Yoga Mythology Series: Rishi Dadhyanga, Life’s Purpose

Dadhyanga was a born to Santi and sage Atharva. The boy was innately calm and beneficent. As he grew older he became known for his unswerving devotion for Lord Shiva the omniscient yogi the supreme being worshiped as a great God; one who can transform the universe.

Dadhyanga immersed himself in devotion to Lord Shiva. He spent most of his time meditation upon Shiva and used the remaining time of the day helping and serving people around him to his truest ability. His conscious efforts to live a selfless life devoted to welfare of others and devotion to supreme being made him a revered rishi (sage) amongst all gods and devas; the celestial beings.

After many years of seclusion in the Himalayas, rishi Dadhyanga came back and started living on the bank of Sabarmati river. Anyone who came to his hermitage seeking help never returned disappointed. Sage Dadhyanga did everything in capacity to help the needy. With extreme devotion towards leading a selfless life made his body and soul purge all impurities that came as a part of human existence.

During those ages there were several wars waged by the asuras (demons) on the devas (celestial beings) and celestial gods to take control of the three worlds. Once during such wars between the asuras and the devas, Vrtraasura, a very powerful demon king captured swarg loka (the heavens) with his might, defeating the gods. The gods tried everything possible to regain their control over swarg loka but failed in all their attempts as Vrtraasura defeated them each time.

The gods realized that there was no way to defeat the demon king thus they went to Lord Narayana (the supreme creator of the universe) and took his shelter. Learning about their plight Lord Narayana informed the vanquished gods that there was no weapon strong enough in heaven or earth that could slay Vrtaasura and that it was only Lord Indra the god of thunder and storms who could kill him by a thunderbolt made from the bones of sage Dadhyanga. Lord Narayana told them that Dadhyanga had performed such severe penance that his bones had acquired strength beyond bounds and that he was such a great beneficent that he would offer his bones for the purpose, if requested for. Learning this from Lord Narayana, all the celestial gods and devas went to see rishi Dadhyanga at it his hermitage.

Dadhyanga welcomed all the gods in obeisance at his hermitage. “What brings all of you here?” he asked looking at Lord Indra, the god of thunder. “Vrtraasura the demon king has captured the swarg loka and banished all of us, we have no place to go to and it is in great agony that we have come to you to seek your help”, Lord Indra replied with much sorrow. Hearing their plight Dadhyanga explained the devas that he was Brahmana and a teacher and it was against his nature to wage a war or assail a demon.  “We have come here to request you to give us your bones to create a thunderbolt so strong that it can slay the demon king because there is no other weapon strong enough in the entire universe to kill him” pleaded Lord Indra.

Hearing this Dadhyanga assured them with a pleasing smile and said.. “We humans are made for cooperation, like feet, like hands, like the eye lids. To act against one another then is contrary to our inherent nature. We humans do not realize it but our greatest need is to be useful to a fellow human in the purest way possible, that is the only way we can find true contentment and use our time here on this earth in the most fulfilling way possible”.

Rishi Dadhyanga with folded hands told them that death was inevitable, and the best way to end this journey of life would be to die for the well being of another one.
“I am going to give up my life leaving my bones for your sake, please use them for welfare of everyone” Rishi Dadhyanga said looking at Lord Indra as other gods looked at him with tears of joy and hope. The sage then sat on the grass closed his eyes and left his body by yogic powers, soon the cows of the forest gathered around the body and licked the sage’s body away until only the bones were left on the grass.

Lord Indra killed Vrtaasura with the thunderbolt made from Dadhyanga’s bones and order was restored in the universe.

By Ankur Tunaak

Ankur Tunaak has been an Ashtanga yoga practitioner for over a decade, studied with Shree M. Vishwanath who was one of the first students and nephew of Shree Pathabhi Jois. Also, an alumnus of Bihar School Of Yoga, one of four premier Yogic Studies Institutions in India. Ankur is a storyteller and photographer, currently teaching yoga in New Delhi, India.

Portrait photography by Ankur Tunaak.