Couple conversations

May 13, 2012, 07:10 IST | Devdutt Pattanaik

In her role as wife, Shakti asks Shiva many questions. She forces him to break his silence and reveal his wisdom.

In her role as wife, Shakti asks Shiva many questions. She forces him to break his silence and reveal his wisdom. Many Hindu scriptures take the form of conversations of Shakti and Shiva. It is said that the Ramayana, written by the sage Valmiki, was narrated to Valmiki first by the sage Narada, who heard it from the bull Nandi, who overheard the conversation of Shakti and Shiva. The Yakshas overheard the conversations of Shakti and Shiva and transmitted it in the form of Brihad-Katha-Sagar, the ocean of stories, the fountainhead of all fables that entertain children through the ages, throughout the world.

Illustration/ Devdutt Pattanaik

Once a fish overheard the conversation of Shiva and Parvati. The wisdom enabled him to break free from his animal form and be reborn as a human. He became known as Matsyendra-nath. He taught the Tantras to his students, the Naths and the Siddhas. That is why the Tantras are often written in the form of Shiva-Shakti conversations.

The Tantras are sometimes known as Agamas to differentiate them from the Vedas, which are known as Nigamas. The difference between Agamas and Nigamas is that Agamas focus on the worship of a deity with form, ie saguna brahman, while Nigamas focus on the worship of a formless deity, nirguna brahman. Agamas tend to be more exoteric and celebrate the tangible while Nigamas are esoteric and celebrate the intangible. Agamas give greater value to the emotions that are provoked by the ritual while Nigamas give greater value to the intellectual decoding of the ritual. Agamas approach Prakriti first and then Purusha while Nigamas approach Purusha first and then Prakriti. In Tantras, Goddess is Shakti or power, to be sought, while in Vedas, Goddess is Maya, delusion, to be transcended.

But often Shiva does not appreciate the inadequacies and limitations of humanity. They do not have the same capacity and capability as he does. It is in human nature to get bored and restless. Humans struggle to keep their attention still and focused. Often Shakti yawns when Shiva is speaking. This makes him angry. And he loses his temper and turns away from the Goddess, leaving the icy peaks of Kailasa and hiding in the Daruka vana, or the pine-wood forest. The Goddess then has to woo him back, sometimes by taking the form of seductive Kirata, or tribal woman.

Sometimes Shiva curses Shakti when she displays signs of indifference. Once, he curses her to be born on earth as a fisherwoman. He regrets the curse almost immediately. To bring her back, he takes the form of a fisherman and wins her hand by earning her admiration by catching a fish in the sea, a dangerous shark that threatens the livelihood of the fisherfolk.

Shakti teaches Bholenath to be more patient with human beings. Imagination has other uses besides introspection and wisdom. It allows for fun. And so, together, the divine couple create games and dolls that help humanity pass the time. This is why the festivals of the Goddess, such as Diwali and Dussera, are associated with board games and dolls. Shiva looks at games and dolls with disdain; he equates it with the rattle-drum that entertains and distracts the monkey-mind. But Shakti sees this as an invaluable tool to help humanity cope with life.

Extracted from 7 secrets of Shiva, published by Westland India 

The author is Chief Belief Officer of the Future Group, and can be reached at

The views expressed in this column are the individual’s and don’t represent those of the paper. 

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