After studying many legends and the history of Astronomy and sociology in Ancient India, a different understanding of Siva Sati Kalyanam and Daksha Yagnyam came to my mind. I came to see Daksha as a brilliant astronomer of South India and Sati Devi as his divine daughter.
Having studied the hydraulic models of Maya Danava (Maya Asura) in the Surya Siddhantam, and Aryabhatta‘s bamboo models in Aryabhattiyam, I could see the forerunner of those prototypes in the hands of Daksha. (Astronomical Instruments : Gola bandha Gola Yantra)
In my mind, I saw the arguments between the brothers, the astronomer Daksha, the spiritual Vasishtha, the sociologist Manu and the mathematician astrologer cum medical expert Bhrgu (Bhrigu, Bhrugu). I saw the conversations their father, our ancestor, Brahma on the Manusmrti. I saw in my mind Sati Devi settling on that perfect Yogi Siva as her husband and none other.
I have seen how events of astronomical significance have turned into puzzling and interesting stories. Having learnt that the imaginary star Abhijit was once called Daksha and that the tropical zodiac sign of Aries (Mesha) used to look like a Man’s Head before it looked like a goat’s head and that Daksha had named the 27 nakshatras.. a different image of Daksha as the astronomer firmly took root in my head. (Astronomical Interpretations of Puranas, Vedas and Traditions).
I think that on this second night of Devi Navrathris, I would like to retell the story of Sati Devi and Daksha Yagnyam as it was revealed to my mind. I hope you enjoy it.. again! This my offering to the Devi on this second day of the Navarathris.
Authorship and Copyright Notice : All Rights Reserved : Satya Sarada Kandula
Daksha waited outside looking at the sky, waiting for the sun to set. He loved the moment when the stars started twinkling into existence, at first one by one and later several at a time as daylight faded. He loved to look at the sky. There was nothing as beautiful and as precise and predictable as the sun and the moon and the stars.
He was young, strong, handsome and very fond of his lovely wife, Prasuti. They called him Daksha, the dexterous! They said he was born of the thumb of Brahma. Daksha laughed., they just said any old thing. What if some fool were to take them literally?Brahma worried about that laughter. ‘This one is just too confident of himself’, he thought. ‘They will think he is arrogant”.
“And who is “they”? father,’ he would ask. ” ‘They’, that think things and label people.. I have no time for such vague people or vague statements.”
“Must be brother Manu,” he thought. “I have never seen another being with views so rigid. He and Bhrgu! Always talking of ethics and purity and rules. So sure that they were better than everyone else! Actually, one had to concede that Bhrgu was a wizard of sorts.. he could cure people of anything and was not in the least scared of the muck that people had under their skin or the icky stuff that oozed out. And Manu was a legal wizard, and expert at sociology and principles that governed the behaviour of people. Sometimes though, he didn’t see people as .. well human people!”
Prasuti laughed. “Careful when you criticise my father,” she said warningly. “You are no bundle of humility!”
“Send my darling little Sati to me, I want to show her something”, he told his wife. Daksha thought that his daughter Sati was the Devi herself. Brilliant, beautiful, insightful, gentle, brave and proud! None of that timid deference that other women were given to. She was fearlessness personified.
“Father, here I am”, she said. ‘Are you going to show me the stars again?” she asked happily. Daksha smiled a ‘yes’ at her.
“That there in the east is where the stars, sun and moon rise”, he said, “and there in the west is where they set. And your grandfather Brahma showed me how the sun and the moon rise a little more towards the north every day for half the time and a little more to the south every day for half the time.”
“I know!” yelled Sati. “And that there is Thatha’s favorite star – Shravista (now called Dhanishta) towards the south”. Daksha put on a serious expression. “I need your help to do a little project young lady!” he said. “First, for a whole month we are going to watch the moon, and we are going to watch which stars he is near and how much time he spends with each one. And we’ll number them.”
“No, we’ll give them names” Sati said. “Alright, and we’ll make a little model out of bamboo strips bent into perfect circles and stick little bits of clay to mark the special stars” said Daksha. “If I name the stars ‘they’ will call them my daughters”, he sighed.
