The names of Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati are almost always uttered together in unison. And while we’ve all read (or heard) about their iconic marriage in various folklores and stories, the story leading up to their wedding is quite an unusual one in itself.
Before Lord Shiva met Parvati, he spent a lot of time in isolation mourning over the death of his first wife — Goddess Sati. But amid this period, he was unaware that she had, in fact, returned as Parvati. Princess Parvati born to the God of the Himalayas: Himavat, and his wife, apsara Mena, was the reincarnation of Goddess Sati.
Lord Shiva, immersed in meditation and grief, refused to look at Parvati. It wasn’t until the intervention of Kamadev (the God of love) that he later recognised her.
In order to break his meditation, Lord Indra assigned Kamadeva to distract Lord Shiva. Kamadeva (Madana) created an untimely spring (akāla-vasanta) to form a harmonious atmosphere for Lord Shiva. He tricked Lord Shiva’s guard, Nandin, by transforming himself into a fragrant southern breeze. He then entered Lord Shiva’s dwelling in this disguise.
Kamadeva succeeded in awakening Lord Shiva with a flower arrow. However, Lord Shiva, who turned furious at this act, opened his third eye, which ended up incinerating Kamadeva. This incident turned him to ash.
Nonetheless, Lord Shiva then eventually observed Parvati, asking her what she wanted from him. Parvati later asked him to revive Kamadeva, to which Lord Shiva agreed. But with one condition which lets Kamadeva exist in a disembodied form; consequently, he is also called Ananga (‘an’ which means without; ‘anga’ translating to body) as he is “bodiless”.
After several Gods persuaded him to marry her, Lord Shiva decided to test her devotion. In one instance, the Saptarishi (the seven sages) addressed Parvati and taunted Lord Shiva to discourage her; however, Parvati remained unfazed. In another instance, Lord Shiva himself, disguised as an old ascetic, visited her and vilified himself in her presence. Before an angry Parvati could leave, Lord Shiva unveiled his true form to her and vowed to wed her after expressing his content for her love and devotion.
Lord Shiva and Parvati agreed to marry each other near Triyuginarayan village, during their journey back to meet Parvati’s parents. Their wedding ceremony is observed in the period of Phalguna, a day before Amavasya. This day is today honoured as Mahashivratri every year.
And while this is only a part of the story, a lot has been said about their wedding, which was a grand affair on its own. Since Parvati was a princess, many well-known and “who’s who” of the region were invited to their ceremony. This not only included kings and queens but also Gods and Goddesses — each in their most royal attire, and one more beautiful than the other! The wedding in itself was a royal affair, much of which will be covered in the next part. However, it is still regarded as one of the most iconic love stories of all time.