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My Girl Parvati - Part 1: On being taunted "Blackie"

Submitted by rchurch on Fri, 20/04/2018 - 20:10

68. FROM THE Skanda Purāņa

One day, the great lord Śiva tossed his arm around the neck of the daughter of the mountain, the Goddess, and spoke in jest to her in order to bring about a particular act of asceticism. Now, Śarva had a pale body, made particularly pale because of the crescent moon upon him, while the Goddess gleamed with skin like the petal of a blue lotus at night. Śarva said, ‘Your slender body, shining darkly upon my white body, looks like a black female serpent coiled around a white sandalwood tree. You look like a dark night touched by the light of the moon, like the night during the dark half of the lunar month; indeed, you offend my sight.’

When the daughter of the mountain heard this from him, she released her neck from Śarva’s embrace, her eyes grew red with anger, her face was distorted in a frown, and she said, ‘Everyone blames someone else for his own deeds, and when anyone seeks something he is inevitably disappointed. I sought to win you, who wear a fragment of the moon, with shining acts of asceticism, and the reward for all my careful vow is that I am dishonoured thus at every step. I am not crooked, Śarva with the matted locks, nor am I irregular. You are patient enough with your own faults – and you are richly endowed with a veritable mine of faults. It is not I who knocked out eyes, Bhava; you are the eye-destroyer, and Bhaga and indeed the whole triple universe knows you well. You would place a trident on my head, casting your own faults upon me. You called me ‘Black’, but you are famous as the great black one. I will go to the mountain to abandon my body by means of asceticism; there is no use in my living just to be insulted by a rogue.’

When Bhava heard her speech, in which every syllable was sharpened by anger, he was upset, and Hara, whose actions are hard to comprehend, said, ‘Daughter of the mountain, you do not know the true state of affairs. I did not mean to blame you; it was with the intention of flattering that I spoke in jest. I was thinking, “My darling, the daughter of the mountain, has a mind pellucid as rock-crystal,” but people like us, whose dark bodies are smeared with white ashes, have one sort of thought in the heart, but our words express the opposite thought. But if you are angry at this, I will not speak to you in jest again, terrifying lady, brightly smiling one. Control your anger. I bow to you with my head, and I fold my palms in reverence to you...’

With many such words of flattery and hymns of praise the god sought to change her mind, but the virtuous woman did not let go of her anger, for she had been touched on a sore spot. Snatching away her two feet which had been propped up by the hand of Śaṅkara, the daughter of the mountain prepared to leave quickly, her hair in disarray. As she set out, the destroyer of the cities said to her angrily, ‘Truly, the daughter is like her father in all her ways. Your heart is as hard to fathom as a cavern of Himālaya, in which many sharp blades have accumulated, fallen from his cloud-garlanded peaks; your cruelty comes from his rock; your inconsistency from his various trees; your crookedness from his winding rivers; and you are as difficult to enjoy carnally as snow. All of this has been transferred to you, Goddess, from the snowy mountain, Himālaya.’

When the daughter of the mountain was addressed in this way, her dark red mouth shook with anger, her lips trembled, and she said to the lord of the mountain, ‘Śarva, do not blame virtuous people by comparing them with yourself, for all these faults have been transferred to you in the same way by your association with the wicked. You speak with many tongues because of your serpents; and you are devoid of affection because of your ashes. Your heart is defiled by the moon which is stained with a hare, and you get your stupidity from your bull. But what is the use of all this talk, which is merely tiresome to me? You are frightening because you live in the burning-ground, and you have no modesty, because you are naked. You are disgusting, because you carry a skull; who could bear you thus?’

When the daughter of Himālaya had said this, she went out of the palace, and as she left the hosts of Śiva raised an uproar and ran after her, crying, ‘Mother, where are you going?’ Vīraka grasped the feet of the Goddess and stammered tearfully, ‘Mother, what is this? Where are you hastening so angrily? I will come with you and follow my mother who is full of affection to her child. If you abandon me, I shall not be able to bear the cruelty of the lord of the mountain; for a son is a vessel to receive his father’s cruelty in the absence of his mother.’ Vīraka’s mother lifted up his face with her right hand and said to him, ‘Do not grieve, my son. It is not proper for you to go with me, for you might fall off the tip of a mountain, but I will tell you what is right for you to do. Hara reviled me and treated me as if I were a blade of grass. Since he called me “Black”, I will practise asceticism in order to become golden [gaurī]. But this Hara who has a pale golden body is a woman-chaser when I am absent, and so you must constantly guard his door, and peep through the keyhole, so that no woman enters his presence. If you see another woman here, report to me quickly, my little son, and I will immediately do what is proper.’ ‘So be it,’ said Vīraka to the Goddess, and when he had received his mother’s command his whole body was flooded with joy and he was no longer worried. He prostrated himself before his mother and went to watch the three-eyed one.

