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14 Saptarshis - The Progenitors

Saptarshis - the very first progenitors

You must be wondering by now why I always keep refering to Saptarshis सप्तर्षि when it comes to giving someone's lineage. In fact I usually start with one of the Saptarshis as the root of the line and then go on. The reason for this lies in the Hindu myth about creation.

In Manu's account of Creation we meet for the first time with the Maha-rishis or Deva-rishis, the Celestial priest poets. These are the mind-born sons of Brahma, who came into existence before the gods and the demons. Indeed, they are credited with most of the acts of creation.

Where did it all start?

So in the beginning there was nothing. Vishnu was sleeping happily on Sheshanaag. Vishnu in this state is called Narayana and this state of dreamless sleep is the time of Pralaya

Narayana stirred out of his sleep and from his navel rose a primordial lotus in which sat Brahma. Brahma opened his eyes and saw. He wondered who he was. He said "What?" -- This is why Brahma is also called Ka " क " (What in Sanskrit).

From his curiosity, arose four boys first, now called Sanat Kumaras सनत कुमार (सनत = old / always, कुमार = youth). Their names are Sanat, Sananda, Sanaka, and Sanatana. They are the first lot of Brahma's manas-putras (children born from mind, not body). 

Brahma asked them to produce children, but they did not know how or why. The Sanat Kumaras took the path of Nivritti (renouncement) rather than Pravritti (engagement). They are sometimes called Siddheshwaras - masters of all mystic powers (siddhis). More about Sanat Kumaras later (see here for a story involving the Sanat Kumaras)

The birth of Prajapatis from Brahma's thoughts

Brahma then produced 10 more manas-putras -- called the 10 Prajapatis (lit: Lords of the Praja i.e. the created beings) - these were grown men and know how to produce children. They asked their father to give them a wife. so Brahma split himself in two, and out of his left half arose a woman (one of the reasons why even today in India, during religious work the husband sits at the right and the wife at the left, and also why a wife is called "Ardhangini" - half-body).

Dr. Devdutt Pattanaik in his excellent book "Myth = mithya" relates the 10 Prajapatis to 10 organs - 5 sense organs also called dnyanendriyas (eyes, ears, nose, tongue, skin) and 5 action organs also called karmendriyas (hands, feet, mouth, anus and genitals). Following the birth of these Prajapatis, Brahma becomes aware of and has fruitful interaction with the world around him, that is the Goddess.

These 10 Prajapatis - or lords of the created beings are given as the following in Manu Smriti:

Kratu, Pulaha, Pulastya, Atri, Angiras, Vashishtha, Marichi, Daksha, Bhrigu and Narada.क्रतु, पुलः, पुलस्त्य, अत्री, अंगिरस, वशिष्ठ, मरीचि, दक्ष, भृगु, नारद

The first seven of the above are the Saptarshis ("seven rishis") - also called deva-rishis. Not only did they arrive on the scene before everyone else - and that includes even devas like Indra, Varuna etc., the daityas and danavas and the humans. 

These seven, along with Daksha created almost all of the known species (humans, devas, asuras etc). Note that for animals and plants, Brahma himself took different forms and created them with the Goddess (identified as Saraswati in some cases).

So you see, before these, there was nothing that births / lineages of people and characters can be attributed to, except Brahma the supreme creator. These Prajapatis were the first beings that 'pro-created' others. And therefore all the family trees go back to these.

Saptarshis and their descendants

The lineages of the seven rishis (briefly) are:

  1. Kratu -- Not known. Thanks to one of  our readers Rajdeep, Kratu's descendants were the sages Balkhilyas, tiny brahim sages, the size of white mites, who are quite a mystery in the early scriptures. They are supposed to be accomplishes of Surya Vivaswan.
  2. Pulaha -- Not known. Again, our reader mentions that Pulaha's descendants are lions, tigers, sharbhas (eight-legged, winged, lion-headed feline creatures that hunt lions) and Kipurushas (feline humans). Thanks Rajdeep for your contribution.
  3. Pulastya -- fathered Visravas, who in turn was the father of Kubera (lineage of Yakshas) and Ravana (lineage of Rakshasa), and also Vanaras (Ape-men) and Kinnaras (Horse-Men)
  4. Atri -- married Anasuya and is father of Dattatreya (an incarnation of the Divine Trinity Brahma, Vishnu and Siva)
  5. Angiras -- His wife is Surupa and sons are Utatya, Samvartana and Brihaspati, the priest of gods. His line also had the famous Bharadwaj and Gautam rishis. This line of rishis is usually at crossroads with the rishis in the Bhrigu clan. Mostly, the rishis from Angiras clan support the devas while the rishis from the Bhrigu clan support the daityas, but things aren't always that clear and linear in Hindu myths.
  6. Vashishtha -- His wife is the famous Arundhati. Vashishtha is Lord Rama's guru. Some legends describe the sage Parashara as a son of Vashishtha. Parashara fathered Vyasa from Satyavati, and Vyasa helped produce children for Ambika and Ambalika - who were Dhritarashtra and Pandu. So in a way, Vashishtha is a forefather of Kauravas and Pandavas.
  7. Marichi -- married to Kala, daughter of Daksha, and fathered Kashyapa.

