Agastya (Tamil:அகத்தியர் Akattiyar, Telugu:అగస్త్య, Sanskrit:अगस्त्य, Malay: Anggasta, Thai: Akkhot) is one of the the Saptarishi (सप्तर्षि saptarsi a meaning “seven sages”) who are extolled at many places in the Vedas and revered Vedic sage who created the Tamil language on instructions from Lord Skanda. Agastya and his clan[who?] are also generally credited with uncovering many mantras of the Rig Veda, the earliest and most revered Hindu scripture, in the sense of first having the mantras revealed in his mind by the Supreme Brahman. Agastya is also the author of Agastya Samhita[ref: Dharma Bharathi].
The word is also written as Agasti and Agathiyar. A-ga means a mountain, Asti, thrower. Also a name of Shiva. Agastya the Muni, was born of both Gods, Mitra and Varuna, from Urvashi.
Agastya is also believed to be the first Brahman to cross the Vindhya Range and travel to southern India. Agastya is also the Indian astronomical name of the star of Canopus, is said to be the ‘cleanser of waters’, since its rising coincides with the calming of the waters of the Indian Ocean.
Agastya and Lopamudra
Agastya needed to marry and sire a son, in order to fulfill his duties to the Manus. Once he resolved upon doing this, Agastya pursued an unusual course of action: by his yogic powers, he created a female infant who possessed all the special qualities of character and personality that would be appropriate in the wife of a renunciate. At this time, the noble and virtuous king of Vidarbha (an area in south-central India, just south of the Vindhya mountains), was childless and was undertaking penances and offering prayers to the divinities for the gift of a child. Having come to know the plight of the king, Agastya arranged for the transformation of the child he had created, to be born the daughter of that noble king of Vidarbha. The child thus born was named “Lopamudra” by her parents. Upon her attaining marriageable age, Agastya approached the king and sought the hand of his daughter. The king was initially chagrined to hear such a suggestion from a renunciate, but found that his daughter, who had already exhibited extraordinary standards of mind and character, was insistent that he should accept the proposal. She was utterly intent upon renouncing the royal palace of her father and set out to live in forest at the hermitage of Agastya. Lopamudra and Agastya were duly married and lived a life of extraordinary felicity and happiness. It is believed that they had two sons – Bringi & Achutha. In Mahabharata (Vana Parva: Tirtha-yatra Parva), there is mention of his penance at Gangadwara (Haridwar),in Uttar Khand State in India, with the help of his wife, Lopamudra (the princess of Vidharba). Lopamudra attained the rank of one of Mahapativrathas in the world by her deication to worship her husband Agastya, and remained with other Pathivrathas (Noble exalted wives),like Mandodari (Ravana’s wife),etc.
Legends about Agastya
One story about Agastya goes that once the Kalakeyas (a clan of Asuras) had taken refuge in the Cosmic Ocean, so that it was difficult for the Devas to vanquish them, due to which they went to Sage Agastya for help. After hearing the Devas, the sage drank the entire ocean water and held it within him, until the demons were destroyed.
In his book, he gives description of, and instructions for the creation of medicines for fever (it may be of any type), cancer, treatments for impotence, abdominal problems, brain and eye problems, bone problems, etc. Reputedly, his medicines give quick results without any side effects.
Another legend is about how Sage Agastya saved the then Bharatavarsha from imbalance. Mount Vindhyachal continually grew in size due to taunting comments by Sage Narada according to a story in the Shri Rama-Charitra-Manasa. So as to temper the vanity of the mountains, Sage Agastya and his family traveled to South India, via the Mount Vindhyachal. On their way, when the Vindhyas saw Sage Agastya, he bowed with respect and reverence, upon which Sage Agastya played a trick on the Vindhyas, joking if he would stay bowed and subdued with respect till the sage returned. The Vindhyas was truly benevolent and promised to not grow until the seer’s return from the South. After passing through the mountain, sage Agastya told his wife, that they would never go back North side of mount Vindhyas ever again.
According to Mahabharata Book 10 in Sauptikaparva section 12, Agastya is referred as the sage who gave Drona, the greatest of weapons, Brahmastra (used by both Arjuna and Ashwatthama at the end of the war).
Agastya and the southern migration of the Veilr
The story of the southern migration of the Velir from Dvaraka under the leadership of Agastya is narrated by Naccinarkkiniyar in his commentary on Tolkappiyam (payiram ; Porul|.34).
