Sage Parasara


Sai Ram. We will take up the story of Sage Parasara, the father of Sage Veda Vyasa, whom we remembered earlier. Let us remember the Dhyana Sloka of Sage Veda Vyasa again:

Vyasam, Vasishtha naptharam
Saktheh Poutram akalsham
Paraasaraatmajam vande
Shuka tatam taponidhim

Vysasaya Vishnu Rupaya
Vyasa Rupaya Vishnave
Namo Vai Brahma Nidhaye
Vaasishtaya Namo Namah

So, remembering this great lineage of sages is remembering Sri Hari. It increases our own Bhakti and Jnana. Let us prostrate to the great sages and take up the interesting story of sage Parasara.

Birth of Parasara

As mentioned above, sage Parasara was the grandson of Vasishtha, who was / is the Manasa Putra of Lord Brahma. Sage Vasishtha was / is considered to be a Brahmarshi, i.e. a sage with full Brahma Jnana, knowledge of the Self. As we noted in the story of sage Viswamitra, the gods asked him to go to sage Vasishtha and if he accepts Viswamitra as a Brahmarshi, they too would accept him.

So, sage Viswamitra used to visit Vasishtha and bow to the sage. He used to welcome Sage Viswamitra with the benediction, “Welcome Rajarshi!” and that used to infuriate sage Viswamitra (since as Vasishtha rightly pronounced, the seeds of rajo guna and thus the anger were still dormant in Viswamitra). He used to kill one of Vasishtha’s sons to spite him and to take revenge for the insult, but sage Vasishtha never retaliated (to a Brahma Jnani, there is no doer and there is no deed, ever thing happens and the Jnani remains a witness, unruffled by the sights).

Sakthi, one of the hundred sons of sage Vasishtha was thus killed in one of the visits of sage Viswamitra. Another version of the story is that he was killed by a demon, who was a king but forgot the sense of right and wrong under the spell of a curse from sage Viswamitra. In any case, it seems Viswamitra is linked to the passing away of Sakthi.

In the end, of course sage Viswamitra realized his error and gave up all thoughts of anger, violence and revenge etc. He just bowed to sage Vasishtha and was retracing his steps when Vasishtha called him back with the words, “Welcome, Brahmarshi!” thus attesting that Viswamitra indeed burnt off the seeds of anger, desires etc. in the fire of Brahma Jnana and has thus become a Brahmarshi. Now, let us return to the story of Parasara.

Sage Vasishtha brought up his grandson Parasara. When he grew up, he came to know of the death of his father Sakthi at the hands of a kshatriya and became very angry (thus indicating that mere birth in a caste does not make one a Brahmin). He started a yagna where he was offering rakshasas as the offering to the fire god! Because of the power of mantra, the one who was called could not resist and was coming and falling into the sacrificial fire! Something similar took place when Janamejaya, son of Parikshit took up a yagna where the sages were calling all snakes to be offered as sacrifice and Takshaka, the serpent king who was the cause of the death of king Parikshit went and coiled himself to the throne of his friend Indra, the king of Swarga. The sages conducting the yagna saw that with their divine sight and called upon takshaka, the throne and Indra to come and offer themselves into the sacrificial fire! That is the power of the mantra. The calamity was of course saved and Indra and Takshaka escaped. Now let us get back to the story of sage Parasara.

Parasara gets Brahma Jnana

When sage Vasishtha saw that his grandson was performing an yagna that was not in consonance of a person in the Brahmanic path (Brahma Jnana), he came to the place where the yagna was being conducted and dissuaded him and preached him Brahma Jnana. A Brahma Jnani sees Unity behind all the diversity and is not affected by Maya, illusion. Parasara learnt Brahma Vidya from Vasishtha and Pulastya (I think He was related from Parasara’s maternal side – to be confirmed).

Matsyagandhi becomes Yojanagandhi
Parasara was travelling and in the course of his travels came to the river Ganges and stayed the night at the place of a fisherman king / chieftain named Dasharaja. Satyavati was his young daughter (legend has it that she was found in the belly of a fish and thus carried smell of the fish in her body). She was asked to ferry the boat and thus was asked to help the sage cross the river Ganga. While she was rowing the boat the sage asked from where the fishy smell was coming and Satyavathi confessed that it was indeed coming from her body. He gave her a title of Matsyagandhi and then took pity on her and with his yogic powers, gave her a boon that a beautiful perfume would emanate from her body and would spread far and wide. Thus Matsyagandhi became Yojanagandhi. A yojana is traditionally equal to 8 miles (12.8 km).

