Umā was born as a daughter of Daksha Prajāpati and his wife Prasuti. Daksha was a son of Brahmā himself, and a great king and magnate in his own right. The girl was named Gaurī.
Gaurī, even as a child, adored the tales and legends associated with Shiva and grew up an ardent devotee. As Gaurī grew to womanhood, the idea of marrying anyone else, as intended by her father, became anathema to her. Every proposal from valiant and rich kings made her crave evermore the ascetic of Kailāsa, the God of Gods, who bestowed all on this world and himself foreswore all.
To win the regard of the ascetic Shiva, the daughter of king Daksha forsook the luxuries of her father’s palace and retired to a forest, there to devote herself to austerities and the worship of Shiva. So rigorous were her penances that she gradually renounced food itself, at one stage subsisting on one bilva leaf a day, and then giving up even that nourishment; this particular abstinence earned her the sobriquet Aparnā. Her prayers finally bore fruit when, after testing her resolve, Shiva finally acceded to her wishes and consented to make her his bride.
An ecstatic Gaurī returned to her father’s home to await her bridegroom, but found her father less than elated by the turn of events. The wedding was however held in due course, and Gaurī made her home with Shiva in Kailāsa. Daksha, depicted in legend as an arrogant king, did not get on with his renunciate son-in-law and basically cut his daughter away from her natal family.
Daksha once organized a grand yagna to which all the Gods were invited, with the exception of Gaurī and Shiva. Wanting to visit her parents, relatives and childhood friends, Gaurī sought to rationalize this omission. She reasoned within herself that her parents had neglected to make a formal invitation to them only because, as family, such formality was unnecessary; certainly, she needed no invitation to visit her own mother and would go anyway. Shiva sought to dissuade her, but she was resolved upon going; he then provided her with an escort of his ganas and bid her provoke no incident.
Gaurī was received coldly by her father. They were soon in the midst of a heated argument about the virtues (and alleged lack thereof) of Shiva. Every passing moment made it clearer to Gaurī that her father was entirely incapable of appreciating the many excellent qualities of her husband. The realization then came to Gaurī that this abuse was being heaped on Shiva only because he had wed her; she was the cause of this dishonour to her husband. She was consumed by rage against her father and loathing for his mentality.
Calling up a prayer that she may, in a future birth, be born the daughter of a father whom she could respect, Dākshāyani invoked her yogic powers and immolated herself.
Shiva sensed this catastrophe, and his rage was incomparable. He created Virabhadra and Bhadrakāli, two ferocious creatures who wreaked havoc and mayhem on the scene of the horrific incident. Nearly all those present were indiscriminately felled overnight. Daksha himself was decapitated.
Shiva placed Gaurī’s body on his shoulder and ran about the world, crazed with grief. The Gods called upon Lord Vishnu to restore Shiva to normalcy and calm. Vishnu used his Sudarshana Chakram to dismember Gaurī’s lifeless body, following which Shiva regained his equanimity. Both versions state that Gaurī’s body was thus dismembered into 51 pieces which fell on earth at various places ,known as Shakti Peethas.