Updated: Mar 11, 2021
DEMISE OF SATI
Indian mythology abounds with several stories of Gods and Goddesses and their avatars of manifestations; each for a particular purpose, in order to teach the devotees a lesson in the form of story. While most of the stories of Devi or Devata seem merely entertaining and regale us with various anecdotes, there are also those who are fierce, passionate and self-determined beyond imagination. One such story is the story of Devi Sati.
Sati, also known as Dakshayani, is a Hindu Goddess of longevity and marital felicity. An aspect of Parvati or G
oddess Adi Shakti, Dakshayani is considered as the first consort of Lord Shiva. Sati is known to be extremely fiery with a frig
htening temper. However, she is also loving and extremely benevolent by nature.
According to Hindu legends, both Sati and Parvati are aspects of the Devi, who helped Lord Shiva, to come away from his ascetic isolation and involve himself in ‘Sangsara’ (the material world). Sati is famous (and sometimes rather infamous) for the fact that she immolated herself in the sacrificial fire, when she saw her husband was being humiliated. Such intense was her love, loyalty and passion for her husband, that she could not tolerate to live on when her husband was belittled, even by her own father.
The story of Goddess Sati : Queen Prasuti and her husband king Daksha had a desire to beget a daughter. They approached Daksha’s father Lord Brahma for advice and Brahma asked them to meditate on Goddess Adi Parashakti. The couple immediately donned ochre robes and left the palace, inorder to appease the all-powerful D
evi. Travelling deep into the forest, they located a suitable spot and started meditating on the deity. They braved the harsh weather conditions and quietly sat in meditation, not minding even the wild animals in the forest. After testing them for a long time, Devi Adi Parashakti appeared before them, in an effulgent form with thousand hands holding infinite weapons. She was dressed in a red saree and was also bedecked in ornaments - carved intricately, studded with gems, wearing a golden armour and a crown. The Devi was pleased with the couple’s devotion and granted them any boon as th
ey desired from her.
Daksha told the goddess about their long time desire and asked her for a daughter. The Devi granted them the boon, saying that she herself would be born to them. But additionally, she warned them that if she were ever to be insulted in anyway, she would immediately take her original form, disown everyone and leave their lives forever. Daksha and Prasuti agreed to the Devi’s conditions and happy to have been granted their boon, returned to the palace. As per the boon, Adi Parashakti took human birth and was born as a daughter of Daksha and Prasuti. This is why she is known as Dakshayani – Daksha’s daughter. Brahma had so designed that Sati should grow up and marry Lord Shiva. It was also Adi Parashakti’s own will to bring Lord Shiva out of his penance. Even as a child, Sati adored Lord Shiva and would love to hear stories about the legends associated with Shiva. Sage Narada would often come to the palace and regale Sati with the stories of Lord Shiva. As time went by, Sati’s devotion for Shiva grew by leaps and b
ounds and Sati had decided that she would marry Lord Shiva only. She received several proposals from rich and valiant princess, but she had eyes only for the Lord of Kailash – the Gods of Gods Mahadeva.
Sati wins over Lord Shiva : In order to win over ascetic Lord Shiva, Sati left the comforts of the palace and bade good bye to her parents. Walking into the forest, Sati decided to give up herself to severe austerities and constant worship of Lord Shiva. Going deeper into the meditation, she starved by renouncing food and water too. At on
e point of time she would eat one leaf per day. Then she gave up even that. Her mother visited her in the forest and tried to coax her to eat but she refused to touch a morsel. This abstinence gave her the name ‘Uma’. She also decided to do away with her clothing. She braved the harsh cold and lashing rains in this condition, continuing to meditate only on her Lord. This earned her the name ‘Aparna’. Her penance finally bore fruit. Realizing the extent of her devotion, Lord Shiva decided to manifest infront of her. Acceding to her wishes, Lord Shiva agreed to take Sati as his bride. Sati was happy beyond belief and then returned to her palace, waiting for the day when Lord Shiva would come and take her away with him. Sati’s arrogant father Daksha, though was far less than p
leased by this turn of events. He was a staunch Vaishnavite (devotee of Lord Vishnu) and could not bear the fact that his favourite daughter was to wed someone lowly (according to his own opinion), like Lord Shiva. In any case Sati was firm on her decision to marry Lord Shiva. Sati became his wife and then left for Kailash to stay there with her husband. Daksha, in the mean time, could not reconcile to the fact that Shiva was his son-in-law. Hence, he decided to excommunicate his daughter from the rest of the family.
