Gautama Maharshi (Part 1)

The Siva Purana contains many stories of the great Gautama Maharsi. There is also a reference to him in the Vishnu Puranam. And the Valmiki Ramayana has one story about him.

So we have a lot to talk about today.

Gautama, A Vedic Composer and the author of the Nyaya Sastra.

Veda Vyasa, arranged some of the hymns that Gautama wrote into the Rg Veda. Gauthama’s own sons and disciples made a different compilation or collection of Gautama’s hymns. So if your forefather studied under Jaimini and other disciples of Vyasa, they will have a somewhat different set or ‘recension’, than the descendants and disciples of Gauthama. Gautama is also famous for the Nyaya Sastra.

Gautama, the maternal grandfather of Hanuman. (from Siva Maha Puranam)

Jai Hanuman!Jai Hanuman!

One very interesting thing that I found out about Gauthama Maharshi in the Siva Mahapuranam, is that he was Anjana’s father. And Anjana is Hanuman‘s mother. And Hanuman or Anjaneya is every child’s favorite, from Valmiki‘s Ramayanam. Hanuman was a Vanara. Many children like Hanuman not only for the wonderful things that he did, and his nice nature, but also for his very long tail.

We know now, that Vanara means forest dweller and that the Vanaras were definitely human, by the species definition. But we shall keep this knowledge in a small box, put a lid on it, and continue to love Hanuman with a long and handy tail, just like the centuries of Indians loved him before us. There, that is decided! After all, we are not muggles!

The place where Hanuman was born is Anjaneri, near Tryambakeshwar, near Nasik. The hill is hard to climb, you have to be something of a monkey to clamber up there! Some people believe that Hanuman was born at Anjanadri near Hampi, Kishkinda, but I think he was born in Tryambakeshwar. Indian moms go to their moms’ houses to have their first babies. That is tradition. And Anjana’s parents Gauthama and Ahalya lived at Brahmagiri, Tryambakeshwar.

Gautama, the paternal grandfather of Nachiketas. (Katha Upanishad).

Another interesting thing that I found in the Katha Upanishad is that, Nachiketas was the son of Yaajasrava, who was the son of Yajasrava, who was Gauthama’s son. And Nachiketas was the small boy who went and visited Mrutyu (Death), got 3 boons and one extra from him and learnt all about the Brahman (the great, absolute, formless God) and about a special Naciketas Fire for use in the Vedic Yajnas. Sri Krishna used some slokas from the Katha Upanishad in the Bhagavad Gita. So we know how important it is.

Gautama’s son Satananda was the priest of Raja Janaka, Sita Devi’s father and Sri Rama’s father-in-law.

Many, many Indian boys are called Gautam, these days. And they think that they are named after Gautama Buddha. But do you know that Price Siddhartha who became the Buddha, was named after his aunt Gautami, who raised him? Gautami is the name of the river Godavari. And did you know that the river Godavari is was named Gautami after Gautama Maharshi? So if your name is Gautham, may be you are named after Gautama Maharshi himself!

Gautama Maharshi was a phenomenally gentle and forgiving soul. Once, when a cow was eating up his crops, he tried to shoo it with a blade of grass!

Indians love cows!

Indians love cows! Photo Credit : Satya Sarada Kandula : All Rights Reserved

Gautama Maharshi, Water Resources and Agriculture. (from the Siva Maha Purana)
We know that the most ancient humans of all, lived off the land, not by tilling it, but by eating the roots and shoots and fruits and leaves and any animals they could easily catch. Even today, the remotest of tribes who have managed to escape ‘civilzation’ live that way, live as hunter-gatherers. In the Andaman and Nicobar Islands of India, the Sentinelese, the Jarawa and the Onge live like that even today.

Here is a story about Gautama and agriculture from the Siva Purana.

Once upon a time, lived a famous sage Gautama, with his devoted wife Ahalya. They lived on a mountain called Brahma (Brahmagiri), in the South. He performed a very long and difficult penance, there.

At that time there was a very long period, with no rain at all. There was not enough water to sustain a green leaf, let alone higher forms of life. All the Munis (sages) and people and birds and animals, started leaving the place.

