Caturvidhābhinaya in the Kumārasambhava - Part 3 - The Birth and Growth of Pārvatī

This article is part 3 of 9 in the series Caturvidhābhinaya in the Kumārasambhava

The Birth and Growth of Pārvatī

In the next segment of the sarga, the nāyikā of the epic, Pārvatī is born and grows up. The poet employs nineteen verses (31 to 49) just to establish the physical features of Pārvatī.  In nāṭya, this can be portrayed with relative ease, if an actor with the specific characteristics enters the stage clad in appropriate costumes. In nṛtya, on the other hand, especially in the case of ekāhārya and ekahārya modes of presentation, the dancer will need to sequentially establish one bodily feature after the other to give a concrete image of the character. This eats up some amount of time in a nṛtya presentation.

Below is a brief description of the sequence: 

अथावमानेन पितुः प्रयुक्ता दक्षस्य कन्या भवपूर्वपत्नी ।
सती सती योगविसृष्टदेहा तां जन्मने शैलवधूं प्रपेदे ।। 1.21 ।।

It was Dākṣāyaṇī, who had given up her body through the yoga-mārga unable to bear the insults heaped upon her husband, Śiva, by her own father, Daksha, too refuge in Menā for a birth.

[Interestingly, the very same Dākṣāyaṇī, in her birth as Pārvatī gives fitting rebuttals to anyone who finds fault with Śiva’s rūpa – his āhārya, āṅgika and other features. Even when she is approached by Śiva himself in disguise, she gives fitting replies with great confidence and conviction – she would have realised the sattva of Śiva by then.]

Pārvatī’s induces happiness in both the animate and inanimate objects (1.23) and her mother too is radiant upon the daughter’s birth. There is joy nature – the direction resounded with śaṅkha-svana and there was puṣpa-vṛṣṭi from the skies.

Indication of Time (1.25)

दिने दिने सा परिवर्धमाना लब्धोदया चान्द्रमसीव लेखा ।

पुपोष लावण्यमयान्विशेषाञ्ज्योत्स्नान्तराणीव कलान्तराणि ॥

The growth of Pārvatī is compared to the addition of extra digits of the moon. Just as the moon’s beauty and brilliance increases day by day, Pārvatī too acquired more and more charm as the days progressed. This is an imagery that can be used in stylized nāṭya and nṛtya for indicating the passage of time.

She is called Pārvatī, after her father’s name, by her relatives and friends. Later, with her mother, anxious to find her daughter taking up intense tapas, exclaims u-mā. This expression of vātsalya of her mother gives this mother of the world, yet another name (1.26)

After establishing the elements of the landscape and talking about the birth and growth Pārvatī (and naming her), the poet goes ahead to establish her physical features. While there would be no need to use these many words (and verses) to establish the physical beauty of a character in a theatre, as her very entry to the stage communicates all the physical features at once, the poet will need to have a work-around to portray the same.

The description of Pārvatī’s youthful charm goes from the feet to the face (pādādi-keśānta) – from the perspective of nāṭya, it  feels as though a screen that is covering the body of Pārvatī is slowly lifted upwards giving enough time for the connoisseurs to enjoy every element of her beauty – first, part by part and then the whole. It is as if each part of her body is painted layer by layer with beauty getting added at each iteration – this is, in fact, precisely the simile that the poet uses - उन्मीलितं तूलिकयेव चित्रं (1.32).

 Verses 1.33-44 describe the feet, thighs, hip, abdomen, navel, breasts, arms, neck, lips (smile and speech) and finally her hair. The poet does not give it as a static picture – there is dynamism in the description and the dimensions of colour, sound and touch are embedded. While her feet add beauty like that of red lotuses to the earth (1.33), her jingling anklets drew admiration from swans as well – they decided to learn the music of her gait (1.34). The texture of her skin and the natural colour of her feet are evident with these as is the softness of her gait. The music of her speech put cuckoos to shame – their cooing only sounded like jarring notes to the ears of the connoisseurs! The poet describes her physical features as though each part can act as an uddīpana-vibhāva for kindly rati. It is only ironical that all her physical beauty - āṅgika-saundarya – serves no purpose for Śiva. It is not the kāma of the physical sphere that is of important – kāma as a value - puruṣārtha does its job.

