Of SvAyambhuva Manu and ShatarUpA there were two sons (Priyavrata and Uttanapada) and three daughters (Akuti, Devahuti and Prasuti). Devahuti was given in marriage to Kardama-prajapati and we noted that this was the first ritual wedding in all universe in this kalpa of Brahma. Akuti was given in marriage to the prajapati Ruchi. Brahma’s first nine creations for the purpose of populating the world are called prajapatis. Prasuti was given in marriage to Daksha-prajApati. We shall now take up the story of Daksha.
The Daksha-Prasuti couple had sixteen daughters. Their countless descendents are spread all over the three worlds, says the Bhagavatam. The ninth daughter Sati was given in marriage to Lord Shiva belonging to the triad of Divinities Brahma-Vishnu-Shiva. The first seven chapters of Skanda IV deals with the events consequent to an ill-feeling that Daksha developed towards Shiva. When this story was being told by Maitreya to Vidura the latter asks a legitimate question: How did this ill-feeling start? And why was it so serious as to lead up to the self-immolation of Sati?
And Maitreya recapitualtes the long story. Once all seers and sages assembled for a grand yajna. When Daksha appeared there with all splendour, all in the assembly – except Creator Brahma and Lord Shiva - stood up to honour and receive him. Daksha grew indignant at the fact that he was not paid the respect due to him by Shiva. Daksha gave a big speech insulting and scandalising the personality of Shiva, casting him in the role of an impure (*naShTa-shaucha*) and evil-minded (*durhRRidaH*) person. ‘Though bearing the appellation of Shiva, meaning ‘auspicious’, he is really inauspicious’ (*shivApadesho hyashivaH*) says Daksha. Some leading members of the assembly tried to halt him from going on in this way. Unmindful of such advice, Daksha proceeded to cast a curse on Shiva that he (Shiva) shall no longer get a share in the sacrificial offerings in yajnas. And then Daksha left the hall.
Incidentally in the whole of our Ancient purAnas,
there are only two persons,
who criticised the Lord straight in His face:
They are Daksha and ShishupAla
Shiva did not say anything in reply. But Nandikeshvara, the foremost devotee of Shiva, could not brook the insult offered to the Lord and he issued forth a counter-curse to the effect that Daksha’s head will change into that of a goat and his Brahmana followers shall wander as beggars eating anything and everything. Not brooking this curse on the Brahmana race the sage Brighu uttered a counter-curse saying the followers of Shiva shall take to the path of heretics instead of the path chalked out by the Vedas. While this counter-cursing was going on, Lord Shiva also left the scene. The yajna that had been started was conducted by those present and finished in due time.
Several hundreds of years passed. Creator Brahma nominated Daksha-prajApati as the head of all the prajApatis. This bloated up his (Daksha’s) head. He performed a Vajapeya sacrifice wherein he did not invite many Brahmana sages of great knowledge. In continuation he started a major yajna namedBrihaspati-savaM. His daughter Sati, the consort of Shiva, heard the news accidentally and pleaded with the Lord to allow her to go and attend the yajna festival in her father’s home.
But Lord Shiva said: Your father’s mind is tainted with malice due to excessive arrogance and anger born of self-identification with the body. My dear, Exchange of formalities in the form of rising from one’s seat, respectful behaviour and salutation, etc. is properly done only by the wise. They do this mentally with respect to the Supreme Person who is the indweller of every heart and not to him who regards the body as his own Self. It is the absolutely pure mind which is termed as Vasudeva because it is there that the Supreme Person is realized in His unmasked glory. It is in the altar of such a mind that I wait upon with obeisance Lord Vasudeva, who is beyond sense-perception: (IV – 3 – 23):
satvam vishuddhaM vasudeva-shabditaM yadIyate tatra pumAn-apAvRRitah /
satve ca tasmin bhagavAn Vasudevo hyadhokshhajo me namasA vidhIyate //
Therefore you should never look at the face of Daksha, your father. If you ignore my advice no good will come to you thereby. Having said this Lord Shiva became silent. With a heart tormented by grief and anger, Sati, clouded by her Nature, proceeded to her parents’ home. There, afraid of Daksha who treated her with disrespect, nobody bestowed any attention on her except her sisters and her mother. Seeing that no sacrificial offerings were allotted to Rudra, she flew into a rage and reproached her father in faltering but angry words: IV -4 – 11 to 23.
No one, except you, father, would antagonize Lord Shiva who is unsurpassed and to whom no one is dear or hateful, who is the beloved Self of all embodied beings. People like you discover faults even in the virtues of others but there are some pious souls who never do so:
doshhAn pareshhAM hi guNeshhu sAdhavo
gRRihNanti kecin-na bhavAdRRishA dvija / (4 – 12 –i)
My dear father, you are committing the greatest offense by envying Lord Shiva, whose very name, consisting of two syllables, shi and va, uttered with the tongue even once and that too casually, purifies one of all sin. His command is inviolable. Lord Shiva is always pure, and no one but you envies him: (4 – 14):
Yat dvyakshharaM nAma gireritaM nRRiNAM
sakRRit-prasangAd-aghamAshu hanti taM /
bhavAnaho dveShTi shivaM shivetaraH //
You are envious of Him who is the friend of all living entities within the three worlds. For the common man He fulfills all desires. His lotus feet are resorted to by the bee-like minds of exalted souls, thirsting for honey in the shape of the joy of absorption in the Absolute Brahman (4 – 15):
Yat pAda-padmaM mahatAM manolibhiH
nishhevitaM brahma-rasAsavArthibhiH /
Lokasya yad-varshhati chAshishho’rthinaH
tasmai bhavAn druhyati vishva-bandhave //
Him whose lotus feet are resorted to by great devotees, honey-bees as it were in quest of the nectar of the bliss of Brahman, to Him who is the friend and benefactor of the universe, to Him who showers every kind of blessing on those who seek it from Him, to Him you have added insult to injury.
And She goes on like this. “I cannot bear to continue in this body born of you. This body of mine is now despicable. Persons like you who engage in fruitive activities by performing great sacrifices are concerned with satisfying their bodily necessities by eating foodstuff offered as a sacrifice. We can exhibit our opulences simply by desiring to do so. This can be achieved only by great personalities who are renounced, self-realized souls. Do not entertain a false notion that you are rich and powerful. I am ashamed to be called Dakshayani any more”. So saying She sat down and invoked air and fire by yoga and Her body was consumed by the fire so generated.
Sri Rudra heard about all this and in anger created Virabhadra, a fiery formidable form, who, with a large retinue of Bhuta-ganas invaded Daksha’s Yagashala, destroyed everything and severed the head of Daksha himself. Afterwards all the devas and Rishis appealed to Brahma, who, together with Lord Vishnu, took them all to Sri Rudra Himself. Finally Rudra was appeased and he agreed to come along with them to give back life to Daksha, but now with a goat’s head, and to allow the yajna to be completed. Lord Vishnu announced at the finale of the yajna as follows: “I am known as the supreme cause of the worlds, its soul, its ruler, the witness of everything, the self-effulgent being and attributeless Absolute. But in truth I am both Brahma and Rudra. I assume different names appropriate for the creation, sustenance and dissolution of the universe. He attains eternal peace who does perceive no difference among us three”.
Shuka winds up the story by saying: “The daughter of Daksha, after giving up her body was born anew in Mena, the wife of Himavan. She again chose Lord Shiva as Her beloved husband”.