Kratu (क्रतु)

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In the extensive Vedic literature one comes across several mystical mantras that speak of the Supreme Godhead as present in the center of a sacrificial fire, with seven sages seated on its perimeter, engrossed in worship by pouring oblations into that Supreme Fire. By performing this sacrifice they destroy the sins of others and purify the whole world. Kratu literally means a Vedic sacrifice in which oblations are offered in the sacred fire. The name of this maharshi is thus exceptionally symbolic and indicates the reverence commanded by him from one and all.

Maharshi Kratu was one of the Saptarishis who were born of Brahma's mind while it was concentrated by austerities and directed towards the new cycle of creation. He is also believed to have spring from the vision of his father's left eye. These mind-born sages were the original progenitors.

Maharshi Kratu's consort was Sannati, daughter of Daksha Prajapati and Kriya. His offspring were the sixty thousand Sages called Balakhilyas, who were allegorically known to be the size of a thumb and used to reside on the banks of rivers. The Balakhilyas were once insulted by Indra. Agitated at this, they propitiated Shiva. Such was their devotion that the Lord was pleased with them, and declared, ‘You shall succeed by your penances in creating a bird that will rob Indra of the nectar he possesses.’ They were worshipers of  Surya, the sun god, and are sometimes depicted as the gods’ constant and worshipful companions,. The mythologies furnish a sparse view of Maharshi Kratu. He is known to be a constituent in the councils of the gods Brahma and Indra.

Valakhilyas (Samskrit : वालखिल्याः) were a group of sixty thousand rshis born to Kratu, one of the Saptarsis (seven hermits), by his wife, Santati. Everyone of them was only the size of a thumb, but they were as bright as the blazing sun and had attained control over their senses. (Visnu Purana, Amsa 1, Chapter 10).

Vasistha is one of the mental sons of Brahma. This is the first birth of Vasistha. "Narada was born from the lap, Daksa was born from the right thumb, Vasistha from the breath (prana) Bhrgu from the skin, Kratu from the hand of Brahma."[1]

Whether Kadru was the wife or daughter of Kasyapa is a question which remains unanswered still in the Puranas. Chapter 65 of Bhasa Bharata states like this. “The six adhyatmik sons of Brahma are : Marici, Angiras, Atri, Pulastya, Pulaha and Kratu.

The Vishnu Purana elaborates that Dhruva, inspite of his mother's advice, was still unsettled by the turn of events and quit the city with a desire to acquire a position that had not been enjoyed by any other. He repaired to a neighboring thicket where he beheld the Saptarshis - Marichi, Atri, Angira, Pulastya, Kratu, Pulaha and Vasishtha.Having heard the story of Dhruva and understanding his desire to attain the most elavated position, the rshis adviced him as follows:[2]

Rshi Marichi said,

अनाराधितगोविन्दैर्नरैः स्थानं नृपात्मज । न हि संप्राप्यते श्रेष्ठं तस्मादाराधयाच्युतम् ॥ १.११.४३ ॥[3]

anārādhitagovindairnaraiḥ sthānaṁ nr̥pātmaja । na hi saṁprāpyate śreṣṭhaṁ tasmādārādhayācyutam ॥ 1.11.43 ॥

Meaning: O Prince, none can attain that best of stations who does not propitiate Govinda. Therefore, you should worship Achyuta (undecaying).[2] Rshi Atri said,

परः पराणां पुरुषो यस्य तुष्टो जनार्दनः । संप्राप्नोत्यक्षयं स्थानमेतत्सत्यं मयोदितम् ॥ १.११.४४ ॥[3]

paraḥ parāṇāṁ puruṣo yasya tuṣṭo janārdanaḥ । saṁprāpnotyakṣayaṁ sthānametatsatyaṁ mayoditam ॥ 1.11.44 ॥

Meaning: He with whom the foremost of beings, Janardana, is pleased, obtains imperishable dignity. I declare to you this truth.[2] Rshi Angira said,

यस्यान्तः सर्वमेवेदमच्युतस्याव्ययात्मनः । तमाराधय गोविन्दं स्थानमग्र्यं यदीच्छसि ॥ १.११.४५ ॥[3]

yasyāntaḥ sarvamevedamacyutasyāvyayātmanaḥ । tamārādhaya govindaṁ sthānamagryaṁ yadīcchasi ॥ 1.11.45 ॥

