The Mother Divine
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By Dr. Rajeshwari Pandharipande
Sri Sri Sitaramdas Omkarnath

There are many legends related to Lopamudra, the symbol par excellence for beauty and brains, in Rigveda, the Mahabharata and Giridhara Ramayana.  Very few women characters in the ancient Sanskrit literature are depicted as extraordinarily beautiful as well as intelligent. While the Hindu tradition equates Lopamudra with Gargi, Maitreyi and Ghosha as a brilliant philosopher, unlike them, Lopamudra’s origin and person are shrouded in mystery. 

In the Rig-Veda, Lopamudra is seen as a wife of the sage, Agastya, for whom she has written a hymn (Rig-Veda 1:179).

The story in the Mahabharata (Vanaparva) describes Lopaamudra as Agastya’s creation of a unique woman made from the most graceful parts of various animals. Special mention is of the eyes from a deer! 

Since the animals lost their parts in this process, she is called Lopamudra: lopa "loss" of mudra "parts." 

The story further mentions that Agastya, with his miraculous powers, transferred this beautiful girl to the king of Vidarbha, who was performing yajna for obtaining progeny. Lopamudra was brought up at the king's palace where she became well versed in scriptural knowledge (textual and philosophical). As Lopamudra came of age, Agastya went to the king of Vidarbha to ask for her hand in marriage. Lopamudra agreed and married Agastya. The marriage with an ascetic meant a move from the luxuries of the palace to the harsh realities of the hermitage. Lopamudra was a faithful wife who meticulously performed her duties toward her husband. However, Agastya did not pay much attention to her. This was the time when disappointed Lopamudra composed a hymn for Agastya reminding him of his obligations to his wife. Thereafter, Agastya became aware of his neglect of his wife and cared for her and loved her! They had a son named Dridhasyu, who became a poet. 

According to another legend in the Mahabharata, Agastya created Lopamudra in order to marry her so that he could get a son. Agastya's ancestors were in the suspended state (and could not go to heaven) because Agastya did not have any progeny who would rescue the ancestors from the state of suspension by offering them appropriate oblations. 

Giridhara Ramayana has a slightly different version of the above story where Lopamudra is depicted as a daughter of the king of Kanyakubja. Agastya had expressed his wish to marry one of king's many daughters to which the king had agreed. However, the king asked Agastya to wait till the daughter would reach marriageable age. However, by the time Agastya returned, all of king's daughters were married. The king was worried about the consequence of the breach of his promise and the wrath of the powerful saint, Agastya. In desperation, he dressed his son Lopamudra (the one whose real identity was covered) in girl's attire and presented him to Agastya. The story tells us that a miracle took place and the son was transformed into a woman after marriage!

Lopamudra is called Kaushitaki and Varaprada in the Rig-Veda. The river Kaveri is believed to be an incarnation of Lopamudra. Moreover, she is often connected with Lalitasasranaamam. She is the one who propagates the Lalita Sahasra Naama across the world.

While the descriptions of her origin vary, all accounts converge on the one major point, namely, Agastya created her from many beautiful parts of animals and Agastya wanted to marry her. 
In my opinion, the relationship between Lopamudra and Agastya is the one which exists between the artist and his/her creation, between the creator of the world and the creation-the world Lopamudra is Agastya's imagined perfection in Beauty. 

She is the confluence of all strands of beauty, concrete and abstract, body and mind. Lopamudra encompasses all that is beautiful and powerful!  

Her connection with Lalita, the Devi, is transparent to show that she is an incarnation of Lalita, the supreme energy, power of the creator. Like Lalita, in Lopamudra, exist many aspects of living beings. She symbolizes the Beauty which is the consequence of many coming together in one, Lopamudra is the one in whom their separate existence is not visible, hence their lopa. 

The graceful parts are not lost but their separate existence is not visible. Lopa in this case should be analysed as adarshana "invisible."  Panini, while explaining the concept of lopa, says, adarshanamlopah  " lopa is that which exists but is invisible."   He makes a distinction between abhaava "lack of existence/ nonexistence” and lopa ”not visible."  

In Lopamudra, all elements exist since they all contribute to her beauty. However, they cannot be seen as independent entities!

Lopamudra is thus an abstraction of Agastya’s idealised vision of the perfection! His constant attraction to her and the ardent desire to marry her further shows his constant striving for perfection. His marriage with Lopamudra is indeed Agastya's fulfillment of his dream of achieving perfection which is further perpetuated through his poet son!! Once he marries Lopamudra, that is, once he accomplishes the envisioned perfection, he becomes indifferent to it. There is no more struggle; no more striving! 

The legends reveal one of the fascinating dimensions of the relationship between the Creator and the Creation. The creation, the perfection, Lopamudra can never leave Agastya, while he, the saint, the ascetic, can  never  be attached to anything, not even the perfection, for too long!

“Lopamudra” can be analyzed in many different ways, I am sure. This is one which the legends reveal to me!

yaadeviijyotirmayii, jvalantii, kaantimatiibhaasvatii | tayaanaashitheshahandhakaarahmanasishitah || namstasyainamstasyainamstasyainamonamah|

“The Devii, radiating light, glowing profusely with blazing fire endowed with shining complexion, alleviated the darkness of mind. To her I bow with reverence!”

Dr. Rajeshwari Pandharipande is Professor, Emeritus, Department of Linguistics and Department of Religion. Her research interests include sociolinguistics, language of religion, syntax, semantics,lLiterature of Hindi, Marathi, and Sanskrit, Sanskrit literary criticism, Asian mythology, history and theology of Hinduism, and Hinduism in diaspora.