Photo courtesy: Gulmohar Doodles
Among the numerous mythological stories which I have heard in my lifetime, the following remains my favorite. The one which speaks of love. The one which shows a new perspective. The one who shows how a man can keep aside his male chauvinism and consider his wife as one or higher than himself. The one which teaches devotion, love and inspiration. This story is famous in one of the many Tantrik mystic traditions of Bengal.
They say that Lord Shiva never spoke a single word until Shakti came into his life as Sati/Parvati. She became not only his wife, but also his student, asking questions, discussing and deliberating with him, till he revealed to the world the mysteries of life. So one day, a curious Parvati asked him – “What is love?” Shiva looked at her and just smiled. “Oh Lord! Please tell me what is love?” Parvati isisted blushing and hiding her face. Shiva smiled and holding her hand quenched her curiosity.
“When you come to me as Annapoorna, the Goddess of Food, and feed me and ask for nothing in return, I feel love. For you have taken care of my hunger unconditionally.
When you come to me as Kamakhya, the Goddess of Pleasure, and hold me intimately as no one else do, I feel love. For you have made me the object of your desire. This is Bhog. This is one kind of love. But there is another kind of love.
“When you come to me as Gauri, demure and delicate, and allow me to dominate you, demand things of you, take you for granted, knowing fully well that you cannot be dominated by anyone, I feel love. You made me play dice, laugh at the simple pleasure of games. You made me make you dolls and enjoy entertaining you.
When you come to me as Durga, bearing weapons in your hand, and protect me, I feel secure and safe, and cared for, I also feel love. This is Shakti. This is power. By granting me power over you, by defending me, protecting me, empowering me, you make me feel loved. This is the second kind of love.
But there is yet another kind of love. When you dance atop me as Kali, naked with hair unbound, unafraid to be yourself, unafraid to be powerful and vulnerable and unafraid of being judged and mocked, I feel love. You make me open my eyes. I realize that Lalita, the beautiful one, is also Bhairavi, the fearsome one. I realize Mangala, the auspicious one, is also Chandika, the violent one. I see you totally, without judgment, and I realize I am capable of seeing the truth. That you allow me to see you fully, without judgment, tells me that I have become trustworthy. Thus you become the mirror, the Parvati darpan, that reflects who I am. You help me discover myself. You become my Saraswati. You reveal the true meaning of ‘Darshan’. In joy, I dance. I become Nataraj.
“Thus there are three kinds of love: love for the body that grants satisfaction, love for the heart that grants security and love for the head that grants wisdom. Animals can give the first and the second, only humans can give the third because they have the third eye hidden inside the head. The first two loves spring from Kama, god of desire, and they sustain life on earth. But the third kind of love springs from Kamantaka, from the destruction of desire, unmotivated by fear of death.”
Parvati smiled and she offered Shiva a boon for this wonderful answer. And he said, “As Shyama, the dark Goddess, who is Kali and Shakti, you have taught me love. You have danced atop me, forced me to open my eyes, turn from shava (corpse) to Shiva. Grant me the chance to do the same to you.” So the Goddess asked Shiva to descend on earth as the fair Radha whose love and pining would make her descend as the dark-one Krishna.
My depiction of Shiva and Parvati’s love for each other through Madhubani art. Do let me know your thoughts on this 🙂 Please spend your quarantine days in doing something productive and don’t forget to stay home, stay safe 🙂