Thursday, 7 July 2011

Atthiri Maharishi


Hinduism owes a lot to its ancient sages. One of the most powerful saints in Hindu mythology is Atri maharishi. Now we are going to tell you about Atri maharishi's life history and his concert, mata or mother Anusuya and their power and participation in creating the whole world. They have written palm leaves which are of totally different nature. Atri maharishi's one of the seven sons (Vasistha, Bharadvaja, Jamadagni, Gautama, Atri, Visvamitra, and Agastya,) of creater Brahma. He is the ancestor of some Brahmin and Vaishya communities, who adopt Atri as their gothra. His name means the possessor of Sat (pure), Raja (medium) and Tama (dark) qualities.

Mata or mother Anusuya is a daughter of kardama prajapati. She had three sons and one daughter including Soma, Dattatreya, and Durvasa and Shubhatreyi, who are the incarnations of define trinity Brahma, Vishnu and Siva respectively. The trinity channeled through Brahmarishi Atri when they granted boons to his wife devi Anusuya for helping, the sun to raise in the east every day.

Atri maharishi did great tapas on the Para Brahma, the fire / heat of the tapas became unbearable to the whole world, and Lord Brahma had to accept it and gave it a form of a man. He also granted a boon to sage Atri. The boon was that at the right time a son would be born to him. As he continued the tapas, the Trinity of Brahma, Vishnu and Siva (Rudra) appeared before the sage. To his question, they replied that they were all equal with different roles and pleased with his great penance they promised to be born as his children. Soma is called Chandratreya or Chandratre, and Durvasa is Krishnatreya or Krishnatre.

Somatreya (Chandra) established the Someshwara Jyotirlinga, used to overcome all kinds of passion. Soma, as the incarnation of Brahma, has the power to cause any species to continue survival. Soma (Chandra) and Furvasa gave their powers to Datta (Amsa of Vishnu) and went for Tapas etc. Datta, or Dattatreya as he prefers to be known thus carries all the powers and attributes of the Trinity and thus the Nirguna Para Brahma Tatwa and became a Guru and continues even now. Sage Atri is the first among the Sapta Rishi (seven luminous or eternal sages in the sky) symbolized by the great bear (Ursa Major) and the seven stars around it.

The Power of Sage Atri Maharishi:
(i) Once when he was in need of some money, he approached Prithu Chakravarthy for help. Prithu agreed to help the rishi but, in turn requested him to help with the Aswamedha Yaga that he was taking up. He asked sage Atri to help his son who was appointed as guardian for the yaga aswa. Indra wanted to cause interruption to the yaga presumably to prevent Prithu from getting more powerful. So, he came disguised and stole the yaga aswa and was carrying it away in the sky. Prithu's son asked sage Atri whether he should kill him with his arrows. Sage Atri saw what Indra was doing and wanted to teach him a lesson and so advised that whoever is causing obstacles to the yaga deserves punishment and killing that person or injuring him is allowed by dharma. He indicated that the person was none other than Indra but no one is above dharma.

So, the son of Prithu shot an arrow at Indra and Indra was badly hurt. Indra left the horse but again stole it and became invisible. Atri made Indra visible by absorbing Indra's powers (like a black body absorbs radiation) and Prithu's son punished him again! The yaga was completed successfully and the emperor praised Atri to the sky. Sage Gautama, who was present (and is a very great sage himself) felt jealous (or pretended to be so!) and when sage Atri returned the compliments to Emperor Prithu praising him as Chandra and Indra, sage Gautama objected saying that it is against dharma. Atri maharishi responded that he did not do anything wrong and asked the assembly to pass their ruling on this tricky matter.

The assembly of learned sages could not decide and they in turn submitted the question to Sanatkumara, another manasa putra of Brahma. He confirmed that since a king of emperor cannot become so without an amsa of Vishnu in him. Atri did not err in equating the king to Indra. All sages including Gautama accepted this ruling. It is quite probable that sage Gautama wanted to bring out the subtleties of dharma through this incident and of course it is possible for the greatest soul also to momentarily succumb to the internal enemies. For us, the morals of the story are important.

