Sri Agasthiyar

Sri Agasthiyar (also transliterated as Agathiar, Agasthiar, Agastyar, Agasti, Agastiar) is a legendary Vedic Rishi (sage). It is believed that sage Agasthiyar was instrumental in spreading the Vedic religion in southern India. Agastya is also recognized as one of Seven Great Sages (Saptarishis). Sage Agasthiyar has also contributed immensely to the four Vedas. These mantras were revealed to Sage Agasthiyar by the Brahman (Supreme Being) itself.

Agasthiyar is also the leader of all Siddhas. He is also called Kurumuni, meaning short (kuru) saint (muni). His contributions are manily n the fields of Medicine (Siddha) and Astrology - especially Nadi Jodhidam (Jos(i)yam or Jothisyam). He is said to have lived for over 5000 years, and that one of his medicinal preparations, Boopathi Kuligai, is so powerful that it can even bring the dead back to life. Two of his students and disciples were Therayar and Tholkappiar. He is also considered to be the guru of many other Siddhars.

The Lalitha sahasranama, which describes the 1000 names of the mother Goddess (Known commonly as Gowri, Parvati or Durga), was first revealed to the world when Hayagriva, an Avatar of Vishnu, taught the same to Agasthiyar. Agasthiyar is said to have composed the Aditya Hridayam, a hymn on Sun God (Surya), and taught the same to Rama just before the war between Rama and Ravana.

Humbling the Vindhya mountains.

Legend says that the Vindhya mountains that separate north and south India from each other once showed a tendency to grow so high as to obstruct the usual trajectory of the sun. This was accompanied by increasing vanity on the part of that mountain range, which demanded that Surya, the sun-God, should circum-ambulate the Vindhyas in the same way as he does Mount Meru (identified by some as being the north pole). The need arose to subdue, by guile, the Vindhyas, and Agasthiyar was chosen to do that. Agasthiyar journeyed from north to south, and on the way encountered the now impassable Vindhya mountains. He asked the mountain range to facilitate his passage across to the south. In reverence for so eminent a sage as Agasthiyar, the Vindhya mountains bent low enough to enable the sage and his family to cross over and enter south India. The Vindhya range also promised not to increase in height until Agasthiyar and his family returned to the north. Agasthiyar settled permanently in the south, and the Vindhya range, true to its word, never grew further. Thus, Agastya accomplished by guile something that would have been impossible to accomplish by force.

Agasthiyar and Lopamudra

As with all other Hindus, it was necessary for Agastya to marry and sire a son, in order to fulfill his duties to the Manus. Once he resolved upon doing this, Agasthiyar pursued an unusual course of action: by his yogic powers, he created a female infant who possessed all the special qualities of character and personality that would be appropriate in the wife of a renunciate. At this time, the noble and virtuous king of Vidarbha (an area in south-central India, just south of the Vindhya mountains), was childless and was undergoing penances and prayers for the gift of a child. Agastya arranged for the child he had created to be born the daughter of that noble king of Vidarbha. The child was named "Lopamudra" by her parents. Upon her coming of age, Agastya approached the king and sought the hand of his daughter. The king was initially chagrined to hear such a suggestion from a renunciate, but found that his daughter, who had early exhibited extraordinary standards of mind and character, was insistent that he should accept the proposal. She was utterly intent upon exchanging the palace of her father the king for the forest-hermitage of Agasthiyar. Lopamudra and Agasthiyar were duly married and lived a life of extraordinary felicity. Legends say that you could find them in the deep forests of Podhigai Hills even today.

Other Legends about Agasthiyar

One story about Agasthiyar goes that once the demons had taken refuge in the ocean and it was difficult for the gods to vanquish them, so they went to Sage Agasthiyar for help. Then, after hearing the gods, the sage drank the entire ocean water and held it within him until the demons were destroyed.

Agasthiyar is said to have "dedicated" all the forest animals to the deity Rudra (later called as Shiva), hence making them fit for eating if killed while hunting. Another story has it that two demon brothers, Ilvala and Vatapi, decided to kill Agasthiyar. One of them was good at changing form and the other knew the Sanjivani mantra which, when invoked can bring back a dead person to life. They hatched a plan that the one who could change form would turn into a goat and be killed and fed to Agasthiyar. After Agasthiyar had eaten the goat, the other would invoke the Sanjivani mantra to bring back his brother to life, who in turn would rend Agasthiyar's stomach and come out thereby killing him. By the plan, one changed into a goat and the other disguised himself as a Brahmachari who invited Agasthiyar for a meal. Agastya knew beforehand about the plan due to his immense Vedic powers, but he resolved to teach both a lesson. After the meal, Agastya simply rubbed his stomach saying "Jeernam Jeernam Vathaapi Jeernam", literally meaning "digested, digested vathaapi is digested" to digest the meal, while the other demon tried to bring his brother to life in vain. Agasthiyar plainly informed the demon that his brother has been digested. Agasthiyar, realising that his liking for meat had nearly gotten him killed (had it not been for his vedic powers), forbade the consumption of meat for all people.

At a Saivite temple named Kutralam, formerly a Vishnu temple, in Tamil Nadu, Agasthiyar, in one legend, was refused entry. He then appeared as a Vaishnavite devotee and is said to have miraculously converted the image to a Shiva linga. A symbolic meaning of this conversion, in one interpretation, is to show that Vishnu and Shiva are different aspects of the one and same God.

Agasthiyar was a great devotee of Lord Shiva. After Agasthiyar reached the south, in answer to his prayer for revelation on the classical language of South India, Lord Shiva himself taught the classical Tamil language to Agasthiyar. Agasthiyar is said to have attended Tamil Sangam (convention) and staged his work the Agattiyam or Agastyam, reputedly one of the earliest treatise on Tamil grammar. In the 2500-year old Tamil Sangam, Agastyakoodam contains the history of being home to Siddha medicine and it is said to be the home of Agastya.