"May the divine mother who is the Pride incarnate (Ahanta or the I-sense) of Shiva, the destroyer of the Three cities, vouchsafe her presence before us – the Mother with her slender waist girdled with jingling Odyana (a waist ornament), with her frame slightly bent in the middle by the weight of her breasts that bulge like the frontal globes of the forehead o a young elephant, with her face resembling the autumnal moon, and with her hand sporting a bow, arrows, a noose and a goad!" – 7
This verse portrays the divine mother chit Parashakti in Her gross (Sthoola) form as distinguished from the subtle (Sukshma) and sublime (Para) forms. In this gross form, physical features such as hands, feet, face etc. are attributed to the divine form so as to facilitate contemplation by the Sadhaka. Followers of Samayachara meditate on Amba's form and worship her mentally in the various Chakras or psychic centers inside the human body. At each end of the Meru Dana or the spinal cord that runs from the skull downwards to the anus, there is a thousand-petalled lotus. The one at the lower end is called Kula Sahasrara and the other at the upper end, almost at the center of the head, is known as Akula Sahasrara. Between these two thousand-petalled lotuses and along the spinal cord there are six plexuses or lotuses. They are:
1. Moolaadhaara, a four-petalled lotus, a little above the anus.
2. Swadhishthana, a six-petalled lotus, at the root of the genital organ.
3. Manipooraka, a ten-petalled lotus, at the navel.
4. Anahata, a twelve-petalled lotus, at the heart region.
5. Visuddhi, a sixteen-petalled lotus, in the region of the neck.
6. Ajna, a two-petalled lotus, between the eyebrows.
Sridevi manifests herself to the Sadhaka in the Manipooraka Chakra, when the devotee in his internal worship makes all kinds of offerings to Amba, and bedecks her with all varieties of jewels and ornaments made of resplendent rubies, emerald etc. Thence Sridevi is conducted to the Anahata Chakra in her upward move to the Akula Sahasrara. The lustrous and wonderful form of Sridevi as meditated upon and apparent in the Anahata Chakra is described in this verse. The followers of Samayachara follow this form of meditation. The Rudrayamala says: "dhyAnAsaktau tu sarvAsAM dhyAnaM tattu samaM smR^itaM".
Bhagavan Durvasas describes Amba in his Tripura Mahimna Stotra in similar lines:
brahmANDAbjamahAsane janani te mUrtiM bhaje chinmayIm
It is also to be noted that this verse describes Amba's form for meditation by beginners in Srividya. The Shastras describes progressive meditation on the Sthula (gross), Sukshma (subtle), Sukshmatara (the subtler) and upon the Sukshmatama (the subtlest) forms. The forty names of Sri Lalita in the Rahasya Sahasranama from the 12th name - "nijAruNaprabhApUramajjadbrahmANDamaNDAlA" upto the 51^st name – "sarvAbharaNabhUShitA", describe th gross form of Amba. The subtle form of Sridevi is her mantras. The five names of Amba from the 85th, "shrImadvAgbhavakUtaikaswaruupamukhapa~NkajA" to the 89th name "mUlakUTatrayakalebarA" describe the subtle form of Sridevi. The subtler form is of Kamakala and is described by the 88^th and 89^th names. The subtlest form is of Kundalini portrayed in the 22 names of Lalita beginning from the 90th name "kulAmR^itaikarasikA" and ending with the 111th name "bisatantutanIyasii".
The comparison of Amba's face to the autumnal moon is intended to bring out the glory, calmness and the grace of her form. While the moon suffers diminution during the dark fortnight and has an indelible spot, Amba's face is full with all the sixteen Kalas and without any blemish. The autumn, called `Saradritu' is the quietest part of the year in India, it being neither hot nor cold, almost throughout the country. This period of two months extends roughly from the middle of October to the middle of December, when the sky will be clear of clouds and the moon shining bright in the night. The full moon is mentioned to denote the fullness of the Kalas.
The third line of the Shloka makes a mention of the weapons in Amba's four hands, which are: Ankusha (goad), Pasha (noose), a sugarcane-bow and five arrows. the goad shines like the crescent moon. The noose is of coral, while the bow is of sugarcane of the dark red variety with a bowstring of honeybees. The five arrows are of Kamala, Raktakairava, Kalhara, Indivara and Sahakara flowers. The Kalika Purana associates these five arrows respectively with Harshana, Rechana, Mohana, Shoshana and Marana. The Jnanarnava associates these arrows with Kshobhana, Dravana, Akarshana, Vashya and Unmadana. According to Tantraraja, they are: Maadana, Unmadana, Mohana, Dipana and Shoshana. The four weapons, adorning the four arms of Sridevi, referred to in this verse of *Saundaryalahari,* are only in their gross (Sthoola) form. Several texts explain the inner meaning of these weapons and their Sukshma (subtle) and Para (sublime) forms. The subtle form of these mantras is said to be their mantras, referred to as Pasha and other Ayudha mantras. The Bhavanopanishad says:
rAgaH pAshaH, dveSho a~NkushaH, shabdAdi pa~nchatanmAtraH pa~ncha puShpabANaH, mana ikShukodaNDaH.
