The Legend Of Maha Sati Anasuya

(click on the photos for larger images)

Maha Sati Anasuya

Maha Sati Anasuya is generally quoted as the model of chastity. She was the wife of Atri Maharishi, a great sage and one of the Sapta Rishis (Sapta means seven and rishis mean sages in Sanskrit). She was well established in Pativrata Dharma.

Maha Sati* :- Maha means great or big; Sati means Sati" means a virtuous woman. So Maha Sati means great virtuous woman.

Pativrata Dharma* :- 'Pati' means 'husband' and 'Vrata' means 'vow'- Pativratam is a great vow for a woman. A Partivrata is a chaste woman who have taken the vow of ‘Pativratam' who sticks to her Partivrata Dharma, even at the risk of her own life. Who is faithfully devoted to her husband, who she worships him as a lord and who serves him with all her heart, mind and soul.

Maha Sati Anasuya served her husband with intense devotion. She did severe Tapas for a very long time in order to beget sons equal to the Gods Brahma, Vishnu and Siva.

Tapas* :- Tapas refers to a personal endeavor of discipline, undertaken to achieve a goal, accompanying suffering and pain.

Wanting to grant Maha Sati Anasuya her desire to beget sons equal to Brahma, Vishnu and Siva, Sarasvati (wife of Lord Brahma) Lakshmi (wife of Lord Vishnu) and Parvati (wife of Lord Siva) requested their husbands to test the Pativrata Dharma of Maha Sati Anasuya, wife of Atri Maharishi, and ask her to give them Nirvana Bhiksha, that is, to give them food in a naked condition.

The Tri-Murtis, (Gods Brahma, Vishnu and Siva) through their Jnana-Drishti ((supernatural vision) knew the divine wishes of their divine wives (Goddesses Sarasvati, Lakshmi and Parvati) and the wish of Maha Sati Anasuya. They agreed. The Tri-Murtis (Gods Brahma, Vishnu and Siva) took on the forms of Sannyasins, (Wandering holy ascetics) and appeared before Maha Sati Anasuya and asked her to give them Nirvana Bhiksha that is, to give them food in a naked condition. Maha Sati Anasuya was in a great dilemma. She could not say ‘No’ to the Sannyasins.She had to maintain her Pativrata Dharma also. She meditated on the form of her husband, took refuge in his feet and sprinkled over the three Sannyasins a few drops of water which were used for washing the feet of her husband. The Tri-Murtis (Gods Brahma, Vishnu and Siva) were converted into three children on account of the glory of the Charanamrita (Holy water). At the same time, there was accumulation of milk in the breast of Maha Sati Anasuya. She thought that those children were her own children and fed them with the milk in a nude state and put them to the cradle. She was eagerly expecting the arrival of her husband who had gone for taking his bath.

As soon as Atri Rishi came back home, Maha Sati Anasuya related to him all that had happened during his absence, placed the three children at his feet and worshipped him. But Atri knew all this already through his divine vision. He embraced all the three children. The three children became one child with two feet, one trunk, three heads and six hands. Atri Rishi blessed his wife and informed her that the Tri-Murtis (Gods Brahma, Vishnu and Siva) themselves had assumed the forms of the three children to gratify her wish.

Sage Narada went to Brahma-Loka, Vaikuntha and Kailasa and informed Goddesses Sarasvati, Lakshmi and Parvati that their husbands had been turned into babies through the power of the Pativrata Dharma of Maha Sati Anasuya when they asked her Nirvana Bhiksha and that they would not return unless the Goddesses asked for Bhartri Bhiksha (Praying for return of the husbands) from Maha Sati Anusuya. Goddesses Sarasvati, Lakshmi and Parvati appeared before Maha Sati Anusuya and asked for Pati Bhiksha: (Praying for return of their husbands) Maha Sati Anusuya duly honored the three Goddesses and with folded hands prayed to them that her wish should be fulfilled. Then the three Gods, Brahma, Vishnu and Siva appeared in their true form before Maha Sati Anusuya and Sage Atri Rishi and said, "This child will be a great sage according to your word and will be equal to us according to the wish of Maha Sati Anasuya. This child will bear the name of Dattatreya". Then they disappeared.

Maha Sati Anasuya thus became the mother of Lord Dattatreya (the sage-avatar of Divine Trinity Brahma, Vishnu and Siva), the sage Durvasa and the moon-god Chandra.

Lord Dattatreya

Lord Dattatreya, son of Maha Sati Anasuya and Sage Atri Maha Rishi is always practicing austerity. He is an avadhut .He is truly the Lord of Yogis. The four dogs are representations of the four Vedas. He was created out of Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva.

Maha Sati Anusuya Ashrama (Temple), Chitrakoot

Main entrance to the Maha Sati Anusuya Temple

Sati Anusuya ashrama is in Chitrakoot, in the present state of Madhya Pradesh located further upstream the Mandakini River, 16 km from the town, set amidst thick forests that round to the melody of birdsong all day. It was here that sage Atri, his wife Anusuya and their three sons (who were the three incarnations of Brahma, Vishnu and Siva), lived and are said to have meditated.

According to the great epic, Ramayana, Lord Ram with his wife Sita and brother, Laxman spent eleven years of their fourteen years of exile in the deep jungles of Chitrakoot

In the Ramayana, Maha Sati Anasuya appears living with her husband sage Atri in a small hermitage in the southern periphery of the forest of Chitrakoot in the present state of Madhya Pradesh. She was very pious, and always practiced austerities and devotion. This made her attain miraculous powers.

