The story of divine sports of Shiva to test Parvati’s Parents – Shiva Purana
In Chapters 30 to 36 of Parvati Khanda of Siva Purana, Shiva, prone to divine sports, assumed the guise of a dancer and then of a Brahmin to test Parvati’s parents.
Shiva approached Menaka. In the guise of a dancer with the skill of dancing and singing, he danced well and sang many songs in sweet voice. Shiva was bearing trident and other symbols. He had smeared the ashes all over His body. He was wearing a garland of bones. He had the sacred thread of a serpent. Mena took gems and jewels in gold vessels to give them to Him. But the dancer did not accept the gifts. He requested for the hand of Parvati and began to dance and sing again. Mena was surprised on hearing his words and she was furious. She rebuked the mendicant and wished to drive him out.
In the meantime, Himalaya (father of Parvati), the lord of mountains returned. He saw the mendicant in the human form in his courtyard. On hearing the details from Mena, he became very angry. He ordered his attendants to drive out the dancer. But none of them could push him out as he was hot to the touch like a blazing fire and very brilliant. Then the mendicant who was clever at diverse sports showed his endless great power to the mountain. The mountain saw him immediately transmuted into the form of Vishnu the four-armed, with crown earrings and yellow garment. Then the lord of mountains saw the four-faced deity, the creator of worlds, red in colour and reciting the Vedic hymns. Then the lord of mountains saw the form of the sun, the eye of the universe, much to his enthusiastic amazement. Then he saw him in the wonderful form of Shiva accompanied by Parvati. He was smiling and shining beautifully. Then he saw him in the form of a mass of splendor of no specific shape. It was unsullied, free from peculiar attributes and desires. It was wonderfully formless. Thus, he saw many forms and features there. He was surprised and delighted much.
Then the chief of mendicants begged of Himalaya and Mena the hand of Parvati as alms. He, the source of great enjoyment did not accept anything else. The lord of mountains deluded by Shiva’s magic did not accede to this request. The mendicant too did not take anything. He vanished from the scene. Then Himalaya and Mena realised that Shiva had deceived them and gone to His abode. After some pondering, they developed a feeling of devotion to Shiva who is the cause of salvation, the bestower of divine bliss.
Then Indra and other gods, went to Brihaspati’s abode, and asked him to go to the abode of Himalaya for the fulfilment of our task. He did not accept the proposal of the gods. Then remembering lord Shiva, Brihaspati rebuked the gods again and again and said: -
“All of you gods seem to be selfish in nature. You want to destroy other’s interests. Indeed, I will go to hell by disparaging Shiva. O gods, one of you shall go to the mountain. Let him urge the lord of the mountains and achieve the desired object. Afterwards the seven celestial sages will properly persuade the mountain. Except Shiva, Parvati will not marry any other person. Or, O gods, all of you go to Brahma’s region taking Indra with you. Tell Brahma all your details. He will get your work done immediately.”
On hearing it and consulting among themselves the gods went to Brahma’s Assembly. On hearing the words of the gods, Brahma said:
“Dear children, I am incompetent to decry Shiva. It is unbearable. It destroys all riches. It is the seed of all adversities. O gods, all of you go to Kailash and propitiate Shiva. Make Him go to Himalaya’s abode quickly. Rebuking others is conducive to destruction. Rebuking oneself is conducive to fame”.
On hearing Brahma’s words, all the gods went to Kailash. Going there and seeing Shiva they bowed to Him with bent heads and palms joined in reverence. The gods eulogised Shiva and said - “O Shiva, the merciful, we seek refuge in you. Be sympathetic. Obeisance be to you. You are the uplifter of the distressed, and an ocean of mercy. You save us from all our miseries and distresses.”
Shiva as Brahmin:
On hearing the words of the gods, lord Shiva agreed to the proposal. He made the gods return after assuring them smilingly. Hastening to their abodes, the gods rejoiced much considering their work fully fulfilled and praising Sadashiv. Then the lord Shiva, the lord of magic and free from aberrations went to the lord of mountains.
