Goddess Parvati – The Most Complex Goddess in the Hindu Pantheon

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This article by Manisha Sarade

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Table of Content

  •  Introduction

  • Goddess Parvati with many forms and names

  • Goddess Parvati Festivals celebrated by Hindus on various occasions

  • Are Goddess Durga and Parvati the Same?

  • Characteristics of Parvati Mata

  • Conclusion

Goddess Parvati – The Most Complex Goddess in the Hindu Pantheon

When she took birth as the daughter of Parvataraja, she danced in the Himalayas, with the grace of a peacock. She is luminous like the Sun. Just as the Sun dispels darkness, the moment She enters the hearts of Her devotees, she dispels darkness. She resides in us as Antaryami. If the hearts of Her devotees can be compared to soft-petalled lotuses, she is like a swan that resides in these lotuses. She is the embodiment of the Vedas. She is responsible for Creation, Protection and Destruction.

Parvati is the most complex of all goddesses in the Hindu pantheon. She mirrors the various roles of Mahadeva, the Supreme Purusha. As Prakriti, Devi balances the male aspect addressed as Purusha. As Lord Shiva’s consort, she is Shakti. She is the one who gives life energy or Shakti to all beings and without her, all beings are inert. Parvati is Shakti herself, who actually lives in all beings in the form of power. Without power, one can do nothing, including yoga. Being the physical manifestation of Goddess Devi, Parvati is the Goddess of Power. Shakti is needed by all beings, whether the Trimurti, the devas, humans, animals, or even plants. Parvati is the provider of shakti. Without her, life is completely inert. This power is required to see, to hear, to feel, to think, to inhale and exhale, to walk, to eat, and to do anything else. The goddess is worshiped by all gods, the Trimurti, rishis, and all other beings. But in each of her roles, Parvati has a different name to represent her mild and fierce forms.

63" Large-Than-Life Shiva-Uma, An Irreplaceable Complement To Each Other | Handmade | Panchaloha Bronze

Goddess Parvati, the gentle aspect of Devi Shakti, is represented as fair, beautiful, and benevolent. She typically wears a red dress (often a Sari), and may have a head-band. When depicted alongside Shiva, she generally appears with two arms, but when alone, she may be depicted having four. These hands may hold a conch, crown, mirror, rosary, bell, dish, farming tool such as Goad, Sugarcane stalk, or flowers such as Lotus. One of her arms in front may be in the Abhaya mudra (hand gesture for 'fear not'). One of her children, typically Ganesha, is on her knee, while her younger son Skanda may be playing near her in her watch.

Goddess Parvati is linear progenitor of all other goddesses according to Devi Bhagavata Purana. This is also the Shaiva Siddhanta stand which extends to Shakta beliefs of holding her as a Universal Mother. She is one who is source of all forms of goddesses. She is worshiped as one with many forms and name. Her different moods bring different forms or incarnations. Each of her forms is backed up by Puranic myths. Parvati is also synonymous with Kali, Durga, Kamakshi, Meenakshi, Gauri and host of forms. For instance, while Shiva Purana holds Gauri as the younger version of virgin Parvati, other myths attribute the golden skin Goddess Gauri’s to the story of Parvati casting off her undesired complexion after Shiva teased her. Another version is that Gauri is in essence a fertility Goddess. Here she is venerated as a corn mother. This is a suggestion that her golden skin represents hues of ripening grain, for which she is propitiated.

The Incomparable Devi Uma (Goddess Parvati)

Parvati was created to marry the god, Shiva. She was to have a son with him who would destroy the demons that were driving the gods out of the heavens. After Shiva’s first wife died, he withdrew himself from the world in mourning. He retired to a cave in the mountains to immerse himself in constant meditation. During this time, the demons of the underworld were rising up and beginning to overturn the gods in the heavens. So, the gods went to Shakti for help. She told them that a son of Shiva was the only one who could conquer the demons and save them. So, she manifested herself as Parvati, to seduce Shiva out of his seclusion and become his wife. Every day, Parvati would visit Shiva’s cave dwelling to sweep the floors, and bring him fruits and flowers. But Shiva would never break his meditation. Frustrated, she sought the help of Kama, the lord of desire, to also assist her. Kama decided to shoot an arrow of desire into the heart of Shiva to awaken his longing. But Shiva was angered by this, and opened his third eye to engulf Kama in flames, reducing him to ashes. Parvati did not let this deter her, and she resolved to find another way to win Shiva’s heart. She decided to immerse herself deeply into her own austere spiritual practice. She went into the forest to meditate, eating nothing, and wearing nothing to protect her from the elements. Shiva became impressed with her devotion, and decided to take her as his wife. Together, they made a son, Skanda, who was able to defeat the demons with the help of goddess Kali, another manifestation of Shakti. Later, Parvati made a son, Ganesh. One day, she instructed Ganesh to guard a doorway for her. Shiva came to see Parvati, and not recognizing Ganesh as son, became angry that he was blocking him from seeing her, and cut off his head. Parvati was in anguish over the loss of her son. So, Shiva found the head of an elephant as a replacement, and their son lived once again.

