For the nail-chewing skeptics this chapter will be an anathema but for the credos it will be heady euphoria. Its exclusion would have hurt the susceptibilities of the vintage class of Mohyals who have been fed on the inebriating elixir, over the ages. Even a Western rationalist like Russell Stracey could not overlook its overwhelming need, while writing his treatise on the Mohyals.
In the Mohyal pantheon of gods, every caste has its patriarch-saint and then there is also a second line of the divine forefathers. It is the patri arch-saint or the progenitor who bestows the Gotra on the clan, as a mark of its identity. These holy forefathers, although, steeped in mythology, were not fictitious figures but real historical characters like the ancient Hebrew Patriarchs.
The chief deities in the 'dev-mala' of the seven castes of the Mohyals are described below alongwith the gotra of each respective caste
Parashara, the great exponent of astronomy and the author of Parashara Smriti and some hymns of Rigveda, was the son of Shakti Rishi and mother Adrshyanti. He was grandson of sage Vasishtha. After Shakti was devouvered by the rakshasa Kanmashapada, he was brought up by his grandfather, hence the name Parashara, i.e. dependent on another person. Rishi Vyasa, considered to be the literary incarnation of God, was son of Parashara from a fisher-woman named Kali or Matsya-gandha. His real name was Krishna because he was born in an island called Krishnadvaipayana. It was after he had classified the four Vedas that he was given the name of Vyasa or Vedavyasa. After arranging the Vedas, he wrote the Mahabharata (1 lakh slokas) at the Badarika Ashram. Later, under the instructions of his spiritual guru, Narada, he completed the Shrimad Bhagvatam on the banks of the river Sarasvati. He was also the author of Vedanta Sutras, the Brahm Sutras and 18 Puranas. When he was writing the Mahabharata, he could not find a suitable script and requested Ganesha to help him. The latter consented on the condition that Vyasa will write the whole epic non-stop, in one session. Ganesha used his broken tusk as pen to write it. It was during his stay at the Badarika Ashram that Vyasa is believed to have begotten children from Amba and Ambalika, the widows of Vichitravirya, son of Santanu by Satyavati. Guru Poornima is celebrated in honour of Vedavyasa. His birth day falls on the full-moon day in the month of Ashada.
On the way to Badarika Ashram, the Vyasa cave is still there where the sage dictated the epic to Ganesha and also edited the Vedas.
According to mythology, the sage Vedavyasa when he was dictating the Mahabharata to Lord Ganesha, was disturbed by the roaring of the Sarasvati. He recited a mantra and threw a fistful of ashes into the river and it promptly vanished underground.
Here lived Vyasa:
About 2 km. off the main road, connecting Rourkela and Sambalpur (in Orissa), is Vedavyasa. The sylvan charm of the place is quite breathtaking and the ashram (a ruined cave) of Vyasadeva is on a small hillock besides the river Brahamani. Every morning the saint took bath in the waters of the Sarasvati, offering paeans to Lord Vishnu. Legend has it that Parashara lived near this place in a village that was known as 'Parashamunda'. Whenever he wanted to cross the river, a boatman used to ferry him across. Once when the boatman was not there, his daughter 'Matsyagandha' offered to ferry the saint across the river. The saint fell in love with the girl. Vyasadeva was their child. (The Hindu dated 17.9.95)
Valmiki (Adi Kavi) c-400 BC
The celebrated author of the Ramayana is considered by tradition as an ancestor of the Balis, despite the pique of many Mohyals who do not savour the thought of calling a person who was once a highway bandit, as their divine forefather. Now, there is a new revelation which calls for having a second look at our family chart: According to Dr. P.L. Bhargava, formerly Professor of Sanskrit in the University of Rajasthan and Professor of Religion in McMaster University, Ontario, Canada; Valmiki was a descendant of the Vedic Rishi Bhrigu, since all the ancient works which mention him viz., the Ramayana itself, the Mahabharata, the Matsya Purana and the Vishnu Purana, are unanimous in declaring him as a scion of the Bhrigu family. The ancient poet Ashvaghosha who lived in the first century AD, likewise calls him a descendant of Chyvana, son of Bhrigu. This clearly establishes Valmiki as a patriarch not of Balis but of the Chhibber clan. The great bard gathered all the ballads of Rama into one poem. The Ramayana comprises seven books and has 24,000 cantos (48,000 lines) --- thrice the number in the Iliad of Homer c-700 BC (15,693 lines) --- and 100 episodes.
