Personalities - Rishi Agastya

Rishi Agastya

Agastya is also one of the important Vedic seers. He is accredited to have seen about 225 mantras. Mantras seen by him are placed in the first Mandala of the Rigveda immediately after those seen by Dighatams. They are addressed to Indra, Maruts, Ashwins, Dyava-pritvi, Vishwa Deva, Agni and Brihaspati.

Agastya is famous not so much for his metaphysical vision as for his philosophy of life as also his dynamism. In this respect, his wife Lopamudra has played an important role in bringing his spiritual visions down to the earth for application in life. As is evident from the mantras seen by him, originally he was given to pure asceticism. Somehow or the other, however, he got married to Lopamudra, the daughter of the king of Vidharbha. Even after years of married life, he remained wholly absorbed in tapas and did not pay any attention to his wife, though she remained all the time serving him meticulously. Lopamudra eventually became aggrieved and reminded him of his responsibility towards her as his wife. At last she drew his attention towards the fact that purely spiritual pursuit is only an impossibility but needs also be supplemented by attention to worldly responsibilities.

This plea of Lopamudra to Agastya had a telling effect on his mind. This is evident from his several hymns addressed to Indra and Marut recounting a conflict between the two, Indra represents pure consciousness while the Maruts stand for the vital. Thus Indra stands for the spiritual pursuit of the seer in contrast to the Maruts representing the interest of Lopamudra. Being moved by the plea of Lopamudra when Agastya begins to take interest in her, Indra becomes aggrieved so to say. Conversely, when Agastya returns to his tapas,  the Maruts become aggrieved. As a matter of fact, the grief of the two sides is a reflection of the conflict of interests going on in the mind of the seer. Ultimately a reconciliation is reached at in his mind which is reflected in the following statement from the side of Indra:

Rishi Agastya

Rishi Agastya

अरं॑ कृण्वन्तु॒ वेदिं॒ सम॒ग्निमि॑न्धतां पु॒रः।
तत्रा॒मृत॑स्य॒ चेत॑नं य॒ज्ञं ते॑ तनवावहै ॥  RV.1,170,4

“Let the sacrificial pit be prepared . Let then the fire be kindled meticulously. Let both the sides perform the sacrifice wherein lies the consciousness of immortality.”

The reconciliation proves satisfying to Agastya. He, therefore, approves of it and observes:

त्वमी॑शिषे वसुपते॒ वसू॑नां॒ त्वं मि॒त्राणां॑ मित्रपते॒ धेष्ठ॑:।
इन्द्र॒ त्वं म॒रुद्भि॒: सं व॑द॒स्वाध॒ प्राशा॑न ऋतु॒था ह॒वींषि॑ ॥ RV.1, I70,5

“You rule over all wealth O Lord of wealth you, the Lord of Friendship, are the richest resource of all friendships. As such, O Indra, have a dialogue with the Maruts so as to taste the offerings as per the schedule.”

As a result of the reconciliation between the two interest in the seer he, rising out of his Samadhi takes to spade, so to say, with the view to setting a lineage of his pupils and his progeny and thus empowers himself both with seerhood and success in worldly pursuits. Thus, he fulfilled both sorts of responsibilities put on him. As a result of this his all round fulfillment, he came to be blessed by the gods;

अ॒गस्त्य॒: खन॑मानः ख॒नित्रै॑: प्र॒जामप॑त्यं॒ बल॑मि॒च्छमा॑नः।
उ॒भौ वर्णा॒वृषि॑रु॒ग्रः पु॑पोष स॒त्या दे॒वेष्वा॒शिषो॑ जगाम ॥ RV.1,179,6

“With the view to having progeny and power as well as lineage of pupils, Agastya took up spades and digging with them he, the mighty seer, nourished both the varnas and came to be truly blessed amongst the gods.”

 The two varnas refer to stand for two sorts of interest in life which further get expanded into the four purusharthas. In the life of Agastya, dharma and moksha are represented by tapas, while artha and kama have got introduced from the side of his wife Lopamudra. This is how he becomes a fulfilled man by virtue of his rigorous tapas on the one hand and his dynamic worldly interest on the other. As regards the rigour of his tapas, it is very well evident from the statements of Lopamudra herself. So far as his dynamism in worldly affairs is concerned, it is borne out by so many legends telling us how he crossed the Vindhya mountains having subdued them, reached down to Tamilnadu of today, wrote the first grammar of the language, established an ashram there, went even up to Combodia, Borneo and Java via the sea route. In the Indo-Javanese hierarchy of gods, the prime place is accorded to Agastya. The seeds of his divinization, indeed, are present in the Rigvedic mantra quoted above last in which it has been observed that an account of his achievements on the both the sides of life, he became truly blessed among the gods.

Rishi Agastya

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