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Embrace of Shiva

Posted by Art Of Legend India [dot] Com On 12:02 AM
lying on a leopard skin with his beloved, Uma-Parvati; Pahari painting.

Cosmic Couple

Kama, lord of desire, catalyst of all creative processes, was reborn the moment Parvati embraced Shiva. She softened the stern hermit with sweet words; her smile stirred love in his austere heart. The twang of the love-god's bow and the fragrance of spring filled the air. Everyone cheered this divine union.

Parvati made Kailas her home, close to lake Manasarovar. Its snowy peaks served as her courtyard, its caves became her mansion. There she domesticated Shiva, turned him into a householder, much to the satisfaction of the gods. In the chilly waters of Manasarovar, amidst the blooming lotuses and the beautiful swans, she sported with him. On its shores they danced and sang, captivating the attention of forest spirits and divine beings. The two complemented each other perfectly. She was gentle and graceful; he was wild and forceful. Her subtle lasya tempered his energetic tandav and created perfect harmony, encapsulating the vibrations of the universe, capturing the music of the spheres.

On the hill slopes she conversed with Shiva. She asked him questions about the cosmos, about Nature, about society, life and marriage. Each time he replied, she asked him a thousand other questions. Skillfully Parvati enticed Shiva into the ways of the world, arousing his concern for society. Thus his great wisdom, acquired through aeons of meditating and brooding, was revealed for the good of the cosmos.

Parvati was the perfect student, Shiva the perfect teacher. Ultimately the world was enriched by these sacred conversations; through them was revealed the secrets of the Vedas, the splendours of the Shaastras and the mysteries of the Tantras.

Shiva and Parvati in conversation; Central Indian bronze.With Parvati by his side, Shiva made a declaration: "Let it be known, no worship or sacrifice will be accepted by the gods until a man has his wife by his side." And so it is that no yagna or puja is conducted without the wife sitting to the left of the husband. Since then the wife is called vamangi, she-who-sits-to-the-left.

He said, "He who escapes from life's joys and sorrows, rather than dealing with them, is a fool. He is running away from the Truth."

She said, "He who is obsessed with the pleasures and pains of life, unable to look at the serenity beyond them, is a fool. Even he is running away from the Truth."

They said, "Truth lies in harmony, harmony between matter and spirit, between the body, mind and soul, between the individual and society, between society and Nature, in purusha and prakriti."

Above the Clouds

Shiva and Parvati travelled across the cosmos on the bull Nandi. In winter, they wrapped themselves with soft tiger skins to keep out the cold. In summer, they sought refuge from the harsh glare of the sun in the shade of trees. And when dark rain-bearing clouds made their way towards the mountains, Shiva took Parvati in his arms and carried her above the clouds, above the rain.

Parvati was pleased with Shiva. She gave him a new name, jimutavahana, he-who-rides-the-clouds.

Shiva's Dance

Shiva as urdhva-nataraja; South Indian mural. Parvati's beauty inspired Shiva to create music and dance. From his melodious voice came the musical notes and tunes that enchanted the entire cosmos. He created the various dance elements gait, gestures, expression and posture that best expressed human emotion. Shiva became lord of the arts, Kaleshvar.

One day, as Shiva danced, Parvati said, "Whatever he can do, I can do beter." She imitated all his movements and her performance won the praise of the gods. But then Shiva raised one of his legs and took the pose known as urdhva-nataraja. Parvati refused to take this stance which she felt outraged feminine modesty.

Shiva brust out laughing and Parvati realised that he was just teasing her.

Game of Dice

Shiva and Parvati often played dice atop Mount Kailas.

Once, to make the game more exciting, Shiva offered to wager his trident, if Parvati wagered her jewels. She did, but he lost. Then Shiva wagered his serpent, he lost that too. Soon he had lost everything he possessed: his skull-bowl, his rudraksha beads, his ash, his drum, his smoking pipe . . . and finally even his loin cloth.

Humiliated by this defeat, Shiva went into the deodar forest. Vishnu, feeling sorry for Shiva, offered to help him out. "Play another game. This time I promise you will win," he told Shiva.

And that was exactly what happened. Shiva won back all that he had lost in earlier games, even the loin cloth.

Uma-Maheshvar riding across the cosmos on the Nandi bull; Bronze image from Himachal Pradesh.Parvati, suspicious of Shiva's sudden success, called him a cheat. Shiva, outraged by the accusation, demanded an apology. Words were exchanged, insults were hurled . . .

To pacify them both, Vishnu appeared on the scene and revealed to Parvati the secret of Shiva's victories. "My spirit entered the die. The dice moved not according to your moves but according to my wish. So neither has Shiva really won nor have you really lost. The game was an illusion; your quarrel a product of delusion."

