Through the beauty of a woman —
the best way to give content to the Absolute.
— Saundarya Lahari
As we approach the Great Sabbat of Beltane, we rejoice in the Maiden aspect of the Goddess, for now She is the bride filled with love and longing, like beautiful Parvati.
Our story so far…
The Great God Shiva has withdrawn from the worlds of Gods and humans, heartbroken by the death of His beloved, Sati. He has gone into a deep state of very intense meditation, and is oblivious to the concerns outside His cave. However, a fearsome demon is causing great suffering, and it is known that only a son by Him can possibly save the world.
So the Great Ones create the beautiful Goddess, Parvati, to awaken Him in more ways than one, so that She may give birth to the desperately needed champion. Beautiful beyond description, She faithfully attends to Shiva’s every need, even sweeping and decorating His ascetic retreat. She does everything She can think of, hoping to win His love, but alas… Shiva never even opens His eyes to behold She who is like the radiance of the sunrise, so deep is His intense meditative focus.
Exasperated, Parvati invokes Priti and Rati, Goddesses of love and longing, to help Her rouse Shiva out of His mediation. They enter Shiva’s desolate cave and transform it into a pleasure garden, filled with the fragrance of flowers and the buzzing of bees.
In frustration, the Goddesses call upon Kama, the Lord of Desire, to help. He raises His bow and shoots arrows dripping with desire straight into the heart of Shiva. Shiva, however, is not amused. He opens His third eye and releases flames of fury that engulf Kama and reduce His beautiful body to ashes.
The death of Kama alarms the Gods. “Without the Lord of Desire, man will not embrace woman — and life will cease to be!”
Parvati is more determined than ever to win His love, for now the need is truly urgent if the worlds are to survive. The Daughter of the Mountain declares, “I shall find another way to conquer Shiva’s heart. When Shiva becomes my consort, Kama will be reborn.”
She retreats into the forest, and undergoes rigorous tapas, the intense meditations that Shiva Himself is immersed in. She sits amidst bonfires on the hottest summer days, stands motionless on one foot for interminable periods, and engages in the most astonishingly intense sadhana. Wearing nothing to protect Her tender body from the harsh weather, eating nothing, not even a leaf, Parvati earns the admiration of the other forest ascetics who name Her Aparna.
During this time, Her mother, Mena, was horrified by the dreadful austerity Parvati was undergoing and tried to dissuade Her from continuing. She begged Parvati, “U ma,” which roughly translates to “My dearest one, do NOT do this!” And so Parvati is also known by the name Uma.
But Parvati (thankfully for all of us!) prevailed, and at last, She matched Shiva in Her capacity to cut Herself off from the world and completely master Her physical needs. The heat of Her tapas finally shook Shiva out of His mediation. At long last, after all Her tribulations and challenges, Shiva stepped out of His cave and embraced Parvati as His wife.
The love story of Shiva and Parvati does not end there, of course, for their stories are many, and are powerful threads within the Hindu faith. As the Maiden aspect of the Goddess, Parvati inspires us to use our wits, and when the cause is in the name of Love, never give up. Like so many other Maiden Goddesses, Her love is courageous, unshakeable, and powerfully magical.
More Maiden Goddess celebrations tomorrow!