Puranic encyclopaedia

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

This page describes the Story of Angiras 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 Aṅgiras


He is a hermit born from the mind of Brahmā. Six mind-born sons (Mānasa-Putras) were born to Brahmā, known as Marīci, Aṅgiras, Atri, Pulastya, Pulaha, and Kratu. All the six of them became great hermits. (Mahābhārata, Ādi Parva, Chapter 65, Stanza 10).*

Important events.

The failure of Aṅgiras.

There was a King named Citraketu in the kingdom of Śūrasena. Once Aṅgiras reached his palace when the King was in a miserable state as he was childless. The King informed Aṅgiras of his sorrow. He pacified the King and said that a son would be born to him. He and his wife Kṛtadyutī were filled with joy. The other wives of the King did not like this. They feared that when a son was born to Kṛtadyutī the King might overlook them. To the king a son was born of Kṛtadyutī and the other wives poisoned the child and killed him. While the parents were weeping over the dead child Aṅgiras and Nārada arrived there and wiped their tears. Aṅgiras agreed to bring the child back to life. He instantly called the spirit of the dead child to him and asked it to become the son of Citraketu. The spirit replied that it had a large number of parents in several previous births and that it was not possible for it to become the son of Citraketu, and then it vanished. Aṅgiras and Nārada went on their way. Citraketu became a devotee of Viṣṇu and by the curse of Pārvatī, was born again as Vṛtrāsura. (Bhāgavata, Skandha 6, Chapter 14).

How Aṅgiras cursed Sudarśana and transmuted him to a serpent.

While Sudarśana, a vidyādhara (a class of semigods) was travelling lustfully with a group of beautiful girls he came across Aṅgiras and some other hermits. He teased Aṅgiras calling him 'durbhāga' (unlucky) and Aṅgiras cursed him and changed him to a big serpent and he was promised liberation from the curse, when, during the dvāpara yuga (one of the four ages) Mahāviṣṇu would incarnate as Śrī Kṛṣṇa and would tread upon him and then he would regain his former form. From that day onwards Sudarśana lived on the banks of the river Kālindī in the form of a serpent. It was the time when Śrī Kṛṣṇa was having his game of love with the Gopa women. On one night one serpent bit Nanda the foster father of Śrī Kṛṣṇa. The cowherds or gopas hit at the snake with burned wood. But it was of no use. Śrī Kṛṣṇa came there and thrashed the serpent, which instantly took the form of Sudarśana Vidyādhara and praising Śrī Kṛṣṇa entered heaven. (Bhāgavata, Skandha 10, Chapter 34).

Aṅgiras a Prajāpati.

Brahmā had created sixteen prajāpatis, for effecting the creation of the universe. Aṅgiras is one of them. Their names are given below:

1) Kardama 9) Pulastya

2) Vikrīta 10) Aṅgiras

3) Śeṣa 11) Pracetas

4) Saṃśraya 12) Pulaha

5) Sthāṇu 13) Dakṣa

6) Marīci 14) Vivasvān

7) Atri 15) Ariṣṭanemi

8) Kratu 16) Kaśyapa (Vālmīki Rāmāyaṇa, Araṇyakāṇḍa, Sarga 14).

The wives and children of Aṅgiras.

Aṅgiras had several wives such as Śubhā, Smṛti, Śraddhā, Devasenā and Vasudhā. The names of the sons of Aṅgiras are given below:

1) Bṛhatkīrti 5) Bṛhadmantra

2) Bṛhatjyoti 6) Bṛhadbhāsa

3) Bṛhadbrahmā 7) Bṛhaspati.

4) Bṛhadmanā

The names of the eight daughters of Aṅgiras are given below:

1) Bhānumatī 5) Haviṣmatī

2) Rāgā 6) Māhiṣmatī

3) Sinīvālī 7) Mahāmatī

4) Arciṣmatī 8) Kuhū.

Besides these sons and daughters, other sons such as Sudhanvā and Kārttikeya were born to Aṅgiras by his other wives. (Mahābhārata, Vana Parva, five chapters from 218).

The clash between Aṅgiras and Prahlāda.

