Hindu Goddess Parvati - Daughter of the Mountain
The Story of Parvati
The significance of the Nataraja (Nataraj) sculpture is said to be that Shiva is shown as the source of all movement within the cosmos, represented by the arch of flames.
The purpose of the dance is to release men from illusion of the idea of the "self" and of the physical world. The cosmic dance was performed in Chidambaram in South India, called the center of the universe by some Hindus. The gestures of the dance represent Shiva's five activities, creation (symbolized by the drum), protection (by the "fear not" hand gesture), destruction (by the fire), embodiment (by the foot planted on the ground), and release (by the foot held aloft).
As Nataraja (Sanskrit: Lord of Dance) Shiva represents apocalypse and creation as he dances away the illusory world of Maya transforming it into power and enlightenment.
The symbolism of Siva Nataraja is religion, art and science merged as one. In God's endless dance of creation, preservation, destruction, and paired graces is hidden a deep understanding of our universe. Aum Namah Sivaya.
Bhashya Nataraja, the King of Dance, has four arms. The upper right hand holds the drum from which creation issues forth. The lower right hand is raised in blessing, betokening preservation. The upper left hand holds a flame, which is destruction, the dissolution of form. The right leg, representing obscuring grace, stands upon Apasmarapurusha, a soul temporarily earth-bound by its own sloth, confusion and forgetfulness. The uplifted left leg is revealing grace, which releases the mature soul from bondage. The lower left hand gestures toward that holy foot in assurance that Siva's grace is the refuge for everyone, the way to liberation. The circle of fire represents the cosmos and especially consciousness. The all-devouring form looming above is Mahakala, "Great Time." The cobra around Nataraja's waist is kundalini shakti, the soul-impelling cosmic power resident within all.
Nataraja's dance is not just a symbol. It is taking place within each of us, at the atomic level, this very moment. The Agamas proclaim, "The birth of the world, its maintenance, its destruction, the soul's obscuration and liberation are the five acts of His dance."
Birth of Parvati
The gods invoked the mother-goddess, who appeared before them as Kundalini, a coiled serpent. "I will coil myself around Shiva, wean out his knowledge and energy for the good of the world and make him father a child," said Shakti. Shakti took birth as Parvati, daughter of the Himavan, lord of the mountains, determined to draw Shiva out of his cave and make him her consort.
Priti and Rati
Everyday Parvati would visit Shiva's cave, sweep the floor, decorate it with flowers, and offer him fruits hoping to win his love. But Shiva never opened his eyes to look upon her charming face. Exasperated, the goddess invoked Priti and Rati, goddess of love and longing, to rouse Shiva out of his mediation. These goddesses entered Shiva's desolate cave and transformed it into a pleasure garden filled with the fragrance of flowers and the buzzing of bees.
Death of Kama
Guided by Priti and Rati, Kama, the lord of desire, raised his sugarcane bow and shot arrows dripping with desire into the heart of Shiva.
Shiva was not amused. He opened his third eye and released the flames of fury that engulfed Kama and reduced his beautiful body to ashes.
The death of Kama alarmed the gods. "Without the lord of desire man will not embrace woman and life will cease to be."
" I shall find another way to conquer Shiva's heart. When Shiva becomes my consort, Kama will be reborn," said the daughter of the mountain, Parvati.
Not Even a Leaf
Parvati went into the forest and performed rigorous tapas, wearing nothing to protect her tender body form the harsh weather, eating nothing, not even a leaf, earning the admiration of forest ascetics who named her Aparna.
Aparna matched Shiva in her capacity to cut herself from the world and completely master her physical needs. The power of her tapas shook Shiva out of his mediation. He stepped out of his cave and accepted Parvati as his wife.
Shiva married Parvati in the presence of the gods following the sacred rites and took her to the highest peak of the cosmos, Mount Kailasa, the pivot of the universe. As the world revolved all around them the two became one and Kama was reborn.
"Parvati melted Shiva's stern heart with her affection."
Hermit to Householder
Parvati melted Shiva's stern heart with her affection. Together they played dice on Mount Kailas or sported on the banks of Lake Manasarovar, discovering the joys of married life.
The goddess awakened Shiva's concern for the world by questioning him on various issues. As he spoke, he revealed the secrets of the Tantras and the Vedas that he had gathered in eons of mediation.