About the remaining 3 Prajapatis

8. Daksha - He is another prolific progenitors. With his wife Prasuti (lit: child-birth) he had several daughters, most notably the following 14: 1. Aditi, 2. Diti, 3. Danu, 4. Kala, 5. Danayu, 6. Sinhika, 7. Krodha, 8. Pradha, 9. Viswa, 10. Vinata, 11. Kapila, 12. Muni, and 13. Kadru. His 14th daughter was Sati, or Dakshayani (daughter of Daksya) who married Shiva against his father's wishes.

Note: In some scriptures, Daksha is also said to have fathered the 27 nakshatras (Ashwini, Rohini etc.) who went on to marry Soma or Chandra (Moon). But we are digressing.

A special mention of Kashyapa will not be out of place here. Kala, the 4t daughter of Daksha, married the 7th rishi from the Saptarshi list - Marichi - to give birth to Kashyapa. Kashyapa was a very wise sage. He married all 12 out of Daksha's 14 daughters (his mother's sisters) - except Kala, his mother and Sati, who married Shiva. 

Some of the famous children Kashyapa bore with these 12 are:
  1. Aditi -- Sons are called Adityas. There are usually 12 Adityas (see below * for names of Adityas)
  2. Diti -- Hiranyakashipu and Hiranyaksha, from where the Daitya line started
  3. Danu -- Danavas. Daityas and Danavas (under the leadership of Mahabali) fought against Devas who were led by Indra.
  4. Kala -- Did not marry her. She is Kashyapas' mother
  5. Danayu -- unknown
  6. Sinhika-- unknown
  7. Krodha -- unknown
  8. Pradha -- unknown
  9. Viswa - unknown
  10. Vinata -- Garuda (eagle) and Aruna (daylight)
  11. Kapila - unknown
  12. Muni -- Apsaras
  13. Kadru -- Nagas (serpents)

That is quite an effort from Kashyapa. No wonder that Parashurama gave away the earth as a gift to Kashyapa, after Parashurama vanquished Kartavirya Arjuna (see this). In any case, it was populated by Kashyana's progeny.

9. Bhrigu - He was married to Khyati, another daughter of Daksha. He had two sons by her, named Dhata and Vidhata. -- However some say that these were children of Kashyap. Anyway, Bhrigu's daughter was Shri (i.e. Lakshmi) who later married Lord Vishnu. Bhrigu is said to have two more sons - the great Shukracharya (the teacher of Daityas), and Chyavana, the preceptor of Ayurveda. One of the famous descendants of Bhrigu is Jamadagni, father of Parashurama.

Narada - He is also a celestial rishi although not counted in the Saptarshis. The reason for this is that he renounced Pravritti and like Sanat Kumaras, decided to spend his life (which is for eternity) singing praises of Narayana - Vishnu resting on Shesha naga. He also has the siddhis (mystical powers) like the Sanat Kumaras and travels across the worlds (hence called "tribhuvan sanchari" - wanderer of the three worlds - Svarga, Earth and Naraka). See here for several posts about Narada.

- S

* Adityas - there are usually 12 or 13 Adityas (12 is more common). 
  • The devas, or the 11 gods - including 1. Amsa (being / existence), 2. Aryaman (Ancestral worship), 3. Bhaga (wealth), 4. Dhuti, 5. Vidhata, 6. Mitra, 7. Pusan, 8. Sakra (Indra - the king of gods), 9. Savitr (Sun), 10. Tvastri, and 11. Varuna. There is usually no dispute about this and the names match across sources.
  • 12. Vivasvat - father of Manu, the progenitor of mankind, and first king to rule this earth. 
  • 13. Vishnu, sometimes counted as the 12th Aditya - As Vamana, who pushed Mahabali in Patala and secured Indra's win. If Vivasvat is considered among the Adityas, then Vishnu is not considered among them. Vishnu, in later traditions was elevated to supreme godhood. See this for more info.


rajdeep said…
Kratu's descendants are the Balkhilyas. They are accomplishes of Surya Viavswan.

Pulaha's descendants are lions, tigers, sharbhas( eight-legged, winged, lion-headed feline creatures that hunt lions) and Kipurushas(feline humans)

Apart from Yakshas and Rakshasas from Visravas, Pulastyas descendents also include Vanaras(Ape-men) and Kinnaras(Horse-Men)

Also Aryaman is not Surya. Vivaswana dn Savita of the Adityas are identified with SUrya. Aryaman is related to ancestral worship. He is closely associated with Mitra and Varuna.

Also Bhrigu and Angira re also known as Varuna and Agni's children while Vashishtha as Vrana and Mitra's son.
Prashant said…
You are doing a good job. I am interested in bringing together the mythologies of all the ancient civilization and bring out the real truth in them. I hope yoo must be knowing the resemblance of Zeus and Indra and also their friend gods. Also there is resemblance between Brahma being born on Lotuc and Egyptian Sun God being born on Lotus. With Yavans as Egyptians and Malechs as Greek there must be interesting similarities. I wonder any one doing more work on this so that s/he can enlighten me more as I am more towards finding the scientific truth in all the so called myths of ancients.
Shivani Kaul said…
Brilliant! am sharing this post with my friends on facebook.
Thank you for your comment. Hope you liked the other posts as well.
Great Stuff! Wealth of information. Respect!!
Thank you Abhishek. I just wish I get more time from daily routine to spend on this :) ... Shreekant
Thanks Rajdeep. Wonder how I missed replying to you for all these years.