The Enchanting Woods of Stotrams

A personal timeline of Shankaracharya Stotram trial..

Sujatha R
4 min readFeb 9, 2024

Iwas drawn into the magical world of musical Stotrams and Sanskrit. The strings kept me going, one leading to the other..

Like a typical South Indian kid, my exposure started with Bhaja-Govindam and AchutAsTakam. And Mahishasura Mardini and LingAshTakam, if they can be counted too.

A Journey of a 1000 miles begins with a single step. It was at a weeklong Yoga camp. The early hours of dawn would crack with the chanting of PrAtah Smarami Stotram and the evenings would end with the NirvANa shaTakam. There was something very magical.. I understood very little of it, and that kept me thinking of it.

“A Gallactic ode to the Morning.. I remember.. I pray” प्रातः स्मरामि हृदि

“I’m not the body mind ego.. I’m not the senses” चिदानन्द रूपः शिवोऽहं शिवोऽहम्

YouTube was getting popular, and Kuldeep Pai and others introduced a world of stotrams. It was Ganesha-Pancha-Ratnam in the young voice of Soorya Gayatri, the PanchAkshara Stotram Nagendra Haaraya, the Guru-Padukam, GurvasTakam, BhavAnI Astakam, and so on.. Slowly, I gathered that these were all composed by the mighty Jagat Guru ShankarAcharya..

न जानामि दानं न च ध्यानयोगं.. I don’t know a thing

The asTakams, shaTakams housed just 6 or 8 verses in a stotram, just about the right size for engaging my rather deficit but curious attention. I barely understood, but had a fleeting sense of repeating words and the rattling sounds.

Isha Music had some wonderful chants.. Chandrashekara Stotram and Kaalabhairava Stotram.. From some other channels Isha Girisha, Annapoorna Stotram, and the Ganga Stotram..

And Sanskrit Channel helped in understanding a few verses.

That boat of my Guru’s padukam.. that shall help me cross the ocean of the world. Ode to it..

अनन्तसंसारसमुद्रतार- नौकायिताभ्यां..नमो नमः श्रीगुरुपादुकाभ्याम्

Reading Gita and a bit of Upanishads helped in getting an Advaita view of Nirvana-ShaTakam and Pratah-SmarAmi. Discovered Dakshinamurthy Stotram, Brahma-Gyaanaavali Maala, and other stotrams in the voice of Swami Brahmananda.

I am detached.. I am detached.. असङ्गोऽहमसङ्गोऽहमसङ्गोऽहं पुनः पुनः

During Covid, joined a chanting group and it was a period of immersion. Connected with Dakshinamurthy Stotram, learnt about the Upanishad like Ek Shloki, and the Devi Series of SaundaryaLahari, KanakadhAra Stotram, RajaRajeshwariAstakam, Sharada Bhujangam, Meenakshi Pancha Ratna stotram, Lalita Pancha Ratna Stotram, MantraMaatrikaPushpaMala and so on.

Dr. Gowri Mahulikar and other Swamijis in Chinmaya had a way of teaching.. To read between the words.. To see the dual weave of meanings.. the jingling anupraasa of sounds. I did check out GovindAsTakam, Vishnu ShaTpadi.

Avinaya Apanaya Vishnu.. Chase away my indolence — Vishnu ShaTpadi

Both SaundaryaLahari and ShivAnandaLahari, I did hear the upanyaasam on a few verses from Chaganti Garu. Both at 100 lines, and mandakranta meter. Especially Saundarya Lahari, the language is very encoded like its complex meter.

Manmada with his charioteer.. the Minister of wind, carrying the pollens and announcing spring, the season of creation.

ShivAnandaLahari opened up a genere of maanasa pooja.. Different ways of devotion that can be performed in the comfort of the mind. Shiva Manasa Pooja a mini version, and MantraMaatrikaPushpaMala has this maanasa pooja.

“It’s a wonder that one scouts so hard for flowers in the desolate forests in order to offer you, when it blooms right in the lake of my mind!”

Some other chants include the Narasimha Stotram, Dwadasa jyotirlinga Stotram, JagannathaAstakam, ShrirangAsTakam, PandurangAstakam, MatruPanchakam.

I get reminded of the US expression “You are the Best” Whichever diety he extolls, there is complete surrender, devotion, and accompaniment of musical sounds.

“May you be the locus of my eye.. Jagannatha Swamy.. Nayana-patha-gaami”

The panchakam containing all the maha vaakyas..

“Gacha Gacha! Go away!”
“Do you want the matter or the consciousness to go away?”-Manisha Panchakam

With the passing time, my comprehension made some progress.

This Navarathri, Devi AparadhaStotram in the voice of Maithali Thakur. Shankaracharya is very compassionate and kind. Through his words, he teaches a mental dialog of divine feeling and expression.

“I know not a thing. I’m your restless child. O mother, You’ve uplifted and turned the lives of so many. I present my case. Upto you now.. yatha uchitam tata kuru.”

On the occasion of PrANaPratisTa at Ayodhya, discovered the advaita like Rama Bhujangam that was released by Sringeri Mutt. Also Subramanian Bhujangam by Raga sisters. Both these are 30 plus verses.

“O Rama.. I recollect that dhyaana roopam of yours, teaching enlightening Hanuman and others.”

Friends, teachers, technology, recommendations.. The passing seasons of time, and the ebb of emotions and thoughts prodding and unraveling this journey… I owe it to the Universe..

As I navigate and learn the language and the wonders, I write.. Hopefully, it helps someone discover and connect with these works.. One of the reasons to share what I write..

About reading more complex works, for another time..

श्री गुरुभ्यो नमः

श्रुति स्मृति पुराणानाम्.. आलयम करुणालयम्।
नमामि भगवत्पादम.. शंकरं लोक शंकरम्॥

किं ज्योतिस्तवभानुमानहनि मे रात्रौ प्रदीपादिकं
स्यादेवं रविदीपदर्शनविधौ किं ज्योतिराख्याहि मे ।
चक्षुस्तस्य निमीलनादिसमये किं धीर्धियो दर्शने
किं तत्राहमतो भवान्परमकं ज्योतिस्तदस्मि प्रभो ॥ Eka Shloki

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Sujatha R

I write.. I weave.. I walk.. कवयामि.. वयामि.. यामि.. Musings on Patterns, Linguistics, Sanskrit et al..