Puranic encyclopaedia

by Vettam Mani | 1975 | 609,556 words | ISBN-10: 0842608222

This page describes the Story of Agastya included the Puranic encyclopaedia by Vettam Mani that was translated into English in 1975. The Puranas have for centuries profoundly influenced Indian life and Culture and are defined by their characteristic features (panca-lakshana, literally, ‘the five characteristics of a Purana’).

Story of Agastya


Descended from Viṣṇu in this order Brahmā-Marīci-Kaśyapa-Sūrya-Agastya.


A story occurs in Uttara-Rāma-Carita about the birth of Agastya. Nimi was the son of Ikṣvāku of the Sūrya dynasty. When he ascended the throne he decided to celebrate a sacrifice of long duration. He invited Vasiṣṭha to perform the sacrifice. But Vasiṣṭha, who had to participate in the sacrifice of Indra, could not accept the invitation and Nimi had to return disappointed. At this he got angry, sought the help of Śatānanda, the son of the great hermit Gautama and the sacrifice was begun. Vasiṣṭha did not like this. He cursed Nimi that life might be separated from his body. Nimi retorted with the same curse. Vasiṣṭha’s spirit separated itself from his body and began to roam about in the sky. At last he requested Brahmā to provide him with a body. Brahmā granted his wish and said that he would be born again from Mitra and Varuṇa.

When the spirit of Vasiṣṭha returned to the earth it was Mitra and Varuṇa moving about, having only one body for both. Vasiṣṭha’s spirit entered into that body. One day Mitra-Varuṇa happened to see the celestial beauty, Urvaśī on the seashore. They embraced Urvaśī and immediately the spirit of Vasiṣṭha entered the body of Urvaśī.

After this Mitra and Varuṇa separated themselves from one another and assumed two different bodies. Varuṇa approached Urvaśī with lustful desire, but rejecting him Urvaśī accepted Mitra. Varuṇa had seminal flow and this semen was taken and kept in a pot. At the sight of this, remorse and passion arose in Urvaśī and the semen of Mitra already received in her womb oozed out and fell on the ground. This also was. collected and kept in the same pot along with that of Varuṇa. After a few days the pot broke open by itself and two babies came out. One was Agastya and the other Vasiṣṭha. As these two were born of the semen of Mitra and Varuṇa, they came to be known as Maitrāvaruṇis later. This story partly occurs in Śānti Parva of Mahābhārata, Verse 343 of Chapter 88.


Very little is mentioned in the Purāṇas about the education of Agastya. Still there are ample proofs that he was well-versed in the Vedas and sciences and well skilled in the uses of diverse weapons. In Verse 9, Chapter 139 of Mahābhārata, Ādi Parva, Droṇa says to Arjuna as follows:

"Agniveśa, my teacher was the disciple of Agastya, in the art of using bows and arrows and I am his disciple".

When it is said that even Agniveśa the teacher of Droṇa was a disciple of Agastya, his proficiency in the art of using weapons could casily be discerned.


There is an interesting story behind the marriage of such an austere man as Agastya, who had brought all the passions under control. As the hermit Agastya was walking along the forest, he saw his ancestors (Pitṛs) hanging head downwards in a canyon. He wanted to know the reason and they replied: "Child; we would be allowed to enter heaven only if sons are born to you. So get married as soon as possible". The necessity of marriage occurred to him only then. But will there be any woman who could be patient enough to become the wife of this bearded dwarfish hermit? Agastya did not lose heart. At that time the King of Vidarbha was doing penance to obtain a son. Agastya collected the quintessence of all living beings, with which he created an extremely beautiful lady and named her Lopāmudrā. Agastya gave Lopāmudrā as daughter to the King of Vidarbha. The King who was delighted at getting such a daughter, employed hundreds of maids to look after the child, who soon grew up to be a young lady. Agastya once approached the King of Vidarbha and expressed his wish to have Lopāmudrā as his wife. The King was in a dilemma. On the one hand he did not like his beautiful daughter having the brightness of fire, to be given as wife to the hermit, clad in the bark of trees and wearing tufts of matted hair. On the other hand he was afraid of the curse of the hermit Agastya. As the King was trying hard to find a solution, Lopāmudrā herself came to the King and said "Father, I am happy to say that I shall willingly become the wife of the hermit Agastya." At last her father consented and discarding royal garments and ornaments, Lopāmudrā accompanied Agastya. It is mentioned in Vana Parva, Chapter 130, Verse 5, that they were married at Mahāsindhutīrtha. After their marriage they went to Gaṅgādvāra. (Mahābhārata, Vana Parva, Chapter 96).

