Parvati also known as Gauri, is a Hindu goddess. Parvati is Shakti, the wife of Shiva and the gentle aspect of Mahadevi, the Great Goddess. Parvati is considered to be complete incarnation of Adi Parashakti', with all other goddesses being her incarnations or manifestations.
Parvati is nominally the second consort of Shiva, the Hindu god of destruction and rejuvenation. However, she is not different from Satī, being the reincarnation of Shiva's first wife. Parvati is the mother of the gods and goddess, Ganesha and Skanda (Kartikeya). Some communities also believe her to be the sister of Vishnu.
She is also regarded as the daughter of the Himavan.
Parvati, when depicted alongside Shiva, generally appears with two arms, but when alone, she is depicted having four or eight arms, and astride a tiger or lion. Generally considered a benevolent goddess, Parvati also has wrathful incarnations, such as Durga, Kali, Shitala Devi, Tara, Chandi, and the Mahavidyas as well as benevolent forms like Kathyayini, Mahagauri, Kamalatmika, Bhuvaneshwari and Lalita.
Parvata is one of the Sanskrit words for "mountain"; "Parvati" translates to "She of the mountains" and refers to Parvati being born the daughter of Himavan, lord of the mountains and the personification of the Himalayas. Other names which associate her with mountains are Shailaja (Daughter of the mountains), Adrija or Nagajaa or Shailaputri (Daughter of Mountains), 'Haimavathi' (Daughter of Himavan) and 'Girija' or 'Girirajaputri' (Daughter of king of the mountains). Parvati's name is also sometimes considered a form of 'pavitra', meaning 'sinless' or 'holy' in Sanskrit. Her consort is Shiva and she is the sagun swaroop of the Supreme Being Adi Parashakti.
She is also known by 108 names from the Durga Saptashati. These include Ambika ('dear mother'), Gauri ('fair complexioned'), Shyama ('dark complexioned'), Bhairavi ('ferocious'), Kumari ('virgin'), Kali ("dark one"), Umā, Lalita, Mataji ('revered mother'), Sahana ('pure'), Durga, Bhavani, Shivaradni or Shivaragyei ('Queen of Shiva'), and many hundreds of others. The Lalita sahasranama contains an authoritative listing of 1,000 names of Parvati.
Two of Parvati's most famous epithets are Uma and Aparna. The name Uma is used for Sati in earlier texts, but in the Ramayana, it is used as synonym for Parvati. In the Harivamsa, Parvati is referred to as Aparna ('One who took no sustenance') and then addressed as Uma, who was dissuaded by her mother from severe austerity by saying u mā .
The apparent contradiction that Parvati is addressed as the fair one, Gauri, as well as the dark one, Kali or Shyama is a philosophical matter. It hints at her "twice-born" nature as Sati and then Uma. But more importantly, it suggests that the one calm and placid wife, Uma, in times of danger, can transfer back to her primal chaotic nature as Kali, who stands uncloaked, with a foot on her husband's chest. The twin opposite colors, white and black represent the two opposing nature of the Goddess. In later times, this concept was made into a short Hindu myth: Once, Shiva rebuked Parvati about her dark complexion forcing an angry Parvati to leave him. She underwent severe austerities to become fair-complexioned as a boon from Brahma.
Parvati is also the goddess of love and devotion, or Kamakshi.
Parvati as Goddess of Power
Being the physical manifestation of Adi parashakti, Parvati is the goddess of power. She is the one who gives life energy (or 'Shakti') to all beings and without her, all beings are inert. The goddess is Shakti herself, who actually lives in all beings in the form of power. Without power, one can do nothing, including yoga.
Shakti is needed by all beings, whether the Trimurti, the devas, humans, animals, or even plants. Parvati is the provider of shakti. Without her, life is completely inert. This power is required to see, to hear, to feel, to think, to inhale and exhale, to walk, to eat, and to do anything else. The goddess is worshiped by all gods, the Trimurti, rishis, and all other beings.