Meaning: If you desire an exalted station, worship that Govinda who is immutable and undecaying; in whom, all that is, exists.[2] Rshi Pulastya said,

परं ब्रह्म परं धाम योऽसौ ब्रह्म तथा परम् । तमाराध्य हरिं याति मुक्तिमप्यति दुर्लभाम् ॥ १.११.४६ ॥[3]

paraṁ brahma paraṁ dhāma yo'sau brahma tathā param । tamārādhya hariṁ yāti muktimapyati durlabhām ॥ 1.11.46 ॥

Meaning: Worshipping the divine Hari who is the supreme one, supreme glory and the supreme Brahman, you may attain even the eternal mukti, then what of reaching the most exalted station.[2]Rshi Kratu said,

यो यज्ञपुरुषो यज्ञो योगेशः परमः पुमान् । तस्मिंस्तुष्टे यदप्राप्यं किन्तदस्ति जनार्दने ॥ १.११.४८ ॥[3]

yo yajñapuruṣo yajño yogeśaḥ paramaḥ pumān । tasmiṁstuṣṭe yadaprāpyaṁ kintadasti janārdane ॥ 1.11.48 ॥

Meaning: Nothing is difficult to attain if Janardana, who is the yajnapurusha in yajna and the supreme being in abstract contemplation, is pleased.[2] Rshi Pulaha said,

ऐन्द्रमिन्द्रः परं स्थानं यमाराध्य जगत्पतिम् । प्राप यज्ञपतिं विष्णुं तमाराधय सुव्रत ॥ १.११.४७ ॥[3]

aindramindraḥ paraṁ sthānaṁ yamārādhya jagatpatim । prāpa yajñapatiṁ viṣṇuṁ tamārādhaya suvrata ॥ 1.11.47 ॥

Meaning: You adore that Vishnu, the lord of yajna and the universe, O pious boy, worshipping whom Indra obtained the dignity of a raja of the celestials.[2]Rshi Vasishtha then observed,

प्राप्नोष्याराधिते विष्णौ मनसा यद्यदिच्छति । त्रेलोक्यान्तर्गतं स्थानं किमु वत्सोत्तमोत्तमम् ॥ १.११.४९ ॥[3]

prāpnoṣyārādhite viṣṇau manasā yadyadicchati । trelokyāntargataṁ sthānaṁ kimu vatsottamottamam ॥ 1.11.49 ॥

Meaning: Any thing, that a man desires, may be obtained in this world by adoring Vishnu. Then what of that exalted position.[2] At this, Dhruva enquired with the rshis about the prayer which he should meditate upon in order to propitiate the Lord. The Rshis then guided him in the following manner. They said,

बाह्यार्थादखिलाच्चित्तं त्याजयेत्प्रथमं नरः । तस्मिन्नेव जगद्धाम्नि ततः कुर्वित निश्चलम् ॥ १.११.५३ ॥

एवमेकाग्रचित्तेन तन्मयेन धृतात्मना । जप्तव्यं यन्नि बोधैतत्तन्रः पार्थिवनन्दन ॥ १.११.५४ ॥[3]

bāhyārthādakhilāccittaṁ tyājayetprathamaṁ naraḥ । tasminneva jagaddhāmni tataḥ kurvita niścalam ॥ 1.11.53 ॥

evamekāgracittena tanmayena dhr̥tātmanā । japtavyaṁ yanni bodhaitattanraḥ pārthivanandana ॥ 1.11.54 ॥

Meaning: (Those who are devoted to Lord Vishnu), they shall first withdraw their minds from all exterior objects and then fix it steadily on that being in whom the world exists. By him, who has thus concentrated his thoughts on that one object, whose heart is filled with that alone and who has controlled himself, the prayer that is to be recited is,[2]

हिरण्यगर्भपुरुषप्रधानव्यक्तरूपिणे । ओं नमो वासुदेवाय शुद्धज्ञानस्वरूपिणे ॥ १.११.५५ ॥[3]

hiraṇyagarbhapuruṣapradhānavyaktarūpiṇe । oṁ namo vāsudevāya śuddhajñānasvarūpiṇe ॥ 1.11.55 ॥

Meaning: Om ! salutation to Vasudeva, who is manifest as Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva, and whose form is inscrutable.