Then Gautama Maharshi, an expert in Pranayama, went into deep meditation on Varuna Deva for 6 months. Then Varuna Deva appeared before him and offered him a boon. (It is interesting for us to see that Gautama did not do a Yajna, he did a Tapas, and that it was directed towards Varuna Deva and not towards Indra. In recent times, yajnas were performed for rain, in Tirupathi and in Kerala, and Indra was the Deva that they asked for help).

Gautama asked Varuna to make it rain. Varuna said, “How can I disobey the Devas and make it rain? Please ask for something that I can do”. Then, Gauthama, who wanted to help others, said, “Please give me a water source, that never dries and gives us rewards everyday”. Then Varuna made Gauthama dig a shallow pit (as deep as a hand’s breadth),  and filled it with water, that would never be exhausted, that would be called Gauthama tirtha. And the special reward of that Tirtha was that any tapas, or charity, yajnam, or shraddham performed in that place – would also have everlasting effects.

(So if we go to Gautham Tirtha in Brahma Giri and do one good deed there, the good luck or punyam from that, would last for ever. I went to Kusavarta and you can see pictures of it if you click on this link. Travel : Gauthama Teertha : Kusavartha But I forgot to do a good deed there, it was so beautiful and magical that I got quite carried away!)

Then Gauthama used that water, for all his daily activities and for growing grains like rice, barley and others that he could used for his ‘havan’ (yajanam). Slowly, the place had grains, trees, flowers and fruit of many kinds. Lots of rishis heard about this place and started coming to live there and all the animals, birds and other living things, returned. It was the best forest in the Mandala (world/circle/area). And, because of the inexhaustible water supply, there was never a drought again.

They say that Gauthama was so magical that if he planted seeds in the morning, it would be ready for harvest by evening!

Gautama and Gautami Godavari: Water Resources, Irrigation and Agriculture (from Siva Mahapuranam).

We already learnt how Gautama, meditated on Varuna and created a small, inexhaustible, pond of water, that was sufficient for his asrama (place of comfort – a hermitage). That was Gautama tirtha.

Now, here is the story of the river Gautami or Godavari and Gautama. This is also from the Siva Purana, the 25th and 26th Chapters of the KotiRudra Samhita.

One day Gautama asked his students to fetch some water. Some wives of the other rishis (rshipatnis) also reached the water spot at the same time. And they wanted to go first. The students came back and told Gautama’s wife about this. So she went along with them, and helped them get the water back for Gautama, who used it for his daily activities.

(One of the important reasons that many ancient settlements and civilizations developed near water sources, like lakes, ponds and rivers, is because water had to be generally transported by hand.)

Anyway, the other ladies did not like this, so they complained to their husbands. They exaggerated and the event and made their husbands very angry. Those rishis were driven by fate to believe their wives and they decided to go and have a word with Gautama.

Then, instead of talking to him, they started praying toVinayaka. Ganesa is Vighneshwara, Vighnakarta and Vighnahantra. That means our Ganesa can make trouble, putting obstructions (blocks) in our way and he can remove them. Ganesa is another huge favorite with Indian children. His head is shaped like an elephant and he has a nice trunk, to help him eat sugar cane and sweets that he loves. That is why Ganesha has such a big belly. Since we love Ganesa so much, we are not going to ask silly questions like how elephant heads go with human bodies. It is so and that’s that. Every year, children pray to Ganesa on Vinayaka Chaviti day and eat as much as their tummies can hold.



Ganesa is Bhakthaadhina. That means he loves his devotees and he is quite helpless where we are concerned. He will give us what we ask for.

The Rishis were in a real bad frame of mind. They asked Ganesha to drive Gautama out of the hermitage and humiliate him. What a terrible thing to ask for!  Gajanana (Ganesa), lovingly tried to tell them, that they were doing the wrong thing. He reminded them how helpful Gautama was to them during the drought. He said, “you have done such a good tapas, you should also ask for something very good”. But the Rishis, whose minds were foggy, insisted on having their own way. Ganesa advised them not to hurt their benefactor in many, many ways, but they were obstinate.

