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MAHARSHI PULAHA WAS the fifth son who sprang from Brahma's mind. To populate the worlds with more progeny, Brahma had created, in addition to the saptarishis (seven sages), ten prajapatis (progenitors). These seventeen were the first ancestors of every conceivable being on earth. Elsewhere, the number of prajapatis is given as twenty-one. In purity and renunciation these sages had excelled even the gods; their dharma was pravritti, i.e., the religious life in the world, which, superfluous to add, had to be lived strictly in the light of scriptural injunctions. This exciting life is in itself the rationale for producing eminent and adhyatmik men.
पुलहः, पुं, सप्तर्षीणां मध्ये ऋषिविशेषः । इति शब्दरत्नावली ॥ स च ब्रह्मणो नाभितो जातः तस्य भार्य्या कर्द्दममुनिकन्या गतिः । तस्य पुत्त्राः कर्म्मश्रेष्ठः यवीयान् सहिष्णुश्च । इति
- श्रीभागवतम् ॥
Pulaha once approached and took refuge in the boy-sage Sanandana, one of the four kumaras, to learn the knowledge of the highest Reality. He in turn transmitted this knowledge to Maharshi Gautama. Pulaha worshipped Brahma, his own father, and performed intense austerities on the banks of the river Alakananda. Later he became an honoured member of Indra's court.
Pulaha's consort was Kshama (forgiveness). The sage himself was the embodiment of compassion. When Sage Parashara's father, Shakti-son of Vashishtha-was killed by the demon Kalmasada, Parashara performed a great sacrifice to wreak a vengeance in which thousands of demons perished. Out of compassion, Pulaha dissuaded Parashara from destroying the whole race of demons and later blessed him.
At the approach of old age, the saintly king Bharata gave his kingdom and wealth to his sons and went off to live as an ascetic in the hermitage of Pulaha. Because of his well-known attachment to a fawn, which debarred him from attaining perfection, he was reborn as a fawn, which came back to the hermitage and dwelt in its vicinity to work out its karma till its body passed away.
Pulaha was known to be a great devotee of Lord Shiva. The Lord, pleased with his devotion, manifested himself as a shivalinga. This shivalinga is known as Pulaheshwar in the holy city of Varanasi.