As a child, I was always fascinated by the night sky full of stars and the constellations. Back then the nights were clear, the skies were pollution-free and I used to spend hours on my terrace just gazing at the sky and thinking if I could ever land up there and play with some of them! My father first introduced me to the constellation called Saptarishi Mandal. The name Saptarshi Mandal is given to the constellation of seven stars as per the Indian Hindu Mythology. This constellation is also known as Ursa Major in Europe and The Big Dipper in the US.
It is believed in Indian Hindu Mythology that each one of these seven stars represents the Greatest Sages of present Manavanatara
(cyclic age in Hindu Cosmology). Here is a short introduction to these seven sages of the Saptrishi Mandal:-
1. Atri: Maharishi Atri was one of the Manasputra of Lord Brahma. He was married to Devi Anasuya and was father to Dattatreya, Durvasa, and Chandra.
Maharishi Atri is the composer of the 5th Mandala of Rig Veda. Maharishi Atri’s name is mentioned in both the great Indian Epic Ramayana and Mahabharata. When the Kaurava-Pandava war was raging with great fury, many Maharishis went to Drona and advised him to stop the battle. Atri Maharishi was one of them. As per Uttara Ramayana, Atri was among the Maharishis who visited Sri Rama on his return to Ayodhya after the war with Ravana.
2. Bharadwaja: Maharishi Bharadwaja was the son of Sage Bhrispati. Bharadwaja Rishi is known for his immense contribution to Vedas. He was also a well-known physician mentioned in Charaka Samhita - a Sanskrit text on Ayurveda. He is the father of the great Brahmakshatriya Dronacharya - the guru of Pandavas and Kauravas.
3. Gautama: Maharishi Gautama is a Rigvedic sage in Hinduism who also finds a mention in Buddhism and Jainism. Gautama was married to Ahalya whom he later cursed to turn into stone - that's a story for another day!
As per the Adi Parva of Mahabharata, Gautama had two sons Saradvan and Cirakari.
4. Jamadagni: Maharishi Jamadagni was a descendant of sage Bhrigu. He was born to sage Richika and Satyavati, daughter of Kshatriya king Gaadhi.
Parashurama, who is the sixth incarnation of Lord Vishnu was born to Maharishi Jamadagni and Renuka. Jamadagni was later killed by a Kshatriya king Kartavirya Arjuna, over a dispute over the divine cow Kamadhenu. However, as per Shiva Mahapurana Jamadagni was brought back to life by Lord Shiva.
5. Kashyapa: As per Valmiki Ramayana, Maharishi Kashyapa was the youngest brother of Marici. Since Marici was one of the spiritual sons of Lord Brahma it implied that Kashyapa was also the son of Lord Brahma.
Maharishi Kashyap is the author of several hymns and verses of Rigveda. He had 21 wives and fathered Devas, Asuras, Nagas, Yakshas, Dravidas and all living creatures. His children from his first wife Aditi were Adityas, the Daityas, or demons, from his second wife Diti, Garuda was born to his wife Vinata, Apsaras were born to his wife Muni, Ira gave birth to all vegetation, Tamra to all birds, Sursa gave birth to Uragas (Dragons) and Kadru was the mother of Nagas (serpents). Thus, Rishi Kashyapa is said to be the originator of all living beings.
6. Vishwamitra- Gayatri Mantra, which is one of the most powerful Hindu prayers, was created by Maharishi Vishwamitra. He is also accredited to be the author of the majority portion of the Mandala 5 of the Rig Veda. He was a descendant of Sage Kusha and the son of King Gaadhi.
The Vishnu Purana and chapter 27 of Harivamsha Purana describe the birth of this great sage. Vishwamitra had proficiency in all types of Devastras (celestial weapons) and was Guru to Rama and Lakshmana. Rishi Vishwamitra was given the title of Brahma Rishi by Lord Brahma after he was pleased with his intense sadhana and austerities.
7. Vashishta- Maharishi Vashishta is the author of the Mandala 7 of the Rig Veda. He is also one of the Manas Putra of Lord Brahma and was said to be born from the breath of Lord Brahma. The tiny star in the Saptarishi Constellation next to Vashishta is said to be his wife Arundhati.
There are a lot of interesting stories about the seven Maharishis. I will share that in my upcoming posts.
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