Sage Agstya


Sai Ram. The full moon day in the lunar month of Sravan is well known as Raakhee Purnima and Jandhyala Purnima but only a few people know that it is also the birth tithi (Jayanti) of Lord Hayagreeva, the wonderful incarnation of Sri Vishnu with the head of a horse. Let us pay our respects to Him:

GYaanaananda mayaM devaM nirmalasphaTikaakR^itim
aadhaaraM sarva vidyaanaaM hayagriivam upaasmahe

The above sloka is the first of Sri Hayagreeva Stotram given to us by Sri Vedantha Desikan. We will, hopefully catch up with his story later.

Lord Hayagreeva plays an important role as a teacher, Guru in many puranic stories, the most important one probably being the teaching of Sri Lalitha Sahasra Naama Stotram to Sage Agasthya. It is a dialogue between Lord Hayagreeva and Agastya and is given in Sri Brahmaanda Purana.

Sage Agastya was the disciple there. He becomes the Guru and Preceptor in Sri Ramayana. At the request of Sri Siva and other Devatas, He visited Sri Rama, incarnation of Vishnu during His war against Ravana, a grandson of Pulastya (Ravana is known as Paulastya). Sage Agastya reveals the secret of Sri Aditya Hridayam (The Heart of The Sun) to Sri Rama. Sri Aditya Hridayam is recited by many people for health, wealth and victory over their internal and external enemies.
So, let us take up the first part of story of this great sage this month. Sai Ram.

In the bygone ages, a number of demons (Rakshasas) were troubling the various worlds. At the order of Indra, Agni and Vayu started killing them in war. Some of the Rakshas went and hid themselves in the ocean. They used to be hidden in the day time and come out in the night and kill people and animals. This went on for thousands of years.

Indra called Agni and Vayu devas and asked them angrily why they are keeping quiet and not killing the demons. They told him that the demons hid themselves in the ocean. Indra then ordered them to dry up the ocean and kill the demons. They told him that it is not correct to do that for the sake of a few thousand demons and in that process destroy the vast variety of life in the ocean. They asked him to give another idea.

However Indra got angry that his order was not being obeyed and cursed them to be born on earth as human beings. Since they are devas, they asked him who among the humans can carry them for 9 months and deliver them as human babies. Indra ordered them to be born in an inert matter like stone.

Nara-Narayana, sons of Sage Dharma were doing tapas, on Gandhamadhana Mountain. Indra sent many celestial damsels to disturb their tapas. Narayana wanted to show the power of their tapas and produced a stunningly beautiful damsel from his thigh. Because she came from his thigh (uru), she got the name of Urvasi. The celestial damsels felt ashamed at their own beauty after seeing her. She was taken as wife by Sun god and while they were on the way to his world, Varuna, god of the water saw her and desire rose up in his mind. He expressed his love to her but she spurned him saying she was already committed to Sun god and hence cannot oblige him. He accepted her statement but just asked her to keep him in mind and left. Sun god came to know about this and cursed Urvasi to go to earth for the sin of even agreeing to keep the image of another god in her mind!

Birth of Agastya and Vasishtha from a pot (Kumbha)
When Pururava, son of Yayathi was ruling the kingdom on earth, Urvasi became his wife. While she was coming down to earth, Mitra (Sun), Varuna, Agni and Vayu gave her a pot containing their Veerya (ojas) and later they forgot all about it. Thus Agastya and Vasishta were born from that pot. So, Indra’s curse to Agni and Vayu was also fulfilled.

Thus Agastya and Vasishtha are also known as Kumbha Sambhava (Pot born), Maaitravaruna etc. Lord Hayagriva addresses Agastya as kumbha sambhava in Sri Lalitha Sahasranama Stotram.
Agastya agrees to help Pitru Devatas

They grew up because of their divine origin. The gods named them and did the upanayan samskar etc. When Agasthya grew up, he was engaged in great tapas with total control on his senses. He used to roam in the forest. Once he saw a great tree with many branches spread out in all directions. Some sages were hanging upside down from the branches (holding on to them with their feet). Sage Agastya saw this and went to them asked them the reason for their state. He asked them to kindly clarify to him why they cannot stand on their legs, whether it was a curse etc.
The sages replied to him as follows: “Dear son, we are the manes who belong to Pitru Loka but we could not stay there because the population is coming down and there are none to offer us the water (in sraadha, it is customary to offer water and black sesame seeds to the Pitru Devatas). If any great person accepts us as his forefathers and offers us the tarpanas, we will get back to the higher planes. This cannot be done by any ordinary person. You are a great soul born on this earth plane for the welfare of the society. Pl. help us by leaving this Brahmacharya Ashrama, take a wife and do this noble act of releasing us from this state.”