“But ‘we’ don’t care what ‘they’ think, do we father?”, she asked. “No, we don’t”, he said. Their project ran into several months as they made their model more and more accurate. The stars had to be bright, easy to distinguish and equally spaced along the north-south as well as along the east-west axes. Some stars were a little closer together and some were a little further apart. On some nights Bhrgu joined them. When her uncle Bhrgu came over, Sati used to point out the patterns she saw in the sky. “Do you see that goat’s head? That star there is Asvini” she said. “And do you see that bull? It is my Siva who rides it, we call that star Arudra, because it is reddish..”
Bhrgu turned to Daksha. “What is this talk of ‘my Siva’ ?” he demanded. “She’s a child,” Daksha replied.
“Manu says that a girl is a young lady at 8 years” said Bhrgu. “You just made that up, you are the one who does all that biology stuff. Not Manu!” said Daksha.
Prasuti intervened, “Whoever said it, Sati is a young lady and you are not raising her like a girl. You keep her up late and fill her head with stars and numbers. She takes no interest in dressing and housework. How long do you plan to do this?’
Daksha said “Sati is Devi herself. When she sits next to me the heavens light up and so does my brain. I can think clearly and understand perfectly. Narry a cloud blocks my vision. Stars or no stars, she is not an ordinary girl”.
After Bhrgu left, Prasuti spoke to Daksha, “When she is not talking stars and numbers to you, she is talking about Siva to everyone else, she has decided to marry him.”
Daksha was in a dilemna. While he did not technically believe in jathis or races, he did not actually think his daughter would choose someone whose parentage was unknown and unknowable. What a headache! Manu would give him an earful. Manu and Bhrgu wanted what they called racial purity. They believed that the descendants of Brahma should keep together and marry only within the clan. There was no use to talking to them.
Daksha called on Vasishtha. ” ‘They’ say you are born from the mind of our father Brahma”, he said. Vasishtha laughed, ” ‘They’ should be careful, some folks might take them literally,” he said. “What they really mean to say is that I have understood his thought and wisdom in its essence, but ‘they’ like shortcuts, it makes it more poetic!”
Daksha spoke “I have a real issue. My daughter Sati has set her heart on Siva. They say that he has three eyes and lives in a cremation ground with snakes and other animals. He is definitely not one of us, not a brahmana. Manu won’t like this.”
Vasishtha said,”It is not Manu’s life. It is Sati’s. You know that I am going to marry Arundhati. She is not a brahman either. Manu understands sociology – how most people can be made to conform to rules that will benefit the society as he understands it. But he does not appear to get psychology, how individuals feel and behave. We are not here to create a pure race. We are here to understand the divine.”
He paused, then continued “By the way your little girl has been telling me all about your project. I think that if people aligned their life events to the stars, then life would be orderly, dates would be easy to remember and we would know which dates are luckier than others.”
Daksha groaned, ” Not you too. Our genius brother Bhrgu has started mapping out thousands of combinations of what he calls ‘horoscopes’, based on these star positions that I am working out. He is gathering data of everyone he knows and making predictions for everyone that may ever be born at any time. He says his daughter Sridevi is helping him with this”.
The next day, there was a family debate. “Individual freedom and Aspirations Vs Social Order and racial purity.” No one would grant the other’s point. When Bhrgu tried to say something, they shushed him saying – “You believe in destiny and fate. What right do you have to debate when you don’t even believe in free will?”
Prasuti spoke,”Racial purity will require controlling women … and men for that matter. If a father has the ultimate right to gift his daughter to a worthy man, then she forfeits her right to marry the penniless man that she loves. It is against free choice”.
Manu said, “Na Stri Svatantram Arhati – A woman does not deserve freedom”. Prasuti got upset but did not wish to contradict her father. Then Sati spoke laughingly, “Yaa Stri Svatantram Chahati, Saa stri Svatantram Arhati! – That woman who desires freedom, deserves it!” Manu looked at Sati. When she spoke it wasn’t like a human debating a rule. It was like a divine decree. She was like the Devi herself.