Duśśāsana stripped Pāñcālī of her clothes in the Palace hall, in the presence of the Pāṇḍavas who had been defeated in the game of dice. Before this Pāñcālī had asked Duryodhana one question, "Have you won yourself or myself?" One husband was not authorised to stake his wife Pāñcālī who was the wife of five husbands. Moreover according to the Śāstras (sciences) the deeds executed by a King, who was miserable due to hunting, drinking, playing dice and hankering after a woman, were not legally binding. Hence how could the Kauravas own Pāñcālī?" Vidura said that the witnesses in the hall had to give an impartial answer to this question, and that the punishment of falsehood would come upon the doer himself. As an instance he gave the following old story: Virocana was the son of Prahlāda; Sudhanvā the son of Aṅgiras and Virocana fell in love with the same woman once. There arose a contention between these two as to who was greater. They staked their lives on the issue. Then both of them together approached Prahlāda and requested him to give a decision as to which of them was the elder. Thinking that Prahlāda might side with Virocana his son, Sudhanvā said to him, "Sir, you should not utter words of falsehood, nor should you abstain from speaking the truth. If you do so your head will be cut into a hundred pieces by Indra with his Vajrāyudha (the weapon of thunderbolt)". Hesitating to take a decision, because of the words of Sudhanvā, Prahlāda went to Kaśyapa to clear his doubts, and asked: "Lord, do you know which are the future worlds destined for those who utter words of falsehood or abstain from giving out the truth?" Kaśyapa said, "On him, who abstains from speaking truth knowingly a thousand cords of death will fall. He who tells falsehood will have to perform many a deed of duty to attain heaven."

Having heard the words of Kaśyapa, Prahlāda said to Virocana, "Virocana, Sudhanvā is greater than you. Aṅgiras is greater than me. Likewise the mother of Sudhanvā is nobler than your mother. So according to your bet you owe your life to Sudhanvā." Pleased at the righteousness of Prahlāda, Sudhanvā gave Virocana a boon to live a hundred years more. (Mahābhārata, Sabhā Parva, Chapter 63).

How Aṅgiras became the first son of Agni (Fire God).

Once Aṅgiras was blazing out as a furious being. All the worlds were illuminated by that flame-fire. As Aṅgiras was performing the functions of Agni (fire), peoples of the worlds discarded Agni, who being sad at the derision shown towards him by the worlds went to a forest and hid himself there. The living beings were in trouble owing to lack of fire. When he became aware of this Aṅgiras went to the forest and pacified Agni. From that day onwards Aṅgiras agreed to become the first son of Agni, who resumed his duties as usual. (Mahābhārata, Vana Parva, Chapter 217).

How Aṅgiras got the name Atharvāṅgiras.

After the slaughter of Vṛtrāsura, Indra went to the lake known as Amṛtasaras and hid himself there in a lotus flower. At this time the Gods anointed Nahuṣa as Indra. Agastya cursed him and turned him to a serpent and sent him to the earth. When Indra returned to heaven many persons gathered there to greet him. Aṅgiras also was one among them who did obeisance to Indra. He paid his homage by reciting the hymns of Atharvaveda. Indra who was greatly pleased at this, said to Aṅgiras, "Hereafter you shall be known as Atharvāṅgiras". Aṅgiras who got this boon from Indra, returned with gratitude. (Mahābhārata, Udyoga Parva, Chapter 18, Stanzas 5 to 7).

Aṅgiras and Droṇa.

In the battle of Kurukṣetra, between the Pāṇḍavas and the Kauravas the great teacher, Droṇa began to release his divine darts towards his enemies in all directions. Immediately Aṅgiras with many other hermits came to Droṇa and told him, "You have burned to death innumerable men with your Brahmāstra (The most powerful of all missiles). Your end is very near. So put your weapons down and stop your fight." Droṇa seems to have paid no heed at all to the advice of the hermits. He did not stop fighting too.

The sermon of Aṅgiras on the merits of Tīrthas or holy places (Baths).

Dharmaputra once asked Bhīṣma about the importance of holy ghāṭs or tīrthas (Baths). Bhīṣma told Dharmaputra, what Aṅgiras had once told Gautama about the merits obtained by going on pilgrimage to holy tīrthas or Baths. Aṅgiras had described the holy nature and character of holy Baths in Bhārata such as Puṣkara, Prabhāsa, Naimiśa, Sāgarodaka, Indramārga, Devika, Svarṇabindu, Hiraṇyabindu, Indratoya, and such other numerous tīrthas. (Mahābhārata, Anuśāsana Parva, Chapter 25, Stanzas 7-71).

