"Gathering a microscopic particle of dust form Thy feet, Brahma the creator, brings into being this limitless and mysterious universe, without any imperfections. The sustainer Vishnu, as Adi Shesha, supports the universe (made of that dust particle) with his thousand hoods, with much effort. Hara, the destroyer, crushing the world into powder (at the time of dissolution), besmears his body with the ashes" - 2
This verse brings forth the great potency of the lotus feet of Sridevi. The creation, protection and destruction of the entire universe have become possible for Brahma, Vishnu and Rudra respectively, only through the power derived by them from Sridevi. The greatness of the holy feet of the Supreme Mother is extolled in the Sruti as `CharaNaM pavitraM vitataM purANam'. The worship of Amba's feet has been traditionally enjoined on Srividya Upasakas (shrIpAdukAM pUjayAmi namaH).
The four feet of Sri Mahatripurasundari are: Shulka, Rakta, Mishra and Nirvana Charanas. The first two rest on the Ajna Chakra, the third on the Anahata Chakra and the third on the thousand petalled lotus on the head (Dwadashanta) with Vishnu, Brahma, Rudra and Sadashiva as their respective deities. The Rakta and Shukla Charanas stand for creation and protection, the Mishra for dissolution and the Nirvana for final beatitude or eternal, Supreme Bliss. These deities, assuming their characteristic Gunas – Satva, rajas, Tamas and Gunatitatva, through the speck of dust resting on the four feet, occupy themselves in their respective avocations of creation, sustenance, and destruction. The esoteric mantras for Rakta, Shukla, Mishra and Nirvana Charanas form a part of Urdhwamnaya, the upper quarter. The great yogi Sri Dattatreya describes this as follows:
bhrUmadhyagau vidhiharI tava raktashuklau pAdau rajo.amalaguNau khalu sevyamAnau |
sR^iShTisthitii vitanutau hR^idaye tR^itiiyama~NghriM bhajanharati vishwamudagramagraH |
turyaM tavaamba charaNaM nirupaadhibodhaM sAndraamR^itaM shivapade satataM namAmi ||
A great south Indian scholar explains the meaning of this second verse graphically as follows: The Divine mother was walking in the pleasure garden of Srinagara along with her infinite number of attendants. Brahma, after having had the Darshan of Amba, gathered the dust from the path on which Amba had trodden. With the aid of this dust particle, he created the fourteen worlds in all their perfection. Mahavishnu as Adishesha, having known that all the worlds are only particles of the dust of Amba's feet, bears them on his heads with great care and reverence. Rudra awaits the time of the Mahapralaya (the great deluge), to have the gains of the dust from the lotus-feet of Amba, derived by Brahma and Vishnu. At that time, he reduces the worlds into ashes and besmears his body with that Vibhuti.
The lotus feet of Sri Rajarajeshwari is the prime cause of all the worlds; hence the dust on her feet acquires all her virtues. According to Kanada, the founder of the Vaisesika school and Akshapada, the founder of the Nyaya school, the world is made up of the primary atoms of Earth, Water, Fire and Air, which, at the desire of Ishwara, arrange themselves, in the first instance, into Dvayanukas (consisting of two atoms each), which, in turn arrange themselves into Trayanukas (consisting of three Dvayanukas each). It is on groups of these Trayanukas that the cosmogony of these schools is based. Such a conception of the order of evolution should not be considered as a mere surmise of the poet, as it is the fact that the Paramanu (of Amba's feet) is the prime cause of the creation of the world, that forms the basis of their theory. The worlds that evolve from this Paramanu are both animate and inanimate. The fourteen worlds listed in the scriptures are: Bhur, Bhuvar, Suvar, Mahar, Jana, Tapas and Satya, as also the seven nether worlds: Atala, Vitala, Sutala, Rasatala, Talatala, Mahatala and Patala. Sri Mahavishnu is said to life the seven nether worlds in the form of Shimshumara, a porpoise, and the seven upper worlds as Adishesha, the great serpent. The greatness of Sridevi is borne testimony to by the abject dependence of the creator, the sustainer and the destroyer of the worlds on the dust of her feet, for carrying out their respective avocations. It is further enhanced by the fact, that the single speck of her feet provides the material for the creator all the worlds, with their various contents. The same speck calls forth great strength from Vishnu, the thousand-headed, to lift its weight with his myriads of heads, and the mighty Samhara Rudra, with his prodigious form, has to reduce this tiny speck to ashes, by way of destroying the worlds, for his Bhasma Snana. The ashes are but a residuum left by all the elements and their various transformations, after the application of his Samhara Shakti by Rudra, with a view to smear his body with ashes, in conformity with the mantra prescribed there for.
