तनोतु क्षेमं नस्तव वदनसौन्दर्यलहरी-
परीवाहस्रोतः सरणिरिव सीमन्तसरणिः।
वहन्ती सिन्दूरं प्रबलकबरीभारतिमिर-
द्विषां बृन्दैर्बन्दीकृतमिव नवीनार्ककिरणम्॥
tanotu kṣemaṁ nastava vadanasaundaryalaharī-
parīvāhasrotaḥ saraṇiriva sīmantasaraṇiḥ |
vahantī sindūraṁ prabalakabarībhāratimira-
dviṣāṁ bṛndairbandīkṛtamiva navīnārkakiraṇam ||
tanotu kṣemaṁ - blessed with liberation; naḥ - ours; tava – Your; vadana saundarya laharī – waves of beauty of Your face; parī vāha srotaḥ saraṇiriva – overflowing like a stream; sīmanta saraṇiḥ - parted hair; vahantī sindūraṁ - wearing vermilion; prabala kabarī bhāra timira dviṣāṁ bṛndaiḥ - darkness of the thick hair; bandī kṛtam iva – like imprisonment; navīna arka kiraṇam – sun at dawn.
“Your thick and dark parting hair appearing like imprisoned enemies; the vermilion adorned on your parted hair appears like the sun at dawn. The centre of the parted portion appears like an overflowing stream, with the waves of beauty of Your face.”
Parāśakti’s hair is being described in this verse. She has the most beautiful face, for which no comparison can be drawn. She has thick and dark hair which is parted in the center causing a line. At the end of this line, which is the top portion of the center of Her forehead, She is adorned with vermilion. Placing vermilion at the top of the forehead is a symbol of auspiciousness. When the hair is parted on the top of the head, white colour of the skull becomes visible and the verse says that this parting appears like a stream overflowing with flood water. There has to be an origin for the floods and Śaṁkarācārya says that the flood originates from Her face, which is the ocean of beauty (Soundarya laharī). Lahari means waves and waves appear only in the shore and not in the centre of the ocean. He subtly conveys that the beauty of Her face that is visible to us is only a miniscule of Her glorious beauty and is beyond normal human comprehension. The flood appearing like waves of ocean is caused by the overflowing beauty of Her face. The vermilion placed in the centre has thick and dark hair on both sides. The vermilion in the centre appears like the rising sun (vermillion is red in colour), which dispels darkness. Śaṁkarācārya prays to Her that the auspiciousness of this vermillion should liberate Her devotees from the pains of transmigration. Cycles of births and deaths are always painful.
This verse can be further explained. Darkness of the hair is māyā, which also originates from Her. Māyā is inherent in everyone and can be dispelled only by surrendering to Her. The will to surrender is initiated by the vermillion on Her face. Dark hair is symbolically projected to mean attachment to the material world. Attachment to the material world is caused due to the predominance of non-essential ego. Though essential ego is needed to exist in a body, non-essential ego is to be destroyed, as this alone causes attachment to the material world by afflicting the mind. Mind is afflicted through sensory organs. Liberation can be attained only through a clean mind. A mind is said to be afflicted, when it is pervaded by material desires, attachments, etc. This is known as saṁsāra or mundane existence. In order to get rid of saṁsāra, one has to mentally surrender unto Her, which is the only way to liberation. A doubt may arise as to why Śaṁkarācārya has not described the centre of the parted hair as a river instead of a stream. River refers to macrocosm (Self), whereas a stream refers to microcosm (self). As this Divine vision pertains to un-liberated and mundane human, he had chosen to dwell only on microcosm.
Lalitā Sahasranāma (632) Sindūra-tilakāñcitā also says that She wears vermillion. The first dhyāna verse Lalitā Sahasranāma describes Her form as sindūrāruṇa-vigrahāṃ, which means that Her complexion itself is in the form of vermillion. Vermillion is red in colour; red colour always represents compassion and She is an embodiment of compassion. This is also conveyed through this verse.