Of Goddesses, one stands above all: Parvati. In
certain texts she is even called the Goddess of Wealth, Lakshmi, and
the Goddess of Learning, Saraswati, in addition to being idolized as
the Goddess of power.
The daughter of the
snowclad mountains. The consort of Shiva. The one who is incarnation
of all energy, she is A Parvati, also called Uma, Gauri, Durga, Kali
and so on.
As a deity Parvati has
the unique distinction of being thought of as the only goddess. All
other goddesses are referred to as incarnations or manifestations of
Parvati. As a woman Parvati has the distinction of one who had the
most devoted husband and as a form of energy, Parvati, also called
Shakti, is the embodiment of the total energy in the universe. As a
mother, Parvati is looked upon as the mother, Parvati is looked upon
as the mother of all creation; the Mother Goddess.
She, Sati, Parvati, Gauri
is the consort of the magnificent Shiva. She, Kali, is also the
consort of Time, as Shiva himself is the embodiment of time in his
form as Mahakal.
For a deity with such a
profile, Parvati is rather unassuming. Of course as Durga or Kali
she is portrayed as ferocious, but therein too lies a story painted
in the live colours of the indignation of the wronged.
A long, long time ago,
Brahma created a beautiful maiden called Sati who was born to a king
called Daksha. Siva married her. Years of conjugal bliss followed.
One day, however, Sati heard that a major religious function was
being celebrated in her fathers house. She was a little upset
that her parents had not invited her or her husband. After tossing
and turning in bed for many a night, one morning she decided she
would go even if she were uninvited.
After all it was only to
her fathers house, Siva, however, cautioned her. He did not
want her to go uninvited. Sati thought a while, but eventually left
because she just wanted to go to her parents. There, as Siva had
predicted, Sati was insulted. She jumped into the sacred fire
burning for the ceremony for she could not bear to go back and tell
her husband her parents had insulted her.
Siva was enraged. He was
deeply grieved. He just could not bear the loss. As he carried her
body across the country, different parts of her body are believed to
have fallen off in many places and even today these places are sacred
in Hindu mythology.
The Gods were, however,
anguished. Siva had been mourning too long and his grief and wrath
was almost harming the people. So Sati was reincarnated as Parvati
and born to the King of the Himalayas, Himavat.
As Parvati grew into a
young woman, her subconscious guided her towards penance. She had to
reunite with Siva. Years and years of penance finally brought Siva
before her one day, just for a second. Parvati was only more
besotten afterwards. Very soon afterwards, Siva came to Parvati in
the guise of an old man and asked why a beautiful woman such as her
should waste her time dreaming of a man who wore leopard skin and
smeared his body with ashes. Surely there are more handsome men in
Was Parvati offended! She
blew up the old man for saying such things about her beloved. Her
objection convinced Siva of her love for him and he showed her his
A happy marriage lasted
many years, and guess where the problem came when it did? Siva and
Parvati were playing around when Siva called her, Kali, Kali.
Now Kali means black and Parvati was very dark complexioned. Brahma
had in fact made a deliberate decision to make her so because he did
not want the world to know that Sati was being reincarnated. Now
Parvati was deeply offended that her husband should think of the
colour of her skin to hail her with. He could have called her any
number of endearing words instead.
So she told him that she
was going. That she would not meet him again till she was fair
complexioned. Bewildered Siva was left ruing his tongue while
Parvati went into the forests to do severe penance.
Another thousand years of
penance, and Brahma appeared before Parvati. She asked for golden
coloured skin. Brahma granted her the boon. Thereon Parvati came to
be called Gauri or the one with skin the colour of gold.
Of Durga and her
ferocious form, the story is told as this:
Once upon a time there
was a demon called Mahishasura. He was troubling the people on
earth. No God could subdue him. All the gods came together and
their energies together formed the goddess called Durga. The Gods
then empowered her with their weapons which epitomized their
strength. Thus armed and blessed, Durga went to tackle Mahishasura.
She vanquished him and thereupon came to be called Mahishasura
mardini or the killer of Mahisha the demon.
This month, all over
India, Dusshera is being celebrated. Dusshera celebrates this story
of how Durga conquered Mahishasura. In the eastern part of
the country, Dusshera is called Durga puja or praying to Durga.