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Goddess Parvati Standing On A Monitor Lizard

 In Hinduism, Gauri, one of the forms of Parvati, the consort of Mahadev Shiva, is said to have performed a penance while standing on a monitor lizard. She is described as ‘godhasana bhavet gauri’. It can be translated as, ‘Parvati is known as Gauri, when she performs penance standing on a monitor lizard, godha’. In Sanskrit, monitor lizard is called godha. Here the root verb is ‘gudha’, which means to wrap up, to envelope, or to conceal.

In the sculptures at Rani Ki Vav, Patan, Gujarat — a unique and intricately carved step well from the Solanki dynasty of the eleventh century, originally constructed as a memorial to king Bhimdev I by Queen Udaymati — fifteen forms of Parvati are depicted. Among these sculptures there is one image of Parvati in penance standing on a beautifully carved monitor lizard. This form of Parvati or Gauri, who has engaged herself in a penance is known as panchagni-tapasya meaning penance in five types of fires. She is depicted as standing in the middle of four fire altars and looking up at the burning sun.

In the sculptures found in South India, monitor lizard is sometimes shown to be the carrier vehicle of goddess Parvati.

The Uma-Maheshvara images sometimes show the monitor lizard as the mount of Parvati.

The reason for choosing a reptile like the monitor lizard as a mount for penance is open to interpretation. It may be due to the solitary nature of this secretive reptile, which is shy and avoids humans. It has a keen eyesight and is said to detect human movement from about 250 meters away. Monitor lizards dwell in various kinds of habitats from open areas to forests. They shelter in burrows or tree hollows. This behaviour also tallies with its apt Sanskrit name godha, which refers to the habit of concealing oneself. Since the goddess was engaged in a penance, she preferred a completely solitary undisturbed atmosphere. Hence, according to interpretation, one can say that the Hindu tradition has wisely chosen the monitor lizard as her mount and has not only offered a respectful place to this reptile but has also encouraged its protection and conservation.