(ii) Once upon a time, there was a fierce war between devas and danavas (it is a never ending war in our own mind) and Surya and Chandra lost their tejas (effulgence, energy) due to Rahu and Ketu. They approached sage Atri and prayed for his help. He restored their energies so that they can carry out their duties. He also gave them a boon that in future, they would not be adversely affected (except during the brief periods of eclipse/grahanam). It just shows the enormous powers that sage Atri had because of his tapas. Let us bow to Him and request His help in regaining our own glory and realize our true nature.

(iii) Atri Maharishi had a close connection with Mahabharatha. Drona was made the head of the Kaurava army after Bhisma's fall. Dronacharya fought ferociously and the number of wounded and the dead soldiers was thousands. Their cry of pain rented the skies, blood flowed on the battle field. Dead bodies got piled up and provided a feast for the birds of prey. In this carnage which went beyond all human estimation, Drona stood like a mad hero of demonic proportion. Sage Atri was very much worried of this because if Drona continued this he would cause destruction and human misery beyond hellish proportions.

Atri came to the battle field along with six of his companions. It was at this time Dharmaraya had shouted at the instance of Sri Krishna saying that Ashwathama was killed and this put Drona off completely. He lost all hope in his life. He became mad with anger and this sent shock wave all around. Sage Atri felt sad for him and talked to him in a friendly manner consoling him, "Dear friend, all along you have done everything against Dharma. This war you are engaged in is the best proof. It is enough now and should be stopped. Stop this carnage. You are a good man. This act is not in tune with your status. You are a scholar of Vedanta par excellence.

You have been a Brahman and you have got to practice dhrama. This cruel act does not befit you. Give up your weapons; fix your mind in our glorious Sanathana Dharma. I am sorry that you have wielded the most terrible brahmastra". Then Dronachariya decided to give up his arms and stop killing. He drove away his anger jealousy and sense of revenge and his heart became pure. He sat in a yogic posture and started to meditate amidst the cries of pain, killing, and flow of blood on the battle field. What a great change!! He concentrated on lord Vishnu and closed his eyes and never opened them again. He then left his body and started his journey towards the lord. If Atri had not come Drona would have destroyed the battle field. Hence age Atri's kind nature helped to save many men.

(iv) Sri Rama, the son of Dasaratha, visited Atri Maharishi's Ashram during his fourteen years of stay in the forest. It was Atri who showed the way to Dandakaranya after showering his hospitality on him. At his suggestion, Sita requested and learnt the innermost secrets of Pativarata Dharma from Anasuya mata. It is not that Sita was not aware of them but in an avatar, the Divine behave as if they are normal people and especially in Ramayana, Sri Rama and Sri Sita showed that it is entirely possible to be divine and yet lead a normal life as per the human values. Let us bow to Sri Sita, Sri Rama, Sri Lakshmana, Sage Atri and Anasuya Mata.

(v) Attri Maharishi is considered to be one of the great discoverers of sacred Mantras of Hinduism. In his family line, there were a few other seers of mantras namely: Shaavaashva, Avishtir, and Purvaatithi. There were also other great Rishis in that line: Mudgala, Uddaalaki, Shaakalaayani, chaandogya, etc. Rahu had masked the Sun and whole Earth was in the dark. Then Atri got the Sun out of Rahu's hands and lighted the Earth. The gods were happy and then Shiva and Vishnu were born as Durvas and Dattatreya to Atri-Anusuya.

Atri and AUM:
He is among the three main seers who propounded the sacred thread (after Brihaspati) which has three strands symbolishing Creation (Brahma and the letter A), sustainability (Vishnu and the letter U) and Dissolution (Shiva {m} and the latter M). Together these three strands show the vow that a Brahmin takes to recite and adhere to Aum. The first of three threads is provided for the Brahma vrata (promise of the Brahmin) and is related to Bhu loka (earth plane). The second set of three threads is given after marriage and is related to the Bhuva loka (solar system) while the third set of three threads Deeksha (initiation) and is related to svarga loka (heavens).

The Power of Anusuya Devi:
(i) Sage Narad praised Anusuya very much thereby making the wives of Brahma-Vishnu-Shiva jealous of Anusuya. They requested their husbands to go and break her "pativrata" vrata (being loyal to husband all the time). They went to Anusuya as guests when Atri was not there at home and asked her to serve them food (lunch) without wearing clothes. She agreed and remembering her husband put the water on their converting them to 3 babies. Here the 3 goddesses were waiting for their husbands to come back and eventually arrived at the scene to find that their husbands have been converted to babies. They repented and by the request of Anusuya the three Gods decided to be born as her 3 sons.