Parasara begets Veda Vyasa

As the ferry was slowly coursing its way across Ganga, the beautiful perfume emanating from Satyavati captivated the sage Parasara. The sage saw with his divine powers that the whole thing is happening for a noble cause. He then asked Satyavati to fulfill his sexual desire! The young girl was surprised and protested that she is a virgin, it was broad daylight and she is not free but is dependent on her father. (One version of the story about how Matsyagandhi became a Yojanagandhi has it that she tried to put him off by saying that she is smelling, unclean etc. in addition to the other factors already mentioned and that the sage then gave her the boon of the perfume as a part of the total package!) The sage explained to her that it is the divine will that such a desire should arise in a sage like him and that the time was correct for the birth of a great soul (Lord Vishnu Himself would incarnate through her), gave her the boon of continued virginity, continued protection and affection of her father and created a thick fog that reduced the visibility to zero! It so happened that they were near a riverine island and through their union, Veda Vyasa was born instantly (not after 9 months as usual), grew up to be an adult immediately and took leave of his parents and left for tapas with an assurance to his mother that whenever she needs his help, she should just remember him and he would manifest himself before her!

Because he was born on an island, he came to be known as Dwaipayana (Dweepa meaning island), Krishna because he was dark complexioned (being an incarnation of Vishnu, who is also Megha Syama), Paaraasara (son of Paraasara), and Veda Vyasa because he took birth to divide the Vedas and make them accessible to the humans in the coming ages. Every Mahayuga (a Mahayuga is the period consisting of a Krita Yuga, Treta Yuga, Dwapara Yuga and Kali Yuga), a Vyasa would be born to restore the Vedas. It is interesting to note that Vyasa is a post like Indra and sage Parasara was the Vyasa of the 26th Mahayuga. Krishna Dwaipayana is the Veda Vyasa of the 28th Mahayuga that is running now. Aswatthama, the son of Dronacharya will be the Veda Vyasa of the next Mahayuga.
Satyavati went back to her father and later married king Santanu, who had one son Devavratha from Goddess Ganga earlier. Devavratha became known as Bhishma because of a great vow that he took to remain a bachelor throughout his life so that the children of Satyavathi will become eligible to rule the kingdom after Santanu.

Satyavati enlists the help of Vyasa in continuing the lineage when her daughters-in-law get widowed without any children. Dhritarashtra, Pandu and Vidura are thus born. That is another story.

I give below some other incidents pertaining to sage Parasar collected from various sources on the internet.

Sage Parasara is a revered figure in Indian astrology. He wrote and compiled many Vedic scriptures; notable among them are Parasara Samhita and the Brihat Parasara Hora Sastra, which is the fundamental book of Vedic Astrology.

Sage Parasara was a great devotee of Lord Shiva. He was the spiritual master of King Janaka, the father of Sita. His connection with Siva and Siva Ganas is seen in the story below:

Krouncha was a Gandharva, During the meeting in Indrasabha, he unknowningly hit Yamadeo with his leg. Yamadeo was furious and cursed Krouncha “You will get the body of Mushak (Mouse)”. The same Gandharva is Mushak. He started roaming in the Ashrama of Parashar Rishi, and became a nuisance by eating the grains there. Parashar Rishi prayed to Ganesha, who caught hold of the mouse. The mouse surrendered and prayed for help. Ganesha asked Mushak to ask for a blessing. Originally a Gandharva, this Mushak was rude, and in turn asked Lord Ganesh to ask him for blessing! Ganesha wisely ordered him to become his vehicle. Since then, he became Ganesha’s vehicle. We always see the mouse sitting near the feet of Lord Ganesh in any picture or statue. Chaturthi is generally observed as a day of worship of Ganapati. It is said that no one should kill mouse on this day.

Parasara was known as the "limping sage". He had his leg wounded during the attack of his ashram. When a rishi dies he merges back into an element or an archeype, Sage Jaimini was trampled by wild elephants, Sage Gautama was eaten by Cannibals, etc. When Sage Parasara 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.

The birth place of sage Parasara is supposed at be at Panhala fort in Kolhapur district of Maharashtra. A cave supposed to be of Parashar Muni is present at the fort.

Parashar Lake : This lake is situated in a cup like valley. A temple of great scenic beauty is also here. With deep blue waters, this beautiful lake is held sacred to the sage Prashar (rishi). A three-tiered Pagoda-like temple dedicated to the sage (Siva?) lies by the lake - and he is regarded to have meditated here. No other temple in the Western Himalayas can rival the grandeur of the settings of Parashar A fair is held here in the in the month of June every year, where people gather from all neighboring villages. This lake is fed by small mountain streams. A sacred lake accompanied by a solitary temple of Lord Shiva. It was the hermitage of the ancient sage, Parasar. Absolutely a virgin lake set in a beautiful high vale is rarely visited by trekkers (except the locals for religious purposes) and its tranquil surroundings presents a tenderly feeling of absolute peace in soul alike the tryst of an unnamed butterfly with an untouched wild mountain lily...