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Saundaryalahari - Verse 6


"O Daughter of the snow-capped Himalaya Mountain! Manmatha, the God of love ha sonly a bow of flowers, whose bowstring is comprised of a cluster of honeybees; he has only five arrows and these are made of flowers. The spring season (which is periodical and undependable) is his vassal and the southern breeze of Malaya (which is shifting and formless) is his battle-chariot. Yet with such frail equipment, bodiless and alone though he be, Manmatha, having obtained some grace through Thy benign side-glance, subjugates the entire universe and emerges victorious" – 6

In this beautiful verse, the anti-thesis between the inadequacy of the ability and equipment of Manmatha and his unfailing all-round success are presented in relief. His weapons have neither the strength nor the fitness to be used or wielded, in his unceasing effort over all sentient beings. Nor has he limbs to enable him to wield them. It is well known that Kama was burnt to ashes by the fire of Shiva's third eye, when he attempted to kindle passion in Shiva towards Parvati, and that later, in response to the prayers of Rati, he was restored to life, but without a body. Kama's bow is of tender flowers and hence incapable of being bent and is also short-lived. The bowstring of honeybees, ever unsteady, always on the move in search of honey and in disarray, can hardly be strung. The arrows are only five, so few as to be exhausted in no time. Nor have they darts to pierce. These arrows are: Aravinda (lotus), Ashoka (peepul), Choota (mango), Navamallika (Jasmine) and Nilotpala (blue lotus). Spring season, Manmatha's assistant, is transitory – lasting for only two months in a year – and so of doubtful assistance. The southern breeze, not blowing always, nor blowing everywhere, invisible and formless, can hardly be useful as a chariot. Kama himself – having no body – cannot avail himself of these weapons or assistance. He has no arms to wield weapons, nor the feet to stand in the chariot and fight, no eyes to see, nor mouth to speak to his vassal, Vasanta. But it is a paradox that with all these disabilities, inadequate and useless weapons, and unreliable assistance, Kama is able to subjugate the entire world of living beings, nay the universe in its entirety. Undoubtedly this is because of his obtaining the gracious blessings of Sridevi through her side-glances. That with the omnipotent grace of Amba, even the impossible can be achieved is the purport of this verse.

The dualistic world emerging from non-dualism as a result of Kama or desire and then the same dualistic world being made non-dualistic through the compassion of Amba has a central sport in her divine sport. Manmatha, also called Kama, the very personification of desire, has great importance here. Amba herself has divine names like Kameshwari and Kamakshi, associating her with Kama. Each of the five arrows of Manmatha, derived from the arrows of Sri Lalita Parameshwari herself, is associated with one of the five senses. They indicate the five Tanmatras, which are the five subtle Bhutas perceived by the five senses, the five Bhutas being sound, touch, form, taste and smell. If the five arrows are to be aimed at the five senses, what is the bow from which they are to be discharged? It is the mind, which is the support of the five senses. The bee is also mentioned to indicate a Tanmatra that the flowers do not have. The flower is soft to touch, is beautiful to behold, has the taste of nectar and has a pleasant fragrance. But it does have association with the Tanmatra of sound. And the humming of the bee that comes in search of nectar fills this lack.

During the slaying of Tripura, Parameshwara had a tremendously strong bow comprising of the Meru Mountain, its string was the great serpent Vasuki and the arrow was Mahavishnu himself. The sun and the moon were the wheels of his chariot, the earth was its floor and the charioteer was Brahma. Parameshwara laughed thinking to himself: "Mahavishnu, Brahma and the rest have come thinking I would need their help, but I have Parashakti in me". The moment he laughed, the Tripura demons were reduced to ashes. Although Parameshwara had powerful weapons, he won without using any of them. Manmatha wins his war, with weapons that are not strong in the least. The reason is same for both. It is the grace of Amba, which is behind their victory. She brought the Lord success by residing in him as Parashakti. And here she has made Manmatha victorious all over the world by casting on him her sidelong glance for a fleeting moment, and thus blessing him. To bestow blessings in this manner on everything in creation is the function of Maya belonging to Saprapancha. For this, the sidelong glance of Amba for a fleeting moment is enough. The destruction of Tripura means the rejection of the subtle, gross and Karana bodies and remaining the Maha Karana of the Brahman. This is what unites one with the Nishprapancha. And this is possible only when Amba inheres in one fully. If the one who burned Tripura also burned Kama, it was because the little grace the latter had obtained from Amba could not stand against the power of the full grace Shiva had obtained from her.

To speak of the victory of Kama, of Amba making him victorious, should not be the end of the story for us. It is necessary that we triumph over Kama ourselves. We must remind ourselves that when Ishwara triumphed over Kama, Amba was present in him to lend him the necessary strength. It is with this high spirit that Manmatha has been granted weapons that have no strength. When he obtains victory with them, he will be humble enough to realize that he owes his success to her charity, to her kindness. Ananga, one without limbs, once possessed a body that was beautiful in all respects. It is as a reference to the fact that he once possessed a body of unsurpassed beauty that we still liken good-looking men to Manmatha. It was a time when the celestials were going through much suffering at the hands of demons Shurapadma and Taraka. Only a son born to Ishwara could kill the demon, but the Lord, in his form of Dakshinamurti, was then engaged in severe austerities. Manmatha was sent by the celestials to him so as to inspire love in him for Parashakti, who had descended to earth as the daughter of the king of Himalayas. So there is aptness in the use of the word `Himagirisuta' in this Shloka. Manmatha means one who churns the mind. Manmatha, in his arrogance, thought that he could churn the mind of the Lord who was like a mountain of dispassion. But Parameshwara burned him beyond recognition. Later Amba gave him new life and he was now he was no longer boastful that he could do anything by himself. Then he triumphed over the Lord and this forms a part of Kamakshi Purana. What we must repeatedly remember is that the success of Manmatha was entirely due to the strength given to him by Kamakshi. According to the same Purana, Manmatha recognized this truth in all his humility. He approached the Lord now, not with the feeling, "I am going to win on my own strength", but with the thought, "The power of my mother's blessings will bring me success". In this spirit did he approach the Lord and achieve victory. While he had been reduced to ashes by the fire of Shiva's third eye, his pride in his own power had also been destroyed. It is because Amba thought he should no longer nurse any pride in the beauty of his body that she restored him to life but did not restore him to body. One meaning of `Kamakshi' is `she who created Kama with her sidelong glance'.

Manmatha is one of the twelve celebrated devotees of Sri Mahatripurasundari. In the Mahatmya Khanda of Tripura Rahasya, it is described that Amba herself revealed Kamaraja Maha Vidya to him, in response to his prolonged worship and meditation on her for three years through the Meru mantra. It is also related that Amba conferred on Kama, Amsha (parts) of her own bow and arrows. The secret Kamaraja mantra of Bala Tripurasundari is hidden in this verse. The mantra for the Chakreshwari of Sarvashaparipuraka Chakra is also traced from this Shloka.