The story of how Agastya ate Vātāpi.

While Agastya was doing severe penance, Lopāmudrā attained puberty and had menstruation. Longing for a child, she went and stood beside Agastya. She expressed her wish to lead a family life. Her demands did not stop there. During conjugation, Agastya should wear flower garlands and ornaments, and she must be provided with divine ornaments. Agastya was surprised at the enormity of her demands. Poor, penniless Agastya! Leaving Lopāmudrā in the hermitage he went in search of money. He at first approached King Śrutarvā, who produced accounts of his income and expenditure and convinced Agastya that he was having no balance at all. Agastya, accompanied by Śrutarvā, then proceeded to King Bradhnāśva. He also produced accounts and refused to help Agastya, who then followed by Śrutarvā and Bradhnāśva went on to the wealthy King Trasadasyu, who also producing his accounts refused to render any help to Agastya. Finally Agastya accompanied by the three Kings, went to the house of Ilvala, a noble asura of immense wealth.

This asura Ilvala lived in Manimatpattana with his younger brother Vātāpi. Once Ilvala approached a hermit Brahmin and requested that his wish for a son, having the power and status of Indra, be granted. The Brahmin refused to grant such a boon. Since then Ilvala and Vātāpi considered Brahmins as their enemies. The elder brother converted the younger one (Vātāpi) into a goat and whenever a Brahmin visited his house, he would kill the goat, prepare mutton dishes and set them before his guest. When he had finished eating, Ilvala would call aloud. "Vātāpi, come out". Breaking the stomach of the guest open, Vātāpi would come out. In this way Ilvala had killed a good number of Brāhmins. It was at this juncture that Agastya and the Kings came to beg money of him.

Ilvala welcomed the guests with hospitality and as usual killed the goat, prepared food with it and served the food before Agastya. When Agastya had finished eating, Ilvala called Vātāpi loudly. But Agastya slowly said, "Vātāpi, jīrṇo bhava" (Let Vātāpi be digested) and immediately Vātāpi was digested in the stomach of Agastya. The awe-stricken asura Ilvala gave each Brahmin ten thousand cows and as much gold and to Agastya he doubled the quantity of alms. Over and above this, he presented Agastya with a chariot hitched with two fine horses called Virāvān and Surāvān. Agastya returned to his hermitage and adorned himself as Lopāmudrā had demanded. (Mahābhārata, Vana Parva, Chapter 99).

Birth of a son.

Lopāmudrā became pregnant. Agastya told her, "A thousand ordinary sons, or hundred sons, each having the strength of ten ordinary sons, or ten sons, each having the strength of hundred ordinary sons, or a son, greater and nobler than one thousand sons—which of these do you prefer?" Lopāmudrā preferred one son. When she was with child Agastya again went to the forest to do penance. After seven years of pregnancy Lopāmudrā gave birth to a lustrous son. The hermit Dṛḍhasyu, who is also called Idhmavāha, is this son. This child is said to have chanted the Vedas (Holy Scriptures) immediately on his birth. He used to gather twigs for kindling the sacrificial fire of his father, and hence he got the name Idhmavāha.*

How he stamped the Vindhya mountain down.

