Parvati obtained from her parents their permission and blessings. She then went
to the sacred spot of Gangavatara. The same spot later came to be called the
Gowri peak. Jaya and Vijaya also went with her to facilitate her tapas. Parvati's
penance was rigorous. In the summer of sweltering heat she lighted fire on all
four sides and did her penance amidst five fires. In the rainy season she sat
on the rock in pouring rain and meditated. In winter she stood neck deep in the
cold water of the pond and meditated on Shiva. She never cared for any kind of
difficulty, sorrow or pain, and focused her mind fully on Shiva. She wore flaxen
cloth with twisted hair top and chanted the mantras or prayers with the rosary
in hand. She excelled the rishis or sages in going on with
the penance conquering hunger and thirst. In early stages she was eating fruits; gradually she gave
up that also. She ate leaves or 'parna.' Then she left off that also and got
the name 'Aparna,' continuing her hard penance. Many came to her penance grove
now and then, and returned with wonder at her determination and with sympathy
|PARVATI IN PENANCE
It was the greatness and effect of Parvati's penance those all-wild animals of
that forest became mild. The young of the deer rolled about on a tiger in their
sleep. Venomous vipers would not bite any one. Rats played with snakes. The penance-grove
was a kingdom of love, an abode of affection and kindness. But the heat generated
by Parvati's tapas began to burn the gods. All of them prayed to Shiva. They
appealed to him to be pleased with Parvati and marry her.
For any effort to gel its proper reward, the effort has to be evaluated. Such
evaluation depends on the test. The moment approached for
testing the strength and essence of Parvati's penance. Her tapas had this effect: kindness did blossom
in Shiva. His mind was softened. Still he wanted to test her mind. He sent the
seven sages known as the 'Saptarishis' to find out her firmness.
Parvati saluted the sages who went to her. Her friends Jaya and Vijaya rendered
hospitality. The sages asked of Parvati the reason for her tapas and who her
preceptor was. She narrated everything.
And the sages replied, "Well, listening to the words of Narada, you went
the wrong way. Don't do this penance for Shiva. Nor should you marry him." But
she did not heed their words. She had already decided that qualities mattered
more than appearance. She told them of her resolve thus, "I
feel that I am already married to Shiva. If he does not accept me, I'm not going
to marry any other person. There cannot be two marriages for me."
The sages were pleased with her firmness. They blessed her by saying "May
your wish succeed" and went to Kailasa. They narrated all this to Shiva.
They said that it would not be proper to subject her to any more pain with the
pretext of testing her mind. But Shiva thought that he should himself test her
He disguised himself as a young student and went to Parvati's
penance grove. He sat in the shade of a small mango tree near her. Thinking
that a Brahman youth had come as a guest, Parvati's friends
went to him and made inquiries about his welfare. They gave him water to wash his feet and then some
good fruits to eat. Then the youth pointed at Parvati and
asked them, "Who
is she? Why is she performing this penance though so young? Is there none to
stop her tapas? None to check her and advise her?" Hearing these words of
his, Parvati became angry. She stopped her meditation, put aside the rosary,
and stared at the youth.
Then the young man, pretending to be sympathetic, began asking several questions. "At
the prime of your youth, why are you engaged in this tapas in this forest, ignoring
cold and heat and rain, hunger and thirst?" he asked. With
a sign of her eye from Parvati, Vijaya told him everything and said, "My friend thus desires
to wed Shiva and hence this tapas." The disguised youth
laughed loudly and said. "O, I understand. What more can I say? It's your will and pleasure.
So let me go."