The Origins and Myths of Goddess Parvati

Parvati is the goddess of love, beauty, devotion, fertility, and motherhood. She is powerful and full of energy. She is a goddess of many attributes. In Hindu mythology, she takes innumerable forms.

In the Vedic period, she was known as Ambika. She is also known as Uma, Durga, and Kali. In mythology, she embodies the characteristics of various goddesses. Along with Lakshmi and Saraswati, she forms Tridevi.

In Hinduism, she is an agent of universal power. She is considered to be the divine energy between a man and a woman. Parvati is the voice of reason, strength, resistance, and action. She is a devoted wife, a nurturing mother, and benevolent to all her devotees.

Parvati Origins: Daughter of the Mountains

Parvati origin
ARTiFACTS, CC BY-SA 2.5, via Wikimedia Commons

Parvati is the daughter of King Himavan (the mountain king) and Queen Mena. Goddess Ganga is considered her elder sister.

In her previous incarnation, she was born as Sati. She was the daughter of Daksha (Prajapati), the son of Lord Brahma. She adored Shiva and wished to marry him. But as Lord Shiva was an ascetic, her father didn’t agree to this union. But she was adamant and married him. She started living on Mount Kailash with Lord Shiva. After a few years, her father planned a massive yajna to which all gods and goddesses were invited except Sati and Lord Shiva. She wanted to go to this event. Despite Shiva’s best efforts to persuade her against going, she went to see her parents.

But on arriving there, she was given the cold shoulder. She was humiliated for her choice of marriage and living conditions. After some time, she couldn’t take anymore and jumped into the raging flames. Shiva was furious upon hearing the news of her self-immolation. He dragged his wife’s half-burning body from the flames. As he was going over various mountains, Sati’s body parts dropped in various locations. It is believed that Sati’s body parts were dropped at 52 different places, known as Shakti Peethas.

Sati returns as Parvati

After Sati’s death, Lord Shiva was devastated. He went to the Himalayas and completely secluded himself. He went into deep meditation. In the meantime, the demon Tarakasura won a boon from Lord Brahma that he should die only at the hands of the son of Lord Shiva and his wife. He thought that, as Sati was dead and Lord Shiva was alone in the forest, there would be no children. Therefore, he would be immortal.

But concerned gods went to King Himavan and requested that he have Sati as his daughter. Himavan agreed, and Sati was born as Parvati. But according to Nard Muni’s oracle, she could marry Lord Shiva only after severe penance. So she practiced austerity to please Lord Shiva, and finally, their union was blessed.

Representation 

Parvati is generally depicted as a gentle mother. She is also shown in her fierce forms, such as Durga and Kali. But she is always shown to be calm. Parvati is beautiful and benevolent. She is sometimes portrayed as having a golden complexion, which symbolizes her as the goddess of harvest and fertility.

The goddess is often depicted in a red sari. She is shown with two arms when she appears alongside Lord Shiva. Alone, she is shown with four arms. One of her children, Ganesha, is often seated on her lap. Her second child, Skanda or Kartikeya, may be seen playing near her.

Her one hand displays the Abhaya mudra (gesture for fear not). It may also be shown in kataka (a gesture of fascination and enchantment). Her left hand sometimes shows Tarjani mudra (a gesture of menace).

Sometimes, a parrot can be seen near her shoulder, symbolizing cheerful and loving talk. Also, a crescent moon is shown on her head, which symbolizes her being half Shiva. Parvati is frequently depicted as the ideal housewife who cares for her family and society.

Legends of Parvati

There are a lot of legends associated with the goddess Parvati. Because she appears in so many forms, each one has its own legend. For example, as Durga, she kills the demon Mahishasura. As Kali, she kills the demon Shimbha. As Annapurna, she provides food to all.

According to a legend, one day, Parvati came from behind Lord Shiva. She closed his eyes, and the whole universe missed a heartbeat. There was a loss of life and light. To correct this, Lord Shiva asked Parvati to practice severe penance. She went to Kanchipuram (Tamil Nadu). When she was worshiping the linga (a symbol of Shiva) there, Shiva created a flood. But she stayed there and saved lives from being destroyed. This place is also considered to be the place where Lord Shiva married Parvati.

