Thursday, February 18, 2021

Daksheswarar Temple, Kanchipuram – Legends

Daksheswarar  Temple, Kanchipuram – Legends

Daksha was one of the Prajapati, son of Brahma, and among his foremost creations. The name Daksha means "skilled one". Daksha had two wives: Prasoothi and Panchajani (Virini). Sati (also known as ‘‘Uma’’) was his youngest daughter; born from Prasoothi (the daughter of the Prajapati Manu), she was the pet child of Daksha and he always carried her with him. Sati (meaning truth) is also called Dakshayani as she followed Daksha’s path; this is derived from the Sanskrit words Daksha and Ayana (walk or path).

Sati, the youngest daughter of Daksha, was deeply in love with the god Shiva and wished to become his wife. Her worship and devotion of Shiva strengthened her immense desire to become his wife. However, Daksha did not like his daughter’s yearning for Shiva, mainly because he was a Prajapati and the son of the god Brahma; his daughter Sati was a royal princess. They were wealthy nobility and their imperial royal lifestyle was entirely different from that of Shiva.

As an emperor, Daksha wanted to increase his influence and power by making marriage alliances with powerful empires and influential sages and gods. Shiva on the other hand led a very modest life. He lived among the downtrodden, wore a tiger skin, smeared ashes on his body, had thick locks of matted hair, and begged with a skull as bowl. His abode was Mount Kailash in the Himalayas. He embraced all kinds of living beings and did not make any distinction between good souls and bad souls.

The Bhutaganas, his followers, consisted of all kinds of ghosts, demons, ghouls and goblins. He wandered through garden and graveyard alike. As a consequence, Daksha had aversion towards Shiva being his daughter’s companion. However, unlike Daksha, Sati loved Shiva as she had the revelation that Shiva was the Supreme God. Sati won Shiva as her husband by undergoing severe austerities (tapas). Despite Daksha's disappointment, Sati married Shiva.

Once Brahma conducted a huge yajna (sacrifice), where all the Prajapatis, gods and kings of the world were invited. Shiva and Sati were also called on to participate in the yajna. All of them came for the yajna and sat in the ceremonial place. Daksha came last. When he arrived, everyone in the yajna, with the exception of Brahma, Shiva and Sati, stood up showing reverence for him. Brahma being Daksha's father and Shiva being Daksha's son-in-law were considered superior in stature to Daksha.

Daksha misunderstood Shiva’s gesture and considered Shiva's gesture as an insult. Daksha vowed to take revenge on the insult in the same manner. Daksha’s grudge towards Shiva grew after Brahma's yajna. With the prime motive of insulting Shiva, Daksha initiated a great yajna, similar to that of Brahma. The yajna was to be presided over by the sage Bhrigu. He invited all the gods, Prajapatis and kings to attend the yajna and intentionally avoided inviting Shiva and Sati.

After the sacrifice and hymns where offered to the twelve Aditya gods; Dadhichi noticed that there was no sacrificial portion (Havvis) allotted to Shiva and his wife, and no Vedic hymns were used in the yajna addressing Shiva which were part of Vedic hymns. He warned Daksha that he should not alter the Holy Vedas for personal reasons; the priests and sages supported this. Daksha replied to Dadhichi that he would not do so and insulted Shiva. Dadhichi left the yajna because of this argument.

Sati came to know about the grand yajna organized by her father and asked Shiva to attend the yajna. Shiva refused her request, saying that it was inappropriate to attend a function without being invited. He reminded her that she was now his wife more than Daksha’s daughter and, after marriage, is a member of Shiva’s family rather than Daksha’s. The feeling of her bond to her parents overpowered the social etiquette she had to follow.

She even had a notion that there was no need to have received an invitation in order to attend as she was Daksha’s favourite daughter and no formality existed between them. She constantly pleaded and urged Shiva to let her attend the ceremony and became adamant in her demands without listening to the reasons Shiva provided for not attending the function. He allowed Sati to go to her parents' home, along with his followers including Nandi, and attend the ceremony, but refused to accompany with her.

Upon arriving, Sati tried to meet her parents and sisters; Daksha was arrogant and avoided interacting with Sati. He repeatedly snubbed her in front of all the dignitaries, but Sati maintained her composure. Because of Sati’s persistence in trying to meet him, Daksha reacted vehemently, insulting her in front of all the other guests at the ceremony to which she had not been invited. He called Shiva an atheist and cremation ground dweller. As planned, he took advantage of the situation and continued shouting repugnant words against Shiva.

Sati felt deep remorse for not listening to her beloved husband. Daksha’s disdain towards her, and especially her husband Shiva, in front of all the guests was growing each moment she stood there. The shameless insult and humiliation of her and her beloved, eventually became too much to bear. She cursed Daksha for acting so atrociously toward her and Shiva and reminded him that his haughty behavior had blinded his intellect. She cursed him and warned that the wrath of Shiva would destroy him and his empire.

Unable to bear further humiliation, Sati committed suicide by jumping into the sacrificial fire. The onlookers tried to save her, but it was too late. They were only able to retrieve the half-burnt body of Sati. Daksha's pride in being a Prajapati and his prejudice against his son-in-law created a mass hatred within himself, which resulted in the death of his daughter. The Nandi and the accompanying Bhootaganas left the yajna place after the incident. Nandi cursed the participants and Bhrigu reacted by cursing the Bhootaganas back.

Lord Shiva was deeply pained upon hearing of his wife's death. His grief grew into a terrible anger when he realized how Daksha had viciously plotted a treachery against him; but it was his innocent wife who fell into the trap instead of him. Shiva learned of Daksha’s callous behavior towards Sati. Shiva's rage became so intense that he plucked a lock of hair from his head and smashed it on the ground, breaking it into two with his leg.

Armed and frightening, two fearsome beings Virabhadra and Bhadrakali (Rudrakali) emerged. Lord Shiva ordered them to kill Daksha and destroy the yajna. The ferocious Virabhadra and Bhadrakali, along with the Bhutaganas, reached the yajna spot. The invitees renounced the yajna and started running away from the turmoil. Sage Bhrigu created an army with his divine penance powers to resist Shiva’s attack and protect the yajna.

Bhrigu’s army was demolished and the entire premises were ravaged. All those who participated, even the other Prajapatis and the gods, were mercilessly beaten, wounded or even slaughtered. The Vayu Purana mentions the attack of Bhutaganas: the nose of some goddesses were cut, Yama's staff bone was broken, Mitra's eyes were pulled out, Indra was trampled by Virabhadra and Bhutaganas, Pushan's teeth were knocked out, Chandra was beaten heavily, all of the Prajapatis' were beaten, the hands of Vahini were cut off, and Bhrigu's beard was cut off.

Daksha was caught and decapitated, the attack culminated when the Bhutaganas started plucking out Bhrigu’s white beard as a victory souvenir. As the obstruction of the yajna will create havoc and severe ill effects on the nature, Brahma and the god Vishnu went to the grief-stricken Lord Shiva. They comforted and showed their sympathy towards Shiva. They requested him to come to the yajna location and pacify the Bhutaganas and allow the Yaga to be completed; Shiva agreed.

Lord Shiva found the burnt body of Sati. Lord Shiva gave permission to continue yajna. Daksha was absolved by Shiva and the head of a ram (Male goat) meant for yajna was fixed on the decapitated body of Daksha and gave his life back. The yajna was completed successfully. Lord Vishnu, Lord Brahma, Sages, Daksha, Devas and other celestial beings installed Shiva Linga at this place and worshipped Lord Shiva to get rid of the sin for attending Daksha Yagna.

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