Janani-nava-ratna-manjari is a bouquet to Devi made of nine gems, represented by nine stanzas. Narayana Guru composed this work at Sivagiri about a hundred years ago (1909). The idol of Godess Sarada is installed at this place, where Guru conceived this hymn in Her praise. Therefore it is reasonable to presume that the Godess mentioned in this composition refers to Godess Saradadevi, consecrated at Sivagiri. Though this is a short hymn, the principles involved in the path of knowledge (Vicharamarga) can be seen amply in this work. Even Upasana-marga (path of worshipful action) teaches us to worship God with the awareness of the principles of devotion. One who does not know this is like a traveler on a journey without a sense of direction of his way. He may not be even aware of his mistakes, when he strays from the correct path. As one approaches his destination (using any of the two paths), the two paths merge into one.
At the outset, it is appropriate and essential to mention about the lyrical beauty of this composition. The commentaries on the nine stanzas are given below.
1. onnaya ma mathiyil ninnayiram triputi
vannasu than mathi marannu
annadiyil priyamuyarnnadalam kadalil
onnayi veenu valayum
ennasayam gathi perum nadabhoomiyil
chinnabhiyil triputi ennanarumpadi
From the Great Wish which is only one, there came thousands of triads, and at once forgetting what it is, becoming desirous of food etc. fall and suffer in the sea of sorrow all together.
When am I going to merge at the center of radiating Awareness in the Chidakasa, from where my concepts take origin and where the triple state dissolves and becomes cool.
The remembrance of the past is called Smriti (literally what is remembered through memory). The faculty of intellect is concerned with the present thoughts. ‘Mati’ relates to those thoughts, wishes or intentions about the future. Here Mati is used in reference to the Godess and not man. Therefore the epithet ‘Ma’ is used to qualify ‘Mati’. All creations have materialized according to the spiritual will (Mati) of the Godess who created this world. Thousand means endless or infinite. The knower (subject), the knowledge and the known (object) constitute ‘Triputi’ (combinations of three). The manifest world (the world of names and forms) results out of ‘Triputi’. Man often forgets who he is. Though man is really atma (a part of the divine), he gets entrapped in his body and fails to realize the Truth.
[Note. One of the fundamental tenets of Hinduism, is that ‘we’ are the atman, not the physical body, emotions, the external mind or personality. The Atma Upanishad (1-3) describes atman (Purusha) as three fold: (1) Baahyaatman- the outer or physical person. (2) The Antaratman- the inner person (excluding the physical person) which perceives, thinks and cognizes. (3) The Transcendent Self (God) within.]
Consequently he becomes egoistic and starts thinking everything as ‘I, mine, my’, like ‘I am Rama’, ‘I am Sita’, and so on. Due to his desire for materialistic objects (associated with the body), like food, clothes, etc, man falls into the ocean of sorrow and suffers, without knowing what to do. (This is what happened to Sita, who was enchanted by a golden deer and had to undergo sufferings later, due to her desire.) My (knower’s) concepts take birth from the Naadabhoomi or Chidakasa (the realm of all pervading, Absolute (Consciousness). All pains and sorrows exist due to the existence of ego (I, the knower, the subject). When a devotee merges completely with the Godess (through Upasana) all sorrows of the world will disappear, just like sugar disappears in the ocean of milk.
2 illatha mayayidum ullasam onnum arivu
kallazhiyum kanalum allathe soonyamathum
thallaghavam parakil illaranam kriyakal
malladukilla mathi ee
sallabhamonnumathi ellavarum thirayum
ullagha bodha jananee.
The play that the nonexistent Maya makes is nothing but Awareness. Earth, water, fire, air and space are all in essence Awareness.
If one understands the ease with which Godess creates and plays with it, the Karmas mentioned in the Vedas do not hold water. There won’t be any further confusion. It is enough to obtain Sat, Mother the embodiment of Jnana, whom everybody seeks.
Maya is an illusion ie, a nonexistent phenomenon. When a person perceives the Truth, he will realize this fact. The thoughts that arise due to illusion are but a form of knowledge. If we look at the five elements (earth, water, fire, air, ether.) from a spiritual angle, they are also a part of our knowledge or Awareness. This has been mentioned also in the Daivadasakam.
