Category Archives: Parvati

Siva and Parvati

There are numerous myths separately depicting Siva and Parvati, as well as being together.  As a couple, the majority of these myths can be found in the several of the Puranas, telling many tales on how Siva and Parvati came to be. Although Parvati can been seen as the reincarnation of Siva’s first wife Sati, their stories are very much different.  According to the Puranic myths of Siva and Parvati, their story begins with the demon Taraka. Taraka, the king of the demons, was oppressing the gods and creating havoc in the celestial world. The god Brahma had granted Taraka one boon. Taraka wished that no god could slay him except for the one who is born of the god with braided hair (Siva) (O’Flaherty 1975:155).

To avoid further chaos caused by Taraka, Brahma’s main concern was to find a woman or goddess who was capable of luring Siva into a sexual encounter or marriage (Kinsley 42).  This is a difficult feat because Siva is yogi who takes pleasure in tapas, which is described as a potentially destructive heat derived from extreme ascetic practices (Kinsley 42). Many texts describe Siva’s celibacy and the ongoing physical, emotional and mental battle between Kama and Siva. In one variation of this tale, Kama enters Siva’s heart where an immediate sexual desire stirs throughout his body (O’Flaherty 1973: 149). Siva is outraged by this attempt and expels Kama from his body using heat, causing Kama to leave his human form. As a last attempt, Kama shoots the arrow of desire into the heart of Siva and is immediately scorched and turned into ashes from the flame exerted out of Siva’s third eye (O’Flaherty 1973: 149). Rati, Kama’s wife who was distressed by the sight of her husband’s burnt body, started rubbing his ashes all over her body protesting that she was going to kill herself. Siva consoled her and reassured her that Kama would be reborn again, which is illustrated later on in the tale of the couple (Kramrisch 352).

Parvati whose name means “she who dwells in the mountains” was born to Himavat and Mena (Kinsley 41). According to Brahma’s plan, Parvati was born to practice austerities in order to marry Siva, and when united in marriage with Siva, their combined tapas will be so intense during love making that they would be able to create a son strong enough to destroy the demon Taraka (Kramrisch 350). In many ways, Parvati knew that they needed to be together in order to save the cosmos and everything in it; they were destined to be with each other. During the seduction of Siva, Parvati visits Siva trying to interrupt his meditations, where Siva dismisses her over and over again.  Her determination was as firm as the Mountain, her father (Kramrisch 356). She eventually leaves the palace, abandons the householder status and becomes a renouncer, much to the dismay of her mother, in order to practice austerities within the forest (Kramrisch 356 & Kinsley 43).

The austerities performed by Parvati, described in most versions of this myth, outdo many of the great sages (Kinsley 43). Eventually, her tapas generates so much heat that the universe begins to heat up, forcing Brahma to grant her a boon to acquire Siva as a husband, which is instantly rejected by Siva (O’Flaherty 1973: 153). This rejection causes Parvati to make the universe smoke which eventually frightens Siva, who is shaken from his own meditation (O’Flaherty 1973: 153). Brahma promises Parvati that Siva will come to her. Using her tapas, she heats up Siva’s seat on Mount Kailasa and Siva is forced to appear before her (O’Flaherty 1973: 153). He was swayed by Parvati and was drawn to her as an ascetic. Siva decided to test Parvati’s resolution, the intensity of her asceticism, the clarity of her mind, the purity of her devotion,

Bronze Masterpiece depicting Siva and Parvati (Patan Museum, Patan, Nepal)
Bronze Masterpiece depicting Siva and Parvati (Patan Museum, Patan, Nepal)

and her knowledge (Kramrisch 356-357). Seven sages were sent to Parvati to dissuade her from her duty and described Siva as being “naked, ferocious, dweller of the cremation grounds, the carrier of skills, a hermit, statue-like in action, a beggar, mad, fond of collecting ugly and terrible things, and inauspiciousness incarnate” (Kramrisch 357). Parvati, in response to their tests, does not deter in her mission and replies to the sages that they do not know the Great God (Kramrisch 357). Delighted with her determination and strength, they return to Siva retelling him what took place. He then goes to Parvati’s parents to ask for her hand in marriage; Parvati’s parents are honoured. The marriage ordeal is described in great detail in many variations of the myth with a common theme. During the marriage procession, Mena, Parvati’s mother sees Siva for the first time. She is outraged by his appearances and threatens to commit suicide and faints when told that the odd-looking figure in the marriage procession is her future son-in-law (Kinsley 43). He turns into something more suitable and beautiful in response to Mena’s cry.

