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Friday, February 19, 2016

Province of the Holy- Legend of Sage Agastya

"Fame belongs to those who strive for it; but, those who are selfless in their deeds become immortal"

Every civilization or society's survival as well as development rests on the shoulders of few individuals for its smooth running. These foundation builders lay down the ground rules so that the civility of the society remains. In our ancient history such personalities were known as saints; from teaching in their hermitages to providing consultations to the kings. They never had any hidden agenda of theirs’, whether preaching to the masses or penance in the stiff conditions for societal benefit or developing new theories in medical sciences as well as extraordinary weapon systems. After all that is what sainthood is all about, to give. And when I say sainthood, I don’t mean brahmarn; I mean a being, either human or daitya or any class.

Today we will learn about one such persona; Sage Agastya, a revered sage of our ancient times. We can understand his prowess with a simple fact that when the mighty Indra felt helpless against the demons of the Dandkaranya and the southern region, he went to Agastya’s refuge and requested him to save the beings from those demons’ dread. There’s an incident I can recollect that Shri Ram himself narrated to Devi Sita and Lakshmarn, let’s hear it:

Long ago there lived two demon brothers Vatapi and Ilwal. Those demons were extremely cruel and atrocious. In order to lure the Brahmmarns and feed on them, Ilwal used to disguise himself as a Brahmmarn and visit the sages in order to invite them for rituals. He offered them food that was in actual Vatapi himself disguised in a lamb’s form and unknowingly Brahmmarns ate that. Ilawal then used to shout, ‘Vatapi come out’. Listening to this; Vatapi did come out ripping the sages’ stomach and by so those carnivorous demons killed thousands of Brahmmarns . Indra requested Agastya for help; the latter hence went to the region and followed the scripted set of events by the demons. He knowingly ate the demon that was in a vegetable’s form this time. Like every time Ilwal shouted, ‘come out’. But this time nothing happened to the divine sage, he was smiling, ‘the brother you are calling to come out has been digested by me and delivered to hell, now he won’t be coming back.’ Listening to the brother’s demise the demon angrily attacked the sage. Agastya looked at him with his fiery eyes and the demon got ablaze and died like his brother.’
Such was the immense strength that sage Agastya displayed. Let’s look at another episode after which he was named so:

Once the immense mountain Vindhya elongated its height to block Sun’s way. It resulted in  disarray. Sage Agastya visited the mount; with respect, he bowed to the sage. The sage instructed him to be gentle and the mountain remained low following the sage’s instruction.
That’s why he was famed as ‘Agastaya’, i.e., the one who amazes the ‘Ag’, i.e., the mountain.’
Like Brahmmrishi Vishwamitra, Agastya was also a knower of divine weapons; like other divine beings, he also knew about the prophecy. He knew Shri Ram’s motive of spending his exile in the Dandkaranya; elimination of Raavarn. To do his bit, he presented him a great Vaishnav bow that was designed by Vishwakarma and given to Bhagwan Vishnu. He also honored Ram with an amazing arrow that radiated like Sun which was given by Brahmm Dev, apart from that two quivers presented by Indra that never went out of arrows and a sword that was decorated with gold.

Sage Agastya was an amazing personality of his time and a very humble being. Just for sake of social well being, he relocated to an altogether different place, and stopped as well as fought injustice spreading hope among the beings; I believe that itself defines selflessness that comes with purity of mind and heart.

{ Image Source: India net zone}
Before we end this post, I would like to draw your attention towards the rakshas brothers’ incident that were finished by the great sage. This story had generated a misconception among the intellectuals of our society to whom I feel very sorry for. The fallacy being as though the Brahmmarns were strictly vegetarian living only on sattvik food, but on occasions like shraddh, they were fed on meat, as here lamb’s meat is stated.
But as I always say, reading between the lines is the real task. Here we need to understand that those rakshasas invited the sages on shraddh; these customs are performed for the libation of the departed soul. The sages participated for the noble cause not knowing that they were being served non-veg instead. Those demons deliberately did so to corrupt those sages’ tapascharya, hence it became easier to kill the Brahmmarns. Agastya was not a normal sage, that’s why Indra requested him and he redeemed the sages from those demons.


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