When the lord of the mountains was seated in his royal assembly along with Parvati and kinsmen, Sadashiv came there, in the meantime bearing a staff and an umbrella. He was dressed in divine clothes and had a shining mark on the forehead. He was in the guise of a saintly brahmin. He was repeating the name of Vishnu with devotion. He had the garland of crystal beads in his hand and the Salagrama stone round his neck. On seeing that extraordinary guest, Himalaya with his attendants stood up in reverence and prostrated before him with devotion. Parvati bowed with devotion to her dear lover in the guise of a brahmin. On realising him mentally the goddess eulogised him with great joy. The lord of mountains asked him “Who are you, please?” Immediately the chief of brahmins, spoke to the lord of mountains thus. The chief of brahmins said: --
“O foremost among mountains, I am a brahmin devotee of Vishnu, and a great scholar. My occupation is that of a matchmaker. I roam about on the earth. I go where I wish. I go everywhere. By the power of my preceptor, I am omniscient. I am simple-minded and by nature I help others and I am sympathetic and quell aberrations. I have come to know that you desire to give your daughter to Shiva, this daughter so tender like a lotus flower, of divinely excellent form and endowed with all accomplishments. To Shiva—who has no support, who is devoid of associations, who is deformed, who is without attributes, who resides in the cremation-ground, who has the form of a snake-catcher, who is a Yogi, who is naked, who has deficient limbs, who wears snakes as his ornaments, whose name and pedigree are unknown, whose conduct is bad, who has no sport, whose body is smeared with ashes, who is furious, who lacks in discrimination, whose age is not known, whose matted hair is ill worn, who supports all who roam about, who has garland of snakes who is a mendicant, who is engaged in following wrong-paths and who tenaciously discards the Vedic path. O mountain, this inclination of yours is not at all conducive to auspiciousness. O foremost among the wise, born of Narayana’s family, learn sense. For the marriage of Parvati, He is not at all a deserving person. On hearing of this, the public will smile in derision. O lord of mountains, see for yourself. He has not a single kinsman. You are the storehouse of great gems and jewels. He has no assets at all. O lord of mountains, you shall consult your kinsmen, sons, wife and wise counsellors, except Parvati.”
Saying this, the brahmin stopped. He took food and left the place with pleasure for his abode. Shiva is one who quietly indulges in His divine sports.
On hearing the words of the brahmin, Mena spoke to Himalaya with tears welling up in her eyes, due to grief. Mena said: --
“O lord of mountains, please listen to my words conducive to happiness. Please consult important devotees of Shiva regarding what has been mentioned by the brahmin. Many disparaging remarks about Shiva have been made by this Brahminical devotee of Vishnu. On hearing these words, my mind is very much dejected. I shall not give my daughter endowed with all good accomplishments to Shiva with ugly features, ignoble conduct and defiled name. If you do not accede to my request, I shall undoubtedly die. I will immediately leave this house or swallow poison. With a rope I shall tie Parvati round my neck and go to a thick forest. I would rather drown myself in the great ocean. I shall never give my daughter to him. Saying thus with great grief, Mena entered the chamber of anger. Casting off her necklaces she lay down on the ground sighing and sobbing.”
Shiva’s request to the celestial sages:
In the meantime, all those seven celestial sages were remembered by Shiva whose mind was agitated by the pangs of separation from Parvati. All those seven sages, as soon as they were remembered by Shiva, came there in person. Standing in front of Shiva and bowing to and eulogising Him, the seven sages of great austerity considered themselves blessed. They addressed Shiva: --
“O most excellent of all, formerly we had performed three kinds of penance; we had studied the excellent Vedas; we had made offerings in the fire, we had visited many holy centres; thus, whatever merit we have acquired verbally, mentally and physically that entire merit has now accrued to us by your blessing in remembering us. A man who worships you always shall be blessed. How can that merit be properly described, the merit of those whom you yourself remember? O Sadashiv, we have become the most excellent of all people by your remembering us. Usually, you never even come across the path of ambitions and aspirations of ordinary people. O lord, your vision, very difficult to be acquired. By seeing you today we have become the most respectable sages worthy of the worship of all the worlds. We have reached the highest position. If any duty is assigned to us, it will be a favour to us.”
On hearing their words, Shiva the great lord, said: --
“Sages are always to be adored and particularly you all. O brahmins, it was for a specific reason that you have been summoned here. My attitude of being helpful is known to you. That must be achieved, especially in the interest of the fulfilment of the desires of the world. Cause for great misery has arisen for the gods at the hands of Taraka the wicked. Boon has already been granted. He is invincible. What shall I do? A great penance has been performed by Parvati. That cannot be performed even by great sages. I must give her the great fruit thereof. Indeed, my vow is to render delight to my devotees. The fruit I bestow on her shall be conducive to her welfare. Hence, I wish to marry her.
