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Let’s briefly, talk about each of the fifteen mantras of the Srisukta.
ॐ हिरण्यवर्णां हरिणीं सुवर्णरजतस्रजाम् |
चन्द्रां हिरण्मयीं लक्ष्मीं जातवेदो म आवह ||१||
Hiraņya varnám hariņīm suvarna-rajata-srajám
Chandrám hiranmayīm lakshmīm jatavedo ma avaha|(1)
[The Rishi of the mantra is Jatavedasa (Agni); its Chhandas is Anustubh; its Devata is Mahalakshmi the goddess who grants prosperity of all kinds. Srim is the Bija of the mantra; Hrim is its Shakthi; and, Klim is its Kilaka. Its viniyoga is threefold: adibhautika, adidaivika and aadhyaatmika. The three refer to Agni, as fire on earth; to Sun-moon, as the deities that bestow fulfilment in life purushartha; and, to the resolute determination (sankalpa) in man.]
Oh..! The all-knowing Jatavedasa, invoke in me Lakshmi the symbol of wealth , of enchanting form, of golden lustre, splendorous like gold, adorned with brilliant ornaments of gold and silver ; and, beautiful like the female deer that shines like moon.
1.1. The opening mantra of Srisukta is a prayer submitted, primarily, to Agni addressed as the all-knowing Jatavedasa, who is the source of all knowledge (Veda), and is the very personification of Yajna-purusha Vishnu (yajño vai viṣṇuḥ). Agni is requested to bestow all those signs (Lakshana, Lakshmi) of happiness, wealth and prosperity that a man desires.
1.2. Lakshmi represents the sense of beauty, grace, wealth and happiness manifest in all existence. Lakshmi is the very embodiment of all the auspicious virtues that inspire life. Lakshmi is also understood as the one who ignites the desire for knowledge that inspires us to attain the highest state in human life.
1.3. Lakshmi’s association with gold that shines signifies purity (pavitram vai hiranyam) and brilliance. The deer stands for enchanting allure, the fleeting desire that draws one out in its pursuit. Just as it is not easy to chase and catch an eluding deer that runs fast, it is also hard to attain and hold on to success, wealth and fame that are ever transitory. Sri is thus Harini the deer that sparkles. And Harini is also the sheen of turmeric (haridra-bha) the sign of auspiciousness and a remedy against infections.
2.1. In Tantra, Sri , revered as Devi, is Matruka , the Mother (matrka-mayi), the Supreme Mother Goddess (devim mataram sriyam), She is also the power of sound (Matrika Shakti) , the matrix of the cosmos manifest as the alphabets. The phrase ‘suvarna-rajata-srajaam’ is also understood to mean that Sri is adorned with Matrika Mala, the garland of letters woven with vowels (suvarna) and consonants (rajata). Sri is thus mantra-mayi the origin and essence of all mantras.
3.1. Chandraam, the aspect of moon, denotes mellow glow that spreads happiness (aahlada). Sri is Chandra, bright (Chandrah chandate) and beautiful as the moon that delights the hearts of all (sakala jana-ahlada–karini). Further, in the Srividya tradition, the worship of the Devi follows the phases of the moon in a fortnight. Her Vidya is therefore termed as Chandra-vidya or Chandra-kala-vidya. And, the Devi is worshipped through her pancha-dashi-mantra, the mantra of fifteen syllables.
4.1. Sri , when personified as goddess, is described as radiant ; shining like gold; decorated with splendid ornaments; wearing a brilliant crown; seated on magnificent lotus-throne studded with gems; holding freshly blossomed beautiful lotus flowers; and served by a pair of elephants pouring over her golden pots of nectar.
The Dhyana–sloka of the first mantra describes Gaja-lakshmi.
