Atri is one of the Prajapatis and the sons of Creator Brahma.
One of the Saptarishi of the first as well as the present Manvantara.
Father – Lord Brahma
Wife – Anasuya, daughter of Sage Kardama and Devahuti
Sons – Soma, Datta, and Durvasa (the incarnations of the Divine Trinity Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva respectively)
- Literary Works
Atri Maharishi is considered to be one of the great discoverers of sacred Mantras of Hinduism He is the seer of the fifth Mandala (Book 5) of the Rig Veda. His sons, disciples and others in his family line have contributed in the compilation of the Rig Veda and other Vedic texts. Some of them are Shaavaashva, Avishtir, Purvaatithi, Mudgala, Uddaalaki, Shaakalaayani and Chaandogya.Atri-samhita and Atri-smriti are two works attributed to Atri.
- Connection with AUM
AUM, the cosmic sound symbolizing Creation or Brahmaa (A), preservation or Vishnu (U) and dissolution or Shiv (M) was discovered by three Braahman were Rishi Gautam (A), Rishi Atri (U) and Rishi Bharadwaaj (M). He followed his father Brahmaa in giving the sacred thread which has three strands symbolizing A-U-M. These three strands indicate the vow that a Braahman takes to recite and adhere to AUM (also pronounced OM). The first three threads of the Brahm Vrat (promise of the Braahman) is related to Bhoo Lok (Earth plane). The second set of three threads is given after marriage and is related to the Bhuvah Lok (Solar system) while the third set of three threads Deekshaa (initiation) and is related to Swarg Lok (Heavens).
- Atri Gotra
Atri Gotra is from the lineage of Brahmarshi Atri. Till the present day, a number of Brahmin families have the sage’s name at the head of their lineage, which indicates that he or his descendents tutored that whole lineage.
- Connection with Mahabharata
After Drona became the head of the Kaurava army after Bhisma, he fought even even more ferociously.
Sage Atri was very worried because if Drona continued this he would cause destruction and human misery beyond proportions. To prevent this situation from arising Atri and Gautam came to the battle field along with their five of their companions. It was at this time that Yudhishtira had shouted (at the instance of Sri Krishna) that Ashwathama had been killed. This put Drona off completely. He lost all hope in his life. He became mad with anger. This sent danger signals all around.Sage Atri felt sad for him and consoled him, “Dear friend, all along you have done everything against Dharma. This war you are engaged in is the best proof. It is enough and stop it. Stop this carnage. You are a good man. This act is not in tune with your status. You are a scholar of Vedanta par excellence. You have been a Brahman and you have got to practice dharma. This cruel act does not befit you. Give up your weapons, fix your mind in our glorious Sanathana Dharma. I am sorry, you have wielded the most terrible Brahmastra on the innocent soldiers! Put an end to your meaningless killing.”Heeding to Atri’s advice Dronacharya decided to give up his arms and stop killing. He concentrated on Lord Vishnu and closed his eyes and never opened them again until he left his body (when Drishtadyumna killed him) and started his journey towards the lord. Hence Sage Atri’s kind nature helped save him.
- Connection with Ramayana
Rama alonwith Sita and Lakshman visited Atri Maharishi’s Ashram during his fourteen years of stay in the forest. It was Atri who showed the way to Dandakaranya forest to Rama, after showering his hospitality on him.
- Atri and the Solar Eclipse
Solar eclipses were understood by the Vedic people and find prolific mention in ancient scriptures. Sage Atri was one of the great personas of that era. He is credited as being the first to predict solar eclipses and calculate their durations. In Hindi solar eclipse is Surya Grahan.Hymn LX of Book 5 of the Riga Veda describes Atri’s power to dispel a solar eclipse. The relevant portion of the hymn states – When the demon Svarbhanu engulfed Surya, the Sun demi-God, with darkness the people got bewildered. Atri discovered that Surya was concealed in gloom and with four verses of a sacred prayer caused Svarbhanu’s magic to disappear and established Surya in the heavens again. Only Atri and his followers had the power to do this.According to the Anushasana parva of the Vayu told Arjun that once during a war between devas and asuras, the asuras eclipsed the sun and the moon. The world was enveloped in darkness, and the devas started losing. They approached Atri for help. He immediately transformed himself into the sun and the moon. The moon gave the devas light and the sun started scorching the asuras. The devas won the war.
- Sage Atri punishes Indra
Once when he was in need of some money, he approached Prithu Chakravarthy for help. Prithu agreed to help the rishi but in turn requested him to help with the Aswamedha Yaga that he was taking up. He asked sage Atri to help his son who was appointed as guardian for the yaga aswa. Indra wanted to cause interruption to the yaga presumably to prevent Prithu from getting more powerful. So, he came disguised and stole the yaga aswa and was carrying it away in the sky. Prithu’s son asked sage Atri whether he should kill him with his arrows.Sage Atri saw what Indra was doing and wanted to teach him a lesson and so advised that whoever is causing obstacles to the yaga deserves punishment and killing that person or injuring him is allowed by dharma. He indicated that the person was none other than Indra but no one is above dharma. So, the son of Prithu shot an arrow at Indra and Indra was badly hurt. Indra left the horse but again stole it and became invisible. Atri made Indra visible by absorbing Indra’s powers (like a black body absorbs radiation) and Prithu’s son punished him again!The yaga was completed successfully and the emperor praised Atri to the sky. Sage Gautama, who was present (and is a very great sage himself) felt jealous (or pretended to be so!) and when sage Atri returned the compliments to Emperor Prithu praising him as Chandra and Indra, sage Gautama objected saying that it is against dharma. Atri maharshi responded that he did not do anything wrong and asked the assembly to pass their ruling on this tricky matter. The assembly of learned sages could not decide and they in turn submitted the question to Sanatkumara, another manasa putra of Brahma. He confirmed that since a king or emperor cannot become so without an amsa of Vishnu in him, Atri did not err in equating the king to Indra. All sages including Gautama accepted this ruling.