tiger together represent beauty(Soundarya) aspect of Shridevi. The waves(Lahari) in the background represent power of Shridevi. The picture adequately describes both Soundarya Lahari and Shridevi very meaningfully.

Perspective #2: Shridevi’s form represents beauty. The tiger represents power.

Perspective #3: The wave means two things: 1. waves of water in the background representing power. 2. waving means making gestures. It refers to Shridevi’s hand gesture of Abhaya (“Don’t fear!” gesture) in the picture.

Note: It is our great fortune to discuss the glory of Shridevi. It is only because of Her kind Grace and command, we could have these esoteric insights and share them with you. So, as mark of gratitude and devotion, let us pray Shridevi  to shower Her affectionate Grace on all of us.

Ya Devi sarva bhooteshu Shakti-roopena samsthita |
Namastasyai Namastasyai Namastasyai Namo Namah || – Shri Durga Saptashati

Meaning: Our salutations to Shridevi Durga who is present in every being as Shakti(power). Salutations to Her, Salutations to Her and Salutations to Her(many times again).

Om Namah Shivaya ||

- Kalidas

Related Reading:

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