It is said that when Shiva’s marriage with Parvati was finalised, like all grooms he too was invited with his relatives to the brides place on the day of the wedding.
Since Shiva had no relatives as such, he is supposed to have asked all his friends and acquaintances to accompany him. Since his friends were not from the ‘mainstream civilisation’ of the times, the wedding procession was quite a site. It also reflected on Shiva’s far from homely lifestyle, which to everybody’s horror was definitely horrifying, to say the least.
His wedding attire was tiger-skin for dress and a snake for a necklace. He had ashes smeared over him, and his unkempt hair in matted locks! He was sat atop his vahana, the Nandi bull and the whole sight was a far cry from what any bride’s family would have preferred to see. The members of the wedding procession too were worth a sight. Shiva was accompanied by ghosts, goblins, gnomes and all sorts of weird creatures from the crematorium, where Shiva spent most of his time. Many of them were bedecked with skulls and bones and some of them were smoking hemp!
When the procession reached the doors of Parvati, all the women-folk who had gathered to greet the procession ran away in fear. Parvati’s mother, Menaka, refused to greet such a hideous crowd and a semi-drunk groom! It took a lot of cajoling from Parvati for Shiva to look more worldly and pleasing at least on the wedding day. So to conform to the societal norms, Vishnu and Brahma who were part of the procession, and other gods got together, bathed him with perfumed water, and adorned him with gold, silver and gems! With proper dresses and combed hair, he is supposed to have looked more handsome than Kamdev himself, thus making him more acceptable to his would-be-mother-in-law, Menaka, who was too happy to wed her daughter to the erstwhile mendicant!
(A 1955 Hindi film, Munimji, has a song ‘Shivji bihane chale palki sajaaike………’ which describes the entire episode very beautifully.)
Shiva’s marriage to Parvati was his second marriage. Earlier Shiva had married Sati, in which Sati had followed Shiva to Mount Kailash and after getting his reluctant consent, had married him. This was more of Shiva giving in to Sati’s worship. This did not make him any more husband than what he already was. He more or less remained the same ascetic and yogic that he was prior to Sati coming to Kailash. He remained far from the society and the worldly ways of life and Sati was content being his wife, nothing more.
But in the second instance, Parvati insisted that he come and wed her in the most proper manner. Shiva and Parvati were to be a worldly couple and the two get married by the Vedic rites, performed by none other than Lord Brahma himself. This was Parvati’s way of educating Shiva, the acceptable norms of a worldly society of which she was a part of and this time; unlike in her past form of Sati, she did not want an ascetic and a yogi for a husband. She wanted a worldly man with all the emotions and longings for a woman. She wanted children, a family and a loving husband. This can also be seen as taming of Shiva in worldly ways. She was going to be his Shakti (power) and the two together would signify the male and female principle of the cosmos.
Hereafter, the saying शक्ति के बिना शिव भी शव के समान हैं meaning ‘Without his Shakti, Shiva is nothing but Shava (corpse)’, would have its true meaning.