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Parvati -Daughter of the Mountains

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We‘ve looked at the bountiful Laxmi, then the learned Saraswati and now let’s cast our eyes on the bold and beautiful Parvati-Daughter of the Mountains and the consort of Lord Shiva.

In a way, Parvati is the ultimate Goddess.  All Hindu women want to be like her and all Hindu men worship her.

For she is none other than Shakti, the Cosmic Energy at play. Just as Shakti is experienced through her manifestations in Nature, so too is Parvati best understood through her various names and forms.

The stories of Parvati form a big chunk of Hindu mythology. Their charm and their ability to inspire has endured over many millennia. Parvati is worshipped in countless different forms and names all across India from the tiniest villages to cities. Devotees will scale high mountains and go deep into dark forests to seek her. She is the Mother Goddess and from her being spring myriad other goddesses.

I can’t possibly tell all her stories here in one post . Each one needs to be elaborated at length and relished slowly.  I look forward to writing them in separate postings at a later stage.

But  here, just as an introduction, are brief sketches of her most popular and widely worshipped forms.

Sati-Sati was the first wife of Shiva. His first love. She had married Shiva against her father’s wishes. One day hurt by her father’s insulting behaviour she immolated herself plunging Shiva into deep despair. Unable to bear her loss Shiva withdrew from the world into a cave. There he remained lost in meditation till Pravati came along and broke his trance.

Parvati-Shiva ParvatiSati was reborn as Parvati, the daughter of Himavan-Lord of the Himalayas. Parvati means ‘daughter of the mountains’. Strong willed as the mountains she won Shiva’s heart through many years of severe penance and deep devotion.

Gauri-Shiva and Parvati were married in a beautiful ceremony watched by everyone on heaven and earth and celebrated by gods and asuras alike. Parvati moved to Shiva’s abode in the Himalayas to live as his wife Gauri.

Gauri awakened Shiva’s interest in the world by questioning him on various issues. As he spoke, Shiva revealed the secrets of the Tantras and the Vedas to Parvati. Shiva the foremost yogi then taught his wife yoga and through her passed on the teachings to mankind.

Shiva enamoured by Parvati’s beauty sang and danced to the delight of the gods who named him Natraja, the Lord of Dance.

Parvati is literally Shiva’s other half, fused to him in his half man half woman form of Ardhanareshwar.

Shiva and Shakti – As the cosmic couple, they are worshipped together. While Shiva is Purusha, the latent masculine energy of the universe, Parvati is Prakruti, the vital feminine energy. The Ying and Yang of Hinduism. And, although they appear to be distinct they cannot be separated, just as one cannot separate heat from fire.

 

maaDurga smallDurga-Invoked by Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva to wage a war against the asuras and to kill the demon Mahishasur, Parvati becomes the powerful Durga.  Riding a lion and wielding weapons, she single-handedly vanquishes the entire asura army and restores peace.

                                                                                                                                                                                 Durga

Kali- To help her son kill the demon Raktabija, Parvati assumes the form of the dreaded goddess Kali. Dark as death, gaunt with sunken eyes, her enormous tongue hanging out, and with long disheveled hair covering her naked body, Kali strikes terror in the very heart of evil.

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Kali

Jagadamba –In this form Parvati is the guardian of the Universe. She is the Divine Mother who protects and nurtures her children, her devotees. Anyone who seeks her attention shall have it.

Mother of Ganesha and Karitkeya-Parvati is also the mother of her two sons Ganesha and Kartikeya. One she fashioned from her own self and the other was born from Shiva’s seed but not her womb. She raised both with loving care and attention.

Festivals

The Goddess is celebrated during Navratri all over India in different ways. For nine nights India revels in her power and energy.

Gangaur is another major festival, dedicated to Gauri and is celebrated in Rajasthan for eighteen days, starting from the last day of Holi.

Speaking of which, It’s Holi tomorrow. And it’s a whole other story which you can read about tomorrow !

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Laxmi -The Goddess of Wealth

While Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva  uphold the laws of the Universe, the Goddesses, Laxmi, Saraswati and Parvati are the soul, the colour and joy of the Universe.

Dressed in luxurious silks and adorned with gold ,Laxmi is the resplendent goddess of wealth. Seated on a full bloomed lotus flower she showers wealth and glory on her devotees. A cascade of gold coins flows from one hand while the other is raised in blessing. Her four hands signify the four goals of human life: dharma or Truth, Arth or wealth, Kama or desire and Moksha or liberation.

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Laxmi’s name is derived from the Sanskrit word “lakshmye” which means ‘goal’ or ‘purpose’. Laxmi is the giver of not just  material wealth but spiritual wealth, glory, virtue, greatness and joy. All the goals sought by human beings.

The desire to seek these things drives Creation and keeps the wheel turning. Hence, while Vishnu is the source of all creation, Laxmi his wife is the driving force behind it. The Creation comes from Vishnu but Laxmi his wife represents its abundance. She represents the ‘wealth’ of Nature.

This is how they met and were married…

During the Samudra Manthan, when the asuras and devas were churning the Milky Ocean to obtain the nectar of immortality, many treasures rose from its foaming waves. One of them was Laxmi, borne on a full bloomed lotus flower, wearing red and gold clothing, holding in one hand a jar of gold and in the other a lotus bud.

The devas and the asuras watched, mesmerized, as this divine beauty rose from the waters. Her radiance it is said, dazzled heaven and earth and all living beings.

With a smile on her lips, Laxmi stepped gracefully on to the shore, her anklets tinkling. Like a golden creeper swaying gently in the breeze she made her way through the crowds that had now gathered to see her. As she walked past everyone sought her attention but Laxmi was looking for someone else, someone more worthy of her. Then she spotted Vishnu, bright as a thousand suns and she knew him at once to be Narayan, he who grants salvation. In him all things came to rest. His virtues were eternal. He was beyond the failings of mere mortals and even the gods.

laxmi wedding smallSo she walked up to him and placed a garland of lotus buds around his neck. In the Vedic times it was the women who chose their husbands by placing a garland around their necks. It was called Swayamwara.

Having chosen her groom she stood by his side, bashful and poised and became Vishnu’s ardhangani, his other half. Now they were complete as Laxmi-Narayan.

Laxmi is worshipped daily in Hindu homes and offices but particularly during the festivals of Diwali, Navratri and Kojagiri purnima.

As Ashtalaxmi she is worshipped in eight forms:

Adi Laxmi- Primeval goddess

Dhana Laxmi- goddess of material wealth

Dhaanya Laxmi- goddess of food grains

Santana Laxmi- goddess of children

Gaja Laxmi-goddess of elephants ( fame and glory)

Veera Laxmi- goddess of courage

Vijaya Laxmi- goddess of victory

Vidya Laxmi- goddess of knowledge

Laxmi is also a form of the Mother Goddess, the Devi or Shakti, which I will talk about in another post dedicated to the Devi.

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