Monday, February 23, 2009

The meaning of Kamakshi

I was listening to Devi Mahatmiyam, rendered by Challakere Brothers online today. In my opinion, Challakere Brothers have the best diction of Sanskrit. The way the pronounced the words really impressed me.

During the course of it, one of the words that they pronounced so beautifully was KAMA-KSHI (Kamakshi). I deliberately put in an eipen in between, for, the brothers give a neat pause between those two syllables KAMA and Kshi. And this set my whole thought process going on why that long pause...   I realized the importance of understanding the meaning of every word, including names that appear in stotrams, instantly... and set about wondering what made them pause.

On the face of it, Kamakshi is one of the many names of Devi or Shakthi in Devi Mahatmiyam, a rendering apparently made with the objective of cooling down the Mother after She quelled Mahishasura, the demon who was wrecking havoc on earth.

The tendency for almost all of us when we recite to listen to Pujas and stotrams is that we focus on the words superficially, since 99% of us either don't know the meaning for most of those "exotic" words or don't bother to  find out - including Yours Truly. However, Challkere Brothers, with their Akshara Shuddham ( clarity of pronunciation) made me stop, for once, and dig this one out... and let me share this with you, on what I see. I don't claim to be any sort of expert on this, but strongly feel that this word is most often misconstrued, often with salacious intent. 

Cursory look into any book with names of Babies - it is very fashionable to find the most exotic name for your child now a days, and these books or online baby name websites come in handy-  tells me that "Kamakshi" means one with voluptuous eyes . 


Others are more benign - "One with loving eyes" ...   basis for this? - Kama ( Loving) Akshi ( Eyes).

On the face of it, looks convincing , especially putting in the context of the trio of Kamakshi, Meeakshi ( one with beautiful eyes like fish)  and Visaalakshi ( one with large, beautful eyes) .  Doesn't it? 

This is where I believe we need to delve a little deeper. Put the story (Puraanam) of Kamakshi in perspective and see what it could really mean.


I look at splitting the word Kamakshi slightly differently. Kaama+kshi=Kaamaakshi . Again, I am no expert in Sanskrit, but I believe this is yet another way to look at it. The letter kshi (root, as it is called in Sanskrit) has several meanings, one of which is " to master or to conquer" . ( The word KsheeNam means to be weak, just as an illustration). So, to me, Kamakshi means one who is the master of desires or emotions. Beware that Kama does not merely mean "lust" or "sex" - that is a narrow definition. Kama is a word that encompasses a variety of feelings , including desire, love ( as in compassion), or plain lust...  in short, any sort of emotion . Hindu Dharma traditionally prescribes that one of the ways to Moksham ( or becoming one with Brahmam or that Supreme Force)  is through control of emotions and senses. Hence, to me, Kamakshi really means "one who helps the individual proceed towards moksham by controlling Kama). 



This is where I believe we need to delve a little deeper. Put the story (Puraanam) of Kamakshi in perspective and see what it could really mean.


I look at splitting the word Kamakshi slightly differently. Kaama+kshi=Kaamaakshi . Again, I am no expert in Sanskrit, but I believe this is yet another way to look at it. The letter kshi (root, as it is called in Sanskrit) has several meanings, one of which is " to master or to conquer" . ( The word KsheeNam means to be weak, just as an illustration). So, to me, Kamakshi means one who is the master of desires or emotions. Beware that Kama does not merely mean "lust" or "sex" - that is a narrow definition. Kama is a word that encompasses a variety of feelings , including desire, love ( as in compassion), or plain lust...  in short, any sort of emotion . Hindu Dharma traditionally prescribes that one of the ways to Moksham ( or becoming one with Brahmam or that Supreme Force)  is through control of emotions and senses. Hence, to me, Kamakshi really means "one who helps the individual proceed towards moksham by controlling Kama). 

You may that this is a mere postulation, a figment of my imagination. Well, consider the following:

1. The statue of Kamakshi Amman in Kanchi has a rope, a goad or a lance, flower and sugarcane in each of Her four hands. ( Pasam, Ankusham, Pushpam and Baanam... as in Soundarya Lahari's stanza " Paasankusha Pushpabaana hasthe... Jagadheka Matah" ).  What do these signify? To me, they appear to repsent those things that bind one to the world ( by worldly pleasures) . The fact that She has them fimly under control signifies that She would facilitate the Devotee to keep them under control as well.

2. Puja in the temple is performed NOT to the Murthi of Kamkshi directly, but to the Yantram in front. To me, this signifies that the individual focuses on the Yantra towards attaining Mukthi, by giving up all emotions ( the Yantram can be construed as something like a whirlpool or a centrifuge). 

3. It is believed that Adi Shankara did just that - depending on whom you ask- He attained Jeeva Samadhi ( without a trace of his physical body) after sustained penance right there in front of the Yantram. Some say he attained Samadhi in Kedarnath. But there is no proff for either of these claims, but folklore in Kanchipuram surely has this going.

4. According to Shaivaites, there are Pancha Mukthi Sthalams of which Kanchipuram is one

 The Pancha Mukti Sthalas (Places of liberation) are: 
* Birth Mukti of Tiruvaarur - if one is born in Tiruvarur, he/she automatically attains Mukti 
* Thought Mukti of Tiruvannamalai - if one thinks of Tiruvannamalai, one attains Mukti. 
Residence Mukti in Kanchi - if one lives in Kanchi, he/she attains Mukti. 
* Death Mukti in Kasi - if one dies in Kasi, he/she attains Mukti. 
* Sight Mukti in Chidambaram - if one gets Dharshan of the Siva in Chidambaram, he/she gets Mukti.   


Nett of it, Kamakshi can superficially mean one with beautiful, loving eyes, one who is compassionate towards Her devotees etc... but to me, it also means someone who will help the Devotee to give up Kama en-route to Moksham.


This is only my postulation.


9 comments:

kamakshi said...

thank u so much...my name is kamakshi and after reading this i am proud to have such a beautiful and meaningful name...i have been trying to find the real meaning of it but did not get that.. after reading ur explanation i am very much happy and satisfied...thank u once again...

Dilip Subramanian said...

Hello Kamakshi, you are most welcome to read through my postulation. To be honest, I do not know if that is the right way to interpret this, but I gave it a try. If that has given you happiness, I am happy too!

kasak acharya said...

thank u so much...my name is kamakshi and after reading this i am proud to have such a beautiful and meaningful name...i have been trying to find the real meaning of it but did not get that.. after reading ur explanation i am very much happy and satisfied...thank u once again...

kamakshi said...

hey nice explanation/interpretation... even my name is kamakshi... i always adore my name n goddess kamakshi in kanchi... thanks...

Kamakshi said...

hey my name also kamakshi & after reading this m feeling very happy & proud with this...

rajendra said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Kamakshi said...

Hi my name is also kamakshi .... thanks for this explaination i m always search the proper meaning of my name and now my search is over thank you so much...

kamakshi said...

hey..my name too is Kamakshi and i think ur interpretion is quite right bucz well i dont knw about my eyes but i do want the earth to be a peaceful place. M down to earth and i usually solve my frnd's problems and they call me a mind- reader. so i gues yeah kamkshi hold the power to control other's emotions but i dont like manipulation. they should feel what they want to but also what they need to. m soo proud of me name..it suits me perfectly!!

kamakshi gola said...

hi thanks for explain the meaning of kamakshi. MY NAME KAMAKSHI nd m vry happy to read the meaning of my name