Religious Systems and Cultural Environment :- Why only Sons?
Group Discussion [ July 2004 ]


Why do Shiva and Parvati have only sons (Skanda + Ganesha), but no daughters?"


It is my believe that Religion does not operate in a vacuum. To understand the evolution of Religions and Religious Thoughts, one need to understand first the social, political and economic factors that influence Religion. If you want to change Religious thinking, you need to address all these issues first, otherwise no matter what you do, you can argue till the cow comes home, nothing will change. You can stand and shout, " This is patriarchal! That is Patriarchal!" I doubt it will have any effect.

I remember once posted an article entitled: Blackie The Rascal Cat likes to play chess. Quite interesting though that several members responded on the message board and off list personally to me giving their own version [symbolism] of the message. I realize that those who are obsess with gender issues talk about the gender conflict issues; those political ones too give their version and several others too. Each with their own interpretation. I read them all with amusement, because when I posted those, I have no intention but to tell a story about a girl who uses the id of Blackie The Rascal Cat, who like to go to the chess room and play chess. That is all. This to me is a classical example or rather an experiment I would say to show that once people are stuck with an issue and unable to see beyond it, they remain stuck. No matter what you say, they will continue to argue the same issue over and over again.


Coming from Orissa myself and having studied about these things I would say that when Ma Durga is all in all, as in Bengal and Orissa and prayed to during Navaratri as the chief deity, then Saraswati and Laxmi are shown affectionately as her daughters as she is the Mighty Devi and Mahisasuramardini. I am surprised people ask these questions specially people who have studied Devi Mahatmyam etc and are familiar with all the stories about Devi.

When one is dealing with a principal deity then that deity is always held to be the highest or as a father or mother who disciplines loves etc to generate devotion in the heart. Reading Puranas and trying to make sense out of that is like getting lost in the jungles of Religion. When one reads with devotion slowly the Shastras will have grace and the real meaning will dawn in our hearts. So read with devotion about Devi Ma.

Mary Ann

Hi Nora:

Thanks for sharing this message. I did not know your thoughts on the connections between politics, society and religion, or that you advocated activity to change things in these areas.

About your stories: It's true that we often view the world through our own particular screen or filters. When artists create and people view the art, of course people bring their own interpretations to what they see. It can also be a matter of what issues are present in the culture. Often, artists channel the unconscious, so they may not even recognize all of what is present in their own work.


BUT, I do recall reading somewhere that for some she is considered a daughter of Shiva. Question is how seriously should the idea of daughter be taken in that case, because I also noticed during Durga Puja Lakshmi and Saraswati are often referred to as daughters of Durga!


I think all these concept of daughter, is another way of trying to bring some sense to divinity. How else can you try to explain to simple-minded folk? You try to bring in all the philosophical theories, a simple-minded people will never understand. So the most logical thing to do is to bring this family association Ė something itís easier for them to relate to.

But if you look within our own bodies, the microscopically, the concept of daughter make some sense. There are two types of cell division.

The first one: Our body cell divides or reproduce themselves to maintain the wear and tear of our body. When the cell divides and maintain the same replica of the "parent single cell" they are call The Daughter. The Daughter Cell has the same hereditary material and genetic potential of the Single Parent Cell. So if Durga is the "Single Parent cell" and having the ability to multiply herself, make sense that Lakshmi and Saraswati is known as the Daughter.

The Second cell division is the reproductive division. They do not call these Daughters because the cell is not identical. The cell, of what we call the Zygote contains a mixture of DNA from 2 parents and through the repeated mitotic process; it develops into a new organism.


This is going away very far from what I want to know. My idea is: Ganesha and Skanda are the sons of Parvati/Shiva, do they have a daughter too? This cell thing... I am not interested in that.

As far as Lakshmi and Sarasvati are concerned: In one way it makes sense to see them as the daughters of Shiva/Parvati. When Shiva and Parvati are Supreme and Vishnu and Brahma are their devotees, one could see it in a way that each of them received a daughter of The Supreme Couple as a wife due to the excellence of their devotion.
,br> It also makes sense from a Shakta standpoint: Not Brahma creates but his Shakti (=Sarasvati), not Vishnu preserves but his Shakti (=Lakshmi). So you could see Vishnu/Brahma merely as the devoted servants of their wives.

