Sital Sasthi – Divine Shiva And Parvati Marriage
Sital Sasthi, the marriage of Lord Shiva and Goddess Paravati is a major festival of Utkal Brahmins in Orissa. The festival was started by the King of Sambalpur after he brought Utkal Srotriya Vaidika Brahmins from Puri. This festival is in form of a carnival, where various artists participate and make the festival more beautiful and colorful.
It is celebrated at the end of the summer season to worship Rain God to protect them from scorching summers. It is celebrated on the sixth day (Sasthi) of ‘Shukla Paksha’ (the waxing phase of the moon) in the ‘Jyestha’month. This homecoming procession of the divine couple is considered one of the oldest cultural carnivals of the country.
The Sital Sasthi Jatra will be held in Sambalpur. The same festival is celebrated as ‘Hartalika Teej Vrat’ in North India and ‘Swarn Gouiri Vratam’ in South India. On this day married women keep fast for well-being and the long life of their husbands.
Sital Sasthi 2023 is on May 26th Friday.
Tarakasura is an asura blessed with a boon of being killed only by Shiva’s child. Shiva is leading a celebrated life. As a solution to bring Tarakasura to an end Devtas are desperately looking forward to the marriage of Parvati and Shiva. Where is the scope of fathering a child without the marriage! The dilemma is to disturb Shiva from his meditation!
Kamdev known to be the God of love and desire comes to the rescue of devtas. He readily agrees to carry out this job. Parvati is already longing for Shiva so no obstacles from her end. Once Shiva agrees things are going to fall in place.
Kamdev along with his wife Rati go to the spot of Shiva’s meditation. The first step of the execution is to turn the atmosphere into a mood of love. The fragrance of blooming flowers, chirping birds, the season of spring, and every detail in accord to trigger love and desire is tuned. While Shiva is submerged in meditation, Parvati has begun offering a daily worship ritual to him.
Kamadev notices Parvati approaching for her rituals along with arrangements of flowers and other offerings. Taking this as the right opportunity Kamdev releases the arrow of love and triggers a desire in Shiva. Shiva is awakened from his state of penance and is momentarily attracted to the stunning beautiful Parvati. The very next moment, Shiva comes to his senses and introspects his own strange behavior. He realizes being tricked and fuming with anger opens his third eye destroying Kamdev turning him into ashes.
Rati is inconsolable at the unpredicted fate of her husband. She mournfully requests Shiva to forgive and revive Kamdev. Shiva calms down and pities Rati since he also has passed through this phase after losing Sati. Attributing to his mistake he restores Kamadev but his body is already destroyed and couldn’t be revived. Since then Kamdev lived a formless life dispersing himself all around the cosmos, accountable for agonizing humanity in the form of lust and desire. Years later he regains his human form as Pradyumna, born as a son to Rukmini and Sri Krishna.
Parvati without losing hope takes the permission of her father for a Tapasya(penance/ meditation) for seeking Shiva. Pleased with her dedication Shiva appears in a disguise as an old Sadhu to test her. Awaking her from her deep meditation he inquires the reason for her penance. She humbly replies I am seeking Shiva as my husband. He breaks into laughter asking why she is desiring a man who lives the life of a hermit. Her beauty and ability can find her a better groom. Listening to this Parvati reacts and reveals that she was Sati in her previous life and Shiva was her husband. He will continue to be in this life too. Listening to that Shiva appears in the original form. He agrees to accept Parvati as his wife. Parvati is extremely glad for being successful in attaining Shiva’s consent.
A wedding ceremony has to be commenced as a declaration made to the society. He is the supreme being hence he has no family or family background. There is no one to initiate the marriage proposal from his side? He pretty well knows who is going to do that. He awaits their arrival.
Devtas are frustrated with Tarakasura. But proposing Shiva for marriage is as good as inviting death. The fate of Kamadeva is proof of it. The devtas carefully make a foolproof plan to approach Shiva. Brahma takes up the charge of initiating the talk about the wedding.
