Daksha‘s daughter, Sati, was married to Shiva. Daksha was thus Shiva‘s father-in-law. But, as a son-in-law. Shiva never showed Daksha adequate respect. Or so Daksha felt. For instance, Shiva never bowed down before Daksha. On one occasion, Daksha invited all his daughters to his house. The only one whom he did not invite was Sati, although Sati happened to be his eldest daughter. The reason behind Daksha‘s not inviting Sati was his hatred of Shiva. Sati however went to visit her father, although she had not been invited. And once she was there, Daksha ignored her and paid her no attention. ―Father, why are you treating me thus?‖ asked Sati. ―I am, after all, your eldest daughter.‖ ―That may be,‖ replied Daksha. ―But consider your husband. He is far inferior to my other sons-in-law. All the others are great sages and show me respect. But your husband is a worthless fellow and is a perpetual thorn in my side. That is the reason I do not treat you with respect.
Sati was aghast at these words. ―My husband and I have not sinned,‖ she told her father. ―Yet you have insulted us both. I owe this body to you, since you happen to be my father. But I no longer wish to possess a body that owes its origin to you. I shall therefore give up this body. When I am born again, I will be remarried to Shiva.‖ Having said this, Sati started to perform yoga. Such was the power ofher meditation that a fire emerged and burnt her physical body into ashes. Shiva learnt this tragic news and was furious. He came to Daksha‘s house and told Daksha, ―For this sin, you will be born on earth. That is my curse on you. As for the sages who are your other sons-in-law, they too are cursed. ―I don‘t care about your curses,‖ replied Daksa.―I will continue to defy you when I am born on earth. And I will instruct the sages that they are not to give you a share of the offerings that are made to gods at sacrifices.‖
Sati was reborn as Parvati, the daughter of Menaka (alternatively Mena) and Himavana (the Himalayas). She was remarried to Shiva. Because of Shiva‘s curse, Daksa was born on earth. He was born as the son of Marisha and the ten Prachetas. (The Prachetas were brothers who became sages and subsequently married the same woman, Marisha.) Daksha decided to organize an ashvamedha yajna (horse sacrifice). But due to his earlier enmity with Shiva, Daksha did not invite Shiva to this sacrifice. The sacrifice was being held in the foothills of the Himalayas, on the banks of the holy river Ganga. All the gods and the sages had been invited to the sacrifice and went to the ceremony. The only exception was Shiva and his companions.
There was a sage named Dadhicha (alternatively Dadhichi). He protested to Daksha that a sacrifice should not be held in Shiva‘s absence. Such a sanctity. But Daksha would not listen to Dadhicha. The sage therefore stated that he would not take any further part in the yajna. Moreover, he assured Daksha that the sacrifice was doomed to be a failure. Shiva and Parvati were seated on Mount Kailasa and they noticed all the vimanas (space vehicles) travelling through the sky, the gods and their wives resplendently seated. ―Where are all these gods going?‖ asked Parvati. ―Daksha is performing a yajna and they are all going to attend the sacrifice.‖ replied Shiva. ―Why have you not gone?‖ demanded Parvati. ―It must be that you have not been invited. But how is that possible? How can there be a sacrifice without you having been invited? You are superior to all the other gods. Please do something to ensure that you do get your share of the offerings.‖
Shiva thereupon created a demon from his mouth. The demon‘s name was Virabhadra. He had a thousand heads, a thousand arms and a thousand feet. Numerous were the weapons that he held in his hands. His fiery visage blazed like the sun itself and his form rose way up into the sky. Virabhadra bowed before Shiva and asked, ―What are my orders?‖ ―Go and destroy Daksha‘s yajna,‖ was the reply. Virabhadra left for the sacrifice. He created several other demons who would aid him in the task of destruction. Parvati also created a goddess out of her own body to act as Virabhadra‘s companion. This goddess was named Bhadrakali. This army trooped to Daksha‘s house and proceeded to destroy everything there. The mountains shook and trembled with their roars. The gods and the sages who had come to attend the sacrifice did not known what could be done. They merely stood there and were thrashed. The offerings that had been piled up for the sacrifice were scattered here and there by Virabhadra and his companions. The scaffoldings that had been erected were smashed. Daksha tried to run away. But Virabhadra grabbed him and beheaded him with a slice of his sword.
Brahma and the other gods started to pray to Virabhadra and his companions. ―Who are you?‘they asked. ―Whoever you are , please be pacified. Please listen to our prayers and spare us.‖―Don‘t pray to me,‖ replied Virabhadra. ―I am merely an instrument of the great Shiva. If you must pray, pray to Shiva himself.‖ The gods and the sages started to pray to Shiva. Pleased by their prayers, Shiva appeared and set things right. He restored the surroundings to what they used to be before Virabhadra‘s destruction began. Shiva also revived Daksha and Daksha too started to pray to him. Shiva obtained his due respect.