Ganesa felt bound to grant them their wish. This tells us two things. Indians believed that God does not enter our mind and change it for us. And Indians also believed that God is bound to grant the wishes of his devotees.

Gautama did not know a thing about all this. He and his wife, did their daily duties, happily. Then one day, a weak cow, wandered into Gautama’s watered, grain fields. Because of Ganesa’s boon, that trembling cow started eating the grain. Gautama, just happened to come there at that time and tried to drive the cow out with a single strand of straw. And even as Gautama was looking on, that cow collapsed onto the ground and died.

The other rishis and wives gathered round and started faulting Gautama. The astonished Gautama called Ahalya and spoke sadly. “Oh Devi! What happened here and how? The Supreme Lord (Paramesvara – Siva) is angry with us. What should we do now? And where should we go? A killing has come upon us”.

Indians love cows because they share with us, the milk, that they give their own calves. So they are like our mothers. Even today many Indian refer to cows as Gomata (cow – mother).

The other rishis, their wives, sons and students also started insulting Gautama and Ahalya. They said that the havirbhujas (the devas are called that because they accept havih, the offering put into the fire and the pitarah (the forefathers) would never accept any offerings, if a cow killer remained in their midst.

They asked Gauthama to take his Parivara (family, students and any other dependants and to leave in a hurry. They started throwing stones at them and said bad things to both Ahalya and Gautama. Gautama and Ahalya left the asrama and made a new one at a distance of one ‘krosa’ as demanded by them. (A krosa is either 500 bow-lengths or the distance at which a cow’s moo can be heard or two miles).

We went and visited this wonderful place. Look at the pictures here : Gauthama Rishi’s cave : Tryambakeshwar. It is a wonderfully thrilling and magical place. there is a priest there called Rishikesh (Krishna) Goswami whose family has been worshipping Gauthama Maharshi for many, many generations. He belongs to the Kas’yapa Gotra. He helped us to a special prayer to Gauthama Mahasrshi and Siva and answered many of our questions.

He felt that he should not perform any Vedic Rites to the Devas and the Pitrus, while under the Saapa (curse).  After a fortnight of this painful existence, Gautama asked the other rshis, for a way out. At first they were silent, but on his repeated, humble, requests they asked him to do prayaschittam. Prayaschittam means a cleaning of the mind.  They asked him to admit his fault and go around the earth (Prthvi) three times and come back and observe a vow (of fasting) for a month. Then go around Brahmagiri 100 and ekottara (eight?) times OR bring the Ganga and bathe in her and make one crore earthern images and worship Deva. Then bathe again in the Ganga and go round the mountain eleven times more. Then bathe the Earthern Image (Parthiva) with one hundred pots of Ganga.

Were they hoping he wouldn’t be able to do any of this? Or is there a hidden story behind these numbers?

Gautama chose the Ganga option. He went around the mountain and then made an earthern image (parthiva). Ahalya followed him and his students and their students (prati sishyas) served both of them.

Siva was pleased and appeared before Gautama along with all his Ganas. What are Ganas? They are Siva’s followers who fought on his side in battles and his son Ganapathi (Ganesa), was in charge of them. Elders do not let children sleep in the evenings because that is when Siva goes about with his Ganas. Gana also means to count, Ganitha means mathematics in Sanskrit. Ganapathi not only wrote the Mahabharata down for Vyasa, he also commanded Siva’s ganas.

How the Chola Kings visualized Ganas

How the Chola Kings visualized Ganas

Siva asked Gautama to ask him for a boon. Gautama then looked at the beautiful form of Siva and praised him once more. He joined his hands together in an Anjali (how you do a Namaste today), and he asked Siva to remove his sin. Siva was delighted to listen to Gauthama. He laughed and said, “You are no sinner, even sinners will become pure if they take one look at you. You have been betrayed by the other rishis. Even looking upon such people is a sin.” Gautama was so surprised to hear this. Then he bowed to Siva again and said,” No, they did me good, because now I have a darshan of you”. Siva was pleased again and gently said, “Make a wish!”.


Gautama thought ‘everyone thinks I am a sinner, so I still have to fulfil my vow’. So he respectfully asked Siva to give him the Ganga. Then Siva took the essence of the sky and the earth which Brahma had given him on his wedding day and gave him the water of the Ganga in the form of a beautiful girl.

