Rishis – Introduction

The rishis or the sages have been rightly valued in India as supreme. They are even beyond the celestials. They set an example of life itself. How to learn is to be learnt by following the way of the sage. Sages are the embodiments of not only learning but the highest of self control, sacrifice, supreme understanding, childlike innocence, universal love, a feeling of utmost goodwill for the entire world, animals and birds, trees and creepers, lakes, streams and rivers, hills and dales, rocks and hillocks included. The highest seers could see beyond the ordinary ken of mortals, but yet, were the very embodiment of simplicity, the highest acme of contentment, viewing alike everything on earth, nothing so high as to overawe them, neither so low as to be despised.

The Status of Vipra and Shrotriya

That is why the Upanishads describes the rishi as the highest even among the Vipras: ‘rushirvipranam’ (Mahanarayanopanishad 12.1). When we remember how important Vipra himself is, from the definition, that one born of a brahman family and become a dvija by sacred ceremonies, namely upanayana that gives him the status of a ‘Brahmacharin’ worthy of studying the Vedas and profound by the study and understanding of the Vedas itself in its  six limbs, i.e. shadangas, namely shiksha, vyakarana, chhandas, nirukta, kalpa, and jyotisha and the highest study that leads on to moksha dharma which is Pravidya, the fine stage which makes one a Vipra, it is seen why the unit chosen is Vipra:

जन्मना ब्राह्मणो  प्रोक्तः संस्कारैर्द्विज उच्यते।

विद्यते याति विप्रत्वं त्रिभिः श्रोत्रिय उच्यते॥

Thus, it can be observed that one satisfying the three conditions and reaching the stage of Vipra automatically is a Shrotriya. A Shrotriya is one who is deeply versed in the Vedas. Even among these Vipras of whom the highest is the Shrotriya, the rishi is the noblest, the one enlightened by the Vedasand ennobled by Tapas or penance.

Rigvedic Hymns

This concept of Rishi is thus a theme reckoned high even in the earliest Vedic hymns. The idea of the Seven Rishis is already familiar in the Rigvedawhere they are conceived as our fathers.

अस्माकं पितरः आसन् सप्तर्षयः॥ (Rigveda 4.42.8)

They are enumerated as the sacrificial priests hotri, potri, neshtri, agnidhri, prashastri, adhvaryu, brahma i.e. invoker, purifier, leader, kindler, director, ministering priest and praying priest, respectively.

तवाग्ने तव होत्रं तव पोत्रं नेष्ट्रं त्वं अग्नदूतयतः।

तव प्रशास्त्रं त्वमध्वरीयसि ब्रह्माचासि गृहपतिश्च नो दमे॥ (Rigveda 2.1.2)

and this is continued thereafter:

सप्त जिव्हा सप्त ऋषयः धामा प्रियाणि। (Taittiriya Samhita 1.5.3)

Special Introduction of Saptarshis

They are individually mentioned sometimes and also collectively in the plural, as denoting whole families as Bhrigus, Angirasa, Atri and so forth. Today’s Brahmins are thus known as the generations of Gautama, Bharadwaja, Vishvamitra, Jamadgni, Vasishtha, Kashyapa etc.

The rishis transformed into stars as known to later myth are known so in the Vedic legends as well. They are Rikshas i.e. constellations or stars, apart from being the rishis like ‘सप्तर्षिषु ह स्म वै पुरारक्षा इत्याचक्षते।’ (Shatapatha Brahmana

That is why Kalidasa refers to rishis invited that assembled for Rama’s Ashvamedha not only from the ends of the earth but also the luminous spheres:

दिग्भ्यो निमंत्रितश्चैनामभिजाद्मुर्महर्षयः।

न भौमन्येवा दिश्यानि हित्वा ज्योतिर्मयान्यपि॥

Arundhati, the consort of Vasishtha, who is famous in the epic and puranic literature, though also known to the Taittiriya Aranyaka 3.9.2., is the only one who takes a place with the principle seers and an eastern chalukya frieze of the saptarshis from the Bhimeshvara temple at Draksharama represents her along with them. She is a star like rishis mentioned in the Taittiriya Aranyaka.

About Marichi

Marichi, a Rishi and son of Brahma.

Rishi Marichi or Mareechi or (meaning a ray of light) was the son of Bahma, the cosmic creator, and one of the great saptarshis (Seven Great Sages Rishi), in the First Manvantara with others being Atri, Angirasa, Pulaha, Kratu, Pulastva, and Vasishtha.

Before Lord Brahma began creation of this world, he constructed a core group of people to whom he would discharge the responsibility of creating the rest of the Universe. Thus he created –

  • 10 ‘Prajapatis’ or ‘Ruler of the people’ from his Manas (Mind) and
  • 9 ‘Prajapatis’ from his body.