Once the talebearer Nārada happened to come to the Vindhya Mountain, who gladly welcomed Nārada, gave him a seat, showed hospitality and asked for news. Nārada said "May you be blessed. Just now I am coming from the Mahāmeru. Indra, Agni (fire) and other gods live there. Kailāsa, Niṣadha, Nīla, Gandhamādana etc. are mountains far nobler than this Meru. But they are not so haughty as him. That the Sun and the Moon and such others revolve round him, is the reason for his arrogance". On hearing these tales, Vindhya thought that Meru should be taught a lesson. Once Vindhya made his peaks grow higher and higher till they touched the sky. The Sun, the Moon and others found it very difficult to pass over the high peaks in their usual journeys to the West, and so they had to roam about in the sky. When the journeys of the Sun and the Moon were hindered, everything in the world fell into chaos. The gods came to Vindhya in groups and tried to pacify him. But their attempts were futile. So they approached Agastya and made their petition to him. He agreed to pacify Vindhya somehow or other. Agastya and his wife came to Vindhya from Kāśinagara. When Vindhya saw Agastya he began to shiver with fear. Contracting all his high peaks, he bowed before Agastya, who said to Vindhya thus "Vindhya, I am going to South Bhārata. Let your heads be low till I come back". Vindhya agreed. Agastya passed on to the South and built a hermitage in the Malayācala and lived there. Since then Agastya had never gone to the North and Vindhya had never risen up. As he had made the mountain (Aga) bow its head he got the name Agastya. (Tenth Skandha of Devībhāgavata).

Nahuṣa transformed to a huge serpent by Agastya.

Devendra killed Vṛttrāsura, an enemy of the gods. As Devendra had resorted to treachery for killing the enemy (see the word Vṛttrāsura) he incurred the sin of 'Brahmahatyā'. Once Indra went to the Mānasasaras, without the knowledge of anybody and hid himself in the petal of a lotus flower. The gods and especially Śacīdevī were much alarmed at the disappearance of Devendra. Heaven was without a King. Bad omens began to appear. Indra, who had hidden in the lotus stalk in the shape of a water-snake, was not at all visible as the petals had closed over him. It was at this critical moment that King Nahuṣa had completed hundred horse-sacrifices and became eligible for the throne of Devendra. At a great gathering of the Gods Nahuṣa was elected as Devendra. Though Nahuṣa got all the celestial maids at his disposal in the Nandanodyāna (Nandana Garden) his passion for women was not satiated. So he began to have an eye on Indrāṇī. She was in sorrow and misery at the disappearance of her husband Indra, and did not at all look with favour on this new move on the part of the new Indra. She sought the help of Bṛhaspati, who agreed to protect her from Nahuṣa. The newly-elected Indra could not tolerate this disloyalty on the part of Indrāṇī. He became furious and threatened Bṛhaspati with death, if Indrāṇī was not sent to him forthwith. All hermits gathered round Nahuṣa and tried with their advice to dissuade him from this attempt, but he would not be dissuaded. Nahuṣa belittled Bṛhaspati and all the hermits and was rude to them. Finally the hermits, being afraid of Nahuṣa, went to Bṛhaspati to persuade him to send Indrāṇī to Nahuṣa. Bṛhaspati suggested to Indrāṇī a way of safety. Accordingly she came to Nahuṣa and said to him "Lord, to become your wife, is a matter of great pleasure to me. But before that I must make sure if my husband is living anywhere. So allow me to make a search". Nahuṣa agreed to this and by the blessings of Devī, Indrāṇī found out her husband. But Indra would not return to the court, with Indrāṇī, who then complained about Nahuṣa’s outrageous behaviour. Indra advised her a new way to protect herself from Nahuṣa’s onslaught.

