Indian Mythology (by ApamNapat)

Anasuya - The Chaste Wife of Atri


Anasuya is the wife of the sage Atri, who is one of the SaptaRishis. She is said to be the most chaste among women. She is one of the many daughters of Daksha. She is famous for her ability to bake beans made of iron.

Once, the consorts of the trinity, Parvati, Laxmi and Saraswati were arguing as to who was the most chaste among them. Naturally, each thought that the honor belonged to her. The divine sage Narada happened to be passing by. They put the question to him. He replied "Devis. While it is true that all of your incomparable in your chastity, Anasuya, wife of the Maharishi Atri is the most chaste among all women."

The three Goddesses were amazed. Narada continued: "She is so chaste that she can even bake beans made of iron without using fire! The power of her austerity is such that no one can approach her with improper thoughts. She is devoted to her husband and has never swerved from the path of duty and rectitude."

Naturally, the Goddesses thought that if a mere mortal woman could bake beans of iron, they should have no problem with it. They tried their best, but the beans remained unbaked. They were consumed with jealousy. Narada went away. The ladies summoned their husbands and said to them: " Narada was here and he said that Anasuya, wife of Atri is the most chaste woman alive. We wish to ascertain this fact. Go to her get her to commit an indiscretion."

Shiva, Vishnu, and Brahma did not like this plan at all, but at their wives' insistence they went to the hermitage of the sage Atri. The went disguised as three young sages. Atri was away from home. So Anasuya received them and asked them to stay for dinner, at which time her husband was expected to return.

Now was the time to put their plan in action. The three sages said, "Respected Madam, We have taken special vows and are currently observing a special kind of fast. We cannot eat anything, unless the person serving the food is naked."

Anasuya was in a quandary, she could not send away her guests unfed, nor could she be naked in front of men. By the power of her chastity and penance, she at once divined who the three sages really were. She prayed to Brahman, and lo and behold, the three sages were turned into infants! She then disrobed and fed the three babies. She then put the babies to bed and put her clothes back, and got back to her housework.

When Atri got back, he was amazed to see three very beautiful babies in his hermitage. His wife soon explained to him as to how the three Gods came here to test her virtue and their strange condition. Atri approved of her actions. Upon his request, Anasuya turned back the three babies back into the three Gods.

The Gods were very much pleased with Anasuya. The offered a boon to the saintly couple. The couple chose to see the three Gods, who are really manifestation of the supreme principle, the Brahman, in a single form. The Gods took up that single form, with attributes of Shiva, Vishnu, and Brahma. This form is known as Dhattatreya. They then wished every imaginable happiness on the sage and his wife, and returned to their heavenly abode.

Last Modified At: Sat Oct 30 20:55:33 2004