Pandits and professors alike have agreed to put a conventional mark of punctuation between Verses 41 and 42, distinguishing what is titled “Ananda Lahari”, (Verses 1 through 41) from the remainder of the work, entitled “Saundarya Lahari”. This latter title is also applied to the work as a whole. Thus there are two works distinguished within the one work, of forty and sixty or of forty-one and fifty-nine verses respectively.
The reasons given for making such a division at the very heart of this work vary within a wide range of speculation, and are sometimes not unmixed with imaginary episodes connected with the personal life of the author, Sankara. In Verse 75 there is a lurking, enigmatic reference to a “Dravidian child” who, on being nourished by the milk of the Goddess, became born as a poet who could write beautiful poetry. Sanskrit is unquestionably the language of the Aryan context, and if a Dravidian poet is to be given the authorship of the latter half of this work, as some surmise, it might be conceded that there seems to be at first sight a change of subject matter, or at least a revision in the perspective in which the subject matter is treated after the forty-first verse. The transition, when we come to examine it closely, needs to be effected very carefully, taking into consideration epistemological, methodological and axiological factors of a very thin speculative order. Evidently this requirement has confused the minds of critics and commentators, both European and Indian, to such an extent that Sankara's authorship of these verses, which so clearly all belong together to the same context of absolute beauty, is put into question. There is no other author in the field who could be even distantly proposed as a substitute for Sankara.
A discrepancy between the styles of the two sections of verses has also been suggested by both Pandits and professors. The “Dravidian child” of Verse 75, if an actual product of the Tamil or South Indian context of spirituality, must have been well versed in the Tantra that was natural to the Shaiva type of Siddhanta as distinguished from the Vedanta based on the Upanishads.
Some have even dared to suggest the name of one of the four Tamil Saints (Nalvars), Tirujnanasambandar, in trying to identify this Dravidian child. Even if it should be possible for Sambandar to be the actual author of these verses and it is assumed that he composed the latter half and tacked it on somehow to the text as presented to us in its actual, complete form, it is indeed difficult to explain how that Tamil saint, who has never been credited with any other work in Sanskrit, could have composed a work of such classical finish. It is equally difficult to credit that he could have quickly learned enough Sanskrit to play a trick on Sankara, who, on his side, has not been credited with writing in any Dravidian language, even granting that Malayalam did not exist at the time.
The enigmatic nature of the theory of double authorship, put forth so fancifully by a sufficiently respectable group of critics and commentators, is only heightened by their hypothetical proposals, and cannot therefore be warranted. There has even been a legendary incident created to explain this imaginary enigma of double authorship, in which Sankara comes upon a scene where the supposed real Dravidian author has emblazoned these hundred verses on a wall. As the first forty verses contained deeper secrets of the Shaivite Tantra tradition of proto-Aryan origin, that Dravidian child, at the insistence of the Devi herself, quickly wiped off the first half of the work to guard these secrets from the heterodox Aryan eyes of the Sanskritist Sankara, supposedly a stranger to the ancient Tantric tradition. In spite of this however, Sankara is said to have been clever enough to reconstruct from memory these first forty verses, having the gift of remembering words that he had read just once. This highly imaginative episode which even includes the Devi as an accomplice in a trick, only proves how natural myth-making is to the human mind. This story is found in the Malayalam edition of the Saundarya Lahari by Mahadeva Sastri, page 101, and in the Theosophical Society edition, page 214.
The whole mystery stems from the fact that the schematismus and non-verbose language of non-didactic description adopted here by Sankara is something completely new even to his latter-day critics, who tend to dismiss him as a mere mayavadin, that is, a believer in the unreality of the universe, and sometimes even as a prachanna bauddha, a Buddhist in disguise. The theologically-based philosophies that superseded Sankara during the Mogul Supremacy in India, and especially those latter forms of philosophy that prevailed after the fall of the Vijayanagar Empire, tended to make Sankara a less important figure on the philosophical scene of the decadent India of recent centuries. A cultural hiatus thus developed, both among Indian pundits and among western scholars, who came with the East India Company more as curiosity hunters than as genuine scholars belonging to the context proper to cultural expressions such as what we have before us as a supreme example.
