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Dadhichi also known as Dadhyancha, is a central character in Hindu mythology. Dadhichi is primarily known for sacrificing his life so the Deva (Hinduism), or benevolent Gods, could make weapons called "vajra", from his bones. After having been driven out from Svarga, or heaven, by the serpent king Vritra, the Deva defeated the Asura in order to reclaim heaven, using their vajra.
By defeating Vritra, the personification of drought, the Deva also released water to living beings who were viewed as innocent victims of the evil Asura. By helping the Deva defeat the Asura through his sacrifice, Dadhichi is revered among the rishi, or Hindu sages, for his selflessness. Dadhichi symbolizes the notion that no sacrifice is too great for helping the defenseless from evil. This symbolization has inspired "Param Vir Chakra", India's highest military award for gallantry, that is most often posthumously awarded to soldiers killed in combat.
Dadhichi is also known as a devotee of Lord Shiva. After Shiva was separated from Shakti, a goddess personifying the sacred feminine, he left for a forest to live in seclusion as a Rishi. The annual festival of Maha Shivratri marks the first time Lord Shiva appeared as a rishi to his devotees, which included Dadhichi and his disciples, who had been offering prayers to Lord Shiva.
In the Bhagavata Purana, Dadhichi was said to be the son of sage Atharvan and his wife Chitti. Atharvan was said to be the author of Atharvaveda which is one of the four Vedas(a collection of texts upon which the Hinduism religion is based).
Atharvan was also known as a Bhrigu Rishi. Chitti was the daughter of the sage Kardam. The names of Dadhichi's wife and son were Swarcha and Pippalada, respectively. Pippalada was a rishi associated with the Pippalada school of thought in Hinduism. He is known for creating 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 location of his ashram. The ashram 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. It may be that Pippalada stayed near Sabarmati River for some time. His name is found in the 1st mandala of Rigveda (Bhagavata Purana, Srimad Devi Bhagavatam and in the Puranas). Atharvan is said to be the forefather of many other great rishis and various clans, such as the Dadheech Brahmins / Shaiva Brahmins (Dynasty/clan), an Indian clan who claim to be his descendants.
Dadhichi is believed to have written the "Narayana Kavacham", a famous hymn in southern India sung for power and peace. He passed on Madhuvidhya to ashvin kumars, which he had learned 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 one 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 (Gods of Medicines) 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 blinded by 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 (Heaven) by an Asura (Demon) named Vritra. This 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. Vritra Demon also stole all the water in the world for his own use and for his Demon army so that all other living beings die out of thirst and hunger and so no Human or God is left alive to challenge his place in Heaven. Indra, who had lost all hope of recovering his kingdom went to seek the aid of Vishnu. Vishnu revealed to Indra that only the weapons made from the Thunder containing Diamond boness of the sage Dadhichi would kill 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 then went into a deep meditative state and released his life force from his body. The celestial Kamadhenu Calf then licked and removed the flesh from his bones after which the Devas fashioned the Vajrayudha (Thunderbolt) from his Spine and numerous other weapons. This weapon Thunderbolt was then used to kill the asura (Demon), allowing Indra to reclaim his place as the King of devaloka and releasing water for use of all living beings.
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.
- "The Great Sage Dadhichi". Archived from the original on 2007-04-21. Retrieved 2009-09-20.
- "Dadhichi in Ahmedabad". Retrieved 2009-09-20.
- "Legend of Sage Dadhichi who saved the Gods from Vrtrasura in Ahmedabad @ Amritapuri.org". archives.amritapuri.org. Retrieved 2015-10-06.
- "Dadhichi Rishi". Retrieved 2009-09-20.
- Mudgala Purana 1.3.19