A chief among the Prajapatis.
Son or Grandson of Brahma? It is difficult to give a definite answer to this question.
In Mahabharata, Adi Parva, Chapter 65, we see that six spiritual sons – Marici, Angras, Atri, Pulastya, Pulaha and Kratu – were born to Brahma. Kasyapa was born as the son of Marici and that all living beings in the world took their origin from Kasyapa. According to this statement, Kasyapa is the grandson of Brahma.
But in the 14th Sarga of Aranyakanda in Valmiki Ramayana there is an account oft he creation of all animate and inanimate objects in this world. According to a statement in that passage, we find that Kasyapa was the youngest brother of Marici, Atri, Pulastya and others. This means that Kasyapa was the son of Brahma. Therefore there is nothing wrong in regarding him either as the son or as the grandson of Brahma. In the Puranas we find references to him in both ways.
2) Original Gotra. Mahabharata, Santi Parva, Chapter 297, verse 17 says that all living beings belong to the four original Gotras – the gotra of Angiras, Kasyapa Gotra, Bhrgu gotra and Vasistha gotra and that all the other gotras came into existence subsequently.
3) Kasyapa’s wives. Kasyapa had 21 wives who were: Aditi, Diti, Danu, Arista, Surasa, Khasa, Surabhi, Vinata, Tamra, Krodhavasa, Ira, Kadru, Muni, Puloma, Kalaka, Nata, Danayus, Simhika, Pradha, Visva, and Kapila. Of these, the 13 wives, Aditi, Diti, Kalaka, Danayus, Danu, Simhika, Krodha, Pradha, Visva, Vinata, Kapila, Muni and Kadru, were the daughters of Daksa.
Of these the first wife Aditi had 12 sons. These 12 sons namely Visnu, Sakra, Aryama, Dhata, Tvasta, Pusa, Vivasvan, Savita, Mitra, Varuna, Amsa and Bhaga are called Adityas (som of Aditi). In the sixth Manvantara these 12 Adityas belonged to the group known as Tusitas. (The present Manvantara is the seventh one). The 33 crores of Devas came into being from the twelve Adityas.
The Daityas were born from Kasyapa’s second wife Diti. The chief Daityas are Hiranyakasipu, Hiranyaksa and Simhika. All the other Daityas were born from them.
The Danavas were the children of Danu, another wife of Kasyapa. Dvimurdha, Sambara, Ayomukha, Sankusiras, Kapila, Sankara, Ekacakra, Mahabahu, Taraka, Mahabala, Svarbhanu, Vrsaparva, Puloma, and Vipracitti are the famous Danavas. The other Danavas were the children of the people mentioned above.
Another wife of Kasyapa, Surabhi, gave birth to Aja, Ekapad, Ahirbuddhnya, Tvasta and, Rudra and also the Ekadasa Rudras namely: – Hara, Bahurupa, Tryambaka, Aparajita, Vrsakapi, Sambhu, Kapardi, Raivata, Mrgavyadha, Sarpa, and Kapali.
Vinata gave birth to Garuda and Kadru was the mother of the nagas.
The Puranas proclaim that all living beings that we see in the world today, sprang from Kasyapa’s offsprings by his different wives.
(Valmiki Ramayana, Bala Kanda, Chapter 29
Visnu Purana. Part I, Chapters 15-21;
Mahabharata, Adi Parva, Chapters 16 and 65 and
Agni Purana, Chapter 18) .
4) Brahma taught Kasyapa cure for snake, poison. The serpents (Nagas) were born to Kadru, one of the wives of Kasyapa. Once Kadru asked her children to hang down like hair from the tail of Uccaisravas. They refused to do so. Kadru became angry and cursed them that they would be burnt alive at Janamejaya’s Sarpa Satra (snake-sacrifice). After the curse, the Nagas became dangerously venomous. At this stage, Brahma taught Kasyapa the art of curing snake-poison to protect other creatures that might be bitten by the Nagas. Cure of snake-bite in this world dates from that time.
(Maha-bharata Adi Parva. Chapter 20) .
