The Unconventional Groom

Author: Jiten Damudre.

The sight of Shiva riding a bull, his mount Nandi, smeared in ashes, bedecked with a garland of skulls, smoking a pot, and a mere tiger skin as a loin cloth for his wedding, left Parvati’s parents Himavat and Mena in a state of shock and embarrassment.

Mena – Parvati’s mother, was in such a state of panic, that she fainted; while her father, the King of Himalayan ranges Himavat stood dumb-struck. Not in their wildest imagination, would they have imagined such a wedding, where their bridegroom Shiva, would have been dressed unconventionally. To add to his surprise, Shiva was accompanied by dogs, ghosts and various other beings from the crematorium, along with Vishnu and Lakshmi, Brahma and Saraswati, Narad, Indra and Indrani and other gods and goddesses. All these beings are Shiva’s companions, His friends and followers.

Parvati quickly rushed to her parent’s rescue. She wasn’t shocked at all; in fact, she seemed perfectly okay and smiled whilst looking at Shiva, who was chuckling! Maybe he was trying to elicit a reaction from Parvati but He failed – or perhaps realised that He was caught; Parvati did not fall for his trick. This was a love marriage, where the girl had gone against the wishes of her parents to marry a man who was not only considered an outcast, but also showed no interest in material accumulation, or engagement with the world. Parvati by Her own devotion and perseverance, not only won Shiva’s heart but convinced Him to marry Her in a traditional way in the norm of the world. Parvati in a non-verbal way communicates with Shiva, saying: “You have shown everyone how disengaged you are with the world; that caste, status, and material gains don’t matter, neither does flesh (human body), for it has to die someday, hence constantly reminding the world by smearing yourself with the ashes from the crematorium.”

Statue of Shiva in the lotus position at Murudeshwar

The soul is the one that makes the journey across time, hence keeping company with ghosts and the outcasts whom the world doesn’t see, or refuses to see. I understand it all Shiva, but the world doesn’t, so, shed this form. Shiva then, takes a form of Kalyansundra (Kalyan=wedding, sundara=beautiful), He dresses in fine silk and gold, His fair skin is as radiant as a camphor (karpurgauram), He is bedecked in a beautiful fragrant garland, He adorns a crescent moon on His beautiful gold crown. He is now called Somasundara (Soma=Moon, Sundara=beautiful). His companions are dressed in fine linens too! Brahma is the presiding Priest at the wedding and Vishnu presents Himself as Parvati’s brother giving away His sister, Parvati’s hand in marriage to Shiva. The celestial wedding is thus accomplished.

Oleograph by Raja Ravi Varma depicting a Shiva-centric Panchayatana. A bearded Shiva sits in the centre with his wife Parvati and their infant son Ganesha; surrounded by (clockwise from left upper corner) Ganesha, Devi, Vishnu and Surya. Shiva’s mount is the bull Nandi below Shiva. (Wikipedia)

Much like Shiva’s wedding there are many who face similar issues before being married. Much like Parvati one of the couple or both need to be dedicated and respectful to each other. Many like Shiva might face various struggles of casteism or financial status or societal status. Many are judged for the company they keep, and most shall are judged for the way they appear. All of us forget that appearances are an illusion that may change. Much like Shiva, who is smeared in ashes and dressed in a loin cloth, all of them have an innate ability to become Somasundara. Parvati was aware of the man that She was marrying. She married Him for love, leaving Her palaces and comforts behind. Her new home is going to be Kailash, the Mountain which is rough and wild,yet safe and secure, where there is no predator or prey, each of them have outgrown their hunger in all aspects of physical, mental and social existence.

Meanwhile, while you are researching and seeking your own help, here are couple of things that you could do to help convince your parents of your inter-caste love:

* Speak to your parents at correct moment, avoid when situations are tense.
* Speak your heart out, talk about qualities you admire in your partner, what made you fall in love.
* Quote various successful intercaste marriages which are successful.
* Seek support from your cousins, friends or other family members when you are discussing your marriage.
* Suggest your parents to meet your partner, try not to be judgemental and decide without any pressure.
* Mention to your parent in your conversations, about your awareness regarding various challenges and sacrifices you might have to make to make your marriage successful.

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