(Last Updated on : 06/12/2010)
Agastya was a Vedic sage. He is also believed to be one greatest Seven Sages or Saptarishis. It is believed that Agastya and his followers authored many mantras of Rig Veda
. Agastya was the son of Varun, god of sea. From his earliest days he had lived the life of an ascetic, deep inside a forest. Agastya is also considered as the first and foremost person of Siddha and the teacher of many other renowned saints. He is also called as 'kuru muni'. He made significant contributions in the field of medicine and astrology. According to some scholars he is said to have lived for 5000 years. He had many disciples among them prominent were Therayar, Tholkappiar and Mahavatar Babaji. Agastya muni plays a significant role in the great Indian epic, Ramayana
. In the 'Aranya Kanda' or the 'Forest Trek' part, Lord Rama
requests Sage Agastya to indicate a place in the forest to make a residence during the days of exile. He also foresees the next course of Ramayana and orients his conversation around womanhood and Sita.
Agastya and Lopamudra
For a long time Agastya was content with his life. But then something happened that disturbed his peace. He had a dream in which he saw the spirits of his ancestors wandering about restlessly in the air. Agastya asked them why they were not in heaven. He said that why were not in heaven in spite of being good people. They were supposed to reside in heaven amidst peace and plenty. The spirits replied that they had come back to earth because they were worried. For the time being Agastya is there and he is offering sacrifices in the name of his forefathers ensuring their peace in the other world. But what will happen when he is not there. Moreover Agastya was not married and had no son, who will take over his duties towards his ancestors after him. Thus they asked Agastya to get married and raise a family so that they could have someone to perform the duties.
At this point Agastya suddenly woke up. He had never before wished to get married. But now, out of a sense of duty to his ancestors, he decided to marry. By then Agastya had earned renown as a sage. People came to him from far and near to ask for boons. One such person was the king of the country of Vidarbha. He was childless and came to Agastya so that he could be blessed with a child. Agastya heard the king's request and sat in meditation for a long time. Finally he announced to the king, who was waiting anxiously that he would be blessed with a beautiful girl child. The sage's prediction came true. Soon after, the queen of Vidarbha gave birth to a girl who was named Lopamudra. With the passing years she grew into a maiden of exquisite beauty that her fame spread among the royal households of the country.
A few years later, Agastya came to the court of Vidarbha and asked for the hand of Lopamudra
. Now the king had promised that this would be done. But when the time came, he was unwilling to do so. His daughter had been brought up in the lap of luxury. The king was worried as he did not know how his princess could lead her life in an ashram. Lopamudra after knowing the truth gladly agreed to marry the sage. Her parents were surprised. But they were also greatly relieved, and, in due course, the marriage was celebrated. The time came for Lopamudra to go to the forest with her husband. She was dressed in fabulous silks and laden with priceless jewels. But such finery had no place in the life of an ascetic. Agastya told his wife to give it all away and she did so with a smile. Covering herself with a deerskin and garments made of bark, she gladly accompanied the sage to his ashram. Agastya and Lopamudra spent many years in prayer and meditation at a place called Gangadwar. They were very happy together.
Legends Related to Agastya
There are several legends about Agastya as well. According to one of legends it is believed that once Agastya had taken shelter in the ocean and it turned out to be pretty tough for the deities to vanquish them and so they asked for help from the former. It is said that after hearing the Gods Agastya engulfed the entire ocean water and stored it within him till the demons were ultimately destroyed. Another popular legend also states how the two demon brothers decided to kill Agastya. The two brothers had supernatural powers which when exercised could help one to change form and the other to utter the Sanjivani Mantra which could make a dead person alive. So they hatched a plan against Agastya. One of them decided to change his form to a goat, which will be fed to Agastya and then after the recitation of the Sanjivani Mantra would bring him back to life and would in turn render the stomach of the sage thus bringing his life to an end. But with his immense Vedic powers Agastya came to know about this plan beforehand and resolved to teach them a lesson. After the meal Agastya uttered the digestion mantra, after which the other demon attempts to regain his brother's life proved to be vain.
Sage Agastya is known for his wisdom, determination, scholarship and courage. There was no limit to his inventiveness. He was a great musician and the author of the first great Tamil grammar, which was written in three parts dealing with literature, music and drama. There is another legend, stating that at one time the Vindhyachal Mountains became jealous of Mount Meru, the abode of the gods. The Vindhyas began to grow in height so they could be taller than Mount Meru and blot out the sun, moon and stars. The gods realised the danger and begged of Agastya to help. The sage went to the Vindhyas and requested the mountain to stop growing as he was on his way and had to cross the Vindhyas. Agastya was so highly respected that the Vindhyas listened to him. He crossed them on his way to the south, but never returned north again. Instead, he settled down in the south. The Vindhyas waited for him indefinitely. And thus, it is believed that they did not grow any taller.