If we understand with what ease and inherent ability, the Godess created the world and plays with it, the Karmas (duties/actions) mentioned in the Vedas do not hold water (has no significance).
[In the Vedas, the section on Knowledge follows the section on Duties/Actions. Vedanta is Jnanakanda (section related to knowledge) and has pushed out Karmakanda (section related to duties/ actions). If this is understood, there will not be any doubt about which to accept, Karmakanda or Jnanakanda.
(Note: Jnanakanda is the portion of Vedas, which relates to the knowledge of the one Spirit (Awareness). Karmakanda is the portion of Vedas relating to ceremonial acts and sacrificial rites.) It is enough to obtain Sat (the Truth/Awareness). In other words Moksha (liberation) is enough. She is the Godess, the embodiment of Jnana (Awareness), whom everybody seeks.
3. undayimarum arivundayi munnamithu
kondayiram tharam irundasayamprathi
churunda mahassil marayum
kandalum eenilayi undakayillarivu
thandaril veenu madhu undaramikkumoru
vandanu soori sukruti.
The Awareness, ever changing in the form of manifested world originated first. With the Jnanendriyas and Antakarana endless manifestations sway to the play of illusion (Maya), get involved in different concepts and finally merge with that Glory.
Though all these take place before our eyes, the ignorant cannot understand this play of undivided Bliss. The Jnani who reaches his destination is like the bumblebee that slept in a lotus flower after enjoying its honey.
The Aathma (Awareness) is what originated first. But it goes through the process of births and deaths (the samsara-chakra). The Jnanendriyas (organs of sense) and Antakarana (the inner self consisting of the mind, intellect, consciousness and ego) sway to the play of illusion (Maya), and become manifested as names and forms (objects), get involved in concepts like love, nonviolence and revolts and finally merges with the Paramatma (Awareness). Though all these activities take place before our eyes, those who are submerged in ignorance, do not enjoy this undivided (whole) Bliss. The Jnani who reaches his destination is like the bumblebee that slept in a lotus flower, after enjoying and getting intoxicated with the honey it consumed.
[Note: ecstasy views Bliss from the western view as ‘standing outside oneself’. Mircea Eliade in 1969 coined the word entasy to contrast it with Eastern view of Bliss, ie. ‘Standing inside oneself’.
4. aarayukil thirakal neerayidunnu phani
veraya ninkazhalil aaradhanam tharanam
aaral ithinnoru varam
nerayi vanniduka verarumilla gathi
hey! rajayoga jananee.
If we contemplate, the waves are but water, the sake is just a rope and the pot is but earth. The world is similar to this only. If we don’t think philosophically everything is real.
Mother! You, who is the root cause of everything, give me refuge at Your feet. Grant me a boon to this and it must become a reality. There is no other way to me. O! Mother, the Godess of Raja yoga!
If we reflect within, we will realize that the waves in the ocean are just water, the snake that is seen in a rope (in dim light) is just a rope, and the earthen pot is but earth. The world is similar to the above examples. If we think philosophically everything is Real. In fact, the world is Awareness. Only the wise with a philosophical determination (bend of mind) can understand this. The ignorant sees only the manifestations of names and forms, but not Awareness. Mother! You who is the root cause of everything, grant me the blessings to become devoted at Your feet. You must grant me this boon and it must become a reality. O! Godess of Raja yoga! I do not have any other mode of existence (a way of living). [Note: Devi is the Mother of all Yogas and not just Raja yoga.)
To be a true devotee at the feet of the Devi, one must have Her blessings. The prayer mentioned here is to seek such a blessing from Her. This concept has been introduced by the Gurudeva in Shanmukha stotra. The Grace of God is a prerequisite to attain Padabhakti (devotion at the divine feet of God.)
