The 51 Shaktipeethas, spread across Indian sub-continent, are the holy spots where the broken body parts of Devi Sathi- wife of Lord Shiva fell on earth. These spots later became abodes of Goddess Parvati with great spiritual energy.
The legend goes like this: Sri Daksha Prajapati- father of Devi Sathi and father-in-law of Lord Shiva, organized a great Yagna at his palace and invited every one, except Lord Shiva and Devi Sathi, for the event. He deliberately avoided Lord Shiva as he does not like his son-in law.
However, Devi Sathi went to the yagnasala uninvited. Dakshaprajapati insulted Lord Shiva in front of others. Pained by this, Devi Sathi immolated herself at the sacrificial fire of the Yagnasala.
Hearing the death of Devi Sathi, furious Lord Shiva came to the Yagnasala. His men disrupted the Yagna. Lord Shiva, out of his anger, began a furious Thandav nritya, carrying the charred dead body of Devi Sathi on his hand. This dance was so furious that the entire universe began to shake out of its power.
So, other Gods requested Lord Vishnu to find a solution. Lord Vishnu, in order to distract Lord Shiva from his furious dance, cracked the body of Devi Sathi into 51 pieces, using his Sudarsan Chakra. Later, he put those 51 pieces on earth at 51 different locations to avoid its rejoining.
These 51 places, where parts of the body of Devi Sathi fell became Shaktipeethas. Devi Sathi, in due course, took re-birth as Goddess Parvati and married Lord Shiva. Thus, these 51 places are now worshiped as abodes of Goddess Parvati in her most energetic form.
The 51 Peethas are spread across the Indian sub-continent; located in six countries. The majority of them are in India with 40 temples: followed by Bangladesh with six, Nepal with three and Pakistan, Tibet (China) and Sri Lanka one each.
In India, Peethas are spread across the country; from Kashmir to Kanyakumari in actual sense. However, the West Bengal has the highest number among them.
The exact locations of these ShakthiPeethas, however, are disputed in many cases. Out of the 51 locations, 23 is disputed- almost fifty percent or half of the total.
A typical example to this contradiction is in the case of Shakthi Peetha of Ratnavali. Three places from three regions (Krishna Village in West Bengal, Chennai of Tamil Nadu and Ratnapur in Chattisgrah) claim to be this Shakthi Peetha. This contradiction is because, though the concept of Shakth peetha is age-old, no authentic text is there to tell us where these places are located.
Many takes a text called TantraChudamani as the basis here. Few depend on Ashtadasadhyayi Sloka, said to have written by Sri Aadi Sankaracharya, to identify these Peethas. In both cases, the salutation given to Devi is given importance-not to its geographical locations. Moreover, the sloka of Sri Sankaracharya mentions only 18 Peethas.
Another difficulty in identifying the location of Peethas is local sentiments. Thus we have more than one ShakthiPeethas in the same place or city as is happened with Allahabad or Patna.
Identification becomes even more difficult as these places are known by various names locally. For example, the name “ShakthiPeethas” is used in South India, while in Bengal it is “Kalipeetha” and it is “Maa Peethas” in North India.
It may also be noted that, most of these Shakthi peethas are abodes of Lord Shiva too. In fact, four of them (Srisailam, Ujjain, Baidyanath and Somnath) are Jyotirlinga places of Lord Shiva too.