Marichi is one of the manasaputras of Lord Brahma. The 10 Prajapatis of Lord Brahma are as follows:

  1. Marichi
  2. Atri
  3. Angirasa
  4. Pulaha
  5. Pulastya
  6. Kratu
  7. Vasishtha
  8. Prachetas
  9. Bhrigu
  10. Narada

Marichi was Son in law of Daksha Prajapati.

He was brother in law of Lord Shiva.

Daksha’s daughter Sambhuti was his wife. He had a son called Poornamasa.

Also he had 4 daughters namely, Krishti, Vrishti, Tvisha and Upachiti. We get references to this in Brahmanda Purana (2.11).

Marichi then got married to Kala who bore a child named Kashyap. After inheriting the right of creation from his father, Kashyap assumed the title of a Prajapati. ( The couple also had a daughter named Poornima.

Marichi in Scriptures

In Matsya Purana we get a reference that he had a son and a daughter named Kashyapa and Saroopa, respectively (Matsya Purana 144).

There is also a myth about Marichi’s marriage that he was married to Urni. From Urni he had 4 sons and a daughter viz. Smar, Udgeetha, Parishvanga, Kshudrabhrut and Ghruni.

We get these references in Devi Bhagwat (4.22), and Bhagavata Purana. (3.24.22, 10.85, 47.51)

It is believed that he was born from the eye of Lord Brahma. Also in Vaivasvata manvantara, he was born from Lord Agni.

Krishna in the Bhagavad-geeta says, “Of the Adityas, I am Vishnu, of lights I am the radiant sun, of the Maruts I am Marici, and among the stars I am the moon.” (10.21)

According to Mahabharata he was the one who was known as Chitrashikhandin.

मरिचित्र्यङ्गिरसौ पुलहः पुलस्त्यः क्रतुः।

वसिष्ठश्च महातेजा एते चित्रशिखण्डिनः।। (Mahabharata Shantiparvan 322.27)

According to myths it is also said that Lord Shiva burned him when he got angry with Daksha Prajapati.

He became one of the most important sages who were there in the regime of King Vena.


Sage Marichi was a Dharmashastrakara. We get his ample quotes in Mitaxara (Commentary on Yadnyavalkyasmriti) and in Smritichandrika.

In these Smriti texts he explains about varied topics such as Bhojanavidhi, Kanyadanaphalam, Tarpanam, Shouchavidhi, Naimittikasanani, Devarchanam, and Homavidhi.

Here are some quotes about above mentioned topics available in Ahnika chapter of Smritichandrika.

·         Bhojanavidhi:

About this topic he says:

आचम्य च ततः कार्यं दंतकाष्ठस्य भक्षणम्।

भोजने दंतलग्नांश्च निर्हृत्याचमनं चरेत्।।

·         Kanyadanaphalam:

About this topic he says:

नाग्निहोत्रादिभिस्तस्याद्रक्षतो ब्राह्मणस्य वा।

यत्कन्यां विधिवद् दत्वा फलमाप्नोति मानवाः।।

·         Tarpanam:

About this topic he says:

1.     अनामिकाधृतं हेमतर्जन्या रौप्यमेव च।

कनिष्ठिकाधृतं खड्गं तेन पूतो भवेन्नरः।।

2.     देवान् ब्रह्मर्षीश्चैव तर्पयेदक्षतोदकैः।

पितृन् भक्त्या तिलैः कृष्णैः स्वसूत्रोक्तविधानतः।।

3.     सप्तम्यां रविवारे च गृहे जन्मदिने सदा।

भृत्यपुत्रकलत्रादि न कुर्यात्तिलतर्पणम्।।

·         Shouchvidhi:

About this topic he says:

तिस्रस्तु मृत्तिकादेयाः कृत्वा तु नखशोधनम्।

तिस्रस्तु पादयोर्देया शौचकामस्य नित्यदा।।

·         Naimittikasanani:

About this topic he says:

दिवाहृतं तु यत् तोयं कृत्वा स्वर्णयुतं च तत्।

रात्रौ स्नाने तु संप्राप्ते स्नायादनिलसंनिधौ।।

यदा तु दिवाहृतं न संभवति तदा।।

·         Devarchanam:

About this topic he says:

विधाय देवतापूजा प्रातर्होमादनन्तरम्।

स्थंडिले प्रतिमायां वा वह्नौ वा हृदयेऽपि वा।।

·         Homavidhi:

About this topic he says:

शरीरापद्भवेद्यत्र भयाद्वाऽर्तिः प्रजायते।

तथाऽन्यास्वापि चापत्सु पक्षहोमो विधीयते।।

At the end he says about the Dharmashastrakara that

दुर्बोधाः वैदिकाः शब्दाः प्रकीर्णत्वाच्च येऽखिलाः।

तर्कैस्त एव स्पष्टार्थाःस्मृतितन्त्रे प्रतिष्ठिताः।।