The fire at a Yagna
Note: In the previous post, we read about how an angered Bhrigu cursed Agni because the latter had identified Puloma (Bhrigu’s wife) to a rakshasa who went on to abduct her. In this post, we will find out how Agni responded to the curse.

Agni Deva was enraged by Bhrigu’s curse. 

He said to the rishi, “What is the meaning of this rash behavior towards me? I have not done anything wrong by speaking the truth impartially. It is said that if a witness gives an incorrect answer, he ruins his ancestors and descendants up to seven generations. If a person who knows all the details of a situation does not give the correct answer when asked, he becomes stained with guilt.”

Agni Deva continued, “O brahmana, I can also curse you, but I won’t because I hold brahmins in high esteem. Although you already know all the details of my work and history, I will remind you of them again, so please listen carefully.”

“I multiplied myself, through my ascetic power, to become present in various forms in the world. I am present in the places of the daily homa; I am present in places where long sacrifices (yagnas) that extend for several years are conducted; I am present in places where holy rites for marriages and other functions are conducted. The Devas and Pitris are appeased when a priest pours ghee on my flames during a ceremony, done according to Vedic specifications.”

Note: Agni Deva then went on to describe the qualities of the Devas and Pitris. Through this description, he also explained to Bhrigu why the sage’s curse was incorrect and why he could eat unclean things. This is a deeply meaningful dialogue. about the mystical aspect of how beings in the universe exist in two states simultaneously: unity and distinctness. Through this dialogue, Agni Deva also speaks about purity at a metaphysical level. It is worth reflecting upon the deeper meaning of Agni Deva’s words.

I believe, this dialogue also points to the simple worldly wisdom of self-respect and withdrawing from a place where you or the qualities you have to offer are not respected.

Agni Deva continued, “The Devas are considered to be the waters. The Pitris are also considered to be the waters. They both have equal rights to the sacrifices called the Darshas and Purnamasas. Therefore, the Devas are the Pitris and the Pitris are the devas. They are identical beings worshipped together and they are also distinct beings worshipped separately in different phases of the moon. The Pitris are worshipped during the new moon and the Devas during the full moon. Both the Devas and the Pitris eat the offerings that are poured upon my flames. Therefore, I am called the mouth of the Devas and the Pitris. Being the mouth of the Devas and Pitris, how can I eat unclean things?”

After saying these words to Sage Bhrigu, Agni thought about the situation for a while and decided to withdraw himself from the world. He withdrew himself from the places where daily homas and other ceremonies were performed and he also withdrew himself from the places where extended yagnas were performed.

Everything in the world thus became deprived of Oms and Vashats; Swadhas and Swahas (mantras during the offerings in a yagna), and consequently all the creatures, thus deprived, became very distressed.

The rishis also became greatly distressed and decided to approach the Gods. They said, “O perfect beings, this world has lost the element of fire. All yagnas and homas and ceremonies have stopped. Because of this, everyone in the three regions of the universe is confused and bewildered. Please decide a proper course of action to resolve this matter, without any delay.”

The rishis and the Gods decided to approach Lord Brahma to resolve the matter. They explained to him everything that had happened between Sage Bhrigu and Agni Deva and how their dispute had caused Agni Deva to withdraw from the world resulting in an interruption in all the ceremonies. 

They also explained Agni Deva’s dilemma to Brahma Deva, “Agni has been cursed by Bhrigu to eat all sorts of things. But he is the mouth of the Gods and is the first one to consume the offerings that are poured in a yagna or ceremony. How can he be reduced to eat all things (pure and dirty) without discernment?”

Brahma Deva heard everything the rishis and the Gods had to say, and, after hearing them, he summoned Agni Deva to resolve the dispute.

Note: In the next post, we will find out how Brahma Deva pacified Agni Deva.

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Sage Chyavana

Note: In the previous post, we read about how a rakshasa abducted Sage Bhrigu’s wife (Puloma) when the sage had left his house to perform his ablutions. When asked by the rakshasa, Agni Deva identified the pregnant lady as the sage’s wife. The rakshasa abducted her because her father had initially promised to marry his daughter with the rakshasa, but later, went back on his word and married her to Sage Bhrigu. 

