Sage Agastya : depictions in art

          Sage Agastya is a revered sage in Hinduism. He is believed to have lived for a very long time. Along with his wife Lopamudra , he has contributed hymns to the Rigveda. He is thought to be the father of the Tamil language, and the originator  of Agastyam, a grammatical text.Sage  Agastya is a culture hero in Tamil traditions and appears in many Tamil texts. Sage Agastya is revered in the  Vedas. He is also called Mana,Kalasaja,Kumbhaja,Maitravaruni and Kumbhayoni.

         Sage Agastya figures in the Hindu epics Ramayana and Mahabharata. He is a noted sage in the Puranas of Shaktism and Vaishnavism. He is found in ancient scuplture in Hindu temples across South Asia and the main guru in the  Javanese Agastyaparva. He has authored numerous Sanskrit texts like the Agastya Gita, a part of Varaha-purana,Agastya samhita, a part of Skanda-purana and Dvaidha-nirnaya tantra.

       Agastya is of mythical origin, not having a human father and mother. His birth happens due to a yajna done by Gods Varuna and Mitra. On seeing the extraordinarily beautiful apsara Urvashi, their semen falls into a pot from which sage Agastya is born.

      Agastya grows up to be an ascetic,educates himself and becomes a rishi or sage. He is called a brahmin because of his learning. Sage Agastya marries Lopamudra, princess of Vidarbha and have a son called Idmavaha who learns Vedic hymns while still in the womb.

      Sage Agastya is mentioned in all the four Vedas, and is a character in the Brahmanas,Arayankas,Upanishads and many Puranas.

File:Agastya statue in southern niche of Sambisari temple.jpg

Agastya statue ,Sambisari temple,9th century, Indonesia.

By Aldnonymous (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

                   Sage Agastya is believed to have migrated from the north to the south. As per northern legends he has spread the knowledge of the Vedas and as per Southern accounts he is mentioned as having an important role in spreading irrigation, agriculture and inventing the Tamil language. He is the first siddhar, the accomplished master as per Tamil traditions. Some Buddhist texts also mention Sage Agastya. He also finds mention in the Jataka tales.

069 Siva Mahaguru Agastya, Cando Banon, Magelang, Central Java, 8-9th c (23122032859).jpg[

Agastya,  8-9th century,National Museum, Jakarta,Indonesia.

By Photo Dharma from Sadao, Thailand – 069 Siva Mahaguru Agastya, Cando Banon, Magelang, Central Java, 8-9th c, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=50791536

      Sage Agastya is an important part of medieval inscriptions,temple relief and arts in Java, Indonesia. He is also found in Cambodia, Vietnam and other regions.

Image result for agastya

Agastya, sculpture,12th century,Bihar.

I, Sailko [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

073 Siva Mahaguru Agastya, Kediri, East Java, 12-13th c (23407506591).jpg

Agastya, 12-13th century, East Java,National Museum, Jakarta, Indonesia.

By Photo Dharma from Sadao, Thailand – 073 Siva Mahaguru Agastya, Kediri, East Java, 12-13th c, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=50791540

          Sage Agastya finds mention in the Ramayana and his hermitage or ashram being on the banks of river Godavari. He lives with his wife in the Dandaka forest on the southern slopes of the Vindhya mountains. As per the Ramayana, Agastya is a brilliant sage who asked the Vindhya mountains to lower themselves so that Sun, Moon and living beings could easily pass over it. Lord  Rama praises Agastya as the great one who can do what gods find impossible.   He is also described as the sage who used his powers of dharma to kill demons Vatapi and Ilwala after they had killed 9,000 men. Sage Agastya along with his wife meet Lord Rama, Sita and Lakshmana and gives a divine bow and arrow/sword to them as a gift.

Rama at the Hermatige of Sage Agastya.jpg

Rama at the hermitage of Sage Agastya,Chamba,18th century, Himachal Pradesh.

By Pahari School, Chamba kalam, Kangra idiom – http://www.goloka.com/docs/rama/rama_05.html, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=18639298

Agastya giving Rama a sword.jpg

Agastya giving Rama a sword,illustration, Ramayana,19th century,Mewar,Rajasthan.

By Unknown – http://www.indianminiaturepaintings.co.uk/Marwar_Ramayana_Jatayu_24-41011.html, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=21999538

        The story of Agastya is related in the Mahabharata. The tale  is narrated as a conversation between Vaisampayana and Lomasa in the Vana parva.He is described in the epic as a sage with enormous powers of ingestion and digestion. Agastya, once again, stops the Vindhya mountains from growing and lowers them and he kills the demons Vatapi and Ilvala much the same mythical way as in the Ramayana. The Vana Parva also describes the story of  Agastya and Lopamudra getting engaged and married. It also contains the mythical story of the war between Indra and Vritra, where all the demons hide in the sea, gods requesting Agastya for help, who then goes and drinks up the ocean to reveal the demons to the gods.

Agastya drinks the ocean.jpg

Agastya drinks the ocean,illustration,Mahabharata,20th century.

By Ramanarayanadatta astri – http://archive.org/details/mahabharata02ramauoft, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=21230861

 

 

 

References :

  • wikipedia.org
  • Epics, myths and legends of India/Thomas, P, Bombay : D.B. Taraporevala and Sons.

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Soma Ghosh

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