The Hindi poets of the 16th and 17th centuries were keen observers of human nature. Their classification of women according to age, experience, physical and mental traits, situation, moods and sentiments provided themes for the Kangra painters. The most important of these was Keshav Das, a Brahmin from Orchha in Bundelkhand. He was the court poet of Indrajit Shah of Orchha and he wrote his famous love poem Rasikapriya in A.D. 1591. A number of Nayika paintings from Kangra are inscribed with texts from the Rasikapriya.
The Rasikapriya is written in vivid style. The language is musical and the expression frank and forthright. The sentiment of love is at the same time expressive of a passionate, sincere religion. "The soul's devotion to the deity is pictured by Radha's self-abandonment to her beloved Krishna and all the hot blood of Oriental passion is encouraged to pour forth one mighty flood of praise and prayer to the Infinite Creator, who waits with loving, out-stretched arms to receive the worshipper into His bosom, and to convey him safely to eternal rest across the seemingly shoreless Ocean of Existence."
These Hindi love poems are noted for their bright and compact style. Neat little pictures are painted in a few words particularly in the dohas or couplets. These lend themselves particularly to painting and in fact the Kangra miniatures are really poems dressed in line and colour.
According to Keshav Das, women are classified into four types: the Lotus (Padmini), the Variegated (Chitrini), the Conch-like (Sankhini) and Elephant-like (Hastini).
Padmini is a beautiful nayika, emitting the fragrance of the lotus from her body, modest, affectionate and generous, slim, free from anger, and with no great fondness for love-sports. Bashful, intelligent, cheerful, clean and soft-skinned, she loves clean and beautiful clothes. She has a golden complexion.
"Shedding flowers from her smile, she is sensitive to tender emotions and knows well the art of love. She is to be preferred to all Pannagis, Nagis, Asuris and Suris. All the affection which the people of Vraja bestow on her is in fact too meagre. Thousands of fond desires hover round her like bees. Such indeed is Radha, that unique divine champaka bud fashioned by the Creator."
This lovely painting is from Nurpur front the collection of the Wazir family, and illustrates the beauty of a "lotus" woman.
The nayikas are further classified as one's own (svakiya), another's (parakiya) and anybody's (samanya).
The svakiya heroines are classified into eight broad types (hence the name astanayika, eight heroines). It may be mentioned that the terms "lover" and "husband" are almost synonymous in it India, for unlike in the West, free love among the sexes is, to all intents and purposes, unknown. The eight Nayikas are as follows:
Utka, or Utkanthita Vasakasayya, or Vasakasajja
Prositapatika or Prosita-Preyasi
Svadhinapatika is the heroine to whose virtues her Lord is devoted and to whom he is bound in love and is perpetually a companion.
The heroine is represented in Kangra painting as Radha seated on a chauki, while Krishna washes or presses her feet and legs. He is also shown applying lac dye to her feet. She looks with pride and self-confidence at the completely subdued and docile Krishna.
In literature, the heroine is described thus by the sakhi: "O Radha, Krishna is the life-giver of Vraja and a darling of Brahma; and the goddesses, demon-women, Surya and Lakshmi, are never tired of singing his praise. And you, only a mean little shepherdess, have your feet cleaned by him and he, the Lord of the Universe, is constantly clinging to you like your shadow. He takes care of your pettiest affairs and resides in you as the image dwells in the mirror, no matter if the angels sound trumpets in his praise. He runs after the chariot of your desires like the water of the Ganges of yore which followed in a winding trail the chariot of Bhagiratha. Your words are like the Scriptures to him. It is, therefore, absurd to try to dissuade him from doing all this even for the sake of saving him from calumny."
Utka is the anxious heroine whose lover has failed to keep his appointment at the promised hour.
She is represented as standing on a bed of leaves covered with jasmine flowers under a tree beside a stream. She has adorned the trunk of the tree with garlands of jasmine. A pair of love-birds are perched on the tree. The heavy dark clouds are lit up by a flash of lightning. The heroine who is like the dryad of some enchanted forest eagerly awaits the arrival of her lover. At times deer are shown near the trysting place, sniffing at the wind or drinking water from a lotus lake.
The utka soliloquizes thus: "Is he detained at home on business or by company, or is it an auspicious day of fasting? Is it a quarrel, or the dawning of divine wisdom which keeps him away from me? Is he in pain, or is it some treachery that keeps him from meeting me, or the impeding waters, or the terrifying darkness of the night? Or is he testing my fidelity? O my poor heart! You will never know the cause of this delay."
