Sati and Siva
(AZADI KE PANKH CREATIONS )
There is Brahma, symbolizing Creation; Vishnu, or Hari, symbolizing Preservation and Siva, symbolizing Destruction.
Associated with this Trinity are the female forms of Shakti, Universal Energy, in the form of Saraswati, the Goddess of Learning and Knowledge, consort to Brahma; Lakshmi, the Goddess of Fortune and Wealth, spouse to Vishnu and Uma, the Goddess of Power, wife to Siva.
However, Siva's marriage to Uma is a tale that merits special telling since Uma is not one, but severalpersons. She was first born as Sati, and She was Siva's first consort. Following is the story of Siva entering into a matrimonial alliance with Sati and the subsequent tragedy that befell Him.
Brahma was espoused to Saraswati and Vishnu to Lakshmi but Siva remained a bachelor, supremely unconcerned with worldly affairs like marriage. Kailasa in the Himalayas was His abode, where He sat in meditation for years on end, without allowing anything to disturb Him. He knew what went on in the world for His eyes were half open and yet He did not participate in anything for they were half closed.
Brahma, out of concern for Siva's well being, once conferred with Vishnu on how to persuade Siva to marry someone who would be a companion to Him lest He lose Himself in His solitude. The Preserver asked Brahma if there was any worthy candidate to which Brahma suggested His own granddaughter, Sati, born to His son, Daksha. "Sati is Goddess Shakti incarnate and she is destined to become Siva's spouse. Even though she has been raised in a royal household, she fancies not a life of luxury and instead chooses to be Siva's wife. Her love for Siva is unwavering even at her tender age when options of more materially pleasing alliances are available and waiting."
It was true, for Sati, since childhood itself, was devoted to Siva. She chose to serve Him as His consort and when offers for prospective husbands began coming her way, she shunned them all, turning to meditate on Siva, to call Him and ask Him to take her as His wife. She observed rigorous penance, gradually giving up all food and water, subsisting on just leaves and then giving that up too. Finally, Siva appeared before her. He smiled at her for He knew what was in her mind. Brahma's design had come to flesh for He felt drawn to Sati. Before she could complete her request, Siva consented.
Sati was overjoyed and she went running to inform her father of her choice of groom, expecting him to be elated. Upon receiving the news, though, Daksha was far from elated. His manner was cold and indifferent. He did not convey his displeasure at his daughter's choice to her, but showed no signs of happiness either. He detested the idea that his daughter, the daughter of Brahma's son, chose to take as a husband an ascetic who clad himself in tiger skin and whose body was decked with snakes and ash, for such was Siva's appearance, when she could be the wife of any lord or king or nobleman in all the worlds. His displeasure not withstanding, the wedding of Sati and Siva was celebrated with great pomp. Every celestial being in existence came to witness and attend it. In the end, Sati was bid farewell and she proceeded to Kailasa, her new home, along with her lord, atop the massive bull, Nandi.
There they spent many a year together, she preparing His penance spot and taking care of His household and He in turn holding her in reverence and showering His affection on her, sharing with her His Supreme knowledge of the Universe. She was, in all manners, the perfect compliment to His ascetic ways. Harmony reigned in the Universe for each of the Trinity was wed to the corresponding female compliment. However, this harmony was short lived.
Once, Siva asked Sati to accompany Him to Prayag to attend a yajna. When Siva entered the site, every person present rose in respect to Him. He took His place and Sati hers and they all sat. Shortly afterwards, Daksha arrived too, and, again, everybody rose. Siva, however, remained seated. He was a manifestation of Brahman, of the Almighty, and He could not acknowledge a mortal as superior, not because He meant any disrespect, but because such was the law of nature itself.
Daksha, on the other hand, a conceited man, born when Brahma Himself was proud of His Creation (to the point of being arrogant) perceived Siva to be disrespectful; as one who did not display regard for his father-in-law. He felt deeply offended and vowed to avenge this misbehavior someday. Siva could clearly perceive what went on in Daksha's mind and it grieved Him to know that the son of Brahma harbored such bitterness for Him.
After the completion of this sacrifice, all attendees returned to their abodes and no event of that magnitude occurred anytime very soon. Then Daksha made preparations for another grand yajna.
He called kings and sages and lords from all over the land to attend it. A yajna of this scale had seldom been witnessed by the inhabitants of the world and, thus, they were all eager to attend Daksha's sacrifice. He even invited the gods for his sacrifice. However, this being his planned revenge, he deliberately omitted Siva and Sati from the list of invitees. His wish was that Siva feel insulted on having been left out. The God of Destruction, however, could not be more unconcerned, since He was above such petty matters. Sati, however, when she came to know about the yajna felt hurt that her father had excluded her lord and herself. She asked Siva to go for the yajna with her.
"My lord, it is possible that my father did not deem it necessary to formally invite us since, I, being his daughter, am a part of his house and what man extends formal invitations to his own house members? It is possible that the omission was a sign of affection and not insult", said she.
"Dearest Sati, I have always known that your father dislikes Me. He finds My appearance uncouth and has always wished for a better husband for you. However, out of his love for you, he did not object to your marrying Me since he placed your interests above his. For this same reason, he extended civil behavior towards Me these many years. However, at Prayag, when I couldn't stand up in his welcome, he felt offended and immediately decided he would have his revenge. This is his way of avenging the alleged disrespect I showed. I, however, am unconcerned by his childish attempts at insulting Me. I have no wish to either spoil his joy or get into a petty dispute with him by showing up where he chose for Me not to come. Having said that, however, I would request you to do as you please. If you feel that you shall be welcome as a daughter at your father's function, then by all means attend it. Know, however, that on seeing you there, Daksha will hurl insults at Me. He shall talk to you about Me in a manner that will surely enrage you. Promise Me, dear Sati, that you shall not display your rage in front of him. I ask because I know you shall come to harm if you do."
