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Sati And Shiva

by Anubhav Bakshi
The Union of Shiva and Sati. Shri Yantra is a symbol of Shakti and Aum is Shiva

The story of Shiva and Sati has a unique status in Hindu Mythology. This is the only story where a goddess, a manifestation of Pra Shakti, immolated herself and destroyed her body. The story is a tragic tale of love, longing, relationships, revenge, and forgiveness. This story deals with almost all human emotions. 

Shiv and Shakti are inseparable. Their union maintains the balance between Purusha and Prakriti. But their union was not an easy task. It took thousands of years and two incarnations of Maa Shakti, as Sati and Parvati to make their permanent bond.

This is the story of Shiva and Sati.

Daksha Prajapati

Sati’s story starts with her father Daksha. Daksha was the Manasputra, or the mind created son of Lord Brahma. Although some texts state that he was born from the right toe of Brahma. Daksha was a Prajapati. He was one of the agents of creation.

Daksha was also a Rajrishi, which means he was a Rishi and a King. He performed numerous Yagnas to please the Devas and Trimurti. Daksha married Prasuti, the daughter of Swayambhu Manu. Daksha was a great king and a revered personality in all three worlds. And because of this, a little sense of pride crept into his mind.

On the advice of Lord Brahma, Daksha, and Prasuti performed rigorous penance for thousands of years, worshipping Maa Shakti. Finally, the Goddess was pleased with their penance and appeared before them.

Daksha and Prasuti requested her to be born as their daughter. Maa Shakti smiled and granted them the boon. Soon Daksha and his wife Prasuti were blessed with a beautiful daughter, whom they named Sati.

Apart from Sati, Daksha had many other daughters. And all the daughters played important role in the creation of different species on Earth. There are different accounts about the exact number of his daughters.

The following video titled ‘The Daughters of Daksha Prajapati’ by Anichakra Vids explains a fair bit about Daksha’s daughters.

Sati And Her Love For Shiva

Sati was the star of Daksha’s eyes. She was his favourite. Sage Narada would often visit Daksha’s palace and regaled young Sati with the stories about Lord Shiva. The girl started to adore Shiva, and as she grew her love for Shiva increased.

When the time came for finding a suitable husband for Sati, proposals came from everywhere. But Sati rejected them all. Her heart only desired Shiva as her husband. Daksha was not very happy with this thought. However, he loved his daughter too much. So, he finally relented and gave her permission to marry Shiva.

However, there was another problem. Shiva was not aware of Sati’s love for her. And for that on Narada’s advice, Sati left her palace and went to the forest and started a penance to please Shiva.

Sati performed the hardest penance for Shiva. She gave up food and remained rooted at one place in the constant worship of Shiva.

Shiva and Sati’s Union

Sati’s penance finally bore fruit and Shiva appeared in front of her. Sati expressed her desire for Shiva’s companionship, and Shiva acceded to her wish. Sati returned to his father’s palace with Shiva’s promise. Daksha was very happy to see his daughter. Although he was not very happy at the thought of Sati marrying Shiva. 

Daksha despised the way Shiva lived. Shiva’s hermit lifestyle and the company of ghouls and other scary creatures made him cringe. But he loved his daughter too much to oppose the wedding.

Shiva kept his promise and came to ask for Sati’s hand. Daksha accepted the proposal and Shiva married Sati. Soon Sati left his father’s palace and left with Shiva to his abode.

Daksha’s Hatred

Once Lord Brahma held a Yagna and invited all the Gods, Rishis and Kings of the three worlds. Daksha reached the yagna place with his entire family. Everyone stood up to greet him upon his arrival. All except Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva. All three were above anyone in the entire universe. 

However, Daksha took it as an insult that Shiva, his Son-in-law did not stand up to greet him. His anger knew no bounds, and right there he cursed Shiva that he would never be given any share of the yagna. He also cursed his followers to live on cremation grounds and to be despised by society.

Shiva’s Ganas got angry and wanted to punish Daksha, but Shiva stopped them. Shiva told them that Daksha’s curse did not affect him. Brahma told Daksha that no yagna can be completed without Shiva’s presence. But Daksha did not listen and stormed out of the place.

Daksha’s Revenge

Daksha was boiling in rage and wanted to teach a lesson to Shiva. He decided to organize a great Yagna. He sent the invitations to every God, Sage, King, and all living beings to attend the Yagna. But he purposely did not invite either Shiva or Sati to his Yagna.

Everyone arrived at the yagna. It was a grand occasion, and Daksha ensured that all the guests receive importance according to their status. However, to show his disgust for Shiva, he placed a statue of Shiva at the gate in place of a doorkeeper. 

Everyone was shocked at this scene, but no one spoke a word for either the fear of Daksha or keeping with the tradition of not speaking against a host. Daksha was happy that he got his revenge against Shiva.

Sati – A Daughter And A Wife

When Sati got to know about the yagna, she wanted to go there. However, Shiva dissuaded her saying that it was not right to go anywhere uninvited. Sati tried to persuade Shiva saying that her father might have forgotten to invite them thinking they are family.

