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Sati

Sati was the first wife of Shiva. She is the goddess of marital felicity and longevity. She was the daughter of Daksha Prajapati, but burned herself in the fire of Daksha’s yagna. Sati soon reincarnated as Parvati, who ended up marrying Shiva.

Family

Background

After the creation of the universe by Lord Brahma, Kama (a son of Brahma, the god of love) decided to test his powers. He made Brahma and his ten Manasputras (including Daksha) attracted to Sandhya (a daughter of Brahma). Later, Dharma (another son of Brahma) prayed to Shiva, who told them that what they are doing is wrong. Brahma was enraged at Kama and cursed him, but then blessed him.

Soon, everyone went to their abodes. At Satyaloka, Brahma started thinking about what had just happened. He then had an idea. He went to the abode of his sons, Kama, and Rati (Kama’s wife). Brahma said, “Shiva is a Yogin, so he despised us being attracted to a woman. If he doesn’t allow men to be attracted to women, then the creation won’t progress. We must have Shiva take up a wife! Only Kama and Rati are capable of this feat. Kama, you and your wife shall pursue Shiva wherever he travels and seduce him.”

Kama tried multiple times but failed every time. Finally, Brahma prayed to the Goddess Shakti, who said she would incarnate as the daughter of Daksha and marry Shiva.

Brahma told this to Daksha and his wife Prasuti, the daughter of Swayambhava Manu. Daksha agreed to go do penance. For hundreds of years, Daksha performed a rigorous penance, worshiping the Goddess. After many years, the Goddess presented herself in front of Daksha. She told him to ask for a boon. Daksha asked that the Goddess be born in the womb of his wife and marry Shiva.

“Dear Daksha, I will surely take birth in your wife’s womb and marry Shiva. But there is one condition. If ever, in the future, you are to disrespect me, I will cast off this body and take birth somewhere else,” the Goddess warned as she vanished.

Daksha then returned to his palace. He was overjoyed because the Goddess was going to take birth as his daughter.

Birth

A few years passed and Daksha and Prasuti had 23 daughters. But the Goddess still hadn’t incarnated as one of their daughters. They meditated and soon enough, Prasuti was pregnant with a daughter who was the incarnation of the Goddess. After 10 months of pregnancy, the daughter was born. Everybody rejoiced and there was a wonderful atmosphere on Earth. The devas showered flowers on the newborn. Daksha named this daughter Sati. The gods and sages came to the festivities and praised Sati, Daksha, and Prasuti. Many people were playing musical instruments. It was a time of joy.

Childhood

While Sati was in her childhood, Brahma and Narada once came to visit her. Brahma told Sati that she should secure Lord Shiva as her husband and that he won’t take any other wife. Brahma and Narada stayed at Daksha’s palace for a long time. After enjoying at his palace, they departed.

Penance and Boon

When Sati became older, she remembered her goal as stated by Brahma: to marry Shiva. She decided to perform penance. After taking permission from Daksha and Prasuti, she left and started worshiping Lord Shiva. She observed all the sacred rites of Nanda, appeasing Shiva in multiple ways. After this, she sat in a deep meditation.

Meanwhile, all the devas and sages led by Brahma and Vishnu came to the spot where Sati was meditating. They were amazed by her intense focus. They then went to Mount Kailash and praised Shiva. When Shiva asked for the reason of their visit, Brahma said, “My wife is Saraswati. Vishnu’s wife is Lakshmi. But you still do not have a wife. We request you to take a wife, for the welfare of the universe.”

Shiva said, “I am a Yogin. I do not desire a wife at all. I am supposed to be detached from all this. But if you really want me to do this, I will. But I have a few conditions. This woman must be a Yogini when I practice Yoga and a loving woman when I indulge in love. Also, she must never indicate any disbelief in my words. Please suggest a woman like this.”

Brahma said, “Sati is the daughter of Daksha. She is currently doing penance to please you. She wants you to be her consort. Please lovingly marry her.”

“Yes. What Brahma says is also what I believe,” Vishnu said. After Vishnu said this, Shiva was silent. Then he said that he would do it. Brahma, Vishnu, the devas, and the sages left cheerfully.

Shiva then appeared before Sati and he was awed at seeing her devotion. He asked what was the boon she desired, even though he already knew what it was. In a shy manner, Sati said that she wanted him to be her husband and their marriage to take place in front of her father. Shiva granted her the boon and vanished. Sati ran home and told her parents, who were very excited.

Shiva then called Brahma and told him what had happened. Brahma was relieved that his goal had finally been achieved. “Your daughter has propitiated Shiva, who has granted her the boon. Shiva is in love with Sati and cannot even focus on his meditation anymore. I will bring Shiva here for the marriage,” Brahma said. Daksha agreed to the marriage.

Marriage of Shiva and Sati

Brahma went and told Shiva that Daksha had agreed to the marriage. Shiva was delighted and got ready to go to Daksha’s palace. Accompanied by Brahma and his Manasputras, Vishnu, the devas, and the sages, Shiva went to the palace of Daksha. Shiva and his entourage were welcomed by Daksha and his citizens. Then Daksha told Brahma to perform the marriage rites.

After Shiva and Sati were married, Vishnu had Shiva promise that he would kill anyone who looked at Sati lustfully. As Brahma was finishing the rites, he couldn’t help staring at the beautiful Sati. But he couldn’t see her face as it was covered. Brahma added many twigs to the fire and smoke arose everywhere. While everyone was blinded by the smoke, Brahma went over to Sati and lifted up her veil to see her face.

