Daksha’s Spoilt Yagna, Kamakhya-Part I
About three miles from Gauhati, Assam, on the holy hill of Neelachala lies the famed temple of Kameswari sametha Kameswara, Kamakhya. The temple is considered to be one of the potent sites by all the sakthas and tantric followers, where the goddess is worshipped in both her creative and erotic roles. The temple sees a steady surge of pilgrims all through the year and a huge gathering in the months of August-September for the famed Ambubachi carnival, to prostrate and pray before a round hole on earth from which flows a perennial spring. The origins of this temple are quite obscure and there are a number of versions. But they all start at the very same point- Daksha’s Grand Yagna.
Daksha, one of the sons of Brahma and one of the chief Prajapatis was conducting a grand scale yagna. The purpose of the yagna, was not to attain great powers or wealth or other such mundane things. Daksha sought to humiliate Shiva, his son-in-law by performing this sacrifice. It had so happened, that at a previous gathering, when Daksha had entered the hall, every person present including two of the Trimurthis themselves, had stood up to honor his presence. Every person except Shiva and his wife Sati (Daksha’s daughter). This had maddened Daksha to such an extent that he was now planning to stage this mass sacrificial event to the world and satisfy his tiff with Shiva by neither inviting him nor giving Shiva his share of the sacrificial offerings (Avirbaaha). The preparations for the yagna were now going on at a heightened pace.
At Kailasa, Sati was in a fix. Having heard from Narada that her father was conducting a yagna, her very first action was to gleefully run to Shiva to share this happy news and to prepare for the sacrifice. “My lord, Daksha, my father, is planning to conduct this grand yagna soon. He would be expecting us to come. When can we leave, My lord?”, she asked Shiva, all excited about going to her birthplace.
Shiva responded with a cold stare. “Are you nuts Sati?”, he demanded,” Your father is performing this whole yagna to humiliate me. Neither has he sent us an invite nor is he willing to give me my Avirbaha. Do you think this Yagna will succeed? Do you want to go there when the very object of the yagna is to insult your husband?”
Sati stared back, her mind blank. So thats why they had not got the invite. Her father was conducting this whole fiasco to bring shame upon Shiva. Would that really be possible? “But I would really love to go my lord. What to do, but my paternal bond with him pulls me. Please allow me to attend the yagna on your behalf, and rightfully demand your share of the Avirbaha. My father would surely not go against me. He is just in one of his nasty moods. Please permit me to go my lord. Please.”, pleaded Sati.
“Aaah Sati,” cried Shiva, vexation slurring his voice.”Fate does not spare even the beloved of Maheswara. Who is to stop what is written to happen, Sati.” said he and with a look of decision on his face, told Sati,”Go!!”, and sat down in meditation.
Sati left to Daksha’s place, with all her paraphernalia, seated on Nandi and escorted by the ganas. When she reached there she was shocked to find that all the gods and goddesses had been invited. Even more shocking was the fact that there was no one to greet and welcome her. Confused with the indifference she went to Daksha and paid her respects to him.”Father, what wrong have I done for you to ignore us so much? Are’nt we the first guests who should be invited and taken care of? Why this difference in your behavior?”, she demanded from Daksha.
Daksha gave her a long cold look and asked,”Who are you? You are not my daughter. Not after you married that graveyard dweller. What qualifications does your husband possess to be invited to this prestigious yagna? All he does is smear himself with the ashes of burnt bodies and wander around wearing garlands of skulls and snakes as his ornaments. I dont take him to be my son in law”.
Sati retaliated, “But father, he is the lord of the universe. Ask the wise gods assembled here, if your yagna would ever be completed without his involvement. Just ask”.
“Like I care Sati, now will you leave and allow me to complete the Yagna”, he barked back at her. Sati’s anger flew high. She said,”Oh vain Daksha. Who else could hate Shiva, the pure and the beautiful, except you with your cruel contorted mind. I am ashamed to call my self your daughter. Let that bond die within these very fires. I now ask you, as the wife of Maheshwara, the sustainer of all life. Are you going to give Eeshwara his rightful share of the offerings or not?”
“Whatever you ask Sati, Shiva is never getting his Avirbaha from my yagna. Bear this news to your tiger skin wearing uncivilised husband”, Daksha snapped.
Sati was so embarrassed by Daksha’s reply that she just stood there for a moment. “I promised my lord that I would come back with his avirbaha. If I dont get it, I rather not go back at all. And moreover, I am so ashamed to bear this body that was given to me by you, oh insane Daksha. Let your yaaga die with my body, you uncouth man”, she shrieked and with the five letter mantra (panchakshari-Na Ma Shi Va Ya) on her lips, she jumped into the Yagna Kunda.
Daksha was shocked at this sudden act of self-sacrifice by his daughter. The very next second Shiva appeared on the sacrificial ground. His hair all astray, eyes burning red and the snakes all over his body hissing, he looked the very picture of destruction. He plucked a long lock of his hair and dashed it to the ground. The two broken locks of hair gave rise to Mahakali and Veerabadran, who destroyed the whole sacrifice. Shiva himself beheaded Daksha and his fury unpacified, he picked up the burnt body of Sati and started doing his mad dance of destruction across the universe.
The gods were shocked and filled with fear and apprehension at Shiva’s strange behavior. They rushed to Vishnu, who decided to bring Shiva out of his fury. He let go of his divine chakra, the Sudarshana. The Sudarshana cut the body of Sati into small pieces which fell earthwards. Shiva realising that he no longer had the body of his beloved, noticed his pathetic state and once again calmed down and brought his mind into meditative control. He brought Daksha back to life and blessed his sacrifice. Then he returned to his icy palaces in Kailash, without Sati, only to immerse himself in yoga once again.
It is believed that the various pieces of Sati’s body fell on to earth at 51 sacred spots. These are considered to be the 51 shakthi peethas. The place where Daksha conducted his yagna is thought to be in the modern North-east section of India and as such is referred to as Yajnodaka Desa. Much of the Sakthi Peethas are scattered in these regions. Even today, when the forest fires of the Bhutan mountain ranges burn high and bright spreading their glow far and wide, the people of these states attribute it to the fires of Daksha’s yagna. And it is the very first of these shakthi peethas that is of our concern. At Kamakhya, which is considered as the first of the peethas, it is believed that the vagina of the goddess fell and remains there to this very day, making it the ultimate shrine for creative power in the world.
To be continued…