Gautama Maharishi (Sanskrit: गौतम महर्षि) is one of the Saptarishis (Seven Great Sages Rishi of the current Manvantara (seventh). He was one of the Maharishis of Vedic times, known to have been the discoverer of Mantras -- 'Mantra-drashtaa', in Sanskrit. The Rig Veda has several suktas (Sanskrit: 'hymns') that go with his name. He was the son of Rahugana, belonging to the line of Angiras. The Devi Bhagavatam says that the river Godavari is so named because of its association with Gautama. He had two sons by name Vamadeva and Nodhas, both themselves discoverers of Mantras. There is a hymn called Bhadra in the Sama Veda which again is ascribed to Gautama Maharishi.
His wife is Ahalya, herself the 'mind born daughter' (Sanskrit: manasa putri) of Creator Brahma. The Puranas speak of the story wherein it is described how Gautama won the hand of Ahalya by circumambulating the divine cow in order to fulfill the stipulation of Brahma that whoever first goes round the whole Earth will win the hand of Ahalya. The 'chief priest' (Sanskrit: Purohita) of King Janaka of Mithila, by name Shatananda, was the son of Gautama and Ahalya. Gautama's sixty-year long penance is mentioned in the Shanti Parva of the Mahabharata. The Narada purana describes the story of the 12-year famine during which Gautama fed all the Rishis and saved them.
Gautama was one of the famous seven rishis termed Saptarshi. He was the progenitor of the Gautama gotra. He was the son of Rahugana.
With Bharadvaja, Gautama shares a common ancestry as they are both descended from Angirasa, and sometimes they are both bracketed together under the name Angirasa.
According to the Ramayana, Rishi Gautama once went to take bath in the river Ganges early morning. The king of the Devas, Indra, was fascinated with Gautam's wife, Ahalya. Indra came in the form of Gautam and made love to Ahalya. As he was escaping, he was caught by Rishi Gautama who was returning to the Ashrama from his bath. Gautam cursed Ahalya and Indra both for this act. Ahalya was converted to stone, while Indra was cursed with one thousands of rebirths (Sahasrayoni). Later, taking pity on both, Gautama converted both these curses to boons. Indra's various cycles of births(yonis) were reduced to one, and he came to be known as Sahasraaksha. As for Ahalya, Gautama granted her the boon that she would be brought back to human form by the touch of the feet of Lord Rama (Lord Vishnu) and would reunite with him.
Gautama was also the author of Dharma-sutra known as Gautama Dharma sutra It is in fact the earliest Dharma Sutra. It contains 28 chapters with 1000 aphorisms. Almost every aspect of the observances of Hindu dharma - including the rules for the four Ashramas, the forty sanskāras, the four varnas, kingly duties, the punishments for various offences, the obsequies for the dead, do's and don'ts of food consumption, the dharmas of women, the rules for Praayaschitta (atonement for sins), and the rules of succession of property. In this sense Gautama's Dharma Shastra may perhaps be considered the oldest law book of the world.
Akṣapāda Gotama, the 2nd century CE founder of the school of philosophy that goes by the name of 'Nyaya' (Logic), is not to be confused with Gautama Maharishi.
^Inhabitants of the Worlds Mahanirvana Tantra, translated by Arthur Avalon, (Sir John Woodroffe), 1913, Introduction and Preface. The Rishi are seers who know, and by their knowledge are the makers of shastra and "see" all mantras. The word comes from the root rish Rishati-prapnoti sarvvang mantrang jnanena pashyati sangsaraparangva, etc. The seven great Rishi or saptarshi of the first manvantara are Marichi, Atri, Angiras, Pulaha, Kratu, Pulastya, and Vashishtha. In other manvantara there are other sapta-rshi. In the present manvantara the seven are Kashyapa, Atri, Vashishtha, Vishvamitra, Gautama, Jamadagni, Bharadvaja. To the Rishi the Vedas were revealed. Vyasa taught the Rigveda so revealed to Paila, the Yajurveda to Vaishampayana, the Samaveda to Jaimini, Atharvaveda to Samantu, and Itihasa and Purana to Suta. The three chief classes of Rishi are the Brah-marshi, born of the mind of Brahma, the Devarshi of lower rank, and Rajarshi or Kings who became Rishis through their knowledge and austerities, such as Janaka, Ritaparna, etc. Thc Shrutarshi are makers of Shastras, as Sushruta. The Kandarshi are of the Karmakanda, such as Jaimini.