Interesting Story of Dirgatamas in the Veda and Mahabharata (Post No.4456)

Written by London Swaminathan 


Date: 3 DECEMBER 2017 


Time uploaded in London-  15-07



Post No. 4456

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Dirgatamas of Rig Veda was one of the famous blind poets like Homer of Greece. But he lived at least a few thousand years before Homer of Odyssey and Iliad. Dirgatamas meant ‘Long Darkness’. He was the son of Mamata and Ucathya. So he is known with two surnames Mamateya and Aucathya. His son was Kakshivan who was also a famous poet in the Rig Veda.

Though he was born blind he recovered his vision at the end. He lived a full hundred years. His name is found in the Rig Veda and Sankayana Aranyaka. In the Aitareya Brahmana, he was praised as the priest of the most famous king Bharata, whose name is given to India that is Bharat. He was thrown in to the river Ganga


In his old age by his servants. Traitana attacked him but killed himself. When he was floating in a raft in the River Ganga, he was rescued by the king of Anga Desa. There he married a slave girl by name Usij.

Though there are some contradictions in the Mahabharat version given below, we are able the get the outline of his life story.

Mahabharata version

He was the son of a Brahmana coupe- Uthathya and Mamata. His father’s younger brother Brihaspati forcibly possessed Mamata while she was pregnant.  The child inside her asked Brihaspati not to enter as there was very little space. When Brihaspati still insisted the child inside Mamata’s womb pushed out Brihaspati’s seed. Brihaspati became angry and cursed the baby in the womb to become blind. Thus, Dirgatamas was born blind.


He became a very learned seer and married Pradveshi. They had five children including Gautama. Some of the seers in the community hated Dirgatama and persuaded Pradveshi and his sons to send him out. They asked the servants to float him in a raft in the River Ganga so that he could find a better place to live.


Dirgatama was lucky to be found by the King Baliraja of Anga Desa. Hearing his full story he wanted to get him a child through his wife Queen Sudeshna. She had no issues and in those days kings without wards to succeed approached Brahmin seers to get them children.

Though Dirgatamas consented, queen Sudeshna did not like the idea of going to bed with a blind man. she feared her child would also be born blind and so she sent one of her maids to him. They had several children including Poet Kakshivanth.

One day the king asked Dirgatamas whether all of the children were his own, Dirgatamas told him the truth. The king insisted that Sudeshna should have a child through Dirgatamas and as a result they had five children: Anga, Vanga, Kalinga, Pundra and Suhya. Each one of them was given a region to rule and they started their own dynasties.


This anecdote was narrated by Bhishma to Queen Satyavati to support the suggestion that a Brahmana be invited to produce children in the wives of Vichitraveerya who had died childless.


This is in the Adi Parva of Mahabharata.


From the stories in the Rig Veda, Aranyakas, Brahmanas and the epic, we are able to get the facts:

Dirgatamas was born blind. He was married and had children. He was hated by some jealous seers. They made his wife and children to send him out of his home. So he was floated in the River Ganges. He was rescued by a king. He produced children thorough King’s wife at the request of the king. They started new dynasties.

The reason attributed to his blindness is also based on medical science. If a pregnant woman was put under pressure through domestic violence o rape, then the child would be affected due to stress. Since Mamata was forcibly taken by her husband’s brother, it was possible that the child was born handicapped.


Dirgatamas became famous for his number symbolism and his quotations on one god with different names, four types of sounds and Adam and Eve story (At/dma= adam; Eve= Jeeve Atma) in the two birds on the same branch episode, in which one eating an apple and another being a passive observer. This is in the sculptures of India and post Vedic Upanishads as well. Bible used this story and gave Atma and Jeevatma as Adam/a and Eve/jeeva.


Dirgatamas hymn with 52 couplets in the Rig Veda 1-164 is the longest one and most often quoted. His number symbolism made this hymn a very interesting and debatable one. And the subjects he dealt with made this an encyclopaedic verse.