सकृन्न त्वा नत्वा कथमिव सतां संनिदधते
sakṛnna tvā natvā kathamiva satāṁ saṁnidadhate
madhukṣīradrākṣāmadhurimadhurīṇāḥ phaṇitayaḥ ||
śaraj jyotsnā śuddhāṁ - bright and pure like autumnal moon; śaśi yuta jaṭā juṭa makuṭāṁ - adorning a crown studded with crescent moon on your plaited hair; vara trāsa trāṇa sphaṭika ghaṭikā pustaka karām – with your four hands having vara mudra, abhaya mudra, a rosary of crystal beads and a book; sakṛnna tvā natvā – having prostrated before you only once; katham iva satāṁ - how good men could; saṁ nidadhate – not bringing in; madhu – honey; kṣīra – milk; drākṣā – grapes (probably referring to raisin); madhurima dhurīṇāḥ - more sweeter than; phaṇitayaḥ - flowing of words.
“Parāśakti! You appear splendorous like the spotless autumnal moon. You are adorning a crown on you braided hair with the crescent moon. You grant boons and offer protection with your two hands and in the other two hands you hold a crystal bead and a book. If a sincere devotee prostrates before You only once, why he will not get flow of words sweeter than honey, milk and raisins?”
The grosser meaning of the verse is that the one who worships Her, contemplating the above form, will become an excellent poet. Let us have a look at Her. She appears splendorous and spotless. A comparison is drawn to the autumnal moon. In the first place, why a comparison is made to the moon? Secondly, why the autumnal moon? She is compared to the moon on two grounds. Moon is cool and also graciously nurtures. Sun, on the other hand cannot be looked at all as it will blind our biological eyes. Sun does not graciously nurtures like moon. Moon has the power to nourish and grow certain precious herbs. Flowers like lotus bloom only on seeing moon. When compared to the sun, the moon appears beautiful. Sun is usually associated masculine gender and the moon with the feminine gender. Since Parāśakti is the embodiment of Grace, beauty and compassion, She is always compared to the moon. The autumnal moon is also known as the harvest moon. The full moon in autumnal season is closer to the equinox and is capable of growing plants, like the sun; because of this, it is known as harvest moon. As She is revered as the universal mother in Lalitā Sahasranāma, Śaṁkarācārya chooses the autumnal moon to make a comparison to Her, as She carefully nourishes the universe like a mother nourishing her child. In verse seven, he has described Her as śaraccandravadanā (She has a face resembling like the autumnal moon). These kinds of objective comparisons are necessary to enable us to understand and visualize Her better. Right visualization is important for proper meditation. This is the reason why all the mantra japa-s have dhyāna verses.
Śaṁkarācārya again mentions moon in this verse in another context. She is wearing a crown and in the crown there is aṣṭamīcandra (eighth face of the moon), which appears beautiful with even curves on both sides. Lalitā Sahasranāma 15 says that Her forehead looks like aṣṭamīcandra. Śiva has crescent moon at the top of His head and as She is no way different from Him, the crescent moon of Śiva is seen on Her also.
She is described in this verse with four hands. It is important to recall the conveyance of the verse 4, which said, “You are the ultimate recourse of the universe. All other gods and goddesses use their two hands to grant refuge and boons to their devotees by means of two mudrā-s - abhaya and varada. But You do not use Your hands for this. Instead Your sacred feet are capable of offering refuge and boons more than what is prayed for.” But this verse says that She shows abhaya and varada mudras, which is in contradiction of the verse 4. But, in reality, this is not a contradiction. This speaks of the mind of the aspirant at different points of time. When he sees Her lotus feet, the aspirant feels that he gets everything from Her pinkish lotus feet. In this verse, the aspirant advances further in his spiritual pursuit. He conceives Her in this verse with four hands. There are interpretations which say that this is the form of Sarasvati, the goddess of letters, and that is why She carries a book and a garland of rosary beads in Her hands. Whatever be the arguments, an advanced spiritual aspirant contemplates Her depending on his mental status at the time of contemplation. For example, the dhyāna verse of Her ṣoḍaśī mantra says that She also holds a book, a mālā of crystal beads, abhaya and varada mudras in Her hands. The dhyāna verse of Bālā mantra also describes this on the basis of the dhyāna verse of ṣoḍaśī mantra.
Her abhaya mudra removes mortal fear in the minds of Her devotees and Her vara mudra gives boons to Her devotees. These two mudras or hand gestures do not mean that She protects the aspirant from the fear of death and grants him whatever he wants. A true devotee will only seek final liberation from Her. Such a devotee fully realizes the pains of transmigration. He prays to Her to offer him liberation and till such time he is liberated in this life itself, he prays to Her to protect him from the jaws of death. Once he is liberated in this life, he continues to exist as jīvanmukta and dies after all his karmas are spent.
Mālā of crystal beads and the book refer to the manifestation of the universe. The rosary bead has 51 crystal beads which represent the 51 alphabets of Sanskrit language. This is also described by Vāk Devis in Lalitā Sahasranāma 483 akṣamālādi-dharā. The book that She holds contains different permutations and combinations of the alphabets leading to the manifestation of the universe through sound. These two hands also impart spiritual knowledge to the aspirant, as a result of which he seeks liberation in this life itself. When he gains enough knowledge, the aspirant is also able to compose verses in Her praise. Because he has meditated on the 51 alphabets of Sanskrit in the form of the rosary beads along with the book that contains different combinations of these alphabets, he is blessed with the talent of composing verses singing Her praise. His neologism of words becomes sweeter than the combination of honey, milk and raisin. Thus, the four hands described in this verse together offer liberation to the aspirant. It is important to know that all the verses of Soundarya laharī should not be taken as a series. Each verse gives different meanings and interpretations and never contradicts any of the other verses as they are not meant to mean that way.
Manifestation of the universe through sound is discussed elaborately in Lalitā Sahasranāma 366 to 371