Sembiyan Mahadevi goofed! Shiva is incomplete without Parvati.

Tanjore, Tamil Nadu:

Sembiyan Mahadevi: A chola queen, widowed but enterprising, wanted to make the temple a prime center in everyone's life even with the rising pro-brahmin drift in the society. The chola period witnessed a vast change in temple architecture, for the good or bad is still debatable. But the change indeed was brought about for political reasons and by that time, the dilution in cult principles had already set in.

The two earlier temples were built purely for Shiva, with no hint of the mother goddess except for her presence in outer niches. She was not depicted on her own, but always in the presence of Shiva as Ardhanarishwara. Through this period, the shiva cult was flaunted with building the Brihadeshwara temple at Tanjore and Gangai konda cholapuram. It also witnessed the initial move towards building the Chidambaram temple where the focus shifted.

The flaw at chidambaram

For the first time in the Shiva cult history, Chidambaram temple witnessed the construction of a seperate shrine for the Mother Goddess. This was to give the Mother Goddess worshippers a fair share of the pie, and perform their rituals within the temple, therefore keeping the attention centered around the temple.

In which case the arguement can run that they could have housed all the deities of other cults in the temple, to make it a single place of worship; this doesnt seem to have happened. This shows that there was definitely a rift between vaishnavites and shaivites. Politics has played a role in india, not in kingdoms alone but in religion as well. Vishnu never found a place of honour in Shiva temples. This seems to be evident from the Pallava period itself. The shore temple in Mahabalipuram itself shows that a Vishnu shrine had already existed, with a Shiva temple built around it. With this we conclude that there was enough diplomacy between the two cults to retain the reclining Vishnu in the shore temple.

Where the focus should have remained

Lets leave Vishnu out of this for now. The root concept of Shiva, that he is incomplete without Parvati (Mother goddess) seems to have escaped everyone's eyes. The Shiva linga itself is composed of the linga pitha which is the yoni housed in every Shiva temple establishes the presence of the female form in Shiva temples well within the garbha griha. The building of the Mother goddess shrine in big temples should not have been encouraged in the first place as she is already part of the Shiva temple. Although this move may have been feministic on Sembiyan Mahadevi's part, it was also to keep the focus on the temple.

Male egoism?

Well, that makes us think of another thing. Obviously, Sembiyan Mahadevi didn't go about building temples without the advice of the court astrologers and architects who followed the shastras to every word. Which would mean that in the entire ritual, for the worship of Lord Shiva, the shlokas recited worship Ganesha(Lord of the Ganas) first and then Lord Shiva. The Shiva mantras are very Shiva centric with no reference to the Yoni, which is a depiction of the Mother Goddess.

Why has it been eliminated? Why build a temple for Parvati next to shiva? What then, is the true meaning of Ardhanrishwara? We have forgotten the potent female form which has always accompanied shiva everywhere.

Why has the Mother goddess cult been supressed through the centuries? For that matter why have women been supressed through the ages? I do not plan to end this post in the feminist tone stating that women are superior or otherwise. I will stick to the temple.

The temple seems to have been the seat of all learning, community activities and ritual. Yet, the main point that Shiva is incomplete without Parvati was lost somewhere along the way. The temples added to the dillution by eliminating Parvati from the mantra recitals as well as from the niches of the main temple. Later, She was brought back as a seperate identity, with a niche exclusively for Her apart from Ganesha, Karthikeya and Lingodhbhava. This is not consistent.

In staunch shiva temples, the niches are occupied by Dakshinamurti, someone who looks perhaps like Trimurti or Brahma among other Shiva forms. Shiva in his various forms might be flaunted around, but the elimination of the Mother Goddess from prime worship in the garbha griha is a serious offence to the root principles of Shaivism.

Courtesy: Original photos©2002 Michael D. Gunther.


abhilash warrier said...


The truth is not what we perceive or make it out to be.

The absolute truths in life will always be truths irrespective of how we perceive it. For example, gravity and time existed the way they exist now.

Tomorrow, if a dictator makes everybody believe in zero gravity and constructs a planet where there is zero gravity, it does not mean that gravity does not exist.

The truth that Shiva and Parvati (the mother goddess) are one cannot be changed whether people choose to depict it, show it, worship it or not.

True seekers of truth and enlightenment will see the absolute truth eventually through experience, coincidence, practice, chance, or love.

Well, to the rest who choose to be ignorant, will remain frogs in the well even if the truth is brought out glaring on to their faces.

Observe that even the greatest of teachers had people who mocked their truths, laughed at them, stoned them, crucified them, abused them...

