|This article relies on references to primary sources. (January 2012)|
Dadhichi, also known as Dadhyancha, is an important character in Hindu mythology.He was the one of the greatest devotees of Lord Shiva.It is believed that after Shiva had been separated from Shakti,he had kept himself all alone in a jungle and on a annual festival of Maha Shivratri,Lord Shiva had first time appeared in front of his devotees as rishi Dadhichi and his disciples were offering him prayers. He is revered amongst the greatest of sages and is portrayed as an example that no sacrifice is too great when the result is the good of the world. His bones are used as a symbol on India's highest award for gallantry "Param Vir Chakra" as "vajra". He was among one of the greatest among clan of bhrigus. He is credited with giving up his life in order to allow the Devas to use his bones to make weapons to defeat the Asura Vritra.
Dadhichi was the son of sage Atharvan and his wife Chitti(Bhaagvat Puraan, 4/1). Atharvan who is also known as Bhrigu rishi (Manas putra of Brahma) attained the name the Atharvan as he authored ("Heard") Atharvaveda. Chitti was sage Kardam's daughter. Dadhichi's wife's name was Swarcha and his son was Pippalada rishi , a great sage himself, who is supposed to be associated with the Pippalada school of thought and associated with the origin of the Praśna Upanishad. He had established his ashram in Misrikh, in Naimisharanya near Lucknow, in the state of Uttar Pradesh, India.Naimisharanya has been cited in all of the puranas as the place of his ashram, where it is still in existence. The current place of Sabarmati Ashram in Ahemdabad, is also one of the ancient sites of his ashram.In the ancient times sages used to travel long distances , so may be he stayed near sabarmati river for some time. His name is seen to occur in the 1st mandala of Rigveda (Bhagavata Purana, Srimad Devi Bhagavatam and in the Puranas). He is said to be the forefather of many other great rishis and various clans, such as the Dadheech Brahmins (Dynasty/clan) in India claim to be his descendants.
Dadhichi is believed to have authoured the famous composition of "Narayana Kavacham", which is a famous hymn in southern India and sung for power and peace. He was a passer-by of Madhuvidhya to ashvin kumars which he learned himself from others.
Dadhichi is associated with many Hindu legends and is sometimes portrayed as having a horse's head.
Ashvashira - The One With The Horse's Head
Dadhichi is said to have been a master of a Vedic art known as Brahmavidya (Madhuvidya) that would enable mortals to attain immortality. Indra the King of the Devas felt his position was insecure with such power in the hands of a mortal man, especially one with as much power as Dadhichi possessed by virtue of being a rishi. Indra was also against the Ashwini twins learning Brahmavidya and swore that he would behead the one who taught them the art. However the Ashwini twins, wished to learn this art and devised a plan to protect Dadhichi from Indra's power. They learnt the art from Dadhichi after cutting off his head, preserving it and replacing it with one from a horse. Indra in his wrath beheaded the horse-headed sage and left. The Ashwini twins then put Dadhichi's head back and revived him with the Madhuvidya that he had taught them. This was how the sage came to be called Ashvashira - The One with the Horse's head.
Indra and Vritra - The Tale of the Vajrayudha
Indra the King of the Devas was once driven out of Devaloka by an Asura named Vritra. The asura was the recipient of a boon whereby he could not be killed by any weapon that was known till the date of his receiving the boon and additionally that no weapon made of wood or metal could harm him.) Indra, who had lost all hope of recovering his kingdom went to seek the aid of Vishnu. Vishnu revealed to Indra that only the weapon made from the bones of the sage Dadhichi would defeat Vritra. Indra and the other Devas therefore approached the sage, whom Indra had once beheaded, and asked him for his aid in defeating Vritra. Dadhichi acceded to the Devas' request but said that he wished that he had time to go on a pilgrimage to all the holy rivers before he gave up his life for them. Indra then brought together all the waters of the holy rivers to Naimisharanya, thereby allowing the sage to have his wish fulfilled without a further loss of time. Dadhichi is then said to have given up his life by the art of Yoga after which the Devas fashioned the Vajrayudha from his spine. This weapon was then used to defeat the asura, allowing Indra to reclaim his place as the King of devaloka.
Another version of the story exists where Dadhichi was asked to safeguard the weapons of the devas as they were unable to match the arcane arts being employed by the asuras to obtain them. Dadhichi is said to have kept at the task for a very long time and finally tiring of the job, he is said to have dissolved the weapons in sacred water which he drank. The devas returned a long time later and asked him to return their weapons so that they might defeat the asuras, headed by Vritra, once in for all. Dadhichi however told them of what he had done and informed them that their weapons were now a part of his bones. However, Dadhichi, realising that his bones were the only way by which the devas could defeat the asuras willingly gave his life in a pit of mystical flames he summoned with the power of his austerities. Brahma is then said to have fashioned a large number of weapons from Dadhichi's bones, including the Vajrayudha, which was fashioned from his spine. The devas are then said to have defeated the asuras using the weapons thus created.
Various other legends are associated with Dadhichi and the list given below is by no means exhaustive in this respect:
- Dadhichi is said to have been the first to leave from Daksha's yagna when he realised that Shiva had not been invited in spite.
- The mantra or incantation for Devi Hinglaj is attributed to Saint Dadhichi.
In the modern age
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- The tale of Dadhichi is an oft used story to teach children in India that nothing is too much when it is done for the greater good.
- People in India form ethnic groups or clans based on ancestral descent which include Dadhich, Dahiya clans.
- Dadhichi is worshipped in some parts of India.
- On a Related note, there is a verse in the great Tamil work Tirukkural "Anibilaar ellam thamakkuriyar, Anbudaiyaar enbum uriyar pirarkku" meaning "The selfish(compassion-less) people consider everything in the world for their own use, whereas even the compassionate/selfless people's bones are for other's use.