Kaantyaa kanchana -sannibhaam himagiri-prakhyairsh-chaturbhir-gajaih
hastot-kshipta-hiranmaya-amrita-ghata-raasichyamaanaam – shriyam |
nana-ratna-samujwalaam karala-satpadmam kiriitojwalaam
kshauma-abaddha-nitamba-bimba-lasitaam vande-.aravinda-sthitaam ||
तां म आवह जातवेदो लक्ष्मीमनपगामिनीम् |
यस्यां हिरण्यं विन्देयं गामश्वं पुरुषानहम् ||२||
Tám ma ávaha játavedo lakśhmīm anapa gáminīm
Yasyám hiraņyam vindeyam gám aśvam puruśhán aham|| (2)
[The Rishi of the mantra is Jatavedasa (Agni); its Chhandas is Anustubh; its Devata is Rajya-lakshmi. The Bija, Shakthi and Kilaka of this mantra are again said to be Hrim, Shrim, and Klim. The viniyoga of the mantra is sakala-sampath-siddhi.]
Oh..! Jatavedasa, please cause Lakshmi to come to me. And, let Lakshmi never ever depart from me. While she is here, I shall gain wealth, riches such as gold, cows, horses and man-power (which term includes friends, family and the other dearer ones).
5.1. This is in continuation of the first mantra which ends with the phrase ‘jatavedo ma avaha’, requesting Agni to invoke the presence of Lakshmi. The second mantra qualifies Lakshmi, further, with the epithet: ‘a-anapa-gamini’, the one who does not stray away, but stays with you forever. [The phrase anapa-gamini suggests fleeting nature (chanchala)]
5.2. The gold mentioned in the verse represents immovable wealth (sthavara), while the cattle, horses and men are movable assets (jangama). As Lakshmi enters into one’s life, she brings along with her various kinds of wealth and riches.
6.1. The Dhyana-sloka of the second mantra adores Rajya-lakshmi, riding a horse and leading an army of four divisions (Chaturanga: infantry, cavalry, elephants and chariots). The golden-hued Rajya-lakshmi grants riches of corn, wealth and happiness.
Chaturanga-balopetam dhana-dhanya-sukhesh-wariim |
ashwa-arudha-maha vande raajyalakshmim hiranmayiim ||
अश्वपूर्वां रथमध्यां हस्तिनादप्रबोधिनीम् |
श्रियं देवीमुपह्वये श्रीर्मादेवीर्जुषताम् ||३||
Aśhwa-pūrvám ratha-madhyám hasti náda prabódhiním
Śhriyam devím upahvaye śhrír ma devír jushatám| (3)
[The Rishi of the mantra is Ananda described as manasa-putra the virtual son of Lakshmi; its Devata isSri Lakshmi; `U‘ is the Bija, `ta‘ is the Shakti and `Shriim‘ is the Kilaka. The viniyoga is shatru-jayam, rajya-prapti.]
The horses in the lead, the chariots in the middle, followed by the trumpeting elephants, herald the arrival of Sri. I pray to you Jatavedasa, let that magnificent Sri Grace me and come to me.
7.1. In the first two mantras, the Sadhaka prays to Agni to cause Sri to come to him. This verse is an answer to his prayers. It heralds the arrival of the glorious Sri in all her grandeur and regal majesty. The procession of her mighty army of infantry, cavalry, elephants and chariots signifies her magnificence and splendour. As it draws closer, the devotee prays that the Grace of the Mother (mam) Sri may descend upon him (jushatam).
7.2. The esoteric meaning of the verse interprets the chariot as the body of the devotee (sareeram ratha-mevathu); at the heart of the Chariot is Sri , the centre of consciousness, as the presiding deity; and , the leaping horses are his senses that need to be controlled (indriyani hayan aahuh).
7.3. The phrase Sriyam-devi is explained as the most radiant (div) Sri Devi who is the refuge of all (shreyaniya) .
8.1. The Dhyana-sloka of the third verse is dedicated to the most auspicious Mother Goddess Soubhagya-lakshmi (saubhaagya-jananiim).