Shiva's linga will always be in rasa laya in Parvati's yoni long after we even cease to exist. Whether we see it or not.

Nobody can change the truth. People can just choose to accept it and believe it or ignore it. Poor people. They don't realize that it is they who are the losers!

JC Joshi said...

As shri Abhilash has already stated, Truth, i.e., gravity/ soul does not cease to exist despite any efforts to hide it under ‘untruth’, i.e., the illusory or a variety of apparent materilistic cover…

One finds that in the Ganga-Jamuna valley region of the Himalayas, worship of Mother Goddess, representing Shakti or energy is prevalent since time immemorial. And, holy men from all over the country frequented the different ‘Shakti Pithas’ from time to time and would thus have carried their observations to the rulers at different times/ regions. In Bengal, particularly, the destructive force was represented as a female form, Ma Kali with black body and red tongue, which could point to the destructive power of a volcano when it erupts, and also the associated creative power when the land devastated by it is covered with enriched soil that leads to greener pastures subsequently. And, similarly the creative power of Sunlight was represented by Ma Durga or Gauri the fair one, the eight handed Mother, perhaps indicating the planetary system…

I feel extremely happy whenever I recall my first visit, from hot New Delhi to the cool Nainital, as a thirteen-year-old boy during our vacations. I had gone there with my elder brother to visit a cousin who was posted there and was staying with his mother, our aunt. We were also joined by another cousin from a nearby hill-station.

During the three weeks' stay, we three didn't miss a single day when we didn't try our hands, by turns, at boating from Mallital or upper end of the lake to Tallital or the lower end and back to Mallital, despite the resultant boils in my hands caused by the heavy wooden oars. Although we didn't visit those then, we were always conscious of the temples, one dedicated to Nainadevi, Nainidevi Temple, located close to the Mallital, and the Pashandevi, literally the Goddess-of-Rock Temple located on the other lesser frequented side of the lake... We were told that the lake was the deepest below the temple's location.

In the mornings, generally, we used to scale different peaks around Nainital. I recall with pleasure, mixed with pride, our ascent to the 7,996 feet high China peak, from the 6.200 feet level on the roadside, via the regular zigzag track. There was a four feet high resting place at the top, which made the height to 8,000 feet. I fail to recall how much time it took us to climb the peak in the normal fashion - perhaps it was close to two hours. However, it was decided that we should descend like real mountaineers! We virtually slipped all the way down, down the small pebbly path made by small streams during rains. We were on the roadside in twenty minutes! However, as a result, we experienced pain in our knees for 2-3 days thereafter!

With the background knowledge of the present day finding of the phenomenon of similarity between microcosm and macrocosm, and my faith in Adi Shiva, male of female' as the physical form of the formless at the beginng, I can now happily visualize Nainital, the lake at the foot of China Peak, in Uttaranchal, to reflect in a model form, Mansarovar Lake & Mt. Kailash, the believable abode of Shiva-Parvati, which I haven't had the occasion to visit in this life…

vimanonym said...

POST #1: About Truths and Perceptions.
For an unbiased seeker, my suggestion would be not to decide what the truth is and then seek it....for example:
>>>The absolute truths in life >>>will always be truths >>>irrespective of how we perceive >>>it. For example, gravity and >>>time existed the way they exist >>>now.
You have already decided that gravity and time the way they existed and will exist is the absolute truth. To continue....
>>>Tomorrow, if a dictator makes >>>everybody believe in zero >>>gravity and constructs a planet >>>where there is zero gravity, it >>>does not mean that gravity does >>>not exist.
For the people within that planet or system with zero gravity, Zero gravity will be the truth like gravity is for you. There may be a Newton on that planet who will postulate laws of zero gravity and prove it with science.
How do you know that yesterday a dictator did not make everyone believe in gravity and has constructed a system with gravity (in which you exist now and believe it exists) while there actually may be no such thing as gravity at all...Are you thinking like a frog in the well???
There is no such thing as absolute truth...everything is an Illusion...thats what Krishna said...and he might be a dictator too for all i know..

vimanonym said...