In this link you can see some photos of the mountains and the starting point of the river on the mountain:  Travel : Gangadwar and Brahmagiri : Mountains of Tryambakeshwar

Gautama bowed down to Ganga Devi and asked her to purify him. Siva also asked Ganga to purify Gautama. Ganga said, “it is Siva’s Sakthi (power), that purifies everything, but as you asked, I shall purify the sage and his whole family. Then I will go home.”

Then Siva told her, “Oh Devi! You have to stay here. You can leave when the KaliYuga of the 28th Manu, Vaiwaswatha occurs”.

Ganga Devi said, ” If you stay too, along with Ambika (mother Parvathi), and your Ganas, then that will be great, and I will stay here.” When Siva agreed to this, all the other Devas, Brahma and Vishnu came there and they were very thrilled with the place.

Ganga requested all of them to stay too and they promised to visit once in 12 years whenever Guru (Jupiter) visits the Simha Rasi (Leo) and to stay there for that entire period.

In that place, Ganga is called Gautami (Gautama’s daughter) and Siva is called Tryambakeswar. It is one of the Jyotirlingas of Siva. We  went and visited this wonderful place and saw this jyotirlingam. Look here for the pictures : Travel : Tryambakeshwar

Look here for map and photos.




You might feel like looking at these links too. Travel : Peace at Ramghat, Panchvati : Nasik and Travel : Ramakund, Lakshmankund, Sitakund : Tryambakeshwar



Gautama Maharshi (Part 2)

In Gautama Maharshi (Part one), we learnt the lovely legends of Gautama as they are recorded in the Siva Purana. And we followed them with our hearts and imagination.

Now, we will put our thinking caps on for a little while.

Gauthama solved the drought problem, with a pond (small lake or ‘Kere’) of water that he found with VarunaDeva‘s help. With that he built a green hermitage and he grew grains like rice and barley.

All Rights Reserved with the artist.Then he discovered the Godavari with Siva’s help and called it the Gautami.

His wife’s name is Ahalya. One of the meanings of Ahalya is ‘unploughed’. Brahma gave him, his daughter Ahalya which could mean some untilled land on his mountain, the Brahmagiri. This was because only Gauthama with his expertise in irrigation and agriculture, could make something useful of it.

Gautama composed the rk vedic hymns and nyaya sastra in his spare time. There may have been a little jealousy and competition over the pond, from his compatriots, which made Gauthama go looking for a river or any other water source. Or it may be that he felt the pond was getting too crowded. This may be why he went around the mountain (once or many times) and asked Siva for his help. His wife, children and students were on his side and they helped him.

Gauthama Maharshi (Part 3) : The Illustrious Gauthamas

The following information is quoted/referred from The Nyaya Sutras of Gotama : by Satis Chandra Vidyabhusana.