At the request of Parvati, I went to the abode of the mountain in the guise of a mendicant. Clever in divine sports I thereby sanctified her. On hearing to know that I am the supreme Brahman, the couple were desirous of giving me their daughter with great devotion in accordance with the Vedic manner. On the inducement of the gods, to reduce the quality of devotion (of Himalaya and Mena) I took the guise of a devotee of Vishnu and rebuked myself. On hearing it they were dejected and have now lost interest in me and do not wish to give their daughter to me. Hence you all go to the abode of Himalaya and urge the excellent mountain and his wife. Speak out the words as venerable as the Vedas. Do everything necessary to get the matter straightened out and settled. I have agreed to marry her and have already granted her that boon.”
Visit of celestial sages to Himalaya:
The celestial sages bowed to Shiva and went by aerial path in the direction of the city of Himalaya. On seeing those seven sages, resplendent like the sun, coming along the aerial path from a distance, Himalaya was surprised and said: --
“The seven venerable persons, resplendent like the sun, are approaching me. These sages shall be worshipped by me now. We householders are really blessed, to whom great men like these, bestowing happiness on all, pay their visit. On seeing them Himalaya advanced to welcome them with due reverence.
Himalaya said: --
I am blessed. I am contented. My life is fruitful. I am the best person worthy of being seen in the three worlds. I am as pure as any of the holy centres. All this is because you, verily in lord Vishnu’s forms, have come to my abode. Perfect ones such as you, what special purpose can there be in visiting poor persons like me? Still, I am your servant. Some tasks there may be to be entrusted to me. Mercifully may it be spoken out. May my life be fruitful.”
The sages said: --
“Shiva is the father of the universe. Parvati is the mother of the universe. Hence your daughter shall be given to Shiva, the supreme soul. O Himalaya, by this activity your life will be fruitful.”
On hearing these words of the seven sages, the lord of the mountains bowed to them with joined palms and spoke thus. Himalaya said: -
“O, you seven sages of great enlightenment, what you have just now said has been already cherished by me by the will of Shiva. Now, a certain brahmin professing Vaishnava cult came here and spoke very critically about Shiva. Ever since, the mother Parvati has gone out of sense. Hence, she does not wish her daughter’s marriage with Shiva. She has entered the chamber of anger. I too am, you can say, out of sense. I am telling you the truth. I do not wish to give my daughter to Shiva who is apparently a mendicant.”
The seven celestial sages praised the magic of Shiva and sent Arundhati to Menaka. Arundhati said: --
“O Menaka, get up. I, Arundhati, have come to your house. The seven sages of sympathetic nature have also come. On hearing Arundhati’s voice, Mena got up quickly and bowed to her who was on a par with Lakshmi in her brilliance.”
Mena said: --
“We are blessed. Arundhati, the daughter-in-law of the Creator of the universe, the wife of Vasishta, has come here. O gentle lady, what for is your visit now? Please tell me specifically. My daughter and I are your slaves. Be merciful to us.”
Arundhati advised her in various ways and returned to the place where the sages were seated.
The sages said: --
“O lord of the mountains may our words, the cause of everything auspicious, be heard. Give Parvati to Shiva. Become the father-in-law of the world-destroyer. For the destruction of Taraka, formerly Brahma requested Shiva who is the lord of all and who does not beg of any one, to strive for this alliance. Shiva, the foremost of Yogis was not eager to marry. But since requested by Brahma, the lord agreed to take your daughter. Parvati performed a penance and the lord promised her. Thus, for these two reasons the lord of Yogis wishes to marry her.”
On hearing the words of the sages, Himalaya laughed but he was a little frightened. He spoke with humility. Himalaya said: --
“I do not see any royal paraphernalia with Shiva, He has none to support him. He has no assets. He has no kinsman. I do not wish to give my daughter to a Yogi who is extremely detached. If a father were to give his daughter in marriage to an unsuitable person, out of love, delusion, fear or covetousness, he is doomed. He will go to hell. Out of my own free will, I will not give her to the trident-bearing Shiva. O sages, whatever arrangement is befitting here, may kindly be carried out.
