Parvati is the power and consort of Siva, the god of disintegration and destruction. An overwhelming majority of the goddesses of Hinduism are aspects and variations of Parvati. The anmes by which she is known or worshipped are too numerous to mention. If some of the names like Parvati, Haimavati, girija and Daksyani indicate her origin from the Himalayas or Daksa (one of the forefathersof mankind), other names like Siva, Mrdani, Rudrani and Sarvani stress her aspect as the spouse of Siva. Still other like Aparna and Uma has specific references to certain stories in the Puranic literature. One of the earliest references to this deity is found in the Kenopanisad (3.12) where she is mentioned as ‘Uma Haimavati’ enlightening Indra, the king of gods, about Brahman, the Absolute or God. This reference is enough to conclude that the worship of this goddess is very ancient. According to the Pauranic accounts, in her ‘first’ incarnation, she was Daksayani, the daughter of Daksa and Prasuti, and married to Lord Siva. Unable to understand Lord Siva’s greatness, Daksa once reviled him and started harboring hatred towards him. When he undertook the performance of a great sacrifice, the notable exception among the dianitaries invited was Siva himself. Much against the advice of her spouse daksayani went to the sacrifice uninvited and being slighted, ended her life by igniting herself through the fire or yoga. Hence she came to be known as Sati, the chaste one. She was next reborn as Parvati, the daughter of Himavan and Mena. After performing intense austerities she succeeded in pleasing Siva and making him accept her again as his consort. During the performance of these severe austerities, she refused to eat even dry leaves to sustain herself and hence got the appellation Aparna. Her mother Mena unable to see her dear daughter languishing by austerities, tried to dissuade her by the words. ‘U ma, (my dear, don’t do like this!) which became her name (Uma). Being the daughter of the Himalayas (the abode of snow) she has to be Gauri (the white one). As the mother of the universe she is Amba and Ambika, both the words meaning ‘mother’. Like her consort Siva, she also has two aspects: the mild and the terrible. As Parvati or Uma she represents the mild aspect. In this aspect she is usually shown with Siva. Then she ahs only two hands, the right one holding a blue lotus and the left hanging loosely by the side. The image is richly decorated. When represented independently she is shown with four hands, two hands holding red and blue lotuses and the other two exhibiting the Varada and Abhaya Mudras. Though all the female deities are called Saktis of their male counterparts, the words ‘Sakti” and ‘Devi” is more particularly or even exclusively used to denote the Sakti of Siva, the innumerable aspects of Parvati. Considering Siva as Mahadeva, the Supreme God, and Parvati represents his power by which the universe is created, sustained and destroyed. The Himalayas represents the Aksa or ether, the first fundamental substance. Mena stands for intelligence. Hence Parvati their offspring represents the conscious substance of the universe. That is why she is also called Uma (=light, the bright one). At the subjective level, Uma Haimavati represents Brahmavidya or Spiritual wisdom, by which union with Siva or God is attained. Being the consort of Siva, who is Rudra, the terrible, she also has her terrible aspects which need a separate study. It is interesting to note that the Vaisnava Symbols Sankha and Cakra are often shown in her hands also. Though the Purans describe her as the sister or Visnu, it is possible that Visnu is considered as the active power of Siva and hence these symbols in the hands of the Devi. This surmise is strengthened by the fact that in the Haryardha murti of Siva, the left half is Visnu and in the Ardhanarisvara form, Devi forms the left half. Aspects of parvati According to the Durgasaptasati, one of the basic texts on the Mother cult, when Kausiki Durga was fighting the demon Raktabija whose blood, if spilled, could produce demons similar to him she manifested out of herself seven emanations. These are usually called the Saptamatrkas or the ‘Seven little Mothers’. They are Brahmi (or Brahmani) Mahesvari, Kaumari, Vaisnavi, Varahi, Narasimhi and Indra. Hence they have the same forms, weapons and vehicles as their lords. Since the Devi, according to the same work, was formed out of the combined energies of all the gods, this theory of the Saptamatrkas becomes intelligible to us. Sometimes, Narasimhi is substituted by Camunda (or Camundi). Along with the original deity called Durga Mahalaksmi they are counted as eight. Sometimes, an exotic interpretation is given by the followers of Tantrasastra, with regard to these seven matrkas. Brahmi, (Fig 31) according to them, represents the primordial Nada, the energy in which even the first throb has not yet appeared. This is the unmanifiest sound (Logos), the origin of all creation. It is the same as the substance or energy represented by the Pranava (Om). When Brahmi created the universe, the power of Vaisnavi (Fig28) gives it a definite shape. The symmetry, beauty, organization and order in the universe are the work of Vaisnavi. Mahesvari (Fig. 33) stands for the power that gives individuality to the created beings. She resides in the hearts of all and makes them play, like the dolls mounted on a machine. Kaumari (Fig 29), the ever youthful deity, represents the ever present force of aspiration of the evolving soul. She is “Guruguha, (Guruguha being one of the names of Kumara or Skanda whose energy she is), the ‘Guru” (guide, teacher) in the ‘Guha’ (the cave of the heart, the intellect). Varahi (Fig 34) is the all consuming power of assimilation and enjoyment. Because of her, the living beings get their food and all physical enjoyments. Aindri or Indrani (Fig 32) symbolizes the terrible power that destroys all that opposes the cosmic law. Camunda (Fig 30) is the force of concentrated awareness, the power of spiritual awakening in the heart that devours the ceaseless activity of the immature mind and uplifts it to the highest level. Raktabijasura is actually the mind, each wave of which gives rise to other waves. Killing of this Raktabija by Camunda means the destruction of the mental modifications by the awakening f spiritual consciousness. The deities are generally represented as red in colour and with two hands, holding a skull and a lotus. However, since they are Saktis of the above-mentioned gods, they are shown more often as female replicas of the male deities. Sometimes each deity is assigned a tree as especially sacred to it. For instance: udumbara (fig tree) for Kumari, Asvantha (peepal tree) for vaisnavi and the Karanja (Indian beech) for Varahi. They are usually grouped together with Ganesa and Virabhadra flanking on either side or shown panels in the Siva temples. Occasionally they have a separate shrine built for them. The order or arrangement varies according to the effect desired. If the safety of the village is desired Brahmi is installed in the center. If increase in the population is the goal, Camunda occupies the central place.