Those who are Sanatanis are well aware of the accomplishments of their Rishis and Gurus and are proud of them. The Rishis were not only highly skilled, intelligent, accomplished, and progressive, but also possessed unique abilities. Humans and even gods regarded revered Rishis in high esteem and sought their assistance. The path to becoming a Rishi wasn’t easy, it demanded imbibing deep knowledge, sacrificing many things, and practicing penance. The land of Bharatvarsha has been blessed with the presence of many learned Rishis. Among them was Rishi Dadhichi, who sacrificed his life for the world’s greater good.
In Sanskrit, Dadhichi is similar to the word ‘dhadhya’, which means curd, according to Panini. Dhadya+ang means to gain strength from curd. Dhadichi belonged to the top echelons of the Bhrigu clan. A famous example of his selflessness is when he gave up his life to allow Indra to create a Vajra to destroy the Asura ‘Vritra’ using his bones.
Rishi Dhadichi was the son of Atharvan, a rishi, and his wife Chitti, where the former is believed to have composed the Atharvaveda. The wife of Rishi Dhadichi was Swarcha, and his sons were Dahiya, Davyas (Dabas), Kundu, and Hooda, who were all mighty warriors, and Pippalada, who was a revered sage. As well as the origin of the Prasna Upanishad, Pippalada is linked to the Pippalada school of thought. The 1st mandala of the Rigveda, the Bhagavata Purana, the Srimad Devi Bhagavatam, and the Puranas all mention Rishi Dhadichi. The ashram of Dadhichi was located in Misrikh, Namishyaranya near Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh.
All of the Puranas refer to his ashram in Naimishyaranya, where it still exists. Among Dadhichi’s famous compositions is Narayanm Kawacham, a hymn of power and peace that is well known in southern India.
Dadhichi was known for his mastery over a Vedic art called Brahmavidya (Madhuvidya) that helped mortals achieve immortality. Because such knowledge was possessed by a mortal, Indra felt insecure and jealous, especially with someone like Dadhichi who possessed it by virtue of being a rishi. Also, Indra felt resentment towards Ashwini Kumars, who learned Brahmavidya and vowed to behead anyone who taught them that. In spite of Indra’s threat, Ashwini Kumars mastered this art and devised a plan to protect Dadhichi from Indra’s anger. Angry at Dadhichi, Indra bludgeoned him to death and fled. By applying the ‘Madhuvidya’ they learned from Dadhichi, the Ashwini twins revived Dadhichi. After learning the art from Dadhichi, they preserved his head and replaced it with a horse’s head. The sage was famously known as Ashvashira – The One with the Horse’s Head for this reason.
The tale of his valor
A powerful asura named Vritra drove Indra from Devloka. He had a unique boon, namely, he couldn’t be killed by any existing weapon. There was no weapon that could be used to harm him, whether it was made of wood or metal.
After Indra had become disoriented and demoralized, he appeared to approach Shiva who was unable to help him. Accordingly, Indra sought to seek advice from Vishnu accompanied by Shiva and Brahma. After that, Vishnu told Indra the only weapon that could defeat Vritra would be made from Rishi Dadhichi’s bones.
Indra and the other Devas approached Rishi Dhadhichi, who had been beheaded earlier by Indra, for seeking his help in defeating Vritra. The devas requested Dadhichi to accept their request. His only condition was to go on a pilgrimage to all the holy rivers before he gave his life. When Indra brought the holy waters together at Naimisharanya, the sage was able to fulfill his last wish as soon as possible.
Dadhichi then made the biggest sacrifice of losing his life, post which the Devas fashioned the Vajrayudha from his spine. Using his bones as a weapon, Indra killed the asura and reclaimed his status as King of Devaloka.
There is an alternative story, in which Rishi Dadhichi was to protect the weapons of the Devas from the asuras. But after some time, no one came to retrieve the weapons, so Dadhichi took them upon himself, dissolved them in water, and drank the potion. The Devas returned for their weapons in order to finally defeat Vritra. Dadhichi shared with all of them what he had done and that their weapons are now part of his body.
As there was no other option, Dadhichi gave up his life willingly. The Vajrayudha used by Brahma to kill Vritra was made from his bones to defeat the asuras.
Rishi Dadhichi is still worshipped and respected for his selfless act. His decision to leave Daksha’s Yagna was caused by the fact that Bhagwan Shiva had not been invited. The illustrious past of Rishi Dadhichi is still revered by Hindus, so it is imperative that we all learn about it. We should idolize sages and warriors from our history as role models for future generations because they have exemplified valor throughout history.