On hearing Vishnu, Parvati and Shiva realised that life was like their game of dice totally unpredictable and beyond control. They said, "Let the gods bless all those who play dice on this day and realise this cosmic truth." That day is Diwali, the festival of lights.

Annapoorna

Shiva once told Parvati, "The world is an illusion. Nature is an illusion. Matter is just a mirage, here one moment, gone the next. Even food is just maya."

Parvati, mother of all material things including food, lost her temper. "If I am just an illusion, let's see how you and the rest of the world get along without me," she said and disappeared from the world.

The disappearance of Parvati caused havoc in the cosmos. Time stood still, seasons did not change, the earth became barren ... there was a terrible drought. There was no food to be found anywhere in the three worlds. Gods, demons and humans suffered the pangs of hunger. They wept like children who seek their mothers. "Salvation makes no sense to an empty stomach," cried the sages.

Shiva and Parvati playing dice; Pahari painting.News reached Shiva that Parvati had reappeared at Kashi and had set up a kitchen there for the benefit of the world. He ran there as fast as he could, along with every other hungry creature in the world. As he presented his bowl to her he said, "Now I realise that the material world, like the spirit, cannot be dismissed as an illusion."
Parvati smiled and fed Shiva with her own hands.

Since then Parvati has come to be known as Annapoorna, the goddess of food. The image of her serving food to her hermit-husband Train worshipped at Kashi, Varanasi, in Uttar Pradesh. It is said she does not eat a morsel unless all her devotees have been fed.

The Tribal Woman

Shiva once got bored of married life. He went into the deodar forest to resume his austerities. Unable to bear this separation, Parvati followed him there. But Shiva took no notice of her.

Parvati assisting Shiva put on his loin cloth; Pahari painting."What do I do now?" wondered Parvati. Vishnu whispered a solution in her ears. Accordingly Parvati dressed up like a tribal-woman, bright beads round her neck, peacock feathers in her hair. She sang and danced until Shiva could no more ignore her.

Distracted, he followed Parvati back to the romantic shores of lake Manasarovar. There, inspired by Parvati's beauty, he picked up his lute, the rudra-vina and created the most enchanting tunes ever heard in the cosmos.

Kali or Gauri

Once, as sunlight streamed into their cave, Shiva looked at Parvati and laughed. "You are so dark. You are Kali, the black one, black as coal, black as the night sky, black as a crow, black as the pit of death."

Hurt by Shiva's cruel words Parvati walked out of Kailas and moved into the deodar forest. There she performed rigorous tapas. By the strength of her austerities she shed her dark colour, which it is said percolated into the river Kalindi. She became the radiant Gauri, as bright as a full moon and returned to Kailas.

Parvati, as mother of the world and source of life, is called Gauri, bright and radiant, full of hope. But when she becomes death, the final devourer of all things, she is called Kali, the dark one from whom there is no escape.

Adi's Embrace

Annapoorna-Parvati serving her hermit-husband, Shiva, food at Kashi, Benares.Shiva never brought any gifts or food for Parvati. Sometimes he smoked narcotic drugs in his chilum and ignored her for days on end. Once, tired of his callous attitude, she ran into the deodar forest.

Taking advantage of her absence, a demon called Adi entered Kailas and walked right into Shiva's cave. The ganas did not stop him for he looked just like Parvati. The demon had used his magic powers to bring about this transformation.

Adi wanted to dupe Shiva. He was envious of the cosmic couple; he wanted to make a fool of the great lord, humiliate him, mock his love for Parvati, and perhaps even kill him at a vulnerable moment.

When Shiva saw his beloved entering the cave he was delighted. He rushed to greet her. But he soon divined the true identity and intention of this 'Parvati'.

Infuriated by this deception Shiva became Ashani, the thunderbolt. His love turned into rage, more terrible than lightning. He caught hold of Adi and sapped the demon's life with his embrace. The gods cheered the destruction of the demon.

Days passed. Parvati showed no sign of returning to Kailas. Her absence drove Shiva mad. He began to dance wildly. The heavens trembled and the earth shook. Cracks appeared on the foundations of the seas. Fearing the worst, the gods begged Parvati to restrain her husband. Only she had the power to do that.

Parvati returned to Kailas. As she walked up the hill singing songs of love, Shiva's dance of sorrow turned into the dance of joy.

The cosmos regained its balance, the world was safe and the gods were happy.

Parvati becomes a Fisherwoman

Shiva-Parvati, the cosmic couple ancient stone carving Shiva and Parvati often discussed the secrets of the universe. Together they explored the wonders of the cosmos.

But one day, as Shiva spoke to Parvati, he found her attention wavering. She was looking at the fish swimming in the lake Manasarovar. "If fish is more interesting than my words, I would rather you become a fisherwoman."