A Mantra in Sanskrit is meant for her:
Sarvarupe Sarveshe Sarvashakti Samanvite Bhayebhyastrahi no devi durge devi namostute
It translates to: We bow down to Devi Durga, who is source of all forms (sarvarupe), who is the God of all beings (sarveshe), in whom all power exists (Sarvashakti samanvite) and who destroys all fear (bhaye bhyastrai no devi). It is also believed that without her Shiva remains as Shava or Corpse, for she is the ultimate source of power for all beings, gods and Devas.
Rise to prominence
Parvati herself does not explicitly appear in Vedic literature, though the Kena Upanishad (3.12) contains a goddess called Uma-Haimavati. She appears as the shakti, or essential power, of the Supreme Brahman. Her primary role is as a mediator who reveals the knowledge of Brahman to the Vedic trinity of Agni, Vayu, and Indra, who were boasting about their recent defeat of a group of demons.But Kinsley notes: "it is little more than conjecture to identify her with the later goddess Satī-Pārvatī, Both textual and archaeological evidence suggests Sati-Parvati appears in the epic period (400 BC–400 AD), as both the Ramayana and the Mahabharata present Parvati as Shiva's wife. However, it is not until the plays of Kalidasa (5th-6th centuries) and the Puranas (4th through the 13th centuries) that the myths of Sati-Parvati and Shiva acquire more comprehensive details. Kinsley adds that Parvati may have emerged from legends of non-aryan goddesses that lived in mountains.
Prof. Weber suggests that like Shiva is combination of various Vedic gods Rudra and Agni, the Puranic Parvati is a combination of Uma, Haimavati, Ambika and earlier Parvati, identified as wives of Rudra; of others like Kali, who could be a wife of Agni and of Gauri and others inspired by Nirriti. Tate suggests Parvati is a mixture of the Vedic goddess Aditi and Nirriti,and being a mountain goddess herself, was associated with other mountain goddesses like Durga and Kali in later traditions.
Birth and marriage
The Puranas repeatedly tell the tale of Sati's marriage to Shiva against her father Daksha's wishes and her subsequent self-immolation at Daksha's sacrifice, leaving Shiva grief-stricken and having lost interest in worldly affairs. In the Brahma Vaivarta Purana, Sati appears before Shiva, in her divine form, and reassures him that she will return as the daughter of Himavan. Sati is reborn as Parvati, the daughter of Himavat and Menā and is named Kali, 'the dark one', because of her complexion. Sati, as well as Parvati, are considered manifestations of Mahadevi, the great Goddess. In the Ramayana, the river goddess Ganga is depicted as the elder sister of Parvati. In the Harivamsa, Parvati has two younger sisters called Ekaparna and Ekapatala.
Parvati is depicted as interested in Shiva's tales and appearance from her very birth and eventually remembering her previous life as Sati. As Parvati grows into a young woman, she begins tapas (austerities) to please Shiva to grant her wish to reunite with him. She is portrayed as surpassing all other ascetics in austerity, undergoing severe mortifications and fasting. Finally, Shiva tests her devotion by sending an attendant (or appearing himself in disguise) to criticize Shiva. Untouched by the act, Parvati retains her desire for Shiva, compelling him to marry her. After the marriage, Parvati moves to Mount Kailash, the residence of Shiva.
Kalidasa's epic Kumarasambhavam ("Birth of Kumara") details with matchlessly lyrical beauty the story of the maiden Parvati: her devotions aimed at gaining the favor of Shiva, the subsequent annihilation of Kamadeva, the consequent fall of the universe into barren lifelessness, the subsequent marriage of Parvati and Shiva, the immaculate birth of Kumara, and the eventual resurrection of Kamadeva after Parvati intercedes for him to Shiva.
The depiction of Parvati’s marriage to Shiva, in the Shiva Purana, could be seen as an allegory illustrating the desire of an individual to achieve a state of liberation from a life of strife and banality. If one sets aside, for the moment, the idea of Shiva as a male entity, and sees him instead as representing a state beyond human suffering, then Parvati becomes symbolic of the aspirant who wishes to achieve nirvana, and the story becomes something considerably more than a quaint romantic tale. The acharyas (scholastic saints), who wrote the Puranas, may have interpreted Parvati’s asceticism as a means of winning Shiva’s hand in marriage, in order to discourage young girls from following the goddess’s example and becoming renunciates. In modern day Hinduism the marriage aspect of this story has been inflated in importance, but the most compelling picture we are left with is Parvati as an ascetic.