After their marriage, Rati, Kama’s widow is said to have brought Siva to the ashes of Kama where Kama, as beautiful as before and wielding bow and arrows, emerged from the ashes (Kramrisch 363). Siva and Parvati then retreat to his mountain dwelling, Mount Kailasa, where they engage in intense sexual activity. Their lovemaking becomes so intense that it is said to have shaken the cosmos, frightening the gods (Kinsley 43). Parvati, according to Brahma’s plan, longed for a son of her own. As their lovemaking continued, the gods, in some texts, became impatient and scared of the child that would come from these two great deities. In one instance, the gods interrupt Siva and Parvati during sexual intercourse, causing Siva to spill his semen outside Parvati (Kinsley 43). This fiery, potent seed was transferred from one container to another, in many variations of the myth, where eventually it settles in a suitable place, often in the Ganges River, where it is incubated and born as the child Karttikeya.  The boon granted by Brahma to Taraka, the king of the demons, had been fulfilled and the child born of Siva seed defeats Taraka and rescues the world from utter chaos. After some time, Karttikeya finds his parents, where Parvati accepts the child as her own (Kinsley 43).

The Puranas identify Parvati’s willingness to have another child. Siva, on the other hand said ‘I am not a householder and I have no use for a son’ (O’Flaherty 1973: 211). However, Parvati still insists on having a child telling Siva that once they conceive a child he can return to his yoga, leaving all of the parental responsibilities to Parvati (O’Flaherty 1973:211). Siva yet again refuses to give into her request. Instead, in desperate want of a child, she creates Ganesa from the dirt and sweat of her body and commands him to guard the entrance of her house against any intruder (Kinsley 44). When Siva tries to enter their hermitage, Ganesa denies his entry. This infuriates Siva and leads him to decapitate young Ganesa. As a result, Parvati becomes upset and demands that Siva restore Ganesa’s life (Kinsley 44). Siva restores Ganesa to life yet with the head of an elephant and is said to have been put in charge of all Siva’s troops and heavenly attendants (Kinsley 44).

Siva and Parvati’s marriage and family life is portrayed as harmonious, blissful and calm. Some quarrels, recounted by some of the Puranic myths, occur throughout their marriage, where they leave each other for a brief period of time to practice their austerities, but eventually end up together recovering from their altercation because of the intimate love and devotion they have for each other.  Siva is a god of excesses, both ascetic and sexual, and Parvati plays the role of modifier (Kinsley 49). Much of the tension and conflict exhibited by this divine couple is identified with the concept that Parvati is Siva’s sakti, or power, which is often personified in the form of a goddess (Kinsley 49). Her role as sakti is active, in that she is sometimes identified with prakrti (nature), whereas, Siva is identified with purusa (pure spirit). Without Parvati, Siva’s power ceases to exist. Parvati’s sakti not only complements Siva, she completes him. The reason for Parvati’s existence is just that; the celestial world would not exist if it weren’t for their undying love for each other. Many metaphors illustrate this dependence on the couple as complementary opposites throughout the Purana texts. It can be argued that the two are actually one-different aspects of ultimate reality- and such are complementary, not antagonistic (Kinsley 50).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

REFERENCES AND FURTHER RECOMMENDED READINGS

Kinsley, David (1986) Hindu Goddesses. Berkeley: University of California Press.

Kramrisch, Stella (1981) The Presence of Siva. United States of America: Princeton University Press

O’Flaherty, Wendy D. (1975) Hindu Myths. London: Penguin Group

O’Flaherty, Wendy D. (1973) Siva: The Erotic Ascetic. London: Oxford University Press.

Rodrigues, Hillary (2006) Hinduism: The eBook. An Online Introduction. Journal of Buddhist

 

Related Topics for Further Investigation

Taraka

Brahma

Asceticism

Austerities

Tapas

Mount Kailasa

Kama

Puranas

Kali

Sakti

Prakrti

Purusa

Ganesa

Karttikeya

Inauspiciousness

Rati

Noteworthy Websites Related to the Topic

www.webonautics.com/mythology/shiva_parvati.html

www.lotussculpture.com/parvati1.htm

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Parvati

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shiva

http://www.religionfacts.com/hinduism/deities/shiva.htm

Article written by: Rachael Collette (March 2010) who is solely responsible for its content.