The vasakasayya being desirous of union with her Lord waits for me on the doorstep. Her body, white like the sandal tree, glows like a lamp, and her garments, blue as the clove-vine creepers, flutter round her fair soft limbs. She is startled at the slightest sound of birds or animals. She speaks softly and relates her heart's desires to her confidant as she casts the spell of her enchantment.
The heroine is represented in Kangra painting as a woman standing at her bedroom door, happy and anxious for her lover's expected arrival. Brisk preparations for his reception are being made in the household; a woman sweeps the courtyard, another empties stale water from a flask, and the bedroom is tidied up. The lover sits in a ferry-boat on the other side of the river, close to a pair of sarus cranes.
Abhisandhita is the heroine who disregards her lover's devotion, but is full of remorse in his absence, for she feels the pangs of separation all the more. In the paintings on the subject, the lovers are shown as having quarrelled. Krishna clad in yellow with a peacock's feather in his turban is about to leave. There is intense sorrow and gloom on Radha's face. Krishna has tried to assuage her anger, but she will not relent and repulses him in anger. But as Krishna turns his back and is about to depart, she regrets her harsh words.
"How foolish of me", she thinks, "not to have responded when he spoke to me repeatedly! I was adamant and would not yield when he fell at my feet, but now my limbs seem to melt like butter. Woe to me! I am helpless and beyond all cure! When my dearest Lord tried to propitiate me, I would not listen, unfortunately I didn't relent; and my soul is filled with the bitterest mortification and re-pentance." Radha's fingers are gracefully drawn and her black tresses are visible beneath the transparent dupatta. The curves of her delicate body and her mood of mixed resentment and sorrow are well portrayed.
Khandita is the heroine whose lover fails to keep his appointment at night, but comes the next morning after spending the night with another girl. The heroine upbraids her lover.
"What the ears have never heard, eyes have actually seen. Such are the praises sung in your honour all over the place! Unmindful of your family honour, you have been feasting yourself like a crow on discarded crumbs; and your vile appetite grows rapacious. Unable to discriminate between good and evil, you fall upon the feet of those who denounce you. Tell me, O Ghanasyama, after seducing whose honour have you come here this morning to my house to hide like an owl your ominous face?”
In the pictures of the khandita nayika, an angry and offended heroine is shown upbraiding the lover who has entered her courtyard, abashed and with a guilty face.
Prositapatika is the heroine whose husband is away for some time on business.
In a painting from Guler, the heroine on hearing the rumble of the clouds goes up to the balcony. She wears a spotted dupatta, and looks eagerly at the flying sarus cranes, while a peacock, symbol of the absent lover, raises his head in exultation. It is about to rain, and the lady prays to the passing clouds for the safe return of her lover. The painting could well be an illustration of the following verse:
When she hears the thundering of the autumn clouds, the moon-face bids her sakhis not to go upon the roof,
And seeing that the ground was full of drops of rain, the friendly nayikas gave her unto the (pleasant) crying of the peacocks and the chatakas,
The fawn-eyed lady wears a spotted veil that's bright of hue, and sirisa flowers are deftly woven in her tresses,
With waning pride she stands and looks, and prays to the lightning and the leaden clouds, 'Give me news of my dear Dark One.'
Vipralabdha is the disappointed heroine who has waited in vain for her lover throughout the night. She is shown standing under a tree on the edge of a bed of leaves, tearing off her ornaments in disgust and flinging them on the ground. The empty space in the background symbolises her loneliness, frustration and deep distress. Her feelings are described thus:
Flowers are like arrows, fragrance becomes ill-odour, and pleasant bowers like fiery furnaces,
Gardens are like the wild woods, Ah Kesava! the moon-rays burn her body as though with fever,
Love like a tiger holds her heart, no watch of the night brings any gladness,
Songs have the sound of abuse, pan has the taste of poison and every jewel burns her like a firebrand.
Abhisarika is the heroine who goes out to meet her lover. She is classified under various heads by different poets, and is a favourite theme with Kangra artists. The krsnabhisarika and suklabhisarika are the heroines who fare forth to meet their lovers during dark and bright nights, respectively.
In a charming picture of krsnabhisarika, the lady wearing a blue veil goes out to seek her lover. It is a dark night with black clouds and there are intermittent flashes of lightning. The forest is infested with snakes and haunted by churails. Undeterred by the terrors of the jungle, the storm, the snakes, the goblins and the darkness, the heroine, filled with passion for her lover, goes to seek him.