  • In the Rg Veda-samhita as well as the Sathapatha-Brahmana of the white Yajur Veda, we find mention of one Gotama who was son of Rahuguna a priest of the Royal family of Kuru-sRmjaya for whose victory in battle he prayed to Indra.
  • Nodhah son of Gotama, was also called Gautham who composed several new hymns in honour of Indra(Hero, God, Astronomical Point, War Strategist). The sages sprung from the family of Gotama are designated Gotamasah and were very intelligent. Agni pleased with their adoration gave them cattle and rice in abundance.
  • It is related that Gotama, once pinched with thirst, prayed for water of the Marut-Gods, who out of mercy, placed a well· before him transplanted from elsewhere. The water gushing out copiously from the well not only quenched his thirst but formed itself into a river, the source of which was the seat of the original well. (See details from Siva Mahapuranam here :  Gautama Maharshi (Part 1))
  • The Vamsa Brahmana of the Sama Veda  mentions four members of the Gotama (Gautama) family among the teachers who transmitted that Veda to posterity, viz., the Radha-Gautama, GatrGautama, Sumanta Babhrava Gautama and Sankara-Gautama; and the Chandogya Upanishad of the same Veda  mentions another teacher named Haridrumata Gautama who was approached by Satya-Kama Jabala to be his teacher.
  • The Gobhila Grhya Sutra of the Samaveda cites the opinion of Gautama who held that during the winter season there should be three oblations offered to the dead ancestors.
  • Another Gautama was the author of the Pitrmedha Sutra which perhaps belongs to the Samaveda.
  • The Brihad Aranyaka  of the white Yajurveda mentions a teacher named Gautama
  • The Kathopanishad of the Black Yajurveda the sage Nachiketas who conversed with Yama on the mystery of life, is called Gautama which evidently is a generic name as his father is also called Gautama in the same work.
  • A  Gautama is mentioned as a teacher in the Kaushika sutra of the Atharva Veda.
  • Another Gautama is the author of the Gautama Dharma Sutras.
  • The Ramayanam mentions a Gautama who had his hermitage  near Mithila where  he lived with his wifeAhalya.
  • The AdhyAtma RAmayana,while repeating the same account, places the hermitage of Gautama on the banks of the Ganga  and Kalidasa follows the Ramayana and describes Gauthama as Dirghatapas (one of long tapas).
  • The Vayu Purana describes a sage named Akshapada as the disciple of a Brahman named Soma Sarma who was Siva incarnate and well-known for his practice of austerities at the shrine of PrabhAsa during the time of Jatukarnya Vyasa .
  • This Akshapada mentioned along with Kanada is evidently no other person than Gotama or Gautama who founded the Nyaya Philosophy.  As to the origin of the name ” having eyes in the feet” as applied to Gautama, legend has it that Gautama was so deeply absorbed in philosophical contemplation that one day during his walks he fell unwittingly into a well out of which he was rescued with great difficulty. God therefore mercifully provided him with a second pair of eyes in his feet to protect the sage from further mishaps.

See Also :  Gautama Maharshi (Part 1)Ahalya   Gautama Maharshi (Part 2)  and Gauthama Maharshi (Part 3) : The Illustrious Gauthamas

The following information is quoted/referred from The Nyaya Sutras of Gotama : by Satis Chandra Vidyabhusana.

  • The people of Mithila (modern Darbhanga in North Bihar) hold that Gautama, husband of Ahalya was the author of  the foundation of Nyaya philosophy and point out as the place of his birth in a illage named Gautamasthana.
  • A fair  is held every year on the Chaitra Sukla Paksha Navami. (This is also celebrated as Rama‘s wedding day in Andhra). Gauthamasthana is situated 28 miles north-east of Darbhanga and has a mud-hill of considerable height considered the hermitage of Gautama) at the base , lies the celebrated “Gautama-kund. Gautama’s well. The water tastes like milk and feeds a perenneial rivulet. It is called Kshirodadhi  (literally the sea of milk).
  • Two miles to the east of the village there is another village named Ahalyasthana, where between a pair of trees lies a slab of stone identified with Ahalya in her penance state.
  • In its vicinity there is a temple which commemorates the emancipation of Ahalya by RamaChandra. The  Gautama- Kund and the Kshirodadhi river, which still exist at Gautamasthana verify the account of Gotama given from the Rigveda while the stone slab and the temple of Ahalya-sthana are evidences collaborating the story from the Ramayana.
  • The tradition in the town of Chapra says that Ahalya’s husband Gauthama, the founder of the Nyaya Philosophy resided in a village now called Godna at the confluence of the Sarayu and Ganga.
  • Gauthama, the son of Rahugana, (mentioned in the Rg Veda) was a priest in the royal family of KurusRanjaya. Satananda the son of Ahalya was a priest of Janaka maharaja, Sita Devi‘s  father.
  • akSapada, the founder of nyAya Philosophy as per Vayu Purana, was the same as Ahalya’s husband Gauthama of Mithila.
  • Akshapada was the author of the Pitr-Medha Sutra and Gauthama Dharma Sastra, according to Anantayajvan, (a commentator on the sutras.)
  • Gauthama had another asrama at Prabhasa according to the Vayu Purana (beyond Girnar in Kathiwar)
Authorship and Copyright Notice: All Rights Reserved: Satya Sarada Kandula