Shiva, Sati, and Guheswori

Some of the most viewed serials on Indian television are the ones on mythology. Some years ago, it is said that one parliamentary session in India even had to be rescheduled so as to allow the parliamentarians to watch a one-hour episode of Mahabharata, probably the highest-rated serial till date. Another serial nowadays, highly rated, is a serial on the god of creation and destruction, Shiva. A couple of episodes, in particular, were really interesting; these dramatized the tragic love story of Shiva and Dakshayani, his first wife, his true love.

The story goes like this: Shiva falls in love with, and marries, Dakshayani, daughter of Dakshya Prajapati, a descendant of Lord Brahma, an unlikely villain of the story who isn’t pleased that his beautiful daughter is married to the rough-looking, high-living Shiva. He doesn’t give two hoots for his son-in-law’s divine powers. On the lookout for an opportunity to set Shiva in his place, he performs an Asvamedha Yagya (an important Vedic royal ritual) and invites all the gods and goddesses except his daughter and her husband (a god himself). Nevertheless, Dakshayani doesn’t think that she needs an invitation to go to her own home, and so, attends the yagya. Not a good idea, as it turns out. Her father, thinking it a good time to treat her to a piece of his mind, throws vile insults at her about her husband. Dakshayani is, of course, deeply wounded.

Now, Dakshayani is no timid spirit herself, and her wrath knows no bounds. Convinced that killing herself will be the best revenge, she jumps into the yagya’s fire, immolating herself. (Thus becoming known, for her supreme act of sacrifice, as Satyawati, or Sati, the chaste one). The news spreads like wildfire. An enraged Shiva immediately sends Virbhadra and Mahakali (a dreadful duo created from the god’s hairs strands) to destroy the yagya. Then, he himself goes to his in-laws’ house, where he is overwhelmed to see his love in a half-burnt state. Then begins his deadly dance of destruction (the Tandava Nritya), carrying the dead body on his back, and wandering all over the earth, leaving behind death and destruction everywhere he goes.

The other gods shoulder Lord Vishnu with the responsibility of freeing Shiva from his dangerous obsession. He follows the distraught Shiva and, at opportune moments, cuts Sati’s corpse (while still on her husband’s shoulders) into pieces with his discus (chakra), parts of which fall at various places in Nepal and India, which become known as a Shakti Piths. One such place is Guheswari (near the famous Pashupatinath temple), the site where Sati’s vagina (yoni) lands. This shrine thenceforth becomes an important pilgrimage site for Hindus around the globe.

Guheswari temple is especially adored by lovers, particularly those couples who wish take their relationship to the next, and obviously natural, level, that of marriage. Why do true lovers desire to marry at Guheswari with Sati’s body part as a witness? Simply because it is believed that if you marry at Guheswari temple, you will have the same mate for at least the next six birth cycles. Another important belief about Guheswari temple is that if you are having a lot of hassles with the law, doing some pujas at this temple will set things right and you’ll be blessed with the outcome that you want.

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