Tadid-warna-purnaam shashil-apanataata -nkayugalaam
darasmeraadhiraam kara-kalita-padmaam dwi-nayanaam |
lasad-griivaam kshaumaa-mshuka-vishada-naabhii sarasijaam
bhajaami tvaam devim pranata-Jana-saubhaagya- jananiim ||
कां सोस्मितां हिरण्यप्राकारामार्द्रां ज्वलन्तीं तृप्तां तर्पयन्तीम् |
पद्मे स्थितां पद्मवर्णां तामिहोपह्वये श्रियम् ||४||
Kám sósmitám hiranya prákárám árdrám jvalantím triptám tarpayantím
Padme sthitám padma-varnám támihópahvaye śhriyam|| (4)
[The Rishi of the mantra is Ananda; its Chhandas is Bruhati; and its Devata is Sri-Lakshmi. Kam is the Bija; Hrim is the Shakthi; and Shrim is the Kilaka. Its viniyoga is sampath-siddhi and sarasvata-siddhi.]
I welcome the pleasantly smiling, the kind-hearted Sri who is of the nature of Brahman; glowing like burnished gold; of beautiful lotus-complexion; and, seated on lotus. She is easily pleased; and, she readily fulfils the desires of her devotees.
The devotee is preparing to welcome Sri.
9.1. This mantra, again, refers to Sri’s association with gold (hiranya prákárám) and the lotus (Padme sthitám padma-varnám). Sri is explained as the bright and joyful consciousness that resides in the heart-lotus (hrudaya-kamala) of all beings.
9.2. As said, Lakshmi’s association with gold that shines signifies her purity (pavitram vai hiranyam) and her brilliance. And, Padma, the lotus, is the primary symbol of Sri. Padma symbolizes several adorable virtues: purity, beauty, the very essence of life, spiritual power, fertility and growth. The Tantra regards lotus as a symbol of created universe. And, Sri is all of those auspicious signs (lakshana). Sri is Padmini (a variant of padmanemi, meaning holding a lotus) and pushkarini (pushkara meaning lotus). Lotus, again, is her seat (padma-sthitha). And, her complexion glows like that of lotus (padma-varna).
[ There is another explanation for the term Padmanemi. Here, Padma is derived from the root Pad ( to lead or to induce); and Nemi ( connected with – Nayami) , denoting that which encircles the periphery. And, the seven-syllable mantra : Om Padmanemyai namah , is hailed as the mantra that bestows fortune and prosperity.]
10.1. The opening term Kam is of special interest here. The commentators explain that the syllabus Ka indicates the form-less Brahman (ka iti Brahmano naama). Kam is meant to suggest that Sri is indeed the principle (tattva) that is beyond intellect and is at the root of all existence.
Ka is also the first letter in the fifteen-lettered (pancha-dashi) mantra of the Devi in the Kadi-matha (Kadi School) of the Sri Vidya tradition. Ka is an important syllable in the mantra, for it appears three times. Here, Ka variously stands the principle from which everything arises; for illumination (Kan dipatu) or the principle of consciousness (buddhi) in beings; and, also for the symbol of Self.
The fifteen lettered (panch-dasha-akshari) mantra is considered the verbal form of the Devi. But, it is implicit or hidden. It is only when the sixteenth syllable ‘Shrim’ is included; the mantra becomes explicit or becomes visible. Shrim is regarded the original or the own form of the Mother Goddess. And, with the sixteenth syllable (Shrim) the She comes to be celebrated as Sri-vidya. And, the mantra itself becomes the body of the Mother Goddess.
She manifests the un-manifest. She is Prakrti.
The auspicious Sri (Shrim) is thus revered as Saguna Brahman, the sa-kara approach to the absolute principle of the Devi.
10.2. The other point of interest is the use of the term ardra (which ordinarily is translated as wet or moist) immediately followed by jwalantim (which conveys a sense of blazing and sparkling like the tongues of fire). Apparently, the two are of opposite nature.
It is explained that ardra, here, indicates the flowing grace; the easily-moved, kind and considerate nature of Sri Devi who is the very embodiment of compassion (as portrayed in Sri Vedanta Deshika’s Daya-shataka).
10.3. The term jwalantim is, again, indicative of the radiant nature of Sri who resides as the inner light (jyothi swarupam) at the core of the consciousness all beings (mula-prakrti). Sri Devi is the inner energy of all that glows and sparkles (tasya bhasa sarva idam vibhati).