Then the elephant-headed Gaņeśa bowed to her and begged her, with tears in his throat, ‘Take me
too, Pārvatī,’ and she answered, ‘He will laugh at you because you are elephant-headed, my son, just
as he laughs at me. Therefore come with me; go where I go, for death is good when it results from the
humiliation of rogues, my little son.’ And so she took him with her and set out for Himālaya.
As the daughter of the mountain set out, she saw a friend of her mother, a glorious divinity of the
mountain, named Kusumāmodinī. When this lady saw the daughter of the mountain, her heart was
filled with affectionate concern, and she embraced her and asked where she was going. The daughter
of the mountain told her mother’s intimate friend everything that had caused her to become angry with
Śaṅkara, and then she continued, ‘Blameless lady, you are the eternal divinity of the supreme king of
mountains, and you have always treated me most affectionately, like your own child. Therefore I will
tell you what I would have you do now: if another woman enters the presence of the god who wields
the Pināka bow, tell me and I will then do what is proper, fair lady.’

The goddess of the mountain assented, and the Goddess Pārvatī went to the mountain and laid aside her ornaments and put on garments made of the bark of trees. There, on a delightful high peak shining with various wonders, the daughter of the mountain practised asceticism, while her son guarded her. In summer she heated herself with the five fires, and in the monsoon she lived in the water; in the winter she slept on the bare ground and went without food.

At this time, Āḍi, the mighty son of the demon Andhaka, brother of Baka, found out that the daughter
of the mountain had gone away, and he sought a secret entrance, for he remembered the enmity
between his father and Śiva. For when the demon Andhaka, hater of the gods, had been conquered by
Śiva the lord of the mountain, Āḍi had practised extensive asceticism because he wished to conquer
Hara. Brahmā had been satisfied by his asceticism and had come to him and said, ‘Tell me what it is
that you wish to accomplish by this asceticism, O best of demons.’ The demon had said to Brahmā, ‘I
choose immortality,’ but Brahmā replied, ‘No living creature can exist without death. An embodied
creature obtains death from one source or another, O demon, lord of demons.’ On hearing this, the
lion among demons replied to the lotus-born god, ‘When I have changed my form, then let my death
come about, but otherwise let me be immortal, O lotus-born god.’ The lotus-born god agreed to this,
for he was satisfied. And when the demon had received this promise, he considered himself immortal,
and he established the kingdom of the demons.

Then he went to the dwelling-place of the slayer of the triple city, and when he arrived he saw
Vīraka stationed at the door. In order to deceive him, Āḍi took the form of a serpent and entered
Hara’s presence unhindered by Vīraka. The great demon then abandoned the form of a serpent and
took the form of Umā, thinking stupidly that he could thus trick the lord of the mountain. The demon
took the form of Umā, more charming than can be imagined, perfect in all her limbs, complete with all
the signs of identity, and he placed hard teeth like thunderbolts with sharp tips inside the vagina, for
his wits were so deluded that he intended to kill the lord of the mountain. The demon stood in Hara’s
presence in the form of Umā, and when the lord of the mountain saw ‘her’ he was satisfied, and he
embraced the great demon, thinking him to be the daughter of the mountain because of the perfect
detail of ‘her’ limbs.

Then he asked, ‘Is it truly you, and not some imitation daughter of the mountain? Did you come here
because you knew my hopes, O lady with a superb complexion? I find this triple universe empty when
I am separated from you, and so it is good that you have relented and come to me in this way.’ The
demon in the form of Umā concealed his true feelings and said, ‘I went to practise matchless
asceticism because you called me “Black”, but there was no sexual pleasure for me there, and so I
have come to you.’ When Śaṅkara heard this, he began to feel somewhat doubtful, thinking, ‘The
slender woman was angry with me, and she is obviously one who keeps her vow. How can she have
come back without having obtained her desire? This is my secret doubt.’ As he pondered in this way,
he searched for signs of identity, and he did not see the mark of a lotus made with a twist of hair on
her left side. Then the god who wields the Pināka bow realized that this was the demon’s magic
power of illusion, and he laughed a little and placed a dangerous weapon upon his phallus and
satisfied the demon’s desire. The demon screamed terrible screams and died.

Vīraka did not know about the slaughter of the king of demons, but the mountain goddess, who had not uncovered the true event, reported to the daughter of the mountain by means of a swift breeze, when the demon was killed. When the goddess heard this from the mouth of the wind, her eyes grew very red with anger, and in her tortured mind she pictured her son Vīraka, and said, ‘Since you abandoned me, your mother who is besotted with affection for you, and gave an opportunity for women to enjoy the privacy of Śaṅkara, therefore your mother will be a stone marked with the syllable of Gaņeśa, rough, harsh, cold, heartless.’ When the daughter of the mountain had uttered this curse, her anger immediately came forth out of her mouth in the form of a mighty lion. That lion which had been emitted from the Goddess when she had amassed ascetic power had a monstrous mouth like a cave filled with teeth, a great mane, and an enormous tail. His hungry tongue hung out of his gaping mouth, and his waist was slender.