The Mysore wars and the Indian Mutiny could be said to be due mostly to the defects of such a cultural gap or vacuum, which tended to put the graded and orderly development of a sense of cultural values into confusion at this particular period.
A close scrutiny of Verse 41 will reveal to us that, although it refers directly to the Muladhara Chakra, one of the most ontologically based of all the Chakras - even referring to the re-emergence of the world into a more real status from its amorphous anterior state of flux - this same verse suggests that the personality of the Goddess enjoys only a thin schematic status in terms of absolute beauty abstracted and generalized to its furthest possible limit. Thus, while the dance of Shiva and Samaya takes place at the ontological limit of the total situation, the Goddess herself remains unaffected by any rivalry with the pair who are given full freedom to bring the world back into existence, while she remains uninvolved in this phenomenal aspect in an overall and implied sense. The requirements of parity and symmetry are both complied with and transcended at the same time. The climax of normalization in the transition from the perceptual to the conceptual; from the Self to the Non-Self; from ontology to teleology or from physics to metaphysics, has been effected in principle in Verse 41. The Muladhara of that verse has nothing earthy about it at all, but represents a world-ground sufficiently fluid and emergent in an ever-continuing state of novelty, in which the world is created and destroyed alternately in split-second terms of momentariness in the eternal present. It is not an inert form of realism that is to be understood here, though the lesser Tantric schools might tend to imagine that it pertains to their own set of values. Prejudice in favour of Tantrism, as against full-fledged Advaita, implies a gap that is in the minds of critics rather than in the work itself, when properly and more closely examined.
One can even see that in Verse 42, Sankara takes care to keep close to the Chakra form of meditation, even when he passes from the limit of ontology, in Verse 41, into the domain of teleology, from Verse 42 onward. In fact it is hard to discover any abruptness at all in the changeover so harmoniously effected between these transitional verses (40 - 43) whose sequence is perfect.
The world becomes real as the focus of attention is transferred from the feet of the Goddess to her crest jewel, which is made up of twelve suns – one for each month of the year - fused together and tinged with the twilight colour of magenta, to make them resemble rubies rather than diamonds. A bright diamond would relate more to the midday sun, while a red ruby would better represent the twilight sun of morning or evening or both, when pressed together and fused into the crest-jewel of the revised Goddess, whose cosmological personality is going to be reviewed from head to foot in the remainder of this work. The inside becomes outside in this transition, but they retain a unity as if enclosed in circles of consciousness, not unlike the Chakras of the section just left behind. We would call these circles “conceptual Chakras”, having the same unitive value status, though instead of being placed within the heart of the yogi, they have been put “over there”, as it were, in terms of overt beauty, as in a landscape at sunrise. Thus the gem-set island within consciousness gives place to a Himalayan sunrise. Such is the nature of the transition we have to keep in mind to appreciate the continuity of the same value factor which could be called indifferently “Ananda” or “Saundarya”. By whatever name it is referred to and whether applicable to life in the self or in the non-self, it is the same overwhelming experience of beauty, viewed from two apparently different perspectives, that we are being treated to by Sankara, whose authorship, according to us, need not be suspected at all. Who else could have written Sanskrit with such a classical finish, after the days of Kalidasa?
He is conscious of his unrivaled position here, as he pointedly pats himself on the back when he says that this same “Dravidian Child” became an equal to any great poet of antiquity that we can think of. The internal evidence of Verse 75 is thus, to our eyes at least, overwhelmingly conclusive, and we have no hesitation in brushing aside all rival miscellaneous constructions on this matter. Narayana Guru's work could be considered a legitimate continuation of this Vedantic tradition. He speaks in the Malayalam language of Kerala, which is the by-product of the interaction of the Shiva-worshiping culture of South India and the sun-worshiping culture of the Himalayan regions. The island placed in mid-ocean and the sunlit peaks of the abode of Shiva become interchangeable as value-factors with an inner or outer factor of overwhelming intoxication in terms of beauty.