Parvati, in a variety of forms, is the most common focus of devotion in India. She presents two main facets to her worshipers: a benign and accepting personality that provides assistance and a powerful and dangerous personality that must be placated. The benign vision exists in many temples to Shiva throughout the country, where the goddess has her own shrine that is in practice the most frequented site of heartfelt devotion. During annual festivals in which the god and goddess emerge from their shrines and travel in processions, it is often the goddess who is most eagerly anticipated. In North India, for example, life-like statues of the loving goddess Kali, who is ultimately a manifestation of Parvati, are carried through huge crowds that line village and city streets.
To give all her names and attributes would challenging, though Parvati is also Bhavini, Kali, Durga, and Devor the goddess. The puzzling statement so often made by Hindus that Saraswati, Lakshmi, the Hindoo Venus and spouse of Vishnu the Preserver, and Kali — Parvati, spouse of Siva the Destroyer, are one and the same goddess, is but another way of saying that the universal feminine principle in nature is one, and that in it rest the threefold activities of creation, preservation, and destruction, or regeneration.
The devout Saivas declare that the source of the river Ganga (Ganges) is in Siva's hair; which is very poetic, to say the least. There is another legend, devoutly believed by the Vaishnavas, that the river Ganga flowed originally from Vishnu's foot, whence it descended upon the hair of Siva. Another and even more interesting account of the birth of the Ganges, and of the appearance of Siva's third eye, is as follows: Parvati, Siva's spouse, on one occasion "placed her hands over the eyes of her amorous lord, which, they being the primary source of light, involved the universe in immediate darkness. She instantly removed them, but an instant with immortals is an age among men; and Siva, to avert the calamity of such lengthened gloom, placed a third eye in his forehead. Parvati, perceiving the mischief she was causing, removed her hands, and found them moistened with the perspiration of Siva's temples; and in shaking it off, the Ganges flowed from her fingers."
Parvati is the name borne by the goddess as the immediate companion or associate of her divine partner. She is the daughter of the mountain "Himalaya, personified as a powerful monarch, and jMena, his wife; she is called "the mountain-born," \and is said to have been married to Siva in a former Jstate of existence. In many ways she corresponds to the Roman Juno; she has the same high spirit and majestic deportment. Her color is white, like that of Siva. As Bhavini, the goddess is created Nature. In this character she is fabled to have been the mother of Brahma, Vishnu, and Siva; but this hypothesis is rather confusing to the unmetaphysical Western mind. Bhavini transforms herself into a thousand shapes, and all-existing things are said to have been produced from her. She is sometimes called Ma, and is represented in a car drawn by lions, holding a drum, and having a towered coronet upon her head. A festival is held yearly in her honor, corresponding somewhat to our May-day festival, and falling on or near that day.
In her character of Durga, the spouse of Siva is active virtue, and Is represented ^ith ten arms. In one hand she holds a spear, in another a sword, in a third the hair of a giant and the tail of a serpent twisted round him; and in others the trident, the discus, the ax, the club, the arrow, and the shield. Durga is the destroyer of giants, and this goddess of active virtue is said to have dispatched more human monsters than all the other Hindu gods together.
Devi, another name of Siva's spouse, is the feminine form of deva, god, and has been adopted by the Saiva sect as a special appellation of the goddess of their worship. So general is their use of it in this sense that it has been swerved somewhat from its original meaning as a generic term and made to have direct reference to Parvati, who, in her varied forms, is without exception the most important and widely worshiped of the many Hindoo goddesses.
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