Rishi, aka: Riṣi, Ṛṣi, Rsi; 8 Definition(s)


Rishi means something in Hinduism, Sanskrit, Jainism, Prakrit, Marathi. If you want to know the exact meaning, history, etymology or English translation of this term then check out the descriptions on this page. Add your comment or reference to a book if you want to contribute to this summary article.

The Sanskrit terms Riṣi and Ṛṣi can be transliterated into English as Risi or Rishi or Rsi, using the IAST transliteration scheme (?).

In Hinduism

Nāṭyaśāstra (theatrics and dramaturgy)

Ṛṣi (ऋषि) refers to “vedic seers”, whose beard (śmaśru) should be represented as bushy (romaśa), according to Nāṭyaśāstra chapter 23. Providing the beard is a component of nepathya (costumes and make-up) and is to be done in accordance with the science of āhāryābhinaya (extraneous representation).

(Source): Wisdom Library: Nāṭya-śāstra
Nāṭyaśāstra book cover
context information

Nāṭyaśāstra (नाट्यशास्त्र, natya-shastra) refers to both the ancient Indian tradition of performing arts, (e.g., theatrics, drama, dance, music), as well as the name of a Sanskrit work dealing with these subjects. It also teaches the rules for composing dramatic plays (nāṭya) and poetic works (kāvya).


1a) Ṛṣi (ऋषि).—(ety.)—got the mantras by the pupil of the eye, by observation, by accident and by past and future events. Five groups are distinguished: avyaktātmā, mahānātmā, (also mahātmā), ahaṅkārātmā, bhūtātmā and indriyātmā; also brahmaṛṣis, devaṛṣis, rājaṛṣis, mahaṛṣis, saptaṛṣis, ṛṣika—all mantravits.1 Milked the cow Earth when Soma acted as calf; Bṛhaspati was the milkman, the vessel being the Vedas and the essence tapas;2 cursed by Mahādeva in the Svāyambhuva epoch and freed from it in the Vaivasvata.3 agnihotra—Ṛsis procreate for the world and establish dharma in it; live in the pitṛyāna. gṛhamedhi rṣis; 88,000; live in the southern path of the sun till the end of the world;4 quality of immanence in them; kinds of;5 place of 8000 sages.6

  • 1) Brahmāṇḍa-purāṇa II. 32. 70-95; 33. 32, 34; 35. 89 & 95; Matsya-purāṇa 123. 29; 145. 81-89. Vāyu-purāṇa 59-87.
  • 2) Matsya-purāṇa 10. 16-7.
  • 3) Matsya-purāṇa 195. 3.
  • 4) Matsya-purāṇa 124. 98-100, 102-4.
  • 5) Vāyu-purāṇa 5. 35; 49. 126; 59. 63.
  • 6) Brahmāṇḍa-purāṇa II. 7. 180.

1b) (Paramaṛṣi, Ṛṣitā, Mahaṛṣis, Ṛṣikas, Ṛṣiputrakas, Śrutaṛṣis) and ṛṣijāti, ety. of.*

  • * Vāyu-purāṇa 59. 79-87.

1c) Blessed Pṛthu.1 Divine ascetics.2 Went to Dvārakā to see Kṛṣṇa.3 Sing in praise of the sun.4 Born in the form of cows when Hari manifested himself as Kṛṣṇa.5 (See ṛṣi). The seven of the Vaivasvata epoch were Viśvāmitra, Jamadagni, Bharadvāja, Śaradvān, Atri, Vasumān, VatsāraKaśyapa.6 Relations of, with gods and Pitṛs.7

  • 1) Bhāgavata-purāṇa IV. 15. 19; 19. 18.
  • 2) Ib. III. 20. 52-3; VII. 8. 37 and 43; VIII. 5. 39; 14. 8; X. 72. 8; 74. 37.
  • 3) Ib. XI. 6. 3.
  • 4) Ib. XII. 11. 47.
  • 5) Ib. X. 1. 23 [1].
  • 6) Vāyu-purāṇa 64. 24-28.
  • 7) Ib. 62. 21.
(Source): Cologne Digital Sanskrit Dictionaries: The Purana Index
Purāṇa book cover
context information

The Purāṇas (पुराण, purana) refers to Sanskrit literature preserving ancient India’s vast cultural history, including historical legends, religious ceremonies, various arts and sciences. The eighteen mahāpurāṇas total over 400,000 ślokas (metrical couplets) and date to at least several centuries BCE.

General definition (in Hinduism)

Ṛṣis (in context to Devas) are the sages [lit. prophets] and are 48,000 in number. They are in the world of gods. Through severe religious austerities they have obtained great gifts [i.e., abilities]. They can do without food and sleep, and they can be wherever they want to be [instantly].

