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As is the legend in the Shiva-Maha Purana, once Daksha Prajapati, Brahma’s son, held a great yajna and invited all gods, sages and others except Shiva and his consort Sati who was Daksha’s own daughter with the intension to insult Shiva, his son-in-law, he was not happy with, as also his daughter Sati who had married Shiva against his will. Daksha also did not allocate Shiva’s share in the ‘havya’ – offering. Apart that Shiva had decapitated Brahma, Daksha’s father, for just a lie of him, his dislike of his son-in-law was also due to his nasty life-style. Shiva did not give Daksha’s act any importance but Sati was deeply hurt and despite that Shiva dissuaded her she went to the yajna for condemning her father. However, when she reached her father not only ignored but also slighted her. The shock was unbearable. In remorse for not heeding Shiva’s advice, and in humiliation and rage, she jumped into the yajna-fire and ended her life.
Shiva madly loved Sati. Obviously, the news of her death overwhelmed him with wrath and grief. Furious as he was, he plucked a lock of his hair and beat it on the hill. With a thunderous voice it broke into two parts from which were born Shiva’s two ferocious ganas, Virabhadra and Bhadrakali. The Shiva Maha Purana contends that Virabhadra had two thousand arms, all equipped with as many weapons, though in art he usually has sixteen arms. Shiva commanded him to destroy Daksha, his yajna and whoever supported him. With Matrikas, Nava-Durgas and other divine powers, as also with a huge army of Shiva’s ganas, including among others also various types of fevers and maladies, Virabhadra reached the venue of Daksha’s yajna and began inflicting destruction. On the prayer of Daksha first Indra and then Vishnu along with other gods came to his rescue but Virabhadra defeated them all and forced them to flee. He and Shiva’s ganas killed many gods and those on Daksha’s side, destroyed the yajna, yajna’s venue and Daksha’s kingdom, severed Daksha’s head and carried it to Shiva as the trophy of war. Daksha’s identity is revealed by shoes that he is wearing and with the woman wailing close-by, obviously Daksha’s consort Asikini, Sati’s mother. In the host of them all he alone is in shoes.
This description by Prof. P.C. Jain and Dr. Daljeet. Prof. Jain specializes on the aesthetics of literature and is the author of numerous books on Indian art and culture. Dr. Daljeet is the curator of the Miniature Painting Gallery, National Museum, New Delhi. They have both collaborated together on a number of books.