- Religion and Philosophy
History of Bhrigu clan!
In the last chapter we have discussed over the history of Rig Vedic Bhrigus, once enemy of King Sudasa, later joining the Vedic stream as composers of last part of Rig Veda. Vedic history of Bhrigus however is not complete. We need to reassemble it from the contemporary mythologies to identify their role in Indian religion and culture.
Bhrigu was son of Varuna as per the Rig Vedic tradition. Varuna’s association with Asura culture is beyond doubt. Varuna was worshiped as one among 101 great Asuras in Zoroastrian religion as well. Rig Veda too proclaims Varuna as principle God with respectful epithet “Asura”. It must be kept in mind that the Varuna or even Indra was not the inventions of Avestan or Rig Vedic people. Zoroaster was mere reformer of the pre-existing Mazda religion. The Gods and demons of Asura culture too existed prior to foundation of these religions. May be it so that the methods of their worship was different, just like Avestan and Rig Vedic system of offerings was different.
Bhrigu, progenitor of Bhrigu clan, that later came to be known as Bhargava, had already become a mythical figure when Rig Veda began its journey.
Bhargava’s are credited with the Atharva Veda and Itihas Purana as well. Their contribution to the present Mahabharata is immense and first book in overwhelmed with Bhrigu mythologies which can become a major source to understand their Indian history. This is because the way glory of Bhrigu’s is sung in Mahabharata it is not to be found elsewhere, even in Rig Veda. There are so many mythologies related to Bhrigu’s those are incorporated in Mahabharata, the scholars believe at the least one edition of the Mahabharata must have been composed under supervision of the Bhargava’s. Seer Shaunaka, who asks Sauti about the history of Bharata Story, was Bhargava himself. (This Shaunaka should not be confused with the Shaunaka of Rig Veda) Rather asking question about the history of Bharat clan he expresses his desire to know first about the history of Bhrigu clan. (Adiparva 5.3.)
The vast place that Bhargava’s have conferred upon in Mahabharata, none any other Vedic seers have got it. It is because Bhargava’s heavily have contributed to it. Even in Geeta, the seers in whom Krishna delves or revered are most of the Bhrigu seers.
If looked carefully at the mythologies associated with Bhrigu clan, it shows there vast expanse in the north India since pre-historic times. Progenitor Bhrigu is son of the Varuna according to Rig Veda. However Indian mythologies relate his birth either from Brahma, Prajapati or Indra in later texts. Varuna in later times was turned out to be a minor Sea God and lord of West direction. Interestingly ancient Bhrigu’s too were associated with Sea. Bhrigukaccha (modern Bharoch) situated on western coast of India was ancient famous sea port from where global sea-trade was conducted. It was known as Bhrigutertha, Bhrigupura, Bharukaccha as well. Here is a temple of ancient seer Bhrigu in which 17 Shivalingams are established as symbol of Bhrigu showing his connection with Shaivait tradition. Also there are various places named after Bhrigu in India and most of them are Shaivait shrines which show the close connection of Bhrigu with the Shaivait faith.
In last installment we have seen the Bhrigu’s of Rig Veda. Rig Veda is a later religious tradition independently emerged in the clan of Sudasa. Bhrigu’s originally didn’t belong nor were associated with that tradition till the closing time. Rather they were enemies of Rig Vedic faith and stood against Sudasa in the battle of ten kings.
From Atharva Veda we get interesting information that Vatahavya Srinjaya had killed some Bhrigus. Vaitahavya Srinjaya incidentally belonged to the Bharata Clan. It shows that the enmity continued from the long time between Bhrigus and the Rig Vedic people.
The enmity between Bhrigus and Rig Vedic people was not political in nature but the different religious faiths made it inevitable. Bhrigus was a priestly class of Indian Asura’s. Unlike Zoroastrian fire worship Indian Asuras were devotees of Lord Shiva which is evident from the mythological stories. Shukracharya always appear as the chief priest of the Asuras in Indian mythology. The Asuras have received various boons from Shiva after sever penance. It can be summed that the Indian Asura culture practiced idolatry and not the sacrificial fire practices.
Bhargavas were warrior priests. Their hermitages were like small castles. We hardly find any instance where Bhargavas have conducted any fire sacrifice as priests. According to a myth Bhrigu cursed Lord Shiva to turn into the phallic form. Bhrigus marital ties also are with Asura girls.
In Mahabharata (Adi Parva) the story of ancient Bhrigu appears in which his spouses name is given as Paulomi who was abducted by an Asura named Puloma. This Paulomi was daughter of Asura King Hiranyakashyapu who gave birth to Chyavana. If mythological elements are removed carefully it would appear that the Puloma was name of ancient Bhargava whose wife was known as Paulomi. Hiranyakashyapu’s another daughter Divya also was wife of one Bhargava from whom the Guru of Asuras Shukracharya had born.
Shukracharya’s daughter Devyani and Asura Kings daughter Sharmishtha had married to the Kuru king Yayati. Being Asuras themselves Bhargavas had no troble with marrying Asura girls. There are so many marriages between Bhargavas and Asura princess.
The genealogy of Indian Bhargavas too is incomplete or broken intermittently because of the lapse of huge passage of time and those which are mentioned in the texts are those who are credited with some or other contribution.
