Posted by Art Of Legend India [dot] Com On 10:41 PM
Along the northern borders of India stand the snow clad peaks of the Himalayas. Himavan was its king. His wife Mena gave birth to a beautiful daughter, Uma, also known as Parvati, daughter of the mountains.
Parvati was Sati reborn, the mother-goddess herself, determined to make Shiva a householder once again.
Each day, on her way back from her bath, she crossed the cold mountain valleys and went into Shiva's cave with gifts of fruits and flowers. She would sweep the floor and tend to the fire, hoping that he would take notice of her.
He never did.
Most of the time he meditated. Otherwise he smoked his pipe, the chilum, and lost himself in narcotic dreams. Parvati knew that she wanted Shiva for a husband. But how would she win his heart if he never even looked her way?
The gods decided to give Parvati a helping hand. Indra, king of the gods, sent for Kama, god of desire. "Go, fill Shiva's heart with lust for Parvati. Force him to give up his tapas; let him embrace the mountain princess instead."
Accompanied by the most ravishing apsaras, divine damsels, Kama went to Kailas. On his arrival, spring breeze swept across the icy peaks, filling it with the fragrance of love. The snow melted, and amidst the mountain streams appeared fragrant bushes and flowers of every color. The stern wasteland became a pleasure garden.
Parrots whistled, bees buzzed, and mynahs sang songs of love as the nymphs danced in delight. Inspired, Kama raised his sugarcane bow and let loose a love dart capable of arousing passion in a thousand mortals. It ripped through Shiva's heart.
The apsaras clapped their hands and congratulated Kama. He had done what he had set out to do. So they thought.
Shiva's body that had forsaken desire once again felt a yearning for pleasure. But his still mind had no intention of dancing to the tunes of the flesh. He decided to quell the temptation, destroy its very source . . . cold-bloodedly, without anger.
Shiva awakened his ajna chakra, the centre of intellectual discrimination, to destroy desire. He turned his attention on Kama. The culprit had to be taught a lesson.
Shiva opened his third eye and let loose a fiery missile. It scorched Kama's beautiful body until all that remained of the love-god was a heap of ash.
With desire so brutally crushed, the cosmic sage returned to his meditation.
"What have you done?" cried Rati, Kama's beloved apsara, "Without desire, the bull will forsake the cow, the horse, the mare and the bees, the flowers. There will be no homes, no families, for men and women will not love each other. Society will collapse and life will be devoid of its very essence."
Rati continued, "Desire may be the cause of suffering; but it is also the reason behind joy. What is life without it? An existence without flavor. So there is suffering. What is so terrible about that? After suffering, joy is bound to return. Everything passes in nature, everything is impermanent, including sorrow."
Rati's lamentations moved Shiva. He also saw the wisdom in her words.
"I destroyed Kama's body, but not his spirit. He will live on as Ananga, the bodiless god, in everyone's heart," declared Shiva. He also revealed to the world the secret of the discriminating eye — the tool with which to control desire.
Shiva realized that complete rejection of the world made little sense. Living had its price suffering; it also had its reward joy. One came with the other. Together they gave a reason for surviving.
Sati's departure brought sorrow. But now there was Parvati her arrival held the promise of joy. Perhaps he would marry the mountain princess, if her love for him was true. With her he would find the balance between yoga and bhoga.
Parvati realized that she had to prove the earnestness of her feelings if she wished to be Shiva's consort.
She focused her mind on Shiva. She thought of nothing but him. She ate nothing, drank nothing, she only chanted his name. She sat so still that ants began to crawl on her skin and lizards slithered over her limbs, taking her to be a rock. Sages were impressed by the determination of the mountain princess. They gathered around her and blessed her. "She is Aparna, the-girl-who-refuses-to-eat-even-a-leaf," they said.
Shiva appeared before Parvati as a youth and said, "Shiva is a coarse barbarian with rogues for friends. A beautiful girl like you needs a handsome man for her husband, someone like me perhaps." Parvati ignored him and continued to think about Shiva.
Shiva then appeared disguised as an old man. "Dear child, stop craving for Shiva. He is a yogi, a celibate ascetic, stern and boring. He will not make you happy; he will ignore you for days on end. He is not worthy of you. Marry someone clever like Vishnu or strong as Indra." Parvati ignored him and continued to think about Shiva.
Shiva then came in the form of a deformed dwarf. "If Shiva is good enough for you, you obviously aren't very choosy. Why don't you marry me instead? I won't be as demanding as Shiva; I will be at your beck and call." Parvati ignored him and continued to think about Shiva.