There was no Rishi who bore the name of Kosalya. In fact, Kosalya was the name of a region (the modern Oudh) and the people living there were known as Kosalyas or Koshals. It was a prosperous kingdom on the banks of river Sarayu and Ayodhya was its capital. The city was built by Manu Vaivasvata and in the noon of its heyday, it was 12 yojans (one yojana equal to nine miles) long and 3 yojans broad. This was the land where the epic of the Ramayana was enacted. Its characters have been referred as Kosala Aryans by Dr. Hiralal, the renowned authority on the aborigines of Central India. Kosalya was ruled by kings who traced their descent from Ikshavaku whose descendants are mentioned in the Vedas.
The Kosala king Prasenajit was contemporary of Buddha. In the early Aryan Brahmana period, Kosala was one of the four most powerful kingdoms; the other three being Avanti (capital Ujjain), Vatsa (capital Kausambhi, near Allahabad) and Magadha (embracing Patna and Gaya). The cities of Savatthi and Sarvasti have also figured as capitals of Kosala.
Kosalya was the name of: the ruler Hiranya Nabha, and of the land as well as the people. There was also a dialect called Kosal or Avadhi which has produced one of the greatest poets, Tulsidas.
The patron-saint of the Kosalyas was Agastya, a Gotrakara Rishi. In Matsya Purana, chapter 202, Kosalya is mentioned as a Gotra among the Agastyas. Agastya Rishi was born in Badami (Karnataka); he took the Vedic religion beyond the Vindhyas and Aryanised the Dravidians.
Bhrigu Rishi (author of Manava-Dharma-Shastra) is considered as the holy father of all Brahmins. He is believed to have been born from the skin of Brahma. The Puranas give the following account of his esoteric rebirth: Lord Brahma performed the sacramental yajna in the beginning of the world which led to the birth of his eight Manas Putras. Bhrigu was the first to emerge from the sacred fire, viz. Agni, hence given the name of Bhrigu. Then Shiva appeared in the incarnation of Varuna and adopted Bhrigu as his son, that is why he is also referred as Bhrigu Varuni. He had two wives, named Divya and Puloma, who were the daughters of Hrinyakashyap, an asura. Puloma gave birth to seven rishis, including Ashnas and Chyvan who founded the Bhargava dynasty. Chyvan had two sons, Aapatvan and Dadhichi, from his wife Sukanya. The line of great rishis: Richika, Jamadagni and Parashurama, descended from Aapatvan. The Bhargavas were the Raj Gurus of the Kshatriya rulers of Gujarat. For certain reasons their relations became strained and the Bhargavas migrated to the north and settled down in Kanya Kubaja (present Kanauj). The bad blood between the two people lasted for many generations and a climax was reached during the time of Parashurama' who inflicted 21 wars on the Kshatriyas of Gujarat, uprooted their power, and established his own supremacy over the entire territory between the Ganga and the Narmada. His chief foe was Karttaviryarjuna. Parashurama held a yajna on the river Saraswati to commemorate his victory and to reaffirm his credentials. He offered the entire land conquered by him as Dakshina to Kashyap Rishi who was the master of the ceremonies. Kashyap Rishi, in his turn, distributed the land to the Brahmins. Parashurama once confronted Sri Rama also, but was humbled by him.
Parashurama was the grandson of Rishi Vishwamitra, the author of the Gayatri Mantra, who was the maternal uncle of Jamadagni. He had three brothers, the eldest one being Dev Datt. Some scholars have averred that Dev Datt and not Dronacharya was the prime ancestor of the Datt family.
The Gayatri mantra is a hymn from the Rigveda dedicated to the solar god Savitru. It is also known as the Guru Mantra, Maha Mantra and Savitri Mantra. It is regarded as the most holy verse in Hindu scriptures. It may be recorded that Vishwamitra who composed the classic Gayatri mantra was born a Kshatri and by virtue of his piety and austerities admitted to the Brahmin order.