 In Tantric traditions, there is a story of how Parvati gave birth to ten Mahavidyas (wisdom goddesses). As the story goes, once Shiva and Parvati were living with their parents. After some argument, Shiva attempts to walk out. But an enraged Parvati manifests as these goddesses, blocking every exit.

Parvati and Lord Shiva: Eternal Love

According to stories, Parvati adored Lord Shiva and resolved to marry him. But her parents were against the union. They imagined Lord Shiva as an ascetic, not a householder. But Parvati didn’t lose hope. She began living in the forest, in penance to show her resolve and also to draw the attention of Shiva. He meets her in various disguises to dissuade her from pursuing Shiva. But she was adamant. Finally, Shiva agreed and married her. He loved her deeply and also dedicated hymns to honor her.

They are often shown joined together. Together, they are known as Ardhnarishwar (half man, half woman). A popular legend associated with this form holds that the god Brahma first created male beings. He instructed them to create other beings, but they were unable to do so. To make Lord Brahma realize his mistake, Lord Shiva appeared before him in this androgynous form. Lord Brahma realized his omission and created females.

She is considered to be the energy and power of Shiva. Both are often symbolized by a yoni (womb) and a linga. This represents the union of the feminine and the masculine, and hence the eternal process of creation and regeneration. They jointly symbolize the power and blessing of marital felicity. In many legends, she is shown as more of a rival to Lord Shiva, ticking, seducing, and making him a householder.

Mother of gods

Parvati is the mother of the Hindu deities Ganesha and Kartikeya. There are numerous stories related to both of them.

Kartikeya is the elder son of her and Lord Shiva. His birth story has different versions. According to one myth, Parvati didn’t give birth to Kartikeya. It is said that the goddess Parvati was cursed so that she would never be able to bear children.

But according to the oracle, they were to have a child who would kill the demon Tarakasura. So they went to a cave and meditated. Because of their devotion, a ball of fire emerged out of the cosmic energies. It was so powerful that even Agni (the goddess of fire) was not able to hold it. As a result, they presented the ball to Goddess Ganga. But even the goddess Ganga couldn’t take it much longer.

Finally, Parvati took the form of a water body. The ball took the form of a baby with six faces. Kartikeya was born. Kartikeya killed Tarakasura and became the commander-in-chief of the gods.

The legend of the birth of Ganesha

The birth of Ganesha is also associated with a legend. According to this, Parvati once wanted to take a bath, but there were no attendants available. So there was no one to guard her or stop anyone from entering accidentally. So, she created an image of a boy out of turmeric paste and infused life into it. And that’s how Ganesha was born.

Parvati told Ganesha not to allow anyone to enter the house while she was bathing. After a while, Shiva came back with other gods. But as an obedient son, Ganesha didn’t allow them to enter. Shiva was furious, and he severed the boy’s head. When Parvati saw the headless body of her son, she was devastated. She demanded to give back her son. Shiva gave him life by attaching an elephant’s head to his body.

Manifestations 

Mahadevi is considered to be the supreme goddess in Hinduism. And Parvati is considered a physical representation of Mahadevi in her complete form. All goddesses are said to be the manifestations of this single great supreme deity. Her manifestations and incarnations are said to depend on her mood. She is considered Shakti, and hence, pure energy.

Her most popular incarnation is her previous birth as Sati. Sati’s body parts are said to have been dropped at 52 different locations across India. These are called Shakti Peethas. These Shakti Peethas are considered different aspects of the goddess Parvati.

As Durga, she kills demons. She killed Mahishasura, Shumbha, and Nishumbha. The nine forms of Durga are said to depict a point in the life of Parvati. She becomes Kali at the request of Lord Shiva. She destroyed asura Daruk. But even after killing the demon, she couldn’t control her anger. To calm her, Lord Shiva appeared as a crying baby to arouse her maternal instincts. On hearing the baby’s cries, she turned back to being Parvati.

Meenakshi with the Fish Eyes

Meenakshi is her other name. In this form, she has eyes shaped like fish. She is said to be the daughter of a devout, childless queen. She was born with three breasts. Eventually, she met Lord Shiva and returned to Mount Kailash as Parvati.