One version of this ‘ayitheehyam’, meaning spiritual story wherein proof is not sought for but is believed to be true, is that pleased upon Parvathy’s penance to achieve consort hood of Lord Siva, He appears before her and agrees to marry Her. The Spiritual Wedding was solemnized on Mount Kailasa. All the Devas, Bhootas, Asuras, Yakshas, Kinnaras, Gandharvas etc, and other dignitaries including Brahma and Vishnu, came down from their respective extra-terrestrial realms to Earth, to Kailasa to witness the wedding. Due to the weight of the population in the North the Earth started to Tilt. Lord Shiva then requested Agasthya Muni to rush to the then South India and balance the Earth from further tilting. Agasthya muni came down to a place which later on came be known as Chengannoor (old name not known) in Kerala and sat in mediation and then negated the further tilt of the planet. However, Agasthya muni had laid down a condition before leaving Kailasah that Siva and Parvathy would come down to the place where he would sit, and the marriage will be solemnized again there for his benefit to which all agreed. Finally the Bride and Bridegroom came to Chegannoor to be married again before Agasthya muni. But Parvarthy had her periods and the marriage was postponed. The red blood that flowed from Parvathy Devi’s vagina fell on the ground and the mud there turned red. Thus the place got the name Chemmanoor – chem(red)-mann(mud)-ooru(place). Which later got distorted over ages and now is got to be known as Chengannoor. Though still there are people who call the place as Chemmannoor.
An important legacy worth mentioning here is a Temple there; considered to be first built by Agasthya Muni, where he sat in meditation and the marriage was re-solemnized after Parvathy devi’s periods were over; where Siva-Parvathy’s idols are worshiped in the same temple. One half of the temple is dedicated to Lord Siva and the other half behind Siva is dedicated for Goddess Parvathy. It is believed that They are available to Their devotees for worship, as husband and wife here. Interestingly it is believed that even today the idol of Parvathy has menstrual flow, though not regular. But if the priest observes blood (claimed to be tested true menstrual blood) in the ‘odayaada’ during ‘nirmalya pooja’, Parvathy’s idol is removed and kept in a sanctum opposite to the temple within the premises and after a festival ‘tripoottaraatu’ (7 days) Her idol is placed back into the temple. The festival is celebrated only if Her menses occurs.
Another story has it that two demon brothers, Ilvala and Vathapi, used to kill people who were passing by the forest in a special manner. Vathapi was good at changing to other life forms and the other, Ilvala knew the supernatural slogan Sanjivani mantra which, when invoked can bring back a dead person to life. They hatched a plan against Agastya that Vathapi would turn into a goat and be killed and fed to Agastya. After Agastya had eaten the meat, Ilvala would invoke the Sanjivani mantra to bring back his brother Vathapi to life, who in turn would rend Agastya’s stomach and come out thereby killing him. By the plan, one changed into a goat and the other disguised himself as a Brahmachari who invited Agastya to a meal. Agastya knew beforehand about the plan due to his immense Vedic powers, but he resolved to teach both a lesson. After the meal, Agastya simply rubbed his stomach saying Vathapi JeerNo bhava; literally may Vathapi be digested, while the other demon tried to bring his brother to life in vain. Agastya plainly informed the demon that his brother has been digested and could no longer be brought back to life.
Other facets of Agastya
He is considered as the first and foremost Siddha. He is considered the guru of many other Siddhas. He is also called Kurumuni, meaning short (kuru) saint (muni). He made contributions to the field of Medicine and Astrology – especially Nadi astrology. He is said to have lived for over 5000 years, and that one of his medicinal preparations, Boopathi Kuligai, is so powerful that it can even bring the dead back to life. Two of his students and disciples were Therayar and Tholkappiar. Another story about him is that once when the great sage accompanied by his beloved royal wife were wandering through forests, she fainted due to the humidity and hot conditions prevailing in the south. She was royal, hence not exposed to hard conditions. By seeing this the great sage became angry and prepared to punish the Sun God with his bow and arrows. Upon seeing this the sun god feared and appeared before Agastya and presented him with umbrella and chappals (foot wear).
Unity of Vishnu and Shiva
At a Saivite temple named Kutralam, formerly a Vishnu temple, in Tamil Nadu, Agastya, in one legend, was refused entry. He then appeared as a Vaishnavite devotee and is said to have miraculously converted the image to a Shiva linga. A symbolic meaning of this conversion is to show that Vishnu and Shiva are different aspects of the one and same God.