Saptarshi

Saptarshi

The Saptarshi (सप्तर्षि a Sanskrit dvigu meaning "seven sages") are the seven rishis who are extolled at many places in the Vedas and Hindu literature. The Vedic Samhitas never actually enumerate these rishis by name, though later Vedic texts such as the Brahmanas and Upanisads do so. They are regarded in the Vedas as the patriarchs of the Vedic religion. The Big Dipper asterism is also called Saptarshi.

The earliest list of the Seven Rishis is given by Jaiminiya Brahmana 2.218-221: Vasiṣṭha, Bharadvāja, Jamadagni, Gotama, Atri, Viśvāmitra, and Agastya, followed by Brihadaranyaka Upanisad 2.2.6 with a slightly different list: Gotama and Bharadvāja, Viśvāmitra and Jamadagni, Vasiṣṭha and Kaśyapa, and Atri. The late Gopatha Brāhmana 1.2.8 has Vasiṣṭha, Viśvāmitra, Jamadagni, Gotama, Bharadvāja, Guṅgu, Agastya, and Kaśyapa.

In post-Vedic texts, different lists appear; some of these rishis were recognized as the mind born sons of Brahma, the representation of the Supreme Being as Creator. Other representations are Mahesha or Shiva as the Destroyer and Vishnu as the Preserver. Since these seven rishis were also among the primary eight rishis, who were considered to be the ancestors of the Gotras of Brahmins, the birth of these rishis was mythicized.

Many of the rishis listed below are the ancestors of the Gotras.

Names of the Saptarshis

In post-Vedic religion, Manvantara is the period of astronomical time within an aeon or Kalpa, a "day (day only) of Brahma"; like the present Śveta Vārāha Kalpa, where again 14 Manvantaras add up to create one Kalpa.

Each Manvantara is ruled by a specific Manu, apart from that all the deities, including Vishnu and Indra; Rishis and their sons are born anew in each new Manvantara, the Vishnu Purana mentions up to seventh Manvantara .

First Manvantara - the interval of Swayambhu Manu

Marichi, Atri, Angiras, Pulaha, Kratu, Pulastya, and Vashishtha .

Second Manvantara - the interval of Swarochisha Manu

Urja, Stambha, Prańa, Dattoli, Rishabha, Nischara, and Arvarívat.

Third Manvantara - the interval of Auttami Manu

Sons of Vashishtha: Kaukundihi, Kurundi, Dalaya, Śankha, Praváhita, Mita, and Sammita.

Fourth Manvantara - the interval of Támasa Manu

Jyotirdhama, Prithu, Kavya, Chaitra, Agni, Vanaka, and Pivara.

Fifth Manvantara - the interval of Raivata Manu

Hirannyaroma, Vedasrí, Urddhabahu, Vedabahu, Sudhaman, Parjanya, and Mahámuni.

Sixth Manvantara - the interval of Chakshusha Manu

Sumedhas, Virajas, Havishmat, Uttama, Madhu, Abhináman, and Sahishnnu.

The present, seventh Manvantara - the interval of Vaivasvata Manu

Kashyapa, Atri, Vashishtha, Vishvamitra, Gautama, Jamadagni, Bharadvaja .

There are many contradictory lists of the names of the Saptarshis. These usually include Atri, Kashyapa and Vasishta, but the other four are varying. One such list is used in the Sandhyavandanam: Atri, Bhrigu, Kutsa, Vasishtha, Gautama, Kashyapa and Angirasa. Other lists include Vishwamitra and Jamadagni. The exact list of saptarshis are not perfectly known as it is supposed that the astral links to the hierarchy were lost in medieval India due to the effects of Kaliyuga.

In Hindu astronomy the seven stars of the Saptarshi Mandal or Big Dipper or Ursa Major are named as

Indian
Name
Bayer
Desig
Western
Name
  Kratu   α UMa   Dubhe
  Pulaha   β UMa   Merak
  Pulastya   γ UMa   Phecda
  Atri   δ UMa   Megrez
  Angiras   ε UMa   Alioth
  Vasishtha   ζ UMa   Mizar
  Bhrigu   η UMa   Alkaid

Vasishtha is accompanied by his wife the faint companion star Arundhati (Alcor/80 Ursa Majoris).

Saptarshis given in major Hindu texts

1. The Satapata Brahmana and Brihadaranyaka Upanishad (2.2.4) acknowledge the names of seven rishis (or Saptarshis) as:

2. Krishna Yajurveda in the Sandhya-Vandana Mantras has it as:

3. Mahabharata gives the Seven Rishis’ names:

etc.

4. V. S. Apte’s Sanskrit-English dictionary says:

5. Brihat Samhita gives the Seven Rishis’ names as:

6.According to scriptures

7.According to The Path of Saptarishis the present Saptarishis are:

  • Bhrigu
  • Atri
  • Angiras
  • Vasishta
  • Pulastya
  • Pulaha
  • Kratu

The reason for the differences in the mentioned list is that there are seven Rishis who govern the functioning of the Cosmos in Batches and all the above mentioned Rishis have had the post of a 'Saptarishi' at some point in time. Hence the present batch who are currently holding the post are the ones mentioned in Sl No 7

The part played by Saptarshi in Kumarasambhava

The Kumarasambhava is one among the five Mahakavyas written by the famous poet Kalidasa. The kavya is about the birth of the War-God Subramanya(Muruga). The saptarshi play a very important role in the sixth canto of Kumarasambhava.Their greatness is explained well in the Paramesvaraprabhava.

References

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