Vishwamitra was the son of Gadhi, a veteran of the Bharata family which figured in the Battle of the Ten Kings. Once, the Bhrigu patriarch Richik paid a visit to Gadhi and presented to him 1,000 shiny black horses. In response, the pleased Gadhi married his daughter Sarasvati (sister of Vishwamitra) with Richik. From this wedlock the fiery Jamadagni was born. The Bhanja and Mama, Jamadagni and Vishwamitra, were nearly of the same age and brought up together. Jamadagni married Renuka, the daughter of King Ikshavaku. They begot four sons and the youngest was Parashurama. Jamadagni was a valcano of temper and when he came to know about the promiscuity of his wife Renuka with Raja Chitrarth, he asked his sons to kill her. While the elder ones refused to commit the heinous act, Parashurama who was made in the same burning mould as his father, felt no compunction in killing his mother. The name of Renuka, however, was immortalised as Renuka Yellamma, the goddess of the Devdasi cult. There is a temple in her honour at Soundatti near Belgaum in Karnataka.
The mighty Parashurama fought 21 battles with the Kshatriyas, to avenge the murder of his father Jamadagni; filled five lakes of Samauta with their blood and totally annihilated their race. Later, in repentance, he flung his battle axe into the sea and from that sprang the lands of Konkan and Kerala.
Parashurama converted the entire country into Arya Vrat and established many religious centres including the famous Sabrimala near Kottayam in Kerala.
The Bhrigus were most powerful during the Vedic period. They ruled over the northern country from Sindhu to Narmada. (N.B: Bhrigukachha, the modern Broach is named after the Bhrigu clan of Parashurama). The Mahabharata is replete with their glorious deeds. They produced a galaxy of sages and thinkers like Shukracharya, Ashnas, Chyvan, Dadhichi, Richika, Jamadagni, Martandya, Devyani, Sukanya and Satyavati. Parashurama was the Dhruv Star amongst them. He taught warfare to Bhim, Baldev and Karan. His Dhanush even the mighty Ravana could not handle and it was only Sri Rama who was able to smash it. Mythology has it that once he had a fracas with Lord Ganesha and in the encounter knocked off his one tusk so that the elephant god is depicted with a single tusk.
Parashurama was not accorded the title of a Rishi, he was elevated to the rank of god and proclaimed as an incarnation like Rama and Krishna. He came to be known as Bhagwan and the blessed sixth avatara of Vishnu. 'Valmiki has chanted his paeans.
The era of Rigveda came to an end with Jamadagni and the age of powerful Brahmins commenced with Parashurama.
The astrological work 'Bhrigu Samahita' was com-posed by a descendant of Bhrigu. The Samahita was written on the lake still known as the Bhrigu lake situated at an altitude of 14,000 ft., surrounded by snow clad mountains, in Himachal Pradesh beyond Manali. According to a report published in India Today, July 31,1993, the only copy of the legendary Bhrigu Samahita is in possession of the Bhrigu family of Hoshiarpur and the tome weighs 1.6 tonnes. Bhriguji of Hoshiarpur has a large following amongst ministers, industrialists and cinema celebrities and is regarded as an incarnation of Vishnu.
The name Bharadvaj can be analysed as 'Bhar - Dvayam-Imam' meaning-who will bring up the child-as there was a discussion on this point between his mother and the father, Birhaspati Rishi. He was finally sired by the great emperor, Bharat, a Kshatriya. That is why the Bharadvaja gotra is shared both by Brahmins as well as the Kshatriyas. Bharadvaj became a gotra name and the Bharadvaja of Rama's time was a late descendant of the first Bharadvaja. He was a disciple of the Valmiki Rishi who had his hermitage at Chitrakoot. Rama during last days of his exile had stayed in his ashram, before returning to Ayodhya.
India is named Bharat after Bharata, the son of Shakuntala, Vishwamitra's daughter.
Dronacharya, son of a later day Bharadvaja, was Commander-in-Chief of the Kauravas. His son Ashvathama and grandson Gaj Bhavan are equally adored by the Datts as their venerable ancestors. After the assassination of Dronacharya at the hands of Dhrisht Dyumna and the coronation of Yudhishtra as the king of Hastinapur, Ashvathama did not like to live in the kingdom of the erstwhile foes of his father, and went on exile out of India. Enroute to Kashmir and Kabul, he reached as far as Arabia. He was accompanied by six mates of his school days in the Gurukul of his father, named: Vidyadhar, Brahmo, Krishno, Hariram, Drona and Mohan. Some Mohyal historians have postulated that these personages along with Ashvathama were the real founding fathers of the seven clans of the Mohyals.
