Dadhichi (Samskrit : दधीचिः) maharishi, the son of Atharva was associated with the creation of Vajrayudha, the thunderbolt weapon, wielded by Suradhipathi Indra. He is referred to in the context of killing of Vrtrasura by Indra. The invincible Vajrayudha is prepared by Viswakarma (also known as Tvashtra Prajapati) from the bones of Dadhichi.
Dadhichi could terrify and defeat the asuras by a mere glance. When he went to the heavens, the earth was filled by many asuras and Indra was overpowered by them. The devatas upon enquiry learnt about his whereabouts and searched if he left behind anything to be used as weapon. "Dadhichi had with him a horse head" he was told. Indra went in search of it and found it in a lake at a place called Sharnayavati. With those bones the Vajrayudha was prepared with which he killed all the asuras. Dadichi is one of the greatest rishis with great character. The entire Atharva Veda and other corollary scriptures, and the knowledge of Madhuvidya (मधुविद्या) are his greatest gifts. He was referred to in Vedas and Puranas as given below.
ऋग्वेदे || Rig Veda
The Rig Veda mantras extoll the glory of Indra thus
इन्द्रो दधीचो अस्थभिर्वृत्राण्यप्रतिष्कुतः | जघान नवतीर्नव || (Rig. Veda. 1.84. 13)
indrō dadhīcō asthabhirvr̥trāṇyapratiṣkutaḥ | jaghāna navatīrnava || (Rig. Veda. 1.84. 13)
Meaning : Armed with the bones of Dadhichi, Indra was invincible and slayed hundreds of Vrtras (asuras).
इछन्नश्वस्य यच्छिरः पर्वतेष्वपश्रितम् | तद विदच्छर्यणावति || (Rig. Veda. 1.84. 14)
ichannaśvasya yacchiraḥ parvatēṣvapaśritam | tada vidaccharyaṇāvati || (Rig. Veda. 1.84. 14)
Meaning: Desiring the horse-head (of Dadhichi) Indra roamed in the mountains, and found it at Sharnayavati. Dadhichi, was given the horse-head by Ashvinikumaras, who learnt Madhuvidya from him. Dadhichi received this vidya from Indra on condition that if he imparted this vidya to anyone else his head will shatter. Ashvinikumaras desirous of obtaining the vidya offered to replace his head with a horse head, through which he can impart the vidya. After receiving the madhuvidya the horse-head fell off and Ashvinikumaras replaced the rishi's original head.
तद् वां नरा सनये दंस उग्रमाविष्कर्णोमि तन्यतुर्न वृष्टिम् | दध्यङ ह यन्मध्वाथर्वणो वामश्वस्य शीर्ष्णा प्र यदीमुवाच || (Rig. Veda. 1.116.12)
tad vāṁ narā sanayē daṁsa ugramāviṣkarṇōmi tanyaturna vr̥ṣṭim | dadhyaṅa ha yanmadhvātharvaṇō vāmaśvasya śīrṣṇā pra yadīmuvāca || (Rig. Veda. 1.116.12)
Summary : I reveal, that mighty deed of yours, just as the thunder announces the rain, when through the horse's head, Aatharvan (son of Atharva, Dadhichi) you were given the soma (madhuvidya).
The story of Dadichi rishi getting a horse head is also described in Rig veda and the head or skull was found in Sharyanavati.
ऋतेऽस्थिभ्यो दधीचस्य निहन्तुं त्रिदशद्बिषः .तस्मात् यत्नादृषिश्रेष्ठो याच्यतां सुरसत्तमाः ..दधीचेऽस्थीनि देहीति तैर्व्वधिष्यथ दानवान् .तत् श्रुत्वा सहसा देवैर्याचितो मुनिभिस्तथा ..ददौ चास्थीनिं देवेभ्यो दधीचिः सुमनास्तदा .प्राणायामं ततः कृत्वा देहं त्यक्त्वा सुभास्वरान् ..सर्व्वलोकान् क्षयान् प्राप्तो येभ्यो नावर्त्तनं पुनः .तस्यास्थिभिरथो शक्रः प्रहृष्टः सुमनास्तथा ..कारयामास दिव्यानि तानि प्रहरणान्युत .वज्रासिशूलचक्रञ्च परिघा विविधा गदाः ..विश्वकर्म्मा सुराणान्तु परिघाद्यायुधानि च ..” इति वह्निपुराणे दानावस्थानिर्णयनामाध्यायः
श्रीमद्भागवतमहापुराणे || SrimadBhagavatham
Tvashtra's son Viswarupa’s (also known as Trisiras) was killed by Indra. Tvashtra commenced a yajna out of anger against Indra. Vrtrasura was born out of the yagna fire as Indra shatru (Indra’s enemy) and he expanded rapidly all over the 3 planetary systems. All the devatas took shelter in Srimahavishnu. Accordingly, Mahavishnu informed Indra to approach the great Rishi Dadhichi. The Shrimad Bhagavatham explains the role of Dadhichi rishi in the following slokas
मघवान् यात भद्रं वो दध्याञ्चमृषिसत्तमम् | विद्याव्रततपःसारं गात्रं याचत मा चिरम् || (Bhag. Pura. 6.9.51)
maghavān yāta bhadraṁ vo dadhyāñcamr̥ṣisattamam | vidyāvratatapaḥsāraṁ gātraṁ yācata mā ciram || (Bhag. Pura. 6.9.51)
Meaning : Oh Maghavaan (Indra)! Go to Dadhyancha rishi (who is best among rishis). Ask him for his body which is the personification of vidya (knowledge), vrata (austerities and vows) and tapasya (penance).
