“Lord Shiva is so great that he does not care for the material prosperity for which every one of us is so eager. Parvati, who is the powerful material nature personified, is under his full control as his wife, yet he does not use her even to build a residential house. He prefers to remain without shelter, and his great wife also agrees to live with him humbly.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Shrimad Bhagavatam, 3.14.26 Purport)
The material world is complicated. Everything came to be from an origin; there is no denying that. Everything has a beginning. We know that things don’t magically appear. The Vedic story is that there is this unmanifest material substance, known as pradhana. It gets a spiritual injection, from purusha, and then gradually develops.
“Consciousness is represented by intelligence, of which the unmanifested stage is the three modes of material nature. The unmanifested three modes of material nature is called pradhana.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Bhagavad-gita, 13.6-7 Purport)
Even that development is infinitely complicated. Proof is in the existence of many branches of science, which continue to expand in research. There is never complete knowledge, because man cannot fathom the full complexity of the creation.
Two individuals, working in concert, manage this wonderfully amazing creation. Husband and wife, one acts as the destroyer and the other as the energy itself, the potency. Mahadeva, the great god, is also in charge of the material mode of ignorance. He is a guna-avatara, or incarnation of a material quality. He is close to the original source of everything.
Parvati is his suitable wife. Since the material creation she manages is like a fort that is difficult to overcome, one of her many other names is Durga. She carries a trident in her hand, symbolizing the three sources of misery. She pokes that trident into the asuras, or the people who are against God.
For the devotees, Parvati and Shiva are very favorable. Indeed, Parvati is the most fit wife for Shiva, who is otherwise like an ascetic.
1. Sati in her previous life
Eka patni vrata. Mahadeva has a vow to take only one wife. According to the timeline of creation, the first wife is Sati. Her very name means “chaste.” She is the daughter of Daksha, who is one of the progenitors of man.
Daksha does not like Mahadeva, and Sati made the mistake of one time visiting her father against her husband’s wishes. So hurt by seeing her husband insulted by her father, Sati entered the fire to end her life.
In the next life Sati was born as Parvati, the daughter of the mountain king. It was in Parvati’s destiny to marry Mahadeva. Thus the vow is not broken. Lord Shiva does indeed have only one wife.
2. Follows her guru
The guru is the spiritual master. A good disciple will follow instructions regardless of personal sentiment or objection. This is the meaning to full trust. Obviously, this extension of faith is only beneficial if the guru is bona fide, i.e. they are fit for evaluating disciples and understanding what is best for them.
Mahadeva’s guru is the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Vishnu. Mahadeva is a guru himself, who teaches devotion to Vishnu. Parvati is the ideal wife to him since she follows her guru without hesitation. Narada Muni one time visited the mountain king’s home and informed him that Parvati was in the future to be married to Shiva.
Parvati took those words as seriously as a person can. She would either take Shiva as her husband or not get married at all. She was tested in this vow by Shiva’s attendants, who offered her Vishnu as a husband. She politely declined, referencing the words of her guru Narada.
3. Undergoes tremendous austerities
Mahadeva’s appearance is atypical. He smears ashes on his body. He has a snake for a garland. He has poison in his throat. He hangs around crematoriums. Indeed, in Vedic literature there are sometimes jokes made at his expense regarding these oddities.
But don’t let the appearance fool you. Mahadeva is the greatest ascetic. He does not need anything to survive. His desire is to simply meditate on his Vishnu form of choice, Shri Rama. He only gets married at the insistence of God Himself.
Parvati also underwent tremendous austerities. She did this to become worthy of marrying Mahadeva. Thus husband and wife are equally renounced. They are a perfect match.
4. Is an eager listener
The bad guys are enamored by Mahadeva’s power. The materialists know that he is Ashutosha, which means “easily pleased.” If you want material benedictions, Mahadeva can grant them, requiring little effort on the part of the worshiper. Those interested in destroying understand that Shiva has the power to destroy the entire creation.
Yet Parvati’s husband carries something much more important with him: the story of Shri Rama, an incarnation of Vishnu who appears on earth every now and then. The accounts of that appearance are immortalized in the Sanskrit epic known as the Ramayana, which is written by Maharishi Valmiki.
Since God’s pastimes are endless, others have their own recollections. Lord Shiva has a version that he generally keeps to himself. He does not share it with just anyone. Parvati is the suitable wife since she is eager to listen. She is a kind of catalyst for the telling of the story of Rama. Goswami Tulsidas refers to Shiva’s story as a holy lake consisting of Rama’s acts, or the Ramacharitamanasa.
Not attached, renounced in life,
Making Parvati the suitable wife.
For Mahadeva, he with ashes to smear,
Though odd look, to Vishnu most dear.
Devi following faithfully guru’s word,
Believed in future that from him heard.
To Shiva to belong and to no other,
Perfect pair, universe’s father and mother.