Kratu Rishi


Work of the Prajapatis
Anglo depiction, steel engraving c. 1850

Sep 09, 2014 — CANADA (SUN) — A study of the famous Rishis and Munis of Vedic literature.

Kratu Rishi, another of the Saptarishis, is mentioned in Mahabharata as being a Prajapati in the Swayambhuva Manvantara. He is the desired son of Lord Brahma, having been born from Brahma's hand. Kratu Rishi was the progenitor of 60,000 sons, who were collectively known as Valakhilyas. These sons were born to Kratu and his wife Santhati (Sannati), the daughter of Prajapati Daksha. (Bhagavat Purana)

Kratu Rishi had two sisters, Punya and Satyavati. He also took birth in Vaivasvata Manvantara due to Lord Shiva's boon, but in Vaivasvata era he had no family. Kratu was also a son of Sage Kardama. He adopted Rishi Agastya's son, Idhvaaha. He is considered to be one of the Bhargavas. In Matsya Purana, the name of Kratu Rishi's mother is mentioned as being Poulami.

Rishi Kratu is also known as one of the Viswadevas, comprised of: Kratu, Daksha, Vasu, Satya, Kaalakama, Muni, Kuraja, Manuja, Beeja and Rochaman. Further details on his ancestry will follow in a later segment.

The Sanskrit term 'kratu' refers to Vedic ritual. In Bhagavad-gita Lord Krsna states, 'I am the ritual, the sacrifice'. Although Rishi Kratu is not specifically named in the sloka or purport, Bhagavad-gita 9.16 is often mentioned with respect to krathu:

    aham kratur aham yajnah
    svadhaham aham ausadham
    mantro 'ham aham evajyam
    aham agnir aham hutam

    aham -- I; kratuh -- Vedic ritual; aham -- I; yajnah -- smrti sacrifice; svadha -- oblation; aham -- I; aham -- I; ausadham -- healing herb; mantrah -- transcendental chant; aham -- I; aham -- I; eva -- certainly; ajyam -- melted butter; aham -- I; agnih -- fire; aham -- I; hutam -- offering.

    "But it is I who am the ritual, I the sacrifice, the offering to the ancestors, the healing herb, the transcendental chant. I am the butter and the fire and the offering.

    The Vedic sacrifice known as jyotistoma is also Krsna, and He is also the maha-yajna mentioned in the smrti. The oblations offered to the Pitrloka or the sacrifice performed to please the Pitrloka, considered as a kind of drug in the form of clarified butter, is also Krsna. The mantras chanted in this connection are also Krsna. And many other commodities made with milk products for offering in the sacrifices are also Krsna. The fire is also Krsna because fire is one of the five material elements and is therefore claimed as the separated energy of Krsna. In other words, the Vedic sacrifices recommended in the karma-kanda division of the Vedas are in total also Krsna. Or, in other words, those who are engaged in rendering devotional service unto Krsna are to be understood to have performed all the sacrifices recommended in the Vedas."

    (Bhagavad-gita As It Is 9.16)

The story of Kratu Rishi's service to Lord Brahma as progenitor of the races involves a pastime with Rudra (Lord Shiva). Kratu received the title of Pashupati after punishing Prajapati Brahma for his sin activities.

Rudra inherited the role as the lord of beasts, wild and tame, including domestic cattle (pasus) and beasts of the forests (mrgas). In this context, pasu designates primarily the domestic animals or cattle used as sacrificial beasts in yagna, and those regarded as possessions.

The demigods had divided the beasts among themselves, but they excluded Rudra. Rudra therefore wished to kill them. When he was about to kill Prajapati, Prajapati promised to make him Pasupati (lord of the beasts), so Rudra refrained from killing him.

When the demigods then proceeded to perform a sacrifice without Rudra, he attacked them. During the attack, he knocked out the teeth of Pusana, took out the eyes of Bhaga, and severed the two testicles of Kratu. All the demigods who were reduced to the condition of beasts then went pleading to Rudra, but he said in anger, "You have not given me a share of the sacrifice, though I was created before these gods, and because of this I have deprived them of their knowledge and deformed them." They continued praising and trying to appease him, so Rudra said, "Let all of you be beasts and I will be your Lord, and then you will obtain release".

The gods agreed to this, thus Rudra became lord of the beasts, Pasupati. He then restored Pusana's teeth, Bhaga's eyes, and Kratu's testicles. (Maitreya Samhita 4.2.12)

It was after Kratu's testicles were restored that he married Daksha's daughter Sannati, whose name means 'humility'. They gave birth to 60,000 sons, known as the Valakhilyas (or Balakhhiyas). While great in number, their progeny were all pigmy sages, no bigger than the joint of the thumb.

According to Brahmanda Purana, when the world was created from the cosmic egg, the Saptarishis came into being. This purana also accounts for the 60,000 sons of Rishi Kratu. The Balakhhiyas are described as being chaste, pious, and as resplendent as the rays of the sun. All were brahmacharis and students of the Vedas. We will discuss them further in our next segment.

Kratu and Sannati are also said to have a daughter Punya (also the name of Kratu's sister) and a daughter-in-law, Parvasa.


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