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Agasthya promised them that he would marry, beget offspring and as one in their family, would offer them oblations and make it possible for them to return to their world.
He went about searching for a proper bride and could not find any without any lapse, defect or shortcoming. Then he went to Vidarbha and met the king of that state who had been grieving for lack of children. Agasthya gave the king sacred-ash and told him that he would have a daughter. He requested the king to offer his daughter in marriage to him. The king agreed. Then he created a form for the girl who would be his wife with his yogic powers. Yoga is for all times and no matter what happens yoga would always remain powerful. That is arsha sampradaya, the tradition of yore. All these are not mere tales: they are real happenings. The histories of maharshis are truth.
The king was blessed with a daughter and she was named Lopamudra. She looked gorgeous and beautiful like Lakshmi Devi, the Deity of Wealth. The king is supposed to give his daughter ceremoniously in marriage to the rishi Agasthya. But the king was reluctant to give away his lovely daughter whom he had brought up with such a great deal of affection to a bearded rishi. He openly asked the rishi whether his daughter would not be frightened by him with his beard. But the king’s daughter had mature thought. She told her father that she, being one born for a specified purpose, would happily be wedded to Agasthya. She chose him by her own volition. She offered obeisance to the rishi ho knew all the three aspects of time, the past, present and future. Rishis have a capacity look deep and far.
(Vidarbha is still extant. It is near Nagpur and nowadays people want to have a separate state under Vidarbha. There is place of pilgrimage near it called Siddateertham. There the wedding of Agasthya and Lopamudra was performed. A mere thought of the place would yield merit. People in the state of Maharashtra still believe that the young would find suitable matches by offering worship at Siddateertha. Ancient King Harischandra’s consort was also called Vaidarbhi. It was her birth place too. But then, there is another Vidarbha in Arunachal Pradesh also and Sri Krishna’s consort Rukmini Devi belongs to that place. She is called Vaidarbhi.)
Agasthya made his wife leave all her ornaments at her maternal home except for a basic few. He asked her to bring a couple of fibre saris along with her. She was given farewell by the mother after laving her daughter’s feet with turmeric paste and giving her the traditional red and yellow turmeric powders. The couple went to the banks of the river Ganga and set up house there. Thus their life started at the ashram.
One day the rishi remembered his word to the manes hanging head down from branches of a huge tree. Lopamudra told him that a woman naturally would have fancy for ornaments and finery and asked as to how she could sleep with him dressed as an ascetic. Since he was a rishi he did not know about these things. Agasthya was powerful enough to seek wealth from Kubera, the Deity of Riches but he thought that he could get whatever he wanted from any king. He went to Shrutarva and asked for gold. The king wondered how the rishi though capable of making it rain gold came to him and took him to another king called Bradhnaaswa. Even he pleaded inability and all the three went to Trasadasya and there too they got the same answer: the king did not have that much wealth. The Kings followed Agasthya to see what he would do and who would give him the gold he asked for. The four went into forest to find somebody at least there for he found none in cities.
There was one Ilwala who ruled over the city called Manimati. He had a brother called Vatapi. The two were demons with many powers, since they were born with the aspect of a demon. They could go into the shape of dogs or donkeys. They had the power to assume any form. This is called kamaroopa. Ilwala went to a Brahmin seeking an incantation to get all that he wanted. The Brahmin refused saying that there would be no knowing as to what he would with that power if it were given to him. Then Ilwala changed his brother Vatapi into a goat and took him to the Brahmin again. He told him their family had a tradition to sacrifice a goat as an oblation to their manes. He fed the Brahmin with the goat’s meat. The Brahmin ate the offering and immediately Ilwala called Vatapi back saying ‘Vatapi, come out!’ Vatapi came out of the Brahmin’s tummy cleaving it in the process. He became Vatapi again but the Brahmin was killed. The brothers began to kill Brahmins like this to wreak vengeance on the Brahmin who refused to give Ilwala the mantra he had wanted.