Indrāṇī returned to Nahuṣa and told him "Lord, women generally love pomp and glory. I have a mania for vehicles. You should make a palanquin. Let the palanquin bearers be hermits. You must come to my house in that palanquin with hermits as your palanquin bearers and then I will accept you as my husband." Nahuṣa agreed. He employed Agastya and such other hermits to bear his palanquin. He got into his palanquin and started for Indrāṇī’s house. His desire to reach Indrāṇī was such that he thought the hermits to be very slow. To make them quick enough he ordered "Sarpa, Sarpa" (walk quick, walk quick). The hermits began to run. Still Nahuṣa was not satisfied. He kicked at the heads of the hermits and whipped the dwarfish Agastya.

Agastya got angry and cursed Nahuṣa thus: "Since you have whipped me saying 'Sarpa Sarpa', may you be transformed into a mahāsarpa (huge serpent) and fall into the great forest."**

The horror-stricken Nahuṣa pleased Agastya by praise. Agastya said that Nahuṣa would be freed from the curse and attain heaven when he happened to meet Dharmaputra. Nahuṣa instantly changed into a serpent of immense size and slided into a great forest in the Himālayās. (Devībhāgavata, 8th Sarga).

During their sojourn in the forest, the Pāṇḍavas visited many holy places and reached the Yāmuna mountain in the Himālayās. When Bhīma was passing by the mouth of a cave he was attacked by a huge serpent. In spite of his immense strength Bhīma could not extricate himself from the hold of the snake, who eventually informed Bhīma of its previous history. When Bhīma understood that the serpent was none other than Nahuṣa, a King of the Sūrya dynasty (Solar), he felt sorry for him. Dharmaputra, who came there in search of Bhīma, talked with Nahuṣa, who immediately regained his original form and went to heaven. (Mahābhārata, Chapter 17 of Udyoga Parva; Chapter 179 of Vana Parva; Chapter 342 of Śānti Parva).

How Agastya drank up the ocean.

Indra ruthlessly killed Vṛttrāsura, who had been harassing the Gods, with the help of the Kālakeyas. The frightened Kālakeyas got into the ocean and hid themselves at the bottom. From that hideout they decided to destroy the three worlds. At night they came out on the earth and ate a good deal of Brahmins, and caused much damage to the hermitages of Vasiṣṭha and Cyavana. All the Brahmins on the earth were terribly afraid of the Kālakeyas. The gods went to Viṣṇu and prayed for protection. Viṣṇu informed them that the Kālakeyas could not be caught unless the ocean was dried up, and this task could be performed only by Agastya. So the Gods approached Agastya and told him what Viṣṇu had informed them. With pleasure Agastya accepted the job. Accompanied by the Gods and hermits he neared the swaying and surging ocean. While all were watching unwinkingly Agastya brought the great ocean into his palm and drank it up very easily and subsequently the Kālakeyas were killed. Now the Gods again approached Viṣṇu and made representation about the loss of the ocean. Viṣṇu told them that by the penance of Bhagīratha the divine Gaṅgā would fall into the earth and then the ocean will be filled. In this way the earth regained its lost ocean. (Mahābhārata, Vana Parva, Chapters 101 to 105).

Agastya cursing Kubera and his companion.

In the course of their sojourn in forest, the Pāṇḍavas visited several holy places and reached the proximity of the Himālayas. Leaving his brothers behind, Arjuna went up the Mahāmeru to worship Śiva. Years passed by. At last his brothers also started for the Mahāmeru in search of Arjuna and with the help of the hermits Vṛṣaparvā and Ārṣṭiṣeṇa, they reached Kuberapurī (the capital of Kubera). There Bhīma destroyed the army of Kubera and killed Maṇimān, his friend and favourite. Dharmaputra, repenting of his younger brother’s iniquity bowed before Kubera and asked him with politeness, why the power of Gods gave way to the power of man. Kubera replied that it was due to the curse of Agastya and began to depict the event thus: Once my friend Maṇimān and myself were going, in a chariot, to be present at the singing and chanting just begun at Kuśavatī. At that time Agastya was standing in his hermitage on the bank of Kālindī, performing Sun worship. When Maṇimān saw this from the sky, he spat on the head of Agastya, who instantly getting wild cursed me. "Lo, Kubera, your friend Maṇimān spat on my head in your sight. So this Maṇimān and your army will meet with death at a man’s hand. When they die you should not feel sorry for them. If it becomes possible for you to meet the man who killed Maṇimān you will be liberated from the curse." It is this curse that brought about the death of Maṇimān and the army. When Kubera saw Bhīma face to face his curse was revoked. (Mahābhārata, Vana Parva, Chapter 160).

