March 21 - April 20
Shiva sat deep in meditation, in the lotus position of the yogi. He saw Sati, his wife, approach, hesitant and afraid, yet determined. She had come to ask his permission to attend a yajna - a religious sacrifice, at the home of King Daksha, her father. Daksha had not invited his son-in-law Shiva, to the sacrifice because he felt that since kings, royal dignitaries and persons of eminence were to be present, the appearance of the fearsome mendicant Shiva would bring discredit to his court. Sati had felt insulted at this treatment of her husband. Though uninvited, she wanted to be present at the ceremony - if only to take her father to task for his incivility. Shiva would not give her permission to attend the yajna. But Sati implored him and he gave in reluctantly.
In the august assembly at her father's house, Sati chastised her father for his deliberate insult to her and Shiva. Daksha's answer was that the presence of the uncouth Shiva, the half-naked yogi, would be an affront to any dignified assembly. As a true wife, Sati felt the sting of humiliation, with greater concern for Shiva than herself. Overcome, she leapt into the devouring flames of the yajna's sacred fire.
Far away, Shiva's body felt the burning tongues of flame. He closed his eyes, and saw in his inner vision the spectacle of the immolation of his beloved. Enraged, he arrived at King Daksha's palace. His wrath was unimaginable. He cut off his father-in-law's head and, from the pit of the sacrificial fire he retrieved and carried away Sati's charred body, his grief as great as his anger.
April 21 - May 20
Shiva sat, deep in meditation, in cold seclusion on the icy heights of Mount Kailas. The fires in him lay still, his terrible Third Eye rested from its labor of destruction. It was the great withdrawal of the world's Destroyer.
All of a sudden, something stirred within him - a tiny pin-point of desire. He snapped awake and went in search of his faithful mount, Nandi, and found him in his favorite Himalayan pasture. Nandi, sensing his master's desire, took him to Parvati who lay in lovely slumber, dreaming of her spouse, the great ascetic. It was her dream, perhaps, that struck a responsive chord in Shiva.
He gazed at her, at a stray lock of her raven hair, fanned lightly by a passing breeze. His eyes rested on her bosom, his senses feasted on the beauty of his sleeping wife. Parvati stirred, sighing like a lonely bride. Shiva stepped closer, and with a gesture that hardly spoke of his rising desire, he gently put the straying wisp of hair back into its accustomed place. The ascetic in Shiva gave way to the household. The bonds of love held him close.
May 21 - June 20
Shiva sat in meditation so deep that he was in danger of complete withdrawal. He meditated on the play of Maya - Illusion, the root of all manifestation. Shiva's withdrawal would have meant the cessation of all creation, and abrupt halt to all its processes. It was necessary to draw him away from this path that led to non-Being back into a state of Being, of Creation.
Thus it was that a celestial nymph was sent to Shiva. To aid in this task of distraction, Kama, the God of Love, and his constant companion, Madana (spring), filled valley and hill with the beauty and fragrance of spring blossom. Parvati, walking in her garden, felt the magic of spring and her heart stirred with love f for her lord. Leaving her heap of flowers, she hastened to Shiva - only to see a beautiful maiden dancing in front of her lord, her every gesture a lesson in the art of seduction.
She watched with growing anger, barely able to control her feelings of fear and sorrow as Shiva opened his eyes. And as he lowered them again, unmoved by the dancing beauty in front of him, Parvati heaved a sigh of relief and gratitude. She need not have feared. Only she could disturb his contemplation; only she could rouse her beloved lord, Shiva, ascetic and lover, yogi and man, contradictions held in balance by his own mystic force.
June 21 - July 21
The Ocean of Life heaved and swung as the Devas and the Asuras churned its depths, not relaxing the delicately balanced tensions of opposing forces for even a moment. As they watched the primordial waters throw up treasure after treasure, truth after truth, waiting for the coveted gift of immortality, the elixir of life, amrita, Shiva sat on the height of Kailas mediating on the essence of existence, the great Reality, remote, aloof.
Suddenly the waters darkened with a gush of poison. The churning stopped while the Asuras and Gods stood perplexed. All creation was threatened with extinction and panic spread like a raging fire.
Only Shiva could help. Only his ocean of compassion could absorb the dread poison and save a world on the verge of annihilation. The great yogi bent forward and with one gigantic gulp swallowed the poison and held it captive in his divine throat, now blue forever with the poison, earning for himself the appellation Nilakantha, the Blue-throated one.