स वा अधिगतो दध्यङ्ङश्विभ्यां ब्रह्म निष्कलम् | यद् वा अश्वशिरो नाम यतोरमरतां व्यधात् || (Bhag. Pura. 6.9.52)
sa vā adhigato dadhyaṅṅaśvibhyāṁ brahma niṣkalam | yad vā aśvaśiro nāma yatoramaratāṁ vyadhāt || (Bhag. Pura. 6.9.52)
Meaning : Dadhyancha imparted the spiritual knowledge to Ashvinikumaras from the head of a horse (hence Dadhichi is called Asvashira), who then achieved immortality.
दध्यङ्ङाथर्वणस्त्वष्ट्रे वर्माभेद्यं मदात्मकम् | विश्वरूपाय यत् प्रादात् त्वष्टा यत् त्वमधास्ततः || (Bhag. Pura. 6.9.53)
dadhyaṅṅātharvaṇastvaṣṭre varmābhedyaṁ madātmakam | viśvarūpāya yat prādāt tvaṣṭā yat tvamadhāstataḥ || (Bhag. Pura. 6.9.53)
Meaning : Dadhyancha, the son of Atharva, delivered his invincible armor (of Narayana Kavacha mantras) controlled by Me (Vishnu) to Tvashtra who in turn gave it to Visvarupa. He in his turn delivered this armor of Narayana Kavacha protection to you (Indra).
युष्मभ्यं याचतोऽश्विभ्यां धर्मज्ञोऽङ्गानि दास्यति | ततस्तैरायुधश्रेष्ठो विश्वकर्मविनिर्मितः | येन वृत्रशिरो हर्ता मत्तेजउपबृंहितः || (Bhag. Pura. 6.9.54)
yuṣmabhyaṁ yācato'śvibhyāṁ dharmajño'ṅgāni dāsyati | tatastairāyudhaśreṣṭho viśvakarmavinirmitaḥ | yena vr̥traśiro hartā mattejaupabr̥ṁhitaḥ || (Bhag. Puran. 6.9.54)
Meaning : Upon your request the knower of Dharma (Dadhyancha), will provide his body parts to Ashvinikumaras, from whom Visvakarma will prepare an invincible weapon, invested with My (Vishnu) power, by which Vrtrasura's head can be severed.
तस्मिन् विनिहते यूयं तेजोऽस्त्रायुधसम्पदः | भूयः प्रप्स्यथ भद्रं वो न हिंसन्ति च मत्पुरान् || (Bhag. Pura. 6.9.55)
tasmin vinihate yūyaṁ tejo'strāyudhasampadaḥ | bhūyaḥ prapsyatha bhadraṁ vo na hiṁsanti ca matpurān || (Bhag. Pura. 6.9.55)
Meaning : Upon his (Vrtrasura's) death, you all will have the wealth of radiant weapons and will regain the good fortunes.
According to Srimahavishnu's advice devatas asked for the body of Dadichi. Viswakarma prepared a Vajrayudha, a thunderbolt from his bones and as it is invested with the power of Srimahavishnu, it surely killed Vrtrasura. Vajraayudha was used not only to kill Vrtra but also his followers such as Namuchi, Sambara, Dvimurdva, Anarva, Puloma, Hayagriva, Sankuchiti, Viprachiti, Ayomuka.
It may be seen that Vajraayuda or thunderbolt was given by Tvashtra Prajapati (the father of Vrtra) to Indra. One may express a contradiction between what Bhagavatham says and the Vedas. It should be noted that Tvashtra is Vishwakarma himself or the devashilpi who makes the thunderbolt from the bones of Dadhichi rishi.
In the Taitreya Samhita extensive description of Dadichi has not been given, in essence it is said that Tvashtra made Vajraayudha using Dadhichi’s bones or horse head - symbolically there is no difference about the material used.
- Vettam. Mani, (1975). Puranic encyclopaedia : A comprehensive dictionary with special reference to the epic and Puranic literature. Delhi:Motilal Banasidass.
- Narayanacharya, K. S. (2011). Veda Samskrita Parichaya. Hubli:Sahitya Prakashana.
- Rig Veda Samhita (Mandala 1, Sukta 84)
- Rig Veda Samhita (Mandala 1, Sukta 116)
- Rig Veda Samhita (Mandala 1, Sukta 117)
- Shrimad Bhaagavatamahapuranam (2013). Gorakhpur: Gita Press
- Bhag. Puran. 6.9.51 to 6.9.55