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Story of Daksha Yajna

The sages aid, Romaharshana, you have not told us the story of the quarrel between Daksha and Shiva which led to Sati's death. You have only mentioned it in passing. Tell us the story now.

Romaharshana related the following story.

Daksha's daughter Sati was married to Shiva. One day, the gods, the demons and the sages went to visit Shiva and Sati in the Himalyas. Daksha accompanied the other gods on this visit. When the gods arrived, Shiva was seated and did not get up. He showed no special honour to Daksha because Daksha happened to be his father-in-law. Daksha interpreted this as a sign of disrespect. He felt insulted.

Subsequently, Daksha arranged for a yajna and sent invitations to all his other sons-in-law and their wives. He did not invite Shiva or Sati. But Sati heard about the sacrifice and resolved that she would attend it, invitiation or no invitation. In a beautiful vimana, Sati travelled to her father's house.

Daksha was not at all pleased to see Sati. In fact, he ignored her completely and devoted all his attention to his other daughters. When Sati wished to know the reason for this, Daksha told her that this was because of her husband, who happened to be a worthless fellow and did not deserve any respect. Hearing this, Sati gave up her life.

The mountain Himalaya had prayed that Sati might be born as his daughter. Sati was born as his daughter Parvati and married Shiva again. This story you already know.

Several years later, Daksha resolved to hold an ashvamedha yajna (horse sacrifice) in the Himalayas.

The gods and the sages were all invited to this sacrifices, although Shiva was not amongst the invites. The sage Dadhichi did not like this slight to Shiva and he boycotted the yajna in protest.

Parvati heard about this sacrifice and she began to incite Shiva to do something. Shiva created a being named Virabhadhra. Virabhadhra shone with energy and he had thousands of mouths and eyes. His hair glistened like lighting and his hands were full of all sorts of weapons. When he spoke, it was like thunder. From his body, Virabhadra created a female demon named Bhadrakali.

What are our orders?, asked Virabhadra and Bhadrakali of Shiva.

Go and destroy Daksha's yajna, was the order.

To help them in their endeavour, Virabhadra created several other demons from parts of his body. All of them had a thousand arms and carried weapons. Virabhadra, Bhadrakali and these other demons headed for Daksha's sacrifice.

When they got there, they found that the sacrifice had already started and the sacred fire was burning. The sages were reciting hymns and the gods were watching. Musical instruments were being played. Virabhadra roared and the sound of the roar was so terrible that several of the gods began to run away. The earth shook with the sound of the roar. There were tidal waves in the ocean.

Daksha was frightened. But he summoned up courage and asked, Who are you and why have you come here?

We are Shiva's servants and we have come to take part in the sacrifice, replied Virabhadra.

Virabhadra and the other demons then proceeded to burn down the structure where the sacrifice was being held. They tied up the priests and threw all the offerings away. With their weapons, they attacked the gods. Whatever resistance the gods tried to put up was taken care of by Virabhadra's trident and Bhadrakali's spear. The goddess Sarasvati lost her nose and the god Agni lost his arms.

The sage Bhaga had his eyes gouged out and the sage Pusha lost all his teeth.

Virabhadra sliced off Daksha's head and gave it to Bhadrakali, who proceeded to kick it around as one kicks a football. Thousand and thousands of gods died and the sacrifice became a battlefield.

Vishu tried to fight it out and he and Virabhadra shot arrows at each other. But one of Virabhadra's arrows struck Vishnu on the chest and he fell down unconscious.

Spurred on by Brahma, the gods began to pray to Shiva. These prayers pacified Shiva and he asked Virbhadra and Bhadrakali to refrain from causing any further damage.

Brahma asked, What about the gods who have been killed? Please bring them back to life, Since Shiva's anger had been appeased, he restored life to the dead gods. Those who had lost parts of their anatomy got themb ack again.

But what was to be done about Daksha? His head could not be found.

A goat's head was therefore stuck onto Daksha's body. Thus restored to life. Daksha begged forgiveness of Shiva.

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