5. melaya moolamathiyalavrtham janani
nee lasyamadi vidum ee
keelala vayu anala kolahalam bhuvanam
kaalatiyaya mruthu noolale neyyumoru
leelapadam bhavathi mey
melake moodumathinalarum ullatha
Mother’s body is enwrapped in primordial illusion. Out of her intoxicating dance arise the five elements and their different combinations which constitute this world. All are just names.
Devi is donned in a play dress which is made up of the fine threads of time etc. So no one recognizes her, who resides at the end part of Agamas.
Devi is Atma (Awareness). But her body is enwrapped in primordial illusion (Moolamati) which arises out of her intoxicating dance (Lila). (The same concept can be seen in Atmopadesasatakam stanza 35.
[Like ten thousand suns coming all at once, the wisdom’s function comes. That is the primal Sun, which comes out tearing the veil of maya-darkness. Maya covers Awareness, and is transient.]
The body is constituted of the five elements, which we can see. The forms in the manifest world got names. Therefore the usage of the phrase ‘aalapa matram akhilam’- everything is just names.In stanza 80 of Atmopadesasatakam and in Kundalinippattu- we can see the same concept.
(Ever contrary like rest and motion, how can creation, existence and dissolution co-exist in one place? There is no validity for these anywhere. When this is considered, earth and other objects are, mere names alone.-Atmo-80.)
paradi thonniyennadu pampe’.
Just like the artiste in Kathakali performance dresses appropriately to suit the character he represents, the Godess also dons different attires to suit different occasions. Since the Devi is covered fully by dress of illusion, no one recognizes the real Devi who exists at the end part of Agamas (behind the disguise), where she is in the form of Mahavakyas (which proclaim Tat Twam Asi, Aham Brahmasmi, Ayamatma Brahma etc.)
6. meenayathum bhavati manayathum janani
nee nagavum naga khagam
thanayathum dhara nadee naariyum naranum
aa nakavum narakavum
nee namaroopamathil nanavidhaprakrti
manayi ninnariyum ee
njanayathum bhavati hey nadaroopini
aho! nadakam nikhilavum
O! Devi, You are the fish, O! Mother, You are the deer, You are the snake, the bird, the mountain, the earth, the river, the woman, the man, the heaven and the hell.
I who is aware of these manifestations, am also part of your many names and forms. O! The embodiment of Omkar, all these are but your divine play.
O! Devi, You manifest yourself in many forms like the fish in water, the frolicking deer in the forest, as the snake, the bird, the mountain, the earth, the river, the women, the man, the heaven and the hell. [ie. You are omnipresent.) I, who is aware of these manifestations, am also part of your many names and forms. O! The embodiment of Omkar, all these are but your lila (divine play).
It is futile (and foolish) to break one’s head by trying to interpret this stanza, by pointing out some apparent contradictions, like, the rat is Devi, the cat is also Devi, and the cat eats the rat, and so on. The essence of this stanza is that all that we see in this manifest world is only part of a divine play. [So Devi is called Mayavinodini- one who enjoys creating illusions in man.]
7. en papam eyvathinorampayidunnarivu
en anpanu maurvi orirumpam manam dhanu:
ambaa tharunnu vijayam papapankilamaham
van bharamarnna thanuvum bhanamam
ulakavum bhanamakum akhilam.
Awareness is the arrow to shoot down my sins. The devotion at your tender feet serves as the string. An iron like mind is the bow. One who has realized Devi succeeds in shooting down his sins.
Victory is achieved only with the Grace of Mother. The sin tainted egoism, the weighty body and the manifest world of names and forms, are all just illusion.
Awareness is the arrow to shoot down my sins. The devotion at Your tender feet serves as the string. An iron like mind (a steadfast mind) is the bow. One who has realized the certainty about the spiritual truth that ‘I am the Devi’ ie, Aham Brahmasmi, succeeds in shooting down his sins in this way. [ie. Becomes free from his sins and achieves liberation.] This victory is achieved only with the Grace of the Godess. Then we must realize that the sin-tainted egoism, the weighty body (the burdensome physical nature) and the manifest world of names and forms, are just illusions. In other words, egoism, the human body, and the manifest world should be dismissed as mere deceptions. [In the Atmopadesasatakam stanza 55, the manifest world has been described as acquired dream (deception).