It is also explained; it is the spontaneous flow of the graceful Devi’s compassion (ardra) that enlightens (jwalantim) the consciousness of the devotees. The boundless love that envelops all existence and the all-inspiring radiance that enlivens the created world are the nature of Sri Devi.
11.1. The Dhyana-sloka of this mantra describes Sri as the bright and beautiful goddess of golden complexion; her face aglow with tender smile; seated on a lotus; and holding a book and a parrot that speaks. This sloka is also taken as an invocation to Sarasvati the goddess of speech (vac–rupa-sri) and learning (vidya-rupa-sri). Therefore, sarasvata-siddhi (the attainment of true knowledge) is also one of the viniyoga of the fourth verse of Srisukta.
Varada-abhaya-shuka-pustaka-kara-kalitaam kamala-madhyagam kalaye |
kamalam- sasmitavadanam –kanaka-avarana-sthitaam kanchith ||
चन्द्रां प्रभासां यशसा ज्वलन्तीं श्रियं लोके देवजुष्टामुदाराम् |
तां पद्मिनीमीं शरणमहं प्रपद्येऽलक्ष्मीर्मे नश्यतां त्वां वृणे ||५||
Chandrám prabhásám yaśhasá jvalantím śhriyam lóke deva justám udárám
Tám padminim-ím saranam aham prapadye’ alakshmír me naśyatám tvám vrne| (5)
[The Rishi of the mantra is Ananda; its Chhandas is Trishtubh; and, its Devata is Sarava-aishwarya-prada-lakshmi, the Lakshmi that grants all kinds of riches. Cham is the Bija; Nam is the Shakthi; and, Shrim is the Kilaka. Its viniyoga is nidhi-prapti, shatru-jayam.]
I submit to the mercy of Lakshmi who is beautiful as the mellow glow of the moon; who is surrounded by lotus flowers; who is generous and kind; who is adored by gods; and whose renown lights up all the worlds. I seek refuge in that resplendent Sri. May she destroy all my misfortunes.
12.1. This verse re-calls Sri’s association with the moon, as referred to in the first verse. Sri is of the nature of moon that spreads happiness (aahlada), brightness (prabhasam); of beauty (Chandrah chandate), and of delight that lights up hearts of all (sakala-jana-ahlada–karini).
12.2. The mantra further glorifies Sri as one who sustains and supports all life in the nature (Shriyam loke); fulfils the desire of all; and is beloved by all beings, including the gods (deva justám). The generous (udárám) Sri is indeed the Mother (taam Padmanemim) and the refuge of all the worlds.
12.3. Sri’s association with lotus is again elaborated in this verse. Lotus (Padma), as said, symbolizes life that is characterized by beauty, purity, grace and abundance. Sri is of the nature of Padma; and, the whole existence is but the projection of Sri.
13.1. The devotee submits (sharanamaham prapadye) to Sri, praying for release from the blight of A-lakshmi (the opposite of Lakshmi and stands for everything that Lakshmi is not). Though A-lakshmi is personified in the legends as Jyeshta the elder sister of Lakshmi, it essentially signifies the aspects of wretchedness, misery, ugliness and cruelty that disfigure life. Lakshmi, on the other hand, is everything that is auspicious, prosperous, beautiful and virtuous.
13.2. The prayer is to drive away the evil that has taken shelter in the hearts of men/women; and to invite Lakshmi into the purity of one’s heart-lotus (amala-kamala–hrud-deshe).
14.1. The Dhyana-sloka of the verse is dedicated to Sri Lakshmi who is seated amidst the splendorous solar-orb, holding lotus and gesturing assurance. She is richly decorated with gorgeous dresses, sparkling ornaments and holding the most precious Chintamani jewel. She grants fulfilment of all desires; and destroys misfortunes. I pray to that Supreme Goddess.
