Beauty, A Wave

from Soundarya Laharī

Anonymous, attributed to Śankara

1.
Only when with Her can He stir
Shakti She's Shiva's Power
Even Brahma-Vishnu-Shiva salute her

Dare compose a paean? you good-for-nothing "poet"
Never a good turn in your life you're unfit even to offer prayer

2.
A speck of dust at Your lotus feet

You do not walk You float
You're too lofty for dust

If lotuses Your feet
Imagine the rest

And the speck it's
Versatile

Brahma makes perfect worlds with It

Vishnu carries It – somehow – on his heads

Hoods if translated Serpent Adi-sesha,
Vishnu's parasol

Heads or hoods,
takes a thousand to
hoist all worlds
Seven nether seven upper

Shiva smashes It
Smears all over
as if ash

3.
More similes to explain Your effect:

Dark in the ignorant as
some city on an island
until You, Sun, rise

Dim the wits until You, Honey, flow flower-clusters

Wishful the poor until You, Precious Gem

You save the sunken
as Vishnu as wild-boar Varaha
dived in and surfaced
Sunken earth balanced on tusk

4.
The gods gesture   pose
with their hands they grant

Boons

Fearlessness


Not so You

Even Your feet   the worlds' refuge
know how

to free from fear
to give results

5.
By adoring You, Mother
                      of good fortune for
                      people who bow to You
Hari  Vishnu
became a woman  Mohini

led the foe-of-cities  Shiva
astray

By saluting you, Cupid has

the might to mess with sages' minds
the looks Rati's eyes lick

6.
Daughter of Snow-Mountain,

Although Cupid's ill-equipped
       Bodiless
       Flower-bow
       Bee-bowstring
       Five arrows  (floral  flimsy)
       For aide, (young) Spring
       (Mild) Malaya wind his war-chariot

By the mercy of Your
slight sidelong glance
he wins over the world
on his own

7.
May She
       Slim-waist
       Jingle-girdle askew

       from the fullness of breasts
                           picture a young elephant its trunk its frontal globes
                           swollen in the rutting season

       Her face full autumn-moon

       Bow-arrows-noose-goad
       in Her hands

       Oh the very verve
       of the crusher-of-three-cities  Shiva

Be here before us


translated from the Sanskrit by Mani Rao



Read the original in Sanskrit

Read translator’s note

Anonymous, attributed to Śankara

Mani Rao is the author of eight books of poetry and a translation of the Bhagavad Gita. Her website has links to her publications.


Soundarya Lahari is a 103-stanza paean to the feminine principle and goddess Shakti. Its authorship is attributed to Śankara, who may have lived in the 8th century C.E.