Matsya rescues the Saptarishi and Manu from the great Deluge
Kalyana Kalpataru

Aug 26, 2014 — CANADA (SUN) — A study of the famous Rishis and Munis of Vedic literature.

The first Manu was Swáyambhuva, then came Svárochisha, then Uttami, Támasa, Raivata and Cáksusha. The current Manu who presides over the seventh Manvantara is Vaivasvata, the son of the Sun God, Vivasvan. Vaivasvata, who is also known as Sraddhadeva, has ten sons: named Iksvaku, Nabhaga, Dhrsta, Saryati, Narisyanta, Nabhaga, Dista, Tarusa, Prsadhra and Vasuman. In this manvantara, or reign of Manu, among the demigods are the Adityas, Vasus, Rudras, Visvedevas, Maruts, Asvini-kumaras and Rbhus.

The king of heaven, Indra, is known as Purandara, and the Seven Great Rishis or saptarishi are: Kasyapa, Atri, Vasistha, Visvamitra, Gautama, Jamadagni and Bharadvaja. During this period of Manu, the Supreme Personality of Godhead Visnu appears from the womb of Aditi in His incarnation as the son of Kasyapa.

The great Rishis are seers who know, and by their knowledge are the makers of shastra and "see" all mantras. The word comes from the root rish: rishati-prapnoti sarvvang mantrang jnanena pashyati sangsaraparangva, etc. To the Rishis, the Vedas were revealed. Vyasa taught the Rigveda so revealed to Paila, the Yajurveda to Vaishampayana, the Samaveda to Jaimini, Atharvaveda to Sumantu, and Itihasa and Puranas to Suta.

The three chief classes of Rishi are the Brahmarshi, born of the mind of Brahma, the Devarshi of lower rank, and Rajarshi or Kings who became Rishis through their knowledge and austerities, such as Janaka, Ritaparna, etc. The Shrutarshi are makers of Shastras, as Sushruta. The Kandarshi are of the Karmakanda, such as Jaimini.

The upper Ganges above Rishikesh, traditional abode of the Vedic Rishis

The Saptarishi (from aptarṣi, a Sanskrit dvigu meaning "seven sages") are the seven rishis who are extolled throughout the Vedas and Vaisnava literature. The Vedic Samhitas never enumerate these rishis by name, although later Vedic texts such as the Brahmanas and Upanisads do. They are regarded in the Vedas as the patriarchs of the Vedic religion, sanatana-dharma.

The earliest list of the Seven Rishis is given in the Jaiminiya Brahmana 2.218-221: Vashista, Bharadvaja, Jamadagni, Gautama, Atri, Visvamitra, and Agastya, followed by the list in Brihadaranyaka Upanisad 2.2.6, which is slightly different: Gautama and Bharadvāja, Viśvāmitra and Jamadagni, Vashiṣṭha and Kaśyapa, and Atri, Brighu. The later Gopatha Brāhmana 1.2.8 has Vashiṣṭa, Viśvāmitra, Jamadagni, Gautama, Bharadvāja, Gungu, Agastya, Vrighu and Kaśyapa.

In post-Vedic texts, different lists also appear; some of these rishis were recognized as the 'mind born sons' (manasa-putra) of Brahma.

(Saptarishi, to be continued…)

Caitanya-caritamrta, Madhya Lila 20:246
Account of the Several Manus and Manwantaras Vishnu Purana, translated by Horace Hayman Wilson (1840)
Inhabitants of the Worlds


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