Sri Adi Shankara was a great saint, an avatara purusha, who lived in India around 8th– 9th century AD. He was not only a great scholar and a jnani (Self-Realized soul), but also a great bhakta (devotee) of the Lord.
Sri Shankara was born in a beautiful village called Kaladi in Kerala state. His parents had had him after being childless for a long time and after propitiating Lord Shiva with utmost devotion. Lord Shiva was pleased with their bhakti and blessed them with a resplendent child, Shankara. It was obvious from the very beginning that he was an extraordinary child, a very gift from God.
Shankara went to a nearby gurukulam (school) to learn the Vedas and the Shastras. Shankara was very good in studies. During the course of his studies, as per the brahmacharya dharma, he had to go from house to house to collect bhiksha (food given as alms).
On one such occasion, he went to a hut and knocked on the door. The woman who lived in that hut was very pious but very poor. When she opened the door, she was amazed at the young boy standing in front of her. She asked herself “Who is this bright little boy?” Shankara’s moon-like bright face and sweet voice pleased her.
She wanted to offer something to the young sadhu even though she was very poor and had practically no food in her house. She frantically searched high and low for some grains, fruits or any kind of food. Her heart yearned to serve this divine sadhu, but she could not find anything that she could offer. Finally, her eyes fell upon one dried amla fruit (gooseberry) in a corner of the kitchen. She picked it up uncertainly and walked slowly out to the sadhu. But she felt ashamed to offer it. So she hid it in her hands and just stood in silence as tears streamed down her cheeks.
Young Shankara saw the situation. He knew that the woman’s heart was filled with the desire to offer something to him but he noticed her hesitation. He said, “Dear mother, any little offering is sufficient.”
With tear-filled eyes she dropped the dried gooseberry in Shankara’s bowl. Shankara was moved by the woman’s devotion and yearning to serve, despite her immense poverty. From his mouth sprung 21 slokas, praising the Goddess of wealth, Mahalakshmi.
Pleased by Shankara’s song of praise, Goddess Mahalakshmi, who ever showers Her grace on the devotees of her Lord, sent a shower of golden gooseberries through the roof of the poor woman’s house!
These 21 slokas on Goddess Mahalakshmi came to be known as the Kanakadhara stotram. These slokas are a testimony to the fact that God is always pleased when we serve or deeply yearn to serve a true sadhu!
– Shalini Kelappan, Doha, Qatar