“Shiva represents the unmanifest and Shakti the manifest; Shiva the formless and Shakti the formed; Shiva consciousness and Shakti energy..”
– Swami Nischalananda Saraswati
Shiva and Shakti, are the two points on which the entire universe is rested. The Destroyer, the first yogi Shiva also stands for the masculine in each of us, whereas the Shakti, the power and empowerment represents the feminine, the beautiful, the left side of our being. Shakti is rooted in Shiva, while Shiva is constant and changeless, Shakti is changing, but with its roots in Shiva, this change is changeless too. The concentric circles between Shiva and Shakti is the place where we exist. It is here where we are able to manifest and fulfill our karmic gains and losses. Everything that exists in the world is a form of Shakti, while the real aspiration (whether we realize or not) is to merge with Shiva. Our aim is to tread the reversed pathway from Shakti to Shiva and unify with the cosmic bliss.
There are many stories of Shiva and Shakti with their different avatars or forms, but the most famous one is the story of Shiva and Shakti’s holy marriage. The tale has many versions. Being a Shiva Bhakt or Devotee and an Indian mythology patron, I have heard many versions of the same out of which the one I feel the most accurate is as follows:
Shiva and Parvati Marriage Tale
After the death of Mata Sati or the Shakti (Lord Shiva’s wife) Lord Shiva was furious and decided to go to the Himalayas and meditate for a long time. (After Mata Sati’s death, lord Vishu took her body and cut it into 51 pieces. These pieces were spread across the Indian Subcontinent, making 51 Shakti peeths temples from each part that fell on the material realm.) He decided to take asceticism and not look at any other women, as he only loved one. He retreated in his deep meditative state. In the meanwhile, a demon named Tarakasura was wrecking havoc on the Devas or the demigods and the other planes. Everybody was very upset. Lord Shiva’s unavailability made the situation worse. Devas did not know what to do and how to solve the problem. They went to Lord Brahma to request for a solution from Tarakasura’s horrific deeds.
Lord Brahma said that only Lord Shiva’s son had the power to kill Tarakasura and no one else can do this. Devas were once again confused because Mata Sati, Lord Shiva’s wife was now dead and Shiva had retreated into a deep meditative state. There was no question that Shiva married again, what should be done now. To this, Lord Brahma suggested the Devas to worship the Shakti and ask for a solution. When the Devas followed and worshipped the divine Shakti, she appeared and blessed them by saying that she will reincarnate and once again will be one with her eternal love, Lord Shiva. The Devas rejoiced.
And then a beautiful daughter was born to the king of Himalayas, Himavat and queen Menaka and they named their daughter, Parvati. As a young girl, Parvati had a great inclination towards Lord Shiva and she spent time worshipping him instead of doing what the other young girls liked to do. She grew up to be an educated and extremely beautiful woman. Kings and princes came from different parts of the world to marry her, but she declined all of them and was adamant to marry no one else but Lord Shiva.
Once, her father, king Himavat took Parvati to Lord Shiva and told him to keep her as his helper. He added that she will do all the work and help Shiva out in his daily chores. Lord Shiva could not recognize Parvati as his Shakti and accepted to keep her as his helper. Being in love with Lord Shiva, Parvati waited for Shiva to finish his meditation and kept everything ready that he would need before and after meditation. But as the days passed and no love ignited between the two, devas got worried. They decided to help Parvati and Kamadeva shot an arrow at Shiva to ignite passion for Parvati. Shiva jerked from his meditation.
First he looked at Parvati and realized how beautiful and devoted she was and helped him. He witnessed her beauty silently and after some time, he realized that he can’t look at any other women like that. Realizing his pathway, he opened his third eye and burnt Kamadeva for his misdeed. (When Kamadeva’s wife, Rati got to know about her husband’s demise, she put the blame on Mata Parvati and cursed Parvati Ma that she will never have children.) Then he asked Parvati to leave at once, as she was becoming a barrier in his meditation. Parvati realized her deep love for Lord Shiva all the more and decided she cannot go now. She also had a realization that she was a reincarnation of Shakti, Shiva’s other half and her longing for him will never cease.
With this thought, she started meditating in the Himalayas and decided to win her love back at any cost. As she vigorously meditated, her powers started to increase and manifest more profoundly. Every time she meditated the temperature rose by a few notches, making it hotter for the mortals and the demigods to survive. She never ate, slept or drank, her only task was to meditate. Devas got worried again and they went to Lord Brahma for a solution. Lord Brahma calculated the depth of the situation and he went to Lord Vishnu. Both of them from there went to Lord Shiva to discuss the matter. They told him about Parvati’s powers and how she was a reincarnation of Mata Sati.
Lord Shiva was suspicious, he wanted to test Parvati and went to her in a disguise of a young Ascetic. He told Pravati how Shiva was unfit for her beauty, intelligence and power. To this Parvati got very furious and she reprimanded the young ascetic. As she turned to walk away from him, she saw a bright light and the ascetic turned into Lord Shiva. Her eyes were filled with astonishment, happiness and love. Lord Shiva apologized to Parvati for not recognizing her in the first meeting. Parvati rejoiced and told Lord Shiva to ask her father, King Himavat to marry her. To which Shiva agreed. He went to the king and asked for his daughter’s hand. Kind readily agreed and Lord Shiva and Parvati tied the knot of love and got into a marital bliss.
This day is also celebrated as the auspicious day of MahaShivratri.