We know that Lord Shiva married Goddess Parvati. Goddess Parvati is Lord Shiva’s Shakti, his power.
Do you know how they got married? The story of their marriage starts with the evil demon – Tarakasura.
Tarakasura was a very powerful demon and had performed severe penances. Neither the humans nor the Devas were powerful enough to defeat Tarakasura. Tarakasura terrorized the Devas and the humans. Though the Devas tried to fight back, they could not match the demon’s power or ferocity.
Unable to fight Tarakasura, all the humans and the Devas went to Lord Brahma for help. That was when Lord Brahma told them that only Lord Shiva’s child was powerful enough to destroy the demon Tarakasura.
The Devas were in a fix. Lord Shiva had married Goddess Sati. However since Sati’s death, Lord Shiva had retreated to the Himalayas and was deep in penance. His meditation was so deep powerful that he could not be disturbed.
The Devas then again went to Lord Brahma for help. Brahma told them that an incarnation of Sati would appear as Lord Shiva’s next wife. Their offspring would defeat Tarakasura.
Soon enough Himavat, king of Himalayan Kingdom and his Queen Menaka had a beautiful girl child. They named the child ‘Parvati’. Parvati means ‘of the hills’.
Parvati was a beautiful child, full of zest in her childhood. However she was fiercely devoted to Lord Shiva. Even in her childhood she preferred praying to Lord Shiva, instead of playing with her friends.
Parvati was very well educated and very beautiful. Fame of her beauty and intelligence spread throughout the country. Suitors came from different parts of the country to marry her. However Parvati rejected all of them. She wanted to marry Lord Shiva and no one else.
When she repeatedly rejected her suitors her father asked her, ‘Parvati, don’t you wish to get married? Why do you keep rejecting all the princes who have come?’
Parvati looked defiantly at her father, ‘Father, have you seen the princes? She said looking scornfully, ‘I cannot marry them…They are not what I want…’
Queen Menaka said quietly, ‘Does that mean that there is someone else you want?’ She asked smiling at Parvati.
Parvati blushed, ‘Mother!’
King Himavat looked surprised looking from mother and daughter. ‘Well, who is it?’
Parvati shyly stared at her feet and whispered, ‘Lord Shiva,’ her eyes shining radiantly.
King Himavat though flabbergasted at first, then slowly nodded his head. Yes Lord Shiva, the Lord of the three worlds was the good match for his daughter.
But then he remembered how Shiva had become an ascetic and was deep in penance. ‘Parvati, my child. Lord Shiva has retired to the Himalayas. How can you hope to marry him…’
‘Narayana…Narayana…’ A mischievous voice came from behind them. All the three of them turned around startled, to see Sage Narada behind them. Sage Narada was Brahma’s son and roamed all around world. He was a mischievous sage and always getting himself and others in trouble. The only reason he always escaped from being cursed was all his exploits always ended well for all the people concerned.
Sage Narada knew that Parvati was Sati reincarnated and had come to marry Lord Shiva.
Parvati was the first one to pay respect to Sage Narada. Sage Narada blessed her and said, ‘You are born to be the mother of the Worlds. You have to go and fulfill your destiny.’
King Himavat and Queen Menaka also paid respect to Sage Narada. King Himavat then said, ‘Sir, Parvati wants to marry Lord Shiva…She has just told us…’
Sage Narada then turned to Parvati, ‘What you have chosen is not an easy path to follow. But you must succeed. Not just for your own sake but for the sake of many other people. It is your destiny.’ Parvati felt something deep stir within her. But she still could not fully realize that she was the great Goddess Mahadevi.
Sage Narada then turned to King Himavat, ‘Take your daughter to Lord Shiva. Ask him to accept Parvati’s help to perform his daily prayers. ‘
King Himavat nodded. Sage Narada, his work accomplished vanished from there.
The next day, along with Parvati, King Himavat travelled to the foot of the Himalayas, where Lord Shiva was meditating. They waited patiently for Lord Shiva to open his eyes.
Lord Shiva opened his eyes after a long time not even aware that the two of them were there. He first saw Parvati but was not able to recognize that Parvati was infact his Shakti – his beloved Sati. He then turned his attention to King Himavat. ‘What brings you here, King?’ He asked.
King Himavat bowed, ‘My Lord, this is my daughter Parvati. She has been your fierce devotee from her childhood. She wishes to serve you while you do your puja.’
Shiva nodded and agreed to it. ‘If that is what she desires, then she can help me around.’ King Himavat then left Parvati there and left for his kingdom.
