Shiva and Parvati’s Divine Union

I am the sea and you the wave,
You are Prakrti, and I Purusha.
– Translated by Stella Kramrisch

Stella Kramrisch (1975), The Indian Great Goddess, History of Religions, Vol. 14, No. 4, pp. 235–265

In the grand tapestry of Hindu mythology, the tale of Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati stands as a testament to the divine energies of destruction and creation, of asceticism and worldly love, and of self-realization and self-sacrifice. Their narrative unveils the profound balance that sustains the cosmos, with Shiva and Parvati manifesting as primordial forces intertwined in a celestial dance that orchestrates the rhythm of existence. Parvati means daughter of the mountains

Shiva, revered as the God of the yogis, epitomizes detachment, self-control, and the transcendental aspect of reality. Yet, he is also the destroyer, whose cosmic dance paves the way for the eternal cycle of creation, preservation, and dissolution. Before his union with Parvati, Shiva lived in seclusion on Mount Kailash, submerged in profound meditation, following the tragic demise of his first wife, Sati. His disengagement created a cosmic imbalance, empowering the demon Taraka to sow chaos in both celestial and earthly realms.

Parvati’s emergence heralded hope for the troubled cosmos. Born to King Himavat (meaning (frosty, Himavat represents the personification of the Himalayan mountains) she was the embodiment of Goddess Shakti, whose name signifies power. Parvati’s love for Shiva was both tender and steadfast. Despite Shiva’s initial indifference, Parvati’s enduring love and austere penances eventually melted the ice of asceticism encasing Shiva’s heart. Her quest was not merely for marital union, but for the reintegration of the primal cosmic energies that Shiva and she embodied. This story also represents the divine attraction of love between men and women, and the generative force itself.

From a tender age, Parvati harbored a love for Lord Shiva, a love that was pure, deep, and destined to transcend the ordinary. As she blossomed into a woman of grace and beauty, her heart yearned only for Shiva, untouched by the admiration she received from kings and princes alike. There’s a poignant tale of her earnest attempts to win Shiva’s affection by visiting the cave where he meditated, cleaning and adorning it with utmost care. Yet, Shiva disregarded her tender gestures of love and would not be moved.

Undeterred, Parvati sought the aid of the Goddesses of Love and Longing, Priti and Rati, consorts of Kama, the God of love and passion. They transformed Shiva’s austere cave into a lush garden of earthly pleasures filled with fragrant blossoms, melodious birds, and gentle bees. With the stage set, Lord Kama was summoned to awaken Shiva from his meditative state with his arrow of desire. However, the attempt backfired as the arrow disrupted Shiva’s meditation, infuriating him to the point where he incinerated Kama with the fierce fire of his third eye.

Facing the reality of love being banished from the world with Kama’s demise, Parvati resolved to evoke Shiva’s love in a manner that resonated with his ascetic nature. She reassured the gods that when Shiva would accept her as his wife, Kama (love) would be reborn. She relinquished the comforts of her father’s palace, embracing the life of an ascetic in the harsh wilderness. Her journey of self-mortification surpassed even the most steadfast ascetics, echoing the austerity of Sati, Shiva’s first consort. Parvati’s ascetic endeavors, from braving the harsh winter snows bare-skinned to standing motionless on one foot for days, echoed a devotion that was both profound and enduring. Her asceticism was so intense that it was equal to that of the great Shiva, and like him, Parvati gained control of her body and mind. Her tapasya was so powerful that the energy and heat generated by it shook Shiva out of his meditation, and when he learned of all she had gone through to reach him, he agreed to make her his consort.

Their marriage was celebrated with divine splendor, bringing joy to the heavens and the earthly realm. They made their abode in Mount Kailash, immersing in a divine communion so fervent that it threatened to disrupt the cosmic balance, compelling the gods to seek Nandi’s intervention. This union heralded the rebirth of Lord Kama who was reborn to the newlywed couple, symbolizing the restoration of love to the world, just as Parvati had foretold.