This Shloka seeks to inspire the Sadhaka's mind with the unimaginable glory of Srimata. The mightiest object we can imagine is this mysterious and limitless universe and that is only a particle of dust from Her feet. The mightiest beings we can imagine, namely, the trinity, are required to do the various cosmic functions, again with this speck of dust. In other hymns, the deity as Virat, the cosmic Whole, is described as the one having the universe as his body. But here, the universe is described as a mere speck of dust at Amba's feet. So great is her transcendent glory, and it is only a reflection of that glory that is seen in the cosmic powers of the trinity.
`Pamsu' means dust on the feet. Even in such dust, there are some particles that are finer than others. When the entire Shakti of Parabrahman assumes a form, is personified, a speck of dust on her feet is sufficient source material to create the fourteen worlds. Then Acharya speaks of the protection of these fourteen worlds. Ananta or Adishesha, on whom Vishnu reclines, is himself an aspect of Mahavishnu, who is called Anantapadmanabha. Mahavishnu is here addressed as `Sauri'. The deity at Tirukkannapuram in tamil nadu is called `Sauriraja'. Sri Krishna Paramatman is called `Sauri' because he is the grandson of Shura of the Yadava clan. This name would be apt for Balarama also. Being the elder brother of Krishna, the name is more justified in this case: he is also an Avatara of Vishnu, and is, besides, said to be an Avatara of Adishesha. There is nothing wrong in describing Sri Mahavishnu as being identical with Adishesha since the very first word of Purusha Sukta describes Bhagavan as having a thousand heads – `sahasrashIrShA'. The Acharya says that Vishnu performs this function somehow `kathamapi'. It is a very difficult task but Vishnu manages it somehow. While mentioning the functions of Brahma and Rudra, Srimadacharya does not us this word `kathamapi'. Creation is a function accomplished in a short duration. Destruction takes even less time. Is it not easier to destroy a thing than to create it? But protecting the creation is a task that lasts an extremely long period, yugas, even Kalpas. So only in this context, of Vishnu supporting the worlds for eons does the Acharya use the phrase `kathamapi'. To carry on one's head the dust from the feet of the great is considered right and proper, indeed a matter of great good fortune. Mahavishnu carries on his head the dust from the holy feet of Sri Amba, the dust that means all the fourteen worlds.
Amba's feet are a bright red; so the dust on them must also be the same color. When Vedamata (the essence or the personification of the Vedas i.e. Saraswati or Gayathri) prostrates herself before Amba, keeping her head at the goddess's feet, the dust sticks in the parting of her hair as Kumkuma. The Rahasya Sahasranama speaks of the same idea in the name "shrutisiimantasindhuurikR^itapAdAbjadhUlikA". A speck of that Kumkuma becomes the fourteen worlds and during the great deluge, it is turned into sacred ashes called `Vibhuti'. It is customary to offer devotees the sacred ashes as Shiva's prasada and Kumkuma as Amba's prasada. Here the Kumkuma itself has become the sacred ashes for Parameshwara. After stating in the first stanza that the trinity worships her, their functions are mentioned in the second stanza. So the truth is implied here that it is as a result of their worship of Amba (indicated in the previous Shloka) that the three gods have become capable of performing their functions.
The first stanza is like a Mangala Shloka, signifying auspicious beginning. The text proper, we may say, begins with the second stanza. It is customary to start the description of male deities with feet and female deities with head. Then how is it different here? It is only when the entire physical form of a deity is described part-by-part that Padadikeshanta and Keshadipadanta rules are followed. In Anandalahari, there are no stanzas describing Amba's physical form from feet upwards. But this rule is followed in the latter part of the hymn called Saundaryalahari, where Amba's beauty is described from crown to the feet. Acharya has started the hymn by describing Amba's feet to teach Sharanagati to her holy feet. Also, the Rahasya Sahasranama describes Amba as `shivashaktyaikyarUpiNi' – Shiva-Shakti-one. So, it is completely logical to use any of the two above cited rules to describe the transcendental beauty of Amba.
The hidden meaning in the `red speck of dust' is actually the esoteric Kamakala, which is the main source of power for Brahma, Vishnu and Rudra. This mantra can be derived from the verse. It is this subtle Bija that forms the very core of Panchadashi or for that matter, any mantra of Amba. Though this has to be learnt from the guru, I have mentioned it here, following the footsteps of some of the venerable commentators on this divine hymn. Aparadhe guru charaNa smR^ityeva sharaNam!