They also mention that, this prayer was formerly uttered by Dhruva's grandsire, Manu Svayambhuva, propitiated by which, Vishnu conferred upon him the prosperity he desired, unequalled in the three worlds.[2]

Then Manu begot ten highly effulgent sons named Uru, Puru, Shatadyumna, Tapasvi, Satyavak, Kavi, Agnishtoma, Atiratra, Sudyumna and Abhimanyu by his wife Nadula, the daughter of Prajapati Vairaja. The wife of Uru, Agneyi, bore six excellent sons, Anga, Sumanas, Svati, Kratu, Angiras, and Shiva. And Anga, by his wife Sunita, had only one son, named Vena from whose arm sprang the famous monarch named Vainya celebrated as Prthu for milking the earth for the benefit of his subjects.[4]

In Bhagavata Purana, Brahma had ten sons: Marici, Atri, Angira, Pulastya, Pulaha, Kratu, Vasistha, Daksa, Narada.

The creation of Saptarshis as explained in Brahmanda Purana is mentioned here. It should be noted that different versions about the origin of saptarshis are present. Mahabharata (Shanti Parva Adhyaya 208) mentions that the seven manasaputras of Brahma from whom the ten Prajapatis arose.[5]

ब्रह्मणः सप्त वै पुत्रा महात्मानः स्वयम्भुवः॥ brahmaṇaḥ sapta vai putrā mahātmānaḥ svayambhuvaḥ॥ (Maha. Shan. 12.208.3)

मरीचिरत्र्यङ्गिरसौ पुलस्त्यः पुलहः क्रतुः। वसिष्ठश्च महाभागः सदृशो वै स्वयम्भुवा॥ (Maha. Shan. 12.208.4)

marīciratryaṅgirasau pulastyaḥ pulahaḥ kratuḥ। vasiṣṭhaśca mahābhāgaḥ sadr̥śo vai svayambhuvā॥ (Maha. Shan. 12.208.4)

Svayambhu Brahma had seven mahatmas as sons. They are Marichi, Atri, Angiras, Pulastya, Pulaha, Kratu and Vasishta. They are also said to be as powerful as the Svayambhu Brahma.[6] Brahmanda Purana mentions that the seven rshis created by Brahma (here actually eight brahmamanasa putras, are mentioned as seen in the sloka below instead of seven saptarshis) in Svayambhuva Manvantara were cursed by Shiva (at the time of Daksha yajna) were reborn in Chakshusha Manvantara as children of Pitamaha (Brahma) again.

ब्रह्मणो जुह्वतः शुक्रमग्रौ पूर्वं प्रजेप्सया । ऋषयो जज्ञिरे दीर्घे द्वितीयमिति नः श्रुतम् ॥ २,१.२० ॥

brahmaṇo juhvataḥ śukramagrau pūrvaṁ prajepsayā । r̥ṣayo jajñire dīrghe dvitīyamiti naḥ śrutam ॥ 2,1.20 ॥

भृग्वङ्गिरा मरीचिश्च पुलस्त्यः पुलहः क्रतुः । अत्रिश्चैव वसिष्ठश्च ह्यष्टौ ते ब्रह्मणः सुताः ॥ २,१.२१ ॥ (Brah. Pura. 2.1.20 - 21)[4]

bhr̥gvaṅgirā marīciśca pulastyaḥ pulahaḥ kratuḥ । atriścaiva vasiṣṭhaśca hyaṣṭau te brahmaṇaḥ sutāḥ ॥ 2,1.21 ॥

The seers say - this has been heard by us that the seven rshis had their second birth, even as Brahma, with a desire of begetting children, was performing homa in the fire by means of his Shukra (semen). There were eight sons of Brahma - Bhrgu, Angiras, Marichi, Pulastya, Pulaha, Kratu Atri, and Vaishista.

