Parvati, the Hindu goddess of love, devotion, beauty, marriage, and
fertility, is of course, among the most important and revered deities in the
Hindu faith. Given all that she represents, it is certainly no surprise. As the
goddess of love, she’s known to be an especially benevolent figure. She is
likewise revered as the Mother goddess in Hinduism, who is known to be kind,
gentle, nurturing, and loving. She is considered to be a voice of reason,
freedom, strength, and encouragement. However, there are also aspects of her
that are destructive, violent, fierce, and ferocious. Her contrasting natures
show Parvati as a figure who is able and willing to adapt to Pratima or reality and what the
circumstances call for or require from her as the mother goddess.
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The name Parvati comes from Sanskrit and means “daughter of the
mountains” or “she of the mountains”. A fitting name for Parvati who is, in
fact, the daughter of Himavat. Himavat is considered to be the very embodiment
of the Himalayan mountains and his wife Mena is said to originate from the asparas, which is a group of female
cloud and mountain spirits. Aside from the name Parvati, the goddess of love is
called by many other appellations, including Uma, Shailaja, Girirajaputri, Haimavathi, Lalitha, Gowri,
Aparna, and Shivakamini, just to
name a few.
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A number of the Hindu text, including the great Mahabharata and Ramayana
epics, narrate how Shiva and Parvati’s son Kartikeya, was actually born without
any action from Parvati, but through Shiva’s seed alone. On the other hand, it
is said that Ganesha was created by Parvati, without Shiva’s participation and,
in fact, against Shiva’s will. Parvati is often described as a civilizing
influence, a domesticating force, and a benevolent goddess that largely complements
Shiva’s own ascetic and austere nature.
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In many of the portrayals of Parvati, she is shown as a beautiful woman
with either fair or dark skin, dressed in silk garments that are usually red in
color, and heavily decorated with fine jewelry, including various bracelets and
anklets. She is often sitting on a large tiger or a lion. This represents
Parvati’s ability to reign in and command the wild and uncontrollable elements
of nature. Parvati is also typically shown amidst mountains, which can
represent both her mountain kingdom and her background as the mountain goddess
and daughter of Himavat. Parvati is also frequently accompanied by one or both
of her children in her portrayals. Typically, Ganesha can be seen sitting on
her knee while Kartikeya may be playing nearby. Close to Parvati, one will also
usually find a calf or cow that is meant to symbolize a source of food.
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On some occasions, Parvati is portrayed holding a weapon, which can
either be a chakram or discus, a Trishul or trident, or a crossbow. A
difference in the portrayals of Parvati when she is alone and not with Shiva is
that she is depicted as having four arms instead of two. In her hands, she can
be seen holding either one of her weapons, a rosary, mirror, bell, or a lotus
flower. If not holding an object, one of her arms may be positioned in the Abhaya mudra, which is a hand gesture
that means “fear not”.
In other images, sculptures, and iconography, Parvati is regularly
portrayed next to Shiva as a beautiful and composed figure who is looking on at
him as he performs a miracle. When Parvati is depicted with Shiva, she is
typically portrayed as having two arms and with the couple located in Kailasa,
which is their mountain kingdom.
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Icons of Parvati and Shiva are well-known for showing the couple in a
loving embrace and oftentimes, in even more intimate positions. Linked
together, Parvati and Shiva make up the Ardhanarisyara.
This represents the unification of masculine and feminine energies in
procreation. It highlights the fact that the male and the female are inseparable
from each other, that they are actually interdependent, and that the union of
the male and female energies is essential in order to create life. When it
comes to Shiva and Parvati, the same holds true in the creation of the universe
– both are essential. Aside from this, Parvati can also be symbolized as a yoni, which in ancient literature refers
to the womb, while Shiva is the complementary linga.
The icon of the linga-yoni is very well-known and is commonly called the Shivalinga.
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While well-known as Shiva’s wife, Parvati also exists in nine other
forms. These nine forms of Parvati are referred to as Navadurga forms and are particularly worshipped during the Navratri
and Durga Puja. Parvati’s nine distinct forms are the following:
SHAILAPUTRI Navadurga (The Nine Forms of Goddess Durga)
BRAHMACHARINI - Navadurga (The Nine Forms of Goddess Durga)
Parvati’s second form is known as Brahmacharini, which depicts the stage
in Parvati’s life when she was an ascetic, as well as a student and disciple.
In order to entice Shiva or Lord Mahadev and impress his ascetic nature,
Parvati performed austere and harsh penances, which earned her the designation
of Brahmacharini. This incarnation of Parvati is dressed in the manner of a
female ascetic, has a fair complexion, is decorated with dried-up Rudraksha beads
and flowers, and holds a rosary and a water utensil in her two hands.
Next is Chandrashekhara, which is a representation of Parvati as a
married woman. The name for this form of Parvati was bestowed to her by Shiva
himself. Parvati’s form as Chandrashekhara is recognized by the crescent moon
on her forehead, her gold complexion, as well as by her calm face with
bloodshot eyes. Also, very distinct is the fact that Chandrashekhara has ten
hands. While sitting on a tiger, in her hands she clutches a mace, bow,
trident, sword, bell, and a waterpot, while all her other hands bless those who
are devoted to her.
