Agasthya: the immortal sage

  • By
  • Published
  • Updated
  • 4 mins read

Agasthya: the immortal sage

We have now completed a long journey with Agastya. We know a little bit more about this great Vedic sage. For us, who are limited in our thoughts to what is visible only to our eyes, the concept that a person may exist beyond known time periods is incomprehensible.

Today we know that he is not only referred to as Maharishi, Rishi, Muni, Siddhar, guru, and father but also that there are different theories on how his name came to be.

One theory is that his name came from the legend of him humbling the Vindhya Mountain. Accordingly, Aga means ‘Unmoving, like a mountain’, and ‘Gam’ means ‘Move’. So Agastya is a ‘Mover of mountains’. The story goes that the Vindhya Mountain was growing taller and taller,  and the Gods were worried that he would obscure the sun. They turned to Agastya for help. When Agastya approached the mountain, Vindhya who knew the power of Agastya bowed down to him. Agastya asked the mountain to remain bowed down until he crossed it again. Well, Agastya never returned! So we see the Vindhya Mountain range stretching about 675 miles in length, but never towering over 752 meters (2467 feet). The only issue with this is, we see Agastya’s name appearing in the Vedas long before the Puranas told the tale of the humbling of the Vindhya Mountain…

 Another theory is through the Iranian word gasta which means “sin, foul”, and a-gasta would mean “not sin, not foul”.

Another interesting idea that Dr. S. Mahesh shared with me is that the word ‘Aga’ is inner and ‘thi’ is light, ‘yar’ is ‘who’, in the Tamil language. Hence Agasthiyar is “One who brings light”.

Interestingly, there is no record of his death in history or legend. The belief is that Agastya is immortal. Would that explain why and how many people are claiming to be touched by this great Sage?

Touched by Agastya

If you recall the journey we began with Agastya in Agastya Malai, you will remember me mentioning that it was very personal to me. Here is why. 

A vision on a mountain

Agastya has been part of my life from a very young age, given that my family traditionally followed the Thekkan system of Kalarippayattu for five generations. Our martial arts schools were known as Dhanavantri, until a few years ago. My devotion to Agastya and the innumerable treks I took to Agastya Mala (if I count, I think I have made that blessed journey over 24 times already), something moved me to change the name of my martial arts school to Agasthyam. 

It was in 2011, that I went on another trek to Agastya Mala. This time I was with some visitors from the west as well as Nataraj, the director of the Sivananda ashram in Neyyar dam. 

One morning, we were camped a few kilometers from Agastya Mala. We could see the peak from our camp. I woke up early and as is my practice, started meditating. I opened my eyes, and I could suddenly see the form of Agastya taking shape on the side of the mountain. It was an image of Agastya naturally formed by the shape of the rock formations! This is the same mountain I must have seen time and time again. It is the same peak that thousands have seen over hundreds of years! Yet, it was my great blessing that on that day Maharishi Agastya revealed his form to me! It is so great a blessing that I cannot comprehend it even now! 

To share that with other devotees of Agastya, I used computer graphics to draw the outline of the vision. You can all see it now. I know that this sort of blessing does not come lightly. 

Dr. S Mahesh Gurukkal