Gautama Rishi

BY: SUN STAFF - 10.10 2019

Gautama Rishi
Company School, Patna, 19th c.
British Museum Collection

A study of the famous Rishis and Munis of Vedic literature.

Gautama Maharishi is another of the Saptarishis, or Seven Great Sages of the current (seventh) Manvantara. Gautama Rishi is known as the discoverer of Mantras, or mantra-drashtaa. In the Rg Veda there are several suktas or hymns attributed to Gautama Maharishi, and the hymn 'Bhadra' in the Sama Veda is also ascribed to him. The 4th book of Rg Veda is that of the Vamadeva Gautama family.

Gautama was the son of Rahugana, who belonged to the line of Angira Rishi. The Sage Bharadvaja also came from Angiras' line. The Devi Bhagavatam states that the River Godavari is so named because of its association with Gautama. Gautama had two sons named Vamadeva and Nodhas, and both are said to be mantra-drashtaa, like their father.

Ahilyah, Wife of Gautama Rishi
Company School, Patna, 19th c.
British Museum Collection

Gautama Rishi's wife Ahalya (Ahilyah) was herself the 'mind-born daughter' (manasa putri) of Lord Brahma, like the great Rishis. The Puranas narrate the story of how Gautama won the hand of Ahalya by circumambulating the divine cow, khamendhunu, in order to fulfill the stipulation of Brahma that whoever first goes around the whole Earth will win the hand of Ahalya.

The purohita (chief priest) of King Janaka of Mithila, Shatananda, was the son of Gautama and Ahalya.

The Shanti Parva of the Mahabharata describes a sixty-year long period of penance undertaken by Gautama. The Narada Purana describes a 12-year famine during which Gautama fed all the Rishis and saved them.

According to some versions of the Ramayana, Rishi Gautama once went to take bath in the Ganges early in the morning. The king of the devas, Indra, became fascinated with Gautama's wife, Ahalya. Indra came in the form of Gautama and took advantage of Ahalya. However as he was escaping, he was caught by the Rishi, who was returning to the ashrama after his bath. Gautama cursed Ahalya and Indra both for this act. Ahalya was transformed to stone, while Indra was cursed to take one thousand rebirths (sahasrayoni).

Later on, taking pity on them both, Gautama converted these curses to boons. Indra's various cycles of births (yonis) were reduced to one, and he came to be known as Sahasraaksha. Gautama granted his wife the boon that she would be brought back to human form by the touch of the feet of Lord Rama. She would then be reunited with him.

Gautama is relieved to find that his son Chirakarin has not carried out his impulsive order to execute Ahalya
From Razmanama Manuscript, Mughal, c. 1599
Brooklyn Museum Collection

 

Rishi Gautama is the author of the earliest Dharma-sutra, known as Gautama Dharma sutra, which is comprised of 28 chapters having 1,000 aphorisms. It is said to addresses all aspects of sanatana-dharma, including the rules for varnasrama, the forty samskaras, kingly duties, the punishments for various offences, obsequies for the dead, rules for taking prasada, the dharmas of women, the rules for praayaschitta, and the rules for succession of property. In this sense Gautama's Dharma Shastra is sometimes described as the oldest lawbook in the world.

 

REFERENCES:

Inhabitants of the Worlds; Mandala IV – The book of the Vamadevas; Introduction to Gautama, Georg Bühler (1879); Wikipedia