Inspired by her beauty, Shiva became the fountainhead of the arts, of dance and drama. He sang and danced to the delight of the gods who were pleased to see his enchantment with the goddess.
The Birth of the Celestial Warlord
Parvati gave Shiva's aura to the gods. "From this will rise the warlord you seek," said the goddess. The gods gave Shiva's aura to Svaha, consort of Agni, the fire god. Unable to bear the heat of the auro and the god Agni for long, Svaha gave the aura to Ganga the river goddess who cooled it in her icy waters until Shiva's aura turned into a seed.
Aranyani, the goddess of the forest, embedded the divine seed in the fertile forest floor where it was transformed into a robust child with six heads and twelve arms.
Six forest nymphs called the Krittikas found this magnificent child in a lotus. Over come by maternal affection they began nursing him. The six headed son of Shiva, born of many mothers, came to be known as Kartikeya.
Parvati taught Kartikeya the art of war and turned him into a the celestial warlord called Skanda. Skanda took command of the celestial armies, defeated Taraka in battle and restored the heavens to the gods.
Kali drinks Raktabija's Blood
Skanda, guardian of the heavens, went on to destroy many demons who opposed the reign of the gods. But he could not defeat the demon Raktabija. Whenever this demon's blood touched the ground, a thousand new demons sprang to life. He seemed unconquerable.
To aid her son in his endeavor to rid the three worlds of the demon, Parvati entered the cosmic battlefield as the dreaded goddess Kali - dark as death, gaunt with sunken eyes, gaping mouth, with long disheveled hair covering her naked body.
Kali spread her tongue over the battlefield and licked the demon's falling blood catching on her long, outstretched tongue before the drop could find its way to the ground springing a demonic life anew. Raktabija, without his multiplying numbers was left powerless. Skanda was able to dispatch Raktabija and all his remaining duplicates with ease.
Skanda thanked his mother for her timely help. To celebrate her victory, Kali danced wildly on the battlefield, bedecking herself with a garland of served heads and a girdle of severed hands.
Shiva Calms Kali
Intoxicated with Raktabija's blood, Kali ran amuck across the three worlds, destroying everything and everyone in her sight.
To restrain her, Shiva took the form of a corpse and blocked her path. As the goddess, blinded by bloodlust, tripped on his lifeless body, she was jolted out of her frenzy. She wondered if she had killed her own husband. She placed a foot on Shiva's chest and brought him back to life.
Shiva then took the form of a little child and began to cry, stirring maternal love in the heart of Kali. This forced her to shed her fierce form; Kali became Gauri, the radiant mother, bestower of life.
Guari told Shiva that she wanted a child. Yet, Shiva was not interested in a family. He turned away from her and went into to the forest to perform tapas.
Determined to be a mother, Parvati decided to create a son for herself without the aid of her husband. She scrubbed her skin with sandal paste, scrapped off the dead skin, mixed it with clay and molded out of it a beautiful doll into which she breathed life. She ordered her newly created son to keep watch over her cave and keep out all strangers.
Guardian of Thresholds
When Shiva returned to Kailas, Parvati's son failed to recognize his mother's consort and prevented him from entering the cave. Irritated by the child's insolence, Shiva raised his trident and cut off his head.
When Parvati saw her son's headless body she wept and out of her tears came her fierce handmaidens, the Yoginis, who threatened to destroy the whole world. To placate Parvati, Shiva resurrected the child by placing an elephants head on the severed neck. Shiva also accepted Ganesh as the first of his sons.
Ganesh, who had prevented Shiva from crossing the threshold of his mother's cave, became keeper of thresholds, an obstacle to all that is undesirable. He who seeks access to the wisdom, bounty and mystery of Nature worships Ganesh beloved son and sacred doorkeeper of Shakti.
The Divine Homemaker
With Parvati by his side, Shiva became a family man. But he did not abandon his ways as a hermit: he continued to meditate and immerse himself in narcotic dreams. His carefree attitude, his refusal to shoulder household responsibilities sometimes angered Parvati. But then she would come to terms with his unconventional ways and make peace. The consequent marital bliss between Shakti and Shiva ensured harmony between Matter and Spirit and brought stability and peace to the cosmos.
Parvati thus became Ambika, goddess of the household, of marriage, motherhood, and family.
By Kyle Tortora, [email protected]