On the other hand, what I read about Lashmi seems not in agreement with a deity of the Shiva/Parvati family. She always is portrayed as the exemplary high-cast wife, always submissive to Vishnu. But that's the Vaishnava viewpoint...


NO! I did not make sense to me to say: Brahma/Vishnu merely as devoted servant of their wives! Is that what you see them as?

In Lalitopakhyana

204. The Lalita Parameshwari so manifested created a male form from within Her. His name was Kameshwara.
210. She extended Herself in both male and female forms and continued the process of creation.
From the left eye, which was of the nature of Soma (moon) came Brahma and Lakshmi Devi. From the right eye, which was of the nature of Soorya (sun) came Vishnu and Parvati. From the third eye, which was of the nature of Agni (fire), came Rudra and Sarasvati. Lakshmi & Vishnu, Shiva & Parvati and Brahma & Sarasvati became couples. Lalita Devi directed them to continue the process of Creation.
211. She herself continued to create certain things.
(i) From her long hair she created darkness.
(ii) From her eyes, she created the sun, the moon and the fire.
(iii) From the pendent hanging in front of her forehead came the stars
(iv) From the chain above her forehead came the nine planets.
(v) From the eyebrows, she created the penal code.
(vi) From her breath, she created the Vedas.
(vii) From her speech, she created poetry and plays.
(viii) From her chin she created the Vedangas.
(ix) From the three lines in her neck, she created various Shaastras.
(x) From her breasts, she created mountains.
(xi) From her mind, she created the power of bliss.
(xii) From her fingernails, she created the 10 incarnations of Vishnu.
(xiii) From her palms, she created the Sandhyas.
(xiv) She created other things as narrated in the Purusha Sookta.
(xv) From her heart, she created Baalaa Devi.
(xvi) From her intellect, she created Shyamala Devi.
(xvii) From her ego, she created Vaaraahi Devi.
(xviii) From her smile, she created Vighneshwara.
(xix) From the Ankusha (a special hook), she created Sampatkaree Devi.
(xx) Form the noose, she created Ashwaa Roodha Devi.
(xxi) From her cheeks, she created Nakuleshvari Devi.
(xxii) From her Kundalini Shakti, she created Gayatri.
(xxiii) From the eight wheels of the Chakra Raja chariot, she created 8 Devatas.

This is in relation to the Matrikas
The tenth Chapter called "The Slaying of Sumbha" of Devi Mahatmya in Markandeya purana.
4-5 The Devi said :" I am all alone in the world here. Who else is there besides me? See, O vile one, these Goddesses, who are but my own powers, entering into my own self !"
6 Then all those, Brahmani and the rest, were absorbed in the body of Devi. Ambika alone then remained.
7-8 The Devi said : "The numerous forms which I projected by mypower here - those have been withdrawn by me ( now) I stand alone. Be Steadfast in combat "

I am sorry that you find it difficult to digest all these after all we are a Shakta Group. But I think the concept of Daughter cell as I describe earlier does apply. The best way to understand and learn is looking into our own body, the answers are all in there, if only we know what or where to find it.


I agree with you and thought the cellular reference was pertinent and insightful. Everything can be understood by looking into ourselves surely enough.


Well, it seems I have gone to far. But I get angry when I hear that Lakshmi is the daughter of Shiva and Parvati and then she is portrayed as massaging Vishnuís feet


Why angry? It will only hurt you. Relax! I see it as this: depends on who portrayed it. Some People are very angry when they see the picture of Krishna massaging the feet of Radha. I get nasty remarks in my mail. I read them, laugh and delete. No anger nothing. That is the way it is.
Sankara menon

This genealogical discussion is all wrong. The relationships and acts are all allegorical. It has nothing to do with human relationships.

This is a case of going astray. These things have nothing to do with sadhana.


This brings me to yet to another question: Does this means that religious system cannot help but be a little stuck in the cultural environment that produced it?