The spiritual power of Anusuya, which induced jealousy and envy in others. Once, sage Narada poisoned the mind of the three Goddess Saraswati, Laxmi and Parvati by telling them that Anusuya was much greater than them. Incensed by this, they requested their husbands to go and violate Anusuya's Pativrata Vrata. However, the three Gods Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva decided to prove their jealous and envious wives, how wrong they were. They transformed themselves, into mendicants, approached the hermitage of sage Atri and begged for alms. At that time sage Atri was away at the river offering his daily oblations. Anusuya came out and offered food to them. They made a strange request; the food be prepared and served to them by Anusuya, in the nude. In the Indian tradition any 'Aithi' i.e. guest cannot be turned away, as he is considered to be an aspect of God.

Hence, she was placed in a dilemma. She smiled to herself and reflected thus, "I am totally purified by the long association with the Holy Sage Atri. What harm can the God of lust ever do to me? So, I do fear nothing. As they sought food from my hand, I look upon them as my children and not strangers and grown up men!" Her thoughts - the thoughts of a pious and chaste person - instantly became reality; the elderly guests became babies! Sage Atri, on his return to the hermitage, saw his wife Anusuya fondling three babies. Anusuya said, "These children are the gift of God to us, who have been childless so far".

Sage Atri was overjoyed and named them Datta, which means 'given'. At this, the three Gods reverted to their real forms and disclosed the truth. They extolled the power of chastity and purity of Anusuya, which vanquished the combined and colossal powers of all the three of them. Sage Atri and Anusuya prayed that they should remain as their sons. They consented and the three Gods merged into one body. This is how Lord Dattatreya incarnated.

(ii) A brahmin named Kaushik was staying in a town called Pratishthaan. He used to go to a whore in spite of being a Brahmin and having a devoted wife. Later, he suffred from Leprosy and was thrown out by the whore. Then he returned back to his wife who still accepted him. However, he still did not care for the wife, and was thinking about the whore all the time. One day he asked his wife to take him to that whore.

In that town, by mistake the sage Mandavya had been spiked instead of the real thief and he was lying on the spike in the forest. While walking through the deep forest in the night, Kaushik happened to hit his leg by mistake to Mandavya sage who cursed him to death before the sunrise. To stop the curse, Kaushik's wife with her powers stopped the Sunrise which created havoc. Then gods went to Brahma who in turn went to Anusuya and asked her to convince Kaushik's wife to allow the sunrise. She convinced Kaushik's wife and brought back Kaushik to life after the sunrise. Gods were very happy with Anusuya and she had the trio born to her.

(iii) As per description of Valmiki at one time there was no rain in Chitrakuta for ten years. There was a severe famine and nothing was left to eat or drink for animals and birds. Sati Anusuya performed hard and intensive austerities and got the river Mandakini down on earth. This led to the greenery and forests to grow which removed the sufferings of all sages and the animals. Sati Anusuya ashrama at present is a very peaceful place where various streams from the hills converge and form the Mandakini River. It is said that Rama along with Sita had visited this place to meet Maharishi Atri and Sati Anusuya. It is here Sati Anusuya explained to Sita the grandeur and importance of satitva. The dense forests of Dandaka start from this place. It was ruled by Ravana. Ravana had appointed strong rakshasas like Khara and Viradha as its rulers. The place was infected by the terror of rakshasas.

Mata Anusuya Ashram in North India:
Anusuya or Sati Anusuya, in Hindu mythology, was wife of the sage Atri and mother of Dattatreya who is considered by some Hindus (in western India) to be an incarnation of the Divine Trinity Brahma, Vishnu and Siva. Sati Anusuya ashrama is in Chitrakuta, located further upstreams the Mandakini River, 16 km from the town, set amidst thick forests that round to the melody of birdsong all day. It was here that sage Atri, his wife Anusuya and their three sons (who were the three incarnations of Brahma, Vishnu and Mahesh), lived and are said to have meditated.

Sage Atri and Mata Anusuya Ashram in South India:
The both great sages Atri maharishi and Anusuya devi lived together in Suchindram near Kanyakumari located 13 km. from Kanyakumari in Tamilnadu.

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