Daksa said, “Father, in a short time the sun will set and Sati and I have to work on our project. Prasuti won’t let us work on an empty stomach. Let’s discuss this some other time”. Vasisihtha and Sridevi, Bhrgu’s daughter, also wanted to go with Daksha.
Bhrgu and Manu stayed back with Brahma. “They will think you are a bigot, Manu, you have to ease up a little.” said Brahma.
Manu spoke, “But father, that is because ‘they’ never hear me out completely. Daksha does not even treat sociology like a proper subject. I am not talking of racial purity as they try to project. ‘They’ claim that I am talking about racial purity and then they force me to defend a stand that they project on me. Some fool might believe them.”
He continued, “What I am talking if high specialisations, in mathematics, science, philosophy and engineering that will come if families dedicate themselves to a profession. Look at Daksha, he learnt Astronomical Siddhantam (it is now called Pitamaha Siddhantam) from you, his father and he is teaching his daughter now. Bhrgu and Vasishtha are learning from his observations and enhancing their work. That is community, family and clans working, whether are not Daksha and Vasishtha agree. Viswakarma and his family are brilliant with architecture, goldsmithy and city planning. I hear that he has made a bow for Vishnu, that has to bee seen to be believed. If you allow our country to specialise in their professions on family lines, this will be the greatest of all countries. No one will hold back their knowledge from their darling children.”
Brahma said, “I understand you. By the way, I have seen your work on time measurement. That is excellent. And your piece on ethics and law is brilliant. It is just the rules that you have made which curtail individual freedom that people resent. Happiness lies in self-determination. People want choice.”
Manu said, “I don’t care much for all that psychology stuff, Vasishtha goes ON about it, so. Individuals must restrain themselves and follow rules for the benefit of society. The well-being of an individual lies in the well-being of the country.” Bhrgu looked at Manu with great admiration. He said, “I guarantee that my children and their children remember every word you say. I will train them to make any sacrifice for the well-being of this country.”
At Daksha’s place, Sati had taken upon herself the role of the official spokesperson of their project. She showed Sridevi, the pole star that had never moved in all their months of observation. “We call it Dhruva, the firm”, she said. “Uncle Vasishtha says that it can be attained only by a person of great and unflinching resolve to a noble cause.”
As the stars appeared at different times on different nights, she would point them out. One day she pointed at Auriga. “We name that one after Thatha, our grandfather, Brahma.” she said. “Uncle Vasishtha!”, she called, “Can you see those seven stars? The second one there, we named after you. We have named one after Arundhati aunty as well, there near the kruthika cluster (Pleiades)”.
After the ‘project time’ was over, Sridevi and Sati would go off by themselves. “My father is going to give me to Vishnu in marriage,” said Sridevi delightedly, “What about your story? Any luck?”
Sati said, “Easy! From tomorrow, I don’t eat, till I get my way. If I so much as skip breakfast, mother will bring more pressure to bear on father than he can handle. He will land up at Siva’s door and offer my hand in marriage”.
It was as Sati said. Daksha found himself asking Nandi for a meeting with Siva. As Siva came up to greet him, Daksha was struck by his brilliant good looks and radiance, that no amount of ash or snakes could hide. “If I was this good looking, I would not care about a bath or ornaments either, he thought. “Where is that ‘third eye’ they talk about? The one that shoots fire?” he asked directly, without any preamble.
Siva laughed heartily. That wondrous, joyous laughter rang around the hills and valleys. The sun shone brighter and gentler, the winds became fragrant and Daksha was transfixed by Siva’s twinkling eyes. At that minute, he knew, deep in his heart, without really knowing why, that Siva was the right one for Sati. Nature herself reflected their moods. This was no ordinary man. It was an insult, an an anachronism to ask such a man about his parentage or his eligibility.
Siva spoke, “The third eye they speak about is my gnyananethram – eye of knowledge. I am an expert in Yoga and detached from the duality. So I can think clearly and can accept the truth, which is there for all to see. ‘They’ are blinded by their preferences and so do not accept the truth which their eyes and mind reveal. So rather than calling themselves prejudiced, they like to say that I have a third eye.”
“Please marry my daughter”, Daksha said urgently. “She is fasting and is adamant about marrying you. She will have none other. I am helpless against her will. And now that I have seen you, I know she is right.”
