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Parvati, Divine Mother and Great Goddess of Femininity

 Parvati is the wife of Shiva, one of the supreme Hindu gods of the Trimurti.  Technically, she is Shiva’s second wife, after his first wife (Daskha) was insulted by her husband, tired of him spending all of his time meditating, and threw herself into a fire.  Parvati, who was once part of Shiva as the World Soul in another existence (as Sati), passed Shiva’s test of putting others above herself and won the prize of being his wife.

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Parvati Statues

The Hindu goddess Parvati and her husband Shiva are said to live in the Tibet region, a mountainous retreat.  Of the two in this divine couple, however, it is Parvati that has shown humans the path back to God through continual loving meditation and self-sacrificing.  Her willingness to help a screaming child in need, rather than to pursue her dream of marrying Shiva by standing still on the lotus feet of his statue, proved to Shiva–and her devotees–that self-sacrifice is part of perfecting the soul.

Parvati is the mother of Ganesha and Skanda (called Murugan in South India).  She is also a mild form of Mahadevi Shakti, and together Parvati’s family is said to include Nandi the Bull.  Although some of the myths regarding her children vary, it is clear that Parvati is a loving mother, full of compassion, especially for children.

Sculptures of Parvati depict this Hindu goddess as extremely beautiful–a beauty which caught Shivas attention as well.  She is often associated with flowers and some regard her or worship statues of Parvati as the Divine Mother.  Parvati is known by more than a hundred other names (arguably closer to one thousand names, according to others), some which are regional and others that refer to different incarnations of the Divine Mother or personalities associated with the Hindu goddess.  Some of the more popular names include Uma and Aparna.

Though known early on as a dark-skinned goddess, it is said that Shiva preferred lighter skin, and Parvati journeyed to obtain this lighter skin.  Statues of Parvati that are colored may show either tone.   Because of Parvati’s close ties with Shiva, many Parvati statues are actually dual sculptures of Shiva, which show both male and female unified into one statue.  Parvati is the ultimate balance of male forces for the supreme Hindu god, applying her feminine characteristics to keep the world right.

Many depictions of Parvati today, whether in art or sculpture, tend to be generic.  Parvati is commonly referred to as simply Shakti, or the great goddess.  Therefore, some of her statues are seemingly nondescript, although most include the lotus flower and at least one child.  In statues of Parvati that are focused on her beauty, she will be crafted with large, open eyes, bare breasts, and wearing a sacred thread.  In some rare sculptures of Parvati, she is shown with a third eye or draped in a white cloth symbolizing her divine all-knowing nature.  More telling than her clothes or her embellishments are her particular hand gestures (mudras), which often show fearlessness, beneficence, or devotion. 

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