Daughters of Shiva

Articles, Indian Mythology 13 Comments

Published in Devlok, Sunday Midday, Dec. 16, 2012


With the appearance of Ashok Sundari on the “Devon ke dev Mahadev” teleserial on LifeOK channel, many are wondering since when did Shiva father daughters? Everyone has heard of his famous sons: Ganesha and Kartikeya. But daughters? Ashok Sundari? Where did she come from?

The whole idea of Shiva Puran is to describe the gradual socialization of Shiva, from hermit to householder. And this means becoming a father and taking responsibility for fatherhood. As a hermit, Shiva is detached and disengaged with the world. But the Goddess is determined to make him participate. In that, she is helped by Vishnu and all the other gods. In Tamil temple lore, Vishnu is her brother and Brahma her father. Together they want this ascetic to establish a home. Only then will his great wisdom and his powers benefit the world at large.

And so children are required. Thus sons are born. Notice how the two popular sons take care of humanity’s most basic needs. Ganesha is associated with food that helps us cope with our fear of starvation. Kartikeya is associated with warfare that is necessary to defend ourselves from predators. Thus through his two sons, Shiva provides and protects.

But this ‘male preference’ has not been unnoticed by the devotees and the sages. And so across folk traditions there are references to his daughters.

The story of Ashok Sundari comes from the vrat-kathas of Gujarat and neighboring areas. She was created from a tree by Parvati to give her freedom from loneliness. She was called Ashoka as she got rid of Parvati’s ‘shok’ or sorrow. And Sundari because she was beautiful. Nothing much is known of her except that she was present at the time Ganesha was beheaded and she hid behind a sack of salt in fear, angering her mother, who was later pacified by her father. She is associated with salt, that ingredient without which life is unsavory.

In Shiva temples of Tamil Nadu, one occasionally comes across Jyoti, the goddess of light, who emerges from Shiva’s halo and is the physical manifestation of his grace. She is commonly associated with Kartikeya.

In Bengali folk tales, Mansa, the goddess who cures snakebites, sister of Vasuki, king of snakes, was born when Shiva’s semen touched a statue carved by Kadru, mother of snakes. Thus she was Shiva’s daughter, but not Parvati’s child, much like Kartikeya, who was born of Shiva’s semen but not in Parvati’s womb. Parvati, known in the folktale as Chandi, does not like Mansa and is even jealous of her, suspecting she may be Shiva’s secret wife. It is Mansa who saves Shiva when he drinks poison during the churning of the ocean and identifies herself as Shiva’s daughter. But Chandi is so blinded by jealousy that she blinds Mansa in one eye. Tired of household quarrels, Shiva abandons Mansa but gives her a companion called Neta. Later, when Mansa gets married, Chandi tells her to go into the bridal chamber wearing snakes as ornaments, frightening her husband, Jaratkaru, who runs away. Abandoned by father and husband, the unhappy Mansa becomes a bitter angry goddess who has to be appeased if one wants to escape death by snakebite.

The idea of devotees ‘creating’ gods and goddess is not unknown to Hinduism. Few realize that Santoshi-maa did not exist in the Hindu landscape before the famous film in the 1970s. Is Ashok Sundari the next of our 330 million gods?

  • Raghav Venkataraman

    “Is Ashok Sundari the next of our 330 million gods?” – I am from Tamilnadu and have not seen the Mahadev serial too. For me it is 330 million +1

    • Sanjay Kumar J

      im not 100% sure. but sir, while visiting the “Uchi Pillayar Temple, Trichy” 1 week ago, i think i saw a name board, “Ashoka Sundari”

  • Jayasankar Chidambaram

    It is just a nig imagination of this author. There is nothing like Ashok Sundari. Please ignore these Crook Writers.

  • Jayasankar Chidambaram

    Mahadev serial is a useless serial and Purana’s are Wrognly interpreted by the Director and story writer. It is better we all lodge a protest against these Crooks.

