February 17, 2011 on 10:00 am
Dear Spiritual Explorer: I am confused as to whether Siva’s wife is named Parvati or Uma. Nancy Lewiston, Oklahoma City, OK
Statue of Parvati
Dear Nancy: The names Uma and Parvati are usually interchangeable in Hindu lore with some differences between the two goddesses. For instance, after the death of Shiva’s first love, Sati, Shiva isolated himself in a cave and rejected the world because he was so distraught. Shiva, immersed in meditation, was oblivious to some of the problems of the gods, and as he performed his austerities and became even more powerful, it was for naught because of his stance of isolation. The gods invoked Shakti, the mother-goddess who swore to make him father a child. Shakti took birth as Parvati, who became determined to make him her consort. This is another example of interchangeability of the goddess’s names. Each one reflects the qualities of the original goddess Shakti, but with slight variations to reflect a goddess’s unique personality. A wonderful replication of Parvati is the Parvati statue ”which reflects Parvati’s beauty through the pseudo marble patina of the statue.
Every day, Parvati would visit Shiva’s cave, sweep the floor, decorate it with flowers and offer him fruits. But Shiva remained steadfast in his mediations and never opened his eyes to see Parvati. Even Kama, lord of desire, who shot arrows dripping with desire into the heart of Shiva, could not influence him. Parvati, then vowed to find another way to rouse Shiva from his despondency.
Parvati went into the forest and performed rigorous austerities. Parvati matched Shiva in her capacity to cut herself off from the world and completely master her physical needs, and therefore, Parvati eventually won the admiration of Shiva. Shiva then accepted Parvati as his wife and took her to the highest peak of the cosmos, Mt. Kailasa. When one hears the story of Parvati’s austerities, they are usually attributed to Uma. While Parvati is considered a benign goddess as opposed to Kali and Durga, Uma is considered the more motherly aspect of Shakti, the original Mother source incarnated as Parvati.
Parvati awakened Shiva’s concern for the world by questioning him on various issues. Shiva then revealed the secrets of the Tantras and the Vedas to Parvati that he had gathered in eons of meditation. Inspired by Parvati’s beauty, Shiva sang and danced and thus pleased the gods who were happy to see his enchantment with Parvati.
Great question. Thanks for writing. Spiritual Explorer
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