Daksha, Lord Brahma’s wish-born son, a prajapati (Lord of creatures), was entrusted with the duty to populate the Universe. He with his wife, Prastuti, had many daughters who were married off to gods and sages. Sati, his youngest daughter, was his favourite.
Sati was the reincarnation of Ardhashakti, or the better half of Lord Shiva which he had sacrificed to maintain the balance in the Universe and was thus, destined to marry Lord Shiva. But Daksha detested him and his hermetic lifestyle.
Sati grew up to be the most beautiful maiden in the entire Universe, and there were innumerable suitors who wanted her hand in marriage.
Sati, determined to fulfill her destiny, went to the Himalayas to meditate and appease Lord Shiva. Pleased with her devotion, he agreed to marry her at once.
All the gods attended their wedding. Daksha did not approve of the marriage, but reluctantly gave his consent. After the wedding, Lord Shiva and Goddess Sati made Mount Kailash their abode and led a happy married life.
Daksha felt insulted as he had to accept a hermetic Lord Shiva as his son-in-law and decided to avenge his pride. Soon after, he organised a grand yagna (ritual sacrifice) and invited all the gods except Lord Shiva.
When Goddess Sati found out about the yagna, she was furious at her father. She requested Lord Shiva to participate in it, but he refused. Goddess Sati was determined to confront her father. She said, “I am his daughter, and he owes me an explanation. He cannot stop me from being welcomed to my own home.” Lord Shiva, sensing trouble, tried to stop goddess Sati, but she would not listen to any warning.
When Goddess Sati arrived at her father’s house, Daksha welcomed her coldly. He then proceeded to insult her husband in front of the guests.
Enraged at her father’s behaviour, a furious Goddess Sati declared that she would not tolerate any insult of her husband. Invoking a sacrificial fire, Goddess Sati sacrificed herself.
Lord Shiva was furious after learning about Sati’s death. Unable to control his anger, he brought forth superior beings Virabhadra and Bhadrakali, to behead Daksha. Even though many gods tried to help Daksha, Virabhadra and Bhadrakali destroyed his army and beheaded him.
Lord Brahma pleaded to Lord Shiva for his son’s life and asked for forgiveness for his behaviour. Lord Shiva calmed down, and revived Daksha by replacing his head with a goat’s head. He placed Goddess Sati’s body on his shoulder and started walking through the Universe, neglecting his duties. The gods were very concerned and approached Lord Vishnu to help restore balance in the Universe.
Lord Vishnu used his sudarshan chakra (a celestial weapon) to cut Sati’s body to pieces, which fell on earth. The total number of body pieces were 52, and they fell on 52 different places. All these places are known as holy 52 Shakti pithas in Hindu religion, and there is a Kali or Shakti temple in each of them. Lord Shiva returned to Mount Kailash to meditate and mourn his wife’s death. Goddess sati eventually returned to Lord Shiva by taking birth as Parvati.