Agastya and Vasiṣṭha were two sons of Varuṇa and Mitra. Upon seeing the beauty of Urvaśī, Mitra and Varuṇa discharged semen, which they kept in an earthen pot. From that pot, Agastya and Vasiṣṭha appeared.
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Pulastya begot in his wife, Havirbhū, one son of the name Agastya, who in his next birth became Dahrāgni. Besides him, Pulastya begot another very great and saintly son, whose name was Viśravā.
The great sage named Agastya married the first-born daughter of Malayadhvaja, the avowed devotee of Lord Kṛṣṇa. From her one son was born, whose name was Dṛḍhacyuta, and from him another son was born, whose name was Idhmavāha.
The name Agastya Muni is very significant. Agastya Muni represents the mind. The word agastya indicates that the senses do not act independently, and the word muni means "mind." The mind is the center of all the senses, and thus the senses cannot work independent of the mind. When the mind takes to the cult of bhakti, it engages in devotional service. The cult of bhakti (bhakti-latā) is the first daughter of Malayadhvaja, and as previously described, her eyes are always upon Kṛṣṇa (asitekṣaṇām). One cannot render bhakti to any demigod. Bhakti can be rendered only to Viṣṇu (śravaṇaṁ kīrtanaṁ viṣṇoḥ (SB 7.5.23)). Thinking the Absolute Truth to be without form, the Māyāvādīs say that the word bhakti can apply to any form of worship. If this were the case, a devotee could imagine any demigod or any godly form and worship it. This, however, is not the real fact. The real fact is that bhakti can be applied only to Lord Viṣṇu and His expansions. Therefore bhakti-latā is dṛḍha-vrata, the great vow, for when the mind is completely engaged in devotional service, the mind does not fall down. If one tries to advance by other means—by karma-yoga or jñāna-yoga—one will fall down, but if one is fixed in bhakti, he never falls down.
Thus from bhakti-latā the son Dṛḍhacyuta is born, and from Dṛḍhacyuta the next son, Idhmavāha, is born. The word idhma-vāha refers to one who carries wood for burning in a sacrifice when approaching a spiritual master. The point is that bhakti-latā, the cult of devotion, fixes one in his spiritual position. One so fixed never comes down, and he begets children who are strict followers of the śāstric injunctions. As said in the Vedas:
- tad-vijñānārthaṁ sa gurum evābhigacchet
- samit-pāṇiḥ śrotriyaṁ brahma-niṣṭham
- (MU 1.2.12)
In the line of devotional service, those who are initiated are strict followers of the Vedic scriptural injunctions.
When the great sage Agastya, the son of Kumbha, was residing in the Malaya Hills and worshiping the Supreme Personality of Godhead, I approached him, and he explained to me this confidential history.
By the semen of Varuṇa, the great mystic Vālmīki took birth from an anthill. Bhṛgu and Vālmīki were specific sons of Varuṇa, whereas Agastya and Vasiṣṭha Ṛṣis were the common sons of Varuṇa and Mitra, the tenth son of Aditi.
Upon seeing Urvaśī, the celestial society girl, both Mitra and Varuṇa discharged semen, which they preserved in an earthen pot. The two sons Agastya and Vasiṣṭha later appeared from that pot, and they are therefore the common sons of Mitra and Varuṇa. Mitra begot three sons in the womb of his wife, whose name was Revatī. Their names were Utsarga, Ariṣṭa and Pippala.
Modern science is trying to generate living entities in test tubes by processing semen, but even long, long ago it was possible for semen kept in a pot to develop into a child.
The wife of Hlāda was named Dhamani. She gave birth to two sons, named Vātāpi and Ilvala. When Agastya Muni became Ilvala's guest, Ilvala served him a feast by cooking Vātāpi, who was in the shape of a ram.
