The Life Of Shiva’s Wife: Goddess Parvati
Many know that Shiva and Parvati have the perfect marriage. The relationship of Shiva and Parvati has been depicted in many forms. Parvati is said to be the balancing factor in Shiva’s life only second to the intense meditation that he practices.When Shiva is angered and takes the form of Natraja, all the gods worry that Shiva will destroy the entire cosmos, but it is Parvati who calms the angry lord down by matching his fierce and destructive Tandava dance with her own slow, graceful steps thus complimenting him at his best and at his worst. Shiva’s personality is replete with dichotomies. On the one hand Shiva is an ascetic who disappears from the mortal world, into Mount Kailash and meditates there. On the other hand, he is a fierce and angry god whose temper knows no bounds. He will destroy everything in his path. Through all this, Parvati brings him back to balance by pulling him towards the role of a householder.
But who was Parvati? And how could she control the mighty Shiva thus?
Shiva’s first wife was the goddess Sati. After the death of Sati, Shiva lost all interest in the world. He withdrew to his mountain top, Mount Kailash, and took residence in a cave where he immersed himself in intense meditation. Before the death of his beloved Sati, Shiva had given the boon of invulnerability to a demon named Taraka. When Shiva gave up the world and the heavens, Taraka realized that this was the perfect time to attack. Soon the demon had run amok both on heaven and earth and chaos reigned supreme everywhere. The Gods tried to do all in their power but in vain, ultimately they turned to Shiva at this dire hour. But Shiva was uninterested. According to one legend, even if Shiva wanted to do something he would not have been able to. When Sati died, Shiva also lost all his powers. The reason given for this in one of the stories of the sacred Hindu texts is that Sati is a reincarnation of Shakti and Shakti means power. So when Sati died Shiva lost his Shakti. He was powerless.
In their desperation, the Gods then turned to the goddess Shakti, imploring her to be of help. Shakti agreed to help and took the form of the goddess Parvati. Parvati was born to Himavan, the king of the mountains. Ever since she was a young girl, Parvati knew that she had been born so she could wed the great Shiva. From the time she could speak, she would sing all the songs dedicated to Shiva in a melodious voice. Soon, she knew them by heart. As she grew older, Parvati blossomed into a stunning woman filled with grace and beauty. While she captured the hearts of many kings and princes, she only had eyes for Shiva. There is a story that mentions Parvati going to Shiva’s cave everyday, cleaning it out and decorating it with flowers. She would offer the ascetic Shiva freshly picked fruits and nuts. But Shiva was not to be shaken from his asceticism. Not once did he open his eyes or acknowledge the presence of Parvati.
It is said that Parvati then turned to the Goddesses of Love and Longing, Priti and Rati the consorts of Kama, the God of love and passion. They turned the cave that Shiva meditated in, into a garden of pleasure, filled with flowers, trees, birds and bees. Once the cave was packed with enchantments and wonders, they called upon Lord Kama. Upon his arrival Kama wasted no time in shooting Shiva with the arrow of desire. The arrow had no effect on Shiva, he was however intensely angered at being disturbed. Enraged, he opened his third eye and reduced Kama to ashes. With the destruction of Kama, Parvati lamented to the others Gods that love has been lost to the world. She reassured them however that when Shiva accepts Parvati as his wife, Kama will be reborn.
Parvati had tried everything in her power to make Shiva notice her, but nothing worked. Finally she decided to do what Sati had done to win over Shiva. Parvati left all the riches and comfort of her father’s palace and went to live in the forest as an ascetic. It is said that in her trials, Parvati surpassed even the greatest ascetics. What she went through was even greater than what Sati, Shiva’s first consort, had endured. She went through the most rigorous self-mortifications from walking in the winter snow without clothing to sitting under the hot summer sun for days, to standing on one foot motionless for long hours to eating nothing for days and surviving on the suns nourishment. In fact her asceticism was so intense that it is said to have been equal to that of the great Shiva. Following in his footsteps, Parvati soon had utter control over her body and her mind.
Parvati’s Tapasya generated great amounts of energy and heat. This heat and energy finally reached Shiva who was shaken out of his meditation. When he was finally back in the world, Shiva wondered what or who it was that had wrenched him out of his intense tapasya. He then heard the story of how Parvati in order to have Shiva as her husband went through much rigorous self-mortification and achieved a state of asceticism almost akin to that of himself.
So impressed was he by her self-sacrifice that he immediately agreed to make Parvati his consort. Shiva and Parvati were married in great pomp and celebration. The gods rejoiced to have Shiva back and married at the same time and the heavens blessed their union. After they were married Shiva and Parvati went back to Mount Kailash and made it their abode. It is said that once back at Mount Kailash, Shiva and Parvati proceeded to have such passionate sex that the gods feared for the future of the world and were forced to go to Nandi and beg him to intervene! From this union, Lord Kama was reborn just as Parvati had foretold.
Ever since then, Parvati and Shiva lived together in conjugal harmony, known to all as the perfect couple.