27" Standing Parvati with Baby Ganesha and Kartikeya | Handmade | Madhuchista Vidhana (Lost-Wax) | Panchaloha Bronze from Swamimalai

In Kalikula, Parvati manifests as Kali, Chandi and Durga. Durga is demon fighting form of this Goddess, and some texts suggest Parvati took the form of Goddess Durga to kill Demon Durgam. Kali is another aspect that was assisted by Goddess Chandi while fighting with rakta bija. Goddess Chamunda comes in this list also. These goddesses share some common iconography as goddess Kali who is nobody but an aspect of Parvati in ferocious form. Also generally, the Tantra discipline is governed by both Sri Kula and Kali Kula. Among the Dasa Mahavidyas Kali, Tara, Bhuvaneswari and Chinnamasta are said to come under Kali Kula. Likewise, Tripur Sundari, Bhairavi, Dhumavati, Bagalamukhi, Matangi and Kamala come under Srikula. The dividing line is a controversial one. Further, Sati manifesting in 52 Shakti peeths are expansions of Parvati. However, there are also milder incarnations such as Meenakshi and Kamakshi and a range of goddesses manifesting from Parvati.

Standing Parvati

Goddess Parvati with many forms and names

Durga: Parvati took the form of Durga to kill the demon Durgamasur.

Kali: A ferocious form of Parvati, as Goddess of time and change.

Chandi: Slayer of the demon Mahishasura.

Meenakshi: Goddess with eyes shaped like a fish.

Kamakshi: Goddess of love and devotion.

Lalita: The playful Goddess of the Universe.

Akhilandeshwari: Goddess associated with water.

Annapoorna: Representation of all that is complete and of food.

Goddess Parvati Festivals celebrated by Hindus on various occasions

Gauri Festival :  In Maharastra and Karnataka, Goddess Parvati is worshiped as the goddess of harvest and protector of women. This festival is called Gauri festival and is celebrated on the seventh, eighth and nineth of Bhadrapada Shukla paksha.

Gangaur Festival : In Rajasthan, the worship of Goddess Parvati is celebrated as Gangaur festival. The festival starts on the first day of the Chaitra, the day after Holi and continues for 18 days. Images are made in clay for the festival.

Navratri Festival : A very popular festival of Goddess Parvati is the Navratri Festival in which all her forms are worshiped for nine days. Her warrior appearance is of Goddess Durga and other nine forms are Shailputri, Brahmacharini, Chandraghanta, Kashmunda, Skandamata, Katyayani, Kalratri, Mahagauri and Siddhidaatri.

Gauri Tritiya : Gauri Tritiya is another Goddess Parvati festival celebrated from Chaitra shukla third to Vaishaka shukla third. This festival is popular in Maharashtra and Karnataka where it is believed that Parvati spends this month at her parent’s home. The married women of the household erect a series of platforms in a pyramidal shape with the images of gods and goddesses, collection of ornaments, and pictures shells. Friends are invited and presented with turmeric, fruits, flowers and some eatables as prasadam. Special prayers are held at night along with singing and dancing.

Teej : This is a festival celebrated by women in North India, particularly in Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh, in honor of Parvati Mata. It is celebrated during the monsoon season and is marked by fasting, praying, and offering flowers to the goddess.

Karwa Chauth : This is a festival celebrated by married women in North India, where they Mata.

