sapta rishi
(saptarshi)
   The sapta rishi were a grouping of seven (sapta) RISHIS (seers), who are said to have received some of the most important books and verses of the VEDAS. They are considered to be the progenitors of the orthodox BRAHMIN lineages (GOTRAS). They are usually listed as Kashyapa, Atri, Bharadvaja, Vishvamitra, Gotama, Jamadagni, and Vasishtha. (There is another tradition that lists the chief rishis as Marici, Atri, Angiras, Pulastya, Kratu, Bhrisu, and Vasishtha; in that tradition, they are not necessarily the source for the Brahminical lineages.)
   Those in the first list are frequently encoun-tered in the epics and PURANAS, the Indian mytho-logical literature. In the month of Bhadrapada (August–September) the seven rishis are honored on the fifth day of the bright half of the month, when the Moon is waxing. The ritual in their honor can be performed by anyone. Worship is offered to images of the seven, and celibacy and a vegetarian diet are observed for the celebration. The images of the rishis (often fashioned by hand) are offered to Brahmins alongside seven pots. This observance guarantees happiness, progeny, and freedom from sin and other difficulties.
   The second list of rishis are usually worshipped in the seven days that begin on the first day of the bright half of the month of Chaitra (March–April), the New Year’s month. Fruits, flowers, and cow’s milk are offered to the saptarshi. A single meal is to be taken, only after sundown.
   Further reading: Ravi Prakash Arya and Ram Narain Arya, Vedic Concordance of Mantras as Per Devata and Rsi (Rohtak: Indian Foundation for Vedic Science, 2003); John E. Mitchiner, Traditions of the Seven Rishis (Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass, 1982).

Encyclopedia of Hinduism. . 2007.

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