The Goddess Parvati

The goddess Parvati is worshiped in the Hindu tradition for her affection and beauty. Her name denotes “she who dwells in the mountains.” (Kinsley 41). Parvati is one of the many consorts of Siva, a powerful Hindu god who resides in the mountains. There are many different identities depicted of the goddess. People who view Parvati as the auspicious goddess, call her “Sarvamanagala” (Smith 50). Parvati is also represented as “Ambika”, which refers to her role as a mother, and as “Girija”, the daughter of the Himalayan mountain deity. She is also referred to as Kali, a goddess who is known as “the dark one”. This is because Parvati has a dark complexion (Kinsley 42). As well as the diverse names that describe Parvati, there are many songs, stories, stone carvings, and Pahadi paintings of the goddess.

The mythology of Parvati is largely based on her relationship with Siva. Her association with Siva is described as essential in order for cosmic reproduction to occur, which entails the preservation of the world (Kinsley 41). Sanskritic manifestations derive from the Vedas, which are developed in the Puranas. Dravidian manifestations draw from Tamil country origins, which describe distinct characteristics of the mythology of Parvati. Lastly, autochthonous tradition, also known as the folk tradition, includes legends and folk stories about Parvati (Dehejia 12). Although diverse, together, these traditions formulate a good interpretation of the goddess and describe Parvati as a “dedicated and loving wife.” (Dehejia 39).

Bronze masterpiece depicting the goddess Parvati, consort of Siva; 14th century, Thanjavur Palace Museum
Bronze masterpiece depicting the goddess Parvati, consort of Siva; 14th century, Thanjavur Palace Museum

In the Sanskritic tradition, as described in the Puranas, Parvati is a reincarnation of Sati (Kinsley 37). The goddess Sati was the first wife of Siva who takes her own life in a yajna sacrifice. The gods were concerned with Siva’s state of isolation from others. Thus, they felt that Parvati was destined to marry Siva (Dehejia 16). Himalaya, the father of Parvati, stated that in order for Parvati to become the wife of Siva, she must complete penance. However, Parvati had difficulty performing penance which led to her father asking Kama, the God of love, for assistance. Kama shot arrows at Siva, which in return, angered him. Siva burned Kama to ashes and this deeply hurt Parvati. Parvati escaped to the mountains where she performed austerities (Dehejia 19). These austerities were so frequent and intense that Siva became allured by Parvati’s physical appearance. The marriage of Siva and Parvati is subsequently arranged. Their marriage and family status is described as peaceful and pleasant. Siva and Parvati spent their time sitting on Mount Kailasa, while conversing about Hindu philosophy and engaging in sexual activity (289). However, there were times when the marriage was a challenging endeavor. Parvati and Siva would quarrel and offend each other. At times, Siva behaved so poorly that Parvati would leave him. Siva would often make comments about Parvati’s dark skin, and gave her the nickname “blackie”. Parvati removed herself from the household and settled in the forest, where she performed austerities (Kinsley 44). The legend, the Varaha Purana, states that the devi did this until Brahma granted her wish of changing her complexion from dark to golden.

Regarding the family life of Parvati and Siva, Parvati wanted and eventually gained a son to protect her from intruders coming into her apartment (Kinsley 44). At one point, however, her son would not let Siva enter the apartment. This angered Siva, who spoke of the lack of auspiciousness in Saturn, which led to the beheading of the child. The child’s head was later replaced with the head of an elephant and was named Ganesha. Parvati had two more children, Kartikaya and Andhaka. In the Sanskritic tradition, Parvati is described as being a devoted wife and mother to her sons (Dehejia 25).

Parvati's austerities (tapas) and her worship of Siva are depicted on this pillar at Darasuram Temple in Tamil Nadu
Parvati’s austerities (tapas) and her worship of Siva are depicted on this pillar at Darasuram Temple in Tamil Nadu

Parvati, in the Tamil tradition, is similar to the Sanskritic tradition because it places an emphasis on the bond between Parvati and Siva. In the 4th century, the Tamil region was ruled by Jains, and the Hindu tradition arose in the 5th century (Dehejia 26). This mythology is largely derived from the Silappadikaram and Manimekalai epics from Sangam literature. Like the Sanskritic tradition, the marriage between Siva and Parvati is an important component in both traditions; however, Tamil mythology is mainly based on Parvati and her manifestations. In the Sanskritic tradition, Siva is characterized as being powerful figure and Parvati is known as his loyal consort (Dehejia 28). In the Tamil tradition, Parvati has a split personality. There is the southern goddess, who is depicted as being dark and violent, and then there is the northern version of the devi, who is romantic and quiet (Dehejia 34).