Vasishtha, a Manas Putra of Brahma, was thrice born. In the first birth, he was son-in-law of Kashyap Rishi, being married to his daughter Arundhati. He too perished in the Daksha-yaga and was born again from the Yajna-kund of the Brahma. He was born from a pot, for the third time, as oar of Mitra Varuna. He was the family priest of Suryavanshis and purohit to the Raghus or Raghavas from whom Sri Rama descended. He clashed with Vishvamitra over the fabled Kamadhenu cow and defeated him. He was the author of Vasishtha Smriti, Vasishtha Puran and other granthas.
Kripacharya, son of Gautam Rishi and brother-in-law of Dronacharya, was also in the line of the mythical ancestors of the Laus.
Kashyap Rishi, son of Marichi and grandson of Brahma, was one of the Prajapatis. He is a constellation in the Great Bear (Ursa Major) or Sapta-rishi. When Parasurama performed his victory-yajna on the banks of river Sarasvati which in those days flowed near Kurukshetra, Kashyapa acted as the priest. He is believed to have undergone severe penance on the Arjuna mountain and a pleased Lord Shiva diverted the Ganga to that spot. He had 13 wives amongst whom Aditi and Diti were most famous. His daughter Arundhati was married to the sage Vasishtha. Kashyap was a profound scholar of the Rigveda. The three gotras: Kashyap, Vats and Vasishtha, are his manifestations. He was the founder of the Kashmir region. He drained the Satisar lake, colonised the valley and gave his name to the land and its people.
Atri Rishi and his three-faced son Dattatreya are also deemed as the divine forefathers of the Mohan caste. Atri had his ashram at Chitrakoot and the name of his wife was Anusuya.
There is a legend in the Bhagavad Purana that during Amrit Manthan, the churning of the ocean by the demigods and the demons, fourteen ratanas were ferreted out and the last one to emerge was Dhanvantari, carrying Amrita, the elixir. According to the Ramayana, it was after continuous churning of 1,000 years that Dhanvantari arose with a kamandala and a danda. According to Harivamsha, he ascended from the sea and appeared with folded hands before Vishnu and Vishnu called him Abja. Dhanvantari prayed to Vishnu that as he was his son, he should be allotted a share in the bounty of the yajna. Vishnu told him that since he appeared after the gods, he could not claim the divine status, but agreed to bless him with another birth in the Dvapara-yuga and then he will have the ashtasiddhis of Isvara and be the author of the Ayurveda. Accordingly, he was born as the son of Dirghatapas (also known as Dhanva), the king of Kashi. Dhanva had no issue for a long time, he propitiated Abja and the latter was born to him as Dhanvantari. He was a genius of medicines, founded the Ayurveda and classified it into eight parts.
During Amrit Manthan, the epic churning, the gods held on to the tail of the snake-god `Vasukr while demons (asuras) clung on to the upper part. The Mandar Hill (in Bihar, 40 miles from the silk town of Bhagalpur) served as the churning rod with the snake god wound around it. Fourteen precious things (Ratanas) obtained from the ocean included, besides Amrita, the fabled Kamadhenu cow and Apsaras viz., Menaka, Rambha, Tilottama, Urvishi and goddess Lakshmi. When demons snatched the pot from Dhanvantari, Vishnu appeared in the form of Mohini, the enchantress. The demons were in-ebriated and the pot was retrieved and its contents distributed amongst the gods only. That is why Dhanvantari is depicted holding the pot of ambrosia and seated in front of Vishnu's insignia.
When Parikshit, the grandson of Arjuna, was cursed to die within 7 days by snake-bite (the curse was uttered by Shringi because Parikshit had thrown a dead snake around the neck of his sage father Shamika, when he was in deep meditation and Takshaka, the Shiva's snake was chosen to be the killer as a worm in a fruit). A healer was sum-moned to cure him. This healer, according to some was Dhanvantari, according to others, Kashyapa. That is why the two are identified as one and the same.
Actually, Dhanvantari gotra did not originate from any Brahm-rishi but was used as surname by the Brahmins who practised Ayurveda, over the ages. Later on, the followers of the Kashyap gotra also started displaying this with their names.
The birthday of Dhanvantari is observed as Dhan-Teras (the 13th day of Ashad, Krishna Paksh) by the devout Hindus, two days before Diwali. Dhanvantari is also believed to be the founder of the famous Sabarimala shrine near Kottayam in Kerala.
Eponymous of saints: Bharadvaj means lark, Kashyap is derived from Kachhap (tortoise) and Agastya originates from agasti flower.