But Shiva who knew the truth told her that Daksha did not forget them, he intentionally did not invite them. He told Sati that her father hated that she married Shiva and he never liked him. 

But Sati was not convinced. She asked for Shiva’s permission to go to the yagna. Sati said that she would speak to Daksha and make him see the truth about Shiva and his greatness. She believed that she could change his father’s heart. 

Shiva tried hard to prevent her from going to the yagna, but Sati was adamant. Finally, Shiva relented and asked Nandi and other Ganas to accompany her. Sati smiled and told Shiva that she will be back soon. As she left Shiva had tears in his eyes.

Sati’s Sacrifice

As Sati reached the yagna, she was shocked to see Shiva’s statue at the gate. She somehow composed herself and walked towards where her father was sitting. Daksha saw Sati but ignored her. Sati again ignored the anger of his father and tried to speak to him. But Daksha ignored her and insulted him with his jibe that one should come to a yagna uninvited.

Sati was angry now. She demanded to know why Shiva was not invited to the Yagna. Daksha roared back saying that Shiva does not deserve the respect of being invited to such a big yagna. Then he went on to hurl insults at Shiva.

Sati told him that no Yagna can be completed without Shiva’s presence. Daksha answered that the presence of Lord Vishnu and Lord Brahma was enough to complete the Yagna. And then he kept insulting Shiva.

Sati was heartbroken. She realized her mistake of coming to the yagna and remembered how Shiva tried to stop her and she did not listen to her. She knew that after being insulted by her father, she cannot go back to Shiva. Her eyes welled up. 

But then she wiped her tears and looked around. Her eyes were now burning with rage. No one present there had the courage to look into those eyes. Everyone bent their heads down.

Sati spoke in a loud voice. First, she chided everyone present there including Lord Vishnu and Brahma for being quiet spectators of Shiva’s insult. Then she looked at her father, the arrogant Daksha and said to him that by insulting Shiva, he had sowed the seeds for his end. 

Sati told him that Shiva is the greatest god in all three worlds and disrespecting him would lead to his destruction. She said that Shiva is above insults and pride. That’s why he did not mind not being invited or being insulted. But she could not bear the insult of his husband.

Everyone was now scared that things could get out of hand anytime. Sati’s eyes were not burning with rage towards her father. She looked at him and said that now that she had been humiliated at her father’s place, and she came here against Shiva’s wish, it was not possible for her to go back to him.

She said that since she could not live without Shiva’s presence in her life, she had no choice but to give up her mortal body which was given to her by her father Daksha. And the next moment Sati jumped into the sacrificial fire. 

Sati's Sacrifice


A shock wave spread in the yagna hall. Everyone jumped from their seats. Nandi and other Ganas ran towards the sacrificial fire where Sati’s body was burning in ablaze. Unable to control their anger, Nandi and the other Ganas attacked every guest in the assembly.

They destroyed the entire yagna place and started beating everyone present there. Soon a battle broke out there.

After the initial shock, the Gods recollected themselves and came together to face the Ganas. They defeated the Ganas. The Ganas ran back towards Kailash.


Shiva's Tandav

When Nandi and other Ganas reached Kailash and recounted the horrific events to him, Shiva just closed his eyes. The feeling of losing Sati engulfed him in a state of sorrow. 

Soon his sorrow turned into a rage. Shiva opened his eyes, there was a fire in them. All the Ganas moved away from him in fear. Shiva rose and started his dance of destruction, the Tandav

The entire universe shook with Shiva’s dance. Everyone squirmed in fear, certain that it was the end of the universe. And then Shiva pulled a Jata, a streak of hair from his head and threw it on the ground.

A fearful and giant figure emerged from his Jata. It was Veerbhadra, Shiva’s destructive form. He was so fearsome that the entire world went into shock at his scream. Shiva ordered Veerbhadra to go to Daksha’s yagna and destroy everything. Veerbhadra bowed his head and with a legion of most ferocious Ganas, left for Daksha’s Yagna.

Daksha’s Punishment

Everyone was still in a state of shock at Daksha’s yagna place. Soon they started experiencing very bad omens. A pack of jackals arrived and started howling. Daksha’s left eye started flickering. Soon everyone saw a dark black cloud moving towards them. It was so dark that it engulfed the Sun, and the entire assembly was covered in darkness.

Before anyone could understand what was happening, Veerbhadra and Rudra’s army attacked them like a hungry pride of lions attacking a herd of deer. Veerbhadra brought massive destruction with him. Lord Vishnu attacked him with his discus, the mighty Sudarshan Chakra. But Veerbhadra calmly caught it in his hand and threw it away. Lord Vishnu knew it was impossible to defeat him and disappeared from there.

The Ganas and Veerbhadra destroyed everything in sight and killed everyone who stood in front of them. The scene was so horrific that some of those present just fell at the sight.

Soon Veerbhadra caught hold of Daksha and before anyone could react, he held Daksha’s head in his giant palm and ripped it from his body. Then he threw the head in the same fire where Sati had destroyed her body. 