[This (the waking state) is a long dream. Like sleep, this perishes everyday. Dream also perishes in the same way. The one with the perishing mind does not see like this. He is confused, as he merges with the pure Oneness (Awareness) for ever.]
8. sathayi ninnupari chithayi randumoru
muthayi moonnum ariyum
hruthayi ninnathinu vithayi vinnodu
maruthayi drusti muthalay
kothayidum vishaya vistharam annamathi-
sidhanubhoothiyilum ethateyam athi
mahathayidum janani nee.
Being Sat (etenal), and above that being Chit (selfluminous), together becoming Muthu (pearl), and becoming all the three knowing Antakarana (the inner self), becoming the seeds like sky, air, eye etc.
With infinite manifestations, the food that satisfy the hunger of the senses is also Devi. Devi is also the consumer of various objects of desire. The great Mother cannot be reached by Sidhanubhooti.
Here, the Guru repeats his earlier concept that everything is Devi. The three words used here are: Sat (eternal or Truth), Chit (selfluminous or Awareness) and Muthu (pearl ie. Bliss), which carries the same meaning as ‘You are Sachidanandam’ (You are eternal selfluminous Bliss Supreme) which has been mentioned in Daivadasakam. The Devi represents Antakarana (the inner self or faculty) which is aware of these three aspects. The causal factors in the form of the five basic elements (earth, water, fire, air, ether), behind the Antakarana is also Devi. Further, Devi is also the Jnanendriyas (eyes, ears, nose, skin, tongue providing the functions of sight, hearing, smell, touch and taste) which help us to identify the various combinations of the five elements manifested as objects. With infinite manifestations, the food (bait), that satisfy the hunger (desires) of the senses is also Devi. The use of the word ‘Kothe’ (bait) has a special significance. The ‘bait’ is ‘seen’ as ‘food’ by the fish, which tries to swallow it, and thus meets with its end. Similarly the objects of desire trap men with their illusion. In the case of Sitadevi, the golden deer was the bait (used by Ravana). Devi is also the consumer of various objects of desire (Ref. stanza 6 above, which refers to rat, cat and other objects which are also manifestations of Devi.)
The Great mother cannot be reached by Sidhanubhooti. Sidhis refer to occult powers which fall in the lower rungs of the ladder to reach salvation (Devi). Those who get allured by Sidhis and go after such methods can never reach the Godess (Moksha). Sidhi is the bait in which a sadhaka can get entrapped. Therefore he should not get fluttered by obtaining such low level powers to do supernatural things, but progress towards his final goal with utmost devotion. The nirvana (final emancipation) of the one who desires Sidhi is Asudha-asudham as mentioned in Nirvana-darsanam.
9. bhoovadi bhoothamathinavasamilla verum
nnabhavisesham ithinnavasam ingulakil
naavati than vishayit aavasamatta bhavad
aavasam aake vilasum
jananee vazhthuvanum aruthee.
There is no existence for the elements like earth. They are all transitory and an illusion on Awareness. If they seem to exist, it is only due to the compassion of Devi.
Devi lives in Chidakasa, which is beyond the reach of the senses. O! Mother, it is beyond description using words. Who really knows its glory?
The five elements, and the objects of their combinations are mere illusions and have no permanent existence (they are transitory). If they seem to exist, it is only due to the compassion of the Devi. The existence of Devi cannot be known through sense organs. Devi lives in Chidakasa (absolute consciousness, which is beyond the reach of the senses and requires inner sight.) It is beyond description using words.
There are three skies (akasas)- namely, Mahakasa, Chittakasa and Chidakasa. The sky that exists at the level of various forms (manifestations) is Mahakasa. The sky that is at the level of the mind is called Chittakasa. The sky that exists at the level of Atman is called Chidakasa. ‘Paraveli’ in stanza 2 of Atmopadesa-satakam refers to this Chidakasa.
This hymn is Guru's boon to the devotees of Devi (Godess Sarada). One who can memorise and chant at least one of the stanzas from this hymn will definitely feel the Divine presence, through his experience.