Tejomandala-madyagam dwi-nayanam divya-ambara-alankritaam
devim padma-vara-abhayam kara-talai-chintaamanim bibhratiim |
nana- divya-vibhushanam cha bhajatam daurbhagya-samhaarinim
nana-abhiishta- vara-pradana-niratam vande param devataam ||
आदित्यवर्णे तपसोऽधिजातो वनस्पतिस्तव वृक्षोऽथ बिल्वः |
तस्य फलानि तपसा नुदन्तु मायान्तरायाश्च बाह्या अलक्ष्मीः ||६||
Ǎditya varne tapasó dhijátó vanaspatis tava vrikshó’ tha bilvah
Tasya phalani tapsá nudantu mayántaráyás cha báhya alakshmíh|| (6)
[The Rishi of the mantra is Ananada; its Chhandas is Trishtubh; and, its Devata is Mahalakshmi. Aaam is the Bija; Shrim is the Shakthi; and, Hrim is the Kilaka. The viniyoga of the mantra is Arogya-aishwarya-abhiruddhi.]
Oh Devi, you are splendorous like the rising sun. By the intense power of your penance (tapas), the wondrous medicinal plant Bilva was brought forth. Let the Bilva-fruits, ripened by the radiance of your austerities; eradicate the ailments caused by the inner and external impurities.
15.1. There are some mythological and other references in this verse.
15.2. To start with, Bilva(Aegle marmelos) or Baelis is the Indian wood apple tree. It is referred to in this verse as a Vanaspathi that belongs to Sri (vanaspatis tava vrikshó’ tha bilvah). In the Indian texts, Vanaspathi is described as a class of trees that bear fruit but no blossoming or flowers (a-pushpah, phalavantah). The tree is also described as sada-phala (always bearing fruit), durarudha (difficult to climb) and trishikha or tridala (leaves having three points).
15.3. The Bilva fruit, skin, leaves and roots are said to be lively (sri-yukta), having great medicinal properties. Ayurveda recognizes Bilva fruit as an effective remedy for diarrhoea, dysentery, loss of appetite and abdominal pains. Its roots and leaves help in reducing fevers. It is also said to be useful in removing mental imbalance (chitta-dosha-hara) and bodily problems (sarira-dosha-hara). The Bilva is thus a cure for both the internal and external ailments.
15.4. The Bilva tree is regarded sacred, for many reasons. It is associated with Shiva as also with Lakshmi. The worship with Bilva–leaves (Bilva-patra) is said to be greatly pleasing to Shiva, as it is very dear to Shiva ( mahadevasya cha priyam). And, the Bilva tree is therefore called Shiva-druma, the tree of Shiva; and, its fruits are hailed as jnana-phala, the fruits of knowledge of Shiva.
The Bilvashtakam opens with the verse hailing the virtues and powers of Bilva leaf
Tridalam triguNaakaaram trinetram cha triyaayudham / trijanma paapasamhaaram eka Bilvam shivaarpaNam
I offer the bilva patra to Shiva. This leaf embodies the three qualities of sattva, rajas and tamas. This leaf is like the three eyes, and the sun, moon and fire. It is like three weapons. It is the destroyer of sins committed in three earlier births
There is a faith that offering of a Bilva bestows merit as do ten million yagnas (kotikanyaa mahaadaanam eka bilvam shivaarpaNam ).
The Bilva vriksha is also associated with goddess Sri (Laxmyaa stnam unpanam ). Bilva is the tree of Lakshmi. Tantra regards Bilva vriksha as the form of Lakshmi (Lakshmi swarupa); and, its fruit as Sri-phala, the fruit of Sri. According to a narration in Kalika Purana, Sri performed penance amidst the Bilva trees; and, because of her grace (anugraha) the Bilva fruits acquired unique medicinal properties. There is faith that Lakshmi resides in Bilva tree; and the worship with Bilva-leaves is dearer to her, and hence to Vishnu.The Laksmi Tantra (Pancaratra Agama) mentions that Vishnu temple should preferably be surrounded by Bilva grove.
[Interestingly, during the time of Sri Ramanuja the practice of worshipping Sri Venkateswara at Tirumala with Bilva leaves came under question. It is said; Sri Ramanuja defended the practice by quoting the sixth verse of Srisukta; and asserted that whatever was dear to Lakshmi was also dear to Vishnu.