Through the smoke, Shiva saw this and was deeply enraged. He said, “Oh fool, what a sinful deed you have done. You thought this could remain hidden from me!” Shiva then remembered what Vishnu had said and rose his Trishula to kill Brahma. All the devas and rishis started pleading with Shiva. Suspecting a disaster, Daksha ran up to Shiva and begged him not to do this.

“I am merely following the promise I have given to Vishnu. I will obey this promise by killing Brahma,” Shiva declared.

But Vishnu interrupted, saying that Brahma was the creator and was vital to the universe. After much persuasion by Vishnu, Shiva agreed not to slay Brahma.

Daksha then joyfully gave his daughter to Shiva and everything ended auspiciously and joyfully. After that, Daksha gave various gifts to Shiva as dowry. After the marriage had ended, Shiva and Sati sat on Nandi and started making the journey to Mount Kailash. Halfway, Daksha and Prasuti departed and when they reached the Himalayas, all the devas and rishis went back to their abodes. Shiva, Sati, and the Ganas continued and soon reached Kailash.

Sati learns about Liberation

Shiva and Sati enjoyed each other’s company for years. After a long time, Sati told Shiva that her desire was satiated and she now wanted to learn about devotion. She asked him the question, “How does one attain liberation?” Lord Shiva gladly explained to her how to attain liberation.

Brahma’s Yagna

Once, Brahma performed a great yagna at Prayaga. All the great rishis and kings were called there. All the Prajapatis, devas, and devis, and others also assembled there to celebrate the occasion. Lord Shiva and Sati also came to the yagna. Daksha also arrived at the site of the yagna. Everybody stood up and bowed to him except for Brahma and Shiva. Brahma didn’t bow to him because he is his father. Shiva didn’t bow to him because he is of a higher position. But Daksha was very arrogant. He was enraged when Shiva didn’t bow to him.

“All the devas and Brahmins bow to me. Everyone bowed to me except this wicked man,” Daksha said, pointing at Shiva. “I curse him that he will be expelled from all sacrifices!”

Hearing what Daksha had said, Nandi was infuriated. He thundered, “Oh foolish Daksha, how dare you curse Lord Shiva! Your curse will not do anything. It does not affect him.”

“All of you followers of Shiva will also be expelled from sacrifices and Vedic rites. No Brahmin will ever perform a sacrifice for any of you. You will become heretics who drink wine and keep matted hair,” cursed Daksha.

Daksha’s second curse really made Nandi mad. He yelled,” Your curse on Shiva’s followers is also useless, Daksha! Along with you, there are many others here who disrespect Lord Shiva, such as Bhrigu. They will all become beggars and conduct the sacrifices of the lowest caste. Some will even become Brahminical Rakshasas. Brahma, who also doesn’t understand the greatness of Lord Shiva, will become a hater of Shiva. And you Daksha, in the future you will have a goat head for your sins.”

Shiva them calmed Nandi. He said, “I have not been cursed, Nandi. So your curses on the Brahmins have gone in vain. Please, be free of anger.”

Shiva, Sati, and their followers then returned to Kailash. Daksha, still harboring enmity against Shiva, went back to his abode.

Daksha’s Yagna and Death

Sati was once sporting with her friends on Mount Gandhamadhan. She saw Chandra and Rohini going somewhere. She asked Vijaya, her maiden-in-chief, “Where is Chandra going with his beloved wife Rohini?” Vijaya went to ask the Moon where he was going. The Moon said, “Daksha has started a great yagna. He has called all the rishis, devas, devis, kings, Gandharvas, and others. He has also called Brahma and Shiva. That is where I am going.”

Sati wondered why Shiva and herself were not invited. She went to Shiva and told him about Daksha’s yagna. Shiva said, “Because of Brahma’s yagna, your father Daksha still dislikes me. That is why we have not been invited. Thus, it is best that we do not go to the yagna.”

“How can he not invite you. I wish to go see the malicious intentions of Daksha and other Brahmins assembled at his yagna,” Sati requested of Shiva.

Shiva let her go to the yagna on Nandi with 60,000 of his ganas. On seeing Sati, her mother Prasuti and her sisters greeted her. But Daksha did not even pay attention to her presence. She became furious and said, “How can all of you forget about Shiva. What is a sacrifice without Shiva’s presence? Do you think he is on par with ordinary devas! How could this yagna be started without Shiva.” Sati then described incidents in which Shiva had shown his greatness. She further described the greatness of Shiva. Daksha then ridiculed Sati and insulted Shiva. In response, Sati insulted her father for his foolishness. She then became silent. She slowly threw her body into the Yogic fire and it turned to ashes and her soul left her body.

Aftermath of her Death

The ganas told Shiva about what had happened. Enraged, he plucked out his hairs and created Virabhadra and Mahakali. He ordered them to destroy the sacrifice of Daksha. They went there with millions of Ganas. At the site of the sacrifice, they defeated all the devas. Virabhadra had a terrible fight with Vishnu. Soon, even Vishnu and Brahma went back to their abodes. Virabhadra then killed Daksha and many others. But Daksha was later revived with a goat head by Shiva.

Meanwhile, Shiva was enraged and went into a deep penance. He would stay immersed in penance for a many years until he ended up marrying Parvati.