At the first instance, Kavi (Bhrgu) came out of the flame, then came Angiras when shukra was deposited on the burning coals (angaras). Then the shukra was divided into six parts by Brahma and deposited into the fire by way of Homa. Marichi rose from there at the outset from the rays and in that Kratu (yajna) the rshi named Kratu was born. Atri maharshi was born saying "I am the third" hence he is named as Atri. The fourth was born with overspreading hairs, hence remembered as Pulastya, while the fifth had long hairs, hence called Pulaha. Born from among the Vasus, self controlled and himself the embodiment of Vasu (wealth), he was called Vasishta by the expounders of Vedas. (Brah. Pura. 2.1.34 to 47)[4][7]

The Ursa Major constellation in the sky is called Saptarshi mandala according to the astronomical terminology. Astronomical texts describe the Saptarshis as the representatives of Brahma serving for a period of Manvantara and dissolving at the time of Pralaya.

सप्तर्षि मण्डलं नित्यं तस्याधस्तात्प्रकीर्तितम् ।। मरीचिश्च वसिष्ठश्च अङ्गिराश्चात्रिरेव च ।। २२ ।।

saptarṣi maṇḍalaṁ nityaṁ tasyādhastātprakīrtitam ।। marīciśca vasiṣṭhaśca aṅgirāścātrireva ca ।। 22 ।।

पुलस्त्यः पुलहश्चैव क्रतुस्सप्तर्षयोऽमलाः ।। वशिष्ठमाश्रिता साध्वी तेषाम्मध्यादरुन्धती ।। २३ ।। (Vish. Dhar. 1.106.22-23)[8]

pulastyaḥ pulahaścaiva kratussaptarṣayo'malāḥ ।। vaśiṣṭhamāśritā sādhvī teṣāmmadhyādarundhatī ।। 23 ।।

Vishnu, Agni Purana, and Mahabharata lists the Saptarshis as follows

वशिष्ठः काश्यपोथात्रिर्जमदग्निः सगौतमः । विश्वामित्रभरद्वाजौ सप्त सप्तर्षयोऽभवन् ॥ ३,१.३२ ॥ (Vish. Pura. 3.1.32)[9]

vaśiṣṭhaḥ kāśyapothātrirjamadagniḥ sagautamaḥ । viśvāmitrabharadvājau sapta saptarṣayo'bhavan ॥ 3,1.32 ॥ (Vish. Pura. 3.1.32)

वशिष्ठः काश्यपोऽथात्रिर्जमदग्निः सगोतमः । विश्वामित्रभरद्वाजौ मुनयः सप्त साम्प्रतं ॥१५०.००९ (Agni. Pura. 150.9)[10]

vaśiṣṭhaḥ kāśyapo'thātrirjamadagniḥ sagotamaḥ । viśvāmitrabharadvājau munayaḥ sapta sāmprataṁ ॥150.009 (Agni. Pura. 150.9)

कश्यपोऽत्रिर्वसिष्ठश्च भरद्वाजोऽथ गौतमः। विश्वामित्रो जमदग्निः साध्वी चैवाप्यरुन्धती॥ (Maha. 13.93.21)

kaśyapo'trirvasiṣṭhaśca bharadvājo'tha gautamaḥ। viśvāmitro jamadagniḥ sādhvī caivāpyarundhatī॥ (Maha. 13.93.21)

Vasishta, Kashyapa, Atri, Jamadagni along with Gautama, Vishvamitra and Bharadvaja became the saptarshi's. Manvantaras are not mentioned in this context. The Garuda Purana however mentions about maharshis with many differing from the above list as follows

मरीचिरत्र्यङ्गिरसौ पुलस्त्यः पुलहः क्रतुः ॥ वसिष्ठश्च महातेजा ऋषयः सप्तकीर्त्तिताः ॥ ८७.२ ॥ (Garu. Pura. 87.2)[11]

marīciratryaṅgirasau pulastyaḥ pulahaḥ kratuḥ ॥ vasiṣṭhaśca mahātejā r̥ṣayaḥ saptakīrttitāḥ ॥ 87.2 ॥

Meaning : Marichi, Atri, Angirasa, Pulastya, Pulaha, Kratu, Vasishta are praised as the lustrous seven rshis.