The folk tradition includes the adivasis group. This tradition includes characteristics of Sanskritic and Tamil, but still possesses some differences. For example, instead of worshipping one particular god, the folk worship Parvati is a mixture of the 4 other consorts of Siva. Thus, the folk tradition views one goddess as having many notable features, such as affection, power, and beauty. According to the folk tradition, Khandoba and his consort Mahalsa are the equivalent to Siva and Parvati in the Sankskritic tradition. Khandoba is a deity known as the “killer of demons” and like Siva, this god is associated with the mountains (Dehejia 35). Mahalsa is a reincarnation of Mohini, whom Khandoba was deeply drawn too.

Parvati is adored by painters, poets, and musicians for her divine beauty. The goddess is worshiped in images both with and without Siva (Smith 52). Literature such as the Puranas is known to be one of the earliest and most popular depictions of Parvati. In this script, her life and relationship to Siva are expressed (Dehejia 43). The poet Kalidasa wrote Kumarasambhava, which describes the alluring devi. Along with literature, there are many songs written about Parvati that are mainly sung by women (Dehejia 57). Many women sing about the time in her life when the goddess left the home she was born in to her home in Kailasa. Along with literature and songs written about Parvati, there are also many images depicted of the goddess that are highly valued pieces of work. Temple images of Parvati and her consort Siva are worshipped four times a day (Smith 51). There exists special festivals in honor of Parvati. For example, in a temple once a year, the marriage of Siva and Parvati is re-enacted (Smith 52). The most popular marriage re-enactment occurs during the Caitra month (April-May). Another festival that honors the goddess occurs throughout nine days. This gathering, known as Navaratri, occurs in Asvayuja (October-November), and is said to be “her” time (Smith 51).

There are various images depicted of Parvati. Many images express the bond between Parvati and Siva. Some icons portray Siva as the possessor of Sakti (cosmic power), known as saktiman and Parvati as Sakti. One well known image of Parvati and Siva is the Ardhanarisvara. This image was developed in the 10th century and is made of sandstone (Dehejia 73). It depicts a half male and half female being, which accentuates the interdependent relationship between the goddess and her consort (Kinsley 50). Another icon of Parvati and Siva is known as the Wedding of Siva and Parvati, which was created in the 17th century and is made of ivory (Dehejia 82). In the image, Parvati is offering her right hand to Siva during their wedding ceremony. This icon represents the feelings of bliss and anticipation that were experienced during this festive day. Along with the many images depicted of Parvati and her unification with Siva, other illustrations relate to stories and songs in the Puranas, the Hindu culture, and other festivals and rituals (Dehejia 62).

Although Parvati has little responsibilities as a goddess, she has gained respect and adoration throughout India. The devi is a devoted mother and wife. She is worshiped for her exquisite charm and the love she shares with others (Kinsley 41). Thus, Parvati deserves recognition for representing all that beautiful, both physically and spiritually.

REFERENCES AND FURTHER RECCOMMENDED READING

Dehejia, Harsha (1999) Parvati: Goddess of Love. New Jersey: Grantha Corporation

Foulston, Lynn (2002) At the Feet of the Goddess: The Divine Feminine in Local Hindu Religion. Portland: Sussex Academic Press

Kinsley, David R (1986) Hindu Goddesses: visions of the divine feminine in the Hindu Religious tradition. Berkeley and Los Angeles, California: University of California Press

O’Flaherty, Wendy Dowger (1973) Siva: The Erotic Ascetic. Oxford: Oxford University Press

Pintchman, Tracy (1994) The Rise of the Goddess in the Hindu Tradition. Albany, N.Y.: State University of New York Press

Smith, Daniel H (1991) Handbook of Hindu Gods, Goddesses and Saints. New Delhi: Ashish Singhal for Sundeep Prakashan

Related Topics for Further Investigation:

  • Agni
  • Arjuna
  • Devi
  • Durga Puja
  • Dyaus- pitr
  • Ganesa
  • Indra
  • Kali
  • Rg Veda
  • Sakti
  • Siva
  • Soma
  • Surya
  • Mahabharata
  • Varuna
  • Vayu

Noteworthy Websites Related to the Topic:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Parvati

http://www.exoticindiaart.com/article/parvati/

http://www.festivalsinindia.net/goddesses/parvati.html

http://www.goddessgift.com/goddess-myths/hindu-goddess-parvati.htm

http://www.kamat.com/kalranga/hindu/uma.htm

http://www.nationmaster.com/encyclopedia/Parvati

http://www.religionfacts.com/hinduism/deities/goddesses.htm

Article written by: Genna Barsky (March 2009) who is solely responsible for its content.