Continued from Previous Page
In the past Vindhya Mountain went on growing. Even today scientists are noting that the Himalayas are also growing. There is an interesting story about Vindhya being curbed. Legend goes that Vindhya was jealous of Meru round which Surya went round. Peeved it began growing higher and higher. The deities went to Agasthya that Vindhya was growing in such a way that there would be an insurmountable wall between the north and the south of the country. Agasthya while crossing it on his way south ordered it to stop growing till he returned north, which he never did. He stayed in the south for ever. But Vindhya did not grow any more. Such was the greatness of Agasthya.
Telugu poet, Kavisarvabhauma Sreenatha Maha Kavi sang the praises of Agasthya in his wonderful long poem Kaasheekhandham. Kashi is called Anandavana, where Shiva stays. Sages and seers came seeking him and arrived at Agasthyashram. There even wild animals live in peace and amity with one another. The sages and seers saw the ashram and were delighted. Later the deities came there. They believed that they found fulfillment there. Agasthya was in deep meditation sending up paeans of praise to Shiva. They all listened to those paeans, which we call sthutis. The experienced the peace that surpasses understanding. Then Agasthya asked them all as to why they came there.
The preceptor of deities Brihaspati praised Agasthya in answer saying that he was Pranava himself. He was ‘OM”. Lopamudra is the treasure house of the Vedas. He himself is tapas. The peace that comes from tapas is Lopamudra only. She is the embodiment of peace. She is a good deed. He is the fruit if the good deed. She is the form of effulgence and she is Lakshmi and he had the effulgent radiance of the Brahman in Him. They are all sanctified by the darshan of the venerable couple. They all had in one go, good deed and its fruit; Surya and his tejas; pranava and the fund Vedas that issued forth from it. They felt totally fulfilled.
In that context they apprised the Maharshi of the growth of Vindhya and Agasthya accomplished what was expected of him.
After Agasthya went south leaving Kashi, he felt sad for having left such a holy place. He had great attachment and greater fascination for that glorious place. Tossed with a silent kind of grief Agasthya came to the banks of the river Godavari after crossing Dandakaranya and the Pampa Lake. He arrived at the holy pilgrim centre of Bheemeswaram, now called Daksharamam. He offered worship to Bheemeswara there. Daksharamam is near Kakinda in Andhra Pradesh. There is a legend that stated that Shiva Himself had told Agasthya that He would stay there and asked the sage too to be there with him assuring that the place would come to be known as Dakshin Kashi. So Bheemeswaram came to be called Dakshin Kashi, There is many a place of pilgrimage called Kashi and that is how we have a way of venerating those particular places. It is said that they are equal to Kashi.
Among the dwadash jyotirlingas, the twelve places where Shiva stays as an effulgent linga, there is one in Andhra. That is Sreesailam. There is a saying dhaakinyaam bheemashankaram. That place is different. Dakhini is Dhaka, which is now in Bangaldesh. That was the seat of Dakhini, an incarnation of Devi. There used to be another jyotirlinga there. There used to be Bheemashankar there. Now we call a place in Maharashtra by that name. Many such holy places along the banks of the river Sindhu had gone. Some went into Pakistan. There is no saying how many places of pilgrimage in the ancient times are lost to us now.
Agasthya wandering in the south visited another holy place of pilgrimage called Kolhapuram where Goddess Lakshmi had a seat. It is near Sholapur in Maharashtra. That name is there in Lakshmi Ashtottara as kolaahalapurastitaayanamaha. There Agasthya worshipped Laskshmidevi. His paean went thus:“Mother! You are the moonlight in the moon. You are the effulgence in the Sun. You are both the coolness and the heat. You are both the power and energy in the fire that digests the food in the body as Vaisvanaraagni. You are paraashakti, the ultimate power and energy. My salutations and obeisance to You!”
Maharshis speak knowing the tatwa, nature of things with a metaphysical ring to their utterances. While we read those stotras, paeans, the very truth in them protects us and sustains us. Destruction occurs because of ignorance, ajnaana. Man’s longevity, good fortune and such things accrue from the knowledge and awareness of satya, truth. All those stotras are truth. Their stotras are replete with truth visible and invisible to the human eye. They have power and energy: they are not mere songs of praise.
“That awareness, consciousness, that chaitanya is Brahma, Vishnu ad Rudra, being the reasons for Creation, Sustenance and Dissolution. Whoever it may be: a Surya, or, a Manmatha or some other deity: all came to be because of the Supreme Being, the Supreme Energy and Power. It is because of YOU that power and energy come. You are good fortune and luxurious experience in Man and the Ray of Grace in Woman. The flair to attract and enchant Man comes from You to the Woman. Vilasa, grace is combination of beauty, inner beauty and outer beauty. When Man gets this combination he becomes the ‘fortunate one’. The Woman who has such grace is of Your very form, Your appearance. Wherever You are it is replete with rasa, where You are not, it is devoid of rasa. (When you are there in it is a sugar cane, without it is just a thin stick.) The one who has Your grace is the one who has everything in him, with him.
