भुजाश्लेषान्नित्यं पुरदमयितुः कन्टकवती
तव ग्रीवा धत्ते मुखकमलनाल-श्रियमियम् ।
स्वतः श्वेता काला गरु बहुल-जम्बालमलिना
मृणालीलालित्यं वहति यदधो हारलतिका
bhujaslesan nityam pura damayituh kantakavati
tava griva dhatte mukha kamala nala sriyam iyam
svatah sveta kalagaru bahula jambala malina
mrnali lalityam vahati yad adho hara latika
Incessantly embraced by the arms of the City-Burner,
And thrilled to thorny bristling of the hair of Your neck,
It shows a lotus-stalk grace, smudged by excess of dark cosmetic paste
By itself it retains beneath the creeper-tendril suppleness of the pearly necklace lotus-core
The erotic advances made by Shiva toward Parvati are of a subtle and ineffable order. We have seen, even from the second verse that the realism, if any, in these verses has to be understood as belonging to the world of fine particles. Shiva is represented in the opening verse of one of Kalidasa´s plays (Malavikagnimitra) as having his body intimately mixed up with that of his wife, Parvati, but in spite of such a communion, still remaining the best of ascetics It is reasonable to expect that Sankara respects the same Sanskritic tradition. There­fore, it is important for us to extract the meaning of this verse in such a way as not to do violence to any of the tacit conventions respected by Sankara.
We have to establish the meaning here on a very thin schematic and conceptual ground, where name and form are just able to participate with each other in terms of light, shade and line. The corresponding conceptions have in turn to belong to a world of discourse rather than of brute fact. Such a ground would fit in with the verses that follow, as well as establish a continuity with the previous verses.
In Verse 67 we saw the father and the husband treat the chin of the Goddess with a certain aloofness because the chin is neither matter nor mind, but something participating both ways. To Shiva it was figurative; while to her father it was existent, though his participation was of a very light order. All these details are important for us to remember so that the Advaitic doctrine hidden under this living pictorial language could be correctly appreciated.
The incessant embrace in the first line, producing horripilation or “a thorny bristling” of the hair of the neck of the Goddess, is to be understood in terms of a thrilling sense of inner bliss, more akin to salvation than to ordinary erotic play. The best eroticism is one in which this kind of two-sided participation is perfectly balanced between subject and object, matter and mind. Unilateral stress on one or the other can only spoil the case of both. Therefore, we have to place ourselves sympathetically on a sort of middle ground and understand that the bristling of the hair only represents the exalted nature of the thrill enjoyed by the Goddess. On the side of Shiva, it is to be noted that he is not thinking in terms of an ordinary sex act lasting only a short time, but he is engaged in an everlasting embrace. This is a revised form of erotic relationship in keeping with mystical eroticism rather than merely sexual eroticism. Kalidasa's “Kumarasambhava”, in the last canto, also describes Shiva as everlastingly remaining in the bedroom of Parvati. Any value could be treated sub specie aeternitatis in this manner.
The lotus plant is dear to Sanskrit poets and to wise philosophers who want to use it as an analogy for all laudable spiritual attributes , especially as seen from an ontological perspective. The lotus plant is noted for its tenderness, purity and beauty of colour and especially for its inner thread-like core (mrnala tantu) made of vascular bundles forming gleaming supple strands within the stalk, as well as for its fragrance and the patches of brown and pink when the petals are half-open. These are items offered by the lotus which the Sanskrit poet loves to work upon in his essentially contemplative poetry. In the case of erotic mystical poetry, the wonder of the lotus plant and its virtue are a source never expended and constantly to be drawn upon, age after age; not given up even in the present-day literature of vernaculars based on Sanskrit. The stalk of the lotus has on it the very bristles that are referred to in this verse. They may not be beautiful to an ordinary poet, but for Sankara, to whom good and bad have to reveal the same beauty-value, even the thorny hair of the lotus becomes a precious analogy. Eroticism between the God and Goddess refers to the context of an eternal bliss that can induce samadhi in a votary who can meditate on the subject correctly.
In the third line, we find a reference to beauty smudged by dark cosmetic pastes. This blemish, instead of detracting from the beauty, only enhances it, according to the Advaitic poet, as we have already explained in a previous verse. Shakuntala is more beautiful wearing her bark garment than dressed in rustling silks and living in the King's palace. Contrast is at the core of the Absolute, and only when it is cancelled-out effectively could the absolute beauty-value emerge to view. This doctrine should give a key to justify these laboured analogies that would other­wise seem to be artificially pressed into the service of this kind of poetry, making it merely mechanistic and metaphysical in an objectionable sense.
The mud or dross in which the lotus plant has to live gives it a status that belongs to it by natural necessity. Even frailties, when they are fully human, could not be treated finally as frailties at all. Human nature has room for many natural deficiencies, and the totality of all such cancel out in a tragic hero, such as Othello, giving an absolutist touch to his character which remains fully human in spite of defects like passion or jealousy. It is when such passions do not cancel out against the overall nobility of the character that the situation can become an anticlimax.
The Absolute is a “thing-in-itself”, but this quality of being “in itself” implies its dialectical counterpart to set it off in proper relief, without which it cannot be appreciated at all. In the name of such an appreciation of beauty, the contrast insisted upon here is fully justified. Furthermore, we have to note that the poet intends to descend step-by-step into beauty items at the core of the personality of the Goddess herself, which are not the same as their counterparts at the peripheral limits. The elephant skin that Shiva is supposed to wear, while remaining the pure spirit dancing vertically at the core of the universe, contains the same type of ideogram as here. In this verse the thing-in-itself is compared to a pearly necklace showing beneath an excess of dark cosmetic paste . Peripherally, there is what is extraneous to the thing-in-itself, which is not to be omitted in a complete and realistic picture of beauty in the context of the Absolute. Evil is not to be explained away, but is to be transcended after it has been given its proper place in the total scheme. The pearly necklace reveals a fully verticalized beauty-factor, whereas the thorny bristles represent the horizon­talized version of the same. The variation is between interiority and peripherality, as also verticality and horizontality. Absolute beauty has to be viewed in its four-fold polyvalent relief to have that overwhelming character which is called lahari in this work.