When Gajendra, by the mercy of the Lord, became one of the Lord's associates in Vaikuṇṭha, he got four hands. This achievement is called sārūpya-mukti, or the liberation of receiving a spiritual body exactly like that of Nārāyaṇa. Gajendra, in his previous birth, had been a great devotee of Lord Viṣṇu. His name was Indradyumna, and he was the King of the Tāmila country. Following the Vedic principles, this King retired from family life and constructed a small cottage in the Malayācala Hills, where he always worshiped the Supreme Personality of Godhead in silence. Agastya Ṛṣi, along with many disciples, once approached King Indradyumna's āśrama, but because the King was meditating on the Supreme Personality of Godhead, he could not receive Agastya Ṛṣi properly. Thus the ṛṣi became very angry and cursed the King to become a dull elephant. In accordance with this curse, the King was born as an elephant, and he forgot all about his previous activities in devotional service. Nonetheless, in his birth as an elephant, when he was dangerously attacked by the crocodile, he remembered his past life in devotional service and remembered a prayer he had learned in that life. Because of this prayer, he again received the mercy of the Lord. Thus he was immediately delivered, and he became one of the Lord's four-handed associates.
Śrī Śukadeva Gosvāmī said: When the Lord delivered Gajendra, King of the elephants, all the demigods, sages and Gandharvas, headed by Brahmā and Śiva, praised this activity of the Supreme Personality of Godhead and showered flowers upon both the Lord and Gajendra.
It is evident from this chapter that great sages like Devala Ṛṣi, Nārada Muni and Agastya Muni will sometimes curse someone. The curse of such a personality, however, is in fact a benediction. Both the crocodile, who had been a Gandharva in his previous life, and Gajendra, who had been a king named Indradyumna, were cursed, but both of them benefited. Indradyumna, in his birth as an elephant, attained salvation and became a personal associate of the Lord in Vaikuṇṭha, and the crocodile regained his status as a Gandharva. We find evidence in many places that the curse of a great saint or devotee is not a curse but a benediction.
The story of how the Gandharva had become a crocodile will be described later. The curse by which the Gandharva took this position was actually a blessing, not a curse. One should not be displeased when a saintly person curses someone, for his curse, indirectly, is a blessing. The Gandharva had the mentality of an inhabitant of the celestial planetary system, and for him to become an associate of the Supreme Lord would have taken millions of long years. However, because he was cursed by Devala Ṛṣi, he became a crocodile and in only one life was fortunate enough to see the Supreme Personality of Godhead face to face and be promoted to the spiritual world to become one of the Lord's associates. Similarly, Gajendra was also delivered by the Supreme Personality of Godhead when he was freed from the curse of Agastya Muni.
While Indradyumna Mahārāja was engaged in ecstatic meditation, worshiping the Supreme Personality of Godhead, the great sage Agastya Muni arrived there, surrounded by his disciples. When the Muni saw that Mahārāja Indradyumna, who was sitting in a secluded place, remained silent and did not follow the etiquette of offering him a reception, he was very angry.
Agastya Muni then spoke this curse against the King: This King Indradyumna is not at all gentle. Being low and uneducated, he has insulted a brāhmaṇa. May he therefore enter the region of darkness and receive the dull, dumb body of an elephant.
An elephant is very strong, it has a very big body, and it can work very hard and eat a large quantity of food, but its intelligence is not at all commensurate with its size and strength. Thus in spite of so much bodily strength, the elephant works as a menial servant for a human being. Agastya Muni thought it wise to curse the King to become an elephant because the powerful King did not receive Agastya Muni as one is obliged to receive a brāhmaṇa. Yet although Agastya Muni cursed Mahārāja Indradyumna to become an elephant, the curse was indirectly a benediction, for by undergoing one life as an elephant, Indradyumna Mahārāja ended the reactions for all the sins of his previous life. Immediately after the expiry of the elephant's life, he was promoted to Vaikuṇṭhaloka to become a personal associate of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Nārāyaṇa, in a body exactly like that of the Lord. This is called sārūpya-mukti.
Śukadeva Gosvāmī continued: My dear King, after Agastya Muni had thus cursed King Indradyumna, the Muni left that place along with his disciples. Since the King was a devotee, he accepted Agastya Muni's curse as welcome because it was the desire of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Therefore, although in his next life he got the body of an elephant, because of devotional service he remembered how to worship and offer prayers to the Lord.
