नखानामुद्योतैर्ननवनलिनरागं विहसतां
कराणां ते कान्तिं कथय कथयामः कथमुमे।
कयाचिद्वा साम्यं भजतु कलया हन्त कमलं
यदि क्रीडल्लक्ष्मीचरणतललाक्षारसचणम्॥

nakhānāmudyotairnanavanalinarāgaṁ vihasatāṁ
karāṇāṁ te kāntiṁ kathaya kathayāmaḥ kathamume |
kayācidvā sāmyaṁ bhajatu kalayā hanta kamalaṁ
yadi krīḍallakṣmīcaraṇatalalākṣārasacaṇam ||

nakhānām udyotaiḥ - splendour of Your nails; nava nalina rāgaṁ - just blossomed lotus flower; vihasatāṁ - mocking laughter; karāṇāṁ te – Your hands; kāntiṁ - Your splendour; kathaya kathayāmaḥ - how can it be explained; katham – narrate; ume – Umā; kayā cid vā – somehow; sāmyaṁ - equality; bhajatu kalayā hanta – possibly can attain; kamalaṁ - lotus; yadi krīḍat lakṣmī caraṇa tala lākṣārasa caṇam - henna shining in the feet of Lakṣmī residing in the lotus flowers.

“O! Umā! The nails in Your hands (finger nails) make lotus flowers to blossom. Splendour of Your nails, make mockery of the radiance of just blossomed lotus flowers. Please tell me, how can I describe such beautiful hands of Yours? These lotus flowers got their radiance from the feet of Lakṣmī, who resides within lotus flowers and who sports henna in her feet. Even then, there cannot be any equality to Your splendour.”

This verse talks about Parāśakti’s hands. Śaṁkarācārya could not find appropriate words to describe Her splendorous hands. It seems to be a tough job for him as if he is explaining Brahman, who cannot be described through words; but there is no other go except to draw comparisons to explain Him.  For example, Brahman is more radiant than millions of suns put together, etc. Similarly, Śaṁkarācārya finds it difficult to describe Her hands. If this is the case with hands, how can Her full form be described? This is beyond human comprehension. That is why, Śaṁkarācārya made an attempt to describe Her through 100 verses of Saundaryalaharī.

Śaṁkarācārya thought about closest possible similarity to describe Her hands. He says that goddess Lakṣmī, Consort of Viṣṇu resides in lotus flowers. She has applied henna paste in her feet, which turned her feet deep red in colour and the lotus flowers derive their luster only from the feet of Lakṣmī and even then this comparison is not even the closest possible comparison to describe Parāśakti’s hands.

This verse can be contemplated like this. Parāśakti’s nails are deep red in colour. The bright red radiance of Her nails get reflected in Her shining hands. If this can be compared to the just blossomed red lotus flower, people will laugh out loud for making this irrelevant comparison. But, there is no other way to describe Her radiant hands. So, Her hands cannot be compared to anything that is known to us. This is like making futile attempts to describe Brahman.

Umā is the name given to Her by Her mother. When She was too young, She used to practice austerities in order to attain Śiva as Her Consort. Her mother at that time used to tell Her not to practice austerities at such a tender age. Umā is explained like this. U stands for O! Child! and mā stands for ‘do not practice austerities’. “O! Child! Do not practice austerities” is later known as Umā.