Sati, who had decided to go and confront her father, bade Siva's leave and went to Daksha's yajna, Nandi accompanying her at Siva's request.
Upon seeing her arrive, Daksha displayed no show of happiness and this behavior hurt her greatly. She went up to him and questioned, "Daksha! Father! Why is it that you overlooked my lord and me, your own daughter, while inviting people for your grand yajna? People who you have never known, people you shall never know, have been invited and I, your own daughter, have not. Pray, tell me the reason for this discrimination."
"You are the wife of that ascetic now, more than my daughter", Daksha spat in contempt. "Your identity is one of a spouse now, not one of a daughter. You serve that vile wanderer, clad in his flesh skirts. His long and filthy hair is matted and painful to behold are the snakes that he wears as jewels on his body spotted with ash. He is uncouth and unkempt, a madman who dances as if in inebriation, with skeletons and bulls beating drums for him. He consumes bhaang and intoxicates himself in the fumes of marijuana. Lying in this state of inebriation, he claims to meditate. He is, in reality, not so very different from a lowly outcast who cremates dead bodies. What right does he have to call himself my son-in-law? What right did he have to assume that he is greater than me in any respect? Did you not see how he remained seated when everybody else got up to pay respect to me when I entered the yajna-shaala at Prayag? Did you once admonish him for his blasphemous behavior? And yet here you stand, his consort, come to ask me why I did not invite you to this sacrifice. Know, then, Sati, that this is a place for men and women of nobility and piety, not for a filthy rag-man and his lady servant."
With every sentence that Daksha uttered, Sati's rage intensified but by the time he finished, she realized that her anger had vanished, giving way to sorrow and hurt. She felt weak and exhausted. She never realized when she started crying. "I am ashamed to call myself your daughter", was all she could manage to say. How could she say anything else to a man who saw not that his son-in-law was Siva, the Destroyer, Siva the God of Gods, Mahadeva, but instead chose to judge him by his appearance? What wisdom could she grant such a man?
"Associating myself in any manner with a man as lowly as you can bring nothing but ill to me and my lord. I cannot continue living in this form, for in this birth, by my misfortune, you are my father", she said. Then silently, as if to herself, she whispered, "Siva! My lord, my beloved, I am destined to be united with You. I am renouncing this body of mine, but only to be born as another; to be born to a father I can be proud of. I shall come again, Siva. May You bear my departure until we meet again..." and she set herself on fire, invoking Agni with her powers.
Nandi rushed back to Kailasa to inform Siva of Sati's demise. Siva's eyes opened in rage such as He had never known. He let out a blood-curdling roar followed by a deep moan of pain and anguish. Then, He tore two locks of His hair and dashed them to the ground. From one emerged a god named Virabhadra and from the other appeared the goddess Bhadrakaali.
"Go and get me Daksha's decapitated head", said Siva. Immediately, Virabhadra and Bhadrakaali set out, he riding a bull and she a lion. They descended to Daksha's site of sacrifice and wreaked havoc. Daksha's army came to defend him but Bhadra and Kaali destroyed them all. Vishnu came to oppose Bhadra but the Preserver was also defeated for so great was Virabhadra's strength, having arisen from Siva's wrath.
Siva Himself descended, lifted Sati's body on His shoulders and began performing a terrible Taandava. The Dance of Death. He danced as His two creations decimated all who came to support Daksha. The force of His dance was such that Sati's charred body came apart in fifty and one pieces and fell at various places on Earth, to be known as Shakti Peethas. Finally, Virabhadra found Daksha and beheaded him with his broad sword. He carried Daksha's head to Siva, who ceased dancing, on seeing the detached head of His erstwhile father-in-law. Just as Siva's rage began subsiding and His grief began mounting, Brahma and the other gods expressed their condolences to Him. Brahma pacified the Destroyer saying that Sati was destined to be reborn soon and that she would fulfill her destiny. They all prayed to Siva, offered hymns in His praise, and besought Him to regain His calm.
Slowly, as night gave way to dawn, Siva became calm again, becoming once again the yogi He was prior to His marriage to Sati, holding worldly affairs in detachment. He revived all those who had been slain at the hands of Virabhadra and Kaali. As a mark of forgiveness, He even resurrected Daksha, but as punishment, and to serve him as a reminder of his great folly, He stitched a goat's head on to Daksha's body, instead of a human's. The revived Daksha fell at Siva's feet, begging His forgiveness and acknowledging His greatness.
The Destroyer granted His blessings to everyone and went back to His mountain home in Kailasa, where, sitting among the tall and snow-capped peaks of the Himalayas, He was to lose Himself in meditation again.
It is believed that Sati was reborn countless number of times, one such rebirth being the river Pampa, and she married Siva each time, only to leave Him to be born again. Ultimately, she was born as Parvati, daughter of Himavan, the Lord of the Mountains, a man she was proud to call her father. In this birth, as in all previous ones, she attained Siva's hand in marriage and they lived happily ever after, never to be parted again.
This was the story of Sati and Siva.