Burning of the God of Love The gods decided to follow Brahma'sadvice. 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'swife 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'stapasya 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'sson 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'smarriage had not progressed at all. Parvati's Tapasya But Parvati had fallen in love with Shiva and she didn'tknow 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'tyou 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'tyou 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'shermitage. 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'twaste your life. The brahmana'swords angered Parvati. It is you who are stupid, she said. You don'tknow 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'tforsake 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. The Marriage Shiva called the seven great sages (saptarshis) and asked them to go to Himalaya as his messengers. The message was that he wished to marry Himalaya'sdaughter Parvati. Himalaya was delighted to see the sages and even more delighted to learn that Shiva wanted to marry Parvati. A date was fixed for the marriage. The day of the marriage dawned. Gandharvas (singers of heaven) sang and apsara (dancers of heaven) danced. All the gods came to Kailasa to accompany Shiva on the procession. Himalaya had also got ready. He had built many gates in front of his house and had placed flags on them. The beauty of Himalaya'sresidence at that time is impossible to describe. When the procession arrived at the residence, Parvati'smother Menaka rushed out. Let me see Shiva, she exclaimed. Let me see my son-in-law. My daughter Parvati has performed tapasya to obtain Shiva as a husband. He must be exceedingly handsome.The first person Menaka saw was Vishvavasu, the king of the gandharvas. Vishvavasu was very handsome and, at first, Menaka thought that this was Shiva. But when she was told that this was only a singer who entertained Shiva, she thought that Shiva would be more handsome. Then her eyes fell down on the handsome Kubera, the god of wealth, and she thought that this had to be Shiva. Kubera was more attractive than Vishvavasu. But Menaka was told that this was not Shiva either. Then came Varuna, more attractive than Kubera. But this was not Menaka'sson-in-law. Nor was her son-in-law the great god Yama, handsomer than Varuna. The handsome gods Indra, Surya and Chandra passed by. But Narada told Menaka that these were not Shiva, they were simply Shiva'sservants.Menaka'sjoy knew no bounds. If these were the servants, what was the master going to be like? She mistook Brahma, Vishnu and Brihaspati for Shiva, and each time Narada told her that she was wrong. Where then was Shiva? Finally Shiva came and Narada pointed him out to Menaka. At the sight of her son-in-law, Menaka fell unconscious.Shiva was surrounded by ghosts on all sides. The faces were fierce, their complexions were dark and they made a tremendous racket. Shiva himself rode on bull. He had three eyes, five faces and ten arms. He was smeared with ashes and the moon adorned his forehead. He was dressed in a tiger's skin and a garland of skulls hung around his neck. No wonder Menaka fainted.When she recovered, she began to lament. She scolded Himalaya, Narada and Parvati for her misfortune. Brahma, the other gods, and the sages tried to pacify Menaka. But to no avail. I will not permit my daughter to be married to Shiva, Menaka said. I will give her poison instead. I will throw her into a well and kill her. I will chop her up into pieces with a weapon. I will hurl her into the sea. I will kill myself. I will get Parvati married to someone else. Not to Shiva.Parvit resolved, I shall not marry anyone other than Shiva. Is a jackal a fit replacement for a lion?Vishnu then tried to pacify Menaka. But this did not succeed either. Fianlly Narada asked Shiva to display his beautiful form and Shiva obliged. This form is exhibited only to those who are very faithful to Shiva. Everyone was charmed by this beautiful form, even Menaka. His body shone like a thousand suns and a crown sparkled on his head. His clothes glittered and the lustre of his jewels put the stars to shame.Menaka begged forgiveness for her foolishness and now there were no further obstacles to the marriage. Under Brahma'ssupervision, the marriage ceremony took place and Shiva and Parvati returned to Kailasa.