Letter 39

(39) UMA
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26th February, 1946
Before I started writing these letters, a devotee while talking about the Puranas one morning asked of Bhagavan as to how Parvati got the name of Uma. Looking at me, Bhagavan said, “There is a copy of Arunachala Purana in Telugu in the library. Is it there?” “Yes, it is in the library; shall I bring it?” I asked. “Yes, yes!” he said. Immediately, I brought the book from the library and gave it to him.

Opening it, Bhagavan said, “Here is the story. Sati Devi, the wife of Siva and the daughter of Daksha, gave up her life as she was insulted by her father during the yajna performed by him. She was subsequently born to Himavantha and Menaka. She wanted only Lord Siva as her husband, and to achieve that purpose she set out for doing tapas. Menaka, while trying to prevent her from doing tapas, said, ‘U (no), Ma (give up)’. That is how she got the name of Uma.” After reading that out, he gave me the book. While I was turning over the pages, Bhagavan was laughing quietly. I could not make out the reason. After a while, Bhagavan himself told us the following: “Look! There is another story to it. Parvati started out for tapas, even though Menaka tried her best to dissuade her. Finding dissuasion of no use, Himavantha took her (Parvati) to the tapovana (hermitage) where Siva was staying in the form of Dakshinamurthy and said. ‘This little child of mine wants to do tapas. Please allow her to be under your care.’ Seeing Parvati, Siva said, ‘Why tapas at this tender age? Why does she not go home with her father?’ Parvati said, ‘No, I won’t go.’ Parameswara tried to dissuade her skilfully by saying, ‘I have conquered prakriti (nature) and so could concentrate on this tapas. If you are to be here, you will be exposed to the ravages of prakriti. So please go back.’ Parvati was equally skilful; so she said, ‘Oh Lord! You say you have conquered prakriti. Without some relationship with prakriti how could you do tapas? You have just spoken. How could you do that without prakriti? How could you walk? Without your knowing it prakriti is occupying your heart. If it is not for the sake of arguments, if you are really above the influence of prakriti, why are you afraid of my staying here?” Siva was pleased with this and said, “Ingithagna! (you who are skilled in thought-reading), Madhurvachani! (you who are sweet of speech). Stay on!’ and sent Himavantha home. This story is in this book in detail.” I said, “The story of Dakshayani is in the Bhagavatham also, but this conversation is not given there. The story itself is very interesting.” Bhagavan said laughing, “Yes, yes. I read another story somewhere in which it was stated that after Kama was burnt to ashes, Parameswara came in a Brahmin’s garb, made love to Parvati and married her. Himavantha was worried over the caste of his son-in-law. What could he do? Whomsoever he asked, pleaded ignorance of the matter, and there was no one who could enlighten him. So he kept quiet. Subsequently Parvati closed the eyes of Parameswara for fun, whereupon the whole world fell into turmoil.

Parameswara saved the world by opening his third eye. Then Parvati realised her fault and started doing tapas, and after staying here and there for that purpose she at last came here to Arunachala where she got the approbation of Arunagireeswara, and obtained Ardhanareeswara (half the body of Siva). When Himavantha came to know of it, he said, ‘Oh yes, the son-in-law is not of another caste but he is of our own caste’ and felt pleased and happy. This Arunachala is a mountain. Himavantha too was a mountain.”