    • krishna

      dear sir,

      none of our puranas are 100 percent correct.

      there are 700 different versions of ramayana, nearly more than 10 versions of mahabharata.

      all vedas, puranas , upanishads, differ each other . In India each state , each city has different stories.

      brahmins say the puranas which claim vishnu as superior are Rajasic puranas( meaning they can be believed fully).and the puranas which claim siva as superior as Tamasic puranas(meaning they cannot be believed fully or false puranas for ignorants).

      • Druv Chandra

        It is your inability to understand the puranas.

        It is all about matter of perception,

        from Vishnu purana perspective – God vishnu is the supreme being.

        from Shiva purana perspective – God Shiva is the supreme being.



        If you take out infinity from infinity, infinity remains infinity.


        Try to read them again, it is you inability to understand them.

      • cK

        No saattvik puranas?

      • harsha

        Dear Krishna,

        We should only consider the original scriptures of Ramayan, mahabharat and all puranas were all written only once. Rest all are interpretations made by different scholars with different motives. For example Shri Valmiki wrote Ramayan. He was blessed by lord brahma that he could see the past , present and future of every person involved in Ramayan. He was also blessed that he could read the minds of those who are part of ramayan. It is emphasised in Valmiki Ramayan that what ever is written by valmiki is 100% true and this Ramayan shall exist till there is life on this planet. Thats the purity of the original transcripts. Rest all 699 versions are just interpretations made by other scholars, individuals and stupids who thought they could understand Ramayan. Same is the case with every other purana.

        And for the fact, puranas never divided people in the name of God. Its the maligned minds of those ignorant people with ulterior motives raised the topic of Lord Vishnu vs Lord Shiva.
        Lord Shiva and Lord Vishnu are the two sides of the same coin. They are one and the same. In one of the instances , Parvati Devi asks Lord Shiva that who does he pray to when he is in meditation . Lord Shiva replies that he meditates the name of Ram (Vishnu). In sanskrit, this was said as
        ” Shri Rama Rama Ramethi,
        Rame Raame Mano Rame,
        Sahasra Naama tutulyam,
        Rama Nama Varanane”

        As someone else already mentioned here, Even lord Vishnu says that he mediates the name of lord Shiva.

        If you notice, they both say, they meditate ‘the names’ not the other lord himself, thats because they do not consider themselves as different entities. They are just two names of two different forms of the same force. This is the concept called “advaitam’.

        Please do not comment without having basic knowledge about the facts. Can you comment about commenting on Einstein’s work without even reading them?

  • Jyoti Iyer

    I always look at myths as perceptions. They show us how people in general look at the facts of life. I also hadn’t heard of Ashok Sundari. But how does it matter? Even if it is a figment of someone’s imagination, that is what lies at the base of every myth anyway. Enjoy the story for what it conveys. Talking about the serial, I also have certain problems with it. But they are for different reasons. I feel they are dragging the story to pull on for more episodes. The portion with Sati was much more well edited that that with Parvati. But again, that is my opinion. To each his own:-)

  • Sourobh

    Wondering – Why is it that the mother Goddess – Never ever physically gave birth to anyone ???? Ganesh and Kartik were not born of her … Strange na… Mr. Devdutt – will appreciate if you could enlighten us…

    • Dimpi

      Well though im not 100% sure the story goes that celestial feminine form of love rathi cursed goddess parvathi since she believes that the godess was the reason behind manmatha(husband of rathi) death (burnt to ashes and later becomes visible only to rathi but is believed she cannot feel his physical touch)as he shoots the arrow of love on parvathi’s request. Since rathi cant have her own kid she curses the goddess that she cant conceive

  • avanthi

    It is that lord Shiva and parvathi have no child physically because all of us are indeed their children. They are prakruthipurush , if they have their physical child, they become parents to that child, But now they parents to whole world and all are equal for them

  • kunalc

    According to vedas..there are 33 koti gods and goddesses.THE TERM ‘KOTI’ IN VEDAS DENOTES ‘CLASS’ AND NOT THE MUCH MORE Popular meaning i.e. CRORE. For eg. We use ‘ucch koti’ in many sentences where koti signifies class.