Are Sati and Parvati the same person?
As a god who is very popular, Lord Shiva’s marital and family life comes under a lot of scrutiny. While many stories and myths expound Lord Shiva, Lord Shiva’s wife and the perfect relationship he has always cherished with his wife, few clarify who his wife actually was. So who was Lord Shiva’s wife? Was Lord Shiva’s wife Sati? Or was Lord Shiva’s wife the Goddess Parvati? Are Sati and Parvati the same person?
There are many different versions of this story. While many versions argue that Parvati is a reincarnation of Sati and so, Lord Shiva has only ever had one wife: the Goddess Sati. Others will argue that the goddess Parvati in her own right surpassed the rigorous tapasya that Sati had performed and so has the right to be called his second wife, a strong independent entity different from Sati.
But then are Sati and Parvati the same person?
Many believe that Lord Shiva always had two wives. The first of Lord Shiva’s wives was the goddess Sati and the second of his wives was the goddess Parvati. Both of Lord Shiva’s wives have many names they are referred to by: Shakti, Uma, Gauri, Kali, Annapurna, Dakshayani, etc.
If we go into the writings about Lord Shiva, the stories that are expounded in these sacred texts talk of Sati, the first consort of Lord Shiva. Before she was Lord Shiva’s wife, Sati was the Hindu goddess of marital bliss and longevity. While there are many stories about why the goddess agreed to take human form, the most popular one says that Sati the goddess was asked by Brahma to take a human form so that she could bring Lord Shiva out of his ascetic life and into one of wedlock. Brahma wanted to tame the wild god and bring his crazy antics under control. What better way to do that than to get him married! When Sati was born, she was born to the great king Daksha, a renowned king and one of the Manas Putras of Brahma. In fact, Daksha was the chief of all of Brahmas human sons who were also known as Prajapatis. Ever since Sati was born, Daksha wanted her to marry a great king or prince, one that would help form a great alliance between the two families as well as provide his beautiful daughter with all the luxury and comfort she could ever want. Ever since Sati was born, all she ever thought about was Lord Shiva. She loved all the tales, hymns, chants and songs about Lord Shiva, and everyday she would clamor to know more. As a young girl she even knew the stotras of Lord Shiva by heart. Every day she would pray to the great lord so that he would accept her. As Sati grew older, her beauty grew with her. Soon she grew into a beautiful, carefree girl whose heart was set on becoming the great Lord Shiva’s wife.
Her father Daksha invited kings and princes from all over to seek her hand in marriage. Sati however, who was so besotted with the Mahadeva, that she refused every suitor till her father was frustrated and furious. Finally Sati realised she could not deal with the pressure anymore and her mind was made that she would either become the wife of Lord Shiva or perish in her determined effort. So bent was this Goddess on making Lord Shiva her husband that she forsook all the luxuries and security of her father’s palace and withdrew to the forest. In the forest she maintained the life of an ascetic and went through many trials and agony. Such was her passion to achieve her eventual goal of marrying Lord Shiva that Sati soon gave up all forms of nourishment. She followed this rigorous path till Shiva finally relented and agreed to take her as his bride. Thus her rigorous penance paid off and Sati got what she had always wanted, what she had been born for – to be Lord Shiva’s wife.
Soon after they were married, Sati immolated herself due to her father’s deliberate and continued disrespect of Shiva. After her death, Lord Shiva promised that he would never be married again and would resume his life as an ascetic, detached from emotions and from all worldly attachments.
But then… who is Parvati?
The story of the great Goddess Parvati and how she came to be Lord Shiva’s wife is very interesting. According to different accounts, ever since Parvati was born, she had a great interest in all the tales and chants of the Mahadeva ie. Lord Shiva. Eventually Parvati remembered her life as Sati the wife of Lord Shiva (she is said to be a reincarnation of Sati). As Parvati grew older, she came to regard the great Lord Shiva as her husband in her heart and vowed to do everything that was in her power to have him accept her as his wife and consort. She undertook a penance or tapas to please Lord Shiva. It is written that in order to get Lord Shiva to marry her, Parvati surpassed all the great ascetics in her tapas and went even beyond what Sati had endured. There are two stories about what happened next. Either Lord Shiva sent an attendant or disguised himself as one and appeared to Parvati. He or the attendant criticized Lord Shiva, his characteristics, his personality, his looks and his detachment. But Parvati was unfazed and her love for Lord Shiva was only strengthened by this criticism. Moved by this unbound love for him, Lord Shiva was drawn to her and agreed to accept her as his bride. After her dreams were fulfilled and she married Lord Shiva, Parvati moved to Mount Kailash and set up her abode there.
The story of Lord Shiva and Parvati is a well known one. While there are many different ways the story is told with its twists and turns, one fact remains constant- It was through her rigorous tapas that Parvati managed to get Lord Shiva interested in worldly matters in general and her in particular.
The argument of whether Lord Shiva had two wives or whether the second was a reincarnation of the first is likely to continue for aeons. There is however consensus over one thing: The many stories associated with the Goddess Parvati is very intrinsically intertwined with the different legends of the Mahadeva, Lord Shiva. So Parvati may or may not be Lord Shiva’s second consort, but she is the most well known wife of Lord Shiva. The stories that are shared about Lord Shiva and Parvati all show a beautifully balanced relationship based on mutual love and respect.