After the rakshasa took the form of a boar and forcefully carried away Puloma, her child, who was still in her womb, became angry with the violence that the rakshasa had caused. As a result, the child (who was shining like the sun) came out of Puloma’s womb and fell to the ground. The rakshasa was startled when he noticed the child fall out of Puloma’s womb. He lost his grip on Puloma and fell down on the ground. As soon as the rakshasa fell on the ground, he was burnt to ashes. 

The grief-stricken Puloma picked up her child from the ground and started walking back to her home with tears in her eyes. When the tears fell on the ground, they formed a river whose waters followed Puloma as she walked back to Bhrigu’s ashrama. The great Lord Brahma comforted the crying lady and named the river that was formed from her tears – Vadhusara.

By the time Puloma and her child (Chyavana) returned to the hermitage, sage Bhrigu had also completed his ablutions and was already home. Upon seeing Puloma, he asked her who had identified her to the rakshasa.

Puloma replied that Agni (the God of fire) had identified her to the rakshasa and that the demon carried her away while she cried like a kurari (female osprey bird).

Puloma said, “It was only through the splendor of our child that I was rescued.”

Bhrigu became extremely angry with Agni Deva when he heard Puloma’s words, and in that state of extreme anger, he cursed Agni saying, “You will, from now on, eat all sorts of things.”

Note: Agni is known as the mouth of the Gods and he only consumed those things that were very pure. Sage Bhrigu cursed Agni such that he would have to eat all sorts of things – which meant he would also have to eat impure items. This was very disturbing to Agni.

On a separate note, much later, when Chyavana became a sage, he built his hermitage on the banks of the river Vadhusara which was formed from his mother’s tears. 

The Ayurvedic preparation “Chyavanprash” was named after Sage Chyavana because it was prepared by the Ashwini Kumars (the physicians of the Gods) to help Sage Chyavana restore his health and youth.

In the next post, we will read about how Agni responded to the sage’s curse.

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Next: Agni Deva’s Response to Bhrigu’s Curse

Image Credit: The image at the top of the post was made available in the public domain by Kripal of Nurpur.

Maharishi Bhrigu

Note: In the previous post, after narrating the story of Uttanka going to meet Janamejaya to seek revenge on the serpent king, Takshaka, Sauti asked the ascetics in Naimisha forest which story they wanted to hear next. Saunaka Kulapati, the chief sage, expressed an interest in hearing the story of Sage Bhrigu’s race. In this post, Sauti provides a brief description of Bhrigu’s family.

However, before returning to Sauti’s narration, let’s first learn a bit about Bhrigu’s background.

Sage Bhrigu is one of the saptarishis and also one of the many prajapatis (facilitators of creation). In the Bhagawad Gita, Lord Krishna identified Bhrigu as one of his vibhutis (divine manifestations). 

Sage Bhrigu was the first person to write a treatise on predictive astrology, called the Bhrigu Samhita.

It is believed that Sage Bhrigu’s hermitage (called Deepotsaka) was located near Dhosi Hills, which are on the north-western end of the Aravalli range near the border of Haryana and Rajasthan.

An aerial view of Dhosi Hills showing an ancient parikrama path

The following words were spoken by Sauti to Saunaka Kulapati and the ascetics in Naimisha forest to describe Sage Bhrigu and his family.

We are told that the great and blessed saint, Bhrigu, was created by Brahma from the fire at a sacrifice conducted by Varuna.

Sage Bhrigu had a son whom he loved very dearly. His name was Chyavana. 

Chyavana had a son called Pramati.

Pramati had a son called Ruru who was born from the union of Pramati and the celestial dancer, Ghritachi.

Ruru (the son of Sage Pramati and Ghritachi) was married to Pramadvara. They had a son called Sunaka.

Ugrasrava Sauti addressing Saunaka Kulapati said, “O Saunaka, this great sage, Sunaka, was your ancestor. He was extremely virtuous, devoted to asceticism, proficient in law, and famed among those who possessed knowledge of the Vedas. This reputed sage was truthful and well-balanced in his behavior. ”

This ends Sauti’s brief description of Sage Bhrigu.

