The Shakti Peetha (Sanskrit: शक्ति पीठ, Śakti Pīṭha, seat of Shakti) are significant shrines and pilgrimage destinations in Shaktism, the goddess-focused Hindu tradition. There are 51 or 108 Shakti peethas by various accounts, of which between 4 and 18 are named as Maha (major) in medieval Hindu texts.
Lord Brahma performed a yajna (Vedic ritual of fire sacrifice) to please Shakti and Shiva. Goddess Shakti emerged, separating from Shiva and helped Brahma in the creation of the universe. Brahma decided to give Shakti back to Shiva. Therefore, his son Daksha performed several yagnas to obtain Shakti as his daughter in the form of Sati. It was then decided that Sati was brought into this world with the motive of marrying Shiva.
However, due to Lord Shiva’s curse to Brahma that his fifth head was cut off due to his lie in front of Shiva, Daksha started hating Lord Shiva and decided not to let Lord Shiva and Sati get married.
However, Sati got attracted to Shiva and finally one day Shiva and Sati were married. This marriage only increased Daksha’s hatred towards Lord Shiva.
Daksha performed a yagna with a desire to take revenge on Lord Shiva. Daksha invited all the deities to the yajna except Lord Shiva and Sati. The fact that she was not invited did not deter Sati from attending the yagna. She expressed her desire to attend the yagna to Shiva, who tried his best to dissuade her from going. Shiva eventually relented and Sati went to the yagna. Sati, being an uninvited guest, was not given any respect at the yagna. Furthermore, Daksha insulted Shiva. Sati was unable to bear her father’s insults toward her husband, so she self-immolated.
Enraged at the death and insult of his spouse, Shiva in his Virabhadra avatar destroyed Daksha’s yagna, cut off Daksha’s head, but later replaced it with that of a male goat as he restored him to life.Virabhadra didn’t stop fighting; he kept raging with anger. Gods prayed to lord Vishnu. He came there and started fighting him. Still immersed in grief, Shiva picked up the remains of Sati’s body, and performed the Tandava, the celestial dance of destruction, across all creation. The other Gods requested Vishnu to intervene to stop this destruction, towards which Vishnu used the Sudarshana Chakra, which cut through Sati’s corpse. The various parts of the body fell at several spots all through the Indian subcontinent and formed sites which are known as Shakti Peethas today.
At all the Shakti Peethas, the Goddess Shakti is accompanied by her consort, Lord Bhairava (a manifestation of Lord Shiva). Shakti is an aspect of the Supreme Being Adi parashakti, the mother of the trimurti, the holy trinity in Hindu religion and scriptures.
The history of Daksha yajna and Sati’s self-immolation had immense significance in shaping the ancient Sanskrit literature and even influenced the culture of India. It led to the development of the concept of Shakti Peethas and thereby strengthened Shaktism. Enormous numbers of stories in the Puranas and other Hindu religious books took the Daksha yagna as the reason for their origin. It is an important incident in Shaivism, resulting in the emergence of Parvati in the place of Sati Devi and making Shiva a grihastashrami (house holder), leading to the origin of Ganesha and Kartikeya.
Shakti Peethas are shrines or divine places of the Mother Goddess. These are places that are believed to have been blessed with the presence of Shakti due to the falling of body parts of the corpse of Sati Devi, when Lord Shiva carried it and wandered throughout Aryavartha in sorrow. There are 51 Shakti Peeth linking to the 51 alphabets in Sanskrit. Each temple has shrines for Shakti and Kalabhairava, and most Shakti and Kalabhairava in different Shakti Peeth have different names.