SHIVA (HIS CONSORT)
Although Shiva is worshipped as the ruler of the three worlds and the strongest of the gods, His power, or Shakti, is represented by his wife or consort. Together they fulfill a parental role, ministering to the needs of mankind.
The story of Shiva’s first wife Sati is the subject of a tale from the ‘Swasthanian ancient Sanskrit text, which is a collection of myths recounting the escapades of Shiva and His friends. It is also a medium through which many young people are introduced to sex; the tales are both social and religious, and are written in an amusing manner.
Shiva had married the exquisite young Sati against the wishes of her father, Daksha. It was only through a trick, and the help of Lord Vishnu, that Shiva had managed to win her as His wife. Daksha found Shiva’s appearance and manners revolting and did not feel He was a suitable match for his favorite daughter. Daksha’s other daughters were all married to distinguished gods, so when Daksha decided to hold a feast and fire sacrifice, he invited all his daughters, sons-in-law and other important guests, with the exception of Shiva and Sati.
On the day of the feast the cosmic prankster, Narada, was surprised to find that Shiva and Sati were not attending, andfearing some misfortune may beset the ritual sacrifice without the Lord of Destruction present, he quickly set offfor Mount Kailash to call Shiva. There he informed them of the feast and the fact that they had not been invited.
Shiva was hardly surprised by the news and remained indifferent, but Sati was deeply hurt by the direct insult to her husband and by her father’s rejection of them both. Sati insisted on going to the feast to speak to her father and she left Kailash with Narada. When Sati questioned herfather about his unbearable insult, he said that while he had nothing against her, he could not stand the sight of her husband and had no intention of inviting Him to such a distinguished gathering. Sati was devas¬ tated at her father’s harsh words and threw herself on the sacrificial fire crying, “Shiva, Shiva.’’
The guests were horrified at Sati’s demise and Narada flew to Kailash to tell Shiva what had happened. Hearing the news, Shiva’s sorrow knew no bounds, He pulled a hairfrom His head and threw it on the ground. It caused an explosion in the midst of which the wrathful goddess Kali appeared with a retinue of demons, and asked of what service she could be to Shiva. He then threw down another hair and Bhairab materialized carrying a mighty trident. Shiva ordered them to go at once to kill Daksha, destroy the sacrifice and create havoc among the gods.
A huge battle took place at the scene of the ill-fatedfeast and everyone withdrew realizing Shiva’s incomparable power. Bhairab then cut off Daksha’s head and threw it on to the sacrificial fire. When Daksha’s wife saw this she begged him to restore her husband and sole protector to life. Bhairab compassionately responded to her plea, and taking the head of the sacrificial goat, placed it on Daksha’s body back to front, so that people would always see how ignorant and stupid he had been.
The two wrathful manifestations then returned to Kailash giving Shiva a full account of the events. Shiva was pleased and reabsorbed them into His own body and went to Daksha’s home. When He saw Sati lying dead amid the flames He was desolate. Since Agni, the fire god, had not consumed Sati’s body for fear of Shiva’s wrath, the body was still intact; Shiva lifted it across His shoulders and wandered aimlessly around the world. Sati’s body did not decompose and the gods took pity on Shiva’s endless grief. They asked Vishnu to do something to help, so Vishnu invented the fly, which caused the body to rot, and as it broke apart, fragments of the corpse fell in fifty places throughout India and Nepal, sanctifying them forever.
The most revered shrines of Hinduism have evolved where the pieces of Sati’s body fell; her tongue fell in Kashmir, her head in Varanasi and her female organ, “yoni” in the Kathmandu Valley of Nepal.
Sati, in her perfect love and devotion to Shiva, soon took rebirth to be with Him again in a second and more enduring relationship. Hie ever playful Narada noticed Parvati on one of his journeys and found her to be the epitome ofsensual beauty. Narada was so impressed that he went directly to Vishnu to suggest a marriage between them.
When Vishnu had heard his description, he was convinced of her charms and immediately sent Narada to Parvati’s father to make the necessary arrangements. Her father was flattered that a god of Vishnu’s stature wanted his daughter as a wife, and he quickly agreed to fix an auspicious day for the ceremony.
At the appointed time Vishnu arrived with his entourage, but Parvati, who since her childhood had always prayed to have Shiva as her husband, ran away and hid in the forest leaving Vishnu and the rest of her family in embarrassed confusion. From her hiding place Parvati fervently beseeched Lord Shiva to come to her aid.
Shiva was impressed with her supplications and appeared before her asking what He could do. She begged Him to take her as His wife, but Shiva recalling the unfortunate circumstances surrounding His previous marriage said that He would only do so with the consent of her father. He then advised her to go to Vishnu and put the matter before him. When Vishnu had listened to Pan’ati’s entreaties he gave her certain practices to perform and his consent, ensuring her that her father would also agree if she could persuade Shiva to remarry again.
To encourage the match, Kama, the god of desire, was sent to shoot his magic arrow into Shiva’s heart. Unfortunately for Kama his action disturbed Shiva’s deep meditation, and upon waking He unleashed the destructive power ofHis third eye sending out a shaft of fire that left Kama in a smoldering pile of ashes.
But Kama’s mission had been completed, and when Shiva returned to His meditation He realized that Sad, His first wife, had been reborn as Parvati and longed for the union to be complete once again. Before making a final decision He decided to put Parvati to a test, and appeared before her as Indra, Lord of the gods, telling her that Shiva was a worthless mad yogi and begging her to marry him instead.
This enraged Parvati and she started to curse him. Suddenly Shiva changed into His true form and told her how pleased He was with her Constance. They then went happily to her father to obtain his formal consent and make the final arrangements for the wedding.