Shivratri : This is fast and pray for the long life and well-being of their husbands, seeking the blessings of Parvati a festival celebrated in honor of Lord Shiva, who is believed to be the husband of Parvati Mata. It is celebrated in the month of February or March and is marked by fasting, praying, and offering flowers and fruits to Lord Shiva

Devi Gauri, The Himalayan Maha-Tapasvini

Worship of the divine goddess Parvati is said to bring about marriage, resolve conflicts between couples and help prevent miscarriage. She is also worshipped for fertility, marital felicity, and devotion to the spouse, asceticism and power. Navratri is the season in which all nine forms of Parvati are worshiped. Durga, Shakti, and Kali are also worshiped during Navratri. The festival of Teej celebrates married life and family ties. It also celebrates the onset of the monsoon. Unmarried maidens pray to Goddess Parvati for a suitable groom, while married women pray for the well-being of their husbands. Goddess Parvati is said to be fond of all flowers offered to Lord Shiva. Apart from them, Champa, Bela/Mogra, Palash are the flowers that are offered to the Goddess. 

Are Goddess Durga and Parvati the Same?

In Hindu scriptures, Durga and Parvati are two distinct goddesses, although they are sometimes considered to be different aspects of the same divine feminine energy. Parvati is the wife of Lord Shiva, and she is associated with fertility, love, and devotion. She is often depicted as a gentle and nurturing goddess, who is also a fierce warrior when necessary. In some stories, Parvati takes on the form of Durga to defeat powerful demons and protect the gods.

Durga, on the other hand, is a powerful warrior goddess who is often depicted riding a lion or tiger and holding weapons in her multiple arms. She is associated with courage, strength, and victory over evil. Durga is celebrated during the festival of Navratri, which commemorates her victory over the demon Mahishasura.

So, while Durga and Parvati are two distinct goddesses, they are sometimes seen as two sides of the same divine energy. Parvati represents the gentle and nurturing aspect of the goddess, while Durga represents the fierce and protective aspect.

Characteristics of Parvati Mata

Here are some of the key characteristics of Parvati Mata along with examples:

Motherly Love : Parvati Mata is known for her motherly love and affection towards her devotees. She is often depicted holding her children, Lord Ganesha and Lord Kartikeya, in her arms.

Example: In the Hindu festival of Navratri, which is dedicated to the divine mother, devotees pray to Parvati Mata to seek her blessings for happiness and well-being.

Patience and Endurance : Parvati Mata is also known for her patience and endurance. She is believed to have undergone many challenges and obstacles in her life, including winning the love of Lord Shiva, and to have emerged victorious through her perseverance.

Example: In the story of the marriage of Lord Shiva and Parvati Mata, Parvati Mata is shown to have performed intense austerities and penances to win the love of Lord Shiva.

Wisdom and Knowledge : Parvati Mata is also considered to be the embodiment of wisdom and knowledge. 

Example: In the Hindu scripture, the Shiva Purana, there are stories of how Parvati Mata taught Lord Shiva various forms of knowledge, including music, dance, and meditation.

Devotion and Loyalty : Parvati Mata is known for her devotion and loyalty towards Lord Shiva.

Example: In the Hindu festival of Karwa Chauth, married women fast and pray for the long life and well-being of their husbands, seeking the blessings of Parvati Mata.

In tales

Story of Parvati's Devotion : Parvati is known for her devotion to Lord Shiva, and there is a famous story that illustrates her dedication. According to the story, Parvati decided to undertake severe penance to win Lord Shiva's hand in marriage. She performed austerities for many years, enduring extreme heat and cold and surviving only on fruits and vegetables. Her devotion and perseverance impressed Lord Shiva, and he finally agreed to marry her.

Key Takeaways

  • Parvati is one of the most complex goddesses in the Hindu pantheon, and is associated with both power and love.

  • She is often depicted as the wife of Lord Shiva, and is believed to embody the qualities of femininity and nurturing.

  • Parvati is considered to be a powerful deity, with the ability to control the forces of nature and protect her devotees.

  • She is also associated with fertility and is believed to be the mother of all living beings.

  • In Hindu mythology, Parvati is believed to have taken on various forms, including Durga, Kali, and Uma.

  • Parvati is worshipped during the festival of Navratri, which celebrates her victory over the demon Mahishasura, and is celebrated with offerings of flowers, incense, and other items.

  • Parvati is also associated with the power of yoga and meditation, and is often depicted in a meditative posture.

  • Parvati is often depicted as a calm and gentle figure that brings balance and harmony to the world around her.

  • Parvati is also associated with creativity and the arts.

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