As per Vedas and Puranas, the world of manes (Pitru Loka) has five permanent residents at any given time. The other souls that leave this earth plane go there and are under the protection of these five Devtas. We offer the tarpanas first to the 5 Pitru Devatas and then to the other souls (our relatives).

The sages who were hanging upside down also said to Agastya: “ We are hanging here without touching the earth and thus we are not in a position to go in search of you and thus were waiting for you to come to us. We were hoping that you will find us, see our state, take pity on us and relax your firm resolve to continue the Brahmacharya Ashrama and enter the Grihastha Ashrama, beget a son and then release us from this condition.”

Sage Agastya and Lopaamudra

Sage Agastya was moved and agreed to help them. He started searching for a suitable bride but could not find the one with the right qualities. So, he created a girl with his power with the right qualities and went to Vidarbha, whose king was childless and was grieving. Sage Agastya gave the king vibhooti (sacred ash) and assured him that he would get a good daughter as a child and asked him to give the girl in marriage to him when she grows up.

When a girl was born to the Vidarbha king as foretold by Sage Agastya, she was named as Lopaamudra (Lopa means a defect and amudra means not stamped, not tainted, thus Lopaamdura literally means one without a blemish). The girl was beautiful and shining like Lakshmi Devi. After a few years, Sage Agastya returned to Vidarbha. Since the sage was looking old, the king was deluded by Maya and was hesitating to give his daughter in marriage but Lopaamudra was quite clear that she was born with a purpose and Sage Agastya was her husband. So, she persuaded her parents and the marriage took place.

Vidarbha is now part of Maharashtra and there is a place called Siddha Teertha a little beyond Nagpur and the marriage took place there. Even today people worship that place with full faith that a boy or girl will get a good partner if one goes there or at least remember that place with devotion.
Because she hailed from Vidarbha, Lopaamudra was also known as Vaidarbhi and was also called as Kausitaki and Varaprada. She was and even now is venerated as a great Pativrata by one and all.
The wife of Harischandra also is from that place and hence she too is known as Vaidarbhi (daughter of Vidarbha). There is another place with the name Vidarbha in the present Arunachal Pradesh and Rukmini, hailed from that place and she also is called Vaidarbhi.
After marriage, Agastya asked his wife to retain just the bare minimum of jewels and a couple of saris made from jute and asked her to leave behind all other ornaments, silk saris etc. He asked her mother to give her turmeric and kumkum, gave her the bundle of kusa grass and asked her to accompany him to his ashram. He settled down on the bank of Ganges and was leading a happy married life as per the dharma sastras.

After some time, Agastya remembered the promise made to the Pitru Devas. At the same time, Lopaamudra also asked him to get her some jewels etc. so that she can beautify herself and lead a proper married life. Agastya felt that her request is reasonable and instead of wasting his tapas shakti for getting wealth, he told her that he would go to some nearby kings and request them for money to satisfy her desires.

He went to a nearby king called Srutarva and asked him for some money. The king was astonished and said that he does not have that sort of money. Both then went to another king called Bradhnasva and he too said the same thing. Since he too did not have that sort of money fit to be offered to such a great sage, all three of them went to another king called Trasadasya. All the kings were curious to know what the sage will do next and were also a little afraid that he may get angry. So, they were keen to accompany him and all of them went together into the forest.
Agastya digests vaataapi

Around that time, the city of Manimathi was being ruled by a king called Illvala and who had a brother called Vaataapi. Both were born with some Rakshasa Amsa (qualities) and so had many powers including assuming any shape of choice (animals like goat, dog, donkey etc. – kama rupa dharana it is called). Because of their demonic nature, they were intent on troubling Brahmins and other good people.

