The word Rishi is a Sanskrit word for Saint. It refers to one who is accomplished or enlightened, in the ways of Life. A Rishi is someone who serves as a beacon of knowledge and a bridge between the heavenly and the earthly. Rishis usually use their superior knowledge to teach the people and connect them closer to God and help them reach and achieve the Santana Dharma. The word has its root in ancient Sanskrit and comes from the root “rsi”. It means to go or to move. It refers to the ability of a rishi to transcend the mortal world.
In history, there have been many rishis. In Hindu texts, the word Rishi refers to the authors of the Rig Veda, one of the holy Vedic poems. Otherwise generally, Rishis are regarded as a particular class of learned people who use their knowledge to teach the people.
In the famous Indian epic, the Mahabharata, there is the mention of a special class of Rishis, the “Saptarishis”. These seven Rishis are seven prominent rishis of each Manvantara. A Manvantara is a recurring period, during the reign of a progenitor of mankind. For each manvantara there are seven prominent Rishis who use their knowledge and power to educate and liberate. Along with the class of the Saptarishis, there were other classification methods for saints.
- A Brahma Rishi is a brahman turned saint and someone who has understood the ways of a true brahman.
- A Rajarishi is a rishi, who has royal blood. This refers to those Rishis, who were born as Kshatriyas, but renounced their ways in pursuit of higher meaning and knowledge.
- A Maharishi, is a class of rishis, referring to those among the rishis who have reached a higher status and distinguished themselves from other rishis in their penances and acts of service to mankind.
- Devarishis are celestial rishis. This class of rishis refers to the special substrate of rishis, who are devas. Devas are the celestial beings of the world and have their abode in the heavens. Sage Narada is the most popular Devarishi.
Throughout India, there have been many different saints and Rishis. From North to South, from East to West, wherever there were people, there were people after higher spiritual meaning. In north India, there were many Saints and Rishis. For example, one of the most impactful Rishis to this day was Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. He was one of the most popular saints of the Vaishnava Saints. He became so popular that his followers thought of him as a reincarnation of Lord Vishnu himself. He spent the entirety of his life preaching the message of devotion and love. In Rajasthan, there was queen Mira Bai. Mira Bai was a queen who was more so interested in the ways of Religion and devotion than in her royal responsibilities. In Maharashtra, there was the great saint Tukaram. Tukaram was a deeply religious man who spent most of his time composing and singing devotional songs praising Lord Vithoba of Pandharpur. In the south of India, there was the famous theologian and debater Adhi Shankara. Known as one of the most intelligent debaters, Adhi Shankara spent his time commenting on works of Hindu literature and debating deeply philosophical topics.
Saints have always been a central part of Indian culture and tradition. They were always a beacon of knowledge and example. There were an innumerable amount of sages and saints throughout India’s history.
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