Kashyapa (Sanskrit: कश्यप, romanizedIAST: Kaśyapa) is a revered Vedic sage of Hinduism.[1] He is one of the Saptarishis, the seven ancient sages of the Rigveda,[note 1] as well as numerous other Sanskrit texts and Indian mythologies.[4][5] He is the most ancient Rishi listed in the colophon verse in the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad.[6]

Kashyapa is a common ancient name, referring to many different personalities in the ancient Hindu and Buddhist texts.[7][8]

Kaśyapa, alternatively kacchapa, means "turtle" in Sanskrit.[9] According to Michael Witzel, it is related to Avestan kasiiapa, Sogdian kyšph, New Persian kašaf, kaš(a)p which mean "tortoise", after which Kashaf Rūd or a river in Turkmenistan and Khorasan is named.[10] Other relations include to Tokarian B kaccāp ("brainpan"), Polish kacap (czerep, "brainpan", "hardliner"),[11] Tokarian A kāccap ("turtle", "tortoise").[12] Frits Staal agrees that Kaśyapa means tortoise but believes that it is a non-Indo-European word.[13]

Kashyapa is one of Saptarishi, the seven famed rishis considered to be author of many hymns and verses of the Rigveda (1500-1200 BCE)[when?][citation needed]. He and his family of students are, for example, the author of the second verse of 10.137,[14] and numerous hymns in the eighth and ninth mandala of the Rigveda.[15][16] He is mentioned in verse 2.2.4 of the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad, along with Atri, Vashistha, Vishvamitra, Jamadagni, Bharadwaja and Gotama.[17][18] Kashyapa is also mentioned as the earliest rishi in colophon verse 6.5.3 of Brihadaranyaka Upanishad, one of the oldest Upanishadic scriptures of Hinduism.[6]

Kashyapa is mentioned in other Vedas and numerous other Vedic texts. For example, in one of several cosmology-related hymns of Atharvaveda (~1000 BCE), Kashyapa is mentioned in the allegory-filled Book XIX:

Undisturbed am I, undisturbed is my soul,
undisturbed mine eye, undisturbed mine ear,
undisturbed is mine in-breathing, undisturbed mine out-breathing,
undisturbed my diffusive breath, undisturbed the whole of me.

Thereafter rose Desire in the beginning, Desire the primal seed and germ of Spirit,
O Kama dwelling with the lofty Kama, give growth of riches to the sacrificer, (...)
Prolific, thousand eyed, and undecaying, a horse with seven reins Time bears us onward,
Sages inspired with holy knowledge mount him, his chariot wheels are all the worlds of creatures.

Kala [Time] created yonder heaven, and Kala made these realms of earth,
By Kala, stirred to motion, both what is and what shall be, expand, (...)
Kala created living things and first of all Prajapati,
From Kala self-made Kasyapa, from Kala Holy Fire was born.

His name appears in Patanjali's ancient bhasya on verse 1.2.64 of Pāṇini.[21] His name is very common in the Epic and Purana literature.[5]

In Buddhist Pali canonical texts such as Digha Nikaya, Tevijja Sutta describes a discussion between the Buddha and Vedic scholars of his time. The Buddha names ten rishis, calls them "early sages" and makers of ancient verses that have been collected and chanted in his era, and among those ten rishi is Kassapa (the Pali spelling of Kashyapa in Sanskrit).[22][note 2]

Despite its etymological origins being uncertain, the contentious territory of Kashmir may have gotten its name from Kashyapa Rishi. According to Christopher Snedden, the name Kashmir could have been a shortened form of "Kashyapa Mir", or the "lake of the sage Kashyapa". Alternatively, it may come from a Kashmiri or Sanskrit term that means "to dry up water". It could also have been derived from the term "Kashyapa Meru", which means the sacred mountains of Kashyapa.[23]

In ancient texts of Greece, linked to the expedition of Alexander the Great, this land has been called "Kasperia",[23] possibly a contraction of "Kasyapamira".[24] The word "Kaspapyros" appears in Greek geographer Hekataois text, and as "Kaspatyros" in Herodotus who states that Skylax the Karyandian began in Kaspatyros to trace the path of Indus river from the mountains to where it drained in the sea. Kaspatyros may be same as Kaspa-pyrus or Kasyapa-pur (city of Kashyapa) in other texts.[24]

