ദേവിയുടെ പാദധൂളി – Dust of Devi’s Feet

Creation, Maintenance, and Destruction are three of the divine attributes of the divine dust from the lotus feet of Devi.

Let us listen to the mantra

Om śruti sīmanta sindūrī kṛta pādābja dhūlikāyai namaḥ
(The dust from whose feet forms the vermillion marks at the parting line of the hair of the Sruti devatas (Vedas personified as goddesses).) Lalita Sahasranama 289

The Vashinyadi Vagdevatas portrays a beautiful scene. The meaning of the mantra is this. The Shruti devatas are standing before Devi, but a bit distant from her. With palms joined in devotion and tears overflowing from their closed eyes, they stand absorbed in their closed eyes, they stand absorbed in their love for Devi.

They look as if they have just prostrated to Devi and stood up. Their foreheads and the parting line of their hair are decorated by the sacred vermilion dust from the lotus feet of Devi. This shows that they have just prostrated to pay their obeisance to Devi, who is their mother. With deep devotion, are standing a little away from Devi.

From their demeanor, we can see that they consider themselves incapable of understanding and adequately describing the true form of Amma. The meaning of this mantra is explained thus. Shrutis are the Vedas personified as goddesses. The sacred dust from the lotus feet of Devi is glowing as the vermilion marks in the line parting the hair of the Sruti Goddesses. This is the most easily understood meaning.

Vedas consist of three parts. They are Karma Kandam, Upasana Kandam, and the Jnana Kandam. The noblest is considered to be the Upanishads. It is the Upanishads that convey to us the unity or oneness of the Jiva to the Brahma. They teach us that the Jivatma (Individual Self) and the Paramatma (Absolute reality) are not two, but one.

The Upanishads (A collection of scriptures that contain the central philosophical and scriptural science of ancient Bharatham) propound the theory that the Brahman (Absolute reality) and the Jivatma (the self) are one and only. Therefore, the Upanishads are called the most important part or the head of the Vedas.

The Upanishad deities (mother) prostrated before Devi. The sacred dust from the lotus feet of Devi was transferred to their foreheads. It was only through Her blessing that they could understand the finite portion of her true form.

The Upanishads describe Devi by saying, “Not this, Not this”. They say “I am not Earth, I am not Ether, I am not Air, I am not Fire, etc.” It is by saying that “I am not this” “I am not that”, that they are trying to describe Her true form. “I am not the Mind, I am not the Senses, I am not Intelligence, I am not Ego”.

Absolute reality is described through the “neti neti vaadam” (“the not this not this” search or analytical meditation). In the Lalitha Sahasranama, Devi has been described as

Om brahmātmaikya svarūpiṇyai namaḥ
(whose nature is the union of Brahman and Atman)

Devi is the Shakti which is not separate from Shiva or the Supreme. Amma is Enthroned in a manner which convinces us that she is the one absolute reality that we have been searching for.

This is the reason that the Vedas are standing in front of Devi, with folded palms, bowed heads, and tear-filled eyes. They stand at some distance away from Devi. We must never think that the master who made us realize the self is the same as us.

The attitude of non-duality is not proper in the presence of the Master. Therefore, Shruti goddesses stand a little distance away from Devi.

“We have not been able to completely understand and describe the true form of Devi. But we have been able to get a glimpse of Her glory. It is due to the auspiciousness, the sacredness, of the dust from Her lotus feet that is smeared upon our head.” Their posture communicates this thought.

Shankaracharya describes the greatness of the dust of the lotus feet of the Devine in the “Saundarya Lahari”.

तनीयांसं पांसुं तव चरणपङ्केरुहभवं
विरिञ्चि: सञ्चिन्वन् विरचयति लोकानविकलं ।
वहत्येनं शौरि: कथमपि सहस्रेण शिरसां
हर: संक्षुद्यैनं भजति भसितोद्धूलनविधिम् ॥ – Soundarya Lahari 2

Lord Brahma, the creator of yore, selects dust from your feet, and creates the worlds, The great Adisesha with his thousand heads, Somehow carries dust of your feet, With great effort, and the great Lord Rudra, takes it and powders it nicely, and uses it as the holy ash.

The second verse says that Brahma gathered a minuscule amount of the dust of Her lotus feet. Thus he created the universe and all the other worlds from the sacred dust of Her lotus feet. ‘Bhur Bhuvah Swahaha’ is the upper worlds, the nether worlds are Paathala, Athala, Vithala, Suthala, etc.

Devi was walking in the garden of Sri Nagara, accompanied by Her cohorts of Yoginis. This was a very rare happening and Brahma was present there, as Devi walked with her companions (The Yoginis). Brahma was able to see very clearly the lotus feet of the Devi.

He prostrated happily at the sight of Her lotus feet. With great devotion, he gathered a minute mote of dust. With the unparalleled power of the sacred dust, he created all the worlds. He became renowned and glorified as the creator of all the worlds.

Vishnu on seeing the renown of Brahma decided that he also wanted to take part in this bewitching game of Devi. Vishnu also gathered a mote of sacred dust from her lotus feet, He took on the incarnation of Shouri, the thousand hooded AdiShesha. He bore the weight of the worlds with his thousand heads.

When Lord Parama Shiva observed the glory of Lord Brahma and Maha Vishnu, he also decided to play a part. He wanted a role in Her divine play. He prostrated before Devi Parameshwari, he gathered a mote of sacred dust from her lotus feet and mixed it with the sacred ash that he smeared upon his body.

With great respect, he smeared the sacred ash all over his body. He became the destroyer. Creation, Maintenance, and Destruction are three of the divine attributes of the divine dust from the lotus feet of Devi. In Lalita Sahasranama, one of the mantras is

Om tirodhāna karyai namaḥ
(who causes the disappearance of things.)
Lalita Sahasranama 270

The illusionary power of Maya is annihilated by the blessings conferred by Devi. She grants the knowledge of oneness. Creation, Maintenance, Destruction, the annihilation of the illusionary power of Maya, and the blessings which confers the knowledge of the union of the individual Self with the Supreme are all attributes of the sacred dust from the lotus feet of Devi.

Knowing this, the Shruti goddesses prostrated before the holy feet of Devi. They wore on their forehead, as sacred vermilion marks, dust from the lotus feet of Devi. They stood a little apart from her, bashful and silent, with the attitude that, they knew only a very little of her glory.

In the mantra “śruti sīmanta sindūrī kṛta pādābja dhūlikā”, we see a beautiful visual representation of Devi with the Sruti(Vedic) goddesses.