Shiva nodded to Parvati, ‘I am going too need some flowers for the puja. Would you please…’
Parvati nodded and left in search of the flowers…
Soon she was with Lord Shiva and helped him in everything. While he was meditating, she would wait on him gazing at him. She would have all the things ready so that he could perform the puja after his meditation.
The Devas sighed with relief when they saw Parvati waiting on Lord Shiva. They thought that soon Parvati would convince Shiva to marry her. However, as the days passed, the Devas grew worried. Parvati’s charm was not working on Shiva. Shiva remained immune to her. They were not sure how long they could hold up against Tarakasura. So in order to speed things up, they went to Kamadeva – the God of Love.
Indra the Lord of the Devas explained to Kamadeva, ‘I think Parvati needs our help. Shiva is not affected by Parvati’s charm or beauty. I think you have to break his meditation by firing your love arrow at him so that he can at least notice Parvati’s beauty.’
Kamadeva thought that over, ‘But Parvati would win over Lord Shiva. The Great Mahadevi promised us. Why should we interfere?’
Indra sighed, ‘Tarakasura is becoming a menance. None of our powers combined can match his power and he has been hurting innocent people. We have to speed things up…’
Finally Kamadeva agreed and decided to help them out, ‘Yes. I will do it.’
Kamadeva went home to tell his wife about his ‘assignment’. Rati however was not happy. ‘But Shiva is deep in his penance. Won’t he be angry if he learns that you have disturbed his penance?’
Kamadeva’s eyes momentarily clouded. But then as he resolutely nodded his head and smiled, ‘Yes. But even if it so, I have to do this. Don’t worry my dear.’ He said stroking Rati’s cheek and smiled, ‘I will be back.’
Rati gave a fearful smile and realized that her husband’s mind was made up. She gave Kamadeva a forced smile and nodded her head.
Kamadeva picked up his flowery bow with the sugarcane arrows and went to the place where Shiva was meditating.
There Parvati was helping Shiva, collect the flowers. She was arranging the flowers, when Kamadeva picked up his bow and fired five arrows at Lord Shiva.
Shiva momentarily felt a sudden jerk as if being awakened. He suddenly gazed at Parvati as if realizing for the first time how beautiful she actually was. He felt captivated by Parvati’s beauty and was about to talk to her, when Lord Shiva shook his head. “Something is not right. I should not be thinking of this. My Sati is dead. I am performing penance. I cannot be attracted to another woman now”. Lord Shiva resolutely pulled himself together.Through his power of meditation he realized that Kamadeva had been up to some mischief because of which he had lost concentration.
Lord Shiva has three eyes. His third eye is in his forehead and is always closed, for good reason. The third eye if opened would burn up anyone in its path!
Now Lord Shiva angrily blazed at Kamadeva and opened his third eye. Poor Kamadeva! He was burnt to ashes!
After burning up Kamadeva, Lord Shiva cooled down a little. He closed his third eye. But he was still angry with himself for losing his concentration. He angrily turned to Parvati, ‘I do not wish you to help me. Leave me alone. Your charms will not work on me. Leave and go back to your family.’ So saying Lord Shiva turned on his heel and stomped off to his retreat to continue with his penance, which had been disturbed by Kamadeva.
Parvati was distressed that Shiva had spoken harshly to her and had left her. Parvati was sure that no matter how much she cajoled Shiva, he would never agree to let her help him again.
Parvati realized that she could not give up now. The days she had been with Shiva, she realized that she was more in love with him than she realized.
She wondered how she was to make Shiva accept her, when she heard a familiar voice behind her. ‘Narayana… Narayana…’
Parvati turned and paid respect to Sage Narada. Looking at Sage Narada she knew that he was here to offer her help. Narada smiled and said, ‘You are right, my lady. Giving up is not an option. Lord Shiva cannot be won by charm and beauty, but he can be won by devotion.’
Parvati looked at Narada and realized what she had to do. She would perform penance to win her love. Parvati was not afraid of the penance. In fact she welcomed it. Without saying a word, she went to a grove in the Himalayas. No matter how hard it was , she would win her love.
Rati came to know of her husband’s death and came sobbing to Parvati as she was too scared to go to Lord Shiva. She cried her heart out to Parvati, who comforted her. ‘Rati, listen to me. I will win Shiva.’ She said resolutely, ‘And when I do, I promise Kamadeva will be reborn.’ Parvati spoke knowing that it would happen, perhaps not immediately. But it would.