Vishnudharmottara Purana[8] and Brihat Samhita (Page no 157 Adhyaya 13 Slokas 5-10)[12] gives the Seven Rshis' names as Marichi, Vasishta, Angiras, Atri, Pulastya, Pulaha, Kratu. Arundhati is associated with Vasishta. Slokas 5 and 6 of Brihat Samhita goes as follows : Maharshi Marichi is situated in the east, to the west of him is Vasishta; to his west is Angiras, and to the west of Angiras is situated Atri in whose neighborhood can be seen Pulastya. Next to him are in order Pulaha and Kratu. Arundhati, the paragon of virtue, is following Vasishta. The position of the seven seers is given along with their positioning in the lunar mansion of Magha is when Raja Yudhisthira was ruling over the earth.[12]

Vasishta, Kashyapa, Atri, Jamadagni along with Gautama, Vishvamitra and Bharadvaja became the saptarshi's. Manvantaras are not mentioned in this context. The Garuda Purana however mentions about maharshis with many differing from the above list as follows

मरीचिरत्र्यङ्गिरसौ पुलस्त्यः पुलहः क्रतुः ॥ वसिष्ठश्च महातेजा ऋषयः सप्तकीर्त्तिताः ॥ ८७.२ ॥ (Garu. Pura. 87.2)[12]

marīciratryaṅgirasau pulastyaḥ pulahaḥ kratuḥ ॥ vasiṣṭhaśca mahātejā r̥ṣayaḥ saptakīrttitāḥ ॥ 87.2 ॥

Meaning : Marichi, Atri, Angirasa, Pulastya, Pulaha, Kratu, Vasishta are praised as the lustrous seven rshis. Bhavishya Purana details the names of the ten Vishvedevas as follows

क्रतुर्दक्षो वसुः सत्यः कालकामौ धृतिः कुरुः । शङ्कुमात्रो वामनश्च विश्वेदेवा दश स्मृताः । । १२ (Bhav. Pura. 1.125.12)[13]

Meaning: Kratu (क्रतु) Daksha (दक्ष) Vasu (वसुः) Satya (सत्यः) Kala (काल) Kama (काम) Dhrti (धृतिः) Kuru (कुरुः) Shankumatra (शङ्कुमात्र) Vamana (वामन) are to be known as the ten Visvedevas.[14]


60,000 Valakhilyas were born to Kratu as per (Visnu Purana, Amsa 1, Chapter 10).

It is stated in Mahabharata, Adi Parva, Chapter 65, Stanza 9, that the hermits called Valakhilyas were the sons of Kratu. (Page 417, Puranic Encyclopedia - Vettam Maṇi)

The extremely bright Valakhilyas were born to Kratu by his wife Sannati. (Agni Purana, Chapter 20).

  1. Mani, Vettam. (1975). Puranic encyclopaedia : A comprehensive dictionary with special reference to the epic and Puranic literature. Delhi:Motilal Banasidass. (Page 834 to 837)
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 2.5 2.6 2.7 2.8 2.9 Manmath Nath Dutt (1896), Vishnu Purana, Calcutta.
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 3.5 3.6 3.7 3.8 Vishnu Purana, Prathama Amsha, Adhyaya 11.
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 Brahmanda Purana (Madhyabhaga Adhyaya 1)
  5. Pt. Ramnarayandatt Shastri. Mahabharata, Volume 5, Shanti Parva. Gorakhpur : Gita Press. (Page no 4952)
  6. Pt. Ramnarayandatt Shastri. Mahabharata, Volume 5, Shanti Parva. Gorakhpur : Gita Press. (Page no 4952)
  7. Tagare, G. V., (1958 First Edition) The Brahmanda Purana, Part 2. Delhi : Motilal Banarsidass Pvt. Ltd.
  8. 8.0 8.1 Vishnudharmottara Purana (Kanda 1 Adhyaya 106)
  9. Vishnu Purana (Amsha 3 Adhyaya 32)
  10. Agni Purana (Adhyaya 150)
  11. Garuda Purana (Acharakanda Adhyaya 87)
  12. 12.0 12.1 Sastri, Subrahmanya, V. and Bhat, Ramakrishna, M., (1946) Varahamihira's Brihat Samhita with an English Translation and Notes. Bangalore : M.B. D. Printing Press
  13. Bhavishya Purana (Parva 1 Adhyaya 125)
  14. Pt. Baburam Upadhyaya (2012 Second Edition) Bhavishya Mahapuranam, Hindi Anuvad Sahita, Volume 1, Brahma Parva. Prayag : Hindi Sahitya Sammelan (Page 495)