July 22 - August 21
The balance of the opposing forces of good and evil in the manifest universe is a balance that the good ever seek to preserve. Mahishasura, the demon, emerged to disturb this vital equipoise. Even Shiva with his yogic powers could not, unaided, nullify the tremendous power for evil that Mahishasura represented. It called for his female counterpart, Shakti, the source of all energy, the root of all power, Shiva's mightiest weapon in the war of righteousness.
The God invoked Shakti. She appeared as Durga, Mother-Goddess, and her most powerful manifestation, poised to destroy Mahishasura. The Gods, each one, laid at her feet his special weapon and, armed with the strength of all the Gods, she rode to battle on her lion-mount, striking terror into the hearts of all who looked on.
Mahishasura assumed many forms to escape death at her hands and finally turned into a fearsome buffalo, precursor of Death. But Durga never fought to lose. Bloody slaughter was let loose as she decapitated him and his battling hordes. Her fury knew no bounds because the cause was righteousness, the destruction of evil, a cause dear to Shiva. And Shiva-Shakti were one and indivisible.
August 22 - September 21
Shiva sat in total self-absorption, meditating on the mysteries of the universe. All his senses lay in the deep slumber of yogic discipline.
It was, at first, a faint, distant note that reached his ears, penetrating the layers of his consciousness. Gradually it grew clearer and Shiva recognized the call of a devotee, Bhagirath: a devotee in deep distress. Sixty thousand of his ancestors lay reduced to ashes, waiting for the ritual funeral ablutions that would release their damned souls. Only the divine Ganga with the virgin purity of her scared waters could help him in this vital task of ancestor-worship. And only Shiva, her brother-in-law, could take the fury and turbulence of Ganga as she descended.
Her torrential progress down the mighty slopes of the Himalayas threatened to engulf the world. In her arrogance she seemed totally heedless of the imminent annihilation. How could the earth contain her waters?
Shiva watched her childish display of power with barely concealed amusement. He would steal her thunder and teach her the lesson of charity and humanity. As she prepared for the final deluge, he stood at the foothills and let the waters break over his godhead. Ganga, the mighty river, disappeared like a drop of summer rain into the depths of his matted locks.
The lesson was well taught and well learnt. Ganga emerged chastened and set out on her mission of charity to mankind in distress. Bhagirath, grateful to both Ganga and Shiva set out on his journey.
September 22 - October 22
The marriage of Shiva and Parvati was a strange union. For he was ascetic, household and lover, all in one. Often Parvati had to wait patiently for her husband to step out from his private world of meditation into her world of love and its pleasant pursuits, and many are the tales told of Parvati's wifely blandishments.
Once, she persuaded him to play a game of dice with her. Try as he would, he could not win. He gambled away all he had, which was little enough. He lost his trident, his crescent moon and even his beloved Nandi. Angered by his own folly, and resentful of his clever wife, he left her in a fit of pique. She followed him, cajoling him with her irresistible endearments. Shiva gave in and their reconciliation was sweet. Parvati reveled in the hours of joy that followed in the arms of Shiva, the perfect husband, the ardent lover.
Pressing home her advantage, she talked once again of her dearest dream - a dwelling place, a point of stability. Kubera, God of Wealth, was Shiva's dearest friend. The richest of palaces, the grandest of mansions were his for the mere asking. But the idea of a home was hateful to Shiva, the eternal wanderer. He had always resisted her efforts to tie him down, to domesticate him.
As Parvati lay in Shiva's embrace, looking up at the rain-clouds darkening the skies, she clung to him and begged him to build her a shelter from the threatening storm. It was a charming ruse - but it did not work. Shiva rose, and lifting her in his powerful arms, carried her far above the layers of cloud, into high mountain country, where the air was pure and the skies cloudless. His gallantry won her over, and she abandoned her womanly dreams of hearth and home as the Lord of the Universe engaged her in endless years of bliss on the snow-capped peaks of the mighty Himalayas.
October 23 - November 21
Shiva, ascetic and withdrawn as he was, could also be earthy, physical, and violent when the need arose.
As it did - when the demon Taraka defeated Indra, chief of Gods, and let loose a reign of terror on earth Taraka's martial prowess could not be matched by any being, human or divine. And so, a warrior who could surpass him in strength and valor had to be born, to be created. Such a one could only emerge from the union of Shiva and Parvati.
