As per the ancient Hindu scriptures, the son of Brahma, King Prajapati Daksha had a daughter named Sati. During Sati’s childhood, Sage Narad and Brahma came to visit her in the palace. They reminded Sati of why she came to this world and her mission to marry Shiva. Years later, Sati decided to carry out a penance. Sati was extremely dedicated. Gods and Sages came to watch her. They were blown away by her extreme focus and passion. Shiva also observed Sati and he too was appalled by her devotion. He appeared before Sati and extended her one boon. Sati asked for them to get married. Shiva granted the boon and the pair got happily married in Daksha’s palace.
A few years later, Brahma planned a grand yagna with lots of guests including Shiva and Sati. When Daksha arrived at the event, every soul bowed down to him. The only people who didn’t bow down to Daksha were Brahma and Shiva. This provoked Daksha. In a fit of rage, Daksha cursed Shiva. Nandi became enraged and began to retaliate when Shiva intervened and assured everyone that he had not been cursed. Everyone began to leave. Daksha returned home with a newfound grudge.
A while later, Sati noticed that people were travelling to an event. After inquiring, Sati realized that there was a yagna taking place and being hosted by none other than her father, Daksha. Sati rushed home and told Shiva about her father’s yagna and how they weren’t invited. Sati was so irritated, but she also missed her family very much. She decided that she would go to the yagna.
However, her father continuously ignored her presence. This annoyed Sati and she began preaching how no yagna could be complete without Shiva. Daksha proceeded to insult Sati and Shiva. Hearing Daksha insult her family was unbearable for Sati. She was horrified that Daksha also broke their agreement. Sati became so humiliated that she threw herself into the sacrificial fire.
Shiva’s Ganas explained the painful death of Sati to him. From his hair, Shiva created two forms, Virabhadra and Bhadrakali, and ordered them to destroy the yagna. Virabhadra got carried away and decapitated Daksha and killed others. After the horrific event, Shiva resuscitated those who died and gave them blessings. Shiva revived Daksha replacing the decapitated head with the sacrificed sheep’s head. Daksha apologized to Shiva and spent the rest of his years as a devotee of Shiva.
Grief-stricken, Shiva started the destruction of the universe while carrying Sati’s body around the universe recollecting their memories. Realizing the destruction of the universe and to pull Shiva out of grief, Vishnu intervened. Lord Vishnu cut Sati’s body into 51 parts which fell on the earth. The spots where the parts landed became holy sites people prayed to the goddess at. These 51 sites are called Shakti Peethas.
The Goddess Shakti is accompanied by her consort, Lord Bhairava, which is a manifestation of Lord Shiva in all of the Shakti Peeth.
It is difficult to produce an accurate list of the 51 Shati Peethas. The anceinct names of the places mentioned in the scriptures are not very specific in modern context. There seems to be more than one name for same place. As a result, more than 51 places have been identified as Shakati Peeth today. However, there is a clear list of 18 Maha Peethas from Skanda Puran and hymns composed by Adi Guru Shankaracharya.