Parvati, Shiva’s Wife and A Goddess in Nine Forms

Parvati, Shiva’s Wife and A Goddess in Nine Forms

 

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, HaimavathiLalitha, Gowri, Aparna, and Shivakamini, just to name a few.

 

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Together with Lakshmi and Saraswati, Parvati completes the Trivedi of Hindu goddesses. However, she is arguably most known as the wife of Shiva, the god of destruction. In fact, she is even considered to be an active agent of the universe and the actual power of Shiva. It is said that Parvati is the reincarnation of Sati, the first wife of Shiva who sacrificed herself during the Daksha yajna or fire sacrifice. Parvati’s existence is believed to be not only crucial but essential for Shiva. According to the epic Kumarasambhavam, Shiva required a consort to bear him a child. This is because the demon Teraka was invincible against any creature with the exception of a child of Shiva. As such, Parvati became the mother of the children of Shiva, the Hindu gods Ganesha and Kartikeya.

 

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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)

The first form is Shailputri, which shows Parvati as a child with milky white-colored skin. This avatar of Parvati is said to have a calm disposition and content eyes. A young girl who brings joy to her family, she is clothed in pink and red robes and holds a trident and a lotus in each hand, while seated on a white bull.

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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