The Goddess determined to enter his mouth as a good wife, but Brahmā, the four-headed lord,
knew what was in her mind and came to her hermitage which was the home of all good things; he
spoke to the daughter of the mountain with soothing words, saying, ‘What do you wish to achieve, O
Goddess? What is unobtainable? I will give it to you.’ When the daughter of the mountain heard that,
she spoke words pregnant with respect for Brahmā, her guru, saying, ‘I won Śaṅkara for my husband
by practising difficult asceticism, but since Bhava now often calls me “Dark-skinned”, I would have a
golden form and be his beloved and enter into unity with the body of my husband, the lord of ghosts.’

Then the god who sits on a lotus replied, ‘So be it. You will share half of your husband’s body.’
Then a woman whose skin was the colour of a dark blue lotus came out of her body, terrifying,
three-eyed, holding a bell in her hand. Her body was densely adorned with various ornaments, and
she wore yellow and red garments. Brahmā then said to the goddess whose skin was the colour of a
blue lotus, ‘By contact with the body of the daughter of the mountain when your form was a part of
her, and by my command, you have been perfected. You alone are her entire original form, not merely
a part of her. ‘This mighty lion which was born from the anger of the Goddess will be your vehicle and he will be on your banner, O Goddess. Go to the Vindhya mountains and there do the work of the gods, killing
Śumbha and Niśumbha, Tāraka’s generals. This Yakṣa, known as Pāñcāla, is given to you as your servant, endowed with hundreds of feats of magic illusion and attended by one hundred thousand Yakṣas, O Goddess.’ The goddess Kauśikī assented, and when Kauśikī had gone away, Umā became endowed with all those qualities which she had earned in her previous existence and which she herself had obtained in her present incarnation.

But although she had obtained her desire, Umā was full of remorse and blamed herself over and over again as she went back to the lord of the mountain. When Vīraka saw her returning, he held up his golden rod and stopped her stead-fastly at the door, shouting angrily at the Goddess, ‘Stay there! Stand! Where are you going? You have no business here. Go away so that you will not be threatened. A demon in the form of the Goddess entered here unseen in order to deceive the god, who slew him. And when he had been slain, the wise blue-necked god reprimanded me, saying, “Be careful not to let any woman get past you, my son.” Therefore you will not be able to enter here even if you remain here at the door for many years, so go away. The only one who can enter here is my mother, the daughter of the king of mountains, Pārvatī, the darling of Rudra, who loves her child dearly.’

When the Goddess heard this, she thought to herself, ‘It wasn’t a woman; it was a demon. It was not as the wind said. I cursed Vīraka falsely when I was overcome by anger; fools who are filled with anger often do what should not be done. Anger destroys fame; anger destroys established wealth; and people whose perception of their goals is perverted easily find misfortune. Without uncovering all the truth, I cursed my son.

Then the daughter of the mountain lowered her face which had skin like a lotus
and was contorted with shame, and she said to Vīraka, ‘Vīraka, I am your mother; do not be confused or mistaken in your mind. I am the beloved of Śaṅkara, daughter of the mountain Himālaya. Do not doubt me, my son, or be misled by the appearance of my limbs: the lotus-born god was satisfied with me and gave me this goldenness. I cursed you when I did not know what had occurred with the
demon, for I knew only that a woman had entered into the private apartments of Śaṅkara. I cannot turn
back my curse, Vīraka, but I will say that you will be reborn in a human female named “Rock”,
engendered by a man named Śilāda, in the sacred Arbuda forest which gives men release for
heaven. There is situated the liṅga of the lord of mountains whose rewards for men are equal to those
of the Viśvanātha in Benares... When you have propitiated the lord Bhava there, you will obtain from
him the name of Nandin, and you will soon come here and become the guardian of the door.’

When Vīraka heard this, his hair stood on end with delight, and he prostrated himself before her and
praised her, his mother, with various speeches: ‘O Goddess, I am fortunate to have obtained the state
of being a man, which is very hard to obtain. Your curse is a favour, especially as it will take place
on the Arbuda mountain at the holy confluence of the earth and the ocean, above the earth, between the
mountain and the ocean. I will go there and find great merit by my devotion to Bhava and then I will
come back here, mother.’ And when he said this, he became the son of ‘Rock’.

The Goddess then entered the palace of the god who bears the moon as his diadem. When the three-
eyed god saw her he said, ‘Damn women,’ and she bowed to him and said, ‘You have spoken truly,
and not falsely. This portion of Nature is senseless; women deserve to be reviled. It is the grace of
men which brings release from the ocean of existence.’ Then Hara rejoiced and said to her, ‘Now you
are worthy, and I will give you a son who will bring renown to you who are fair and glorious.’ Hara,
the abode of various wonders, then made love with the Goddess... [and Skanda was born.]

Excerpt from Hindu Myths - A Sourcebook Translated from the Sanskrit by Wendy Doniger

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