Shiva Maha Purana
There was an asura (demon) named Tara. Tara’s son was Taraka.
Taraka wished to defeat the gods. He therefore went to a place named Madhuvana and began to perform very difficult tapasya. He gazed at the sun and stood there with his arms raised. He stood on one leg and that too, only on the toes of his feet. A hundred years passed. For those hundred years, Taraka drank only water and had no food to eat. For the next hundreds, he gave up that also and lived only on air. A hundred years were spent in performing tapasya inside water, another hundred years on earth and a hundred years more inside fire. For a hundred years he performed tapasya upside down, standing on his hands. And for yet another hundred years, he hung upside down from the branches of a tree.
The meditation was so difficult that Brahma was pleased. He appeared before Tarakasura and said, I am pleased with your tapasya. What boon do you want?
If you are pleased, replied Tarakasura, grant me two boons. The first boon should be that no one created by you should be as strong as me. The second boon should be that I should be killed only by Shiva’s son.
Shiva at that point of time had no sons. Sati had died and although she had been reborn as Parvati, she had not been married to Shiva.
Brahma granted Tarakasura the two boons. The demon went to a city named Shonitapura and began to live there. All the other demons made Tarakasura their king. Thanks to the boon. Tarakasura was so strong tha the easily defeated the gods. He conquered the three worlds and drove the gods out of heaven. He stole all their belongings and employed the gods as his servants.
The despondent gods went to Brahma and asked him to find a solution to the Tarakasura problem.
I can’t, said Brahma. It is because of my boon that the demon has become so powerful. Besides, my boon says that Tarakasura can only be killed by Shiva’s son. Shiva has got to have a son. He is now performing tapasya in the Himalaya mountains. Parvati is also in that region. Do something so that these two fall in love with each other and marry.
The Burning of the God of Love
The gods decided to follow Brahma’s advice. But how could it be ensured that Shiva and Parvati fell in love with each other? The king of the gods was Indra and the god of love was Kandarpa or Madana.
Indra summoned Kandarpa. You have to help us, said Indra. There is no other way out. Shiva is performing tapasya in the Himalayas. Parvati is also in the region. Make sure that the two fall in love. That is your job.
Kandarpa went to the place where Shiva was meditating. And as soon as the god of love appeared, the place took on the traits of a spring which was pernnial. Flowers bloomed and bees buzzed among the flowes. Cuckoos sang and fragant breezes started to waft throught the forest. Shiva tried to concentrate on his meditation. But he kept getting distracted.
While all this was going on, who should arrive there but Parvati? She was so beautiful that Shiva was smitten with love for her. Parvati also seemed to like Shiva.
But life is never simple. Shiva was, after all, Shiva. He realized that something was wrong. How could his meditation have been disturbed? How was it that the season seemed to be spring although it had no business to be spring? When Shiva glanced around, his eyes fell on Kandarpa who was hiding. He realized that it was Kandarpa who was responsible for all this mischief.
Shiva was angered. He had a third eye in the middle of his forehead. From this third eye flames sprouted and these flames burnt Kandarpa to ashes.
Kandarpa’s wife was Rati. When Rati saw that her husband had been burnt to ashes, her grief knew no bounds. At first she lost consciousness. When she recovered, she lamented, Woe is me. What is going to happen to me? My husband, my love, where have you gone?
The gods and Rati sought out Shiva. They explained that it had been no fault of Kandarpa’s. He had been asked to disturb Shiva’s tapasya because of the Tarakasua problem. What would happen to Rati now?
Shiva replied, What has happened has happened. Nothing can be done about kandarpa now. He will eventually be born in the city of Dvaraka as Krishna’s son Pradyumna. Rati will then be reuntied with Kandarpa. But till such time, let her simply wait.
The gods dispersed, still despondent. The matter of Shiva and Parvati’s marriage had not progressed at all.
But Parvati had fallen in love with Shiva and she didn’t know what she could do about it. She thought of Shiva all the time.
One day the sage Narada came and told her, Shiva is only pleased with tapasya. Without tapasya, even Brahma and the other gods do not get to see Shiva. Why don’t you perform tapasya?
Parvati decided to do what Narada had asked her to. She asked her parents for permission. Her father agreed with alacrity. Although her mother Menaka was not at all keen that Parvati should perform difficult tapasya, she too eventually agreed.
Parvati gave up her jewellery and handsome clothes. She wore deerskin instead. There is a peak in the Himalayas known as Gouriskikhara. It is there that Parvati went for her tapasy. The meditation was very difficult. During the monsson Parvati meditated while seated on the ground. In the winter she mediated under the water. Wild beats dared not harm her. All the gods and sages assembled to see this wonderful tapasya. The gods and the sages also began to pray to Shiva. Lord, can’t you see that Parvati is performing difficult tapasya? They asked. No one has meditated like this before. No one will meditate like this in the future. Please grant her what she wants.
Shiva adopted the form of an old brahmana (the first of the four classes) and appeared at Parvati’s hermitage. Parvati welcomed the old man and worshipped him with flowers and fruits.
Why are you meditating? asked the brahmana. What is it that you want?
I wish to have Shiva as a husband, replied Parvati.
You are indeed stupid. Said the brahmana. That is like giving up gold for a piece of glass or giving sandalwood for mud. Does anyone give up the water of the Ganga and drink water from a well instead? Marry one of the gods instead, go and marry Indra. Shiva is a stupid fellow. He has three eyes and five faces. His hair is matted and his body is smeared with ashes. He wears snakes as garlands. He is always accompanied by ghosts, He has no clothes and no wealth. No one knows who his parent are. He live sin the forst and his throat is blue with poison. I think you are making a big mistake. Forget about Shiva and don’t waste your life.
The brahmana’s words angered Parvati. It is you who are stupid, she said. You don’t know a thing about Shiva. He is the lord of everthing. You have insulted Shiva and cursed am I that I made the mistake of worshipping you. You are again going to say something nasty about Shiva. But before you can do that, let me go away. I shall not stay to hear Shiva insulted.
As Parfati was about to depart, Shiva adopted his own form and said, Where are you going? I thought that you were praying for me. You can’t forsake me now. I am not going to let you go. Ask for a boon.
Please marry me according to the prescribed rites, replied Parvati.
Shiva agreed and Parvati returned home.