Valmiki describes in the epic Ramayana that at one time there was no rain in Chitrakoot for ten years. There was a severe famine and nothing was left to eat or drink for animals and birds. Maha Sati Anusuya performed hard and intensive austerities and got the river Mandakini down on earth. This led to the greenery and forests to grow which removed the sufferings of all sages and the animals.

Sati Anusuya ashrama at present is a very peaceful place where various streams from the hills converge and form the Mandakini River. It is said that Rama and his brother Laxman along with Sita had visited this place to meet Maharishi Atri and Maha Sati Anusuya. It is here Maha Sati Anusuya explained to Sita the grandeur and importance of satitva (purity).

My late father told me the story of Maha Sati Anusuya when I was young and it exemplifies the highest level of spiritual attainment, through the force of devotion and service to their husbands only, many women of yore have done miraculous deeds and shown to the world the power of chastity.

The deeper meaning of the above story is

Lord Siva has said - I am subject to control by means of devotion alone

"Pleased by the devotion of Maha Sati Anasuya to her husband Maharishi Atri and to the Gods, the Gods and their wives played out this divine Leela*"

Leela* is the nature of Supreme Consciousness, playful nature. The phenomenal world is manifested Leela. The play is without beginning - as well as endless. This divine Leela was played out by the Gods Brahma, Vishnu, Siva and their wives to expound to the future generations that there is no limit to what a chaste wife can accomplish by devotion to her husband and to the Gods and Goddesses and set an example to future generations what a devoted and chaste wife can accomplish.

The Gods ( Lord Brahama , Lord Vishnu, and Lord Siva) thus glorified Maha Sati Anasuya to the status of a Goddesses. Millions of people throng to the temple of Maha Sati Anasuya in Chitrakoot, to pray for deliverance from their troubles. Maha Sati Anasuya who is the ocean of kindness always answers the prayers of her devotees.

The late Swami Sivananda has said on Pativrata Dharma.

The house wherein the wife serves the husband with sincere devotion and observes Pativrata Dharma is heaven on earth. That house wherein the wife fights with the husband and disobeys his orders, is a veritable hell on earth. Ladies who practice Pativrata Dharma need not go to temples. They need not practice any Vrata or penance. Service of husband becomes worship. They can realize God through service of their husbands. Husbands also should be ideal persons with noble qualities. Husbands are the Gurus for their wives. Wives need not get any initiation from any Acharya (Gurus).Glory to such ladies who practice Pativrata Dharma. !

Personal visit to Maha Sati Anusuya Ashrama (Temple), Chitrakoot

I as fortunate to visit the Maha Sati Anusuya ashrama in Chitrakoot on the 27th and 28th of March, 2012. It was a humbling experience to visit this temple where I could offer my prayers and obeisance.

The temple contains beautiful idols which depict the various stages of Maha Sati Anusuyas life including the main idol of Maha Sati Anusuya where pilgrims pray for her benediction. The following pages show the photos from this temple.

Maha Sati Anusuya had taken birth to remove the stress and strain of her devotees besides being the shining example of dharma.

Maha Sati Anasuya, the chastest woman who ever lived
(click on the photos for larger images)

Maha Sati Anasuya, the wife of Arti Maharishi was famous for her chastity and her devotion to her husband - an embodiment of a Hindu wife. She could perform miracles by sprinkling the 'Paatha Theertham' (water with which she washed her husband's feet) to bring rain to a parched earth or to transform objects to her desire.

When the three Devis, - Goddesses Laxmi (also spelt as Lakshmi), Saraswati and Parvati heard through Sage Narada the powers of this earthly woman they wanted to test her chastity. They approached their husbands Lords Brahma, Vishnu and Siva to test Maha Sati Anasuya's devotion to her husband.

The three Gods transformed into three old mendicants and went to the hermitage where Maha Sati Anasuya was living and sought alms from her.

When Maha Sati Anasuya was about to serve them food they told her that they had taken a vow whereby they could not accept alms from a person wearing clothes. As it was a sin to refuse alms to mendicants she prayed to her Lord and sprinkled a little 'Paatha Theertham' on the three old Sannyasins. They were all immediately transformed into babies and throwing off her clothes she fed them food.

The Goddesses learning what had happened pleaded with Maha Sati Anasuya to grant them 'Maangalya Biksha' (gift of married life) and to give them back their husbands. Maha Sati Anasuya showed them the three babies.

The Devis ran to the cradle and picked one baby each. Maha Sati Anasuya then prayed to her Lord Arti Maharishi to restore them back to their original form.

The three Goddesses Laxmi (also spelt as Lakshmi), Saraswati and Parvati accepted that Maha Sati Anasuya's fame as the chastest woman on earth was justified.

Lord Rama and his brother Laxman

Lord Rama and his brother Laxman pay their respects to Atri Maharishi. It is said that Rama and his brother Laxman along with Sita had visited this place to meet Maharishi Atri and Maha Sati Anusuya in their ashram in Chitrakoot.

Sati Narmda

The story is Sati Narmda suffers many hardships on her way but Maha Sati Ansuya always helps her. One Mandavya Rishi who is angry on Sati Narmada's husband, curses her that her husband will die before the Sunrise. Sati Narmada stops the sun from rising by her powers., due to her Pativrata Dharma. There is chaos everywhere and on the advice of Maha Sati Ansuya, Sati Narmada sets the Sun free. Her husband dies, but Maha Sati Ansuya make him alive again and also cures him of his physical defects.( he was a blind hunch back).

Sage Atri Rishi

Prince Bharat ( Brother of Lord Ram) accompanied by people of Ayodhya which is the city of Lord Ram and the people of Janakpur which is the city of Goddess Sita seeks the permission from Sage Atri Maharishi and Maha Sati Anusuya for using holy water from the Ganga for the coronation ceremony of Lord Ram.