5) Kasypa and Garuda. Garuda is a mighty son of Kasyapa by his wife Vinata. Vinata made a bet with her sister Kadru. Kadru won the bet. Vinata became Kadru’s maid-servant as a result of the bet. To be relieved of this bondage Vinata’s son Garuda had to bring Amrta from Devaloka and give it to Kadru and her Naga-sons. Garuda agreed and flew up to Heaven to fetch Amrta.
On the way, he visited his father Kasyapa who was performing penance on the Gandhamadana mountain. He asked his father to give him some food, as he was very hungry. Kasyapa told him the following story:
“Long ago a sage named Vibhavasu lived near this place. He and his younger brother named Supratika began to quarrel over the sharing of their father’s wealth. The elder brother transformed the younger brother into an elephant by a curse and the younger brother turned the elder into a tortoise lay his curse. They are still living in yonder lake as elephant and tortoise and continue like enemies. If you eat both of them, you will be strong enough to fight against the Devas and get possession of Amrta for yourself.”
On hearing this, Garuda went to the lake and caught the elephant and tortoise in his claws and flew up into the sky. The mountains began to tremble and a whirlwind swept the Heavens when Garuda beat with his wings. He flew about here and there unable to find a convenient place to sit and enjoy his meal. On the way, his eye caught sight of a huge banyan tree spreading its branches far and wide, to a distance of 100 yojanas around it. When he perched on one of its branches with the elephant and tortoise, the branch broke and fell down. From that branch certain sages known as Balakhilyas were hanging with their heads downwards. So, to prevent them from falling to the ground, Garuda lifted it in his beak and began to fly up again. Unable to find a suitable spot where he could deposit the branch with the sages, Garuda returned to his father again. At the request of Kasyapa, the Balakhilyas went to the Himalayas. He showed Garuda a vast, snowclad mountain on which he could deposit the broken branch he was carrying. Garuda flew to that mountain and ate up the elephant and tortoise and thus gained strength to fight with the Devas for Amrta. After that he proceeded to Heaven.
(Maha-bharata Adi Parva, Chapters 29-31) .
6) Other Birth of Kasyapa.
In Caksusa Manvantara, the sage Sutapas performed a penance along with his wife Prsni for 12,000 years. Lord Visnu appeared to them and asked what boon they wished to ask. They prayed that the Lord should take birth as their son. Visnu granted their prayer and was born as their son.
In the next Manvantara (the period of Vaivasvata Manu) Sutapas and Prsni were re-born as Kasyapa and Aditi respectively. At that time also Mahavisnu was born to Aditi as Vamana. (See under Vamana). In this birth, Kasyapa had many other wives besides Aditi. Surasa was one of those wives. (Bhagavata,10th Skandha).
It was this Kasyapa himself who was reborn as Vasudeva and Aditi became Devaki. Surasa was born as Rohini, another wife. There is another reason for Kayapa and Aditi to take birth for the third time. Once Kasyapa had prepared to perform a Yajna. All arrangements were complete. But the sacrificial cow alone was not available. Kasyapa solved the problem by stealing a cow from Varuna’s cattle-shed. Aditi and Surasa concealed it in the Asrama. Enraged at the theft of his cow, Varuna complained to Brahma. A curse was pronounced by Brahma and Varuna that as a punishment for stealing and hiding the cow, Kasyapa should be reborn as a cowherd and Aditi and Surasa should be reborn as the cowherd’s wives. It was by this curse that Kasyapa, Aditi and Surma were reborn as Vasudeva Devaki and Rohini respectively.
(Devi Bhagavata,4th Skandha).
7) Parasurama’s gift of land to Kasyapa. Parasurama performed a Yaga after exterminating all Ksatriya Kings. At that Yajna he gifted all the lands he had conquered till then to Kasyapa. In Mahabharata, Aranya Parva, Chapter 117, there is a reference to this gift.
8) Kasyapa and Kerala. After Parasurama went round the world eighteen times and exterminated the Ksatriya Kings he performed a Yajna. At that Yaga he gave the whole earth as daksina to Kasyapa. After that, Kasyapa drove away Parasurama from the earth to the south. Taking pity on Parasurama, the ocean gave him the region known as “Surparaka”. Kasyapa seized Surparaka also from Parasurama and gave it to Brahmanas. Parasurama went to the forests after it. Later on, intermixture of castes took place in this region and anarchy prevailed there. At one time, Sarparaka sank down into Patala (lower world). Kasyapa who saw this held the earth up, brought Ksatriyas from the north and made them rulers of the country.
