Monday, May 12, 2008

The story of Daksha

Daksha, the ‘creator’

The story of Daksha as in Mahabharata is very brief. What is given below is the more popular version based on other epics.

Daksha was one of the sons of Brahma born during the initial time of creation, who was deputed by the creator of the world for the proliferation of life on earth (Prajapati). He, accordingly, procreated a large number of children in several wives. The first batch, of five thousand sons, was known by the name of Haryasva (haryaSva).

There is an interesting story on the Haryasvas. They, being obedient children, started searching for suitable places to settle down and set up families of their own. The fun loving sage, Narada, wanted to play mischief on them. He asked them to find out the length and breadth of the entire land before deciding on the best place to live in. It is said that the innocent Haryasvas took the sage’s words seriously and were soon lost wandering, searching for the end of the spherical earth.

Without being able to trace the whereabouts of his first batch of sons, Daksha produced another batch of one thousand and named them Sabalaasva (SabalaaSva). They were, in a similar fashion, lead astray by Narada.

A curse on Narada

It is said that Daksha soon learnt about the trick played by Narada on his children. He was infuriated by the frolics of the sage and cursed him. “May you also be on the move always! If you remain at a place for long, may your head burst up into pieces instantly !’ Sage Narada was pained when he realized that what was meant to be a practical joke had landed him up in serious trouble. If he could not remain at a place, how was he to meditate on his favourite god, Vishnu, and attain salvation? Vishnu, it is said, came to his rescue. Thenceforth, the merit of meditation, of those who chanted Mantras without counting (without concentration), would go to sage Narada! That was how Narada started accumulating merits and qualify for Moksha (salvation).

Sati, the daughter of Daksha

The main story of Daksha is built around his daughters. He produced several of them. The twenty seven ‘stars’ (constellations or Nakshatras named aswini, bharaNi, etc.) were said to be his daughters married to the moon.

One of his daughters born later was called Sati. She had made up her mind on Lord Siva from her early childhood days. But, Daksha was dead against the idea and tried to reason out with his ‘immature’ daughter.

Siva’s ways

Siva was reputed to be dressed with leopard skin and had serpents entwined all over his limbs. He had matted hair and used to smear his body with ashes. Dressed in such a fashion the Lord went from place to place begging for alms. How could he be a prospective son in law for Daksha who was like an emperor of the world? But, Sati was adamant. Other gods also stood by her saying that Siva, in spite of his appearances, was the Lord of the entire universe. Finally, Daksha gave in.

The quarrel

Soon after the marriage of his daughter Daksha wanted to pay her a visit. The time was noon and the Lord was having his afternoon siesta. Hence, it is said that the keepers of Siva’s abode (said to be mount Kailas in the Himalayas) did not want to disturb their master at the untimely hour. Daksha felt humiliated. He took it that Siva did that on purpose. From that day Daksha declared Siva to be his worst enemy.

The sacrificial ritual

Daksha wanted to perform a sacrificial ritual (yajna) soon after that. His main purpose was to settle score with his arch enemy who was none other than his son in law. He made elaborate arrangements for a pompous ceremony and invited all who counted for the function, but, not his son in law. Daksha also proclaimed that he would not allocate any portion of the offerings to Siva, though he was entitled to, along with other divinities of his status.

Sati came to know about the event and was in two minds. How could she miss such a grand affair in her father’s house where all her brothers and sisters would gather? But, she was not invited. Would it be right to go uninvited? Then, she thought, did she need an invitation to her own house? She decided to speak to her husband first.

Siva knew what was in the mind of his wife. He tried to discourage Sati with reasons. If she was dishonoured in front of other guests by Daksha, would she be able to tolerate that?

Sati was not able to counter the arguments of her husband. Yet, she was bent on attending the ceremony in her father’s house, with or without invitation.

The tragedy

Sati went, finally, without getting the consent of her husband. But, she hoped that everything would turn out for the better. After all, she was going to her father.

As expected, the palatial house of Dakhsa was decorated colourfully for the grand ritual. All the important personalities on earth and in heaven, except for Siva, were present there. Sati was in high excitement.

But, that was unfortunately, short lived. The moment Daksha spotted her, he started ridiculing her. Why did she come? Who had invited her? Daksha, then, started putting down Siva for all his queer ways and for sending his wife for a ceremony where the two were not invited.

Sati tried to pacify her father with her own reasoning. But, that only made Daksha even more furious. He started rebuking Siva for insulting him when he tried to pay him a visit last.

That was too much for Sati. She could have ignored insults on her. But, belittling her lord in front of the celebrities! Unable to take the insults any more, Sati jumped into the sacrificial fire when every one stood watching in utter disbelief.

The fury of Siva

Siva soon learnt about what happened. He was furious beyond measure. It is said that he created two ferocious deities, Veerabhadra and Bhadrakali, and ordered them to destroy all they found at the sacrificial venue of Daksha. They were warned not to harm sages and Brahmins.

Accordingly, the two went about their business in all earnestness creating panic at the sacrificial place of Daksha. He, himself, was killed in the process. The whole place was ransacked. That was how the sacrificial ritual of Daksha ended up in great tragedy.


It is said that Sati was reborn as Parvati, as the daughter of the mountain Himalaya. Her meditation on Siva and her eventual marriage with the Lord have inspired several works of art and literature. The most famous among them is the epic poem of Kalidasa, on the birth of Subrahmanya (Kumara or Skanda) to the divine pair, under that name, ‘Kumara sambhavam’. We have briefly mentioned this earlier elsewhere.


Bharat Dave said...

Its shiv or shiva and not siva

Shiv Bhakt said...

Bharat Dave

Why the negativity? There are many examples of old Sanskrit and Tamil languages that have no "H" in the original language. Many times the name is written as "Siv" in its original form. For lack of "Bindu" coupled with "v" we use it's extended form by pronouncing it "Va" hence the pronunciation "Siva". There's nothing wrong with this.