Exploring Shakti as Parvati, Sita and Radha

“Lord Shiva, only becomes able
to do creation in this world along with Shakti.
Without her, even an inch he cannot move,
and so how can one who does not do good deeds,
or one who does not sing your praise,
become adequate to worship you
O Goddess of mine, who is worshipped by the Trinity”


Soundarya Lahari, 1.1 
(believed to have been composed, at least in part, by Adi

Exploring Shakti as Parvati, Sita and Radha in the search for union with Shiva or the Absolute…


The 9-night festival of Navratri, celebrating the Divine Mother, is in full swing. The seasonal change at this time of the year is itself a movement of Shakti, enabling a more tangible recognition of and connection with the Divine principle that governs the manifest world.


Shiva is the Purusha, the unmanifest and Shakti is his creative energy, representing the manifest. Shiva is the unchanging, Shakti is change and movement. The two are One, or to put it another way, two aspects of the same one Consciousness.


In a subtler understanding, Shakti represents the individual soul, Atman or jivawhich is not different or separate from Paramatman (Absolute, Brahman) or Shiva. Yet in this play of Maya, it seems as if the Atman has separated from and therefore must unite again with Paramatman; Shakti must unite with Shiva – this is yoga, union.


Shakti as Parvati – the disciple

The ways of achieving union with Shiva are many. As Parvati, Shakti moved as an accomplished yogi and ardent disciple. The Shiva Sutras are the exposition on the nature of Reality that Shiva imparted to his disciple and consort, Parvati. 

Parvati’s severe austerities combined with her passion for Shiva made the process of union easier for her than for other seekers (for instance the Sapt Rishis at the time) who were less ready to surrender their intellectual faculties. As Sadhguru Jaggi Vasudev tells beautifully in his book, Adiyogi, Shiva used different methods for different seekers depending on their openness: 

“There were three fundamental approaches that he [Shiva or Adiyogi] adopted. To one person [Parvati], he said, ‘Come, sit on my lap.’ To the seven sages, he gave an extraordinarily intricate exposition about the mechanics and possibilities of the human system and cosmic nature. To the Ganas, he simply said, ‘Drink of me and dance.’ […]

The process was quicker for her [Parvati] because it was a gift. The sages worked towards it. With her, Adiyogi used his intimacy; with them, he used the intellect.”(1)

This “path of passionate intimacy with the divine” has been used by many through the ages, from Akka Mahadevi to Mirabai to Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. 

Shakti as Sita – the devoted

Rama’s Sita is a symbol of purity and devotion. As a representation of the spiritual seeker, she is the power of devotion that is not swayed by the temptations of the world, remaining in constant remembrance of the Lord or the Self. Even though she is captured by the world (symbolised by Ravana), she refuses to become ‘of the world’. Sita is the quiet Shakti that even while participating in the worldly drama, remains untouched by it.    


Shakti as Radha – the lover

Perhaps no other figure in the Indian lore epitomises devotion as joyfully as Radha, Krishna’s playmate, friend and lover. Her path of abandon is celebrated as one of the most colourful and inspiring. Krishna’s famous ras-leelas were occasions where he made all the Gopis and Gopas experience the oneness of Divine Love. Through this celebratory play, Krishna made Radha one with him – relying on pure abandon, without any need for spiritual teachings.


Radha and Krishna never set eyes on each other again after Krishna left Vrindavan at around the age of 16, but Radha had already enshrined Krishna in her heart where the comings and goings of the world didn’t matter. As the ultimate devotee, she continued to live in his fragrance saying, ‘Wherever he is, whoever he’s with, he’s still always with me.’


During the Navratri period, we express our love and gratitude for all the forms of Shakti that invigorate and beautify and indeed are our world – from Mother Earth who nurtures our bodies and minds (Rupam dehi, Jayam dehi), to the life force that fulfils our worldly desires (Yasho dehi, Dvissho Jahi) and ultimately, the movement of Grace that unites jiva with Shiva – a separation that, as the Sages remind us, never really happened.

(1) Adiyogi: The Source of Yoga by Sadhguru Jaggi Vasudeva, p.143-144

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