Added to that, when Illvala went to a great Brahmin who had lot of powers because of mantra siddhi, the later refused saying, “You are born in a Rakshasa Amsa and I don’t know how you will use a mantra and so I cannot give you what you ask.” Illvala wanted to take revenge on the Brahmin for this and set up a ruse. He made his brother into a goat and went to the Brahmin and invited him to visit his house for the Pitru Sraaddha. He cut up the goat (Vaataapi) and served the meat to the Brahmin (it was acceptable in those days for Brahmins to take a small quantity of meat as Yagna Prasad and the practice was later stopped by the intervention of Sri Adi Shankara). After the Brahmin took his meal including the goat meat, Illvala called his brother Vaataapi to come out. Vaataapi emerged from the stomach by tearing through the flesh and muscles with the goat horns, killing the Brahmin.

The brothers were playing a similar trick and killing many more Brahmins because of their hatred towards Brahmins and because a Brahmin refused to give Illvala the mantra deeksha to get more powers. They wanted to play the same trick on Sage Agastya. Many people alerted the sage about this trick of Illvala and asked him not to accept the invitation of the demonic king. Agastya asked the well wishers not to worry.

Not knowing the powers of Agastya, Illvala proceeded with his usual trick. He transformed Vaataapi into a goat, invited Agastya to his house for a sraaddha and served the pseudo-goat meat. Agastya finished his meal and rubbed his stomach three times, saying “Jeernam, Jeernam, Vaataapi Jeernam (Digest, Digest, Digest Vaataapi.” Illvala called on Vaataapi to come out as usual and nothing happened. He then realized what happened and fell on the sage’s feet asking for mercy. He also offered Agastya all his wealth to save himself from the sage’s anger. Another version has it that Agastya killed him and another version has it that Agastya asked him to give up his life voluntarily and get sadgathi, just as his brother got.

Everyone was happy at the good riddance of a nuisance and danger to society and praised Agastya. He also fulfilled his objective of obtaining wealth without spending his tapas shakti. He returned to his ashram and fulfilled Lopaamudra’s desire for saris, ornaments etc.
Agastya begets a son and gives sadgati to Pitru Devatas

Agastya posed a question to Lopaamudra: “Dear, it is now time for us to get a son and you also want a son. Tell me, do you want ten sons each with the strength of ten people or a hundred sons? Or do you want ten sons each with the strength of hundred people or do you want just one son with the strength and radiance of thousand people? Tell me your choice.” Lopaamudra being a very wise lady and a fit wife of Agastya, chose one son with the strength of a thousand people. Thus they got a son of exceptional strength and radiance. They named him Tejaswi because of his radiating luster. The Pitru Devatas were happy and went to the higher lokas by the merit of Agastya.

His name and fame spread far and wide. Once Lord Brahma Himself came to Agastya’s ashram to see the sage. He told Agastya that He came just to see him. Agastya prostrated himself in front of Brahma and expressed his gratitude and asked Him to give him a suitable aadesh (a good order for a suitable work). Brahma asked him to continue on the path and protect dharma through his tapas. He also told Agastya the following.

Sage Agastya and Kaveri

Once a sage named Kavera did a great tapas to Siva. Siva was pleased and asked Kavera to choose a boon. Kavera asked for liberation from the cycle of birth and death. Siva then advised Kavera that it is not possible at that point of time and asked him to do tapas aimed at Lord Brahma. Kavera did a great tapas and Brahma was pleased and appeared before the sage. He explained that the sage had still some karmic balance and has to enter Grihastha Ashrama. He also assured him that he will get a daughter who will help him with the liberation. She will be born as an amsha of Vishnu Maaya, who is considered as my daughter in this world. (Here Brahma was speaking as a Brahma Jnani and thus could consider Vishnu Maaya as His daughter).
As per Brahma’s instructions, sage Kavera entered Grihastha Ashram and begot a daughter. Having fulfilled his part of the karma, he was awaiting liberation. Vishnu Maaya also started doing tapas for the liberation of her father, Kavera.

Lord Brahma explained the above to Agastya and clarified that Lopaamudra was also an amsha of Vishnu Maaya and Kaveri (daughter of Kavera) was another amsha. So, Brahma asked Agastya to take Kaveri as his second wife.