According to Kamasutra, desire in the heart of woman waxes and wanes with the moon. When the moon is full, the woman’s desires are particularly ardent. In paintings of suklabhisarika, she is shown going forth in search of her lover. The full moon in the sky fills the atmosphere with its silvery beams, and its pale cool light is painted with remarkable skill. The Drapery of the woman and her delicate feature are suffused with the mellow light.
Guru Gobind Singh, in his Dasama Grantha, describe Radha, the suklabhisarika, thus: “Radhika went out in the light of the white soft moon, wearing a white robe to meet her Lord. It was white everywhere and hidden in it, she appeared like the Light itself in search of Him.
Writer Name: M.S. Randhawa
"Every work of art is fragrant of its time," says Laurence Binyon. The religion of Vaishnavism and particularly, the Radha-Krishna cult provided Kangra painters with inspiration while in Sansar Chand they found a patron who honoured and encouraged them. It was in such happy circumstances that these artists created a style which combines elegance with nervous grace. There is delicacy and sensitivity in the line, combined with rare beauty of colour. For almost forty years these artists were aglow with inspiration and they created these memorable paintings which communicate spiritual concepts of the Krishna cult so vividly. It is not a spiritual art in the Western Christian sense, where spirit and body are regarded as two separate entities. It is not gloomy, cold and forbidding, but is an art which is a happy blend of the sensuous and the spiritual. The spirituality is not chilled by an asceticism which is disdainful of female loveliness and the delights of love. In fact, its spirituality is very much based on flesh and blood. It is an art which glorifies female beauty and revels in the loveliness of the female form.
This art is an interpretation of the religious creed of Vaishnavism, the religion of love, which inspired the poetry of Keshav Das, Sur Das, and Bihari. No doubt, the verses of these poets inspired whole cycles of painting in Rajasthan, but the manner in which Khushala, the Kangra artist, matched his imagination with the poet Bihari's is unique indeed. With what depth of feeling, and sincerity he has painted the love poems of Bihari! As in the art of China and Japan, there is a close association of poetry and painting in the art of Kangra. The aim of the artist was to embody in the picture the emotion caused by reading the poem. In this he achieved unique success, and in the process of translating poetry into painting, he also evolved an art which has lyrical quality. This explains the emotive power of these paintings, which are really love lyrics translated into line and colour. In no other art does one see such a successful and harmonious association of literary and plastic ideas.
The aesthetics of an age grows out of its environment, physical, cultural, spiritual, technological and economic. We have already mentioned the cultural and spiritual background of Kangra painting in the religion and poetry of the Vaishnavas. We will now explain the influence of physical environment on Kangra art. 'I do not want to exaggerate the importance of climatic factors,' says Herbert Read, 'but the fact remains that when-ever an ideological movement whether merely stylistic or profoundly religious and spiritual is transplanted into a region of different climatic and material conditions, that movement is completely transformed. It adapts itself to the prevailing ethos that emanation of the soil and the weather which is the characteristic spirit of a community.'" This is what happened to Mughal styles of painting when they reached the Punjab hills. Mughal painting had already achieved excellence in portraiture and scenes of the zenana. The fluid line and delicate colouring of some of the Mughal paintings is truly admirable. It is the religious paintings, however, in which princes and emperors are shown in conversation with saints, which are the most inspired products of the Mughal school, and have a rare mystic quality which is the hall-mark of great art. Such paintings are, however, few and the main preoccupations of the Mughal artists were durbar and hunting scenes, and portraiture. It is only when the later Mughal style reached the valley of Kangra and absorbed the elements of a new environment that it blended beauty and lyrical quality with exquisite flow of line. Mughal paintings were usually painted against the background of the drab and monotonous plains of northern India. When the artists introduced the gently undulating hills, rivulets and the characteristic vegetation of the Shivaliks, painting in the Kangra valley acquired grace and loveliness. In fact, it is the passionate love of hill scenery which dominates Kangra painting and lends it charm. The sophistication of the court, its dullness, and regimentation were forgotten. And instead the atmosphere of the hill village, with its joy, freedom, contact with nature, and serenity, makes its appearance. Take away the hills, the rivers, and the groves of trees from these paintings, and see how much they lose in beauty!
