Parvati may have originated among the Himalayan mountain tribes. As a fertility goddess, she is the youngest of the benign aspects of the goddess Shakti, and also appears as the reincarnation of Shakti. She also is the daughter of Himavan (the Himalayan) and Mena, a sister of Vishnu, and the younger sister of Ganga. She becomes the consort of Shiva, and, as such, personifies the ideal example of the devoted and steadfast Hindu wife. Her sons include Ganesa and Skanda.
She is presented to Shiva, the ascetic, as a beautiful dancing girl. When becoming aware of his lack of interest in her, Parvati pursues a life of self-denial until he finally appears to her as an old Brahman and takes her as his consort.
Parvati is depicted with two arms when accompanying Shiva, but four when standing alone; she may be elephant-headed or carrying Ganesa as a baby, and appears in many varieties. Her attributes are conch, crown, mirror, ornamented headband, rosary, and occasionally a lotus. She has been worshipped from about 400 AD to the present, but has no specific cult center. She is referred to in the Ramayana and Puranic texts. A.G.H.
Jordan, Michael, Encyclopedia of Gods, New York, Facts On File, Inc. 1993, p. 202