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Virabhadra, the Warrior of Change

Om namah Shivaya gurave Sat-Chid-Ananda-murtye

Nishprapanchaya Shantaya Niralambaya Tejase

Meaning: Salutations to the Guru who is Shiva. You are Truth, Consciousness, and Bliss. You are always there, independent and illuminating. Interpretation: Austin Sanderson – Interpretation, Austin Sanderson

The Indian myth of Virabhadra is the story of the marriage of Shiva to Sati and the conflict between Shiva and Sati’s father, Daksha, a Vedic priest who leads the Yagna for the Devas or sky gods. The story is quite complicated, so I will try and break it down to keep it simple.

Sati meets Shiva: Daksha was the son of Brahma (the creator deity), and he was a Vedic priest. Daksha was also called “Prajapati,” meaning emperor of earth. Daksha was a great devotee of Vishnu, the sustainer deity. Daksha preferred indifference over passion and control over unconventional forms of spirituality. Daksha had 28 daughters; his youngest daughter was Sati.

Among the 28 daughters, the most beautiful was Rohini. She fell in love with the strong, handsome, and vain Chandra (the Moon deva). She told Daksha about her love for Chandra and hearing that, Daksha felt that this was a good marriage alliance; he invited Chandra to his palace and asked him to marry his daughter Rohini along with 26 of his other daughters. Feeling that Sati was too young for marriage, he did not offer her.

Chandra agreed to marry Daksha’s 27 daughters (known as 27 Nakshatras), leaving Sati unengaged and feeling a little left out. Daksha invited all the gods and sages to his daughters’ wedding. Reluctantly, he invited Lord Shiva, the deity of destruction and transformation. Shiva was an uncouth yogi, and Daksha did not like Shiva’s destructive nature; furthermore, change unsettled Daksha.

At the wedding, Sati saw Lord Shiva for the first time, and she fell in love with him. She told her father that she desired to marry Shiva, but Daksha disapproved because of his dislike of Shiva.

From dislike to hate: After some time, handsome Chandra began to neglect his 27 wives, so Rohini and her sisters visited Daksha to complain about Chandra’s neglect. Acknowledging his daughters’ grievances, Daksha spoke to Chandra and warned him to take care of his daughters. Daksha reminded the vain Chandra that even though they were married, as their father, he would still protect his daughters. Chandra apologized and promised to be more attentive.

Within weeks, the daughters were again complaining to their father about Chandra’s behavior.

This time, Daksha’s anger toward Chandra was expressed with a curse: he foretold that the strong, handsome, and vain Chandra would day by day grow weak, small, and ugly until he disappeared. Chandra, the beautiful moon god, started to weaken and shrink.

Fearing death, Chandra asked the sage Narada for help. Sage Narada had no solution for the curse. Narada suggested that Chandra should visit Lord Shiva and ask for help.

Chandra went to Lord Shiva. Shiva told Chandra, “I can’t erase Daksha’s curse, but if you sit in my hair when you grow weak, my healing energy will nourish you and you will grow strong again; but as time passes, Daksha’s curse will return and you will wane again, and you will have to return to sit in my hair.” This is why the moon waxes and wanes.

Sage Narada saw Daksha and told him that Chandra had enlisted Shiva to overcome the effects of his curse. Sati was amazed by Shiva’s powers and again expressed her love for Shiva and her desire to marry him. Daksha looked at his daughter and said, “You will never marry him! Shiva will never be my son-in-law. Who does he think he is to interfere like this!”

Sati was heartbroken; her father could not see in Shiva what she saw in Shiva. Daksha looked at Sati and the tears in her eyes and said, “We will hold a Swayavara and find you a proper husband.”

Sati’s Swayavara: Daksha kept his word and held a Swayavara for Sati – a ceremony where a young girl is allowed to choose her husband from suitable bachelors. Daksha invited all the gods except Shiva.

During the ceremony, Sati was supposed to place a garland of flowers around the neck of the god she chose as her husband to be. Instead, she threw the garland into the air and called out “Shiva,” even though he was not there. Her actions paid off: Shiva appeared, and the flower garland floated down and landed around his neck.

Daksha was furious about this but, determined not to lose face, he accepted that Sati and Shiva should be married.

Daksha Yagna: Soon after the union of Shiva and Sati, Daksha decided to hold a Yagna, a Vedic animal sacrifice to honor all the gods and goddesses. He invited everyone in the universe except Shiva and his new bride Sati.

When Sati heard about the grand Yagna sh