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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 driven out from Svarga, or heaven, by the serpent king Vritra, the Deva defeated the Asura by using their vajra to reclaim heaven. He is well known for his sacrifice, in spite of his wife's crying for that he convinced her stating that.
By defeating Vritra, the personification of drought, the Deva also releases water to the living beings who are 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 defend the defenseless from evil. This symbolization has inspired "Param Vir Chakra", India's highest military award for gallantry, which is most often posthumously awarded to soldiers who were killed in combats.
Dadhichi is also known as a devotee of Lord Shiva. After Shiva was separated from Shakti, a goddess personifying the sacred feminine, he went to 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 thought to be the son of sage Atharvan and his wife Chitti. Atharvan was said to be the author of Atharvaveda which was one of the four Vedas (a collection of texts upon which the Hindu religion is based.) Atharvan is also known as a Bhrigu Rishi. Chitti was the daughter of the sage Kardam. Atharvan is said to be the forefather of many other great rishis and various clans, such as the Dadheech Brahmins / Shaiva Brahmins.
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, which 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).
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 learned 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 which made him invulnerable to any weapon that was known until the date of his receiving the boon and, additionally, no weapon made of wood or metal could harm him. This Demon, Vritra, also stole all the water in the world for his own use and for that of his Demon army. He did this so that all other living beings would die of thirst and hunger, leaving no Human or God 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 weapons made from the Thunder containing Diamond bones 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 made 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 the water for 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 and for all. Dadhichi, however, told them of what he had done and informed them that their weapons were now a part of his bones. Realizing that his bones were the only way by which the devas could defeat the asuras, he 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 realized that Shiva had not been invited in spite.
- The mantra or incantation for Devi Hinglaj is attributed to Saint Dadhichi.