The distinguished sages are

  • Agastya,
  • Nārada,
  • Gautama,
  • Vedavyāsa,
  • Puṇḍarīkahaṛṣi,
  • Vālmīki,
  • Vasiṣṭha,
  • Durvāsamahāṛṣi,
  • Viśvāmitra,
  • Sūtamahaṛṣi,
  • Kapila,
  • Kāśimahāṛṣi,
  • Mirukaṇṭumakāṛṣi, etc
(Source): Google Books: Genealogy of the South Indian Deities

Ṛṣi (ऋषि): Rishi, also known as Mantradraṣṭa ("seer of the Mantras") and Vedavaktāra ("chanter of the Vedas") is a seer who "heard" (cf. śruti) the hymns of the Vedas. A rishi is regarded as a combination of a patriarch, a priest, a preceptor, an author of Vedic hymns, a sage, a saint, an ascetic, a prophet and a hermit into a single person.

(Source): WikiPedia: Hinduism

Rishi (Sanskrit: ṛṣi, Devanāgarī: ऋषि) refers to those great enlightened sages to whom the Rig Veda (Sanskrit: ṛgveda, Devanāgarī: ऋग्वेद) was revealed. Kali Yuga effect causes modern greedy man to arrogate everything thing to himself and they also speak in such words about the Ṛṣi. They say that the ṛṣi were the “composers” of Vedic hymns by which they (1) equate the ṛṣi to normal greedy human beings and (2) deny the fact that the ṛṣi were so enlightened that they were in direct communion with God. The Hindu knows better – he calls these holy books as ‘śruti’ implying that which has been heard by the ṛṣi from God. There is a clear line drawn between the śruti (that which was heard) and the smṛti (that which is remembered).

The ṛṣi is a ‘seer’ or sage of such high standing that the devatā themselves worshiped and revered them. They were in direct communion with the highest states of enlightenment and received the Vedas from God. Many of the ṛṣi were women and were called ṛṣī (Devanāgarī: ऋषी) implying that vedic learning was imparted to both men and women.

The etymology can be understood from the statement – Ṛṣi (ऋषि) were the singers of the ṛc (ऋच्) in the ṛgveda (ऋग्वेद). Later the one ṛgveda was divided into four parts called Ṛk, Yajur, Sāma and Atharva Veda by Kṛṣṇa Dvaipāyana (Vedavyāsa). There are two traditional root-meanings to the word ṛṣi coming from its root ṛṣ (ऋष्) -

(1)  to flow or glide as used in arṣati, ānarṣa and arṣitā implying the flow of the knowledge like the flow of the celestial Ganges from its heavenly abode to earth. Lord Śiva received the Ganga on his head and from where it attained purity as it flowed down to wash His feet leading to the concept of ‘guru pādukā’.

(2)  to bring near implies to endear. There are two ways in which something comes closer or near – (1) when the person moves towards it symbolised by the Sanskrit vowel ऋ (ṛ) or (2) when the object/energy moves towards the person symbolised by the Sanskrit vowel ऌ (ḷ)

(Source): Mantra Śāstra: Hinduism

In Jainism

General definition (in Jainism)

Ṛṣi (ऋषि) refers to a type of Bhikṣu: the fourth of the four stages of a layman (āśrama) according to Cāmuṇḍarāya (940–989 A.D.) in his Caritra-sāra. Ṛṣi refers to a monk who has attained to divine powers (ṛddhi).

Cāmuṇḍarāya, who was a Digambara Jain, has taken over the Hindu concept of the four āśramas, which, following Jinasena, he terms brahmacārin, gṛhastha, vānaprastha, and bhikṣu (eg., Ṛṣi).

(Source): archive.org: Jaina Yoga
General definition book cover
context information

Jainism is an Indian religion of Dharma whose doctrine revolves around harmlessness (ahimsa) towards every living being. The two major branches (Digambara and Svetambara) of Jainism stimulate self-control (or, shramana, ‘self-reliance’) and spiritual development through a path of peace for the soul to progess to the ultimate goal.

Languages of India and abroad

Marathi-English dictionary

ṛṣi (ऋषि).—m (S) A saint. A common term for seven ancient sages who form (in astronomy) the asterism of Ursa major. 2 A sanctified personage gen.

(Source): DDSA: The Molesworth Marathi and English Dictionary

ṛṣi (ऋषि).—m A saint; a sanctified personage.

(Source): DDSA: The Aryabhusan school dictionary, Marathi-English
context information

Marathi is an Indo-European language having over 70 million native speakers people in (predominantly) Maharashtra India. Marathi, like many other Indo-Aryan languages, evolved from early forms of Prakrit, which itself is a subset of Sanskrit, one of the most ancient languages of the world.

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