The two brothers wanted to give the same treat to Agasthya, when the latter approached him for gold. Agsthya was asked to take a meal in their house first and Vatapi was fed to him as a goat’s meat. In those days anybody can be a host and anybody could be a guest. Agasthya was warned of Ilwala. So after eating the food, running his hand over his tummy he called out ‘vatspi jeernam’ thrice. Vatapi got digested in Agasthya’s tummy. He never came out again. Then Ilwala fell at Agasthya’s feet and prayed to the maharashi to forgive him and spare his life. He promised the maharshi all the wealth he had wanted. He gave Agasthya a golden chariot, twenty thousand milch cows and twenty thousand gaddes of gold. A gadde would be gold that would be heaped on a plank in a huge weighing device. The kings thought that without spending his own power accrued from his tapas the rishi got the gold he had wanted. Later Agasthya asked Ilwala to leave his mortal coils and rid the world of a great horror. One purana tells us that Agasthya killed him and another that he showed him a path to salvation. Thus both Ilwala and Vatpi died at Agasthya’s hand. Later Agasthya took the gold and gave his wife Lopamudra all the ornaments she wished for.
Once Agasthya asked Lopamudra as to whether she wanted ten sons each having the strength of ten strong men or a hundred sons each having the strength of a hundred strong men, or just one son with the strength of a thousand strong men. It was a tricky question but she asked for just one of great strength. Agasthya agreed and they had a son whom they called Tejaswi, for he was so effulgent. After having a son thus born, Agasthya offered oblations to all those hanging from the trees and gave them the promised deliverance from their hardship. They were restored to their world of pitrudevathas, manes.
Agasthya’s achievements were so wonderful that even deities were fascinated by them. On day the Lord of Creation, Brahma himself, visited this sage’s ashram. Brahma cannot be seen without intense tapas and severe austerities. He told the sage that he had a desire to see him and so he was there. Agasthya was overjoyed. It was an extremely delectable experience for him. The sage asked Brahma to order him as to what he should do. Brahma said: “O treasure of extraordinary tapas! It is only because of great men like you that the universe is going along the intended lines. It is maharshis who digest all the sins and misdeeds of the people in the world and lead the world along the path of the holy law, dharma. It is only the tapas of you people that the worlds are saved and sustained. You are the ones ever memorable, ever venerable and ever worthy of salutations. I came to tell you this.’
Once there was a muni called Kaveer in the south. He performed tapas to have the darshan, audience, of Paramshiva. After a long time Shiva manifested and the devotee asked him for mukti, release from the birth cycle. Shiva asked him to pray Brahma for that. Brahma explained to Kaveer why Shiva said so. “For several births you have unfulfilled desires. Since I am the one who grant such wishes, He entrusted the job to me. Still you have something to do. You must have a family. When you beget a daughter you would find the way to liberation. The girl is no ordinary one. She would be born as my daughter and considered by all as Vishnumaya.”
Then Kaveera married and had a daughter. Later he stopped his tapas and his daughter, Vishnumaya began her tapas. Narrating all this to Agasthya, Brahma told him that Lopamudra has an amsha, aspect, of Vishnumaya. For that reason he asked the maharshi Agasthya to marry Vishnumaya too. For that purpose came down south and married Kaveri, daughter of Kaveera. But Kaveri told Agasthya that she performed tapas only for the sake of her father and that she would shed the body and live there as a river for all time. The Agasthya told her that she could be his for it was Brahma’s order. Then she told him that she would get into his sacred flagon, kamandalu, and got in. All this happened in the Southern state. Since she lived there as water in the South she came to be known as Kaveri.
Agasthya crossed the Vindhya to get into the South and later released the water in his flagon. For that reason the river was called Kaveri. Kaveera comes here to bathe in this river which gave him salvation. That he should get liberation that way was Eshwar’s command. The moment he came and bathed there his dehabhavana was gone. The bond of karma, the bond of one’s deeds, karmaphala is so powerful. Though one seeks salvation this bond keeps him bound and helpless. Karma cannot be totally destroyed: that is why karmaphala, the fruit of one’s deeds, has to be experienced completely and fully. When once the bond is severed, the chain gets broken
In this 28th eon, we are passing though Kaliyug, the eon of Kali. In this kalpa, there was one demon called Vrittasura. He fought with the demons called Kaalakeyas, and with valour defeated Indra and occupied swarga, Indra’s empire. Then the deities went to Brahma seeking His intervention and help.
