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The contradictions which pervade all the parts of the Hindu mythology are so strongly opposed to every thing in the shape of a consistent relation, that the farther we proceed, the more perplexed we become to reconcile every fresh legend with the fables already related. In the account of the creation, I have mentioned that the goddess Bhavani (or nature) divided herself into three females, for the purpose of marrying her three sons, Brahma, Vishnu, and Siva ; to the last of whom she united herself under the name of Parvati. Other accounts make Parvati the daughter of Brahma, in his earthly form (or avatar) of Daksha, named Suti.
After her marriage with Siva, a dispute arose between that god and Daksha; who not only refused to invite his son-in-law to a feast given in honour of the immortals, but reviled him in terms which roused the indignation of Siva, and pierced the tender and affectionate bosom of Suti, who first resented, and then sank under the contumely; for, on hearing Daksha term him a wandering mendicant, a bearer of skulls, a delighter in cemeteries, a contemner of divine ceremonies and unfit for the society of the gods, she took the part of her husband; and true to the Hindu creed, that when a virgin marries she leaves for ever her father's house, gave Daksha a memorable lecture in return, which would be too long to insert here, and might moreover prove a dangerous specimen of eloquence to some new-married ladies; who, in their zeal, might not always wait for proper occasions to exercise themselves in the recitation of it. I must, therefore, content myself with simply noticing the incident. Having defended her lord against parental slander and malignity, the sorrowful Suti retired to the banks of the sacred waters of the Ganges, and yielded up her life on the altar of domestic affliction. Siva was inconsolable for the loss of his lovely and affectionate wife. On beholding her lifeless form his senses forsook him; frequent fainting fits ensued; he clasped her to his bosom, pressed his lips to hers, called on her in the bitterness of his anguish to reappear to him, doubted the reality of her death, till again too fatally convinced of his inevitable loss, he became overwhelmed with grief and despair, and finally sank down overcome by anguish and fatigue. In this state he was found by Vishnu, Brahma, and the other gods, who were not a little astonished at such an exhibition of godlike and intolerable woe. The immortal Vishnu shed tears, and attempted to console him, by telling him that nothing was real in this world, but that every thing was altogether maya, or illusion. Siva, rejecting this consolatory admonition, joined his tears to those of Vishnu; and thus united, they formed a lake, which became a celebrated place of pilgrimage.” At length the beauteous form of Suti reappeared before them, and with a heavenly smile exhorted the now delighted Siva to be comforted, as she had been again born as the daughter of Himavan, the ruler of the mountains, and Mena, and would never more be separated from him. The transitions from the bitterness of insupportable grief to unexpected happiness are at first tumultuous: but exhausted nature soon seeks that soft and halcyon repose, whose charm is throned in the heart, far beyond the sacrilegious reach of either the tongue or the hand of man. I must, therefore, content myself with saying, that after some due preparations, Siva and Suti, as Parvati, were reunited, and appear to have lived as happily together as married folks usually do: that is, sometimes in a state of inexpressible bliss, sometimes in ineffable indifference, and sometimes involved in a matrimonial thunder-cloud, the veil of which we ought not, if we could, to attempt to penetrate. On the first of these occasions they spent their time in heavenly dalliance on Mount Kailasa,”
“Above the stretch of mortal ken,
Sir William Jones's Hymn to Gunga.
Had Siva been content to have remained, like the exemplary benedicts of this thrice felicitous and favoured isle, becomingly at home, and not have wandered abroad at unseasonable hours, things would have gone on between them as they should have done, and the portentous clouds to which I have alluded (which often alarmed even the gods), would not, in all probability, have appeared. But such matters are considered by the rulers of the universe of very slight importance, and both the reader and myself must be satisfied to take them as we actually find them, without adopting the Quixotic undertaking of attempting to make them better.