Other details:

(1) Dakṣa gave his two daughters in marriage to Aṅgiras. (Devī Bhāgavata, Skandha 7).

(2) Aṅgiras once saved the Sun. (Mahābhārata, Vana Parva, Chapter 92, Stanza 6).

(3) While the Pāṇḍavas were in exile in forest, Aṅgiras had been chanting and meditating in Alakanandā in the region of the mount Gandhamādana. (Mahābhārata, Araṇya Parva, Chapter 142, Stanza 6).

(4) When the hermits had stolen the lotus flowers of Agastya, Aṅgiras gave some hints about the culprits. (Mahābhārata, Anuśāsana Parva, Chapter 94, Stanza 20: See Agastya).

(5) Aṅgiras once gave a discourse on fasting and the merits of fasting. (Mahābhārata, Anuśāsana Parva, Chapter 106, Stanzas 11 to 16).

(6) Aṅgiras on another occasion delivered lectures on the secrets of duties. (Mahābhārata, Anuśāsana Parva, Chapter 127, Stanza 8).

(7) Once Aṅgiras drank the water in the ocean to the last drop. (Mahābhārata, Anuśāsana Parva, Chapter 153, Stanza 3).

(8) When his thirst was not quenched, even though he had drunk the entire water available in the world, he created new springs of water again and drank them dry. (Mahābhārata, Anuśāsana Parva, Chapter 153, Stanza 3).

(9) Once Agni failed to show respect to Aṅgiras, who cursed Agni and thenceforward smoke came out from fire. (Mahābhārata, Anuśāsana Parva, Chapter 153, Stanza 8).

(10) Aṅgiras conducted many of the important sacrifices of King Avikṣit. (Mahābhārata, Aśvamedhika Parva, Chapter 4, Stanza 22).

(11) Indra once gave Aṅgiras a boon. (Mahābhārata, Udyoga Parva, Chapter 18, Stanzas 5 to 7).

(12) Aṅgiras blessed Dhruva who had been doing penance. (Viṣṇu Purāṇa, Aṃśa 1, Chapter 11).

(13) The daughters named Sinīvālī, Kuhū, Rākā, Anumati were born to Aṅgiras by his wife Smṛti. (Agni Purāṇa, Chapter 20).

(14) Aṅgiras is the first of the Agni devas (Fire-Gods) and a hermit. He had a son called Hiraṇya-Stūpa, who also was a hermit (Ṛgveda, Maṇḍala 1, Anuvāka 7, Sūkta 31).

(15) The Hermit Aṅgiras began to invoke the Gods to get a son equal to Indra. Then Indra, thinking that nobody should be born as his equal, took birth as the son of Aṅgiras. He was called Savya. (Ṛgveda, Maṇḍala 1, Anuvāka 10, Sūkta 51).

(16) Indra sent Saramā, the bitch of the Gods, to find out the place where the cows had been hidden; Indra acted according to the advice of Aṅgiras. At first the bitch did not consent to go. But when Devendra promised to feed her young one with milk she agreed. Saramā found out the place where the cows were hidden and informed Indra of it. (Ṛgveda, Maṇḍala 1, Anuvāka 11, Sūkta 62).

(17) Ṛbhus are the sons of Sudhanvā. (Son of Aṅgiras). The hermit Kutsa also is descended from Aṅgiras. (Ṛgveda, Maṇḍala 1, Anuvāka 16, Sūkta 10)

(18) Aṅgiras was the son of Brahmā in the Svāyambhuva Manvantara (See Manvantara), but in the Vaivasvata Manvantara he was born from Agni.

(19) Once Vāyu (the Wind-God) had to run away from Aṅgiras and hide himself as he had caused some displeasure to Aṅgiras. On another occasion Aṅgiras taught philosophy and sacred doctrines to the hermit Śaunaka. (Muṇḍakopaniṣad).

*) There is another story about the birth of Aṅgiras. At a sacrifice celebrated by Rudra, seminal flow occurred to Brahmā who happened to see some celestial maids and was overpowered by passionate feelings. Brahmā put the sperm in the fire. From that fire appeared Aṅgiras along with Marīci, Bhṛgu and others. This deva (the shining one—the God) was called Aṅgiras because his origin was from Aṅgāra or Cinder.

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