“I will come with you right away,” said Siva.
At Daksha’s place, Siva saw the model they had made and understood what they were trying to do.
Sati came out and said directly, ” ‘They’ call this the DakshaYajna. Everyone one I know has been to see it. In my family any long and difficult task is called a Yajnam. And we have been doing it for months”. Siva smiled at Sati, “I see your father is right about you, anyone would be helpless against your will. And I can see where you would not give importance to the same things that other girls give importance to.” Sati smiled back, ” ‘They’ see the form and not the substance, I see both.” “Will you have me for your wife?”. Siva laughed his wondrous laugh again. “So, I am not to be allowed the privilege of asking your father for you. Yes, of course I will marry you. I have never met a woman, who wished to live near cremation grounds, covered with ash and surrounded by animals and hill-folk, who spends most of his time in Yogic Dhyana (contemplation).”
Vasishtha heard about Siva’s visit and rushed to Daksha’s place, touched his feet and sought his blessings. “I hear that you have accepted my brother’s daughter. We are blessed for eternity.” Daksha was surprised. Vasishtha as oblivious to Daksha’s mood, “I am planning to compose a work called the Yoga Vasishtham. I am composing some Veda Mantras, which not only praise the Sun and the Ocean, but which also encode all the astronomical discoveries of my brother Daksha and my father, Brahma. I am working on a system of auspicious muhurtams or lucky times. Anyone who commences his work at those instants of celestial alignments will be sure to succeed in their endeavours. I am talking to Agni and others and learning all the histories of times past. All I needed was a darshan (sight) of you, to untangle all my ideas, into clear streams of thought and expression. They say that not only do you have all the answers, but you are all the answers. I and all my descendants are forever blessed”.
Daksha was surprised,”Does one bow to one who is younger? Or to the one who gifts his daughter in marriage?”. He shook his head, ” I am thinking like Manu now. If Vasishtha does it, it must be right, though I can’t understand half the things he says”.
“O Sati, what will happen to our project, now that you are off getting married?” Daksha said sadly. “Manu does say it is a waste educating girls. When they get married, they go away, unlike sons who stay on”. Sati laughed, “I believe that the girl going away is a also a rule made by the boys. Don’t worry, my uncles Vasishtha and Bhrgu, want us to wait till UttaraPhalguni Nakshatram (Denebola/Zavijaya). Siva will help us finish the project by then.” Daksha gave a smile and said,”Vasishtha thinks that we should order our lives as per celestial movements. Bhrgu thinks that our lives are already ordered as per celestial movements. But they joyfully work together without appearing to see the essential, logical contradictions in their views.”
Siva was a godsend as far as Daksha was concerned. He understood without speech. He helped make a more robust model, than what Sati and he had managed till them. He understood things like wheel balancing and centre of gravity. He suggested adding small paddles to the wheels so that the wheels could be turned by water. Manu’s time measurement devices were very useful in making a scaled model. They could quickly simulate, what would happen months, or even years down the line. He never needed to sleep and they could work through the night and day. He suggested that Daksha take Viswakarma’s model and get it made out of gold.
Everyone still called it Dakshayajna. Sati felt that Siva should get a share of the credit too and talked to her father. Siva sensed that Daksha wanted all the credit, it was “his” project from the beginning. Siva had only come in the end. It was not easy changing Sati’s mind. Finally, Siva said, “Let it go Sati, you and I know what all we deserve credit for. You never wanted any credit for yourself, then why for me? And your father is brilliant with his observations. I am just helping a little with the modelling. He has divided each nakshatra into 4 padas (quarters). He has added a circle for each pada. Now when the wheels turn you can see each pada of each star rise and set in turn. You can also see which nakshatra is rising when which nakshatra is setting. That really makes it easy for knowing daytime movements and positions.”
Sati said, “Yes, now if only, we could add some horizontal circles showing how the sun and the moon move… Have you told him that we will be leaving for the Himalayas as soon as we get married? My grandfather Brahma, thinks that we rely too much on the mountains and oceans to guard us and it will be good if we ‘manned’ our borders.”
