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DAKSHA. [Source: Dowson's Classical Dictionary of Hindu Mythology] `Able, competent, intelligent.' This name generally carried with it the idea of a creative power. Daksha is a son of Brahma; he is one of the Prajapatis, and is sometimes regarded as their chief. There is a great deal of doubt and confusion about him, which of old the sage Parasara could only account for by saying that "in every age Daksha and the rest are born and are again destroyed."

In the Rigveda it is said that "Daksha sprang from Aditi, and Aditi from Daksha." Upon this marvellous mutual generation Yaska in the Nirukta remarks, "How can this be possible? They may have had the same origin; or, according to the nature of the gods, they may have been born from each other, and have derived their substance from each other." Roth's view is that Aditi is eternity, and that Daksha (spiritual power) is the male energy which generates the gods in eternity. In the Satapatha Brahmana, Daksha is identified with Prajapati, the creator. As son of Aditi, he is one of the Adityas, and he is also reckoned among the Viswadevas.

According to the Mahabharata, Daksha sprang from the right thumb of Brahma, and his wife from that deity's left thumb. The Puranas adopt this view of his origin, but state that he married Prasuti, daughter of Priyavrata, and granddaughter of Manu. By her he had, according to various statements, twenty-four, fifty, or sixty, daughters. The Ramayana and Mahabharata agree in the large number; and according to Manu and the Mahabharata he gave ten of his daughters to Dharma and thirteen to Kasyapa, who became the mothers of gods and demons, men, birds, serpents, and all living things. Twenty-seven were given in marriage to Soma, the moon, and these became the twenty-seven Nakshatras or lunar mansions. One of the daughters, named Sati, married Savi, and killed herself in consequences of a quarrel between her husband and father. The Kasi Khanda represents that she became a sati and burnt herself.

Another legend of the Mahabharata and Puranas represents Daksha as being born a second time, in another Manwantara, as son of the Prachetasas and Marisha, and that he had seven sons, "the allegorical persons Krodha, Tamas, Dama, Vikrita, Angiras, Kardama, and Aswa." This second birth is said to have happened through his having been cursed to it by his son-in-law Siva. Daksha was in a certain way, by his another Marisha, an emanation of soma, the moon; and as twenty-seven of his daughters were married to that luminary, Daksha is sometimes referred to as being both the father and the offspring of the moon, thus reiterating the duality of his nature.

In the Harivansa Daksha appears in another variety of his character. According to this authority, Vishnu himself became Daksha, and formed numerous creatures, or, in other words, he became the creator. Daksha, the first of males, by virtue of yoga, himself took the form of a beautiful woman, by whom he had many fair daughters, whom he disposed of in marriage in the manner related by Manu and above stated.

An important event in the life of Daksha, and very frequently referred to, is "Daksha's sacrifice," which was violently interrupted and broken up by Siva. The germ of this story is found in the Taittiriya Sanhita, where it is related that the gods, having excluded Rudra from a sacrifice, he pierced the sacrifice with an arrow, and that Pushan, attempting to eat a portion of the oblation, broke his teeth. The story is found both in the Ramayana and Mahabharata.

According to the latter, Daksha was engaged in sacrifice, when Siva in a rage, and shouting loudly, pierced the offering with an arrow. The gods and Asuras were alarmed and the whole universe quaked. The Rishis endeavoured to appease the angry god, but in vain. "He ran up to the gods, and in his rage knocked out the eyes of Bhaga with a blow, and, incensed, assaulted Pushan with his foot and knocked out his teeth as he was eating the offering." The gods and Rishis humbly propitiated him, and where he was appeased "they apportioned to him a distinguished share in the sacrifice, and through fear resorted to him as their refuge."

In another part of the same work the story is again told with considerable variation. Daksha instituted a sacrifice and apportioned no share to Rudra (Siva). Instigated by the sage Dadhichi, the god hurled his blazing trident, which destroyed the sacrifice of Daksha and fell with great violence on the breast of Narayana (Vishnu). It was hurled back with violence to its owner, and a furious battle ensued between the two gods, which was not intermitted till Brahma prevailed upon Rudra to propitiate Narayana. That god was gratified, and said to Rudra, "He who knows thee knows me; he who loves thee loves me."

The story is reproduced in the Puranas with many embellishments. Daksha instituted a sacrifice to Vishnu, and many of the gods repaired to it, but Siva was not invited, because the gods had conspired to deprive him of sacrificial offerings. The wife of Siva, the mountain goddess Uma, perceived what was going on. Uma was a second birth of Sati, daughter of Daksha, who had deprived herself of life in consequence of her father's quarrel with herself and her husband, Siva. Uma urged her husband to display his power and assert his rights. So he created Virabhadra, "a being like the fire of fate," and of most terrific appearance and powers. He also sent with him hundreds and thousands of powerful demigods whom he called into existence. A terrible catastrophe followed; "the mountains tottered the earth shook, the winds roared, and the depths of the sea were disturbed." The sacrifice is broken up, and, in the words of Wilson, "Indra is knocked down and trampled on, Yama has his staff broken, Saraswati and the Matris have their noses cut off, Mitra or Bhaga has his eyes pulled out, Pushan has his teeth knocked down his throat, Chandra (the moon) is pummelled, Vahni's (fire's hands are cut off, Bhrigu loses his beard, the Brahmans are pleted with stones, the Prajapatis are beaten, and the gods and demigods are run through with swords or stuck with arrows." Daksha then, in great terror, propitiated the wrathful deity and acknowledged his supremacy.

According to some versions, Daksha himself was decapitated and his head thrown into the fire. Siva subsequently restored him and the other dead to life, and as Daksha's head could not be found, it was replaced by that of goat or ram. The Harivansa, in its glorification of Vishnu, gives a different finish to the story. The sacrifice was destroyed and the gods fled in dismay, till Vishnu intervened, and seizing Siva by the throat, compelled him to desist and acknowledge his master.

"This," says Wilson, "is a legend of some interest, as it is obviously intended to intimate a struggle between the worshippers of Siva and Vishnu, in which at first the latter, but finally the former, acquired the ascendancy."

Daksha was a lawgiver, and is reckoned among the eighteen writers of Dharmasastras. He name Daksha was borne by several other persons.

Modern Languages MLLL-4993. Indian Epics. Laura Gibbs, Ph.D. The textual material made available at this website is licensed under a Creative Commons License. You must give the original author credit. You may not use this work for commercial purposes. If you alter, transform, or build upon this work, you may distribute the resulting work only under a license identical to this one. No claims are made regarding the status of images used at this website; if you own the copyright privileges to any of these images and believe your copyright privileges have been violated, please contact the webmaster. Page last updated: October 16, 2007 12:22 PM