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भर्तृहरि, bhartṛhari

The king of Ujjain, who renounced the throne and became a disciple of Gorakshanath. The founder of Vairag-panth also known as Bhartṛhari Bāirāg (lit. “Bhartrihari‘s rejection”, in honor of his abdication from the king's throne). In the Tradition, he is also famous as Great Siddha Vicharnath.

Bhartrihari is the author of such poems as “Shringarashataka” (dedicated to love), “Nitishataka” (a hundred verses on worldly wisdom), “Vairagyashataka” (dedicated to detachment). He wrote the last one, when he met Gorakshanath. He was also the first to describe the theory of speech and sound (how speech is related with consciousness). He is also credited with the writings related to sanskrit grammar (Vākyapadīya), where he analyzed it from a mystical point of view. Some scientists are inclined to believe that there were three different people – a yogi, a poet, and a grammarian.

In Nath Tradition, Bhatrihari is the first darshani. It is believed that Shiva gave the guidance to his disciple Matsyendranath to wear kundalas in his ears as a sign of yogi, uniting the manifested and the unmanifested. Further, this custom was passed on to Gorakshanath and Bhartrihari. Bhartrihari, in turn, asked Gorakshanath that all Nathas of the 12 panths wear kundalas, which would distinguish them from other sadhus.

Bhartrihari was the eldest son in the family and, according to custom, inherited the entire kingdom. His reign was not very successful, he did not justify the hopes. After the tragic death of all his wives, he met with Gorakshanath who showed to the king all the illusory nature of the world, materializing king’s wives with siddhas, and then dissolving wives into emptiness again. Bhartrihari was so amazed by what he saw that he left the throne and became a yogi, who later achieved many siddhas. There are several caves in Ujjain where he meditated.

Bhartrihari has acquired the ability to materialize and dematerialize his body. From Bhartrihari came the custom of performing parikrama on all siddha-pithas before taking sannyasa. Also, this siddha is a model of tyaga and vairagya (yogic renunciation and detachment).

Legends of Bhartrihari

One of the legends says that once Gorakshanath came to the kingdom, Bhartrihari hurried to him with a request to grant him eternal youth, since everyone knew that Gorakshanath was a great mystic who obtained immortality. Gorakshanath gave a pill to Bhartrihari, but Bhartrihari loved his wife Pingala so much that he gave it to her so that she would always remain young, and she in turn gave it to her lover (guard), he gave it to a whore, and she, since she considered her life to be suffering, returned the pill back to Bhartrihari so that the king would live as long as possible. Bhartrihari was shocked when he got the pill back, returned to Gorakshanath and became his disciple. 


According to another legend, he was a hunter and once saw the wife of one of the hunters, killed by a cobra, performing the sati rite (self-immolation). Hun (in this legend, his name is Hun) decided to check if his wife was ready for such an act, and sent her a message, allegedly he died while hunting. When he returned, he saw only ashes on her funeral pyre. He was so upset that he wandered around the pyre for several days and could not find peace. According to one version, Rani Pingala, his wife, was a disciple of Gorakshanath, who gave her a flower and said that it would be fragrant while her husband was alive. When she received the tidings of her husband's death, the flower continued to smell fragrant, and she realized that he was actually alive, but she could not accept the idea that her husband doubted her love, and committed suicide.

Gorakhnath appeared in that place and asked the king why he was grieving. The King replied that the reason for his grief was love for his wife. Then Gorakhnath threw his begging bowl and, as it broke, began to cry, imitating the grief of the king. Hun told the yogi that his loss was not as irreparable as the loss of the queen to which Gorakhnath replied that he could easily resurrect his wife, while his cup was lost and it was much sadder, and sprinkled water on the ashes of the funeral pyre.

There were 25 (according to another version – 100) queens, each one in one as his wife Pingala, they exclaimed: "Stay detached! Are you crazy? It is unknown how many times we have been wives, mothers or sisters to you!". Hearing this, Bhartrihari stopped grieving and accepted Gorakshanath as Guru.

However, he did not leave his kingdom and one day, while hunting, he came across a herd of deers consisting of 70 females and one male, but he could not catch up with the deer in any way. Then one of the females asked him to kill one of them, his wives, but not to touch the deer. But Bhartrihari was a kshatriya and could not kill a female. Then she asked the deer to meet the king's arrow. He agreed with the stipulation: "Give my legs to a thief so that he can escape from his life; my horns to a yogi so that he can use them for nada; my skin to an ascetic so that he can worship on it; my eyes to a beautiful woman so that she is called mirga–naini ("with the pretty eyes of a deer" is a sign of the beauty of a woman in India); and eat my flesh yourself." So it happened.

On his return to the kingdom, Bhartrihari met Gorakshanath, who told him that in reality he had killed not just a deer, but his disciple. Bhartrihari exclaimed, "If only I had mystical abilities and could resurrect him!" Gorakshanath took a handful of earth and threw it at Bhartrihari, who immediately got the abilities and resurrected the deer. Bhartrihari became a yogi and accompanied Gorakshanath along with his servants. But Gorakshanath refused to accept him as a disciple until he brought alms from his wives, accepting them as his mothers; in addition, he must practice yoga for 12 years.

Bhartrihari did just that, he became an outstanding yogi and founded vairag-panth. And when he came to his wives for alms, he said: "From the point of view of the king, you are my wives, but from the point of view of the yogi, you are my mothers, and my Guru told me to call you that."

This legend is connected with one of the materials used in the making of janeo in the Nath Tradition – a yogi's whistle is made from a deer's horn.