Main forms of Parvati
As per devi bhagwata Purana, Goddess Parvati is lineal progenitor of all other goddesses. She is one who is source of all forms of goddesses. She is worshiped as one with many forms and name. Her different mood brings different forms or incarnation.
Durga is demon fighting form of this Goddess, and some texts suggest Parvati took the form of Goddess Durga to kill Demon Durgam.
Kali is another aspect that was assisted by Goddess Chandi while fighting with rakta bija. She was born from the forehead of the goddess. But many interpretations of scriptures suggests that it was Goddess Chamunda who has gotten same iconography as goddess Kali who is nobody but an aspect of Kali, even Parvati is considered to be Goddess Kali herself in her ferocious form.
Goddess Chandi is the epithet of Maa Durga, who is created by the collection of all demigods and trimurti power, and then considered to be power of sagun parashakti (Parvati), She is black in color and rides on lion, she is known as the original slayer of Demon Mahishasura, considered to be a form taken by Durga herself.
Ten Mahavidyas are the ten aspects of Shakti, in tantra all have great importance in majority, they all took birth from Goddess Sati, previous Incarnation of Shakti before Goddess Parvati. There is no difference between Sati and Parvati.
52 Shakti Peethas of Sati, proves that all Goddesses are expansions of the Goddess Parvati.
Parvati's legends are intrinsically related to Shiva. It is only in goddess-oriented Shakta texts, that she is said to transcend even Shiva, and is identified as the Supreme Being. Just as Shiva is at once the presiding deity of destruction and regeneration, the couple jointly symbolise at once both the power of renunciation and asceticism and the blessings of marital felicity.
Parvati thus symbolises many different virtues esteemed by Hindu tradition: fertility, marital felicity, devotion to the spouse, asceticism, and power. Parvati represents the householder ideal in the perennial tension in Hinduism in the household ideal and the ascetic ideal rpresented by Shiva. In classical Hindu mythology, the "raison d’être" of Parvati, and before that of Sati, is to lure Shiva into marriage and thus into a wider circle of worldly affairs.
Parvati tames Shiva, the "great unpredictable madman" with her presence. When Shiva does his violent, destructive Tandava dance, Parvati is described as calming him or complementing his violence by slow, creative steps of her own Lasya dance. In many myths, Parvati is not as much his complement as his rival, tricking, seducing, or luring him away from his ascetic practices. Again, Parvati subdues Shiva's immense sexual vitality. In this context, Shiva Purana says: 'The linga of Shiva, cursed by the sages, fell on the earth and burnt everything before it like fire. Parvati took the form of a yoni and calmed it by holding the linga in her yoni'. The Padma Purana also tells the story of Parvati assuming the form of yoni to receive lingam of Shiva, who was cursed by sage Bhrigu to be the form of the lingam.
The couple are often depicted in the Puranas as engaged in "dalliance" or seated on Mount Kailash or discussing abstract concepts in Hindu theology. Occasionally, they are depicted as quarrelling. In stories of the birth of Kartikeya, the couple are described as love-making generating the seed of Shiva. Parvati's union with Shiva symbolises the union of a male and female in "ecstasy and sexual bliss". In art, Parvati is depicted seated on Shiva's knee or standing beside him (together the couple is referred to as Uma-Maheshvara or Hara-Gauri) or as Annapurna (the goddess of grain) giving alms to Shiva.
Shaiva approaches tend to look upon Parvati primarily as the Shiva's submissive and obedient wife and helpmate. However, Shaktas focus on Parvati's equality or even superiority to her consort. The story of the birth of the ten Mahavidyas (Wisdom Goddesses) of Shakta Tantrism. This event occurs while Shiva is living with Parvati in her father's house. Following an argument, he attempts to walk out on her. Her rage manifests in the form of ten terrifying goddesses who block Shiva's every exit.
