Rishi

From Academic Kids

In Hinduism, the Rishis are sages and/or seers who "heard the hymns of the Devas"; and then wrote them down as Vedic scriptures.

The word's etymology is unknown. It has an Avestan cognate ərəšiš (Yasna 31.5) "an ecstatic" (see also Yurodivy, Vates). Monier-Williams tentatively suggests derivation from drsh "to see"[1] (http://flaez.ch/cgi-bin/mw.pl?query=RSi) and he also compares Old Irish arsan, "a sage, a man old in wisdom". Manfred Mayrhofer in his Etymological Dictionary prefers a connection to either arsh "pour, flow" (PIE *h1ers), or to ras "yell". A suggestion referenced by Julius Pokorny connects the word to a PIE root *h3er-s meaning "rise, protrude", in the sense of "excellent, egregious" (cognate to English arse).

In the Vedas, the word denotes a a singer of sacred hymns, an inspired poet or sage, or any person who alone or with others invokes the deities in rhythmical speech or song of a sacred character. In particular, it refers to the authors of the hymns of the Rigveda, e.g. Kutsa, Atri, Rebha, Agastya, Kushika, Vasishtha, Vyashva. Later generations regarded the Rishis as patriarchal sages or saints, occupying the same position in India history as the heroes and patriarchs of other countries, constituting a peculiar class of beings in the early mythical system, as distinct from Asuras, Devas and mere mortal men.

Seven Rishis (the Saptarshi) are often mentioned in the Brahmanas and later works as typical representatives of the character and spirit of the pre-historic or mythical period; in Shatapatha Brahmana 14.5.2.6, their names are Gotama, Bharadva1ja, Vishvamitra, Jamadagni, Vasishtha, Kashyapa, and Atri. In Mahabharata 12, on the other hand, Marici, Atri, Angiras, Pulaha, Kratu, Pulastya and Vasishtha. In addition to the Saptarshi, there are other classifications of sages. In descending order of precedence, they are Brahmarshi, Maharshi, Rajarshi.

In Vedic Astronomy, the Saptarshi form the constellation of Ursa Maior (e. g. RV 10.82.2; AV. 60.40.1. Metaphorically the Saptarshi may stand for the seven senses or the seven vital airs of the body.


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