Daksha insults Sati and Shiva : Soon after their wedding, Daksha organized a grand yagna (sacrficial ritual) at his palace, where he invited all kings, princess, gods and goddesses to attend. He, however, decided not to invite Sati and Shiva because Daksha was unhappy about his daughter getting married to Shiva, whom Daksha considered as his rival. So, king Daksha planned to insult them both. On learning about the yagna, Sati begged Shiva to go with her. Shiva refused to give in to her wishes. An upset Sati was determined to at tend the grand audition, defying Shiva’s wishes, left alone to her father’s kingdom. Shiva had warned Sati against going there, knowing she would be insulted and humiliated. However, when Sati would not listen to what he had to say, he sent his own troops to escort her there. On seeing Sati, arrived at the yagna, Daksha became furious and started shouting and yelling at her, hurling insults at her and Lord Shiva. Daksha made it very clear that neither Shiva nor Sati were ever welcomed there. Sati tried to speak with her father and placate him, relating what a wonderful husband Lord Shiva was and how happy they are in their married life. But Daksha turned a deaf ear to all those words and just kept shouting at Sati and humiliating her husband Lord Shiva in front of one and all present there. Finally, Sati could take it no more. She had warned Daksha and Prasuti in the past, before she was born to them, that she would desert her parents, if she was insulted by them in anyway. Accordingly, she flew into a rage and took the form of Goddess Adi Parashakti. Her family and the kings, saints, sages, Gods and Goddesses present there were frightened by her terrible form. She introduced hers
elf to Daksha saying that she was the ‘eternal power’ and stated that she would be giving up her mortal life, by jumping into the sacrificial fire. Sati, in the form of Adi Parashakti, further cursed Daksha, that he would be destroyed by Lord Shiva. Thus saying so; Sati in her divine form entered the sacred fire and ended her own human life.
Lord Shiva destroys all : Knowing about all that had happened at Daksha’s palace, also deeply saddened by Sati’s death; an enraged and grief-stricken Lord Shiva entered the location of the yagna and rendered the terrible ‘Tandava’, the dance of destruction. His dance activated the negative cosmic energy to the extent of destroying everything around.
Later Lord Shiva pulled out a couple of locks of his hair and threw them on the ground. From one lock, arose Veerabhadra – the destructive incarnation of Lord Shiva, he was dark and frightful having eight hands, each of which holding a weapon. From the second lock of hair arose Bhadrakali – a dark and extremely violent incarnation of the supreme Goddess. She had a terrible form with eighteen hands, each holding weapons such as the trident, disc, spear, mace, dagger, sword, vajra, conch, bow and arrow and so on. Veerabhadra and Bhadrakali were a couple working in tandem to destroy everything in sight – they were collectively known as Manbhadra. They were assisted by eight other goddesses, namely Chamunda, Ishaani, Mundamardini (Mundamalini), Bhadra, Kali, Katyayani, Vaishnavi and Twarita. Angry Shiva orderd them to start the process of destruction.
Then Daksha was decapitated by Veerabhadra and Bhadrakali. The horrific destruction continued throughout the night, after which Lord Shiva finally relented and restored all that were destroyed and brought back to life, all those he had slain. He even brought Daksha back to life and restored his kingdom. Lord Shiva then substituted Daksha’s decapitated head with that of a goat. Daksha was humbled by both Shiva’s show of strength as well as his grace. He completely changed and became an ardent devotee of Lord Shiva.
In the meantime, a totally grief-stricken lord Shiva carried Sati’s charred body on his shoulder and roamed all-around the world with it. According to legends : Lord Vishnu, being called upon by the divinities, dismemebered Sati’s body, cutting it into 51 pieces with his Sudarshan Chakra (discus). As Lord Vishnu continued cutting each organ of Sati, they fell onto the earth scattering across different parts of India and each places are came to be known as ‘The Shakti Peethas’. Each of these body parts was a manifestation of the Supreme deity – Adi Parashakti. Lord Shiva who later regained his equanimity, incarnated as Lord Bhairava, inorder to complete the huge task of protecting and preserving each one of these ‘Shakti Peeth as’. Several of these holy Shakti Peethas have now become major places of pilgrimage, pulling in scores of devotees all the year through. These centres are considered particularly sacred by the Shaktas (sects who consider Goddess Shakti as the supreme head of Gods). Some other minor Shakti Peethas too, such as Bindudham, have become famous as they are supposed to have emerged in the places where the Devi’s blood-drops fell onto the earth.
Sati, in her next birth – as Devi Parvati : In the next birth, Sati was reborn as Parvati, the daughter of Himavan (the king of the Mountains) and his wife Menavati. In this incarnation, Parvati’s father, unlike Daksha was already an ardent devotee of Lord Shiva. Right from childhood, Parvati grew up by adoring and loving Lord Shiva and was always devoted to his worship. In due course of time, Parvati married Lord Shiva and then gave birth to the elephant-headed Lord Ganesha and Lord Kartikeya (spear-wielding Lord).
Mr. Samya Mukherjee, is a young writer from Kalyani, West Bengal, India who specializes in religion, spirituality, philosophical ideas and ancient cultures. His writings include the areas of hindu scriptures, prophets and eminent religious figures, renowned holy temples of India, mythological stories about hindu Gods and Goddesses as well as the related festivals. Contact Samya via email: firstname.lastname@example.org