Further , even to this day in Bengal , the annual worship of Devi that begins in autumn (sharad ritu), which marks the coming of the harvest season, is inaugurated by invoking ( or awakening ) her presence in the branch of the Bilva tree. The faith is that the goddess resides in Bilva .]
16.1. The mantra prays for cleansing of inner and external impurities (mayántaráyás cha báhya alakshmíh).The term A-lakshmi here refers to depravity in ones thinking and in ones conduct.
17 .1. The Dhyana-sloka of this verse is dedicated to the Devi, radiant as the rising sun, residing amidst Bilva grove, and rescuing the devotees from ignorance, disease and misfortunes.
Udyada-aditya-sankaasham bilva-kaanana- madhyagaam |
tanu-madhyam sriyam dhyayed- lakshmi-parihaarinim ||
उपैतु मां देवसखः कीर्तिश्च मणिना सह |
प्रादुर्भूतोऽस्मि राष्ट्रेऽस्मिन् कीर्तिमृद्धिं ददातु मे ||७||
Upaitu mám deva-sakah kírtis cha maniná saha
Prádūr bhūtó’ smi rashtre’ smin kírtim riddhim dadátu me| (7)
[The Rishi of the mantra is Kubera; its Chhandas is Anustubh; and, its Devata is Manimalini-Mahalakshmi. Om and Shrim are its Bija; Mam and Blum are its Shakthi; and, Shrim is the Kilaka. Its viniyoga is ratna-siddhi and Bhuta-bhaya-nivarana.]
I am born in this state (rajya). Let the friend of gods along with the fame, fortune, and precious gems come to me. Grant me renown (distinction) and prosperity.
18.1. The verse prays to Lakshmi for riches, fame and prosperity; as also friendship with the highly affluent.
18.2. The term Deva-sakha meaning the friend of gods is interpreted by scholars as referring to Kubera, the Yaksha regent (Dikpala) of the North, and the Lord of all the treasures in the world. That is because; Kubera is often described, in the Puranas, as the friend of Shiva, who conferred on Kubera the privilege to grant riches to his devotees. Lakshmi the goddess of wealth and Kubera the custodian of treasures are often worshipped together.
18.3. The term Mani is interpreted in two ways. One; Mani is understood as a jewel used as an amulet to guard against evils of all kinds. It, perhaps, was strung on a sutra, thread (say as in, sutre manigana iva) and worn around the neck. Its other meaning refers to Manibhadra, a Yaksha and a friend of Kubera guarding his treasures. Since the verse prays for the friend- of-gods (Kubera) along with Kirti and Mani, some scholars are inclined to accept it as a reference to Manibhadra, the friend of Kubera.
18.4. Similarly, Kirti is understood as fame; as also as the name of one of the daughters of Daksha-prajapathi. Kirti is a member of Lakshmi’s entourage. It is by her grace that one performs deeds that earn fame and fortune.
18.5. The mantra, according to some, invites Kubera along with his friend Manibhadra and Kirti the associate of Lakshmi . ( as in illustration provided above)
19.1.The Dhyana-sloka of the mantra prays to Manimalini, who is dear to gods; who is also Rajarajeshwari and Lakshmi; and who grants fame, wealth and other desires. Manimalini is one of the many names of the Devi.
[Please refer to the Varna in Kambhoji raga: Mam pahi Sri Raja Rajeswari Sekari Sivasankari Simmavahini Sevaka janapalini Kapalini Manimalini Varadehini]
Raajaraajeshwarim- lakshmim varadam manimaaliniim |
devim devapriyam kiirtim vande kamya-artha-siddhaye ||
Continued in Part Three
References and sources
Goddesses in Ancient India by PK Agrawala; Abhinav Publications (1984)
Srisukta (in Kannada) by Prof SK Ramachanra Rao; Published by SAKSI (2209)
I gratefully acknowledge the sublime illustrations of the Sri Sukta which are the creations of the renowned artist of Vedic and traditional themes, Shri GLN Simha of Mysore. These are said to be in the collections of Ramsons Kala Pratishatana, Mysore