Hari Om! Namaste!!
In this article, we are fortunate to explore one of the most esoteric and important hymns, viz. Soundarya Lahari, revealed and composed by our Great Master Shri Shankara Bhagavatpadah.
Before we begin, let us salute the Great Mother Shridevi for her divine blessing:
Mahatripura sundareem muhur namaskurmahe |
Meaning: We salute Devi Tripura Sundari, who is the most beautiful in three worlds(swarga, martya and paatala), again and again(for her Grace).
Lalita Mahatripura Sundari and Soundarya Lahari
Shri Mahatripura Sundari(also known as Devi Lalita) is the most beautiful form of Shridevi. In this form, Shridevi is worshiped by Shrividya(method of worshiping Devi Lalita) using yantra(mystical diagram), Shri Chakra with various mantras and rituals. Soundarya Lahari is an important hymn used in the system of Shrividya.
What is Soundarya Lahari? Why is it important in Shridevi’s worship?
Soundarya Lahari is a powerful divine prayer(stotra) partly revealed and partly composed by Great Universal Master Shri Shankara Bhagavatpadah to express the devotion and praise the beauty of Devi Mahatripura Sundari. This stotra is a devotional hymn loaded with beautiful literary ornaments(alankaras). It has more than thirty two commentaries on it by famous spiritual Masters. That alone says it all about its extraordinary significance!
Each shloka (verse) is an extremely powerful mantra and has deeper tantric meanings and effects. Every shloka has its own yantra(mystical diagram) and specific method of chanting along with offerings to please Tripura Sundari Devi to achieve a definite goal as described in our Scriptures.
Soundarya Lahari has one hundred shlokas in total. First 41 shlokas are together called Ananda Lahari(Wave of Bliss). They deal with Shrividya way of worship that includes construction of Srichakra diagram, Kundalini Yoga and mantras(including a powerful fifteen syllable mantra of Shri Lalita Mahatripura Sundari called panchadshakshari mantra). This is why this hymn is of paramount importance in the worship of Shri Lalita form of Shridevi.
The next 59 shlokas(viz. Shlokas 42-100) form the second part called Soundarya Lahari. This section describes the beauty of Shridevi from head to toe in finer details, exhausting almost all literary ornamentation(alankaras) in Sanskrit Language! In practice, however, entire hymn of 100 slokas is referred to as Soundarya Lahari(Wave of Beauty).
Esoteric meanings of Soundarya Lahari
As discussed earlier, Soundarya Lahari literally means wave of beauty(of Shridevi). There are multiple shades of meaning too, just like Vagarthaviva verse of great poet Shri Kalidasa. Unfortunately, we cannot go into details here. If you are interested, we recommend you to read an elaborate article on many esoteric meanings of Soundarya Lahari.
In a nutshell, the great hymn Soundarya Lahari is the embodiment of Shridevi herself, who is immensely powerful and beautiful. In simple terms, hymn itself is a form of Shridevi. This is why it is so important and unique among all the hymns.
Popular Legends on Soundarya Lahari
One of the most popular stories, goes like this. Once Shri Shankara Bhagavatpadah visited Kailasa, the abode of Lord Shiva. He saw Soundarya Lahari stotra written on the wall. He started reading. Lord Ganesha observed it and started rubbing the shlokas from the bottom!
Ultimately, Shri Shankara could read and memorize only 41 shlokas. He went and complained to Lord Shiva. The Lord said that Soundarya Lahari is one of the secret and most powerful hymns. So, it cannot be shared as a whole in the human world. He suggested Shri Shankara Bhagavatpadah to compose the rest of the 59 shlokas to make up to 100 shlokas.
Other version of the legend says that Lord Shiva himself gave the manuscript of Soundarya Lahari to Shri Shankara Bhagavatpadah during his visit to Lord’s abode, i.e. Kailasa. When Bhagavatpadah was coming out, the guard Nandi snatched a part (containing 42-100 shlokas) of the manuscript from Bhagavatpadah.
