Divine Snake Adishesha took birth as Maharishi Pathanjali on earth. Yes, the bed on sea for Lord Vishnu, Divine snake Adishesha took birth on earth to witness the grand dance of Lord Shiva. The vedic scholars are of the opinion that Maharishi Pathanjali, great Yoga adept and master in yoga epitomized the art of Yoga for the benefit of mankind on earth. He reportedly lived sometime between 500 and 200 B.C. Besides epitomizing the art of Yoga, he also composed treatises on Sanskrit grammar (soul and life thereafter) and Ayurveda medicine. When Divine Snake Adishesha took human form as Maharishi Pathanjali he felt that by infusing knowledge in the art of Yoga to select disciples, they can be spread the art far and wide for the benefit of mankind. The parental lineage of Maharishi Pathanjali is not known as no documentation is available to throw light on his parents or his early part of life and all that are told is in the form of word of mouth stories floating over generations. One of the folklore which is widely accepted narrates that he fell from heaven in the hands of a Yogin and became a human. Otherwise the legends and stories on him are contradicting with each other.
As per one of the legends, once when Lord Vishnu was sleeping on Divine snake Adi Shesha, the divine serpent noticed jerks now and then over the body of the Lord. Divine snake Adishesha did not realise that the Lord was in slumber cherishing the enchanting dance of Lord Shiva happening elsewhere. As Lord Vishnu got grossly absorbed in the dance of Lord Shiva, his body vibrated with rhythm in dance. As vibration of Lord Vishnu continued, his body began to become heavier and heavier out of ecstasy. The vibration made Divine snake Adishesha so uncomfortable that he was gasping for breath and reached the point of collapse. After some time, suddenly the weight of the Lord began to lesson and reached normal weight. Divine snake Adishesha was amazed, but could not guess the reason and therefore waited for the Lord to get up and after he woke up politely sought reason for the sudden changes in him gaining weight during his slumber. Lord Vishnu revealed that he was cherishing the majesty and grandeur of Lord Shiva’s dance and may be that was the reason why his body bloated and gained weight out of ecstasy. As the Lord continued to narrate the majesty and grandeur of the dance of Lord Shiva, Divine snake Adishesha overjoyed by the sequence expressed by his master desired to witness it at the earliest and pleaded with Lord Vishnu to bless him for the same. Pleased Lord Vishnu acceded to his request and blessed that he would soon be born a human on earth to witnesses the cosmic dance of Lord Shiva in Chidambaram.
Divine snake Adishesha still remaining bed for Lord Vishnu on ocean began to meditate for getting his desire fulfilled at the earliest. Simultaneously on earth another event was occurring connected to this story. A Yogin of high order in wisdom, namely Gonika desired that the knowledge and wisdom which she had gained over years on account of severe penance and tapas should not go waste and reach the mankind for their benefit before her earthly life came to an end. She was in search of a suitable disciple whom she can adapt and impart her knowledge and wisdom since her end was nearing. Taking hint from Lord Vishnu, the Divine snake Adishesha realized that it was the opportune time to reach her to become her adapted son or a disciple so that he can gain human form to witness the cosmic dance of Lord Shiva.
The events leading to the disappearance of Divine snake Adishesha from the human form of Maharishi Pathanjali is also shouldered in mystery as narrated by another lore. When Maharishi Pathanjali realized that his mission on earth was over, he decided to disappear, but not before imparting the Yoga Sutra he had gained to deserving disciples who could spread them for the benefit of mankind on earth. So he declared that he wanted to impart the secrets of entire Yoga sutras to any disciples but put forth a condition that unless 1,000 people got together in a place which he would say, he would not impart the knowledge. Heeding to the call of the Maharishi more than 1,000 people desirous to learn the art gathered south of Vindhya Mountains to listen to him.
Once everyone gathered, Maharishi Pathanjali put forth another condition. As per the second condition he would place a screen between him and the disciples while transmitting the Yoga Sutra and that till he completed the lecture nobody should attempt to lift the veil that separated them, nor would anyone leave the venue till the teaching session was completed. The session began and Maharishi Pathanjali stayed behind the curtain and transmitted his knowledge to the 1,000 gathered by his power. Each of those present behind the veil absorbed the knowledge transmitted by the Maharishi. It was an amazing phenomenon and even amongst the disciples, they could not believe how they were able to absorb the knowledge by transmission since the Guru behind the screen ensured that not a word of sound emanated from his mouth, at the same time the contents of the art intruded into their mind and heart.
As the session continued, one of the disciples in the gathering could not control natures call and therefore went out thinking that he could go quietly and return back quietly without anyone’s knowledge as a cloth veil separated the master and the disciples. In the meanwhile another disciple too became curious to know what the master was doing behind the curtain. In a haste he ran near the screen and lifted it. Alas, nobody was found behind the veil and there occurred a terrible disaster. Entire fleet of disciples who were still seated there facing the curtain turned into ashes.
In the meantime the disciple who had gone to attend the natures call returned. Seeing him an angry Maharishi cursed him to instantly become Brahma Rakshasa (Demon) and stuck to the tree top for disobeying the dictum of the master. With the curse, the disciple instantly become Brahma Rakshasa (Demon) and stuck to the tree top and since he cannot move from the tree. Therefore to pass his time, he began to write on the leaves all that he had learnt from Maharishi Pathanjali and threw them one by one below. As per the lore, a goat which was sitting below the tree began eating those leaves as they fell on ground without leaving even one to remain there. The Maharishi too disappeared.
In this mystery lore, several questions remained un answered.
- Who were those disciples who were turned to ashes?
- Why were they punished when they had committed no crime?
- How did the master convey the knowledge to everybody without uttering a single word of sound?
- What was the significance of the veil (Curtain)?
- Why was only one disciple saved?
- Why did he become a demon?
- Why was he asked to write all that he learnt?
- Why did the goat eat away all those leaves without leaving even one that fell ?
The pundits and scholars offers many explanations and float theories as an answer to those questions. Every theory floated has their own merits, but the real purpose for which those events happened remains a mystery in the life of Maharishi Pathanjali.