Tuesday, 26 July 2011

The Immolation of Sati and The Incarnation of Parvati

The story of how Lord Shiva came about retelling Ramkatha to his consort Parvati is retold in great detail within the Baal Kānd. This part of the story is narrated by Sant Yajnavalkya to Bharadvaj Muni.
Sati's doubts
In the age of Treta, Lord Shiva, accompanied by His consort Bhavani Sati, went to visit Rishi Agastya. The Rishi being pleased with Lord Shiva's visit, began to narrate the eternal story of Lord Ram. Lord Shiva listens with great pleasure and then they return back towards Their abode. Around these exact days Lord Ram had descended on earth and was wondering the Dandaka forest with Sita and Lakshman. Lord Shiva ponders how he can catch sight of Lord Ram. He finally sees Lord Ram, who is frantically searching for Sita, and instantly joins his palms and prays "Glory to the Redeemer of the universe, who is Truth, Conciousness and Bliss". Sati cannot recognise Lord Ram and wonders why her Supreme Lord Shiva is praising a mortal. Lord Shiva is the knower of all truth and instantly reads Sati's thoughts. He advises her to not harbour such doubts and accept that she had seen Lord Ram, whom Agastya had praised earlier. He finally says that if she is still not convinced then she should seek to verify this truth herself. Lord Shiva observes as Sati takes the guise of Sita. Lord Ram and Lakshman instantly see through Sati's disguised and asks about Lord Shiva's whereabouts. Sati feels very uncomfortable and heads towards Lord Shiva, thinking of how she is going to explain her stupidity of questioning His word.

Lord Shiva asks her to tell the truth of how she tested Lord Ram. Sati is unable to tell the truth and says that she did not test Lord Ram, but praised his as You had. Sati forgets that Lord Shiva knows all that has happened and is disappointed that she was disguised as his Mother Sita. He decides that Sati is too chaste to abandon and it is a sin to continue to be her Husband and so from then he has no connection with Sati in her current body. Sati concludes that Lord Shiva has come to know everything and feels very foolish for having tried deceiving Him. Lord Shiva sits under a banyan tree and enters into a long trance. Sati feel extremely sorry but accepts that providence is repaying her for her sins. Many years pass and Lord Shiva finally ends his trance whilst praising Lord Ram. Sati bows down at Lord Shiva's feet, after which he seats Sati opposite him and he begins to tell stories of Lord Vishnu's exploits.
Daksha's sacrifice
While Lord Shiva is narrating the stories of Lord Vishnu, the air is filled with celestial beings. Sati asks Lord Shiva what the occasion is. Lord Shiva explains that Her father Daksha has organised a great sacrifice where many demigods were invited. All except Lord Brahma, Lord Vishnu and Lord Shiva were invited as Daksha had developed a hatred towards the Gods. Sati thinks of Her father and asks if She may visit him at this time. Lord Shiva says that they have no formal invite and that all of Sati's sisters are invited but because of his animosity towards Lord Shiva, Her father has not invited us. Lord Shiva tries to reason with Sati, that no good can come of Her attending, but Tulsidas explains that a daughters ties to her father are very strong.

When she reaches her father's abode, no one welcomes Her apart from Her mother. Daksha does not even acknowledge Her and actually burns with anger that She has turned up uninvited. Sati looks around and sees no oblations set apart for Lord Shiva and the lack of respect of her father causes Her mind to rage with great anger. She faces Her father's court and announces that Lord Shiva is the father of the universe and the beneficent of all. It is the same Lord Shiva that Her stupid father vilifies. She burns Her body with the fires of Yoga. Lord Shiva sends Virabhadra, who reeks havoc of the sacrifice and Daksha is slain. As Sati is about to die, She asks Lord Vishnu of the boon that she be devoted to Lord Shiva's feet in successive births. She is reborn as Parvati, the daughter of Himachal and Mena.
Parvati and Nārad's prophesy
Years after the birth of Parvati, Nārad Muni visits her parents Himachal and Mena. Himachal asks Nārad what the future holds for his daughter. Nārad says that Parvati will be adorned with good traits and win unfailing love of her husband. She will remain ever united with him and bring great glory upon her parents. The only drawback is that her husband will be an ascetic with matted hair who is naked and of hideous accoutrements. Himachal and Mena become disconsolate while Parvati is greatly pleased, as she senses from Nārad's words, that her boon from Lord Vishnu is coming true. Nārad explains to Himachal that the only person who shows the virtues as described by him is Lord Shiva. Parvati's parents are immediately uplifted and as Nārad leaves, he asks Parvati to fix Her thoughts on Lord Hari and practice austerity. The young Parvati enters the forest and performs great penances in order to obtain Lord Shiva. Her body thins greatly due to her self mortification after which Lord Brahma declares that she should cease her severe penances as Lord Shiva would soon be hers. History had produced many great sages, but none had performed such penances as this. Lord Brahma instructs that her father would soon come for her and that she should return home with him.

Ever since Sati had quit her body, Lord Shiva and begun chanting Lord Ram's name and entered into a great trance. Through his mystic power, Lord Ram asks Lord Shiva to marry Parvati. Lord Shiva say's that this is not a justifiable request but the word of a master cannot be set aside and must be obeyed. Lord Shiva remains in his great trance. Around that time the demon Tāraka was causing distress and was in full flourish. Lord Brahma declares that the son of Lord Shiva will kill Tāraka, but for this to happen His wedding with Parvati needs to be arranged and for that to happen, Lord Shiva's trance has to be broken. It is decided that the God of Love should be sent to awaken Lord Shiva. He fires five arrows of flowers at Lord Shiva's breast, the trance is broken and Lord Shiva awakens. Lord Shiva is enraged and, through his third eye, reduces Love to ashes. Love's consort Rati faints as soon as she hears of her husband's demise. Seeing the helpless woman, Lord Shiva foretells that her husband will now be called bodiless and shall dominate all without a body form. When Lord Krsna descends on earth, her husband would be born as His son Pradyumna. Thereafter Lord Brahma and other gods approach Lord Shiva and declare that they wish to witness His wedding with their own eyes. Remembering Lord Vishnu's early request, Lord Shiva gladly agrees and Lord Brahma proceeds to arrange the marriage.
The wedding of Lord Shiva and Parvati
Lord Shiva has no real family and so his attendants begin to adorn Him for His wedding to Parvati. His hair is formed into a crown with serpents forming a crest. Serpents form His earings, bracelets and adorn his neck and He is smeared in ashes and has lion's skin wrapped around His loins. He heads the wedding procession and Lord Vishnu and Lord Brahma, as well as a host of spirits, goblins and fairies, follow behind.

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