27 June 2009

Role of Siva-Sakti

“In the role of Siva’s sakti, Parvati performs functions, or assumes meanings, which imply an underlying harmony or interdependent relationship between herself and Siva. She is often identified with the force underlying and impelling creation. While Siva remains more or less aloof in the creation of the world. Parvati as sakti is active, pervading the creation as its underlying strength and power. In this active, creative role she is sometimes identified with prakrti (nature), whereas Siva is identified with purusa (pure spirit).

As prakrti, Parvati presents the inherent tendency of nature to express itself in concrete forms and individual beings. In this task, however, whether as sakti or prakrti, it is understand that Parvati either must be set in motion by Siva or must act according to his will, wish, or design. She is not seen as antagonistic to him. Her role as his sakti is almost always interpreted as positive.

Through Parvati, Siva (the Absolute) is able to express himself in creation. Without her he would remain inert, aloof, inactive. Just as in the mythology Parvati is necessary for involving Siva in creation, so as his Sakti she is necessary for his self-expression in creation. It is only in association with her that Siva is able to realize or manifest his full potential. Without Parvati Siva’s great power does not, or cannot, manifest itself in creation. Parvati as sakti not only complements Siva, she completes him.

A variety of images and metaphors are used to express the harmonious interdependence and close identity of Parvati as sakti and Siva as saktiman, the possessor of sakti.

Siva is said to be the male principle throughout creation, Parvati the female principle,
Siva is the sky, Parvati the earth,
Siva is subject, Parvati object,
Siva is the ocean, Parvati the seashore,
Siva is the sun, Parvati, its light,
Parvati is all tastes and smells, Siva the enjoyer of all tastes and smells,
Parvati is the embodiment of all individual souls, Siva the soul itself,
Parvati assumes every form that is worthy to be thought of, Siva thinks of all such forms,
Siva is day, Parvati night,
Parvati is creation, Siva the creator,
Parvati is speech, Siva meaning.

To an even greater extent than the Siva-sakti idea, the androgynous image of Siva and Parvati (Ardhanarisvara) emphasizes that the two deities are absolutely necessary to each other, and only in union can they satisfy each other and fulfill themselves. The image shows a half-male, half-female figure. The right side is Siva and is adorned with his ornaments, the left side is Parvati and adorned with her ornaments. God in this unification of the opposites; is both; male and female, both father and mother, both aloof and active, and both fearsome and gentle.”

[With thanks to David Kinsley]

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