The fact that [Parvati] is able to physically restrain Shiva dramatically makes the point that she is superior in power. The theme of the superiority of the goddess over male deities is common in Shakta texts, so the story is stressing a central Shakta theological principle. ... The fact that Shiva and Parvati are living in her father's house in itself makes this point, as it is traditional in many parts of India for the wife to leave her father's home upon marriage and become a part of her husband's lineage and live in his home among his relatives. That Shiva dwells in Parvati's house thus implies Her priority in their relationship. Her priority is also demonstrated in her ability, through the Mahavidyas, to thwart Shiva's will and assert her own.
Mother of Ganesha
Though Ganesha considered to be son of Shiva and Parvati, the Matsya Purana, Shiva Purana, and Skanda Purana ascribe the birth of Ganesha to Parvati only, without any form of participation of Shiva in Ganesha's birth.
Once, while Parvati wanted to take a bath, there were no attendants around to guard her and stop anyone from accidentally entering the house. Hence she created an image of a boy out of turmeric paste which she prepared to cleanse her body, and infused life into it, and thus Ganesha was born. Parvati ordered Ganesha not to allow anyone to enter the house, and Ganesha obediently followed his mother's orders. After a while Shiva returned and tried to enter the house, Ganesha stopped him. Shiva was infuriated and it started a chain of events leading to war of the entire heavenly kingdom and the lone child. Midst the war, Shiva could manage to severe the boy's head with his trishula (trident). When Parvati came out and saw her son's lifeless body, she was very angry. She immediately revealed her true self as the adi-shakti, the primal energy sustaining matter and demanded that Shiva restore Ganesha's life at once. The Gods prostrated at her feet and an elephant's head was attached to Ganesha's body, bringing him back to life. To appease Parvati further, Shiva declared that the child be made head of the ghost-followers (Gana's)of Shiva and worshipped by everyone before beginning any activity, and gods accepted this condition.
Ganesha is identified as a god named after his mother. He is called Umaputra, Parvatisuta, Gaurisuta meaning son of Parvati and Heramba, "mother's beloved (son)".
Naturally, Parvati’s unique characteristics have become more and more obscured, as she absorbed more and more goddesses into her iconography. Therefore, her depictions have become rather generic today. When shown with Shiva, she carries a blue lotus in full bloom, shows the abhaya mudra (hand gesture of fearlessness) and usually has one of her children on her knee. The only hint of her former occult status is the somewhat languid appearance of her eyes, as one who has recently emerged from deep meditation. Other goddesses are usually shown with large staring eyes as this is considered a mark of beauty. The consorts of the other two Gods of the trinity, Saraswati and Lakshmi, may be depicted alone, but Parvati hasn’t been depicted this way for many centuries.
The goddess is usually represented as a fair and beautiful. The colour of her vestments is milk-white, the colour of enlightenment and knowledge. Since white is a combination of all hues it shows that She has all the qualities or Gunas. Since white also depicts huelesness, it indicates that She is devoid of all Gunas. Hence, She is referred to as Trigunatmika (having the three gunas—Sattva, Rajas, and Tamas)—and at the same time being Nirguna (without any gunas). She has three eyes. Her accoutrements tend to be those of a Rishi (seer). She is also usually depicted with jatamukuta or a crown of matted hair, as Shiva is usually depicted. She is also shown as having a crescent moon bound in her locks, like Shiva.
Images of Parvati, wearing a sacred thread something not many women are associated with and as this marks the second-birth or dwija it is seems an advanced concept far beyond early pashupatas, and with her hair styled in a top knot like a Rishi (seer) survive into the Chola period (approximately ninth century A.D.). In fact, these two particularities were the only means of distinguishing her statuary from the images of the Goddess Shri of the time.
Her Mudras (symbolic hand gestures) are Kataka—fascination and enchantment, Hirana—the antelope, the powers of nature and the elusive, Tarjani—gesture of menace, and Chandrakal—the moon, a symbol of intelligence. Kataka must be affected by one of the foremost hands as it is a means of drawing the worshiper closer. Tarjani must be described with the left hand, which symbolises contempt, and usually in the back set of hands. If Parvati is depicted with two hands, then Tarjani and Chandrakal may be dropped but Hirana and Kataka are signature except in very modern representations, where Abhaya (fearlessness), and Varada, (beneficence), are used.