When Bhagavatpadah reported this incident to Lord Shiva, he smiled and said that the hymn is extremely powerful. So, it cannot be given in its entirety. The Lord asked Bhagavatpadah to compose the rest of the shlokas of the hymn.
Two things are common and certain from the above discussion. Soundarya Lahari is a very powerful and secretive hymn of divine origin. Our Great Master Shri Shankara Bhagavatpadah is the Seer and partly the author of Soundarya Lahari.
Now we have a question:
We understood the importance of Soundarya Lahari. Can we have some flavor of this mystical and powerful hymn?
Why not? Please wait until the next post :-) Hold your horses!
We will be discussing some selected verses(shlokas) in future posts*. Soundarya Lahari is a mystical hymn. So, we believe that it is possible for us to write on this hymn only by Shridevi’s wish and her command. We pray for her blessing.
Since we are not initiated practitioners, we can give a simple meaning of shlokas based on our understanding to benefit everybody. In other words, we are not qualified to provide deeper spiritual and tantric perspective inherent in these Shlokas. Shridevi flashes the deeper meanings of these shlokas only to the privileged followers of Shrividya tradition.
Hence, the exposition is an attempt to help our intellectual understanding to unleash original literary glamor and imagination of Shri Shankara Bhagavatpadah. Even this meaning is fully accessible only to the real devotees of Shridevi. So, don’t complain if you could not understand. Pray Shridevi. She will make you understand!
We believe that exposition of this hymn is an opportunity for us to express our strong devotion towards Shridevi. She herself is Vak(speech), living as the power in the words united with meaning as Lord Shiva like Vagartha. So, every word is written by her own inspiration and Grace.
For our readers, it is an auspicious occasion to taste the nectar of these shlokas with devotion, that adore the greatness and glory of Shridevi’s unmatched powers and incomparable celestial beauty. Be ready to relish!
Finally, what are the benefits of chanting of Soundarya Lahari?
If done properly as per tradition, chanting of Soundarya Lahari bestows both material prosperity and liberation to the devotees. According to Scriptures, each shloka can be used to achieve a particular material/spiritual benefit as described in the Shrividya tradition, which includes rituals, mantras and offerings.
Practical Warning: The shlokas of Soundarya Lahari are very mystical, tantric and potent. Kids, do not try it at home! This hymn should never chanted without proper initiation and guidance from a sampradayavit(who knows the Shrividya tradition) Master. The psychological effects(or damages) of unguided practice can be immeasurable and not predictable.
Always remember: Never start any powerful tantric/spiritual practice just by reading the benefits to avoid any potentially harmful fall-out. So, take this advise seriously.
Note to our regular readers:
We will posting the meaning of selected shlokas only. That too in no particular order. The postings also happen randomly as convenient to us. But, here is something predictable: As a mark of our deep devotion and respect to Shridevi, the posts will be scheduled on Her favorite days, i.e. Fridays or Tuesdays.
Format of upcoming Soundarya Lahari Posts:
The format of these posts goes like this: Original romanized shloka, benefits of traditional worship using the shloka, meaning, our insights and notes.
The benefits will be given only to introduce our readers to the power and beauty of Soundarya Lahari. However, this is not to inspire anybody to take up any type of practice(e.g. chanting) immediately without guidance by a traditional Master.
Coming up next: Soundarya Lahari (Wave of Beauty), Shloka #1
*Note: You may access all our articles on Soundarya Lahari anytime in a category here.
Om Namah Shivaya ||
Further Reading :
Are you practicing yoga poses(asana) or pranayama, without knowing any fundamentals of Traditional Indian Yoga?
If so, better late than never. :) Realize: Asana is not yoga! Understand the fundamentals of real yoga by reading all the articles in the category The Pillars of Yoga. You will thank yourself that you did!
3. Are you a yoga practitioner who would like to graduate by knowing the core basics of Traditional Raja Yoga free of charge?
Enjoy reading! Have fun!!
Om Namah Shivaya ||
– Rudraksha Yoga