Are Hindu Gods married? We are accustomed to listening to stories where God is portrayed having a family with children. For instance Lord Shiva has his family where his wife is Parvathi and His children are Ganesha and Murugan (Kartikeya). Even in temple ceremonies there is the Tirukalyanam or Holy Wedding.
Is this the truth of the matter? No. God is actually not married. Logically God doesn’t need to be married. When you understand that God is the Creator of the entire Universe it is obvious that he doesn’t need to be married and that all the beings in the Universe are already His (Her) children. God is already the Father/Mother of the Universe.
So what about the stories of God being married and all? Well these stories are fictional. Even the popular story like how Ganesha got his elephant face is fictional. These stories are are contained in a series of secondary scriptures called Puranas. There are thousands of Puranas in Hinduism, like the Shiva Puranas, Vishnu Puranas and so forth. These scriptures were created to record history and also to transmit philosophical truths, practical advise, morals and culture to people through entertainment mainly in the form of fictional stories. Without the stories in the Puranas, Hindu teachings would be too cut and dry, and for most people it would be boring to sit in a lecture about Hindu philosophy. Thus gurus of the past and even today continuously create stories based on truths and certain events to teach Hinduism.
As an example let us go back to the story of how Ganesha got his head. It has all sorts of teachings in it and even today the story is fascinating, though there are a lot of philosophical errors in it. For instance, according to the story God (Shiva) cut the head of His son (later to be replaced by an elephant head) because He did not know that the boy was His son. How can the Omniscient Lord not know His own son, one might ask rightly? Why should God have replace his son’s decapitated head with that of an elephant, why not use the original head? The truth on the other hand is rather simple. That is that, Ganesha chose to have an elephant face to represent that he is the Guardian of Earth. Indeed the elephant is such an unique animal and a good choice to represent earth. As you can see the truth is simple. The story is lots more fun.
Even in todays scientific times, we are still enamored with stories of fictitious superheros and superheroins. Batman, Superman, Wonderwoman, Spiderman and so forth are adored by their fans and their exploits in the stories are often subjects of conversation even if we know they are all imagination. It is the same with the Puranic stories, however, the superhero personalities in these stories are God and the angles and demons of heaven and hell.
The Puranas were also created to trasmit the perception of God’s closeness to His devotees in a more mundane and simpler way instead of a deeper more complex spiritual closeness. That is why there is marriage and family issues, so that devotees can easily relate with God in their day to day life and draw examples and anecdotes of idealism and right action from such stories. The ceremonies in the temple too, such as the Holy Wedding (Tirukalyanam) were created for the pleasure of devotees. It is just like the the ceremonies of waking God in the morning and putting Him to sleep at night. God doesn’t sleep nor wake up, but the priests and devotees certainly do. So at the start of the day and end of it God is ‘awakened’ and ceremoniously ‘sent to bed.’
These stories are the basis of much drama, song and dance in Hindusim. They are an essential part of our religion. However, one cannot take the Puranas and claim them to be absolute truth of what had happened. So Gods warring with each other or getting married and so forth should be understood in the light that they are fictional stories meant to transmit teachings of Hinduism indirectly.
The first sloka of one of the great works of KaaLidhaasa, Raghuvamsa Mahaakaavya indicates the unity of Lord Shiva and Shakthi. Lord Shiva is the immortal paramaathman which is always enjoying in the self. When It intends to create the worlds the Shakthi emerges out . When all the worlds that are created are active the Shiva and Shakthi appear to be two different entities, but they are the same Truth. When everything finally become inactive into the Lord during the Mahaa Samhaara time (Destruction) Shiva and Shakthi will become one and the same. There is a nice hymn in the starting of Kaliththokai (A Tamil sangam literature – B.C.) which praises the Dance of destruction that the Lord do, in which he describes the stillness of Shakthi in the Mahaa Samhaara time.
In this hymn KaaLidhaasa describes the inseparability of Shiva and Shakthi with two nice examples. Every word in any language has its sound also. When we look into the word we automatically remember the way it is read. They are always together. Similarly every word has its own meaning. It is not possible to say the word alone and not convey its meaning or without the words trying to say something. When we think of the word automatically its meaning comes into our mind.
“They are inseparable like the word and its sound (the way it is read), and like the word and its meaning. To those Parvathi and Parameeshwara, who are the parents of this world, Salutations. ”