(Maha-bharata Santi Parva, Chapter 49) .
This “Surparaka” is believed to be Kerala.
9) Other Details about Kasyapa.
(i) Kasyapa arrived at the place of Arjuna’s birth accompanied by other sages. (Mahabharata, Adi Parva, Chapter 122) .
(ii) Kasyapa flourished in Brahma’s assembly. (M.B. Sabha Parva, Chapter 11).
(iii) Once there was a dispute between Virocana, the son of Prahlada and Sudhanva, the son of Arigiras. It was Kasyapa who settled this dispute. (See the 5th Para under the word Axigiras).
(iv) Once Kasyapa went on a pilgrimage in the company of Yudhisthira. (M.B. Vana Parva, Chapter 85.
(v) Once Brahma gifted the entire earth to Kasyapa at a Yajna. Bhumidevi (Goddess of the earth) who was distressed at it, went to Patala and began to lament. At that time Kasyapa propitiated the goddess by is austere penance. (Maha-bharata Vana Parva, Chapter 114)
(vi)) After Parasurama had given the entire earth to Kasyapa, Kasyapa drove away Parasurama from the earth. Paraurama then shot an arrow into the sea and converted that portion of the sea into land. (Maha-bharata Drona Parva, Chapter 70, Verses 18 and 19).
(vii) When the war between Kauravas and Pandavas was in progress, Kasyapa approached Drona and wanted him to bring the battle to a close. (Maha-bharata Drona Parva, Chapter 190).
(viii) Kasyapa was also present with other sages at the time of Skanda’s birth. (M.B. Salya Parva, Chapter 45) .
(ix) Kasyapa once gave some pieces of advice to Pururavas. (M.B. Santi Parva, Chapter 73)..
(x) In the 8th verse of Chapter 208 of Santi Parva, in Mahabharata, we find that Kasyapa had another name #Aristanemi.
(xi) Kasyapa once related to Bhisma, the story of Mahavisnu’s Varahavatara. (Incarnation as Boar). (Maha-bharata Santi-Parva, Chapter 209, Verse 6).
(xii) Bhasa Bharata says that gingelly seeds were first introduced into this world from sage Kasyapa’s body. (Maha-bharata Anusasana Parva, Chapter 66, Verse 10) .
(xiii) Kasyapa explained to Vrsadarbhi, the evil of receiving pratigraha (presents).
(Maha-bharata Anusasana Parva, Chapter 93) .
(xiv) Kasyapa once spoke to Arundhati about the weakness of his body. (Maha-bharata Anusasana Parva, Chapter 93, Verse 65).
(xv) At another time, Agastya suspected that Kasyapa had stolen his lotus. But Kasyapa swore that he was innocent. (Maha-bharata Anusasana Parva, Chapter 94).
(xvi) In Bhasa Bharata it is said that Kasyapa was one of the Sapta Gurus (seven Preceptors) of Kuvera. The other six Gurus were – Vasistha, Atri, Gautama, Bharadvaja, Visvamitra and Jamadagni.
(Maha-bharata Anusasana Parva, Chapter 150) .
(xvii) In Bhagavata we see that Kasyapa and other sages were instrumental in bringing about the destruction of Yadu Vamsa.
(For further details see under SAMBA).
One of the prajapatis, the son of Marici and one of the sons-in-law of Prajapati Daksa.
He is the father of the gigantic bird Garuda, who was given elephants and tortoises as eatables. He married thirteen daughters of Prajapati Daksa, and their names are Aditi, Diti, Danu, Kastha, Arista, Surasa, Ila, Muni, Krodhavasa, Tamra, Surabhi, Sarama and Timi. He begot many children, both demigods and demons, by those wives. From his first wife, Aditi, all the twelve Adityas were born; one of them is Vamana, the incarnation of Godhead. This great sage, Kasyapa, was also present at the time of Arjuna’s birth. He received a presentation of the whole world from Parasurama, and later on he asked Parasurama to go out of the world.
His other name is Aristanemi. He lives on the northern side of the universe.
* Srimad-Bhagavatam 1
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