Ādi Śaṃkarācārya, adored as Ācārya hails from the Guru lineage of Śrī Dakṣiṇāmūrti, who is an incarnation of Lord Śiva. Ācārya, who is considered as an incarnation of Śiva, had all the qualities of Śiva as well as Śakti. He was in the state of Saccidānanda and at the same time, he has authored many works and one of them being Saundaryalaharī. Majority of his works are related to imparting Advaita philosophy. We know that Śakti is the Power of Śiva, who always remains silent and meditating. At the same time, He is aware of everything that happens in the universe, through His kinetic power known as Śakti, who is full of knowledge and wisdom. Śiva and Śakti always remain inseparable. Saundaryalaharī begins by emphasizing the union of Śiva and Śakti.
Apart from the fact that Saundaryalaharī was authored by Śaṃkarācārya, there are certain other versions about its origin. Once Śaṃkarācārya had darśan of Pārvatī and Parameśvara. During the darśan, Pārvatī handed over to him, a bunch of palm leaves containing all the verses of Saundaryalaharī. There is another version which says that it has been composed by Vāc Devi-s, authors of Lalitā Sahasranāma. Third version says that these verses were composed by Śiva Himself as an encomium of His Consort Pārvatī.
There is another version about its origin. Śaṃkarācārya went to Kailāsa, the Abode of Pārvatī and Parameśvara. At that time, Śiva gave him five Liṅga-s and Pārvatī gave him manuscripts in the form of palm leaves. Śiva’s vāhana Nandikeśvara was witnessing this and thought that some treasures of Kailāsa were going out of Kailāsa. In the fit of anger, he pulled the palm leaves. But Śaṃkara managed to hold on to some portions of it, though he had lost some, due to Nandikeśvara’s anger. He returned only with first 41 verses and the rest 59 verses were taken away by Nandikeśvara.
The first 41 verses belong to mantra Śātra and Kuṇḍalinī yoga, the subtlest form of Pārvatī. Being an incarnation of Śiva, He composed the remaining 59 verses on his own, describing Her, from Her head to Her feet. For Gods, description begins from feet to head and for Goddesses, it is from head to feet, which is known as keśādi pādāntaṁ. Saundaryalaharī is based on this principle. Original part containing 41 verses is termed as Ānandalaharī and the part composed by Śaṃkara, containing 59 verses, is termed as Saundaryalaharī and all the 100 verses put together is also known as Saundaryalaharī.
Parāśakti is worshiped either through mantras such as Pañcadaśī or through great poetic compositions like Lalitā Sahasranāma. But, Saundaryalaharī is the combination of both and hence is considered as crest jewel of all Her worship. While studying Saundaryalaharī, we should always remember that the entire work is that of Śiva, conveying both gross and subtle interpretations.
Every effort is taken to interpret these verses in simple language and with these few words, this book is placed at Her Lotus feet to bless us with puruṣārtha, the fourfold values of human life - dharma (righteousness or virtues), artha (wish or purpose), kāma (desires and pleasures) and mokṣa (the liberation).