As per Brahma’s instructions, Agastya came to south India and accepted Kaveri as his second wife. She mentioned to him that she was ready to be his wife but her life mission was to liberate her father from the samsara bandhas and as she was an amsha of Vishnu Maya, she had to stay there as a river as per the orders of Sri Maha Vishnu. She said, “I am willing to abide by Lord Vishnu’s orders. So, by marrying me, you may not get any happiness”. Agastya agreed to accept her as his wife even after she becomes a river. She then entered his Kamandala as water and thus stayed with him as his second wife. A little of that spilled and the river Kaveri was born. The starting point of Kaveri river is near Madikeri and the place is called Talla Kaveri, in Coorg (Kodagu)district of Karnataka. It flows through Karnataka and Tamilnadu and the famous temple of Sri Ranganatha is also on the bank of river Kaveri, near Trichy. There are different versions about where the above story took place but the river is in south India. I had the good fortune of visiting Talla Kaveri way back in 1979. The place was also in the news when His Holiness Sri Jayendra Saraswati, the present Shankaracharya of Sri Kanchi Kamakoti Peetham left the Mutt suddenly (when Paramacharya was still there) and later was discovered there. He of course returned to Kanchi as you are no doubt aware. (Pl. see this and decide whether to keep it or not).

Kavera came to the river Kaveri and took bath in her. Though she was his daughter, she was specifically created to help him get liberated from the bondage of the body consciousness. As soon as he took bath in the river, he got liberated from the body consciousness. He left his body and entered the state from where there is no rebirth. Karma has to be finished off for anyone to get free from the bonds of karma.

Agastya dries up the ocean
In Krita Yuga, a demon named Vritrasura was troubling Indra and other gods in heaven. He was assisted by two other demons called Kaalakeyas. Indra could not defeat Vritrasura and approached Brahma to help them and protect them. Brahma asked Indra to approach Maharshi Dadheechi and request the sage to donate his bones and convert them into weapons as only through them can Vritrasura be killed. The sage was doing great tapas for many yugas and the power of that tapas was accumulated in the bones of the maharshi.

There is another version that once the gods deposited all their weapons with the sage for safe keeping and the sage swallowed all of them. When the gods did not come in time, the astras of gods got digested and became a part of the sage and went into the bones. So, when the gods finally came to take back their astras, the sage told them that the astras became a part of him right to his bones. He offered to give up his body so that they could recover their astras.

In any case, at Indra’s request, the sage voluntarily vacated his body so that they could convert his bones into weapons. Because of his great tapas, the weapons got added power. Indra created the Vajra Ayudha from the spine of the sage and with that killed Vritrasura. But the other demons including Kaalakeyas escaped and hid themselves in the ocean.

They started killing many disciples of Sages Vasishtha, Chyavana and Bharadwaja. The sages approached Indra to kill the demons and rid the world of this danger. Indra in turn went to Brahma and Brahma in turn asked them to approach Vishnu. Vishnu asked them to approach sage Agastya telling them that only he is capable of drying up the ocean!

Approached by Indra and other gods, Agastya collected all the waters of the ocean into his palm and took the same into his mouth. All the water of the ocean was transformed into just three drops in his palm! All the living creatures in the ocean were safely present in those drops! Kaalakeyas and other demons were however exposed and were killed by Indra. Agastya released the water back into the ocean. Since the holy water of the ocean became impure by being taken into his mouth and became uchhishta, the sage proscribed taking a holy dip in the ocean daily. He gave a boon that on holy days, the impurity of the ocean will be removed and a bath only on those days will be purifying.

This above story is from the Aranya Parva of Mahabharat. There are variations to this story in other puranas. However, the gist of the story remains same.

Sage Agastya in Ramayana
Sage Agastya figures in Ramayana more than once. Agastya was at that time, living in Dandakaaranya. Rama came to that area in his vana vaasa. He visited the ashrams of several rishis and visited Agastya’s ashram too. When he came to know that Rama was visiting him, sage Agastya went ahead, welcomed Rama and offered his blessings. Agastya was observing Vaanaprastha Ashrama by then and offered Rama the atithi puja suitably. Earlier he gave Rama many Astras and whatever few he had been left with, he gave them then. He gave him a bow that was embedded with Vishnu Teja and Sudarshana Chakra’s energies. He also gave him a quiver that never runs out of arrows. He also gave Rama two swords saying that they were meant for a warrior who can use both hands equally well at the same time (ambidextrous, Savyasachi) and at that point of time Rama was the only warrior with that capability. Thus in Kritayuga, Rama was a Savyasachi and in Dwapara Yuga, Arjuna got that title (because he should shoot arrows with both hands and is better known.

