The story of how the 51 Shakti Peethas came into existence is a fascinating one, speaking of wifely devotion and Lord Shiva’s retribution. Shakti, also known as Sati, was Lord Shiva’s wife.
She had married Shiva against her father Daksha’s wishes. Angry at his daughter and wishing to wreak vengeance on Shiva, Daksha hosted a yagna and invited all the Gods except Shiva and Shakti.
However, after many entreaties to Shiva, Shakti went to the yagna with her husband’s followers. When she reached the yagna site, however, she realised that her father, still furious with her, did not wish to speak to her or accord her any courtesy. Daksha not only insulted her but also insulted Shiva to hurt his daughter.
Not able to tolerate the insults against her beloved husband, Shakti warned her father against Shiva’s wrath, and then invoked special powers before jumping in the yagna fire.
Shiva learnt of the incident and rushed to the spot; angry and maddened by grief at the sight of his dead, he started performing a terrible ‘taandav’ dance with her body.
Unable to bear the sight, Vishnu cut up Shakti’s body with his sudarshan chakra. Wherever the pieces of her body fell, the Gods decided that a temple would be built to celebrate the eternal bond of the Gods Shiva and Shakti. 51 such temples were built – these are the 51 Shakti Peethas, and devotees perform puja at these temples to commemorate Shiva and Shakti. Thus puja of 51 Shakti Peethas started.