Today, on March 4, 2019, India celebrates Mahashivratri. Although there’ a Shivratri happening every month, Maha Shivratri (great Shivratri) is the biggest annual event held in the honour of Shankar Bhagwan. The day is observed to mark the victory of good over evil and overcoming darkness with light. On this day, devotees line up to offer their prayers to the Lord and observe strict fasts. There are a number of stories associated with the day, but the most prominent one is that of Shiva drinking the Halāhala poison, thereby saving the world. While the Lord is rightfully venerated for his act, it is Goddess Parvati’s contribution that is often overlooked. With International Women's Day around the corner, let's look at how it was Narishakti that saved the day.
The Story of Mahashivratri
According to one account, Mahashivratri or the Great Night of Shiva is celebrated to commemorate one of the most significant episodes in Hindu Mythology. During Vishnu’s Kurmavatara (tortoise incarnation), the devas and the asuras were churning Kshirsagar (the ocean of milk) to obtain Amrit or the nectar of immortality.
The two camps were warring against each other in their fight for the Amrit. So they decided to churn the ocean using Mount Mandara, a part of Mount Meru, as the churning stick. For the churning rope, they used Vasuki, the king of snakes. DO NOT ANGRY Lord Shiva By Offering These Five Things; Know The Mythological Stories Behind It This Maha Shivaratri!
There are two accounts of the same story. According to one, Vasuki spewed poison into the ocean after being stretched and pulled as the churning rope. And another story says that the poison Halāhala was churned out of the ocean before the Amrit could come out. #MeToo in India During Navratri Is Just What Maa Durga Would Be Proud Of.
With the deadly venom unleashed, all life forms started suffering, including the devas and the asuras.
Lord Shiva stepped in to save the world by gathering the venom and drinking it. However, Halāhala was too poisonous, even for Shankar Bhagwan, putting him in a strange quandary. He couldn’t spew or swallow the venom. If he vomited it out, the universe would perish. And if he swallowed, he would end. But Goddess Parvati, his wife, ensured that either situation would never happen.
The Goddess knew the fate of the universe and her husband was in her hands, literally. So she held Lord Shiva neck to prevent the poison from entering his stomach or escaping his mouth.
With steady hands, she grasped his neck for an entire night to make sure that the poison stayed inside Lord Shiva’s throat. It pooled around his neck, turning it blue. Hence the name Neelkantha (Blue-throated) is associated with Lord Shiva. What Are Nine Avatars of Goddess Durga or Navdurga? Pictures, Mantras & Celebration Dates of Navratri Festival.
Had it not been for her, the universe would have drowned in the poison, choking and killing all forms of life.
Goddess Parvati is known mostly as Shiva’s consort, but there’s so much more to her. Considered to be the reincarnation of Shiva’s first wife Sati, Parvati is the quintessential icon of a woman having it all! She never confirmed to any stereotypes and is a representation of what women can be if they are empowered.
She’s portrayed more-or-less as a family woman, with Shiva and their sons Ganesha and Karthikeya. In her tender form, she’s a loving wife and a mother. But she’s also seen in her fierce form Shakti, the other half of her husband, Shiva. She is an embodiment of power, seen riding a lion and wearing red. As Adi Parashakti, she is the vanquisher of evil and is time personified (Kali).
Although it is Lord Shiva who is mostly remembered for Mahashivratri, one cannot simply ignore the pivotal role played by Parvati in this story. With International Women’s Day around the corner, we can look up to Goddess Parvati for all the inspiration we need this year.