Rama asked sage Agastya about a suitable place to stay during his tenure in forest. Agastya suggested him to go to Panchavati on the banks of Godavari. Now there are two claimants for that name, one in Maharashtra, in the present city of Nasik and the other near Bhadrachalam, Khammam District, and Andhra Pradesh.

During his battle with Ravana, Rama was finding it difficult to kill Ravana, because of the Amritha Bhanda in his stomach. Rama got tired and felt doubtful about his own capability to kill Ravana (Rama was playing the role of a Maya Manusha Vigraha, a man covered by Maya). At that time, sage Agastya came there and gave the upadesha of Sri Aditya Hridayam to Rama and assured him that he will win the battle if he takes it to heart. Thus he benefited Rama intensely.

After the battle was over, Rama was returning to Ayodhya in the pushpak viman and stopped at Agastya’s ashram and offered his gratitude to the sage. Agastya blessed Rama with mantra akshatas and gave him a beautiful, strange jewel that was glowing. Rama knew the nuances of dharma and said, “Maharshi, I am a Kshatriya and it is not allowed for a kshatriya to take anything as a donation, especially from a Brahmin. Only a Brahmin is entitled to accept a Daan.”

Sage Agastya clarified to Rama and said, “Rama, this is not a daan. You are a king and the subjects can offer anything to their king and the king can accept it. It is an offering and is not a daan. While accepting a daan, the hand of the Brahmin is below that of the giver, but while accepting a gift, the king has his hand above the hand of the person offering a gift. Thus there is a difference. Since you are the king of this land, you should accept my offering. Please accept it!”

Rama was curious to know the history of that jewel and Agastya explained the same. “Rama! There was a king who became a Rajarshi because of his great tapas. His name was Suta, and he visited me for receiving blessings and at that time he offered this to me. Since I have no use for it, I was looking for a suitable person to receive it and now you, who are fit to keep it have come.”

Agastya curses Nahusha to become a serpent
Indra is a post (ruler of heaven and the devatas – demi gods). By performing a great number of yagnas and yaagas, one becomes eligible for the post of Indra, but there can be only one Indra in a given Kalpa and others await their turn (normally it won’t happen since there will be some obstruction or other but it is not impossible to happen). Thus it happened that a king called Nahusha performed the prescribed number of yagnas etc. and became eligible. The incumbent Indra had to kill a Brahmin with demonical tendencies (like Rama had to kill Ravana) and the sin of killing a Brahmin started haunting Indra and robbed him of his luster and powers. Unable to continue in his post because of his reduced powers, Indra left heaven. Since heaven needs a ruler to be present and protect it, all the other demi-gods and sages approached King Nahusha and brought him to heaven to take up the duties of Indra. The ascent to heaven caused Nahusha to lose his viveka (sense of discrimination) and the power went to his head.

He wanted not only all the other powers and enjoyments that go with the ruler’s post but also wanted the wife of the earlier Indra to serve him! Sachi Devi, the wife of the earlier Indra (or rather real Indra, since Nahusha was only a temporary replacement) was aghast at this turn of the events. She was of course, not a stranger to such scenarios since the demons too made similar moves when they conquered heaven and Indra had to flee temporarily leaving her behind. But she did not expect such a behavior from a king who attained Indra position by performing yagnas and yaagas. It just goes to show that performing good deeds without a sense of dharma can give one power, which ultimately leads to one’s downfall. Let us see how that happened in this case too!

Indrani (Sachi Devi) consulted Deva Guru Brihaspati to help her come out of this tricky situation. He advised her to handle the situation tactfully and told her that his punya had to be destroyed somehow so that he can be rendered unfit to remain in heaven. He came up with a stratagem and advised her to send a word to Nahusha that she was willing to accept him as her lord provided he comes to her in a palanquin carried by the sages.

Driven by his fate, destiny, lust, Nahusha falls for the trap and orders the great sages that adorn the Indra Sabha to carry him in a palanquin to the chambers of Sachi Devi. The maharshis probably knew what is going to happen and readily agree and also because they wanted to protect the protocol of Indra Sabha and set an example to all of us.