Before going farther into the life of Parvati, I must observe, on the authority of Mr. Patterson, that when Vishnu beheld Siva dancing about franticly with the deceased form of Suti in his arms, he cut it into fifty-one pieces; which Siva, who still continued in his frenzy, scattered in different parts of the earth. These spots he afterwards ordained to be places of worship, to his own and his energy's peculiar emblems. Daksha, who had been slain by Vira Badra, in consequence of the death of Suti was restored to life, but with the head of a goat, on condition of his adopting the doctrines of Siva.
* The terrestrial abode of Siva and Parvati is the Himalaya mountain.
Mr. Patterson imagines that these circumstances arose from an attempt, on the part of Daksha, to abolish the worship of the emblem of Siva, in which he was unsuccessful.
Parvati had, as the consort of Siva, maternal claims upon Kartikeya, the leader of the celestial armies, and Ganesha, or Ganaputty, the god of wisdom. They were both produced in a very extraordinary manner, as will be seen in the descriptions of them.
Parvati is the goddess of a thousand names; and both her forms and powers are more various and extensive than those of any of the other Hindu deities. She acts sometimes dependant on, at others wholly independant of her husband, Siva.
As Bhavani, she is the goddess of nature and fecundity, and is invoked by women in labour. As Maha Devi, she is “the goddess,” the sacti of the lord of the universe, Mahadeo. As Parvati, she is his constant companion. As Durga, or Katyayini, she is the amazonian champion and potent protectress of the gods, endowed by them severally with their attributes, and wielding in her numerous hands their various instruments of destruction, with which, for their protection, they had armed her. In this character she has been compared to the Olympian Juno, and the Pallas or armed Minerva of the Greeks; but clearly, thus blending in herself the power and divinity of all the gods, of incomparably greater importance than either. As Kali, she is their Diana Taurica, and personifying that black abyss, eternity, by which Kal (or time itself) shall be destroyed (pictured by her trampling upon Siva in that character), she is arrayed in attributes supreme over those of her husband.
Parvati has been described under numerous forms; but as they are only variations of the more important ones, Bhavani, Devi, Durga, and Kali, I shall content myself with noticing those under which she is most generally known.
As Parvati, she is described of a white; as Kali, of a dark blue or black; and as the majestic and tremendous Durga (of whom I shall now treat), of a yellow colour.
In this character she is represented with ten arms. In one hand she holds a spear, with which she is piercing the giant Muhisha; in another, a sword; in a third, the hair of the giant, and the tail of a serpent twined round him; and in others, the trident, the discus, the axe, the club, the arrow, and the shield. One of her knees presses on the body of the giant, and her right foot rests on the back of a lion, which is lacerating his arm. On her head she has a crown richly gemmed, and her dress is magnificently decorated with jewels. The giant is issuing from the body of the buffalo, into which he had transformed himself during his combat with the goddess. (See fig. 1 in the frontispiece.) The plate here given is taken from a cast by a well-known modern artist, Chit Roy, and represents with great precision the figures which are exhibited at the annual celebration of the Durga Puja, or Dusarah. On this occasion the images of her sons, Kartikeya and Ganesha, are also in Bengal usually placed on each side of her, as shewn in the plate. This festival, the most splendid and expensive, as well as the most popular of any of the Hindu festivals, takes place in the month Ashwinu (the end of September or beginning of October). The preliminary ceremonies occupy several days previous to the three days of worship. During the whole of this period all business throughout the country is suspended, and universal pleasure and festivity prevail. On the first of the three days of worship, the ceremony of giving eyes and life to the images takes place, before which they cannot become objects of worship. This is performed by the officiating Brahman touching the cheeks, eyes, breast, and forehead of the image, saying, “Let the soul of Durga long continue in happiness in this image.” Other ceremonies, and the sacrifices of numerous animals, as buffaloes, sheep, goats, &c. then follow. The flesh and the blood of the animals, and other articles, are then offered to the images of the goddess and the other deities which are set up. The ceremonies and sacrifices of the second and third days of the worship