Agastya cursing Mārīca and Tāḍakā.

The boys Rāma and Lakṣmaṇa went to the forest with Viśvāmitra for protecting sacrifice. When they entered the Tāḍakā forest Viśvāmitra told them the story of Tāḍakā thus:—

Tāḍakā is the daughter of Suketu, a semi god of the tribe Yakṣa. Being childless for a long time Suketu was miserable and began to do penance before Brahmā, who blessed him and granted his wish and a daughter was born to him. This daughter was named Tāḍakā. Brahmā blessed her, giving her the strength of one thousand elephants. Tāḍakā grew up and became a young woman. Suketu gave her in marriage to Sunda, son of Iharjha. Tāḍakā gave birth to a son called Mārīca. When Sunda was killed, Tāḍakā got wild and ran into the hermitage of Agastya causing much havoc there. At this Agastya got angry and cursed her to become a Rākṣasī (giantess) and instantly the bodies of Tāḍakā and Mārīca were deformed. Tāḍakā could not control her anger and she demolished the hermitage of Agastya. (Vālmīki Rāmāyaṇa, Bālakāṇḍa).

The story of the theft of lotus.

Once Bhṛgu, Vasiṣṭha and other hermits went on a pilgrimage, with Indra as their leader. On the way they reached Brahmasaras, in the holy place of Kauṣikī. Agastya had grown some lotus flowers there. The pilgrims plucked stealthily all the lotus flowers nurtured by Agastya and ate them. The furious Agastya got into the midst of the hermits in search of the culprit. None admitted the theft. Finally he caught hold of Indra, as the thief. Indra said "O, Lord, had it not been for my eagerness to hear discourses on duty from your face, I would not have stolen your lotus flowers." Saying thus Indra returned the lotus flowers. Agastya was pleased and let Indra and the hermits depart in peace. (Mahābhārata, Anuśāsana Parva, Chapter 94).

How Agastya burned the Asuras (demons).

(This story occurs in the Mahābhārata as, having been told by the God Vāyu to Bhīṣma as a discourse on the greatness of Agastya, and Bhīṣma reiterating it to Arjuna).

Once the Gods had to accept defeat at the hands of the Asuras (Demons) and they approached Agastya and said thus: Oh, hermit, since we have been defeated by the Asuras, our prosperity is at an end. There is none to help us but you." Hearing this Agastya became angry and began to burn the Asuras to death, by the merits of his penance. Many of them fell down on the earth and some fell into Pātāla (the nether world). The asuras who thus fell were not killed by Agastya. Thus the menace of the Asuras in heaven was warded off, and the Gods lived in peace and prosperity. (Mahābhārata, Anuśāsana Parva, Chapter 155, Verses 1 to 13).

Indra’s conflict with Agastya.

Once Agastya commenced a sacrifice of twelve years' duration. Many hermits participated in this sacrifice. No sooner had the hermit begun the sacrifice, than Indra, (the God of Thunder and Rain) stopped rain in the world. Crops could not be raised. But Agastya provided everybody who took part in the sacrifice, with sumptuous meals. The hermits wondered how Agastya could do this. Some of the hermits feared that the sacrifice would have to be stopped before the stipulated time, if the drought continued. Agastya told them not to fear, and that if Indra refused to send rain, he himself would become Indra and protect the subjects. Indra was horrified, when he heard this and he began to send rain regularly. (Mahābhārata, Āśvamedhika Parva, Chapter 92).

Story of Gajendramokṣa (The redemption of an elephant).

