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Parashara (IAST: Parāśara) was a maharishi and the author of many ancient Indian texts. He is accredited as the author of the first Purana, the Vishnu Purana, before his son Vyasa wrote it in its present form. He was the grandson of Vasishtha, the son of Śakti Maharṣi, and the father of Vyasa. There are several texts which give reference to Parashara as an author/speaker. Modern scholars believe that there were many individuals who used this name throughout time whereas others assert that the same Parashara taught these various texts and the time of writing them varied. The actual sage himself never wrote the texts; he was known as a traveling teacher, and the various texts attributed to him are given in reference to Parashara being the speaker to his student. He is the third member of the Ṛṣi Paramparā of the Advaita Guru Paramparā.
According to the Vedas, Brahma created Vasishtha, who, with Arundhati, had a son named Śakti Maharṣi who sired Parashara. With Satyavati, Parashara fathered Vyasa. Vyāsa sired Dhritarashtra, Pandu and Vidura through his deceased brother's wives. Vyāsa also sired Shuka through his wife, Jābāli's daughter Pinjalā. Thus Parashara was the great-grandfather of both the warring parties of the Mahābhārata, the Kauravas and the Pandavas. Parashara is used as a gotra for the ancestors and their off springs thereon.
Parashara was raised by his grandfather Vasishtha because he lost his father at an early age. His father, Śakti Muni, was on a journey and came across an angry Rakshasa (demon) who had once been a king but was turned into a demon feeding on human flesh as a curse from Viśvamitra. The demon devoured Parashara’s father. In the Viṣṇu Purāṇa, Parashara speaks about his anger from this:
"I had heard that my father had been devoured by a Rākṣasa employed by Viśvamitra: violent anger seized me, and I commenced a sacrifice for the destruction of the Rākṣasas: hundreds of them were reduced to ashes by the rite, when, as they were about to be entirely exterminated, my grandfather Vasishtha said to me: Enough, my child; let thy wrath be appeased: the Rākṣasas are not culpable: thy father's death was the work of destiny. Anger is the passion of fools; it becometh not a wise man. By whom, it may be asked, is anyone killed? Every man reaps the consequences of his own acts. Anger, my son, is the destruction of all that man obtains by arduous exertions, of fame, and of devout austerities; and prevents the attainment of heaven or of emancipation. The chief sages always shun wrath: be not subject to its influence, my child. Let no more of these unoffending spirits of darkness be consumed. Mercy is the might of the righteous.”
Parashara Muni (Sage), at the wish of Lord Vishnu, Brahma and Mahadev, who maintain, create and destroy in time the entire universe, on one of his travels across the country, halted for the night in a little hamlet on the banks of the river Yamuna. He was put up in the house of the fisherman-chieftain Dusharaj. When dawn broke, the chief asked his daughter, Matsyagandha, whose name means "one with the smell of fish", to ferry the sage to his next destination. When in the ferry, Parashara was attracted by the beautiful girl. He created an island within the river by his mystic potency and asked her to land the boat there. Seeing people on the river's bank, she demurred, at which time the sage created a dense fog which enveloped the entire river. Parashara blessed her with a son, Krishna Dvaipāyana, who was dark-complexioned and hence may be called by the name Krishna (black), and also the name Dwaipayana, meaning 'island-born'. He later compiled the classic Vedic literatures of India, and so is called Vyasa who is the 17th incarnations of Lord Vishnu. Parashara granted her the boon that the finest fragrance may emit from her person. She was thereafter known as Satyavati (pure fragrance).
Leaving Satyavati in the care of Vyasa, Parashara proceeded to perform Tapas (intense meditation). Later Vysasa also became a Rishi and Satyavati returned to her father's house, and in due course, married Śantanu.
Parashara was known as the "limping sage". He had his leg wounded during an attack on his āśrama. When a ṛṣi dies he merges back into an element or an archetype. When Sage Parashara was walking through a dense forest he and his students were attacked by wolves. He was unable to get away in his old age with a lame leg he left this world merging into the wolves.
In the Ṛigveda, Parashara, son of Śakti Muni (Parashara Śāktya), is the seer of verses 1.65-73 which are all in praise of Agni (the sacred fire), and part of 9.97 (v.31-44) which is in praise of Soma. Below is 1.73.2
devo na yaḥ savitā satyamanmā kratvā nipāti vṛjanāni viṣvā
purupraṣasto amatirna satya ātmeva Sevo didhiṣāyyo bhūt
He who is like the divine Sun, who knows the truth (of all things), preserves by his actions (his votaries) in all encounters; like nature, he is unchangeable and, like soul, is the source of all happiness: he is ever to be cherished.
Texts attributed to Parashara
- Seer of verses in the Ṛgveda: recorded as the seer of RV 1.65-73 and part of RV 9.97.
- Parashara Smṛti (also called Parashara Dharma Saṃhitā): a code of laws which is stated in the text (1.24) to be for Kali Yuga.
- Speaker of Viṣṇu Purana considered by scholars as one of the earliest Purāṇas.
- Speaker of the Bṛhat Parāśara Horāśāstra, also written as BPHS. It is considered a foundational text of astrology. The Sanskrit in which it is composed dates to the 7th or 8th centuries CE
- Speaker of the Vṛkṣāyurveda ("the science of life of trees"), one of the earliest texts on botany. This text was considered to be an ancient botany primer for students of Traditional Indian Medicine.
- Krishi parasaram, a book that dealt with agriculture and weeds.
- Wilson, H. H. The Vishnu Purana: A System of Hindu Mythology and Tradition.
- Munshi, K.M. "The Book of VedaVyaasa: The Master".
- Rgveda 1.73.2 Translation by H.H.Wilson
- Flood, Gavin. An Introduction to Hinduism.
- Flood, Gavin (1996). An Introduction to Hinduism. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-43878-0.
- Ganguli, Kisari Mohan. "The Mahabharata of Krishna-Dwaipayana Vyasa" published between 1883 and 1896, http://www.sacred-texts.com/hin/m12/m12c049.htm
- Monier-Williams, Sanskrit Dictionary (1899).
- Munshi, K.M. "The Book of VedaVyaasa: The Master". Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, Bombay, 1971.
- Wilson, H. H. (2006). The Vishnu Purana: A System of Hindu Mythology and Tradition. Cambridge: Read Country Books. ISBN 1-84664-664-2.
- Translation and commentary Brihat Parashara Hora Sastra