Desire is the Pasha, hatred is the Ankusha, the senses associated with the five sense organs (sound, touch, smell etc.) are the five arrows, and the mind is the bow.
The Rahasya Sahasranama says:
Desire is the pasha, anger is the Ankusha, the senses are the arrows and the mind is the bow.
According to Yoginihridaya:
icchAshaktimayaM pAshaM a~NkushaM j~nAnarUpiNam|
kriyAshaktimayaM bANAdhanuShI dadhadujwalam ||
The noose, the goad and the arrows signify the powers of will or desire, knowledge and action respectively and the bow makes them effulgent.
`Raga' means mental desires such as greed, passion etc., which lead one to bondage and Samsara. Dvesha or Krodha consists of dislikes, which emanate from knowledge of undesirability of things. This knowledge (Jnana) of the varieties controls the mind and restricts it from the external sense-objects, represented by the arrows. The arrows representing the five Tanmatras along with the bow point to the vicissitudes of the mind (Sankalpa and Vikalpa) which lead to all forms of activity. The bow and arrows are also said to represent the Antahkarana (inner consciousness) and the Jnanendriyas (organs of knowledge). Hence it may be concluded that the noose in Sridevi's hand is the Iccha Shakti, the goad the Jnana Shakti and the arrows the Kriya Shakti. The significance of the weapons is that the meditation of Amba along with the weapons in her hands is necessary for Moksha.
Sage Durvasas, one of the celebrated Upasakas of Srividya, says in his Tripura Mahimna Stotra that meditation on the bow, arrows, the noose and goad in Amba's four hands enables the Sadhaka to realize the illusive nature of Samsara and worldly objects, to overcome the cycle of births and deaths and to attain liberation or Moksha. The Tripuropanishad says – The omniscient Creatrix denounces with her five arrows the fickle-minded who are carried away by worldly desires, pleasures and dislikes, and by contrast leads those, who control their mental desires and senses, to liberation.
The words `PuramathituH' and `Ahopurushika' together mean – `The pride of Shiva'. Amba is described here as the proud realization of Shiva's prowess. The expression `Aham' herein connotes the Pratyagatma or Jiva, and by its secondary significance refers to the Ahambhava, which arose when Shakti manifested Herself as `Aham'. The Ahambhava referred to in this verse is the ego (the consciousness of `I'), which became manifest when the impulse for creation arose in the Supreme Being at the time of creation. The expression `PuramathituH' also suggests the inseparable association of Shiva with Shakti, to be recognized and realized in worship. The Devi is called `Aho Purushika' because Shiva, the Prakasha (pure luminosity) becomes aware of himself as `I' when he is reflected in his Vimarsha Shakti (the objective counterpart). That Vimarsha Shakti, which makes Shiva conscious of himself as `I', is the Devi. The form of Sri Mahatripurasundari described in this Shloka of *Saundaryalahari* is said to be what shines in the Manipooraka Chakra of a Sadhaka of Samayachara, when he contemplates on his fourfold identity with Sri Rajarajeshwari. Pura mathitr – is Shiva who is the vanquisher of the three cities; this may also be constructed as the `extractor of the three syllables', forming the Tripura Maha Bija mantra Aim Klim SauH, which, according to the Rudrayamala, the great Lord extracted as the essence, after churning the Sanskrit alphabet, even as one churns curds for the extraction of butter. Going a step further, the Tripurasundari Mahamantra (Bala or Panchadashi) is itself called `Tripuram'. Shiva is said to have churned the milk of these three Bijas with his mind as the churning instrument. Here, the action of churning indicates intense contemplation on the mantra. As a result, up arose the butter of Sri Mahatripurasundari's Swaroopa (person). Because of this, Parameshwara is known as `Tripuramathana' or `Puramathana' for short.
`Kvanat Kanchidama' – `Kvanat' means the tinkling of the tiny bells fitted in ornaments. It is an onomatopoeic word. A girdle fitted with bells is called `Kanchi'. One without bells is called `Mekhala'. The name `Ratnakinkinimekhala', which occurs in the Rahasya Sahasranama denotes the same as `Kvanat Kanchidama'. There is also a hint in this phrase that the subject of the hymn is Sri Lalitambika because the word `Kanchi' is used in it. Amba is worshipped in many forms from Kanyakumari in the south to Kshirabhavani in Kashmir in the north: Bhagavati, Chamundeshwari, Sharadamba, Minakshi, Akhilandeshwari, Dharmasamvardhini, Kamalamba, Balamba, Shivakamasundari, Jnanamba, Bhramaramba, Kanakadurga, Tulaja Bhavani, Ambaji, Vindhyavasini, Annapurneshwari, Kali, Kamakhya, Vaishnavi etc.
