Indian Mythology (by ApamNapat)

Daksha's Sacrifice

Tales of Shiva

This tale is taken from the Padma Purana. Portions are also taken from Sh.P., L.P., K.P., and Vm.P..

Long ago, Daksha Prajapathi wanted to conduct a great sacrifice. He invited all the Devas, the great sages, and many others to this event. The sages Vasishta, Angika, Brihaspati and Narada were to be the Ritwiks (priests) of this sacrifice. Lord Brahma and Vishnu were also invited. The only deity not invited was Lord Shiva. Although most of the Gods knew that it was improper of Daksha to perform a Yagna without inviting Shiva, they kept quiet. Indeed, the only person to object was the sage Dadhichi, who was a great devotee of Shiva. When he saw that Daksha was not going to change his mind, he left the sacrificial hall in protest.

Now, Shiva was married to Sati, a daughter of Daksha. When Daksha had gone to see his daughter and son-in-law, he felt that he had not been offered proper worship by Shiva. He used this sacrifice as an opportunity to pay back the insult suffered.

Jaya, the daughter of sage Gautama went to see Sati at Mt. Mandara. After the customary enquiries, Sati wanted to know why her two sisters Jayanti and Aparajita had not accompanied her. Jaya said that both of them were attending Daksha's sacrifice, for he was their maternal grand-father. Upon further enquiry, Sati found that everyone but herself and Shiva had been invited for this function.

She went to Shiva and said, "Sir, everyone is going to my father's house, shouldn't we also be going?"

Her husband said, "We are not going, because we have not been invited. Your father has not deemed me worthy of honor, and has not bothered to send me an invitation for this function. I shall not go where I am not wanted."

Sati said, "It is a function at my father's place. Even if he has not invited us, we must go. If he is displeased with us, It is proper for us to go there and and work out our differences. Let us go."

Rudra said, "Sati, your father has resolved to insult me. He cannot be reasoned with. If you go there, uninvited, nothing but dishonor shall be the result. Take my advice, stay here, and ignore your father."

Sati would not be dissuaded. In the end, Shiva let her go alone. When she reached the sacrificial hall, none of her kinsmen welcomed her, for they all feared her father's anger. Daksha himself did not even deign to notice her presence.

The rituals began. Worship was offered to all the deities, but Rudra was omitted from this list. Sati could bear it no more. She went up to her father and said, "Father! How could you even think of completing a sacrifice without worshiping the Lord of the Universe? Do you not know that no ritual is complete without invoking him whose power animates all beings? I am surprised that the great Ritwiks have consented to participate in this travesty of a Yagna, and have conducted the ritual without offering oblations to my husband!"

Daksha said, "Blinded by your partiality for that worthless husband of yours, you are unable to perceive reality. He is unworthy of being in the company of other deities. His appearance is abhorrent. He smears ashes on his body and wanders around the cremation ground. Instead of clothes, he is clad in tiger-skin. A garland of skulls hangs on his neck. Serpents coil around his body. And this, is whom you call the Lord of the Universe? I did not invite him to this august gathering on purpose. At least he has sense enough to not come where he is not wanted. As far you, I am ashamed to call you a daughter of mine. The day you married him, you lost all claim to my affection. Lost to all shame, you have come here as an uninvited guest. Not content with this, you dare to upbraid me, the son of Brahma! Go away from here, and never come back!"

With tears in her eyes, Sati stared uncomprehendingly at her Daksha. She could not believe that it was her father who spoke these harsh words to her. She cast her eyes around the assembled Gods. All averted their eyes, there was none to speak in her defense. She turned to her father and said, "O Daksha, in your arrogance, you have insulted him, who is infinitely above all else. You proudly say that you are the son of Brahma. Know that it is by my husband's grace that Brahma came into being. In their wisdom, all these deities have assembled here to grace this ritual, but it is like a flower without fragrance. These ears of mine have heard you insult my husband, so I am no longer fit to live. My husband shall surely avenge my death!"

Before anyone could comprehend what was happening, she dived into the sacrificial fire and committed suicide. There was stunned silence around the dias. In an instant, the festive mood at the ritual had turned into one of unadulterated gloom.

The news of his wife's death was carried to Shiva. Greatly angered, he threw down one of his matted locks to the ground. A demon named Veerabhadra emerged from it. Led by this demon, all the Ganas, including Nandi, went to the sacrificial hall and started destroying it. Initially, the sage Bhrigu was successful in destroying this invading army, with his powerful incantations, but Veerabhadra caught hold of him by his beard and uprooted it. At this point, Vishnu, who was duty bound to protect the sacrifice, attempted to stop Veerabhadra with his discus, but since the demon was an aspect of Shiva, the weapon did not harm him. Instead, the demon simply swallowed the weapon. Seeing the writing on the wall, Vishnu retired to Hrishikesha mountain.

Meanwhile, the Ganas had totally destroyed the sacrificial hall. Most of Daksha's followers had been slain. Daksha was dead, beheaded by one of the Ganas. Shiva's anger was still not appeased. Indeed, great heat emanated from his body and threatened to burn up the universe.

At this point, all the Gods and sages sang praises of Shiva and beseeched him to calm down, and withdraw his forces. At last, Shiva's rage subsided and great sorrow replaced it. He took up the burnt body of his wife from the altar, slung it over his shoulders and danced a dance of great energy, consumed by inconsolable sorrow. One by one, the limbs of Sati flew in all directions as Shiva danced. Where each part of her body fell, a shrine was established for her worship. (This is the origin of the 108-Shakti Peetas, shrines of Shakti)

When Shiva's dance ceased, Brahma prayed to him to bring his son (Daksha) back to life. Shiva placed the head of a Goat on the torso of Daksha and brought him back to life. After this, Shiva went away, withdrawing himself from the affairs of the world, to spend his days as a recluse, nursing his sorrow. Of course, this state of affairs could not be allowed to last, so the other Gods came up with a plan to get Shiva involved in worldly affairs again. However, that is a different story.

Last Modified At: Wed Nov 17 23:00:59 2004