Some communities consider her to be the sister of Lord Vishnu and mother of Goddess Lakshmi and Goddess Saraswati. Parvati is the Goddess of power as she is the one who gives power to all. However in the Vedas there is no mention of Goddess Parvati.
Etymology of Parvati
Parvata is one of the Sanskrit words for ‘mountain’. ‘Parvati’ receives her name from being the daughter of king Himavan and mother Mena. Other names which connect her with mountains are Shailaja (Daughter of the mountains), Adrija or Nagajaa or Shailaputri (Daughter of Mountains), Haimavathi (Daughter of Himavan), Devi Maheshwari and Girija or Girirajaputri (Daughter of king of the mountains).
Myths of Parvati
The word Parvati does not clearly emerge in Vedic literature. As an alternative, Ambika, Rudrani and others are found in the Rig Veda. She appears as the ‘shakti’, or indispensable power, of the Supreme Brahman. Her most important responsibility is as a mediator who discloses the information of Brahman to the Vedic trinity of Lord Agni, Lord Vayu, and Lord Indra, who were boasting about overpowering of a group of demons.
Parvati appears in the epic era (400 BC-400 AD), as both in the Ramayana and the Mahabharata present Parvati as Lord Shiva's wife. Parvati and Shiva acquire more comprehensive details in the plays of Kalidasa during the 5th-6th centuries and in the Puranas during the 4th to the 13th century. According to the Puranas, in her first incarnation was Sati or Dakshayani, the daughter of King Daksha and was married to Lord Shiva. Once, Daksha performed a great ‘yagna’ and insulted Lord Shiva in the ‘yagna’ by not inviting him or Sati either. Even at that time, Sati went to attend the ‘yagna’. To her great distress, Daksha did not accept her presence and did not present ‘prasad’ for Lord Shiva. Absolutely dejected by the action meted out to her, Sati ended her life by igniting herself in the fire of ‘yagna’.
After the death of Sati, Lord Shiva became very sad and disheartened. He abandoned the world and went into deep meditation in Himalayas. Meanwhile, the demons lead by Taraka, rose and drove ‘devatas’ out of the heaven. The ‘devatas’ sought a warrior who would help them to get back the celestial kingdom. Lord Brahma said, only Lord Shiva can father such a warrior. At the perseverance of ‘devatas’, Sati agreed to take a re-birth as Parvati.
Symbolism of Parvati
Parvati and Lord Shiva are often symbolized by a yoni and a lingam respectively. In ancient literature, yoni means womb and place of growth; the yoni-lingam metaphor symbolizes the ‘origin, source or regenerative power’. When Parvati revealed along with Lord Shiva, Goddess Parvati has only two hands, the right one holding a lotus flower and the left hand is hanging loosely by the side. Sometimes Parvati is revealed with four hands, two hands holding red lotuses and the other two displaying the ‘varada’ and ‘abhaya’ mudras. Parvati's right hand in ‘abhaya’ mudra symbolizes ‘do not fear anyone or anything’, while her ‘varada’ mudra symbolizes ‘wish fulfilling’. Married women worship Parvati for a happy married life. Image of Lord Shiva, Parvathi and their sons Ganesha and Kartikeya represents an ideal example of family harmony and love. Parvati is sometimes shown in golden or yellow complexion as goddess Gauri symbolizing her as the goddess of fully grown harvests.
In some expressions, mainly as angry, fierce features of Parvati such as Durga or Kali, she has eight or ten arms, and is astride on a tiger or lion. In compassionate demonstration such as Kamakshi or Meenakshi, a parrot sits close to her right shoulder, symbolizing a happy love talk, seeds and fruitfulness. A semi-circular moon is incorporated near the head of Parvati particularly the Kamakshi icons symbolizing her being half of Shiva. In South Indian legends, her union with the parrot began when she won a bet with her husband and asked for his loin cloth as success payment. Lord Shiva kept his word but first transformed her into a parrot. She flies off in the mountain ranges of south India appearing as Meenakshi.
In Hindu mythology, she is an active negotiator of the universe, the power of Lord Shiva. She is articulated in fostering and kindness with harsh and ferocious aspects. She is the voice of support, motivation, freedom and strength with struggle, power, action and justice. This irony symbolizes her willingness to realign to ‘Pratima’ (reality) and adjust to the needs of circumstances as the universal mother. She identifies and destroys evil to defend (Durga), and also generates food and wealth to cultivate (Annapurna).
Ten Aspects of Parvati
Following are the ten aspects (Dasamahavidyas) of Parvati:
Worship of Parvati
‘Teej’ is an important festival for worshipping Parvati by Hindu women, mostly in northern and western states of India. It celebrates married life and family binds along with monsoon. The ‘Gowri Habba’ or ‘Gauri’ Festival is celebrated on the seventh, eighth and ninth of ‘Shukla paksha’ where Parvati is worshipped as goddess of crop and protector of women. This festival, observed in Maharashtra and Karnataka is closely connected with the festival of Lord Ganesha. In Rajasthan Parvati is worshipped in the ‘Gangaur’ festival that begins on the first day of ‘Chaitra’, the day after Holi and continues for 18 days. Another popular festival to worship Parvati is ‘Navratri’ where all her signs are worshiped over nine days.
Temples of Parvati
Some temples of Parvati are as follows:
Parvati is mentioned expansively in ancient Indian literature, and her statues and iconography poise the Hindu temples all over South Asia and Southeast Asia. She is regarded as the power and Godly consort of Lord Shiva - the Destroyer.