Research Paper written by London Swaminathan
Post No.1319; Dated 30 September 2014.
I have written about Agastya’s presence and worship in South East Asian countries outside India. We see his statues in all the countries of South East Asia and all major museums around the world. I have also pointed out what ‘Agastya drank the ocean’ and ‘Agastya Humbling the Vindhya Hills’ meant. It means he was the first Brahmin to cross the ocean to establish a Hindu empire in Cambodia, Laos, Thailand, Vietnam, Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia and beyond. He was the first one to lay a road route to South India. Before that all the Rishis (sages) used the sea coast to travel around India where it was easy to cross the huge rivers with boats. They avoided travelling through thick forests of central India. But Agastya, a great engineer and a pioneer of ancient India, broke all these traditions. In fact he paved the way to Columbus, Magellan, Vasco Da Cama, Captain Cook, Marco polo and umpteen Greek and Roman sailors.
Now let us look at his presence in China and New Zealand. Scholars have arrived at a conclusion about the origin of Polynesians. They say that they migrated from Taiwan area of China to different locations. But they settled in Indonesia and adjacent countries and slowly migrated to New Zealand and other Pacific islands.
Agastya’s name as a saint and a star is in China in Fu Lu Shou worship. But his presence in Maoris of New Zealand was not noticed by any one. When I was searching for the Star Canopus I was surprised to find his name in Maori worship in New Zealand. Since all Polynesians came from China region they could have brought it to Indonesia or they could have taken it from Indonesian Hindus. Whole of South East Asia was Hindu-Buddhist rule for 1300 years till Muslims occupied those lands.
Maori tribes have several names for Agastya/Canopus star:
Ariki= High born (one of the seven virtues of sages is high birth)
Atutahi, Aotahi = all these are corrupted form of AGATHI (ya)
Tapu = Tapas (penance)
Agastya and Lopamudra, modern period.
Since scholars could not find any etymology in Maori language they used the ordinary meaning for those words stand alone, solitary etc.
Food is offered to the star as offering. This shows the respect and worship of Maoris.
One mythology says that Atutahi was left out of the basket when Tane wove it. This is a Hindu story where he was known to be born out of a pot (basket). Agastya is called Kumbha muni, Kalasi Suta, Ghatodbhava and Kumbha sambhava all meaning pot born or basket born. Atutahi sounds Agathi.
It is interesting to compare the veneration, worship, food offering and star staus with that of the Hindu Agastya. Hindus also has his name in Sraddha mantra ( ancestor worship). Sanskrit saying praises him as the patron saint of the sailors:
Agastyodaye jalani prasidanti = when the star Agastya rises, the waters become calm.
Mr A Kalyanaraman, author of Aryatarangini has done extensive research in Agastya cult and Maori culture. He gives lot of Sanskrit terms from Maori culture: See page 307 to 377 of Aryatarangini – part 2.
Hindu scriptures praise him as “fish of great lustre” born in a water jar.
He was very small when he was born, not more than a span in length and he was called Mana. Mana means term of measurement, respectful and son of Mana as well.
Canopus in Latin means a vase or jar. Vedas praise him as the priest respected by both the Varnas (RV 1-179), may be Devas and Asuras. We know the story of Asuras Vatapi and Ilvalan inviting him for dinner.
Agastya is associated with the South in Kalidasa’s Raguvamsam, Sangam literature and Hindu Puranas. He was one of the ancient Rishis in the rig-Veda. Shrikant G. Talageri points out five families of Rishis of early period including Agastya’s mention the three Vedic goddesses in the same order Bharati, Ila, Sarsvati. Later period Rishis change this order. Kalidasa links Agastya with Pandya kings.
All sages that were born in the Agastya gotra (clan) were called Agastya Rishis leading to lot of confusion. Ashramas of Agastya were shown in different places in different periods adding to this confusion. One must remember different Agastyas lived at different periods with the same surname.
Agastya in China
Chinese worship three Devas Fu, Lu, Shou representing Happiness, Prosperity and Longevity. They are worshipped as stars in the sky. Fu represents Jupiter (Guru), Lou represents Vasishta Nakashatra in Ursa Major constellation or Saptarishi Mandalam and Shou represents Agastya Naksahatra /Canopus in the southern sky. They have been worshipping these stars in the form of three human figures for at least 800 years. There is no doubt that they have learnt all these things from the Hindus. Vasishta and Arundhati are in Sangam Tamil literature which is at least 2000 years old. Agastya Star is visible only for people living in the southern latitudes. Only Hindus could have made him a God or a Star!
My previous articles on Agastya in the past four years:
Is Brahmastra a Nuclear Weapon?
Agastya in Jataka Tales and Kalidasa
Did Agastya drink ocean?
Population Explosion: Oldest reference in Hindu scriptures
Ravana-Pandya Peace Treaty! Kalidasa solves a Tamil Puzzle