[Advaita-l] Digest of Paramacharya's Discourses on Soundaryalahari (DPDS -74)

V. Krishnamurthy profvk at yahoo.com
Wed Apr 14 09:45:45 CDT 2004

Recall the Note about the organization of the ‘Digest’, 
from DPDS – 26 or the earlier ones.
V. Krishnamurthy
A Digest of Paramacharya’s Discourses on Soundaryalahari -
(Digest of pp.1226 - 1236  of Deivathin Kural, 6th volume,
4th imprn.)

vipanchyA gAyantI vividham-apadAnaM pashupateH 
tvayArabdhe vaktuM calita-shirasA sAdhu vacane /
nijAM vINAM vANI nichulayati cholena nibhRtaM // 66 //

There is a whole dramatic scene here. It takes place in the
very presence of ambaal. Ambaal is sitting totally relaxed
and listening to a music performance. Whose music? That of
Saraswati Herself! The word ‘VANI’ meaning, Saraswati,
occurs in the fourth line of the shloka. She is playing on
the Veena. Simultaneously She is also singing. The very
Goddess of Arts, Music and all Knowledge is performing. One
can only imagine the infinite grandeur of the sweet
richness of such a performance. 

‘VipanchI’ means Veena. ‘ParIvAdinI’ also means Veena. The
Veenas belonging to particular celestials have particular
names. Narada’s Veena is called ‘mahatI’. That of Tumburu
is ‘KalAvatI’. Saraswati’s is ‘KacchapI’. The word
‘kacchapa’ means tortoise. The drum of Saraswati’s Veena is
in the shape of a tortoise. Hence it is called ‘kacchapI’.
Prof.Sambamurti (of Madras University) says that even today
we can see it in Phillipines, where they call it ‘katjapI’.
In Lalita Sahasranamam we have the name:
‘nija-sallApa-mAdhurya-vinirbhatsita-kacchapI’. It means
‘One whose speech is more melodious than kacchapI, the
Veena of Saraswati’. It is the idea contained in this
single line that has been elaborated by our Acharya in a
full shloka (#66) of Soundaryalahari and transformed into a
fascinating dramatic scene!

VipanchyA gAyantI: playing on the Veena. 

But I translate it as ‘playing on the Veena and vocally
accompanying it also’. Why do I make this rendering?
Because of the words:

Vividham-apadAnaM pashupateH : Variegated anecdotes
pertaining to Lord Shiva. 

How can these anecdotes be also performed by Saraswati
without being vocalised? The surest way to please ambaal is
to sing the praise of Her Lord. And the Glory of the Lord
is endless. Saraswati is singing and praising the infinite
glories of Lord Shiva. Naturally ambaal is enjoying both
the music of the Veena and the singing of the Lord’s

Now let us come to the second line of the shloka.

Calita-shirasA : by the nodding head.  Now and then She
nods Her head in approval and appreciation. A nodding of
the head (‘shirah-kampa’) can show more delicacy of
appreciation than by an applause of the hand (karaH-kampa).
Whether it is in music, or in writing, or in studies or in
sports, one requires appreciation. And reciprocally, it is
the appreciation of the audience or the respondent that
provides further inspiration to the musician, writer,
student or sportsman. The same thing is happening here.
Ambaal is enjoying in appreciation and Saraswati is going
on playing on the Veena and singing. 

tvayA-Arabdhe vaktum sAdhu vacane : When you started
speaking appreciative words.

It appears ambaal suddenly, instead of silently nodding Her
head, also began to applaud orally by saying a few
appreciative words: ‘sAdhu, sAdhu’.  These words mean
‘Good, Good’. They are the Sanskrit equivalent of the
English usage: ‘hear, hear’.  But as soon as these words
were spoken by ambaal something dramatic happened. This is
the punchline of the story. It is in the third and fourth
lines of the shloka.

tadIyair-mAdhuryair-apalapita-tantrI-kala-ravAM  : (By
their – sweetness – degraded – strings –music) Before  the
sweetness and melody of those words the sweet sound  of the
Veena paled into insignificance. 

Just one or two words only must have come from ambaal.
‘tvayA Arabdhe’ means ‘just when you began to speak’.  In
our own way of thinking there could be nothing sweeter and
more melodious than the music of Saraswati’s Veena; for She
is the Goddess of Music. If there could be something more
pleasant it must be Her own voice.  But now the few words
that stemmed forth from ambaal, have transformed all that
into nothing. Saraswati stopped her singing when She
realised the overpowering sweetness of ambaal’s voice. Not
only that. Her Veena-music also has been over-powered. What
did She do to Her Veena?

nijAM vINAM vANI niculayati cholena nibhRtaM : 

vANI :  Saraswati
niculayati : hides
nijAM vINAM : Her own Veena
cholena : by (its) cover, (in its case)
nibhRtaM : so that it will not show up.

Saraswati draws the cover on Her Veena and hides it! In
other words She accepts that Her Veena is nothing before
the sweet voice of ambaal and stops it then and there.

Ambaal, though She had all the musical sweetness in Her own
voice, intended to honour Saraswati by nodding Her head all
along and also saying the appreciative words ‘Sadhu’. But
instead of encouraging the performer to perform more, it
resulted in the performer bowing down  and stopping the
performance. This incident brings into focus the greatness
of both Saraswati and ambaal.Saraswati hung down Her head
in shame and stopped singing. But what does the Veena do? 
Even after being stopped, the music of the Veena  has a
characteristic reverberation (anuraNanam, in Sanskrit;
rIngAram in Tamil), due to the resonating vibrations of the
strings. So Saraswati quickly silences it by hiding it
under its own cover (‘cholena nibhRtaM’).

We can go on thus enjoying the scene by visualising it in
various ways, scene after scene in this drama. 

Maybe it was different. Maybe ambaal was not appreciating
the music but was nodding Her head to the
‘vividham-apadAnaM pashupateH’ -- the different stories of
the glories of Lord Shiva  -- maybe that was what was being
enjoyed by Her in appreciation. Suddenly Saraswati might
have realised this, at the time when ambaal opened Her
mouth to say ‘Sadhu’.

There could be no end to such speculations of ours on the
scene. On the whole the shloka brings out the melodious
sweetness of Her voice, in addition to all the beauty of
form that the other shlokas have been revealing all along.
There can be no doubt that by meditating on this shloka one
gains excellence both in music and the composition of it.
To be continued.
Thus spake the Paramacharya.

PraNAms to all advaitins and Devotees of Mother Goddess


Prof. V. Krishnamurthy
My website on Science and Spirituality is http://www.geocities.com/profvk/
You can  access my book on Gems from the Ocean of Hindu Thought Vision and Practice,  and my father R. Visvanatha Sastri's manuscripts from the site.
Also see the webpages on Paramacharya's Soundaryalahari :

More information about the Advaita-l mailing list