On hearing these words of the mountain Himalaya, Vasishta, the most eloquent among them replied: --
“O lord of mountains, listen to my words in every respect conducive to your welfare; they are not against virtue. They are true and shall bring about your joy here and hereafter. Statements, in ordinary language and in the Vedas, are of three forms.
Taking the firm decision on seeing her innumerable sufferings He came to the place of your daughter’s penance in the guise of a brahmin. After consoling her and granting her the boon He returned to His abode. It was for complying with her request that Shiva requested you for the hand of Parvati, O mountain. Both of you had accepted the proposal as you were drawn by devotion to Shiva. O lord of mountains, how is it that your mind has taken a somersault now? Please tell me. On being requested by the gods, the lord has sent us, the sages and Arundhati to you. O mountain, we instruct you plainly. By giving Parvati to Shiva, you will meet with great bliss. O lord of mountains, even if you do not give Parvati to Shiva out of your own free will, their marriage will take place because of the inexorable workings of fate. Shiva has already granted Parvati the boon at the time of her penance.
When danger was imminent at the hands of a brahmin, the chief of kings, Anaraṇya, saved his entire asset by giving his daughter to him. When he was threatened by the curse of brahmin his preceptors, wise kinsmen and people well-versed in the science of polity advised him hastily. O king of mountains, you too save your kinsmen by giving your daughter to Shiva. You can claim thus the gods too to your side.”
On hearing the words of Vasishta, Himalaya, with a dejected heart but laughing outwardly asked him about the details of the story of the king. Vasishta narrated the story of Anaranya and Padma to the lord of mountains and said: -
“After a week there is a very auspicious hour very rare to meet with. The presiding planet of the lagna is in the lagna. The moon is in conjunction with his son, Mercury as well as the constellation Rohiṇi. The moon and the stars occupy pure positions. The month is Margashirsha, and the day is Monday free from all defects. All the planets are in auspicious conjunction. They are not impacted by the evil planets. The Jupiter is in a position that is conducive to the birth of a good child and all good fortune to the bridegroom. O lord of mountains, give your daughter Parvati, the mother of the universe, the primordial Being to Shiva, the father of the universe. You will then get quiet and contentment.”
The mountains, Meru & others said: --
“Of what avail is a long discussion and deliberation now? She is born only for the purpose of the gods. Incarnating for the sake of Shiva, she shall be given to Shiva. Shiva has been propitiated by her and Shiva has also spoken to her.”
On hearing the words of Meru and others, Himalaya was greatly pleased, and Parvati laughed within herself. Arundhati too convinced Mena with reasoned statements and examples from various mythological legends. Then the wife of the mountain too was delightedly convinced. She entertained Arundhati, the sages and the mountain with a grand feast and then took food herself. Then the chief of mountains, freed from wrong notions and spoke with mind extremely delighted. Himalaya said: --
“O fortunate sages, please listen to my words. All my bewilderment has vanished since I have heard the story of Shiva. Everything that I possess, my body, wife, Mena, sons, daughter, assets and achievements and other things belong to Śiva and not otherwise. After saying so, he bedecked his daughter with various ornaments. Then he took them all and placed them on the lap of the sage saying, “These are the presents I have to give her.”
The sages said: --
“O mountain, you are the donor, Shiva is the mendicant, and the alms goddess Parvati. What else can be better than this?”
After saying thus, the sages of pure mind offered their blessings to the girl— “Be pleasing to Shiva.” They touched her with their hands and continued— “Everything will be well with you. As the moon in the bright half of the month, may your qualities increase.” After saying thus and offering fruits and flowers to the lord of mountains, the sages made him believe that the alliance was a settled fact.
After fixing the auspicious Lagna for the marriage and congratulating and complimenting one another the sages came to Shiva’s abode on the fourth day. After reaching the place, Vasishta and other sages bowed to Shiva and eulogised Him with different hymns. They then spoke to lord Shiva.
The sages said: --
“O lord Shiva, the lord of mountains and Mena have been urged with different kinds of statements and examples from mythological legends. Undoubtedly, he is enlightened. Parvati has been betrothed to you by the lord of mountains. It is not otherwise. Now please start for the marriage with your attendants and the gods. O great god, go to the abode of Himalaya and marry Parvati in accordance with the customs for the sake of a son.”
On hearing their words, lord Shiva who was delighted.