“All deities worship You for their own individual joy and good fortune. Those who rule the human worlds too worship You. In the worlds of deities they obtain bliss only with Your grace. By being here on the earth You are showering Your grace on us all. Only because of Your grace and compassion You live amidst people or jeevas who do not know You and Your magnificence. You are not there in Swarga though Devendra and other deities worship You. Aren’t Your grace and compassion wondrous!” Thus went Agasthya’s paean, stotra!
The Supreme Mother was pleased with this and gave the rishi Her darshan. She told him in a pleased tone: “O! Maharshi! There are absolute truths in your song of praise. After this kalpa the 28th mahayuga Kali eon would set in. (Towards the conclusion of Dwaparayuga, Sri Krishna’s episode occurred.) After Kaliyug 29th Mahayug would set in. In that too there would be a Dwapar. In that you would reach Kashi again. In that eon you would be Vyasa. By then all Vedas would get extinct and recalling them all in the name of Vedavyasa you would bless the world wit the Vedas again and do the world a great service. From Kumaraswami you would know the qualities of Kashi you would live in, its history and several other things. In the south on the banks of the river Tungabhadra there is a holy place called Swamimala. You came with the intention of staying in the south. You go there to stay. Since you would go north in the future eon, till then you go to Swamimala and learn all conceiving and holding Subrahmanyaswami as your preceptor. He would tell you all about Kashi and the history of all kshetras, places holy for the devout. If you carefully absorb Kashi’s history, you would be a resident of the place again.”
The Maha Devi also gave boons to Lopamudradevi: “Whoever would worship Agasthya along with Lopamudra would get everything auspicious and all welfare. They would get the complete grace of Lakshmidevi.” This boon was given by the Devi seated at Kolhapur, whom we have all been worshipping all along.
The Saptarishis who are creators of gotra are different from the other Saptarshis. Among the creators of gotra, gotrakartas Agasyha is not there. He is in the group of stars known as nakshatramandala.He was the leader and head of a star in one eon. Where Vashisht and Arundhati stayed once, there stay Agasthya and Lopamudra now. We should understand that Sapratshis are not just one group. There are many groups of seven rishis.
Once a king called Indradyumna was ruling the south. He is a devout Vaishnavite. He renounced his kingdom and retired into a forest and started tapas with a principle. “Shedding the body sense I would be in the tureeyavastha (the fourth condition the first three being jagrat, swapna and shushupti). I would open my eyes no matter whoever comes. I would not notice anything.” With this strong determination of mind, with total concentration, he started taps standing on leg at the top of a mountain. That way he was engaged in tapas for a very long time.
Agasthya, wandering in the south came to know about Indradyumna and went there to meet him. He stood there for long before him but Indradyumna did not open his eyes. Such was his commitment to his determination. The sage did not greet him or offer him salutation. Agasthya was fiercely angry. He asked him if he did not know that saluting a visiting sage would only contribute to his dedication and accused him of transgressing his holy duty. He abused him cursed to be born as an elephant.
Indradyumna fell at his feet and told him that it was not at all his intention to slight him for he had been determined not to stray from his devotion. He had been in deep contemplation. Thus he submitted an elaborate apology. He sought the maharshi’s forgiveness. Then Agasthya told him that every human being would have some lapses and until one is rid of those, he would not enter Vishnu tattwa. He has to be born again anyway to rectify the lapse. He explained to Indradyumna that it has been his (Agasthya’s) intention to cleanse him with he next birth and make him eligible for Vishnupadapraapti, to reach the highest state of human achievement. Unless he was offended, he (Agasthya) would not be able to help him indirectly. He assured him that he would take birth as elephant king. Indradyumna was convinced with the explanation. It turned out a blessing in disguise, for Indradyumna .would get Vishnu darshan in that birth and he would get merged in Vishnu. Thus Agasthya was responsible for a wonderful episode in Mahabhagavatam, Gajendra moksham. It was Indradyumna who was born as Gajendra.
One might ask as to how many thousands of years one should spend in tapas. But, unless the last vestige of a lapse is removed, Eshwar darshan would not be possible. This may take any length of time and many births. .The knowing one, the philosopher, tells us that tapas is seeing one’s own atman, self-realization. Karmasesha, the vestigial remnant of Karma is such. Dhruva’s history illustrates that. Though Dhruva had Vishnu darshan, he was not given salvation immediately. He was told to wait for twenty-six thousand years. If one goes to tapas for worldly things, it would be rewarded soon but one has to be born again and again for total merger in the divine. The tapas to get atmajnana (self-realization) needs to be very long and very intense. In this very century there is one who has been in tapas for the last fifty years. At the end he sat again for tapas with the intention of getting self-realization. Owing to Lambikayoga he could go far away from bodily needs like food, sleep and clothing etc. Thus there is vairagya, feeling of unattchment and renunciation of all and everything. But self-realization comes only with Eshwar’s grace some time with His own grace. The journey would be endless for that. Aren’t we aware of munis being killed? It is natural for us to have doubts as to how it happen to rishis an munis. This would be owing to some karma of theirs becoming a stumbling block. Unless something occurs this cannot be undone. Only when karmaphala is undergone, self-realization or merger with the Supreme would be possible. Hence the need, sometimes, for tapas for hundreds and thousands of years.
