You are here: Sri Vaishnava Home Page : Bhakti List : Archives : April 1999

lakshmi-nrsimha karavalmba stotram-5

From: sudarshan madabushi (
Date: Sun Apr 11 1999 - 05:28:35 PDT

Dear bhAgavatOttamA-s,

The 9 primal fears of man have been described in the 
"lakshmi-nsrismha-karAvalamba stOtram" through 9 poetic metaphors:

(a) "… jwAlAvalee"         :  the forest-fire                         
(b) "…jAla-pati-tasya"     :  the fish-net                            
(c) "…koopa"               :  the well, the abyss                     
(d) "…Bheekara-kareendra"  :  the irate tusker                        
(e) "…sarpaGana"          :  the serpent                              
(f) " … vruksha"         :  the tree                                  
(g) "…nakra"             :  the alligator                             
(h) "…sAgara"            : the sea                                    
(i) "…gahanE"           : the forest

Many of you, I'm sure, will not fail to quickly notice that the 
principal archetypes of fear Sankara bhagavatpAdA refers to in his 
hymn above also appear… and not coincidentally perhaps… in the 
"purAN-ic" and endearing tale of 'prahlAda'. That poor child of the 
"rAkshasA" emperor, Hiranyakashipu, we all know, was thrown into the 
middle of the "sea" ("sAgara") to drown. They engaged palace tuskers 
in raging rut ("Bheekara-kareendra") to trample the poor child. They 
hurled him down into a rocky abyss ("koopa") from high above a cliff 
in the hills of Ahobilam. Then they tried tossing the boy into a pit 
full of writhing, hissing and hideous serpents ("sarpaGana"). And when 
they failed to get rid of him otherwise they deserted the child in the 
jungle ("gahanE") to face the grim death which either a raging 
forest-fire ("jwAlAvalee") or a swamp-alligator ("nakra") might have 
easily dealt. 

By alluding to the same archetypes of fear in the stanzas of the 
"karAvalamba-stOtrA" as were used in the "purAnA", we see how Sankara 
skilfully touches a raw nerve in the recesses of our mind…and triggers 
in it…as we slowly recite the verses of the "karAvalamba-stOtrA"…he 
evokes in our minds the dark and sepulchral spectre of Man's most 
primal of fears. 

The horrors hinted in the 'stOtrA' are not, thus, simply those which 
Hiranyakassipu in some distant past in "purAn-ic' times intended for a 
truant and rebellious son. We are led by Sankara bhagavatpAdA to 
instead believe that they are, in truth, the horrors of the living 
day… of the present and daily moment! And, again, the victim of those 
"purAn-ic" terrors is not really PrahlAda. The unfortunate and 
unguarded victims… the "stOtrA' subtly reminds us…the real victims 
of those terrors are none other than ourselves!

The fear of the raging forest-fire, the "jwAlavalee", or of the mad 
elephant ("bheekara-kareendra")… or of the vicious serpents 
("sarpaGana")…these are all fears which come to perennially haunt us 
in this world…. These are the fears which WE must seek to overcome… 
These are all indeed the fears of life from which WE have to seek 

If we have not understood this truth of the "purAn-ic" tale of  
"prahlAdA"… if we have not grasped this stark lesson from that hoary 
legend of our faith which generations of our "purvAchAryA-s" have 
never tired of recounting… then, truly indeed, we have learnt nothing 
at all from one of the greatest stories ever told in all the Vedic 
tradition of ancient India!   
************        ***************      ****************

If the archetypes of fear used in the "pUrAn-ic" story of "prahlAdA" 
are the same ones which Sankara's 9 (nine) poetic metaphors evoke in 
the verses of the "lakshmi-nrsimha karAvalamba stOtram", what are 

The 9 Archetypes of Fear are as follows: 

(a) "… jwAlAvalee"    :  the forest-fire  i.e   Desire

(b) "…jAla-pati-tasya":  the fish-net  i.e  The tyranny of the senses

(c) "…koopa"          :  the well, the abyss i.e   Sorrow

(d) "…Bheekara-kareendra" : the irate tusker i.e  Death

(e) "…sarpaGana"      :  the serpent  i.e.   Evil

(f) " … vruksha"      :  the tree     i.e   Delusion

(g) "…nakra"          :  the alligator i.e   Time

(h) "…sAgara"         : the sea         i.e   Personal oblivion

(i) "…gahanE"         : the forest       i.e   Transmigration

We must next proceed to examine each of the above.
Next post.

adiyEn dAsAnu-dAsan,

Get Your Private, Free Email at