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Gauri - The reflection of Shakti
The mother of Ganesh is celebrated through Swarna Gauri Vratha, a day before Ganesh Chaturthi (remembering how Gauri created Ganesh - Ganesh is the reflection of Gauri's love for Shiva). It is a day traditionally set aside for devotions to be made to one's spouse, or for the desiring of a spouse to be known. It is typical to visit in-laws and be served special foods, so they can celebrate the marriage. It used to be customary for a newly-wed couple to wait until Swarna Gauri Vratha to first attempt pregnancy: this was done because a child would be born 9 months later in summer, when it would be more likely to survive due to environmental concerns.
Gauri attempted to make herself worthy of Shiva's love, through devotional Yoga. For 16 years, She practiced perfectly. Shiva noticed Gauri, and asked Gauri what it was that She desired from His love. She said that She desired nothing less than to be Shiva's Ardhangini, and that Shiva would have no other wife but Her. She wanted Shiva to love Her as she loved Him, constantly, purely, and solely. She made profound vows. Shiva was touched, and agreed, "I shall have not even the thought of another in my heart but you." Shiva laid his heart bare for Gauri to see, and it was like a mirror: she saw only her own image in it. Gauri was so happy, she knelt down before Shiva, and crying with joy, gave thanks. Shiva lifted Her up, and held Her tightly: She was His Ardhangini, half of his being - and should not bow before Him. They rejoiced together for a very long time. "Eternities came and went."
One day, Shiva sat on a rock in Kailasa, and Gauri was sitting beside Him; She was so happy because she was with Him. And then, all of a sudden, everything seemed wrong to Gauri. She actually began to tremble with fear, doubt, anguish. All her strength left Her, She grew limp and felt weakness like a poison pushed through Her veins by Her heart. She saw in Shiva's heart not Her own reflection, but the image of another! A beautiful Deva! Oh, Gauri was so jealous! This Deva was beautiful, more beautiful than She ever could be! Young, desirable - and in the same joyous love Gauri had known. This woman was beloved of Shiva! Jealousy became hatred. And because both Shiva and Gauri shared one heart, the poison passed through Shiva's body, and He began to suffer as well.
Beyond time, beyond space, the two sank into misery. Gauri began to doubt that She kept her vows, for why else would Shiva have broken His? She knew though that she had kept every promise. She faded from existence, and Shiva lost his own breath; the two were one, inseparably one. Like fish need water, Shiva could not survive. Shiva sought in every world. Eventually, on a mountaintop, in a world of darkness, the ghost of Gauri sat - no happiness existed in her; She was consumed by desire, aversion, hatred.
Shiva took her in His arms, so glad to have found Her. He pressed Her close to His heart, and She began to breathe again. He asked Her, "what had happened? Why had She become so tormented?" He kissed Her forehead, Her cheeks, Her lips, Her head; He called out her name over and over again. Gauri! Gauri! But She could not respond, She was consumed by despair. And so Shiva wept. And as His heart began to break, Gauri's own heart felt pain. The pain woke Her a little, Her spirit form was in agony. She held Shiva closer, and felt life; She began to feel terror - at losing Shiva. Then She remembered that other woman in Shiva's heart - and violently pushed Shiva away from Her and in an angry tirade explained how Shiva had been so cruel to Her, how He had made her existence meaningless and destroyed Her. And She ripped open His chest to lay bare His heart.
But it was her face she saw in the heart. Both she and Shiva now wept. She asked what happened to the other woman who was in His heart, but now was not there? The woman who had taken Her place in Shiva's heart?
Shiva stopped weeping a moment. Then, understanding what had happened, smiled. Then He laughed. "Her?" He laughed louder and louder, increasingly relieved - it seemed so cruel to Gauri. The beautiful woman's face was again in Shiva's heart. "Look - it is Parvati. It is your own reflection!" Shiva laughed.
Gauri felt confused, then understood. Then She was embarrassed a moment. But then She too, smiled. In an instant She and Shiva were sitting in Kailasa again, the sun was shining just as before - there was no regret: beyond time, beyond space, it did not matter how long the two had been in misery - they were now happy again. As if they had always been happy. And She saw her beautiful smile in the reflection. In Shiva's heart. And laughed with relief and happiness.
Shiva then made a promise to Gauri, that this would never happen again. "From now on, you and I shall not be Ardhanginis, two bodies with a single heart, but a single united body." They embraced, and in that hug held each other so tightly that the two became one. By devotional Bhakti, they became a half-male, half-female Ardhanarishwara.