Banded with a tinkling girdle
Heavy with breasts like the frontal lobes of young elephants.
Slender of waist,
With face like the full moon of autumn…
~ traditional Hymn of Praises to Parvati
Tonight, millions of Hindus around the world will be celebrating Maha Shivaratri, The Night Of Lord Shiva, the great God of creation, preservation, destruction, transformation, and revelation. This is the night when Lord Shiva performed His cosmic dance of creation and dissolution, called the ‘Tandava.’ And it is also celebrated as the night that Lord Shiva was married to the Great Goddess, Parvati.
The Goddess Parvati is Shakti – the primordial Divine Feminine, giver of life. She lives in all beings, and is the creative life power within. Without Her, all beings are inert. She is often considered the Maiden, more benevolent aspect of Kali the destroyer. Another of Her aspects is the powerful Durga, warrior Goddess, and defeater of demons.
Parvati is Lord Shiva’s beautiful, joyful bride, and is a Goddess of love and devotion. She is the Daughter of the Mountains, and indeed, the Daughter of Heaven. She is colorful, beautiful, ornate and mysterious.
The rich beauty of Her clothing and jewelry symbolize Her power. When She lifts Her veil, Her radiance is said to shine like the Sun rising over the Himalayan mountain of Anapurna. The cocoon, butterfly, lion and the karmic golden wheel are Her symbols, reflecting Her deep connection with life and death, cause and effect, and transformation.
Some communities also believe Her to be the divine sister of Lord Vishnu, who is married to Lakshmi. Many believers consider Her to be the ultimate Divine.
Like Aphrodite, She is an active, adventurous lover. But unlike the unhappily married Greek Goddess, Parvati adores Her husband Shiva, and in fact represents marital fidelity to Her devotees.
But, alas… like many mortals, the course of Her courtship did not run smoothly.
After the death of Sati, who was His first love, Shiva had isolated Himself in a dark cave buried amongst the snow-covered peaks of the Himalayas. He rejected the world outside, so distraught was He by the loss.
Shiva, immersed in His meditation, was oblivious to the problems in the worlds. This was unfortunate, since a demon was creating havoc, and only a son by Shiva would be able to defeat it. Shiva, however, had no interest in fathering anyone, as He was busy performing tapas, intense meditations that produce great heat and energy.
With trouble increasing in the worlds, the Gods decided that they would create a beautiful Maiden Goddess to be His new love, lure Him out of His seclusion, and bear a son that would be the champion for good.
So it was that Parvati, daughter of Himavan, Lord of the Himalayans, was born.
Of course, we know that there is a happy ending, because tonight everyone is celebrating Lord Shiva’s ultimate wedding to Parvati. But how did She eventually win the heart of the grief-stricken God? And will He father the great warrior? Will love conquer or fail?
Tune in next Sunday!