Veerbhadra threw Daksha’s lifeless body aside and gave a loud roar.  Daksha’s wife Prasuti came running and started weeping loudly keeping her husband’s lifeless corpse in her lap.

Shiva’s Magnanimity

Lord Brahma advised her that only Shiva can restore the life of Daksha. He asked her to worship Shiva and ask for forgiveness. He said that Shiva is Ashutosh, and will listen to her prayers. Listening to Brahma’s word, Prasuti folded her hands and started worshipping Shiva. She absorbed herself into Shiva’s thoughts and seek his forgiveness.

Shiva was pleased with her heartfelt apology and worship and appeared before her. He quickly forgave everyone. He restored the lives of everyone killed in the battle. Prasuti begged Shiva to forgive Daksha and restore him to life. Shiva accepted her request and asked Veerbhadra to bring Daksha’s head. 

Veerbhadra told Shiva that Daksha’s head was destroyed in the fire. Then Shiva asked to bring the head of the sacrificial animal. Veerbhadra brought the head of the goat. Shiva placed the goat’s head on Daksha’s torso and brought him to life. As soon as he was alive, Daksha fell at Shiva’s feet and apologized for his sins. He asked for forgiveness. Shiva forgave him and permitted him to complete the yagna. With Lord Vishnu as the chief priest, the yagna was completed and Shiva was offered oblations.

Shiva’s Greif And Shakti Peeths

Shiva roaming the world with Sati's corpse on shoulder

After the completion of the yagna, Shiva was still grief-stricken. He picked up the burnt body of Sati and left the place. He was in a daze and kept wandering through the universe with Sati’s body on his shoulder.

The entire world was engulfed in dark sorrow. All Gods requested Vishnu to do something so that Shiva overcomes this grief and order can be restored in the world.

Lord Vishnu sent his Sudarshan Chakra in invisible form, and it cut off the body of Sati into 51 parts. Wherever the body parts of Sati fell on earth Shakti Peeths were established. 

A blog titled “51 Shakti Peeth – Shakti Peeth List with Body Parts” by Indian Astrology gives details about the names and locations of all the Shakti Peeths.

After Sati’s body was separated, Shiva regained his equanimity. He returned to Kailash and entered a deep Samadhi. The world got relief as it was now possible for Devi Shakti’s reincarnation and her union with Shiva.

And that is the story of Shiva and Sati.

Shiva’s Sati vs Sati Pratha

There has been a big misunderstanding in the minds of some people that the infamous Sati Pratha that was prevalent in some parts of northern India got its name after Lady Sati and her sacrifice. But this theory is completely absurd.

Shiva’s Sati

We need to focus on the reason Mata Sati decided to jump into that sacrificial fire. She did that to protect her and her husband’s honour. She felt cheated by her father whom she loved so much. And when he disrespected her husband Shiva, she could not bear it.

Sati had come to attend Daksha’s yagna against Shiva’s wishes. She was confident that her father’s love for her would overcome any discontent he harboured in his heart against Shiva. She believed in the bond between father and daughter.

However, her belief was shattered when Daksha insulted her and bad-mouthed Shiva. The bond between father and daughter broke. She could not muster the courage to go back to Shiva. And most importantly it became clear that she had to break all ties with her father to go back to Shiva.

But the most important thing that bound Sati with her father was her body, which was given to her by her father. And that is why she destroyed her body by jumping into the sacrificial fire.

Sati Pratha

Sati Pratha on the other hand is a practice where women were forced to enter the pyre of their dead husbands. The origin of this ritual has nothing to do with Hinduism. Its origin can be traced to the times when Indian kingdoms in the north were attacked by the barbarian rulers from the west.

Those attackers were so barbaric that just winning on the battleground was not enough for them. They used to either rape the women of the conquered lands or took them as slaves to be sold in far off lands.

To save themselves from this abuse and to protect their dignity, the women of India started the Sati system.

However, later because of the ignorance of common people, and the well-known greed of some priests, this practice was turned into a tradition. Society used Sati pratha to oppress women. It was an inhuman practice and against every belief and teaching of Hinduism, a religion that respects all life.

The sacrifice of Sati needs to be seen as proof of the strong will of a woman. Sati was a woman who chose the husband of her choice and decided to marry him even against the wish of her all-powerful father. She chose to live on a bare mountain with her love rather than being a prisoner in a golden cage. And finally, she decided to cut all ties with her arrogant father by taking her life and choosing a better parent in the next birth to be with her love.

Hinduism never preached anything that goes against one’s right to live. All lives are sacred as per Hindu dharma. And men and women are equal. And Sati is the proof of that belief.

So this was the story of Shiva and Sati. 

Tell me what you think of this story and its message. And do you think there is another message that we can incur from this story?

Keep coming back to “Stories” for more of such stories from our Puranas. And don’t forget to checkout “Unfolding Beliefs,” a space where I decipher the real meaning of Hinduism. 

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Hope you liked the story. Is there any specific story you want to read from Hindu Mythology? Let me know in the comment box.

Till next time!

Jai Shri Ram

Anubhav Bakshi

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