“No one has the courage to tell your mother, that will be your job”, said Siva. “Himavantha and Menaka are very excited that you are coming, they look upon you as their own daughter, everyone their is waiting for their Parvathi Devi. The have heard and firmly believe that you are the Devi herself.”
Siva and Daksha were giving a final finish to the Dakshayajna project model. Vasishta came to watch. Daksha wanted to decide on a zero point. I have made a sort of imaginary star called Daksha (Abhijit) that overlaps with the end of Uttarashada. That can be the staring point he said. Siva did not agree. We’ll start with Aswini, the first star of Mesha, your “goat’s head”, he said. Daksha was said in mock anger. “My son-in-law, would you replace my head with a goats’s head?”
“Why, yes,” said Siva, “I would! It makes more seasonal sense. In fact, I would knock off your imaginary 28th Daksha Nakshatram completely and leave it at your original 27!”
Daksha shook his head,”Siva, you don’t care what ‘they’ will say. ‘They’ will say that my head has been replaced by a goat’s head. ‘They’ will draw morals from it and teach people not to be arrogant.” He threw a look at Vasishtha.
“And “they” will never forget you or your achievements!” said Vasishtha. “Now, no one can look at Mesha or any of the 27 stars, without thinking of you!”
Siva half closed his eyes and contemplated the future briefly. He smiled at Daksha and Vasishta. “It will be as both of you say, but Sati will illuminate the minds of seekers of truth and “they” will know what really happened here today”, said He!
Authorship and Copyright Notice : All Rights Reserved : Satya Sarada Kandula
- In Sanskrit, the word Daksha means, right, skilled and south. When you face the east, south is to the right. That is why Daksha and Sati may be understood to be from the South. Daksha was also the name of a Prajapati, a son of Brahma appointed by Brahma to create Pra-jah (pro-creators). Daksha was a Prajapati. Praja means person and pati means lord. So Daksha was a lord of the people. Brahma made him a Prajapati along with some other Rishis. As per wikipedia, Daksha was called the father of the 27 stars, because he was the astronomer who named them.
- Manu was the author of the Manusmriti. The narrator is Bhrgu. That is why in my story Daksha thinks that Bhrigu my have added in his own bits to manu smriti. One of Bhrgu’s descendants was Chanakya, the author of Kautilya ArthaSastra. The Artha Sastra has borrowed some parts from the ManuSmriti. Bhrgu authored the Bhrgu Samhita with includes sections on horoscopy as well as medicine. That explains the reference to Bhrgu’s medical skills
- Siva was the God of the Asuras and Devas, the Devadeva.
- Legends tell us that Bhrgu, Daksha and Manu were born of Brahma and that Vasishtha was his manasaputra. Vasishtha was skilled in Yoga as well as Astrology and was the RSi of many Veda Mantras into which much astronomy is encoded.
- Legends tell us that Daksha’s daughter, Dakshayani, was called Sati. She was very fair, so she was also called Gauri. She fell in love with Siva and wished to marry him. The way to please Siva is through Tapas. So Sati did a very severe tapas, in which she did not eat as much as a leaf. So she was called Aparna. Siva was pleased eventually, but Daksha was not pleased at all. He performed the marriage, but then would have nothing to do with his divine daughter and son-in-law. When Daksha decided to perform a great Yajnam, he left Siva and Sati out on purpose. So Siva did not go and Brahma and Vishnu avoided the Yajnam as well. Daksha decided to go ahead any way. When Sati heard about this, she begged Siva for permission to go. She thought that daughters did not need invitations to go to fathers’ yajnas. Siva reluctantly let her go. Daksha was cold to Sati and said terrible things about Siva. Sati was very hurt and angry. She decided that she would be born again as the daughter of a father who loved Siva. She created a magic fire with her toe-nail and disappeared in it. When Siva heard what happened to Sati he was both sad and angry. He sent Virabhadra and Bhadrakali to destroy the Yajnam. And he replaced Daksha’s head with a goat’s head!
- Daksha Smriti : http://www.urday.com/daksha.html
Authorship and Copyright Notice: All Rights Reserved: Satya Sarada Kandula