Rishi (Saint) Garga was one of the most revered Vedic sages in ancient India, who was a preeminent scholar and a major benefactor to the field of Ayurveda. Author of Garga Samhita, he is considered one of the 18 most important contributors to the subject of astrology.
Garga was born to a renowned scholar and major author of Rigveda, saint Bharadwaja and Suseela. He was a warrior Brahmin by birth, having Kshatriya as well as Brahmin characteristics as his mother was a Kshatriya and father a Brahmin. According to Vishnu Purana, Bhardwaja had a brief liaison with an apsara named Ghritachi, due to which he grew up a son named Dronacharya. That's why Garga and Dronacharya are half-brothers. Apart from his half-brother, Garga had two sisters named Ilavida (also known as Devavarnini) and Katyayani who married sage Vishrava and Yajnavalkya respectively.
In Mahabharata, it has been stated that Bharadwaja taught Dronacharya with the use of weapons and Dronacharya, having mastered all the training, pursued the path to become a warrior Brahmin, playing significant role in the Hindu epic by training the Pandava and Kaurava warriors like Arjuna, Bhima and Duryodhana among others and even directly participating in the war while Garga pursued the path to become a pure Brahmin, avoiding the path of warrior to dedicate himself towards the path of literature and Sadhana.
Astrology is considered to be an important aspect of Vedas and Garga was one of the founders of the subject. Indian astrology is written in various ancient scriptures and the major ones include Narad Samhita, Garga Samhita, Bhrigu Samhita, Arun Samhita, Ravana Samhita, Varahi Samhita, etc. Among these Garga Samhita is based on the six fractions of the astrological science.
His work Garga Purana lays down the rules of astrology in detail. Garga also contributed in the field of Vastushastra. He started the list of twenty seven nakshatras with Krittika. Selecting Krittika as the first of twenty seven nakshatras was very significant as it is in deep contrast with the first star of Jyotihshastra i.e., Ashvini.
Garga and Krishna
Garga Samhita not only deals with astrology but also accounts the life of Lord Krishna. There is a detailed account of Krishna’s character. But, there is one variation in the story of Krishna in the scripture. Here he is said to have been married to Radha, his childhood friend. Rishi Garga is credited with naming the eighth incarnation of Lord Vishnu as Krishna and his brother as Balarama.
King Vasudeva, the father of Krishna, approached Garga after few months of Krishna's birth and beseeched him to go to Gokul to foretell the future of his son at Nanda's home, as he was living in the prison of the tyrant ruler of Mathura called Kamsa. Garga was a reputed priest for the Yadu dynasty. So, he was given a warm welcome at Nanda and Yashoda's home. On being asked to give names to the newborns, he named Rohini's son as Balarama and Yashoda's son as Krishna.
He also predicted the greatness of both child to their parents. But he also warned Nanda about the problems they will encounter in their lifetime. He warned them that there would be various attempts of killing Krishna by many demons and advised them to protect him.
On being asked how he got the name "Krishna", he replied that it was a name he got from supreme beings after years of meditation at a place which is currently located in Patteeswaram village of Thanjavur district, Tamil Nadu.
Impact and legacy
The Gagas river, which originates in the sacred forests of Pandukholi in Almora district, Uttarakhand has been named after Garga. The river evolves largely through the flow of over fourteen major streams and flows for about 50 km prior to merging with Ramganga (West) river.
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- Friedrich Max Müller (1862). On Ancient Hindu Astronomy and Chronology. Oxford University Press. pp. 37–60.