In the Bhārata a story occurs, as to how Agastya cursed King Indradyumna, and turned him to an elephant. While Indradyumna, the King of Pāṇḍya was absorbed in deep meditation on Viṣṇu, Agastya reached the palace. Being immersed in meditation the King failed to notice the arrival of the great hermit, who getting angry with the King, cursed him to become an elephant, for one thousand years. Instantly the King was deformed into a big tusker and quitting the palace it went to a big forest and lived there happily with the she-elephants there. At that time a hermit named Devala was doing penance in that forest. One day Hūhu, a gandharva (a class of semi-gods) enjoying the company of some celestial maids came to the place where Devala had put up his hermitage. The hermit saw the Gandharva and the maids playing and bathing in the pond in front of his hermitage in complete nudity. Getting angry Devala cursed Hūhu and he was deformed into a crocodile. This pond which was in the Trikūṭa Mountain was thus under the suzerainty of the crocodile. The tusker (Indradyumna) entered the pond to drink water. The crocodile caught hold of the leg of the elephant. Each tried to pull the other with equal force. This fight is said to have lasted for a thousand years. When both were tired, godly feelings began to dawn in their minds. Then, riding on an eagle Mahāviṣṇu appeared before them, cut them asunder with his Cakrāyudha (the wheel-weapon) and both were given deliverance. (Bhāgavata, 8th Skandha, Chapter 2).

Agastya teaching Śrī Rāma the Āditya-hṛdaya Mantra (A hymn in praise of the Sun).

When Śrī Rāma was fighting with Rāvaṇa in Laṅkā, dejection befell him, his heart being weighed down with faintness, for a little while. Rāvaṇa made the best use of this opportunity and began to advance. The gods had gathered in the sky above to witness the fight. Agastya, at that particular moment, taught Śrī Rāma the Āditya-hṛdaya Mantra, a hymn in praise of the Sun-god and when Śrī Rāma chanted that mantra, he resumed fight with Vigour and Rāvaṇa was defeated and slain. (Vālmīki Rāmāyaṇa, Yuddha Kāṇḍa, Sarga 107).

How the slant of the earth was rectified by seating Agastya.

The matrimonial ceremony of Śrī Parameśvara and Pārvatī was held in the Himālayas. On that auspicious occasion all the living beings of the world were present, and as a result the Himālayan region sank down and the earth slanted to that side. To keep the equilibrium of the earth, Śiva sent Agastya to the south. Accordingly Agastya reached Kuttālam, where there was a temple dedicated to the worship of Viṣṇu. Agastya had besmeared his forehead with ashes and so admission to the temple was denied to him, by the devotees there who were Vaiṣṇavites. By his own power Agastya turned himself into a vaiṣṇavite and got into the temple, and immediately the image of Viṣṇu in the temple changed by itself into a Śivaliṅga (idol representing Śiva). Since then the temple at Kuttālam has remained a temple of Śiva. Agastya proceeded to the southernmost point of the earth and sat there and because of his weight the earth regained its normal position. (Skanda Purāṇa).

Agastya and the Krauñca Mountain.

When Agastya passed the Vindhya mountain and proceeded to the South a Rākṣasa (giant) called Krauñca hindered his way. By his power the Rākṣasa caused to fall everywhere a very heavy rain. Agastya sprinkled a few drops of water from his waterpot on Krauñca, who instantly became a mountain. Telling him that he would get deliverance from the curse when the weapon of Subrahmaṇya struck him, Agastya continued his journey to the South. (Skanda Purāṇa.).

Agastya and the River Kāveri.

Once Sūrapadmā, an Asura (demon) drove the Gods out from heaven. Indra came to Śiyāli a place in the district of Tanjāvūr (Tanjore) and began to do penance to please Śiva. Rain was completely stopped. Agastya had compressed the river Kāverī and held the water in his waterpot. Gaṇapati having come to know of this, came in the form of a crow and toppled the waterpot. Agastya got angry and ran after the crow, which immediately assumed the form of a boy. Agastya caught hold of him. The boy instantly revealed himself as Subrahmaṇya and granted Agastya a boon. "Your waterpot will always be full". Since then there had never been shortage of water in the Kāverī. (Skanda Purāṇa).