Parvati obeyed Shiva and instantly took birth as a fisherman's daughter. She grew up to be a strong and beautiful maiden. She oared her father's boat, mended his nets and cleaned all the fish he caught. He was proud of her; his only worry was to find a husband good enough for her.

Shiva meanwhile, regretted his harsh words. From Kailas he looked at Parvati running along the seashore and wondered how he could win her back. Manibhadra, Shiva's faithful gana, saw his master's plight. He decided to do something to reunite the lord with his beloved.

Taking the form of a huge shark, Manibhadra began terrorising the sea coast near Parvati's village. The fishermen didn't dare venture out into the sea. "It broke our boats and tore up our nets. We are lucky to return alive," said the men who survived its many attacks.

"He who captures the shark will marry my daughter," declared Parvati's fisherman father. Shiva immediately disguised himself as a young fisherman. Net in hand, he sailed into the sea and captured the shark with ease.

Shiva and Parvati were reunited. The fisherfolk celebrated their wedding in pomp and style.

Parvati and Shiva isolate themselves

Shiva crushing the demon Adi in his embrace;
"I don't understand," said Brahma looking at Shiva and Parvati, "At times they are the loving couple, locked in embrace for seveal aeons, happy to be with each other. Then, they fight, for as long and with the same intensity. What is this great mystery?"

Vishnu smiled. "You see the quarrels and the reconciliations between husband and wife. I see the interactions between the cosmic spirit, purusha, and the cosmic substance, prakriti. The relations of that divine couple reflect the ways of the world; it oscillates the universe into life."

Once Shiva and Parvati did not step out of their cave for a thousand years. Impatient to meet their lord, the seven cosmic sages, the sapta rishis, walked in without announcing themselves.

Parvati, who was caught unawares, was so embarrassed that she picked up a lotus and covered her face. The image of Parvati with a lotus over her face came to be known as Lajjagauri, the-shy-Parvati.

Irritated by this intrusion, Shiva and Parvati decided to isolate themselves. They moved far into the inaccessible caves of the Himalayas. Some say, it was the cave at Amarnath, Kashmir.

Here, away from all interruptions and distractions, they explored the limits of ecstasy. For the first time sensual pleasure, bhukti, became the tool of spiritual emancipation, mukti.

Arousal of Kundalini

Lajjagauri, the shy Parvati, with a lotus covering her face; Central Indian terracotta In isolation, Shiva and Parvati let loose their full potential. Shiva stood on the right as the fiery pingala. Parvati lay on the left as the frigid ida. By various physical postures, asanas, mental exercises, dhyana and breath control, pranayama, they balanced each other's energy until they were both in perfect harmony, in a state of sushumna.

Parvati was like a coiled serpent, kundalini, forming the base of the sushumna passage, seeking union with Shiva. To that end, she began arousing herself with the five makara tools: Bold diagrams, mandalas, appeared before her eyes. The sound of chants, mantras, filled her ears. On her tongue was the rich taste of spiced meat, mansa. Her nose was filled with the overwhelming scent of perfumes and alcohol, madya. Her skin was stretched and awakened by many positions, mudra. She was soon ready to rise.

Shiva waited for her at the other end of the cosmos, at the complementary pole of existence. While her senses were being excited, he stood beyond sensual stimulations.

They were two extremes of the cosmos she was water, he was fire; she was matter, he was the spirit; she was the flesh, he was the soul; she was the senses, he was the consciousness. She was in a state of agitation, he was calm; she was Shakti, all the manifestations of energy, he was Shiva, pure, unadulterated by any form or shape.

He was Bhava, the eternal being; she was Bhavani, the eternal transformation. They were ready to become one.

Uma-Maheshwar; stone carving from Karnataka.
Parvati uncoiled herself and rose through the sushumna, the very axis of existence. She was like a dart, let loose by a strong bow. Her rise was spectacular: she pierced six great cosmic nodes to reach her lord, it was the great shat-chakra-bheda. She pierced the centres of fear, desire, hunger, emotion, communication, introspection located in the body. These were the six chakras which govern life: Muladhar, Svadhistana, Manipur, Anahata, Vishuddha and Ajna.

As she pierced them, they bloomed like flowers, reaching their full potential. She rose beyond the needs and demands of her physical existence. She crossed every level of being and then joined her lord, the pure cosmic consciousness, in the form of the thousand petaled lotus, the Saharsrapadma. He was the seed, the jewel, mani, that she enclosed within her petals, padma.

Together they returned to the time between creation, Om, and destruction, Hum. In that state of dissolution, laya, beyond all opposites, there was just perfect bliss. Man and woman became one, ardhanaranari, as the lotus of matter enclosed the seed of the spirit.

Om Mani Padamane Hum

Writer Name: Devdutt Pattanaik
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