The Kangra valley is undoubtedly one of the beauty spots of the world, and people who are sensitive to beauty of nature, when they happen to visit it, come back full of praise for it. On the one side is a snow-covered mountain range towering to an altitude of 16,000 feet above sea-level. Below it is a green, sloping valley, at an altitude ranging from 3,000 to 4,000 feet, strewn with enormous lichen-stained boulders. Tropical mangoes and plantains jostle with temperate cherries, crab apples, medlars and rambling roses. No scenery presents such sublime and delightful contrasts. Carefully terraced fields, irrigated by streams which descend from perennial snows, present a picture of rural loveliness and repose which cannot be seen elsewhere in India. The terraces sparkle like mosaics of mirrors when they are flooded with water in the month of June. Then follows the velvet green paddy crop. Green is a soothing colour but it is hard to match the rich shade of paddy plants which shine like emeralds in the sun. Nowhere in the vegetable kingdom can we see such an exquisite shade of green, so comforting and so pleasant. Spread all over are homesteads of farmers, buried in groves of mangoes, bamboos, plan-tains and kachnar. Unlike most hillmen, the people of Kangra are conscious of the beauty of their land. In one of their folk songs, they thus pay homage to their native hills:
Oh mother Dhauladhar, you have made Kangra a paradise.
Green, green hills, and deep, deep gorges with rivers flowing.
Lithe and handsome young men, and lovely women who speak so gently.
Oh, my dear land of Kangra, you are unique.
If common people could feel the beauty of the valley, sensitive artists could not remain immune to it. In fact, they responded enthusiastically to the charm of gentle hills and rolling valleys.
It is, however, surprising that though the artists were living and working in a valley, where the snow-covered mountain range of the Dhauladhar is constantly in sight, in none of the paintings do we find the snows painted. The Dhauladhar is perhaps too domineering, cold and forbidding. That is why it seems the artists preferred painting the gently undulating Shivalik hills among which they lived.
The Kangra artists were hereditary painters who worked in the quiet of their cottages in the sylvan retreats of the Kangra valley. Sons and nephews were usually accepted as pupils and they served the master artists by carefully grinding mineral colours, a work requiring skill and patience. It is thus they were initiated into the art and technique of painting. Life was simple, and the Rajas provided foodgrains and a cow for milk to the artists. Whenever they presented a beautiful painting to the Raja, they were handsomely rewarded. Thus their economic needs were taken care of by their patrons, and they were free to devote their entire time to painting. Miniature painting requires infinite patience and care, and it is a type of art which could flourish only in an age of leisure, under a benevolent feudalistic system. At the close of the nineteenth century, art also languished because of the lack of patronage. Apart from this, the inspiration was gone, and the generation of geniuses, who painted the well-known masterpieces, had also passed away. Why, in particular periods, certain countries reach a high level of creativeness, is one of the unsolved riddles of history. The spell of creative enthusiasm which gripped the Kangra valley for a century and then ebbed away likewise remains only partially explained.
Here is an art which celebrates life and love. And with what delicacy the ecstasies of love are depicted! This art is truly a record of human joy. The eyes of lovers meet and a world of feeling and tenderness is revealed in them. There are chance encounters in the courtyard, and Radha who is keeping her secret from the prying and inquisitive sakhis, conveys her message in the language which the lovers alone mutually understand. Radha meets Krishna suddenly near the entrance door of her house. While he looks at her with hungry eyes, she stands veiled, with her face bent down, and she looks like a painted image, a picture of innocence, swayed by the crosscurrents of youthful passion and virgin modesty. We find her gazing at Krishna from the terrace, the windows and balconies of her home. With what elegance the artist has depicted the restlessness of love!
Clad in a white sari, the lovely girl is cooking. The beauty of her face, and the charm of her personality have brightened the kitchen.
Another characteristic of these paintings is the manner in which dramatic relations and expectancy are expressed through design, as well as expression, on the faces of the lovers.
Others are present, and, due to modesty, physical contact is not possible. She glances at Krishna with loving eyes through her veil, and on some pretext she moves away brushing her shadow with his shadow.
The lovers are standing in the balconies of their houses facing each other. Their fixed gaze has provided a rope on which their hearts travel fearlessly like rope-dancers.
Demonstrates the strength, as well as the weakness, of this form of art. While the delicate profile of the Nayika is so fascinating, the full face of her companion is positively repulsive. When these artists make an attempt to paint the full face they fail.
Clad in white, the lady has gone into the moon-light to meet her lover. It is white everywhere and hidden in it only the fragrance of the body enables her sakhi to follow her. The white radiance of the moon and its pale silvery light has been marvellously evoked by the artist.
The artist has shown considerable skill in painting night scenes. The night is pitch-dark and the lane is narrow. The lovers coming from opposite directions brush against each other, and only the light touch of their bodies enables them to recognize each other. How brilliantly the artist has painted the inky sky, resplendent with stars!