Agastya in the palace of Bhadrāśva.

Once Agastya lived in the palace of Bhadrāśva as his guest for seven days. Agastya praised Kāntimatī the queen on several occasions. The King wanted to know the reason. Agastya said: During her previous birth Kāntimatī was the handmaid of a rich man. On one occasion of dvādaśī (twelfth night after full moon) in the month of Tulā (second half of October and first half of November) the rich man had asked his handmaid to see that the lights in a certain temple did not go out and she did so, in consequence of which, during her current birth she has become your queen, bearing the name Kāntimatī. The King and the queen were much pleased at this explanation of Agastya and thenceforward they began to observe dvādaśī as a day of fasting. (Vāyu Purāṇa).

Agastya cursing Urvaśī, Jayanta and Nārada.

Once Agastya went to the realm of the Gods, as a guest of Indra. On that day a performance of dance by Urvaśī was held in honour of Agastya. In the midst of the dance Urvaśī’s eyes fell on Jayanta and she fell in love with him; her steps went out of beat. Nārada also went wrong slightly in playing on his famous lute called Mahatī. Agastya got angry and cursed Urvaśī, Jayanta and Nārada. According to the curse Jayanta became a bud. Urvaśī was born in the earth as a woman called Mādhavī and 'Mahatī' the lute of Nārada became the lute of the people of the earth.

Agastya cursing Duṣpanya.

Duṣpanya was the last son of the King of Pāṭaliputra. The wicked Duṣpanya had slain a large number of babies, and the King therefore expelled him from the palace. Duṣpanya went into the forest, where he caught hold of the child of Ugraravas and killed it by putting it under water. Ugraravas cursed him and accordingly he fell into water and died and his spirit became a ghost and wandered about tormented with pain and anguish. At last the spirit approached Agastya, who called his disciple Sutīṣṇa and asked him to go and bathe in the Agnitīrtha (a bath) in the Gandhamādana mountain and bring some water from the tīrtha and sprinkle it on the spirit of Duṣpanya. Sutīṣṇa acted accordingly and immediately the spirit of Duṣpanya received divine figure and entered heaven. (Setu Māhātmya).

How Agastya got golden Bangle.

Once Agastya entered a forest of about a hundred yojanas wide. The forest was devoid of life. When he had walked a few more steps some Gandharvas (semi-gods) and celestial maids came there singing and dancing. From among them a noble male being came forward to the bank of a lake in the forest and ate without any hesitation, the corpse of a man that was lying there. After that he walked round Agastya and made obeisance to him. Agastya asked him why he had eaten the corpse of a man. The noble man told Agastya thus: "In tretā yuga (the third age) there lived a King named Vidarbha. I am his son and my name is Śveta. After having ruled. over my kingdom for a long time, I came to the bank of this lake and began to do penance. After that discarding my body I entered heaven. Though I attained heaven my hunger was not appeased. I asked Brahmā how, I, a dweller of heaven, got this hunger. Brahmā said that when I was King I had given nothing to anybody and so I got this hunger even after entering heaven. As a remedy Brahmā suggested that I should come here everyday and eat corpse and when I had completed ten thousand days the hermit Agastya would come here and that when I offered him a golden bangle my sin would be washed away." Saying thus Śveta offered to Agastya the golden bangle given by Brahmā and then he vanished and the corpse also disappeared. Śveta went to heaven. (Uttara Rāmāyaṇa).

Other informations concerning Agastya.

(1) Agastya had a brother called Sutīṣṇa. (Agnipurāṇa, Chapter 7).

(2) Sutīṣṇa was Agastya’s disciple too. (Setu Māhātmya).

