Bhṛgu

(‘the roaster’)

‘Bhṛgu’ is a well-known name that appears in several works, both Vedic and Paurāṇic. Assuming that the word has been derived from the root ‘bhṛj’ or ‘bhrāj’ (‘to burn or to roast’) it could have been the name of the fire-priest by whose magical power the altar fire was kindled. According to a myth, god Mātariśvan brought lightning from the heavens to this earth and taught the art of kindling fire with araṇis or fire-sticks, to the Bhṛgus (‘bhārgavāḥ’), the Āṇgirasas and the Atharvans.

The sage Bhṛgu has been described as the mānasaputra or mindborn son of Brahmā, the Creator. Sometimes he has been stated to be the son of god Varuṇa or even of Indra. He was the father of Lakṣmī the spouse of Viṣṇu. (Hence the name ‘Bhārgavī’ has been applied to her.) In other incarnations he was the father of Śukrācārya (the guru of the asuras or demons) and of sages like Cyavana. He is said to have once tested the Trinity—Brahmā, Viṣṇu and Śiva—and come to the conclusion that Viṣṇu was the best among them and that he alone deserved worship.

He is one of the well-known sages who were ‘gotra-pravartakas,’ originators of gotras or lineage. Hence his descendants are called ‘Bhārgavas.’ Sages Jamadagni and Paraśurāma belonged to this gotra.

The Mahābhārata pictures him as a great savant often delivering discourses on abstruse matters.

He was one of the four sages—the other three being Marīci, Atri and Kaśyapa—who elaborated the Vaikhānasa Āgama precepts followed by some Vaiṣṇava sects.

The place where Bhṛgu is said to have performed austerities is known as Bhṛgu-Kaccha. It is situated on the bank of the river Narmadā near its confluence with the sea. It is now known as Broach, situated in the Gujarat State. At the place known as the Daśāśvamedha Ghāṭ, the king Bali is said to have performed the horse sacrifice. It was here that he propitiated Vāmana (the dwarf-incarnation of Viṣṇu) and granted him the boon of ‘land covered in three steps.’ The city itself is considered to be very ancient, the original ‘Bhṛgupura’ (city of Bhṛgu) being built by Bhṛgu himself.