There are two ways to make it to swarga: there is one direct and the other is the devious one. The direct one is taken by sages and seers and the devout men on the earth. It entails devotion, austerities and contemplation of the highest order. But the demons take the devious, unacceptable route of invading the world of the deities with their physical prowess. Right from the distant past this has been there on the earth. One acquires wealth the hardest way and another gets into it with no great effort. When Indra found himself unequal to the task of defending his empire, he along with other deities went to Brahma seeking a ruse to overthrow the enemies. Brahma told them that a weapon made of Dadheechi’s bones alone can get them victory, for the great sage has been engaged in tapas for millennia. This was stated in Skaandapurana too. Some say that this is found in Brihaspatipurana. Indra sent up his prayers and an appeal to the sage who readily agreed to shed his body and soon left his mortal coil. Indra made his vajrayudh, diamond weapon with the sage’s spine and in a battle slew Vrittasura. But Kaalakeyas and several followers of Vrittasura escaped and hid themselves under the sea. (These are different from those who were destroyed after Agasthya took the entire ocean into his palm earlier.)
Indra went on mulling strategies to undo these demons. Meanwhile the misdeeds of the demons went up highest calling for their end. The demons attacked and killed the one hundred and ninety sages in their tapas at Sage Vashisht’s ashram. Earlier they had gone to Rishi Chyavan’s ashram and killed a hundred sages. At Bharadwaja’s they killed twenty of his sage’s favourite disciples. The maharashis could no longer tolerate their misdeeds and villainy. Under Indra’s curse Agni and Vayu were already on the earth. The curse brought the deities here, never would they be here on the earth otherwise.
The maharshis went to Indra and apprised him of the ghastly deeds of the demons. They were asked to go to either Brahma or Vishnu. Then they went Vishnu who asked them to seek Agasthya’s help for he was the only one who could take the entire ocean into his palm and expose the demons. Then they went to that sage and Indra too joined them.
Agasthya took the ocean into his palm as just three drops of water: the Kaalakeyas stood exposed and Indra slew them all. Then Agsthya released the ocean. People in all the three worlds were filled with wonder. Such a wonder never was known. Thus went the story in Aranyaparva of the Mahabharat. In another purana it was different. After the Kaalakeyas were killed, Agasthya did not release the ocean. When the deities went to him again the sage said that he was not told earlier to release the ocean. It was totally extinct. For their sake, he would create it again. He asked them not to bathe in it everyday since it became impure by his taking it into the palm. However, he decided that it would regain its purity on certain days of merit (punya thithis) only when people can bathe in it. Only after that he let the ocean out.
After all this, emerged the times of Ramayana. Agsathya built a cottage in Dandakarnya and was continuing his tapas. Srirama came there during the period of his exile. There he saw great sages and seers like Sharabhanga, Mandakarni and others. Srirama went to Suteeshna muni’s hermitage which he liked very much. Sita too loved it. Srirama expressed his desire to stay there for three days and the sage readily agreed for that. Thus the three, Rama, Lakshmana Sita stayed there for some time. Sutheeshna later asked them to see Agsthya in the ashram very near to his. He further told him that the sage would give him things which he alone can give him. When Agasthya knew that they were coming, the sage came and waited outside the ashram to receive them with love. At this time we are told that the sage was in his vanaprasthashram, the state and condition of a recluse. After siring a son he left the grishastashram, the condition and state of a householder. As a recluse he honoured his guests in a befitting manner and treated them with devotion. Earlier, he had given Rama a wealth of weapons. Now he told Rama that he still had some which were not given earlier and gave them. He gave Rama a bow which had the splendour of Vishnu’s effulgence. Parasurama too gave such a bow earlier to Rama though with a lot of turbulence. While the earlier gave him saying ‘jitosmi’, the one now was given with grace. Agasthya gave Rama an ever full quiver of arrows, akshayatooneeram. He created a pair of swords which a hero like Rama alone could wield with felicity at the same time, explaining why he was giving them.
Rama asked the sage as to which would be the most suitable place to live during the period of their exile. The sage suggested Panchavati, advised Rama to put up a hermitage in that holy place on the banks of the river Godavari, and blessed them all.
While the battle was in progress with Ravana, Rama found it hard to win over the demon Ravana. Though he was chopping of the demon’s head again and again fresh heads were sprouting. Rama fell in a kind of despair. He was then only a human. Without Rama asking for, Agasthya appeared there and gave him an incantation called Adityahridayam which had tremendous powers. Vishwamitra and Agasthya were the two maharshis who inspired and helped Srirama most.