There was another feat accomplished by Agasthya in the Aranyaparva of Mahabharat. On the banks of the Yamuna Agasthya was in his tapas standing with palms open. Manimanta, a friend of Kuber’s, while flying on the skyway spat and the spittle fell in the open palms of the maharshi. Agasthya cursed that the arrogant Gandharva would be killed by an ordinary human. The curse was so powerful that even none of the trinity could help him to be absolved of it.
While the Pandavas were in exile, once Bhima and Draupadi were wandering in the forest, a fragrant flower fell before them. Draupadi asked Bhima where such an unusually sweet-smelling flower has come from. Bhima set out to bring it for her. There were trees with such flowers n the Himalayas, near a lake, closely guarded by gandharvas, a celestial species. People around there told Bhima that that whole territory belonged to Kuber. There Manimanta was in charge of protection of the area. A battle ensued between Bhima and Manimanta. The gandharva was killed by Bhima. Agasthya’s curse was so powerful.
In Mahabharat in Shantiparva, Agasthya preached a Gita, which came to be known as Agasthya Gita. Two hundred years ago it used to be recited repeatedly as Agasthya Gita and discourses used to be on that text. In Telugu Mahabharat there is only a mention of that but not the text of the composition. The text is available in the Sanskrit Mahabharat available at Bhandarkar Institute at Poona. But it was not translated into Telugu or any other languages of our country.
Agasthya was the one who laid down a format and a procedure for offering worship to Srirama, Mahavisnu, Vamana and other incarnations, along with thousand appellations etc of these deities. Scholars put together all these together as Agasthyasamhita.
Agasthya was a great Shivaadvaiti, an exemplar of advaita of Shiva. ‘Shivoham’, I AM SHIVA, was his expression, inspired by the Supreme Being.
Once Agasthya’s wife asked him in the course of their pilgrimages bathing in various holy rivers whether there was any benefit in doing that, and whether mukti would accrue by such acts. He did not reply that his tapas was accomplished long and hence no need for any such acts. He told her as a great jnaani that as long as there is body, one has fear. From this we can infer that even one liberated, a jeevanmukta, should have that fear: that is dharma.
Holy places are of two types: baahya, external and antatra, inner, internal. Truth, restraint of senses, charity, compassion, celibacy etc are internal. Without these visiting the external places of pilgrimage would be of no use. Non-acceptance, shedding of ego-sense, controlling anger and avoiding delay commitment to truth always give good results. Worship at all places of pilgrimage yield merit. Kashi is the most important. The one does not worship there would not get merit though he goes to a hundred other places to worship. All these dharmas, sacred duties are explained in Agasthyasamhita. Once Agasthya gave Rama Adityakavacham and Adityahridayam. Kavacham is armour that gives protection. These are given to us also. These are given with our welfare in mind.
A cloud does not stop even if Rama orders it to. That is nature. When Samudra, the ocean deity did not respond to his appeal, Rama grows fierce and threatens to dry the oceans. Then Samudra appears and advises him that a person of his stature should restrain anger. Rama is great but nature does not obey man’s orders. It is impossible to restrain nature. It goes against dharma to deal such threats. Even Rama is humbled thus. Later, Samudra advises him to send up prayers to Eshwar and other deities for help. He himself promises help.
Nature can be propitiated by devout prayer. Man is mortal: he should not be egoistic. It is only ignorance that makes man egoistic. Adityakavacham is a prayer to Surya for protection. While explaining this, the phalashruti, the fruit of reciting the text repeatedly, is said to give even the power of kingship.
Adithya must be worshipped in the form of a star visible in the lunar month of Bhadrapad when Surya is in Kanya rashi. When it goes up into Dhanus, Adithya is seen clearly just by the side of Dhanus. After darshan the devotee is supposed to bather in a river and then offer oblations. In Dharmasindhu and other texts of dharmic principles, it is stated that Agasthya is eternal, for he had seen many Indras. By worshipping him one is blessed with prosperity and mental peace. After worshipping Agasthya, a small of idol of the maharshi is made and after due ceremonies given away as charity. There is a worship called saptarshipuja offered on Rishipanchami.
After the Ramayana times Agasthya did not go back to the north. He had an ashram in Lanka under the rule of the impeccable Vibheeshan. In one stotra there is the salutation: Lankaa vaasa namosthute Many men gave unique place to their better halves. Some gave the heart, some half the body. Agasthya carried Lopamudra in his kamandalu. There are many places in the south where Agasthya is worshipped. Lopamudra too is remembered in those prayers. Those who worship the couple would be given salvation as well as sustenance. He is eminently one of those maharshis who have shown the path to salvation.