Read the note below for more information about Ghritachi and the apsaras.

Apsaras in the Devi Jagadambi Temple at Khajuraho

Note: Apsara Ghritachi was responsible for the birth of many virtuous children on earth. Along with furthering Sage Bhrigu’s lineage by having a son with Sage Pramati, she was also the mother of Nala. She also furthered the Puru dynasty by having ten sons with a descendant of Janamejaya called Raudrasva.

The Natya Shastra, an ancient treatise on performing arts, composed by Bharat Muni mentions several apsaras. Some of them are: Manjukesi, Sukesi, Misrakesi, Sulochana, Saudamini, Devasena, Manorama, Sudati, Sundari, and many others.

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Image Credits:

  1. The image of Sage Bhrigu is from Bhrigu Stotram. It was made available in the public domain by Shrimati Satish Janardhan Sharma and Dr. Pandit Ramanuj Sharma of Hoshiarpur, Punjab, India.
  2. The image of Dhosi Hills was made available in the public domain by Sudhirkbhargava.
  3. The image of the Devi Jagadambi Temple was made available in the public domain by Benjamín Preciado Centro de Estudios de Asia y África de El Colegio de México.

Note: In the previous post, we read about why Uttanka was angry with the serpent king, Takshaka, and how his anger caused him to go to Hastinapura to meet king Janamejaya to seek revenge on Takshaka.

With this post, we begin the Pauloma (sub) Parva of the Adi Parva of the Mahabharata.

Ugrasrava Sauti, the son of Lomaharshana, knowledgeable in the Puranas, stood before the ascetics (who were attending Saunaka Kulapati’s 12-year sacrifice) in the Naimisha forest. Having studied the Puranas with great care and devotion, he was well acquainted with them. Sauti folded his hands in front of the ascetics and said to them, “I have described the story of Uttanka who was one of the causes of King Janamejaya’s snake sacrifice. Respected sirs, what do you wish to hear now?”

The ascetics replied, “O son of Lomaharshana, we are sure you will narrate whichever story we wish to hear, but our respected teacher, Saunaka Kulapati, is not here at the moment. He is in the chamber of the holy fire. He is well acquainted with the divine stories of gods and asuras. He knows the background of humans, serpents, and gandharvas. O Sauti, he is the chief of this sacrifice. He is a capable brahmana, faithful to his vows, a lover of peace, and performs strict practices to subdue the urges of the body. He observes all the penances according to the scriptures. All of us respect him, therefore, we should wait for him to arrive and tell us which story he would like to hear.”

Sauti said, “So be it. I shall wait for the high-souled brahmin (Saunaka Kulapati) to arrive and narrate the story he asks for.”

Meanwhile, the excellent brahmin, Saunaka Kulapati, performed his duties in the fire chamber of his house. He pleased the gods with prayers and pleased his ancestors with offerings of water. After completing his rituals in the fire chamber, he returned to the place of the sacrifice where the ascetics were seated with Sauti.

The great brahmin then spoke to Sauti, “Child, in the past, your father read all the Puranas and the (Maha) Bharata with Vyasa. Have you also studied them? Those ancient records (Mahabharata and Puranas) contain the stories of the first generation of wise men. We have heard those stories from your father but would like to hear them again. The first story I want to hear is about Sage Bhrigu’s race.”

Upon hearing Saunak Kulapati’s words, Sauti said respectfully, “I have studied everything that the high-souled brahmins, including Vaishampayana, had studied. I have also learned everything my father studied.”

Sauti continued his reply to Saunaka Kulapati, “O great rishi, you are a descendant of the great race of Bhrigu which is respected by Indra and all the gods. It is respected by the rishis and Maruts. O great one, I will now tell you the story of the race of Bhrigu as it is described in the Puranas.”

Note: You might be surprised that Saunaka Kulapati did not ask Sauti to tell them the story of Janamejaya’s snake sacrifice, however, there is a reason for the delay. Uttanka was one of the causes of the sacrifice. However, there were other causes too. There was also a balancing factor to ensure that all the snakes do not get exterminated in the sacrifice. We will learn about all of these in the posts that follow.

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Next: A Brief Description of Sage Bhrigu’s Family