Parashara
Personal
ReligionHinduism
ChildrenVyasa (with Satyavati)[1][2]
Parents

Parashara (Sanskrit: पराशर; IAST: Parāśara) was a maharishi and the author of many ancient Indian texts. He is accredited as the author of the first Purana, the Vishnu Purana, before his son Vyasa wrote it in its present form. He was the grandson of the sage Vasishtha and the son of the sage Shakti. There are several texts which give reference to Parashara as an author/speaker. The various texts attributed to him are given in reference to Parashara being the speaker to his student.[4]

Etymology

When Parashara's father Shakti died after being devoured by the king Kalmashapada along with Vashistha's other sons, Vashistha resorted to ending his life by suicide. Hence he jumped from Mount Meru but landed on soft cotton, he entered a forest fire only to remain unharmed, then he jumped into the ocean who saved him by casting him ashore. Then he jumped in the overflowing river Vipasa, which also left him ashore. Then he jumped into the river Haimavat, which fled in several directions from his fear and was named Satadru. Then when he returned to his ashram, he saw his daughter-in-law pregnant. When a son was born, Vashistha acted as his father and gave up the idea of giving up his life. Hence, the child was named Parashara which meant enlivener of the dead.[5]

Genealogy

According to the Vedas, the god Brahma created Vasishtha (reborn to Mitra-Varuna), who, with his wife Arundhati, had a son named Shakti who sired Parashara. With Satyavati of Kaivartta clan[6] Parashara is father of Vyasa. Vyasa sired Dhritarashtra and Pandu through his deceased half brother's wives, Ambika and Ambalika and Vidura through a hand-maiden of Ambika and Ambalika. Vyasa also sired Shuka through his wife, Jabali's daughter Pinjala. Thus Parashara was the biological great-grandfather of both the warring parties of the Mahabharata, the Kauravas and the Pandavas.[citation needed]

Legends

There is a story of Rishi Parashara: Shakti died in his early age. This made Vasishtha, his father live in his hermitage with Adrushyanti (wife of Shakti). Vasistha heard the chanting of the Vedas and Adrushyanti told him that Vedic hymn sounds were coming from the child of his son, Parashara, that was developing in her womb. Vasistha was happy to hear this. Adrushyanti gave birth to a son and the child grew up to become Parashara.[7]

Parashara was raised by his grandfather Vasishtha because he lost his father at an early age. His father, Shakti, was on a journey and came across an angry Rakshasa (demon) who had once been a king but was turned into a demon feeding on human flesh as a curse from Vasishtha. The demon devoured Parashara's father. In the Vishnu Purana, Parashara speaks about his anger from this:[8]

I had heard that my father had been devoured by a Rākṣasa employed by Vishwamitra: violent anger seized me and I commenced a sacrifice for the destruction of the Rākṣasas: hundreds of them were reduced to ashes by the rite, when, as they were about to be entirely exterminated, my grandfather Vasishtha said to me: Enough, my child; let thy wrath be appeased: the Rākṣasas are not culpable: thy father's death was the work of destiny. Anger is the passion of fools; it becometh not a wise man. By whom, it may be asked, is anyone killed? Every man reaps the consequences of his own acts. Anger, my son, is the destruction of all that man obtains by arduous exertions, of fame, and of devout austerities; and prevents the attainment of heaven or of emancipation. The chief sages always shun wrath: be not subject to its influence, my child. Let no more of these unoffending spirits of darkness be consumed. Mercy is the might of the righteous.[9]

Parashara once halted for a night in a little hamlet on the banks of the river Yamuna. He was put up in the house of the fisherman-chieftain Dasharaj. When dawn broke, the chief asked his daughter, Matsyagandha, whose name means "one with the smell of fish", to ferry the sage to his next destination. When in the ferry, Parashara was attracted by the beautiful girl and asked her to fulfill his desire of giving a son to her. Matsyagandha refused fearing the other people and sages who were standing on the bank of river at the other side.[1]

