As a kid I always suspected that the marriage events that unfolded in front of me were not the end of the story. A big hall full of people, everyone laughing and happy, good food and music, the marriages I witnessed were elaborate grand parties. The fairy tales I read seemed to concur with that mood. The girl and the guy coming together was the final act. It was happily ever after. It somehow did not seem complete to me and I unconsciously pushed the marriage parties into the category of fancy fairy tales. (And like I do while watching movies, I shed a tear even today when the groom ties the Mangal sutra on the bride’s neck)
Of course, now I know, a wedding is only the start of a long journey called marriage, difficult at times, easy at times, a life long learning nevertheless.
Which is why I chuckled, as I read in Siva Purana, the conditions Shiva lays out for getting married. “She should never doubt me”, he says, “If she doubts me even for one moment, I will abandon her”.
“She must be a Yogini when I am a Yogin, an ardent wife when I am a Grihasta (householder). When I am absorbed in my Atman, she will be damned if she distracts me”.
The legend goes that Shiva, the eternal ascetic, the ultimate yogi,was lost in his meditation and the world was suffering. For the Universe to function smoothly, he needed to be active. And for action, he needed Shakthi, the female energy. So Devas request Shakthi to be born as Daksha’s daughter and marry Shiva. She agrees. Once that is taken care of, they go and coax Shiva to take a wife. That is when Shiva lays out his conditions. “Find me a woman who will satisfy these two conditions”. They bring Sati, who is Shakthi now born as Daksha’s daughter, to him.
The good thing about Hindu legends, as I have discovered lately, is that for any story you can get the version of all parties involved. If Siva Purana tells the stories from Shiva’s perspective, there is Bhagavatam that tells them from Vishnu’s perspective and Devi Bhagavatam from Shakthi’s perspective.
Devi Bhagavatam gives a glimpse of what Shakthi thought of this match making. She agrees to be born as a princess and marry Shiva. But then she has a condition too. She will not have them, the Devas and others who were requesting her to take human birth and marry Shiva, insult her. If she is insulted, she will disown them and go back to her divine form.
Back to the story. Once Shiva sees Shakthi, who is now Daksha’s daughter Sati, he forgets all conditions and rushes into marrying her. What I mean by that is, I didn’t see any mention of he telling her about his conditions; nor her. Some days pass and they have the happiest days a couple can have together. One day they come across Rama, pining for his wife Sita who has been abducted by demon king Ravana. (Yes, the timelines are confusing). Sati asks Shiva who it is and Shiva explains that Rama is a human incarnate Of Vishnu. She doesn’t believe him. “Does she doubt me”, Shiva frowns. He asks her to check it out herself. Shiva doesn’t say anything more, but the unraveling begins.
Then comes the beginning of the end when Sati’s father Daksha organizes a Yagna and does not invite Shiva and Sati. By this time he Daksha has grown powerful and doesn’t regard Shiva as a primary God anymore. Sati is baffled. She cannot fathom why her father would miss calling her, his favorite daughter. She decides to go. Shiva tries to stop her, explaining that Daksha does not respect Him any more and she will not be welcome in his house. Sati refuses to believe; again. “He is my father”, she says, “I don’t need an invitation to go to my house”. Sati goes to the Yagna. Daksha is visibly unhappy and does not greet her. He insults Shiva calling Shiva a naked, skull-carrying king of Bhutas and Pramathas; inauspicious.
And then and there, all conditions fall through. Shiva has been doubted by Sati and Sati has been insulted. Sati immolates herself. Shiva is now furious. He has lost the women he loved; the one whom he loved like never before and would love never after. With his lurid dance of Rudra Tandava He destroys Daksha and all the Yagna. He then carries Sati’s lifeless body and roams around the world, desolate and inconsolable. Tragic end to a passionate love story.
It may seem like even divine marriages are not conflict proof.
But then what are legends but a reinforcement of human archetypes!
As Gary Zukav says, in his book, “The Seat of the Soul”, a human archetype is a collective human idea. Something that we constructed to help with our evolution and sustenance as a species. An idea strengthened by generations of belief and practice and hence an unconscious part of our being.
When Shiva and Shakthi decided to come together in marriage as Shiva and Sati, they were essentially entering the human archetype of marriage. Why else would they both lay down such conditions?! Isn’t doubt part of communication between any two independent thinking individuals? Doubt starts with Ego but in an open minded individual results in expansion of consciousness and knowledge. Similarly why would Sati make a big deal about insult? Insult matters only when your definition of self is limited to what others say. Definitely, the all pervading Shakthi is much bigger than that!
So when Gods enter the human archetypes, they fall, they flounder, they find their way through, all the while revealing the flaws and weak points in those archetypes, may be, with hopes that we would question those flaws and evolve further.
If Gary Zukav is to be believed, the story of marriage is being rewritten. It will be interesting to see what legends we will be telling 100 years from now.