Against the background of a paddy field and her home stands the demure village beauty. Wearing a fillet, and holding a stick, stands she of the slender waist, with eyes downcast, unconscious of her innocent charm and beauty. A garland decorates her round breasts.
Excepting two, all the paintings of the Sat Sal are designed in an oval with an arabesque in the border.
Apart from forty paintings, out of which twenty-seven have been reproduced in this book, there are about twenty drawings or unfinished paintings. This suggests that the artist who had taken up the project of illustrating the seven hundred verses of Bihari may have died, leaving his work unfinished. It seems that the inscriptions on the back of the paintings were written later on. Out of the paintings reproduced in this book hardly ten bear correct inscriptions. The remainder have no inscriptions or have wrong ones, the situation shown in the painting being entirely different from that described in the poem. Out of the drawings ten are reproduced in this chapter.
The Nayika sits under a leafless tree, immersed in grief, while her companions show deep concern. The love-sick Nayika is sitting in the courtyard reclining against a pillow. Her sakhi thus addresses her: "O deceitful girl! you cannot conceal your feeling of love, even if you make a million efforts. Your simulated indifference is itself disclosing that your heart is saturated with love."
In the Nayika is sitting behind the trellis and is looking at Krishna, who is standing below. The poet says, "Although slanderous talk surrounds them, the lovers do not give up the joy of exchanged glances." The anxiety of the Nayika to have a glimpse of Krishna is great. The sakhis are standing on the stairs. Commenting on the eagerness of the Nayika, one says to the other, "Look hither a while, if you wish to see a marvel. Having torn the fence with her fingers, she has been looking at him with unblinking eyes for a long time."
Both the poetry and painting have a spirit of closeness to life, and in Radha, Krishna and their friends and playmates, we find farmers and herdsmen of the Kangra Valley, in their familiar surroundings of thatched cottages, nestling on the spurs of mountains, against the background of lakes and rivers.
Though it depicts the life of the rustics in the villages of the valley, Kangra painting is not a folk art. It is essentially an aristocratic art, the patrons of which were the Rajas who had fine sensibility and good taste. Thus, like the best art of Europe, Kangra painting is the art of an elite.
The Gita Govinda is a forest idyll, and in its Kangra paintings, the drama of the loves of Radha and Krishna is played in the forest, or along the river-bank. In the paintings of the Bhagavata Purana, the incidents in the life of the boy Krishna are depicted against the background of the forests of Vrindavana and the river Yamuna. It is the trees of the forest, and the current of the river which are most prominent in these paintings. On the other hand, in the paintings of the Sat Sal-the background of architecture provides the setting for the love drama of Radha and Krishna. It is against the background of straight lines of walls, windows and balconies that the games of love are carried on by Radha and Krishna, watched by the sakhis.
The parallel straight lines and right angles create a compositional pattern of restfulness and calm, illustrating Kafka's observation that 'closed areas are more stable.' Here we find the beauty of geometry in harmony with the beauty of the female form. Against the repose of the static architectural compositions, we feel the restlessness of love. While the architectural setting has precision, the human figures have a fluid grace matching the elegance of a waterfall against the straight vertical lines of a mountain. With what gliding grace lovely female forms flit across courtyards! And always there is a pair of confidantes discussing the course of love of the divine couple. They are unhappy and have an expression of serious concern on their faces, when there is dissension or misunderstanding among the lovers, and they are never tired of coaxing, cajoling, or giving advice. When the course of love runs smoothly, they are unrestrainedly happy.
The knitting together of form and colour into a coordinated harmony is the essential of great art. In these Kangra paintings, form and colour are so blended that the effect is musical. To achieve such a harmony, the artist made use of both line and colour in these paintings. The line which he used is the musical, rhythmical line, which expresses both movement and mass. The type of line which Blake admired, and regarded as the golden rule of art as well as life, is this: "The more distinct, sharp and wiry the bounding line, the more perfect the work of art, and the less keen and sharp, the greater is the evidence of weak imagination." And what a rhythm the dancing line creates, a pure limpid harmony! That is why these pictures are so comforting and so soothing, like the concertos of great Western composers of music such as Bach and Mozart. This line was effectively supplemented by colours the blues, yellows, greens, and reds, the pure colours of earth and minerals, which shine like jewels and have not been dimmed by the passage of time. The combination of fluid line and glowing colours ultimately produced an art which combines the beauty of figure with dignity of pose, set against the calm of the hills.
Writer Name: M.S. Randhawa
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
"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.
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 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
"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
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.
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