Kashyapa is revered in the Hindu tradition, and numerous legends and texts composed in the medieval era are reverentially attributed to him in various Hindu traditions. Some treatises named after him or attributed to him include:

Kashyapa is mentioned in numerous Hindu texts such as the Puranas and the Hindu Epics. These stories are widely inconsistent, and many are considered allegorical.[5][8] For example, in the Ramayana, he is married to the eight daughters of Daksha, while in the Mahabharata and Vishnu Purana he is described as married to thirteen daughters. Some of the names of the thirteen daughters Kashyapa married in the Hindu text Vishnu Purana are different than the list found in Mahabharata.[5] Some texts describe him as son of Marichi and a descendant of the solar dynasty, others as a descendant of Uttamapada who married Daksha's daughters, and yet others relate Kashyapa as a descendant of Hiranya Kashyapa. These texts may correspond to different characters, all named Kashyapa.[8]

In some Puranas, Kashyapa is said to have drained the Kashmir valley to make it inhabitable. Some interpret this legend to parallel the legend of Buddhist Manjushri draining Nepal and Tibet, wherein the "draining" is an allegory for teaching ideas and doctrines, removing stagnant waters of ignorance and extending learning and civilization into the valley.[33] The Sindh city Multan (now in Pakistan), also called Mulasthana, has been interpreted alternatively as Kashyapapura in some stories after Kashyapa.[34] Yet another interpretation has been to associate Kashyapa as River Indus in the Sindh region. However, these interpretations and the links of Multan as Kashyapapura to Kashmir have been questioned.[35]

According to the ancient legends, Kashyapa reclaimed that land from a vast lake, his school was based there, and the land was named after him.[36]

The Puranas and the Epics of Indian tradition mention Kashyapa and his genealogy numerous times. These are inconsistent, with allegorical stories exalting him as the father of all gods, men, demons and empirical universe, in some conflated as the Kurma avatar of the Hindu god Vishnu.[37] In the Vishnu Purana, Kashyapa marries thirteen daughters of Daksha: Aditi, Diti, Kadru, Danu, Arishta, Surasa, Surabhi, Vinata, Tamra, Krodhavasha, Ira, Vishva and Muni.[5][38][39]

Kashyapa, in the Vishnu Purana and Vayu Purana, is attributed to be the father of the Devas, Danavas, Yakshas, Daityas and all living creatures with various daughters of Daksha. He married Aditi, with whom he fathered Surya or alternatively Agni, the Adityas, and in two inconsistent versions Vamana, an avatar of Vishnu, is the child of Aditi and Kashyapa.[40] In these fables, Kashyapa is the brother-in-law of Dharma and Adharma, both of whom are also described as married to other daughters of Daksha.[41]

After the famous Samudra Manthan (the churning of the ocean), when the devas and asuras churned the ocean and got the amrit pan (nectar/pot of immortality), Lord Vishnu’s Mohini Avatar took the pot and made the devas drink the nectar, leaving the asuras empty. Feeling the circumstances to be unfair, Diti, the mother of asuras, asked her husband Sage Kashyapa to bestow her with great sons that will ruin the devas. Sage Kashyapa, as a righteous husband agreed to this and gave Diti two sons, Hiranyaksha and Hiranyakashipu. Both sons were mighty and defeated the devas. Hiranyaksha was however killed by Varaha Avatar of Lord Vishnu, because he trapped Bhūmi Devi (Goddess Earth) in the cosmic ocean. Hiranyakashipu took over the world and stopped the worship of gods, and established himself as a god. He was killed by Narsimha Avatar of Lord Vishnu, when he tried to kill his own son, Prahlad, for becoming a devotee of Lord Vishnu. Diti was more furious, but she could not wish to harm Lord Vishnu as he is a member of the Tridev and planned to kill Indra, the king of devas. She went to Sage Kashyapa again and demanded a son that would kill Indra (since he was the one who requested the Tridev to help). Sage Kashyapa impregnated her with a son that would kill Indra, but also told that it is only possible if she does ritualistic ceremonies to Lord Vishnu everyday. Diti did that and she did the rituals everyday. One day, she became tired and fell asleep after the ritual, forgetting to wash her feet before sleeping. This made her womb vulnerable, and Indra took a tiny form and entered her womb, and using his weapons he cut the foetus into 49 pieces. These 49 pieces were later known as the Maruts. Due to the rituals she performed, the evil thought of killing Indra went away and she did rituals daily.