He then created an island within the river by his mystic potency and asked her to land the boat there. On reaching the other side, the sage once again chanted the mantra to make her pregnant, but she declared that her body stank and Parashara granted her the boon that the finest fragrance may emit from her person. She was thereafter known as Satyavati (pure fragrance).[1] Matsyagandha was transformed (by the powers of the sage) into Yojanagandha ("she whose fragrance can be smelled from across a yojana").[10] She now smelled of musk, and so was called Kasturi-Gandhi ("musk-fragrant").[1] Then, she insisted that the act of getting a child was not appropriate in broad daylight, as her father and others would see them from the other bank; they should wait till night. The sage, with his powers, shrouded the entire area in fog. Before Parashara gave her a child, Satyavati again interrupted him to say that he would enjoy his child and depart, leaving her shamed in society. She asked Parashara to promise her that the childbirth would be a secret and her secret intact; the son born from their union would be as famous as the great sage, and her fragrance and youth would be eternal. Parashara granted her these wishes and was satiated by the beautiful Satyavati. Parashara then gave her a child who was a son called Krishna Dvaipāyana was born, who was dark-complexioned and hence may be called by the name Krishna (black) and also the name Dwaipayana, meaning 'island-born'. He later compiled the classic Vedic literatures of India, and so is called Vyasa who is the 17th incarnations of Lord Vishnu. Leaving Satyavati, Parashara proceeded to perform Tapas (intense meditation). Later Vyasa also became a Rishi and Satyavati returned to her father's house and in due course, married Śantanu.[1]

In Anushasana Parva of Mahabharata, Parashara told Yudhisthira that he prayed to Shiva. His desire was to obtain a son with great ascetic merit, endued with superior energy, earn world-wide fame, and arrange the Vedas. Shiva appeared and granted him his wishes and in addition, he told him that his son Krishna will be one of the Saptarshis of Savarni manvantara, be immortal by being freed of diseases, and he will be friend of Indra.[11]

Parashara was known as the "limping sage". He had his leg wounded during an attack on his āśrama. When a ṛṣi dies he merges back into an element or an archetype. When Sage Parashara was walking through a dense forest he and his students were attacked by wolves. He was unable to get away in his old age with a lame leg and he left this world merging into the wolves.[12]

The Monument of Parashara Muni is available at Junha - Panhala fort in Tal Kavathe Mahankal Sangli district of Maharashtra. A cave supposed to be of Parāśāra Muni is present at the fort.

Parashar Lake is a freshwater lake located at an elevation of 2,730 metres (8,960 ft) in the Mandi district of Himachal Pradesh. On the bank of this lake there is a three storied Pagoda temple dedicated to the sage Parashara. It is believed that sage Parashara meditated here.

Rigveda

In the Rigveda, Parashara, son of Shakti (Parāśara Śāktya), is the seer of verses 1.65-73 which are all in praise of Agni (the sacred fire), and part of 9.97 (v.31-44) which is in praise of Soma. Below is 1.73.2

devo na yaḥ savitā satyamanmā kratvā nipāti vṛjanāni viṣvā
purupraṣasto amatirna satya ātmeva Sevo didhiṣāyyo bhūt

He who is like the divine Sun, who knows the truth (of all things), preserves by his actions (his votaries) in all encounters; like nature, he is unchangeable and, like soul, is the source of all happiness: he is ever to be cherished.[13]

Texts attributed to Parashara

Notes

  1. ^ a b c d e Mani, Vettam (1975). Puranic Encyclopaedia: A Comprehensive Dictionary With Special Reference to the Epic and Puranic Literature. Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass. pp. 885 (Vyāsa). ISBN 0-8426-0822-2.
  2. ^ Dalal, Roshen (18 April 2014). Hinduism: An Alphabetical Guide. ISBN 9788184752779.
  3. ^ Bhiḍe, Śrīpāda Raghunātha (1996). Wife of Sakti Maharsi. ISBN 9788185080987.
  4. ^ "Rishi Parashara - Speaking Tree".
  5. ^ Pratap Chandra Roy's Mahabharata Adi Parva Pages: 406-410
  6. ^ Sen, Kshitimohan (1997). Jatived (in Bengali). Shantiniketan: Visva-Bharati University. pp. 46, 49.
  7. ^ "Puranic encyclopaedia: comprehensive dictionary with special reference to the epic and Puranic literature". archive.org. 1975.
  8. ^ Wilson, H. H. The Vishnu Purana: A System of Hindu Mythology and Tradition.
  9. ^ "The Vishnu Purana: Book I: Chapter I". www.sacred-texts.com. Retrieved 25 June 2023.
  10. ^ Bhattacharya, Pradip (May–June 2004). "Of Kunti and Satyawati: Sexually Assertive Women of the Mahabharata" (PDF). Manushi (142): 21–25.
  11. ^ "The Mahabharata, Book 13: Anusasana Parva: Anusasanika Parva: Section XVIII". www.sacred-texts.com. Retrieved 13 November 2022.
  12. ^ Munshi, K. M. The Book of VedaVyaasa: The Master.
  13. ^ Rgveda 1.73.2 Translation by H.H.Wilson
  14. ^ https://archive.org/download/ParasharaSmriti/SriParasharaSmrithiPdf.pdf[bare URL PDF]
  15. ^ Flood, Gavin. An Introduction to Hinduism.
  16. ^ Ancient Indian Botany and Taxonomy

References