Rati nodded her head tearfully and left the grove.
Parvati began her penance. She did not care about the hardships she had to face or about the harsh weather around her. All she cared about was that she had to win Lord Shiva.
She worshiped Lord Shiva for years, but the Lord never appeared. As Parvati meditated fiercely, she realized the truth about herself. Parvati realized that she was an incarnation of Mahadevi and that it was her destiny to become Shiva’s Shakti.
She realized that she was Sati in her previous life who had given up her life because Daksha – Sati’s father has insulted Shiva. She realized that her love for Shiva transcended everything, because she was for all purposes Shiva’s…half. Both Shiva and Parvati were incomplete without each other.
With her meditation, Parvati became very powerful. With her powers of penance, she soon gave up all food, water or even air. The other sages meditating in the Himalayas would come and visit Parvati and admire her tenacity. Parvati was so engrossed in her meditation that she never noticed any of them.
However Parvati’s penance was so powerful that the Devas could bear it no more. The whole kingdom of the Gods began to get hot as Parvati meditated. The Gods rushed to Brahma. Brahma and Vishnu together went to Shiva and told him that Parvati’s penance was to end, or the whole Kingdom would burn.
Shiva realized that Parvati was not just another mortal and that she was special. “But could she be my Sati?”. He wondered…
The next day as Parvati was about to begin her penance, when she saw a young ascetic staring at her.
Parvati looked at him, ‘Is there a reason you are staring at me like that?’
‘Yes’ The ascetic said looking at her mystified. ‘My lady, I have watched you for a few days. Once you start performing your penance I have never seen anything like it. You have not eaten. People come and go, you do not seem to realize it. Your meditation is very powerful. Why would you…’ He stopped.
Parvati nodded asking him to continue.
‘…What would prompt such a beautiful lady like you to perform such a penance.’ The ascetic said shrugging his shoulder, ‘I mean, what would be worth that…’
Parvati smiled, ‘Love, young sir. Love. I do all this for love.’
The young man looked at her baffled, when Parvati smiled, ‘Lord Shiva. I wish to marry him. I will win him over by my devotion.’ She said simply.
When Parvati finished, the young ascetic looked surprised and then burst out laughing. Parvati looked surprised seeing the ascetic laugh.
‘You wish to marry…’ he said still laughing, ‘…Shiva. You mean the three eyed God…’ He said still unable to control himself. ‘I mean… why waste your beauty and intelligence on someone like that… who smears ashes on himself and wears skulls… And my Lady, did I forget to tell you he is homeless and just roams around in graveyards…Do you mean that Shiva…’
Parvati eyes started blazing when she heard the ascetic making fun of Lord Shiva, ‘Yes. I mean that Shiva and also the Shiva who is the master of the three worlds.’ She said pride shining in her voice. ‘That Shiva who cannot be understood by pathetic puny minds like yours…’ She said scornfully, wishing she had never spoke to the ascetic.
The young ascetic opened his mouth to talk, when Parvati held up her hands fiercely, ‘DONT SAY ANOTHER WORD’ She said emphasizing each word, angry through and through. ‘It is not only a sin to talk like this, it is bigger sin to listen to this rubbish…’ Saying she stomped and was about to turn away, when she saw a flash. The young ascetic disappeared and standing in that place was the man whom she had dreamed her entire life. Lord Shiva…her Shiva.
Shiva looked tenderly at Goddess Parvati, thinking her words “That Shiva” and also the Shiva who is the master of the three worlds… She had said that with pride. When she had said that, something changed in him. He realized that she was his Shakti. She was indeed his wife reborn…
‘Parvati, I am sorry. I should have realized it earlier. But…’ Lord Shiva shook his head.
In their eyes they saw that they both belonged to each other. They had always been together. Just with different names. Lord Shiva was the father of the universe and Goddess Parvati the mother.
Goddess Parvati shyly turned to Lord Shiva, ‘My Lord, you have to come to my father and ask for my hand. It is the proper thing to do.’
Lord Shiva nodded and went back to Kailasa, whereas Goddess Parvati returned to her father’s home.
Then Lord Shiva came and asked Himavat permission to marry his daughter. Himavat readily agreed and thus Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati celebrated their wedding with great pomp and show.
After their marriage, Goddess Parvati gave birth to Lord Kartikeyan, who defeated and killed the evil demon Tarakasura.
True to her promise, after her marriage with Lord Shiva, Goddess Parvati requested Lord Shiva to bring back Kamadeva to life. Smiling the Lord obliged and Rati got her husband back!