The ceremonial date is fixed and there are arrangements to be done. The ganas get involved in a discussion for arrangements of basic wedding attire requirements, ornaments, and accessories. Since Shiva possesses nothing of this sort the ganas decide to borrow them from Devtas. The crown is planned to be borrowed from lord Vishnu. The ornaments from someone else, the costume from elsewhere. Shiva stops the discussion and outright denies using anything that is borrowed. He says – The materialistic possessions though borrowed and used for a short while might germinate an ego in me. My matted hair (jatta) tied as a bun is going to adorn my crown. The snakes found in the surroundings will adorn my ankles, the arms, neck, and all that you people feel necessary. Enough!
The wedding procession (baraati) is about to start. Looking at Shiva and his troops the Devtas are awed and embarrassed to accompany them. Status and stature are at stake. To save themselves from being counted as one among the ganas they suggest that they may be given the opportunity to lead the procession as protectors and Shiva could follow gracefully with their troops. Nandi is all set for the grand procession. Shiva is surrounded by his ganas and he gets on Nandi facing his back to the devtas. His troops are irritated seeing this. They request him to position himself straight. He denies saying – My Nandi my wish. If Nandi objects I will agree with it. Nandi gives a no-objection nod. The disgusted ganas keep silent. The procession begins.
The purpose of Shiva sitting with his face turning back is he is the protector of the neglected and downtrodden. He never turns away from them. The other name of Shiva is Bholenath. Bhola means innocent and Nath is lord. Lord of the innocent and downtrodden. It is said that it is very easy to please Shiva.
The grand procession is proceeding towards Himavan’s place, devtas leading it and Shiva with his ganas following them. As usual, the groom’s arrival is anxiously awaited. Anxious and excited eyes are waiting to see how the groom looks as their beloved Parvati is extremely beautiful. Parvati’s mother and her relatives are all set for the welcome rituals. They are excited to see the grand procession arriving. The first and most attractive person visible is Vishnu. The relatives assuming him to be the groom are amused by his personality. They get ready with the ritual thali (plate arranged to welcome the groom right near the entrance as a symbol of respect).
Vishnu realizes a mistaken identity and slips to Lakshmi’s side clarifying their doubt. The bride’s relatives are more anxious now. The relatives and guests are so good-looking what might be the appearance of the groom! They can’t wait to see him. The Devtas move aside making way for the groom enjoying and swaying in rhythm with his Nandi’s movement. His troops hint him to turn around in strange voices. Instead, he orders Nandi to turn around. Looking at the groom and his shapeless, formless, ghost and goblin troops Parvati’s mother and relatives one by one start collapsing. The matted hair, the ornaments of live snakes, the troops who are headless, formless, shapeless, jolt them. Looking at the people’s reaction to collapsing Shiva asks his ganas – is this part of the ritual? Collapsing one by one is it a part of the ritual?
There is utter silence in the bride’s house. Mena Parvati’s mother is totally upset, visualizing her daughter’s future. Everyone except Parvati is in utter shock. Parvati’s family curse Narad Muni as he was the one who predicted and instigated Parvati to secure Shiva as her husband. Narada arrives and reveals the Identity of Parvati as Sati and it is predestined to unite the couple. The marriage is accomplished ritually. Shiva and Parvati leave for Mount Kailash as Himavan and Mena bid goodbye to their adored daughter with a heavy heart.
The Thala Utha marks the beginning of the famous festival. As per the tradition the said ritual is performed on the Akshay Tritiya day. During this occasion the selection of father and mother of Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati also takes place. In ‘Thala Utha’ ritual, flower and bale leaves are put on a disc where devotees donate for the organization of the festival. The ritual also marks the beginning of fundraising for the ensuing festival with representatives moving from door to door in their respective areas to collect funds.
The festival is celebrated between the 2nd and 8th day of marriage. In the meanwhile, the Jatra Committees and the family of the couple who will be the father and mother of the Goddess will start preparation for the festival. Sital Sasthi is the festival in which Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati are adopted by two families and their wedding is done. And later they return to the temple in a procession. The rituals are performed similarly to the marriage process nowadays, the festival is performed with great enthusiasm and happiness.