Shiva: He Who Became The Mother #MahaShivRathri

Rathnavathi was heavily pregnant. Soon, she developed labour pains and asked someone to fetch her mother. She hoped Amma would be able to come soon.

On MahaShivrathri day, we worship Lord Shiva. He is often depicted as a Yogi residing on Mount Kailash along with Parvati, the Mother Goddess. Many of us are familiar with the half-God, half-Goddess ‘Ardhanareeswara’ form of Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati, symbolizing equality and totality beyond duality. While you may be familiar with Lord Shiva’s other names, like Mahadev, Rudra, or Vaidyanath, have you heard of Thaaymanavar? (Pronounced as Thai-Maana-Var)

But before we get into the legend behind this name, here is a musing.

When it comes to parenting, mothers are placed on an elevated pedestal and assigned the primary responsibility of care. Gender stereotypes and biases prevail; the concept of equal parenting is rarely enforced effectively, neither in postpartum nor in the growing years. In many societies, raising children is viewed as the mother’s job.

Some of us claim that we are no longer narrow-minded like in olden times and that our thought process is no longer archaic. While the mould is indeed shattering, the ancient times were far more progressive than we think. These were the periods of great wisdom when women were celebrated and venerated. Somehow, along the course of history, interpretations were distorted to suit mindset and enforce control, paving way for biases to creep in.

I’ve heard the story Of Thaaymaanavar from my grandmother who was someone I’ve learned many life lessons from. This tale is one among the many women-oriented mythological stories she narrated to me.


Once upon a time, there lived a woman and her daughter named Rathnavathi. Both were ardent devotees of Lord Shiva. They lived in a town on the banks of the river Kaveri. Soon, Rathnavathi married and moved to her husband’s house on the other side of the river. The women visited each other often. The river could be crossed only by boat.

After a year, Rathnavathi announced that she was expecting her first child. The family was excited and looked forward to the arrival of the bundle of joy.

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“Amma, I’m so glad you will be here to help with my delivery!” she gushed.

The months sped by, and the weather turned. Rathnavathi was heavily pregnant. Soon, she developed labour pains and asked someone to fetch her mother. She hoped Amma would be able to come soon.

It started to rain heavily. Rathnavathi screamed in pain. Her contractions had gotten more intense. Amma had not arrived yet. Outside, a storm raged.

Had it caused the Kaveri to flood? 

“I need my mother now!” she cried and whispered a prayer frantically.

“Your mother is here!”

Upon hearing these sweet words, she sighed with relief. The storm had not stopped Amma.

Rathnavathi’s mother calmed her.

“I’ve come. It’s going to be alright now.”

Soon, Rathnavathi gave birth to a healthy child, and the room was filled with the cries of the infant. Both mother and baby were well.

“Thank you, Amma, for coming on time. I wouldn’t have been able to do this without you!” she cried with gratitude.

Suddenly, she heard a knock at the door, and someone entered. She couldn’t believe her eyes; it was her mother!

Rathnavathi turned to look at the woman who had assisted with the delivery, but she had vanished!

“I am sorry that I could not come in time for your delivery. The river was flooded, and no boat could cross. I came as soon as the flood waters receded,” cried her mother, as she reached out to pick up her newborn grandchild.

“What are you saying? You were here. You delivered the child. I saw you with my eyes!” a flabbergasted Rathnavathi exclaimed.

“How could I come? I was heartbroken when the river was in spate. I prayed to Lord Shiva in despair!”

“If you came just now, who was here before you?”

They searched for the other woman, but no one knew who she was. She had vanished without a trace. Then, it struck them.

Lord Shiva had assumed the form of Rathnavathi’s mother and assisted with the delivery himself! From that day onward, he was worshipped as ‘Thaaymaanavar’ which means ‘He who became a mother’ in Tamil.

Today, the Thaaymaanavar temple is located in Trichy; people visit to pray for the safe delivery of their daughters.

My takeaway from the legend is the equality of the male and the female divinity, and the interchangeability of roles. Let us worship and celebrate this divinity and work towards a society free from stereotypes!

Image source: Sonika Agarwal on Unsplash

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About the Author

Lalitha Ramanathan

Lalitha is a blogger and a dreamer. Her career is in finance, but writing is her way to unwind! Her little one is the center of her Universe. read more...

54 Posts | 74,063 Views

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