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lakshmi-nrsimha karavalamba stotram-7

From: sudarshan madabushi (
Date: Tue Apr 13 1999 - 07:59:42 PDT

Dear bhAgavatOttamA-s,

ya ….".
"lakshmi-nrsimha mama dEhi karAvalambam !" (Verse#3 of LNKS) 

Like hapless strands of hair inflamed, 
I burn, I burn, I burn…
In searing blaze ringin' this forest… 
This infernal life of mine.

"Lend me Thy Hand and set me free, Lakshmi-nrsimha!".

**********            ************             *************

In this stanza the first of Man's  9 primal fears … "kAmA", desire or 
lust … is described through the metaphoric symbol of a raging 
forest-fire… "jwAlAvalee".

"jwAla" in Sanskrit refers to "flames" and "jwAlAvalee" approximates 
to the fiery extreme of, say, "a flaming torrent" or "a raging 
inferno". The lament of this verse, thus, is that the great and raging 
inferno of human Desire i.e. "kAmA" consumes up everything in its 

Now, how many of us have personally witnessed a forest-fire? Not many, 
I suppose, since we are all denizens of the concrete jungle and have 
few opportunities to experience, at first hand, rare phenomena like 
the fires of the great natural jungles.

To get a second-hand but graphic picture of what an unmitigated horror 
a forest-fire really is and can be … to get some idea of a forest 
inferno …all that we need to do is to read the accounts of the great 
fires that broke out in Indonesia in 1997. 

Sometime in late October, 1997, after months of what had been in 
Indonesia an exceptionally long and torrid summer season, fires broke 
out in the great tropical jungles of Sumatra and Borneo. In the space 
of just a few weeks, they simply destroyed everything within the 
radius of an area equal to, say, the State of New Jersey in the USA. 

No one knew for certain how the devastation was caused and why it 
spread so quickly. For weeks the great  fires raged and roared. 
Mammoth clouds of smoke billowed out of those flaming forests and 
filled and darkened the skies over not only Indonesia but neighbouring 
Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand as well. For several weeks on end, 
ships and air-planes could navigate neither the seas nor the skies of 
those countries. The air over cities was scorched and the winds blew 
searing heat. The overhanging pall of smoke poured down deadly, 
poisonous smog … columns of black, noxious carbon fume… on their 
populations causing sudden bronchial and respiratory failures. 

The disaster continued into the months of November and early December 
causing widespread panic and untold misery amongst governments and 
peoples. Affairs were getting beyond human control or organisation. 
The combined might of fire-fighting agencies of the governments of 
Indonesia, Malaysia, and Singapore could do little to contain or 
subdue the advancing holocaust. The more they tried to quell the fires 
the more irrepressible they seemed to grow. (Readers of the famous 
pictorial magazine, "National Geographic", can get a full and vivid 
account of the events of those terrible days in Indonesia.)

Then mercifully, in the second week of December, the first showers of 
an on-setting monsoon rained down and doused out the fearful fires and 
dissipated the smog-clouds. 

A full year after the fires had wrought havoc on them, the Indonesian 
peoples in the forest-districts were reportedly still limping back to 
normal life. 

**********        *************          ***********

We know little about the details of Sankara bhagavatpAdA's personal 
life. There is certainly no known historical record to show Sankara 
actually witnessed a great forest-fire. But we do know that for the 
most part of his short and eventful time on earth … a mere 32 or 33 
years in all… Sankara was a peripatetic religious mendicant  
("sanyAsi") who journeyed extensively on foot through the jungles of 
the Western Ghats, middle-India and the high woods in the lower 
Himalayan reaches. It is therefore not too far-fetched for us to 
assume that at sometime or other during his "digvijayam" … his 
extensive travels… Sankara may have indeed walked into or chanced upon 
a blazing forest-fire and actually watched at close quarters its 
awesome splendour and devastative power. 

The clarity of imagery and the intensity of phrase used in the 
"karAvalamba-stOtram" to describe Fire as the archetype of human 
lust… and particularly the line 
ya …" certainly suggests to us that Sankara's poetry rings singularly 
true in relating the nature of Fire to the nature of human Desire. 
Gazing from a distance one night at a great ball of fire 
("jwAlAvalee") enveloping a stretch of forest land he'd happened to be 
journeying through, Sankara bhagavatpAdA, we are tempted to imagine, 
in all probability reflected silently within himself:

"Fearful indeed is this tempest of fire! And yet how puny when 
compared to the flames of  "kAmA"… desire… burning inside an ordinary 
human heart?".

**********         **************         *************

In the 3rd verse of the "karAvalmba-stOtrA", Sankara's use of the 
metaphor of "jwAlAvalee" or forest-fire to symbolise "kAmA" must 
indeed be regarded as particularly significant for yet another reason. 
It is exactly the same metaphor Lord Krishna Himself used in a famous 
verse in the Bhagavath-Gita:

"Avrtam gnyAna-maythEna gnyAninO nityavairiNa I
  kAmarupENa kounthEya dushpurENa-analEna cha  II" ( Ch 3 Verse 39)

We must continue with our discussion in the next post.

adiyEn dAsAnu-dAsan,

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