KUSHMANDA - Navadurga (The Nine Forms of Goddess Durga)
The fourth form is Kushmanda,
which shows Parvati realizing that she is Mahashakti, who possesses infinite
powers in the world. Shiva as Lord Mahadev made Parvati realize her true
nature, that she is, in fact, not just a human but a goddess who is revered as
the Mother of the World and of all creation. Kushmanda has gold-colored skin,
is often dressed in pink and yellow garments, and is decorated with various
ornaments on her limbs. This form of Parvati has eight hands. While seated on
the back of a tiger, Kushmanda holds a mace, discus, lotus, bow and arrow,
rosary, sword, waterpot, and a jar of money.
SKANDA MATA - Navadurga (The Nine Forms of Goddess Durga)
Parvati’s fifth form is that of Skandmata, which depicts her as a mother.
As the mother of Kartikeya, also referred to as Skanda, Paravati is likewise known as
Skandamata. In this form, Parvati is particularly associated with maternal
affection and the love of a woman. As Skandamata, Parvati has four hands, two
of which hold lotuses, her third-hand holds her son, while her fourth hand
saves those who are devoted to her.
KATYAYANI - Navadurga (The Nine Forms of Goddess Durga)
The sixth incarnation is Katyayani, which portrays Parvati as a strong
warrior goddess with ten arms and who emerged from a sacrificial fire.
Katyayani is represented as a fierce woman, who is not at all vulnerable and is
capable of not only protecting herself but also those around her, including
men. Katyayani is portrayed dressed in green and pink garments, with limbs that
are much adorned with heavy ornamentation. She sits on a lion while holding a
sword, shield, lotus, and trident in her four hands.
KALARATRI - Navadurga (The Nine Forms of Goddess Durga)
Next, Kaalratri is the seventh form, which is a depiction of Parvati in
her phase of destruction. As Kaalratri, Parvati is known as the goddess of time
and death. She is believed to be beyond their powers, which time and death
have no control over her. In fact, it is Kaalratri who is known to control
the time of someone’s death. Fittingly, Kaalratri’s image is portrayed as having a
countenance with a fierce expression and three bloodshot eyes, wild and unkempt
hair, very dark or blue skin tone, and is dressed in red and black robes.
Furthermore, Kaalratri wears a fierce necklace of skulls around her neck, while
her limbs are decorated with electric ornamentation and in her four hands, she
holds a trident, vajra, scimitar, and a cup, while seated on the back of a donkey.
Navadurga - The Nine Forms of Goddess Durga - MAHAGAURI
The second to the last form of Parvati is as Mahagauri, which shows
Parvati in her time of recovery. Brahma instructed Parvati to submerge herself
in the Manasarovar river. Upon emerging from the river, Parvati appeared as
brilliant as the moon dressed and adorned in white clothes and ornaments.
Mahagauri is regarded as a woman who is a devoted wife, a skilled homemaker, and
a caring mother, who is the very foundation of the family. While seated on a
white bull, the fair-complexioned Mahagauri holds a trident, mini drum, and
pink lotus in her three hands, while fourth hand gives protection to those devoted to her.
SIDDHIDATRI - The Ninth Navadurga
Last but not least is the incarnation of Parvati as Siddhidhatri, which
represents Parvati as she achieves her highest and most supreme form. She is
said to be the very complete representation of the goddess Mahashakti. In this
form, Parvati does not only have all supernatural powers but she is also in
union with Shiva as Ardhanarishwara.
She represents the essence of a woman as the very source of life and one that
also educates and disciplines her children. Siddhidhatri’s form is recognized
for having a fair complexion, while dressed in red and blue garments and with her
limbs adorned by light ornamentation. Siddhidhatri is peacefully seated on a fully
bloomed lotus while carrying a discus, conch shell, mace, and a pink lotus in
her four hands.
हरतालिका तीज व्रत - कथा : Hartalika Teej Vrat - Katha
Through Parvati’s many forms and many roles, she
plays an important figure in the Hindu faith and in the everyday lives of Hindus. Navratri is a well-known festival that
is celebrated in honor of Parvati. During the nine-day festival, every one of
Parvati’s nine forms is honored on each day. She is also especially celebrated
and worshipped during the Hindu festival of Teej,
which honors married life and familial relations. Married women devoutly pray
to Parvati for the well-being of their spouses, while unmarried women fervently
pray to Parvati for a good partner.
In addition to these, Parvati is also worshipped
on Gowri Habba or the Gauri festival.
During this time, she is recognized as the goddess of the harvest and the
protector of women. There are a number of other significant festivals that pay
tribute and honor Parvati, including the Gauri
Tritiya and Thiruvathira.
Parvati is truly an important deity in the Hindu
faith because she represents many of the noble virtues and principles that
Hindus especially value, which include devotion to one’s spouse, to one’s
children, as well as devotion to the divine.
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