As soon as they started carrying Nahusha, his punya decreased considerably and blinded by his lust, Nahusha urged them on saying “Sarpa, Sarpa” (which means quick, and also serpent) and prodded Sage Agastya who was in the front with a stick. Another version of the story has Nahsuha kicking Agastya or another sage. Yet another version of the story has it that an argument arose about some Veda Mantras and Nahusha, in his ego-induced arrogance kicked some Brahmins accusing them of ignorance about the Vedic mantras.

In any case, Agastya cursed (actually blessed Nahusha by destroying his ego) to become a Sarpa (serpent) and spend time on earth till he encounters Dharma in human form and his vision of dharma and adharma is restored. That happens in Dwapara Yuga when Yudhishtira also known as Dharma Raja (he was born of the amsa of Dharma / Yama), comes to him in his cave. His vision of right and wrong is restored.

What a marvelous story and how it alerts us to be wary of powers, siddhis and other yogas obtained through various rituals and satkarmas like yagnas, without the discrimination and self control to use them properly. It is like a poor rider getting on to a great race horse or an elephant or a race car etc. It is better to strive for the grace of God / Guru for getting self realization and then all powers come on their own and one can use them without getting deluded.

Agastya threatens to take over Indra’s position

At one time, Agastya took up a Yagna for 12 years. Many sages, maharshis and ritviks came there and helped in the right conduct of the yagna. However, during that period, there were no rains and as we all know rain bearing clouds are governed by Indra. And gentle rains are happy omens, not dry spells nor deluge (as happened in Brindavan when the cowherds worshipped Govardhana giri ignoring Indra and Krishna had to lift the Govardhana Giri with His little finger and teach Indra a lesson).

Because of the dry spell, the seeds and the plants started drying up and food started getting into short supply. All the visitors were wondering how they will be fed by the Yajamani (in this case Sage Agastya himself). He asked them not to worry and told them that he would wait till next day evening and if it does not rain by then, he would go to heaven, take over the Indra post and give the earth good rain. The other sages asked him not to take that much trouble and were making alternative arrangements including prayers to Varuna (god of water). Indra came to know of sage Agastya’s ultimatum and came running along with deva guru Brihaspati and fell at Agastya’s feet and asked the sage to pardon him. He immediately arranged for rain and instantly sprouting seeds so that food is in abundance. Agastya also forgave Indra and sent him, Brihaspati and Varuna back with due curtsey.

Agastya subdues Vindhya Mountain

At one time, Vindhya Mountain started growing to equal or overtake Meru Mountain (supposed to be the highest Mountain and around whom Sun rotates). The growth of Vindhya caused a lot of problem since many areas of earth were in darkness. The sages and gods approached Lord Brahma to protect them from this danger. Lord Brahma asked them to approach Sage Agastya for help. The gods and sages visited Sage Agastya and his consort Lopamudra. Moved by their request, the sage agreed to go south and subdue Vindhya, though he was somewhat sorry to leave Varanasi and Viswanatha.

When Vindhya mountain saw Sage Agastya, he prostrated himself low and worshipped the sage with all due honors. Agastya praised him and asked him to stay like that so that he can cross over to south India easily. Vindhya agreed and sage Agastya stayed put in South India. Vindhya thus stayed bowed down with relatively low height.

Siva asks Agastya to move to South India and blesses him
When the marriage celebrations of Siva and Parvathi were being conducted on a grand scale in Kailas, all gods and rishis started going to that place. Because of the weight of so many great souls, the earth there started dipping. Siva saw what is going on and though He knew that it is not fair to ask any of one to leave, to protect the earth from disaster, He asked Agastya to counterbalance the weight by going to South. Agastya being a great devotee of Siva, could not say no and went to South India (and probably asked Vindhya to stay subdued till he returned). He reached a placed called “Kutralam” where there was a good temple for Vishnu. Agastya, being fully aware of the oneness of Siva and Vishnu, was going to the temple to worship Vishnu but the locals objected. Agastya became a Vaishnava in dress and went to the temple. When he entered the temple, the idol inside transformed itself miraculously into a Siva Linga. The locals realized the greatness of Agastya and the sage thus helped them see the unity of God. The temple became a place of worship to all Saivites.