The poet summarises the sculpting of her physical charm with the following verse:

सर्वोपमाद्रव्यसमुच्चयेन यथाप्रदेशं विनिवेशितेन ।

सा निर्मिता विश्वसृजा प्रयत्नादेकस्थसौन्दर्यदिदृक्षयेव ॥ (1.49)

It is an interesting coincidence, either by design or by sheer chance that the very first vācika as spoken word that comes in the poem, though as reported speech, is Nārada declaring, upon seeing the maiden beside her father, that she will be the only (and absolute) wife of Śiva - समादिदेशैकवधूं भवित्रीं प्रेम्णा श्रीरार्धहरां हरस्य (1.50). This appears as kavi-nibaddha-prauḍhokti.  It so happens to the extent that Śiva, the master of the world, but possessor of nothing, ends up giving half his body to Pārvatī to share – his body is his only possession and gives an equal share of it to Pārvatī – a sharing like none other. Also, there can be no other wife, who can get an equal share as Pārvatī. While this is on the physical realm, on the meta-physical and spiritual realms, this has a much deeper and profound meaning.

While the poet spends over twenty verses to establish the āhārya and āṅgika of Pārvatī, by contrast, he gives only one śloka for Śiva! There is hardly any āhārya for Śiva, āṅgika is that of stillness and vācika of silence. Śiva wears a dead animal’s skin for his garment – that’s his only āhārya. The landscape is filled with the coolness of the river Gaṅgā, the fragrance of the kasturi from the navel of the deer and a little music of the kinnaras. The great ascetic, Śiva is least bothered about the surroundings, while Kālidāsa caters to four sense organs while describing it – giving a 4-D effect. Śiva is already in his sattva – which again needs not much elaboration (1.57). While all other emotions can be described and elaborated, how would one describe śānta?  It is only śṛṅgāra that need outward exuberance – it is ujjvala-veṣātmaka, after all.  The poet leaves us with a sublime question -  स्वयं विधाता तपसः फलानां केनापि कामेन तपश्चचार - and only Śiva knows the answer!

The master may be an ascetic, but does that necessarily imply that his retinue is detached and meditative as well? Not quite so! The poet brings a contrast in the āhārya of Śiva and his gaṇas, only to reflect the contrast in their mental landscapes – Śiva the epitome of serenity and stability, the gaṇas – metaphors for fickleness and worldly pleasures. In 1.55, the poet describes that the attenders had decked their ears with the flowers of the Namerus trees, clad in soft barks of birch trees, seated themselves comfortably on stones coated with fragrant resins and had coated themselves with the pigments of manaḥśilās. The gaṇas are indeed provide themselves with luxurious āhārya with whatever is available at the height of the himālayas. Nandi too could not tolerate the roar of the lions, and tried conquering them by bellowing out louder than their combined roar. While Nandi’s conquest is of the outer world and is ephemeral, Śiva’s is of the inner realm.

The Parvatarāja, the lord of the mountains where Śiva also resides offered his respects to the deity and set his daughter and two of her maidens in service to him. After having provided all the contrasting backgrounds, the poet finally tells through a remarkable arthāntaranyāsa “विकारहेतौ सति विक्रियन्ते येषां न चेतांसि स एव धीराः” – they alone are the self-restrained ones, whose mind does not get perturbed even where there are several objects of distractions around. To put it in the terminology of nāṭya, śānta is that which is not triggered through any (external) vibhāva-s and there is hardly an anubhāva that needs to be described. The lack of external āhārya and āṅgika reflects an inner sāttvika!


To be continued...



Arjun is a writer, translator, engineer, and enjoys composing poems. He is well-versed in Sanskrit, Kannada, English, Greek, and German languages. His research interests lie in comparative aesthetics of classical Greek and Sanskrit literature. He has deep interest in the theatre arts and music. Arjun has (co-) translated the works of AR Krishna Shastri, DV Gundappa, Dr. SL Bhyrappa, Dr. SR Ramaswamy and Shatavadhani Dr. R Ganesh

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