Nanda Devi or as Yogamaya, she is the daughter of the cowherd Nanda and Yashoda. She was born to protect her brother, Lord Krishna, from her uncle Kansa. As Shitla, she was incarnated to save the world from diseases. As Annapurna, she represents abundance. Parvati assumed this form to teach the inhabitants of Mount Kailash the value of food. In Buddhism, the goddess Tara is said to be related to Parvati.

Also, there are many local manifestations of the goddess Parvati, revered to protect the area from epidemics and local diseases.

Devotion

In one sect of Hinduism, Vaishnavism, she is revered as a goddess who resides in Vishnu. She is known by her devotees as Kamrupa, one who shapes and fulfills all her desires. She is said to inspire her worshipers to embrace their strengths and flaws. And she also helps to utilize these qualities to achieve their potential in life.

Parvati devotion
Avinashmaurya, CC BY 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The three-day festival of Teej is celebrated to honor her. It is celebrated at the onset of the monsoon. Hindu women wear yellow clothes and sing folk songs. Unmarried girls pray to Parvati for a good husband, and married women pray for the good health of their husbands. Her worship is done to have a good marriage, resolve conflicts between couples, and help with fertility. Also, the festival of Navratri is celebrated to honor her manifestations.

Colors 

The colors associated with Parvati are the same as those associated with Durga.

  1. White  – Symbolizes peace and serenity
  2. Red – Symbolizes love and is considered Durga’s favorite color.
  3. Blue – Symbolizes richness.
  4. Yellow – Symbolizes happiness.
  5. Green – Symbolizes growth and nature.
  6. Grey – Symbolizes balanced emotions.
  7. Orange – Symbolizes warmth and positivity.
  8. Peacock green – Symbolizes uniqueness
  9. Pink – Symbolizes kindness.

Plants 

Flowers like champa, mogra, and palash are frequently associated with the goddess Parvati. She also favors red flowers, lotus, and hibiscus. But she is said to like all the flowers offered to Lord Shiva.

Animals 

Tiger symbolizes unlimited power and the strength to use it to protect virtue.

Lion: The lion symbolizes uncontrolled animalistic tendencies such as anger and greed. Her sitting on the lion reminds us to control these qualities.

Elephants: Elephants are considered close to Parvati, as her son, Lord Ganesha, has an elephant’s head.

Perfumes/Scents

Goddess Parvati is often associated with scents of vanilla, amber, and sandalwood. These fragrances show her as a goddess of perseverance. These also symbolize her name as “daughter of mountains.”

Gems and Metals

In her form as Durga, Parvati is often associated with Pearls, White, Yellow and Blue Sapphires, Emeralds and Ruby. 

Planet

The moon symbolizes Parvati. The moon represents Parvati as a goddess of wisdom.

FAQs about Parvati

What are the powers of the goddess Parvati?

Parvati is the goddess of love, devotion, and nourishment. She is considered a goddess of universal power, freedom, strength, and justice.

How to please goddess Parvati?

Goddess Parvati can be pleased by chanting mantras and worshiping her. She should be offered flowers, and women at festivals often offer her red bangles.

Are Sati and Parvati the same?

After her self-immolation, Sati reincarnated as the daughter of the Himalayas, known by the name of Parvati.

Who are the children of the goddess Parvati?

Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati’s children are Lord Kartikesh and Lord Ganesha.

Other Goddesses

If you enjoyed this post we are sure you will enjoy getting to know some of the other goddesses we also write about. You can find the complete list of goddesses sorted across regions and religions here.

Featured Image Credit: Philadelphia Museum of Art, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

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Liz Turnbull

Sharon and Elizabeth Turnbull, mother and daughter team and the website's midwives, had over 45 years of combined work and continuous study in psychology when they decided to create the Goddess Quiz and goddessgift.com. In 2001, we launched our mission to provide visitors with tools for personal insight, self-knowledge, inspiration, and refinement. Sharon, the bestselling author of Goddess Gift (a book about finding the goddess in yourself) worked as a senior partner in a consulting firm, a speaker at seminars and conferences, and as a professor and administrator at four universities during an academic career that spanned over three decades. Liz is also a published author who works as a healthcare provider, an instructor in communication skills for healthcare providers, and leads workshops on multiple subjects including health/healing, communication, and personal growth. It is our greatest hope that our gift may help the Sacred Feminine within and all around us thrive and bless us all with Her Gifts.