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purAnA-s and the sibling ideal- Part 2

From: sudarshan (
Date: Sat Sep 26 1998 - 08:42:27 PDT

Dear bhAgavatOttamA-s,

We have all heard the common quip "marriages are made in heaven" but how
many of us also know that "broken marriages too are mended in heaven" ?! 

If we are to learn how we have to turn to "purAni-c" lore. 

So let's now follow a quaint little story....

At its end we will be also be rewarded with the savour of ancient wisdom...
the wisdom of our forbears, of their lofty but simple instructions for
right living and ...of their under-stated but wholesome good-humour too. 

It is indeed wisdom and good-humour in life too that surely enables us to
understand what it takes to be an "ideal brother or sister" and, as a
valuable aside, what it takes to rein in and steady a marriage threatening
to fly off the handle.

The "purAnA" begins by telling us that once upon a time Lord Parameshwara
and His consort Parvati in Kailasa, decided to stage a farce between
themselves in order to impart important lessons in "stri-purusha-dharma" to
all humanity. In other words they decided to enact a private three-act play
with the aim of driving home some lessons on "marriage and morals". 

In Act 1 Scene 1 the Lord of Kailasa and his Consort began by playing dice
for stakes.

As it quite commonly happens in such games, in one particular round both
lay vociferous claim to victory and attempted to grab the sweepstakes.

Parvati got carried away a bit and quite uncharacteristically began to
gloat over how easily she could vanquish her husband, the Lord of the Three
Worlds, in any game of skill or chance.

The "purAnA" at this point in the story barely conceals Siva's poor
sportsmanship and the narrative  naturally leads one to imagine that the
Lord's typically bloated male ego received a vicious little prick from
Parvati who on her part (typically again perhaps) derived the immense
feminine delight which universally overcomes wives the moment they see they
have got the better of their better-half.

Quite characteristically Lord Siva too lost no time in losing His famous
temper and cast a virulent curse on his errant spouse:

"Ye insolent woman!", thundered Rudra, "May you be born a forsaken cow on
earth! And may you be accursed to wander around the land like a derelict!"

Poor Parvati, the Goddess Mahasakti, thus submissively descended into the
world of mortals to lead an abjectly bovine existence....

We must pause here in the "purAni-c" story and reflect a bit on the
following :

(1) The present story is clearly another "purAni-c" illustration of the
undercurrent of strain that sporadically but very bitterly surfaced in the
relations between the Lord of Kailasa and His Spouse. If we understand that
Siva and Parvati each symbolize the mutually antagonistic Principles of
Cosmic Destruction and Sustenance respectively, it won't be difficult to
understand why the two often behaved like many warring couples do in the
present day.

(In sharp contrast, if you did a quick survey of the "purAnA-s", you would
hardly come across an instance when Lord Narayana and His Consorts, Sri and
Boomi Devi "pirAttiyAr-s", got into any serious conjugal loggerheads with
each other. That's because their respective and essential nature -- i.e.
"guNa" as it is called in Sanskrit -- was the same, mutually compatible and
utterly harmonious : all three of them symbolized various aspects of the
Cosmic Principle of Sustenance manifested as Compassion, Compassion and
more Compassion.)
In the real world, wise indeed is the wedded couple that is fully aware of
or prepared to accept mutual differences, if any, of disposition,
perception and inclination and has learnt to competently deal with them
.... well before they surface, as in the case of Parameshwara and Parvati,
in not infrequent bouts of marital tantrum and pique.

(2) A marriage where man and/or wife believes each has something of a
personal "stake" in it --- be it in terms of individual gratification,
social aspiration or some such other thing as money, status or emotional
security --- such a marriage where "personal stakes" are involved is likely
to make partners as self-willed, ill-tempered and unpredictable as Siva and
Parvati portrayed themselves to be in their little theatrical game

(3) Even the gods, like Siva and Parvati, oftentimes found the going tough
in a marriage! The journey aboard the marital raft of life is not always
smooth sailing..... If the great Lord of Kailasa and Parvati themselves
experienced "rough weather" in their "dAmpatyam" (conjugal bond) would we
lesser mortals be ever exempt? 

The "purAnic" story then quickly moves on Act 1, Scene 2....

We will pick it up in my next post.