I am half awake, half drowsy. after an extended siesta following a heavy lunch “Groggy like a serpent that ate mud”, as we say in Telugu. The rains have poured and then again it rained a lot more “elephant-trunks”, again to borrow a well-worn Telugu usage. We were a bit apprehensive, -the scenes around the twin cities broadcast on the TV were reminiscent of the unprecedented deluge that occurred in August, 2000 which left a trail of damage all across the city. Many areas in the city that were affected then have thankfully been spared of inundation this time, but quite a few low-lying areas. In the city have not been so fortunate. The weather which initially turned sultry, has cooled down a lot. The nights and mornings are particularly chilly, not pleasantly cool.. And the sun has been playing truant for most of the day, it is an an invitation to hibernate, if you can afford.
The missus tears of the blanket that cocooned over me. “Sir, will you get up? It is evening already. I need some things from the market for tomorrow’s Vara Lakshmi festival.Please get up, go and get them before it gets more dark..” The list includes, flowers of various kinds, fruits, Yellow gram, (the Kabuli variety), jaggery, betelnut powder, betel leaves, two small plantain plants to decorate the platform on which the deity is to be seated, and a few other items needed by the missus for the worship of, or to offer to, the deity and to distribute to the invitees, her friends within the colony. Having delegated the work to me, she went about making other preparations for celebrating the big event ,singing mildly to herself, ‘Sri Vara Lakshmi namastubhyam’
The market is heavily crowded with people jostling against each other to get the things they needed before it gets dark and it rains again. I manage to buy most of the things before long, except fruits and flowers. The rates of fruits and flowers have increased by a factor of two or three or more, in view of the festival.A dozen plantains have set me back by fifty rupees. And a hundred grams each of chrysanthemums and roses costed me rupees forty each. It took quite a while for me to get the flowers, what with the great medley of ladies most of them young and energetic, elbowing out others to corner some flowers before the fast depleting heaps got sold out. While inching my way into the presence of the harassed seller, I hear the young lady beside me croon to herself a mellow melody which sounded remotely familiar, but not heard by me for decades. I assign all my ears to the mild and sweet melody and realise it is , “Hiranmayeem Lakshmeem “, in Lalitha by Muthuswami Deekshitar, about the golden hued Lakshmi, the great goddess of wealth and well-being whom all the devout ladies crowding enthusiastically around the flower seller hoped to invoke and usher into their respective houses the next day.
I finish my shopping a little while later and return home. But the haunting beauty of the song and the mellow melody of the Raga refuse to leave me.
Deekshitar never cared much for money, but strove to provide a rich legacy of great sanskrit verses on all the deities whom he ardently worshipped. He was constantly on an incessant pilgrimage to the. various places of worship all over the South and wrote immortal verses in praise of the deities he had visited.
The song under reference, is believed to have been penned by him, when his younger spouse wanted him to buy her some costly ornaments, and if necessary for that purpose to seek the help of some wealthy patron.The song expresses his reluctance to seek help from ‘crass people’ Here is the lyric and my attempt at translation of the lyric below.
Hiranmayeem Lakshmeem sadaa bhajaami
heena maanavaashrayam tyajami
chira thara sampath pradaam
harinam charana kisalayam
kara kamala drutha kuvalayaam
marakatha manimaya valayaam
swetha dweepa vaasineem
Sree Kamalaambikaam, paraam,
bhootha bhavya vilaasineem
bhoosura poojithaam, varaam
maatharam abja maalineem
maanikyaabharana dharaam san-
-geetha vaadya vinoodhineem
Girijaam thaam, Indiraam
seetha kirana nibha vadanaam
sritha chinthaamani sadanaam
guru guha maathula kanthaam, lalithaam.
I worship the golden-hued Lakshmi. I reject the support of worthless people.. I worship the golden-hued Lakshmi,
She bestows ever lasting wealth,
She is the offspring of the ocean of milk,
The chest of Lord Hari is her secure abode
Her feet are soft as tender green leaves
(The word Harinam has a number of connotations, it means something Green, that is auspicious. It means a graceful horse or a deer, it could mean an yellow bird, that we call Gizigaadu in Telugu. It could signify a fragrant wild blossom,.or it could mean some one who is fair in complexion. It could again mean an angel.Or it could mean a golden statue. All of these could well describe the sprightly and benign deity. It is the genius of Dikshitar to use such a great term to describe Her )
She holds a water-lily in her lotus-like hand
( She holds the universe in her lotus-like hand.
Note:. Kuvalayam means the universe also.)
She sports a jewel-encrusted ornamental belt. (valayaam means one who wears a belt like ornament, we call vaddannam in Telugu.)
She stays on the white island.
She is verily Kamalaambika, of the eternal world.
She abounds in the past and the future.
She is worshipped by devout people, She is the best.
She is The Mother who wears a garland of flowers.
She wears ornaments studded with precious stones
She likes music vocal and instrumental.
She is Indira, beautiful as the moon, but She is again none other than Parvati (Girija) too. (Taam could mean you are parvati, as Taa means Parvati. Again Taa means punyam. (You are the outcome of good deeds.) Taam sounds like twam meaning ‘you’. It sounds too like, tam, the beejakshara which is regarded as the bestower of wealth and food. The line I think literally means , You are regarded as Indira by Girija. Dikshitar seems to also imply here that just as Kesava is none other ultimately than Siva, Lakshmi is also none other than the Ultimate Mother, who is also Girija, Kamalambika, or Lalitha or Sri Devi of Sri Vidya,in the Tantric Tradition )
Soothing cool rays emanate and radiate out of her countenance.
She sits in state to help those who seek her (shrita), in her mansion tiled with the precious stone, chintamani ( a stone which can grant one’s wishes) ( the line literally identifies herwthe the abode in which she dwells, the stones which went to build it tgemselves capable of granting ones wishes)
She wears an yellow silken dress.
She is the spouse of Guruguha’s ( Kumara Swamy’s) uncle (Vishnu). She is Lalitha, The lithe and Gracious One.
I worship the golden-hued Lakshmi. I reject the support of worthless people..
Here is a link to a nice rendering of the song by M.S. Subba Lakshmi.. Hope you will like it