(Samadhi - attaining final loneliness or peace; passing into the peace beyond, the term and goal of intelligent humanity; contemplative calmness. ED)





Bhujashleshan -
by being embraced by arms
Nityam pura damayituh -
ever (incessantly) of the City-Burner
Kantakavati -
thrilled to thorny bristling
Tava griva dhatte -
Your neck shows
Mukha kamala nala shriyam -
a lotus-stalk grace
Iyam svatah shveta -
this, by itself white
Kala garu bahula jambala malina -
smudged by excess of black cosmetic paste
Mrnali lalityam vahati -
the lotus creeper suppleness
Yad adah -
beneath the same
Hara latika -
a garland of pearls
1) Bhuja shleshas - by arm embrace
2) Nityam pura damayituh -
always of the three city burner
3) Kanta kavati -
made thorny
4) Tava griva dhatte -
Your neck bears
5) Mukha kamala nala shriyam -
the auspicious richness of the stalk for the lotus face
6) Ayam svatah shveta -
this naturally white (thing), this intrinsically white object.
7) Kala guru bahula jambala malina -
dirty by the excessive contact with the karakil. (cosmetic paste)
8) Mrnali lalityam vahati -
the rich beauty of the lotus flower receptacle.
9) Yad adha -
in the lower part of the neck
10) Hara latika -
garland of pearls
Now Shiva will embrace the Goddess physically.

Another version:

By the embrace with the arms of the Devi.
Always by the God who burns the three cities.
By arm embrace.
Always, ever, by the burner of three cities. (City-burner).
Neck thorny.
Your neck bears, supports.
The auspicious riches of the stalk for the lotus face.
This intrinsically white.... (Illegible)
Dirty by excessive contact with karakil (cosmetic paste)

 (Each of the figure-8's represents a dynamism - presumably the cancellation between Shiva and the Devi. This structure is obscure. It is possible that the figure-8's represent the cancellations between Shiva and the Devi in each individual verse of the Saundarya Lahari, surrounding the central cancellation between these two factors. This is purely speculation on our part. ED)


Another version:

By the burner of the three cities at all times
Having little thorns due to hairs standing on end
Your neck gives
The beauty of the lotus stalk of Your face
These which are by nature white
Becoming dirty by...
Bears the resemblance of a lotus flower receptacle
The pearl necklace below.

Shiva is always embracing the Devi at the neck.
"Eternally" - this is meant to bring out the Absolute touch.
This is not a real, physical thing - but the union of masculine and feminine factors.
The hair standing on end represents an Absolute emotion: the wonder of the numerator Absolute - Shiva, the Burner of Three Cities descending.

(Note that Shiva is the Lord of Beasts in Verse 66, before becoming the City-Burner in this verse. ED)
The higher pole on the vertical axis is the face of the Devi, and the lower pole is the string of pearls with the thin central thread of the lotus-stalk (mrinala tantu) as parameter.

The pearls are pure, but they are in mud - the "dark cosmetic paste", which is like the mud from which the lotus grows - and hierophantic and negative; if they were bright, they would be hypostatic.
(This detail - the mud the lotus grows from - emphasizes the negativity which is the ground of the Devi. The two factors - pearls and mud - are counterparts. It should maybe also be kept in mind that pearls are traditionally to be found in the skull of an elephant. The elephant is huge, heavy and dark - a negative factor. The Guru said that space was like sitting inside an elephant. ED)

"Full of thorns" means - "don't touch!"
There is a tragic double feeling here.
(Attraction and repulsion. She repels horizontal advances and feels vertical attraction to Shiva. ED)

Anyway, She does not want anyone to come horizontally and embrace Her.
Where horizontal meets vertical, there is an intermediate zone.




This is all geometry, if you teach geometry and call it poetry, how many people will come to your class?
Two bright parts - hypostatic and hierophantic - positive and negative, are connected by the stalk.
- there is no tragedy and no comedy; everything cancels out.

They are the two poles of a parameter which is indeterminate at their meeting point.
The details of reality are not always respected by the poets.

The meaning here can only be found relationally.
The thorny bristling in the lotus is like the special thrill felt by Parvati when first embraced.

Underneath there is the vertical axis of the lotus-stalk fibre.
Horizontally, there is rejection: "Leave me alone", represented by the thorns; but vertically she is satisfied and related in an absolute manner to her husband.

Nityam means she is "eternally" embraced: show a lotus pond with bees embracing lotus plants; shift to the crescent moon and a snake-garlanded Shiva.
Anyway, there are four layers of meaning:
1) Bristles
2) Pearly necklace
3) Shiva's moonlight
4) (blank) (Possibly the thin lotus-stalk. ED)

There are two pictures here; one is a realistic comparison to a lotus plant, half-glistening, half-smudged with mud.
(The other is presumably her neck with a pearl necklace, corresponding to the circle of stamens at the heart of the flower. ED)
Mrnali lalityam vahati - the lotus creeper suppleness
Mrinala is the imperishable central fibre of the lotus.