Kama’s arrow struck Parvati deep into her heart. Even in the chilling cold of the Himalaya, her body was burning with fire of love. She covered her entire person with sandal paste. She rolled up and down over the huge ice blocks. Still she did not find relief. Determined to achieve Shiva as her husband, Parvati went to one of the tallest peaks of the Himalaya and started undertaking hard penances. The peak on which she meditated is known as ‘Gauri Sikhar’.
Initially she consumed edible leaves found around. Later she avoided that and sustained herself only on rain water. She abandoned even the rain water and depended on wind for her food. Sitting in trance for the full day, standing on one leg for the full day, Parvati continued her meditation chanting the mantra of Aum Nama Shivaya ceaselessly. During winter she stood neck-deep in ice-melted and biting cold river water. During summer she stood in the middle of Panchagni’(fire on all the four sides and the burning sun on her head). Several years passed by.
One day her maid approached Parvati and announced that a certain Brahmachari (mendicant) was waiting at the door steps to have an audience with her. This was immediately granted. Parvati greeted the Brahmachari with due respect and attention. After washing his feet and offering a seat, she asked of him:“You are most welcome, oh, jewel among saints! Where are you coming from, Swamy? Where is your ashram? With what name your lineage and self are known? How can this Brahmacharini be of use to you? Please command.” “I am a Brahmachari doing penance for a long time.” He said with a pleasant and friendly smile. “My ashram is a few stones away. Having known that you have been doing meditation here for some time now, I thought of visiting you and inquiring about the progress of your sacrament. You look like a precious pearl among women. May I ask of your name, lineage and the purpose of your contemplation?” “Swamin”, replied Parvati. “Your characteristic elegance tells that you are very rich with thapa and can predict everything stored for future. I am Parvati by name and am daughter to Himavan.” “Oh, wonderful! Blessed girl, there is nothing in the whole world or the other that you may feel missing. Why, then, do you undertake this perilous penance and torture your body as tender as a fresh lotus? Anyway is there anything that I can do for the perfect accomplishment of your thapa?”
“Noble one,” said Parvati, “I was Sati, daughter of Daksha and wife of Lord Shiva in my former birth. Unfortunately my unlucky father antagonised my Lord. He conducted a great sacrifice to which neither my husband nor I was invited. I decided to go uninvited overlooking the objection of my beloved husband in my keenness to participate in the sacrifice as also to meet all my other sisters together. I had a tough time dealing with my father. Unable to bear the shame I immolated myself in yogic fire. Lord Shiva, hearing the news, sent his lieutenants to finish off Daksha and went for penance.”
She stopped for a short while and continued: “I am now reborn as Himavan’s daughter. One day sage Narada came to my father and revealed the secret of my birth and assured him that I shall achieve Lord Shiva as my husband who has been in a trance. I was deployed to serve Shiva with flowers, Kusha grass and other ingredients required for his Puja. One day Kama, Lord of Amour shot his arrow at Lord Shiva to seduce him. The Lord opened his third eye and Kama was burnt to death. From then on I am meditating on Lord Shiva to have mercy on me and marry me. In this noble pursuit of mine, I crave for your help.”
The Brahmachari looked lost in thought, presumably after listening to her soliloquy. After some time he broke his silence with a mocking laugh. He said: “I feel pity for you, fair young girl, because your love befell the most unworthy object. Where are you, the daughter of Himavan, the richest treasury of wealth, and where is Shiva a total pauper? Knowing your strange and unjustifiable demand, I am not interested to offer to you any help. Excuse me for the first promise of help I offered without knowing the reason . The Brahmachari then listed a large number of disqualifications against Lord Shiva. According to him, Shiva is a beggar who does not even own a proper begging bowl. It is a human skull in which he receives the alms! He is quite unnatural with a third eye on the middle of the fore-head. He has poisonous serpents as ornaments on his head, chest, shoulders and arm-pits. He wears only elephant skins. He dwells in grave yards, where the hairs of the dead are strewn. Altogether, according to the Brahmachari, Lord Shiva was an indecent and disgraceful God.
KK Shanmukhan (The writer can be contacted [email protected]) (To be concluded )