While returning home after slaying the demon Ravana, Srirama got off his airborne vehicle Pushpak at Agasthyashram and expressed his gratitude and veneration for the great sage and seer Agasthya. The sage blessed Srirama throwing sacred yellow rice on his head in benediction and gave him a resplendent jewel. Rama who knew the intricacies of dharma told the sage that as a kshatriya it would not be proper for him to accept anything as charity. Then Agasthya told him that a kshatriya is a lord ruling over the world. Anyone can offer anything in a spirit of appreciation and acclaim and that was best regarded as an offering and not charity. However, propriety demanded that the hand that accepts was above the one that offers. “Such acceptance being in order and proper, you can certainly accept,” said Agasthya. Rama then asked of the sage as to how it came to be with him (the sage). Agasthya explained that once Rajarshi Soota and gave the jewel to him when he approached the sage for his blessing. He added that he had been waiting for one who richly merited this offering and so he had offered it to him (Rama).
A scholar king called Nahusha performed ten million yajnas and earned enormous merit Punya). He had enough deserts to occupy the position of Indra. But the post was occupied by Indra. Once Indra killed a Brahmin called Viswaroopa, who had the qualities of a demon. This sin cost Indra his position. Unable to bear the shame he ran away from swarga and the position fell vacant. Then sages and seers took Nahusha there and installed him as Indra. As soon he went into power, his basic human weaknesses took over and he demanded that along with his position he should gave Indra’s wife Sachidevi too. Sachidevi was shocked and sought the advice of Brihaspati, the preceptor of deities. Shocked too, Brihaspati told her that Nahusha would lose his position when once he commits a sin. He suggested a ruse. He asked het to demand a palanquin borne by rishis for her to come to him. Nahusha, power gone into his head, sent for the seven great sages and ordered them to be his palanquin bearers. The sages had to obey him. Nahusha asked them to go faster: ‘Sarpa! Sarpa!’ and poked one of the sage with a stick. With his punya thus exhausted, Agasthya took the opportunity to pronounce on him a curse to be born as a serpent Nahusha. Transformed into a dire reptile, Nahusha sought a dark cave and hid himself in it. He fell headlong into the sad plight in which he would stay till he is absolved of his sin. In the later eon of Dwapara, with the darshan of Dharmaraja and conversation with him, he was finally absolved of his heinous sin.
Agasthya was so powerful that his curse made the sinner undergo severe punishment. The Aranyaparva has it that Nahusha kicked a sage. Another has it that Nahusha argued with the sages about a point in the Vedas and in his haughtiness called the sages ignorant stupids. Agasthya interfered and said that the sages were right. In fierce anger Nahusha kicked Agasthya and deserved his curse.
There is yet another tale to bring out the eminence of Agasthya. He performed a yajna for twelve long years. Several sages, seers and great luminaries attended it and made the fire ritual a great success. But for some reason Indra did not send rain during all that long period of time. As was the custom, it should rain moderately during the performance of the ritual. That is an auspicious sign.
With the performance it was a wonder that all the vegetation including medicinal herbs went dry. In such a situation it was impossible to perform annadaana, giving food in charity. It was essential that all who attended the ritual are fed ceremoniously. This providing food is as important as the sound of ‘swaaha’ during the performance. The one who performs the ritual would be held a sinner and the fruit of the ritual would not accrue. Every visitor should be treated with respect due to the yajnapurusha.
People were at their wits end. There were no rains and there was no way Agasthya could feed them. Agasthya assured all the visitors that if Indra does not rain in the next twenty four hours, he would go and take over Indra’s powers and cause rain. That shows how Agasthya had not used his tapas till then. Then the sages and seers assured Agasthya that they would fend for themselves with their own tapas and there was no need for Agasthya to leave this world for their food. They assured Agasthya that they never doubted his powers or greatness. Thus saying they went ahead to propitiate Indra for rain.
At that juncture Indra himself appeared there with Brihaspati and fell at Agasthya’s feet seeking forgiveness. He admitted that arrogantly he thought of testing the sage’s powers. After that Indra himself gave all that the ritwiks, sages and visitors all that they needed with his usual powers. Agasthya then honoured Indra with no rancour or ill-will against him. He said very happily that when Indra himself graced the performance there could be nothing more to be expected. He honoured Varun and Brihaspati too. This incident brings out the noble peace-loving quality and the cool mentality of Agasthya.
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