the Great Mother
The people of Karnataka rejoice at the very mention of Kaveri. (The name is spelt
differently also as Cauvery.) The river Kaveri flows through three states and bestows food
on human beings and animals; she gives them water to drink, too. It is Kaveri who gives
electricity, so that towns and villages of Karnataka have light and industries have power.
Food for the body, light to the eyes, wealth to the state, and joy to the mind - Mother
Kaveri grants all these. Kaveri was the wife of Agasthya. She flowed in the form of a
river, so that the people may be happy. And Agasthya consented because it was for the good
of the people. This, too, is an interesting story.
There are different versions of the story of Agasthya and Kaveri. But the most important
thing is that the daughter of the sage Kavera became Kaveri. She married Agasthya and, in
order that the people may prosper, she became a river.
Who was Kavera?
Brahmagiri is a part of the Sahyadri mountain ranges. There lived a king called Kavera. He
performed tapas and became a rishi. He had built a hermitage where he could perform tapas.
His great ambition was to help mankind in some way or the other and acquire 'punya' (merit
in the eyes of God). Lord Shiva was pleased with his long tapas and appeared before
Kavera. He listened to his prayer and blessed him with a daughter by name Kaveri. He said,
"Your ambition will be fulfilled through Kaveri." Kaveri grew up and became a
lovely maiden. The rishi, Kavera, told his daughter Kaveri how he yearned to help mankind.
As she listened to his words, Kaveri also thought, 'how wonderful would it be if through
me the whole land is
benefited! Then my life will become meaningful.'
this time sage Agasthya came to Brahmagiri. All the sages of the place welcomed and
honored him. Kavera, too, invited Agasthya to his hermitage. On seeing Agasthya, Kavera
had an idea. "After all Kaveri is of marriageable age. If she is married to Agasthya
then she will be his partner in the service of mankind." He spoke his mind to Kaveri,
too. She also knew the greatness of the sage. She was very happy at the thought of
becoming the wife of Agasthya.
Sage Kavera married her to Agasthya and felt that his life's mission had been fulfilled.
Kaveri lived happily serving her husband. Agasthya too built his hermitage in the
Brahmagiri itself and was immersed in tapas. But one thought always troubled Kaveri; she
yearned to serve the world. She spoke about her desire to Agasthya too, and asked for his
guidance. He used to console her saying 'There will come a time for everything.'
At this period in the south there was a powerful rakshasa by name Shoorapadma. He hated
Indra, the king of the gods. He was angry at human beings too, because they worshipped
trie gods. In order to destroy the human beings he used his magical powers and prevented
the iains from reaching the earth. There were no rains and so people suffered intensely.
The lands became parched and cracks appeared. Animals and birds could
not get food or water. Their suffering was beyond words. All over the land there was sheer
misery. Lack of food and water made life unbearable. Kaveri had always been yearning to
help the people; now she saw an opportunity. She was very eager to help the people and the
animals in their
distress. She prayed to all the gods with folded hands: "At least now grant my
At last the hour of the fulfillment of Kaveri's prayer dawned!
It was early morning, Agasthya was getting ready to go to the lake for his bath. Kaveri
had to be alone in the hermitage. She could not accompany him as usual, as she was not
well. How could Agasthya leave her alone in the hermitage? *Then Agasthya thought of a
plan. He transformed Kaveri into water; he filled up his'Kaman6la' (water pot) with the
water and thus took Kaveri along with him to the lake. He put the water pot on a rock near
by and entered the lake for his bath.
The gods had decided that Kaveri should be instrumental in ending the famine and that the
people should be saved. So they were waiting for Agasthya to leave the water pot and go.
Immediately the Lord of the Gods, Indra prayed to Vinayaka, (the God of Knowledge and of
Obstacles): "0 Vinayaka, this is the time. Release
Kaveri from the pot. Are you not the powerful god who overcomes obstacles?"
"Yes, I shall set Kaveri free," said Vinayaka.
Then Vinayaka assumed the form of a crow and upset the
water pot. The water gurgled forth. The earth, which was parched, was thrilled and
at the touch of water.
Agasthya knew nothing of what had happened. He returned after his bath. What did he see?
Released from the pot Kaveri was racing forth gladly. Wave followed wave and the foam
danced on the gurgling water. She turned this way and that, formed a little circle here
and a little circle there, and laughing ran away. She was moving quite happily. Agasthya
was thunder-struck. He was very unhappy and cried out, "Kaveri, 0 Kaveri, why did you
leave me?" Calling out her name he tried to catch her. But Kaveri was now beyond his
Vinayaka appeared before Agasthya along with the gods and said, "Revered Agasthya, do
not be troubled. By your grace Kaveri has gone forth as a
river to help the people. She and her father had been waiting for such a fulfillment for a
long time. Her wish was fulfilled as soon as you transformed her into water. May Kaveri
give wealth and food to the people of the South as 'long as the world lasts! May she
sustain millions and millions of lives! May she be the river of grace that washes away
sins and makes sinners pure! " Agasthya felt as though Kaveri, too, was praying, with
bowed head saying, "Lord, I changed into a river and left you without your
permission. Please forgive me."
'True,'said Agasthya to himself, 'how any lives do Kaveri sustain now! She is the mother
of mankind. Well, I have served the world in my way; let the world now receive help from
her!' These thoughts comforted the sage. He blessed Kaveri and took leave of the gods. And
Kaveri became far-famed as the Ganga of the South!