"By traditional rites!" demanded the gods. Shiva agreed.
A beggar, accompanied by a dog, appeared in front of Himavan's palace with a rattle drum in hand. He began to dance to the rhythm of the drum. He danced so beautifully that the king and queen of the mountains were impressed. Everybody was. They had never seen anything like it.
They offered the beggar clothes and food. He refused them all. They offered him jewels but he refused that too.
"What do you seek?" asked the king. "Ask and it shall be yours."
"I want your daughter Parvati," said the beggar.
Before Himavan could voice his protest, the beggar disappeared. He was none other than Shiva as
Bhikshatan, the supreme mendicant. In keeping with tradition he had asked for his bride's hand in marriage.
"We will take the marriage invitation to the groom," said Vishnu, Brahma and the seven cosmic sages, the sapta rishis smothering Himavan's protests. Before he could stop them, they were on their way to Kailas.
It was to be the grandest wedding of the era. Himavan spared no effort or expense to make the wedding ceremony a success.
Sacred diagrams were placed on the floor and the walls. Priests chanted the prayers according to the guidelines in sacred texts, the Grihasutras. Every traditional rite was observed in minute detail.
Parvati was anointed with fragrant oils and bathed in perfumed water. Auspicious marks were placed on her body and she was bedecked with love charms. She looked beautiful, a beaming bride, happy at the thought of marrying the man she wanted.
News came that the groom's party had reached the royal hill and was on its way up to the palace. Parvati's mother,
Mena and her handmaids stood at the gates with garlands and incense to welcome the groom. There was excitement all around. Nobody had ever seen Shiva. They all wondered what he looked like.
He was hideous.
Matted hair, ash smeared face, snakes around his neck and for clothes, a strip of elephant hide across his loins: Shiva looked positively repulsive. He carried a trident in one hand, a drum in another and rode a bull. He seemed to be in a state of inebriation.
Around him were his friends, the ganas, a bunch of foulmouthed hooligans. They were beating drums and blowing trumpets, creating a terrible cacophony of sounds. The groom's party seemed to comprise of the most deadly, bloodthirsty, fiendish creatures imaginable: all the gypsies, gnomes, genii, ghosts and goblins that haunted hill slopes and crossroads. The procession was led by witches and vampires, sorcerors and conjurers, phantoms and spirits.
Like Shiva, all the ganas were drinking bhang and becoming more unruly by the minute. They screamed and shrieked, danced and jumped about the place. "Glory to Shiva, glory to Shiva," they shouted throwing, instead of flowers, skulls, bones and the most venomous reptiles imaginable.
The sh6ck was too much to bear. Mena fainted.
"Who is this freak?" asked Himavan. "He is Shiva," said Vishnu. "That can't be him. He looks like a demon."
"I assure you he is the greatest of gods, Maheshvar, himself."
"He may be a great god, but he will not marry my daughter. I will not let him."
Mena supported her husband completely. "Lock the palace gates. Keep that man and his rowdy companions out," she told the guards. "No mother in her right mind will give her dear child to such a madman."
Parvati was shocked by her parent's decision. They promised to find her a better groom.
"No, I want only Shiva."
Mena couldn't believe her ears: "I think that yogi, that sorceror, has cast a spell on our child. 0 how terrible!"
She began to cry. Parvati cried too as did the other women of the palace.
The marriage had been called off.
Parvati prayed to Shiva. "For me lord, for me, show them what they want to see, not what you really are."
Shiva heard her prayers. Society was not interested in the bitter truth; it preferred being entertained with sweet illusions. So be it.
The palace gates flung open and the groom entered Himavan's palace. Bathed in mountain springs, wearing a garland of fragrant flowers, he was the most handsome man anyone had ever seen: fair skin, dark eyes, long silky hair, broad shoulders, narrow hips, lithe limbs. . . he was the personification of beauty, Sundaramurti.
"I have come for my bride," Shiva announced standing before Himavan. "Where is she?"
Mena couldn't believe her eyes. "Is it the same man who sat on the bull outside the palace gates?"
"The same," assured Vishnu.
"And who are those handsome boys and girls standing behind him?"
"They are the ganas, the groom's party."
"Oh. . . But. . . then who? . . . "
"The auspicious hour for the union may pass as we seek answers." Vishnu urged the queen and king of the Himalayas to get on with the proceedings.
Fine tunes of love and desire filled the air as priests chanted the hymns of union. Then before the holy fire Shiva held Parvati's hand and took the vows that made them husband and wife.
With that Shiva and Parvati became two halves of the whole.
The cosmos rejoiced.