But the deity mentioned in the Srividya Tantra Shastra, the deity with all the attributes and weapons of Lalita Mahatripurasundari, is present only as Kamakshi in Kanchipuram. In this hymn, though Amba's name is not mentioned, it seems the Acharya has perhaps suggested the name by mentioning, or hinting at, her place through `Kanchidama'. The place of Amba's navel is said to be situated at Kanchipuram. Since the girdle's front part is above the navel, the place is called Kanchi. `Dama' means a rope made of a number of strands tightened together. Krishna came to be called Damodara from the fact that Yashoda bound him with a rope passing around his abdomen. Since the girdle with bells is made with strands of gold, Acharya calls it `Kanchi dama'. When Amba walks around, it is not only her anklets that jingle, but also the bells of her girdle. This also refers to the Yogic secret that when the yogi contemplates on the Nada in his heart, he hears the jingling of bells. A girdle that starts with the center of the earth and, going round, returns to the center must be immensely big. Since it entwines Amba's waist, we are likely to think that her waist is very huge. But Amba's waist is very thin. `Kshina' means thin and with the prefix `pari' it means very thin. This is one of the characteristics of women belonging to the highest category as per the Samudrika Shastra.
The pasha and Ankusha are Raga and Dvesha, love and hatred. They are the two primary urges, likes and dislikes, what you accept and what you reject. If thought deeply, we realize that all worldly life is enfolded by these two urges. Raga and Dvesha are also understood to be Kama and Krodha, desire and anger. Both must be kept at restraint. These two are the products of the Amba's sport of Maya and they disappear in her sport of grace (Anugraha Lila). Of Kama and Krodha, Amba's noose symbolizes Kama or desire. Pasha means rope or noose. The noose that Yama, the god of death casts is called `Yama pasha'. We say that `Asha' (desire) is also a pasha. Like a noose, Kama keeps us bound. The goad symbolizes Krodha or anger. Anger is like the goad that provokes you and pierces you. Modern scientists speak of anger as wastage of useful bio-energy. If we waste our energy fuming in anger about what we do not like, we waste more energy when we are happily involved in what we are very fond of, that is Kama. Kama is called `Hita shatru' – pretending to do our good, it digs our grave. Pasha and Ankusha are generally weapons used to control an elephant. Kama and Krodha are indeed elephantine in proportion: that is why they are shown to be kept under check by the pasha and Ankusha. What doe we actually mean by saying that desire and anger must be kept under check? It means simply that the must be kept under control, the mind in which the two (desire and anger) sprout. In Shivanandalahari, Srimadacharya refers to the mind as an elephant in rut.
Amba sports the same weapons as Manmatha. When the sugarcane bow and the flower arrows are in the hands of Manmatha, the juice of the sugarcane and the nectar of the flowers flow as Kamarasa to delude the world and ensnare it in carnal pleasure. The same weapons in the hands of Amba create a flow of the Rasa of her compassion. And, correspondingly, devotion for her, the Mother, wells up in our hearts. In the flow of her compassion and our devotion, we forget ourselves and experience the bliss of liberation. In short, the flower arrows of Amba annihilate our sensual urges and her sugarcane bow eradicates our mind.
The question arises: why should Amba have four hands? It is precisely because she is beautiful to behold in her form with the four hands. Apart from being beautiful, she is also the queen – the empress. It is to denote her majesty that she has the bows and arrows in the other hands. Amba is the queen of the empire of Jnana. To indicate that she is the one who liberates, she is shown as holding the goad and the noose, the weapons that create Jnana by destroying Raga and Dwesha. It is to show that she herself draws away the mind and the senses – the mind and the senses that we should ourselves offer at her feet – that she keeps the bow and arrows in her hands. It is as if she lifts us up with her hands saying, "Why should my child take the trouble of falling at my feet? Let me even save that trouble for him". So, though she carries the weapons of Manmatha, she creates Kama only in Parameshwara. For others, she eventually brings release from Kama. She is Shivakamasundari for only Paramashiva, who is Jnana incarnate; for her devotees, she is Jnanaprasoonambika. As for Manmatha, with the same weapons he drags all sentient beings into carnal pleasures, but is powerless before Ishwara, who reduced him to ashes.
The mantras for pasha, Ankusha, bow and arrows are derived from this Shloka. It is also known that the Bija for Vashini Devi is here disclosed by some words in the Shloka. The mantra of the Chakreshwari of the third Aavarana of Srichakra – Tripurasundari, is also hidden in this Shloka.