Parvati’s Vahana (animal vehicle), is usually considered to be a Lion nowadays, in her form as Durga, but was probably originally one of the mountain lions native to the Himalayas. It was also, likely, a Lioness, as Parvati’s cult is so exclusively feminine. Although there is no documentation to support an affiliation between Goddess Parvati and this wondrous, mythic animal, it does seem an appropriate vehicle for an ascetic magical mountain goddess with an exclusively female clergy and following. In certain aspects of Parvati, such as the Mahagouri form of the Navadurga group, her vahana is Shiva's vahana, Nandi, the sacred bull.
Association with other goddesses
Parvati as Meenakshi
In several myths, the presence of a dark, violent side of this otherwise benign Parvati is suggested. When approached by the gods to defeat demons, Parvati morphs back to her true self, shakti, which is pure energy, untamed, unchecked and chaotic. Her wrath crystallizes into a dark, blood thirsty, tangled-hair Goddess with an open mouth and a drooping tongue. This goddess is usually identified as the terrible mahakali or Kali. In Linga Purana, Parvati summons Kali on the request of Shiva, to destroy a female asura (demoness) Daruka. Even after destroying the demoness, Kali's wrath could not be controlled. She ran around the three worlds in her mad, blind fury and creation was endangered. To lower Kali's rage, Shiva appeared as a crying baby in the middle of a battlefield. The cries of the baby raised the maternal instinct of Kali who started breast-feeding Shiva and resorted back to her benign form as Parvati. Kali is associated and identified with Parvati as Shiva's consort.
In Skanda Purana, Parvati is said to have assumed a form of a warrior-goddess and defeated a demon called Durg who assumes the form of a buffalo. Thereafter, she is by the name Durga. In myths relating to her defeat of demons Sumbha and Nisumbha, Durga emerges from Parvati when Parvati sheds her outer sheath, which takes an identity of its own as a warrior goddess.
Although Parvati is considered to be synonymous with Kali, Durga, Kamakshi, Meenakshi, Gauri and many others in modern day Hinduism, many of these “forms” or incarnations originated from different sects, or traditions, and the distinctions from Parvati are pertinent.
The Shastras (sanctioned works of religious doctrine) attribute the golden colour of goddess Gauri’s skin and ornaments to the story of Parvati casting off her unwanted dark complexion after Shiva teased her, but the cult of Gauri tells a different story. Gauri is in essence a fertility Goddess, and is venerated as a corn mother which would seem to suggest that she owes her colouring to the hues of ripening grain, for which she is propitiated.
So whatever be said, Goddess Parvati has two main forms, what actually shaktas says out of which one is Lalita who is Supreme in Srikula family of shaktism and second one is Durga or kali who is supreme in kalikula family.
The Gauri Festival is celebrated on the seventh, eighth, ninth of Bhadrapada Shukla paksha. She is worshipped as the goddess of harvest and protectress of women. Her festival, chiefly observed by women, is closely associated with the festival of her son Ganesha (Ganesh Chaturthi). The festival is popular in Maharashtra and Karnataka.
In Rajasthan the worship of Gauri happens during the Gangaur festival. The festival starts on the first day of Chaitra the day after Holi and continues for 18 days.
Another very popular festival in regard to the Mother Parvati is Navratri, in which all her manfestations are worshiped for nine days. Actually the festival is associated with Her warrior appearance is Mother Durga, with her nine forms i.e. Shailputri, Brahmacharini, Chandraghanta, Kashmunda, Skandmata, Katyani, Kalratri, Mahagauri, Siddhidaatri.
Another festival Gauri tritiya is celebrated from Chaitra shukla third to Vaishakha shukla third. It is believed that Parvati spends a month at her parent's home now. This festival is popular in Maharashtra and Karnataka, less observed in North India and unknown in Bengal. The unwidowed women of the household erect a series of platforms in a pyramidal shape with the image of the goddess at the top and collection of ornaments, images of other Hindu deities, pictures, shells etc. below. Neighbours are invited and presented with turmeric, fruits, flowers etc. as gifts. At night, prayers are held by singing and dancing.