This is the unique position of a devotee of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Although the King was cursed, he welcomed the curse because a devotee is always aware that nothing can happen without the desire of the Supreme Lord. Although the King was not at fault, Agastya Muni cursed him, and when this happened the King considered it to be due to his past misdeeds. Tat te 'nukampāṁ susamīkṣamāṇaḥ (SB 10.14.8). This is a practical example of how a devotee thinks. He regards any reverses in life as blessings of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Therefore, instead of being agitated by such reverses, he continues his activities of devotional service, and Kṛṣṇa takes care of him and enables him to be promoted to the spiritual world, back to Godhead. If a devotee has to suffer the reactions of his past misdeeds, the Supreme Lord arranges for him to be given only a token of these reactions, and very soon he is freed from all the reactions of material contamination. One should therefore adhere to devotional service, and the Lord Himself will very soon see to one's promotion to the spiritual world. A devotee should not be disturbed by unfortunate circumstances, but must continue his regular program, depending on the Lord for everything. The word upadhārayan, "considering," is very significant in this verse. This word indicates that a devotee knows what is what; he understands what is happening in material, conditional life.
Because Agastya Muni cursed Svāyambhuva Manu, during the time of Svāyambhuva Manu a devastation took place. This devastation is mentioned in the Matsya Purāṇa. During the time of Cākṣuṣa Manu, by the supreme will of the Lord, there was suddenly another pralaya, or devastation. This is mentioned by Mārkaṇḍeya Ṛṣi in the Viṣṇu-dharmottara. At the end of Manu's time there is not necessarily a devastation, but at the end of the Cākṣuṣa-manvantara, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, by His illusory energy, wanted to show Satyavrata the effects of devastation.
Because Nahuṣa, the father of Yayāti, molested Indra's wife, Śacī, who then complained to Agastya and other brāhmaṇas, these saintly brāhmaṇas cursed Nahuṣa to fall from the heavenly planets and be degraded to the status of a python. Consequently, Yayāti became the king.
There at Setubandha (Rāmeśvaram) Lord Halāyudha gave brāhmaṇas ten thousand cows in charity. He then visited the Kṛtamālā and Tāmraparṇī rivers and the great Malaya Mountains. In the Malaya range Lord Balarāma found Agastya Ṛṣi sitting in meditation. After bowing down to the sage, the Lord offered him prayers and then received blessings from him. Taking leave from Agastya, He proceeded to the shore of the southern ocean, where He saw Goddess Durgā in her form of Kanyā-kumārī.
As the women thus talked among themselves and the men among themselves, a number of great sages arrived there, all of them eager to see Lord Kṛṣṇa and Lord Balarāma. They included Dvaipāyana, Nārada, Cyavana, Devala and Asita, Viśvāmitra, Śatānanda, Bharadvāja and Gautama, Lord Paraśurāma and his disciples, Vasiṣṭha, Gālava, Bhṛgu, Pulastya and Kaśyapa, Atri, Mārkaṇḍeya and Bṛhaspati, Dvita, Trita, Ekata and the four Kumāras, and Aṅgirā, Agastya, Yājñavalkya and Vāmadeva.
Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu then went to Malaya-parvata and offered prayers to Agastya Muni. He then visited Kanyā-kumārī (Cape Comorin).
The range of mountains in South India beginning at Kerala and extending to Cape Comorin is called Malaya-parvata. Concerning Agastya, there are four opinions: (1) There is a temple of Agastya Muni in the village of Agastyampallī, in the district of Tanjore. (2) There is a temple of Lord Skanda on a hill known as Śiva-giri, and this temple is said to have been established by Agastya Muni. (3) Some say that the hill near Cape Comorin known as Paṭhiyā served as Agastya Muni's residence. (4) There is a place known as Agastya-malaya, which is a range of hills on both sides of the Tāmraparṇī River. Cape Comorin itself is also known as Kanyā-kumārī.
It is clear from the description of Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam that when Lord Balarāma was visiting the different places of pilgrimage He properly followed the Vedic system. After distributing cows at Setubandha, Lord Balarāma proceeded toward the Kṛtamālā and Tāmraparṇī rivers. These two rivers are celebrated as sacred, and Lord Balarāma bathed in them both. He then proceeded toward Malaya Hill. This hill is very great, and it is said to be one of seven peaks called the Malaya Hills. The great sage Agastya used to live there, and Lord Balarāma visited him and offered His respects by bowing down before him. After taking the sage's blessings, Lord Balarāma, with the sage's permission, proceeded toward the Indian Ocean.