(3) Ilvala and Vātāpi were the sons of the giantess Ajamukhī. In the valley of a mountain Ajamukhī prayed to Durvāsas for love and thus Ilvala and Vātāpi were born from Durvāsas. These two sons demanded that Durvāsas should impart to them all his merits of penance. Getting angry Durvāsas cursed them that they would meet with death at the hands of Agastya. (Skandapurāṇa, Āsura Kāṇḍa).

(4) Agastya had been the priest of the King Khela. (Ṛgveda, 112th Sūkta).

(5) When Śrī Rāma returned to Ayodhyā, with Sītā from Laṅkā, hermits from various parts visited him, among whom, Dattātreya, Namuci, Pramuci, Śrī Vālmīki, Soma, Kaṇḍu, Agastya and their disciples were from the South. (Uttara Rāmāyaṇa).

(6) Agastya gave Śrī Rāma an arrow, which, when shot at an asura (demon) would pierce his heart, pass on to the other side, fly to the sea and bathe in the sea-water and return to the quiver, it is said. (Uttara Rāmāyaṇa).

(7) Once Agastya visited the hermitage of Āpasṭamba. He asked Agastya, who, of Brahmā, Viṣṇu and Śiva, was the Supreme deity. Agastya replied: "These three are only three different manifestations of the one supreme Being". (Brahmapurāṇa).

(8) For the story of how Agastya cursed the sons of Maṇibhadra and transformed them to seven palms, see the word 'Saptasāla'.

(9) There was a hermit called Sutīṣṇa, to whom Śrī Rāma and Lakṣmaṇa paid a visit when they were wandering in the forest. This Sutīṣṇa is the younger brother of Agastya. (See the word Sutīṣṇa).

(10) Agastya cursed Śuka and deformed him into a Rākṣasa. (See the word Śuka ii.).


It is believed that the great hermit Agastya, who had performed such wonderful deeds by the merits of his penance, is still doing penance in the Agastya Kūṭa hills. Agastya who had travelled throughout the length and breadth of Bhārata had several hermitages. In the Vālmīki Rāmāyaṇa, Āraṇyakāṇḍa, Sarga 11, a description is given, of a beautiful hermitage of Agastya, and the peaceful atmosphere that prevailed in and around it. Agastya had presented to Śrī Rāma a bow got from Viṣṇu, when the brothers visited his hermitage. Agastya had accompanied Śrī Rāma and his followers on his return journey to Ayodhyā from Laṅkā, with Sītā after killing Rāvaṇa. There is a legend in the Tamilnād that Agastya was a member of the first two 'Saṅghas' (groups) of the "three Saṅghas", mentioned in Tamil literature. As Agastya was dwarfish he is mentioned as Kurumuni, (short hermit) in Tamil works. He has written a Tamil grammar on music, literature and drama. But this work is not available now. The Tamil Grammar 'Tolkāpyam', which is considered to be the oldest grammar, was written by Tolkāpyār, one of the twelve disciples of Agastya. Even today in certain temples in the Tamilnād, Agastya-worship is carried on. Kambar, has mentioned about Agastya in his Rāmāyaṇa. A great Tamil author Villiputturan says that the Tamil language is the beautiful maiden presented by Agastya.

It is believed that the following works have been composed by Agastya:

1) Agastya Gītā; in the Varāhapurāṇa, Paśupālopākhyāna.

2) Agastya Saṃhitā; in Pañcarātra.

3) Agastya Saṃhitā, in the Skandapurāṇa.

4) Śiva Saṃhitā, in Bhāskara Saṃhitā.

5) Dvaidha-nirṇaya Tantra.

*) Idhma—twigs of firewood. (Idhma=twigs of firewood) (vāha=carrier).

**) It is mentioned in the Mahābhārata, Anuśāsana Parva, Chapter 100, that the person who cursed Nahuṣa and turned him into a huge serpent, was the hermit Bhṛgu, who had been hiding in the hair of Agastya.

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