Shiva, the ascetic, had to meet and desire Parvati, daughter of Himavan. Kama, the God of Love, was entrusted with the task of distracting Shiva and turning his thoughts towards the beautiful Parvati. Kama was destroyed in the process but Shiva had seen Parvati.
It took many years of penance on Parvati's part to be with him; and of their love was born Kumara, Kartikeya, and rider of the peacock. It was a union full of fire and raging desire and Parvati feared she would not be able to bear the strain of Kumar’s conception and birth. And so it was that he took shape and form, outside her womb, on the banks of rivers Ganges, a boy with the strength of a hundred warriors, future slayer of Taraka.
November 22 - December 20
The demon Maya had practiced great austerities to attain power and establish mastery over the three worlds. Using sorcery and magic, he built a mighty fortress in each of the three regions and knit them into an impenetrable stronghold. Only a single arrow, aimed with almost impossible precision, could destroy it.
The gods, ousted from their rightful seats of power turned to Shiva, the mighty archer, for succor. Parvati, aware of her husband's prowess in archery, also pleaded with Shiva. For Maya had to be destroyed and order restored in the Universe.
Shiva took up his deadly bow, Pinaka, and placing his arrow in position, aimed at Maya's elaborate edifice of power and reduced it to naught with a single arrow.
The Gods raised their voices in praise of Shiva-Parvati and the Divine Archer, Shiva, returned to his meditations as Parvati, Mother of the Universe, blessed the Gods in their hour of triumph.
December 21 - January 19
Shiva, the contemplative, saw himself in the role of a householder. His mate would be none other than Parvati, daughter of Himavan who in a previous life had been his female counterpart, Sati, the primordial Shakti. As Parvati, she undertook severe austerities to regain Shiva.
Shiva was pleased, and decided to ask for Parvati's hand. Soon the news spread; Shiva's hosts of ghosts. goblins and wandering yogis collected and the bridegroom's procession was on its way to Himavan's palace.
The sight of the half-naked Shiva and his motley crowd of half-human creatures and half-starved yogis gave rise to grave misgivings, deep foreboding and even panic in Parvati's household. But the bride herself emerged radiant with joy, calm and self-possessed. She spoke to Shiva, convinced him that he and his entourage should don wedding finery befitting the royal scene. Shiva decided to humor her, and using his yogic powers, he transformed himself into a prince and his followers into a royal retinue.
The wedding festivities began and Shiva, the ascetic, assumed the role of a royal householder with worldly wealth and ambitions.
January 20 - February 18
Shiva was once more in deep meditation, bordering on total withdrawal. He was Mahakal, Time itself, towering, all-pervading. Duality was in danger of being obliterated and the manifest universe was once again threatened with the disappearance of Maya. Illusion,
At this point Shiva sensed, deep within him, a twinge of disturbance. And he knew its cause - Parvati, Shakti in meditation. His imagination ranged wide, seeing in his mind's eye the unearthly beauty of a mountain princess lost in thoughts of an ascetic husband. As a yogi, she sought the one Being she desired most : Shiva, Lord of the Universe. And the power of her penance was such that he was compelled to take note, to approach her. He tried to dispel her desire for him, pointing out that a young maiden like her should not seek to spend her years with a homeless, wandering mendicant. But Parvati wanted no other mate. She had set her heart on Shiva.
Shiva bowed to the inevitable. It was one more instance of Maya, Illusion, which alone kept the processes of the manifest universe in continuance. Men and Gods alike bowed to the Great Yogi in gratitude for saving their universe from annihilation.
FEBRUARY 19TH - MARCH 20TH
Shiva, Destroyer of the Universe, Ascetic of Ascetics, also embodies the ultimate in attachment. When his wife Sati, daughter of Daksha, visited her father's home, she was subjected to deep humiliation. Daksha belittled Shiva, insulted him. It was a humiliation Sati could not bear, and there, amidst a gathering of her father's friends and relatives, she immolated herself.
Shiva arrived, and taking up the charred remains of his beloved wife in his arms, wandered the earth, bemoaning his fate. The bonds that held her to him proved as strong as the forces that drew him away from attachment to all things created. The sorrow and pain of love overshadowed the ascetic, the yogi.