During the course of his travels in south India, Agastya came to Bhimeswara (present day Daksharama), one of the 5 Aramas of Andhra Pradesh and worshipped Bhimeswara. Siva appeared as Kasi Visweswara to sage Agastya and assured him that He will be present in Bhimeswara, the Dakshina Kasi. Thus Siva assuaged the sorrow of the sage in leaving Kasi. He asked him to travel extensively in south India and help the devotees of Siva.
Sage Agastya worships Maha Lakshmi at Kolhapur

In the course of his travels in south India, Agastya came to Kolahalapura (present day Kolhapur) and worshipped Goddess Maha Lakshmi. She was pleased with his stotra and appeared before the sage. She asked him to go to Swamimalai and take Sri Kumara Swamy (Skanda, Subrahmanya, Muruga, Kartikeya) as his Guru. She assured the sage that in the next Dwapara Yuga in the 29th Maha Yuga, he will take the role of Veda Vyasa and restore the Vedas and he will go back to Kasi. She also gave a boon to Lopamudra and Agastya that whoever worships them or even remembers them together will get the grace of Goddess Maha Lakshmi.

Sage Agastya punishes Manimantha
Once upon a time, the gods planned to perform Satrayagam (a type of yaga) on the banks of a river called Kusavathi. They invited all the Dikpalakas (rulers of the eight directions). Kubera, who rules the north direction left along with his relatives and a close friend named Manimantha, in his Pushpak Vimana. The Vimana was going over the river Kusavathi when Manimantha spat out his spittle. The spittle fell on sage Agastya, who was at that time performing Surya Namaskars on the bank of the river. Kubera saw that and stopped the Vimana and came to the sage and fell at his feet and requested him to forgive his friend. Sage Agastya however was not mollified and cursed Manimantha, an Yaksha (demi-god) to meet his end at the hands of a human being. Manimantha also fell at the feet of the sage and requested him to forgive his mistake.

The sage was pacified but said to the Yaksha, “Manimantha! One has to reap the fruits of one’s actions, whether they are performed knowingly or unknowingly. Thus you have to meet your punishment. Bhima will come to the Yaksha Sarovar for collecting the Saugandhika Flower and at that time a fierce war will take place and you will meet your end at his hand. However, you will regain your life later when Kubera pacifies Bhima.”

Agastya forgives Indra
Once Indra was performing Teertha Yatras and in the course of his pilgrimage visited Brahma Saras (Lake) and that lake was full of beautiful lotus flowers. Indra and his group felt like plucking the flowers and they did that. At that time, the lake and the flowers were being safe-guarded by Agastya and he came to know of their transgression. He came immediately to the spot but before he cursed Indra, Indra prostrated to the sage and offered all the flowers that they plucked and he also clarified that he did that to attract the attention of the sage and get the benefit of some good upadesa. The sage was satisfied with Indra’s explanation and let him off after giving him some good advice.
How Tataka became a demon

Sukethu was a lord of Yakshas, demi-gods. He did not have children for a long time and so he did a great penance to Lord Brahma. Brahma was pleased with the penance of Sukethu and granted him a girl child and gave a boon that she will have the strength of a thousand elephants. That girl was named Tataka. She was given in marriage to Sunda, son of Jharjha. They got a son named Maricha, who became a demon because of a curse. Sunanda was killed by sage Agastya as per some puranic story but the same is not seen in Valmiki Ramayan. Out of anger and grief, Tataka destroyed the ashram of sage Agastya and he cursed her and Maricha to become demons. Another version of Ramayana (Kamba Ramayan) says that both Maricha and Subahu are Tataka’s sons. How Sunda came to be killed by Agastya is not clear (there is a story in Mahabharat that Brahma created a beautiful Apsara called Tilottama to create a dissent between the two brothers Sunda and Upasunda and they killed each other, thus fulfilling the boon that they got from Brahma because of their great tapas earlier).

Sage Agastya curses Urvasi etc.
Once Agastya went to Amaravati on the invitation of Indra. Indra arranged a dance by the celestial damsel Urvasi in honor of the sage. Urvasi was dancing and during the dance saw Jayantha, son of Indra. She was so taken by his good looks that she missed a step. Sage Agastya looked angrily at Urvasi, the cause of her distraction Jayantha. He cursed them for their lack of focus / absent mindedness.

