Once the goddess Parvati wanted to become beautiful, more beautiful, most beautiful. She was already quite beautiful, but her present beauty did not satisfy her. She wanted to become beauty non pareil.
Parvati knew that this kind of beauty could be acquired only by virtue of intense prayer and meditation. She decided to leave her husband, Shiva, and go into seclusion so that she could practise spiritual disciplines without interruption.
Before leaving, she asked Nandi not to allow any woman who looked like her to enter Lord Shiva’s place. She said, “Many times my Lord has been deceived by women who take my form and try to approach him. You have to be absolutely sure that it is I who have returned, and nobody else. Otherwise, I am sure that in my absence some women will try to fool you.”
After issuing her strict instructions, Parvati withdrew into the forest for an indefinite length of time. All her jewellery and lovely garments she left behind so that she could give her full attention to prayer and meditation.
A few months later, an asura or demon, who happened to pass by Shiva’s place, noticed the gigantic gates outside it. The demon asked one of the guards, “Whose place is this?”
“It is Lord Shiva’s place,” the guard replied.
“I would like to be admitted,” said the demon haughtily.
“It is absolutely forbidden,” said the guard. “I have received special instructions from Parvati and nobody may be admitted.”
Outwardly the demon pretended to be detached. “All right,” he said, “if you do not allow people to enter, what can I do?”
Inwardly he was seething with rage. He went home and came back to the gate a few days later. This time he took the form of a tiny creature. It was something like a snake. Because this creature was so tiny, it was able to pass through the gate unnoticed by the guards. It was almost invisible to the eye. Once it was inside Shiva’s home, the creature assumed the form of Parvati. She was beautiful beyond description.
When Shiva saw his wife standing before him, he was filled with joy. He came forward to embrace her but, as he put his arms around the false Parvati, the demon suddenly resumed its old form. The demon attacked Shiva and a terrible fight took place.
Eventually Shiva gained the upper hand and the demon lay dying on the ground. With his last breath, the demon said to Shiva, “You have killed me, but I am warning you. One day my brother will come and kill you. He will take Parvati’s form and kill you. He is much stronger than I am.”
It was well known that this demon did not have a brother. His threat was all lies. He wanted Shiva to destroy the real Parvati when she returned from the forest.
The problem of the false Parvatis went on for many, many years. Just as Parvati had foreseen other beings took her form and tried to fool the guards. Sometimes the guards refused to admit them and, at other times, when they were able to enter successfully, Shiva recognised them. Shiva did not want to be fooled a second time.
After a long time, one Parvati came and requested admittance. She behaved so much like the real Parvati that the guards opened the gate. She entered and started walking towards Shiva. Shiva immediately suspected her. “O God,” he sighed, “another one has come to fool me.”
Shiva prepared to defend himself once again. This time, from his body, countless beings emerged to destroy the false Parvati. But to Shiva’s great surprise, countless beings also emerged from the body of this particular Parvati. A huge battle raged between the two sides.
As Shiva gazed at the many beings who were fighting for Parvati, he realised that only the real Parvati could have this kind of spiritual power.
“You are my real Parvati!” he cried, throwing down his weapons. Shiva advanced towards her. As he came nearer, he noticed that his wife was now much, much more beautiful than she had been previously. Because she had prayed and meditated for so many years, she had become beauty unparalleled.
Can you imagine, a divine cosmic goddess, a supreme goddess, dying for beauty! It is no wonder that all women crave beauty at every second of their lives. It all started with our supreme goddess, Parvati.