POST #2: Sembiyan Mahadevi
Icebreaker: Kavi, did you by any chance read the Da Vinci Code just before posting or starting to write this article? Please let me know. It will help.
While i truly have no knowledge about who Sembiyan Mahadevi was or having heard her name for the first time after reading this post, i still have an opinion on why there was a separation of shiva and parvati w.r.t. temples (Call me whatever you like?;))
In Mythology that i have read as part of amar chitra katha books and some general browsing in different books, there have been periods of separation between Shiva and Parvati due to various reasons. The time period( I meant the time period within the queens tenure) when these temples were created, may have an answer to the reason why these temples were built the way they were. To commemorate the times of the above mentioned separation maybe. To depict the fact that there were times when Lord Shiva used to be alone maybe because of his penance or because of the mother goddesses penance and these also need to be told in the stories that are temples. The outside presence of ardhanariswara could mean that despite being separate and in meditation, at a cornerr of his mind, shiva still held with him a possible fact that parvati is required to make him complete. That would mean that even though on the surface it looks like it is an anamoly, the very presence of ardhanaareswara states that despite the powerful state of meditation, shiva still had parvati in the corner of his mind.
Whatcha think?

kavitha said...

some simple things, this is all about belief. shiva and parvati are not people who walked the earth, but forces that have certain attributes, best defined to us in a language we understand.

sembiyan mahadevi is a historical character, and the building of temples in a particular way is what they believed at a point in time - 10th century to be precise.

and yes i have read the da vinci code.

vimanonym said...

The story of the separation of those forces is also about a depiction in the language we understand aint it. Or was it additional ingredients thrown in for entertainment?

If everything is a belief, what is the meaning of a seeker of truth? Isnt such a person one who is ready to find even ones own
Now ,
My question was did u read it just beliefs shaken should the truth be different than what is initially percieved out to be?
before you wrote this article..;) A small difference..but difference nonetheless!

vimanonym said...

The story of the separation of those forces is also about a depiction in the language we understand aint it. Or was it additional ingredients thrown in for entertainment?

If everything is a belief, what is the meaning of a seeker of truth? Isnt such a person one who is ready to find even ones own beliefs shaken should the truth be different than what is initially percieved out to be?
Now ,
My question was did u read it just
before you wrote this article..;) A small difference..but difference nonetheless!

kavitha said...

i read the da vinci code long time back and it definitely didnt influence my article.

yes the only awakening i had about it is the mention of a cult that worshipped the phallic symbol after which the author was way too interested in the thriller and the rest of the story, therefore missing out the basic fact that the mother goddess cult continues to get attention in other nations beyond the western world. if only they would not be so full of themselves... and i do hope that all christians at least acknowledge the fact that the church has hidden and changed facts in history to suit its own selfish purpose of spreading its faith and that christ lived up to a ripe old age before he died.

vimanonym said...

While i do understand the angst you have at the fact that the whole world may not have embraced hinduism...i would like to point out the fact that all relegions have been distorted heavily based on political considerations....
I would like you to believe that the greatness of hinduism lies in the fact that it is not insecure about its existence and is flexible to incorporate new beliefs and lines of thought...therefore, to the hell with the world full of itself...hinduism remains at peace at large...therefore regardless of whatever anyone says or does not say, recognizes or does not recognizes, it continues to flourish...hence no point in wishing the others dint recognize it...goes against the tenets...

kavitha said...

you have a point there.

abhilash warrier said...


By absolute truths, I meant truths that people who i respect and admire for their intelligence perceive.

For example, Albert Einstein came and changed the way we looked at things. well, to say the truth, there were only four people who actually have ever understood the Relativity Theory completely, other than the man himself.

so do i perceive what he says as absolute truth?

In my comments, I was talking about concepts present here on planet earth. Not gravity literally.

read my comment carefully again. It says "if a dictator makes everybody believe in zero gravity and constructs a planet where there is zero gravity, it does not mean that gravity does not exist."

which means i am open to the fact that on another planet, zero gravity may exist. those people may never realize what gravity is. but that does not mean that gravity as a concept does not exist, get it, Mr. Know-It-All?

for all we know, as you say, zero gravity and lifeforms unimaginable to us may exist elsewhere with their whole set of absolute truths... but those will be theirs... not ours.

I can only relate to the well i live in; no matter how small (my home) or how large (the universe), the well is.

I too am evolving here. unbiased. Yes. Open, yes.

as a seeker, I am open to having my own prejudices and biases. I don't believe that everything is an illusion. because if everything was an illusion why did krishna take birth? why did he die? why ten avatars? why so many teachers? why teach? why preach? just exist and die... right?

and man, if you are the unbiased seeker that you claim you are, why are you bothered with mr. jc joshi or me being the way we are?

let us be what we are. you be open and unbiased first in the truest sense of the term.

then, let's talk.

anand singh said...

who built the first kalyansundara sculptures in cola period,Sembian Mahadevi ?