Traditional genealogy suggests that Bhrigu had three wives namely Paulomi (khyati), Gadhi and Divya. All the wives hail from Asura clan should be noted here. The family tree of Bhrigu is of course incomplete and many generations must be missing. Also not necessarily all those people were blood related but most possible were connected to Bhrigu clan because of their priestly contributions. If we take here the case of Vishwamitra, he cannot be linked with the Vishwamitra of Rig Veda who belonged to Kushika clan. The Vishwamitra from the genealogy of Bhrigu belongs to Gadhi clan. The story of Kushik Vishwamitra and Gadhi Vishwamitra is so intermixed in mythologies as well that the original enmity of Kushik Vishwamitra with vasishtha can be seen to have been linked with Gadhi Vishwamitra thus creating confusion.
From Divya, according to the mythologies, Bhrigu fathered Shukracharya who became Guru of Asura clan. Jamadagni, father of Parashurama was born to his wife Gadhi, making him brother of Vishwamitra. Vishwamitra, as we know well from Indian mythology how hard he struggled to attain Brahmarshi title without any avail.
We are aware of the bloodbath taking place between Haihaya Sahastrarjuna and Parshurama, son of Jamadagni. Though it is popularly believed that he annihilated Kshatriya race from the earth for 21 times, it is not the fact. Sahastrarjuna belonged to the Yadu clan later in which Krishna was born. In a way, if family tree appearing from mythologies is considered to be true, then Parashurama and Haihayas were relatives. The reason behind Sahastrarjuna’s enmity with Jamadagni was that Sahastrarjuna demanded wealth from Jamadagni as he had turned almost popper for losing it in the fire sacrifices. Also he enforced heavy taxes upon Jamadagnyas. Jamadagni denied parting with his wealth which resulted in Jamadagni’s killing. Parshuram avenged Sahastrarjuna by attacking him several times.
This myth makes few things clear to us. First is that though haihaya clan originally belonged to Asura culture had started actively conducting fire sacrifices in which he lost lot of wealth in donations. Second is that though Jamadagni was Haihayas chief priest he was not at all involved in fire sacrifices. He was just an Atharvan priest following to ancient non-Vedic ritualistic practices. Thirdly, what appears from the mythological descriptions, he was a warrior priest and had mastered martial arts and had trained his sons as well in it. The mythology goes further and states that Parshuram had gained battle axe from Lord Shiva after severe penance. Leaving mythical elements apart it suggests what faith these Bhargavas were practicing and certainly it was non-Vedic.
And these Jamadagnya Bhargavas were resident of central India. It shows that this priestly class was spread across the north India. They were warrior priests and were specialized in Atharvan practices. Hence there is no wonder if some branch of Bhargavas had stood against King Sudasa in the battle that resided in north-west corners of then India. Jamadagni too denied wealth or loan to Sahastrarjuna because he had abandoned the ancient ritualistic practices and losing money on donations had become popper.
This myth gives us an idea that the Vedic religion was spreading in central India in the times of Jamadagni. The spread of Vedic religion and its fire sacrificial practices were being gradually accepted by the kings of those times may be because of fascination. And also the spread was being opposed heavily by the existing priestly society that feared the extinction of established religion and its practice. The clash between Sahastrarjuna and Parshurama can be attributed to the religious rivalry if other mythical elements those have been adorned to the original story are carefully removed.
Here we come to an interesting juncture. Those were Bhargavas who entered the Vedic stream, contributed to it and became missionaries of that religion in later times.
Let us go back to the Rig Veda itself to get some insight on this crucial issue.
In late period of Rig Veda not only Bhrigus but Kanvas and Atris too had entered that stream. Interestingly Kanvas and Atris are said to be offshoots of Puru clan though there is no sufficient proof to accept this hypothetical derivation. Kanvas sought help from Yadus and Turvasus in a war. In the battle of ten kings Yadu clan to fought against Sudasa. Atri’s association with Sudasa or Puru clan and their origin is even ambiguous. Anarya or Non-Vedic King Trasadasyu is highly praised in last part of Rigveda for his special aid to the Rig Vedic seers. These happenings have notably taken place when Bharata clan was at decline or already had become a memory.
It does mean that the center of Vedic religion had shifted quite some time before Rig Veda was entirely concluded to the present form. It does also mean that only half or some more part was composed during rule of Sudasa dynasty. We have no proof what destiny the clan met with but the facts apparent are that the land of Sudasa dynasty was occupied by some other powers of those times.
Political changes must have given a halt to the Rig Vedic compositions. The lapse of several generations in the construction of Rig Veda too indicates to this fact. From entry of originally non-Vedic seers and patronage from non-Vedic royals and magnates is seems to be only because the Rig Vedic tradition shifted geographically too from one to other place as their original patron had lost the fame. From Rig Veda it appears Sahadeva or Somaka were the last kings from Sudasa lineage. None other king from that lineage is mentioned in Rig Veda.
Coming back to Bhrigus we find it interesting that even being ancient enemies of Rig Vedic tradition, they contributed to it. Lapse of several centuries from the battle of ten kings joining of traditional priests to the new thought or new ritualistic practice is not uncommon in the world history. From Shaunaka we understand the Rig Veda and its religious practices began to spread in India. Thus Bhrigus in totality played the double role…
One is supporters of Vedic religion and second is stark opponents of it.
(To be contd.)