Devi Bhakta

I think any religious system operates on many levels. When I said, for instance, that patriarchy does not come into play in the Shakta Tantras, I was talking about its subtle aspects. My feeling is that japa or pooja is a subtle aspect of Shaktism. That is where you use the mantras, use the systems, rather than endlessly dissecting and discussing and socially critiquing them:

{"The temptation to take the precious things we have apart to see how they work, must be resisted -- for they will never fit together again." -- B. Bragg, Must I Paint You a Picture?}

Having said that, religion also does operate on the gross material level -- and it must because that is where we humans operate most of the time. This phenomenon can be both positive and negative.

The positive is seva -- service; transforming all of our thoughts and actions into acts of worship. That is where Mary Ann and I agreed: You have to try and translate what you believe into social action that actually helps people, and moves the world around you just a little closer to what you spiritually consider to be the ideal. It is not easy; most people have a long way to go. I certainly do. But it is a goal and even a commitment to constant self- and societal betterment. But my position is: That is an activity for the material world. When you enter into the subtle aspects of your sadhana, these things because baggage, dragging you down and closing your mind.

Which brings me to the negative aspects that can arise when you're more interested in surfaces than substance. Like fundamentalist Christians who'll condemn you to hell unless you use the label "Jesus" in conceiving and naming the Divine -- and then shoot up an abortion clinic in the name of Divine Love. Like the fundamentalist Jews in Israeli settlements, who would tear apart their society, nation and the entire region rather than leave some dusty piece of real estate that "their" God promised to "them." Like the fundamentalist Muslim who'll blow up a school bus, or fly a plane into an office tower in the service of "their" God.

Those are extreme examples to illustrate the problems that occur when gross/material intellectual models and social ideals (i.e. the various "-isms") get mixed up with spiritual practice.

Riane Eisler has every right to understand history and humanity in terms of dominators and patriarchy. Similarly, Karl Marx had every right to understand history and humanity in terms of class struggle. And the current Wall Street whiz kids are perfectly entitled to understand history and humanity in terms of commercial exchange. And you know what? They are all correct to some extent and in certain contexts -- but each model ultimately explains but a single dimension of the infinitely complexity that is human society and history.

And spiritual reality simply transcends all that. Shaktism, perhaps most powerfully among world religions, insists that we engage the world, not deny it. But still -- when it is time for japa, puja, dhyana ... we must leave it at the doorstep for a while or we will never see beyond it, and we will ultimately be trapped and undone by it.


Actually my questions where on mythology not on genealogy...


Weather its mythology or genealogy, Ms Alexandra, the main point that Kochu is trying to tell you is that weather such subjects have anything to do with Sadhana, otherwise its just another point of getting yourself "stuck" once again on the superficial.

Even the word Mythology seems rather debatable. Some finds it offensive to consider them as Mythology. You minus the "logy" it becomes Myth. Are those stories in the Puranas or in the Gitas are considered a mythology? This is another separate issue all together. If we want to go deeper into such mythology, then the best place to go is to another group called Hindu Mythology. In there you can ask any questions and the people there will be able to give you all the stories you want to hear. But I donít think so Shakti Sadhana is the right place. This is what I think.

It will not get us anywhere near DEVI because in my opinion the real sadhana is actually to sit and do it, and not just talk. As Devi Bhakta said beautifully in his previous message entitled: Religious Systems and Cultural Environment.

I supported his argument when he said :"My feeling is that japa or pooja is a subtle aspect of Shaktism. That is where you use the mantras, use the systems, rather than endlessly dissecting and discussing and socially critiquing them: Shaktism, perhaps most powerfully among world religions, insists that we engage the world, not deny it. But still -- when it is time for japa, puja, dhyana ... we must leave it at the doorstep for a while or we will never see beyond it, and we will ultimately be trapped and undone by it."

We can go on debating: why they only have sons and no daughters etc but I like to ask one question where does all these lead us to? Yeah! I am once like you, go on getting so worked up as to why only sons and no daughters, but I began to realize that in order for me to understand why, I need to go back and understand the social history. There is where you answers will be? And that is how I began to reconcile and accepts the things as they are. We can't change the past social history, but we can do something about it now and for the future.

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