PARVATI Biography - Religious Figures & Icons


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Parvati, is the wife of Shiva and the mother of Kartikeya and Ganesha. Shiva and Parvati’s marriage can be traced in historical and religious texts.


Shiva was a Dravidian king who married Sati, a daughter of an Aryan ruler. Sati’s father, Daksha disapproved of their union. After the wedding, at a yagna (sacrifice), being performed by Daksha. Shiva was ignored by his father in law and the guests.


Sati, who could not bear this humiliation of her husband, jumped into the sacrificial fire and became the first Sati (a tradition where women would burn themselves on their husband’s funeral pyres).


When Shiva collected her ashes, he could only express his deep pain and grief through a violent dance called the Tandav. Terrifying all creation he danced around the earth seven times. Unable to console Shiva, the Gods resolved they would revive Sati.


Sati was reborn as Parvati, daughter of King Himavat who lived in the Himalayas.


Shiva had renounced the world and in Mount Kailash he began a hard penance. Immersed in meditation, Shiva was immune to the presence of Parvati (daughter of the mountains).


Parvati asked Madan/Kama the God of love for help. He told her to dance in front of Shiva. While Parvati danced, Madan shot an arrow laced by flowers at Shiva, whose penance broke. When Shiva opened his eyes Parvati was his first vision. Shiva too began to dance with Parvati and as the gods watched the couple in bliss, their fears were laid to rest.


Parvati lured Shiva into marriage and away from asceticism. He became a householder and she became his shakti, the creative force of the cosmos.


In Mount Kailash their ardour was intense, the gods were worried about the child who would be born from this union. Shiva’s seed dropped on the banks of the Ganga (the river who flows through his matted hair). This is the lingam that is worshipped all over India. Their first child was Kartikeya or Subramanya. Kartikeya would fight the demon Taraka rescue the world and then return to Parvati and Shiva.


Parvati’s second child was Ganesha. Legends say his birth was determined by Parvati’s desire for privacy. She wanted to bathe and created a son from the sweat of her body. She asked Ganesha to guard the door. When Shiva returned to their living area, Ganesha confronted him. Shiva who was unaccustomed to being blocked at his doorstep fought Ganesha and beheaded him. When Parvati saw her son lying beheaded, she was furious and demanded Ganesha be brought back to life.


Shiva sent his hordes to bring back the first head of an animal who was sleeping with his head to the North. They brought back the head of Airavat, Lord Indra’s elephant. Ganesha was given primary status as a god and Parvati was appeased.


Parvati is the only female deity, who like Vishnu has the ability to change her form. She appears in incarnations as Durga and Lakshmi. As Parvati she is soft, gentle and sattvic. As Durga she becomes a powerful warrior, and as Kali a bloodthirsty Goddess who can even demand sacrificial killings.