It should be realized that lack of focus weakens our thoughts. This story should be taken as a warning and all of us should be as focused as possible.

Kindness to Dushpanya
Dushpanya was a prince of Pataliputra. He was cruel and used to kills children for no reason (sadistic?). The king tried his level best to stop but was unsuccessful. He expelled the prince from the kingdom. Even after he went to forest, the prince did not mend his ways and killed the child of sage Ugrasravas by drowning the child in a river. Ugrasravas came to know of that and cursed Dushpanya to meet his own end by drowning. Dushpanya lost his life and became a Pretha (ghost?). Suffering terribly from his own misdeeds and finding no relief, Dushpanya finally went to Agastya and prayed to him for help. The sage took pity on the Pretha of Dushpanya and got the sacred waters from Agni Teertha from the Gandha Madana hills. He asked one of his disciples Suteekshna to sprinkle the holy water on the pretha. Relieved of the pretha body, Dushpanya went to heaven.

Gandharva’s unsatiable hunger
Once upon a time, Agastya was going in a dense forest, when he came upon some Gandharvas singing and dancing there. While the sage was observing and enjoying this, one of the Gandharvas approached a dead body lying near by a lake and started eating it with ravenous hunger. After eating the same, the Gandharva got up and prostrated to the sage. The sage asked the gandharva reason for the strange behavior. The gandharva explained that he was the king of Vidarbha in his previous birth and was named as Swetha. After ruling the kingdom for thousands of years and after doing great penance towards the end in his Vanaprastha years, he went to heaven. But he was always hungry and could not get satiated. He went to Lord Brahma to find out the reason for this constant, ravenous hunger and was told by Lord Brahma that when he was a king, he did not give any charity to any one and hence was afflicted with this unending hunger. Lord Brahma asked him to go back to the place where he did his tapas and eat the dead body lying there, at which time he will be blessed with the appearance of sage Agastya. Lord Brahma gave a divine bracelet to the gandharva and asked him to present the same to sage Agastya and assured him that he will be freed from the curse of the unending hunger.
So saying, the gandharva asked sage Agastya to kindly accept the bracelet and release him from the past sins. By Agastya’s blessings, the gandharva was freed from the unending hunger and went back to heaven.

Agastya helps Indradyumna reach Vaikuntha
Once upon a time, a king called Indradyumna was ruling the southern part of India. He was a great devotee of Vishnu. He gave up the kingdom and went to the top of a hill and started doing tapas with a great resolve that he will not look at one, acknowledge any one or speak to any one, except Vishnu. He was standing on the top of the hill almost at its edge on one leg and was doing his tapas to win the grace of Narayana.

After many years, sage Agastya came that side. He stood before Indradyumna for a long time but the king did not open his eyes as per his earlier resolve. After waiting for a long time, Agastya got angry and cursed Indradyumna to become an elephant as he was lying inert without acknowledging the presence of Mahatmas.

Indradyumna fell at the feet of sage Agastya and asked him to forgive him and bless him keeping in view his earlier resolve. Sage Agastya explained to him that in his case, one more birth was written in his destiny and hence his curse was an indirect blessing. He was not really bothered about the king not bowing to him or not acknowledging his presence. He assured the king that in his next birth, he will be the king of elephants and in that birth, he will get the grace of Lord Vishnu and will see Him directly.
Thus Sage Agastya helped Indradyumna to get salvation and absorption into Lord Vishnu and that story has become very famous as “Gajendra Moksham” in Srimad Bhagavatham. Let us bow to Agastya Maharshi so that we too get liberated from the cycle of birth and death.

As already mentioned, Agastya did not go back to North India and it is said that he built an ashram for himself in Lanka after it was taken over by Vibhishana. He gave to Sri Rama and thus all of us Sri Aditya Kavacham, Hridayam and Mantra for our benefit. He also gave many other Puja rituals for other Gods also.

Sage Agastya has also given us Agastya Nadi (as part of Nadi Astrology). He is also considered to be the giver of Sidhha system of medicine (based on herbs).

See the following website for some additional information and for a sketch (artist’s imagination) of Sage Agastya and his illustrious wife Lopamudra:

It gives mantra to get the blessings of Sage Agastya and also gives rules for the circumambulation of Arunachala, the abode of Sri Siva.