Shiva carrying the corpse of his consort Sati
Satī (Pron:ˈsʌti:) (Devnagri: सती, IAST: satī), also known as Dakshayani (Devanagari: दाक्षायणी, IAST: dākṣāyaṇī), is a Hindu goddess of marital felicity and longevity. An aspect of Devi, Dakshayani is the first consort of Shiva, the second being Parvati, the reincarnation of Sati herself.
In Hindu legend, both Sati and Parvati successively play the role of bringing Shiva away from ascetic isolation into creative participation in the world. The act of Sati, in which a Hindu widow immolates herself on her husband's funeral pyre as a final and consummate act of loyalty and devotion, is patterned after the deed committed by this goddess to uphold the honour of her husband.
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The Goddess took human birth at the bidding of the god Brahma. Sati was born as a daughter of Daksha Prajapati and his wife Prasuti. Daksha was a son of Brahma and a great king and magnate in his own right. As the daughter of Daksha, she is also known as Dakshayani. She is also called Satī (Devanagari: सती, the feminine of sat "true").
By this logic, Sati is granddaughter of Brahma by Daksha, but is also great granddaughter of Brahma because Prasuti is daughter of Manu (Manu is son of Brahma).
Daksha once organized a grand yajna to which all the gods were invited, with the exception of Sati and Shiva. Wanting to visit her parents, relatives and childhood friends, Sati sought to rationalize this omission. She reasoned within herself that her parents had neglected to make a formal invitation to them only because, as family, such formality was unnecessary; certainly, she needed no invitation to visit her own mother and would go anyway. Shiva sought to dissuade her, but she was resolved upon going; he then provided her with an escort of his ganas and bid her provoke no incident.
Sati was received coldly by her father. They were soon in the midst of a heated argument about the virtues (and alleged lack thereof) of Shiva. Every passing moment made it clearer to Sati that her father was entirely incapable of appreciating the many excellent qualities of her husband. The realization then came to Sati that this abuse was being heaped on Shiva only because he had wed her; she was the cause of this dishonour to her husband. She was consumed by rage against her father and loathing for his mentality. Calling up a prayer that she may, in a future birth, be born the daughter of a father whom she could respect, Sati invoked her yogic powers or yogic Agni which was attained by her due to severe devotion or puja done by her and immolated herself.
Shiva sensed this catastrophe, and his rage was incomparable. He loved Sati more than any and would never love after her. So, he created Virabhadra and Bhadrakali, or collectively Manbhadra, two ferocious creatures who wreaked havoc and mayhem on the scene of the horrific incident. Nearly all those present were indiscriminately felled overnight. Daksha himself was decapitated.
According to some traditions, it is believed that an angry Shiva performed the fearsome and awe-inspiring Tandava dance with Sati's charred body on his shoulders. During this dance, Sati's body came apart and the pieces fell at different places on earth. According to another version, Shiva placed Sati's body on his shoulder and ran about the world, crazed with grief. The Gods called upon the god Vishnu to restore Shiva to normalcy and calm. Vishnu used his Sudarshana Chakra to dismember Sati's lifeless body, following which Shiva regained his equanimity. Both versions state that Sati's body was thus dismembered into 51 pieces which fell on earth at various places. Several different listings of these 51 holy places, known as Shakti Peethas, are available; some of these places have become major centers of pilgrimage as they are held by the Goddess-oriented Shakta sect to be particularly holy. Besides 51 main Shakti pethas, some small peethas like Bindudham have also in existence which are due to Sati's fallen blood drops.
After the night of horror, Shiva, the all-forgiving, restored all those who were slain to life and granted them his blessings. Even the abusive and culpable Daksha was restored both to life and to kingship. His severed head was substituted for that of a goat. Having learned his lesson, Daksha spent his remaining years as a devotee of Shiva.
In the Ramacharitamansa
Once upon a time in Treta Yuga, Shiva went to Rishi Agastya along with Sati. The sage narrated the story of Rama to the divine couple. Shiva wanted to see Rama, but Sati was in the dark that Rama was a manifestation of God. Shiva got a glimpse of Ram and was overwhelmed with love. Sati saw Shiva thrilled with love and became doubtful as to why Shiva was enchanted by a mere human prince. Although Sati did not say anything, Shiva being omniscient came to know of everything. Shiva said "If you are doubtful then why don't you verify?". To test Rama, Sati assumed the form of Rama's wife Sita and approached Ram. However, Rama recognised the trick of Sati. He first introduced himself and then asked with a smile "Where is Shiva? Why are you roaming in the forest alone?"  After listening to Rama's words, Sati hesitated a lot and returned to Shiva in fear. She became sad and regretted doubting Shiva. When Rama realised that Sati was sad, he revealed some of his power to divert her mind. On the way Sati saw Rama along with his brother Lakshmana and Sita walking in front of her. She then turned and found them at the back. Wherever she looked, she found Rama and various deities and all creation in him. In awe, she closed her eyes and when she again opened her eyes, everything vanished. She then returned to Shiva.
Dakshayani was reborn as Parvati, daughter of Himavat, king of the mountains, and his wife, the Devi Mena. This time, she was born the daughter of a father whom she could respect, a father who appreciated Shiva ardently. Naturally, Parvati sought and received Shiva as her husband. This legend appears in detail in Tantra literature, in the Puranas and in Kalidasa's lyrical Kumarasambhavam, an epic that deals primarily with the birth of Kartikeya.
The mythology of Daksha Yaga and Sati's self immolation had immense significance in shaping the ancient Sanskrit literature and even had impact on the culture of India. It led to the development of the concept of Shakti Peethas and there by strengthening Shaktism. Enormous mythological stories in puranas took the Daksha yaga as the reason for its origin. It is an important incident in Shaivism resulting in the emergence of Shree Parvati in the place of Sati Devi and making Shiva a grihastashrami (house holder) leading to the origin of Ganapathy and Subrahmanya.
Shakti Peethas are shrines or divine places of the Mother Goddess. These are places that are believes to have enshrined with the presence of Shakti due to the falling of body parts of the corpse of Sati Devi, when Lord Shiva carried it and wandered throughout Aryavartha in sorrow. There are 51 Shakti Peeth linking to the 51 alphabets in Sanskrit.
Kottiyoor Vysakha Mahotsavam, a 27 day yagnja ceremony, conducted in the serene hilly jungle location in North Kerala yearly commemorating the Daksha Yaga. It is believed that Sati Devi self immolated in this location and apparently this is the location of Daksha Yaga. The pooja and rituals were classified by Shri Sankaracharya.
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