Sāgara; Samudra

From Hindupedia, the Hindu Encyclopedia

By Swami Harshananda

Sometimes transliterated as: Sagara; Samudra, SAgara; Samudra, Saagara; Samudra


Sāgara; samudra literally means ‘ocean,’ ‘sea’.

Any ocean derives its name from the sixty-thousand sons of the emperor Sagara of the solar race, as sāgara, since they were responsible for digging it. Since all the rivers are considered pure, a bath in them makes a person pure and free from all sins. Since all the rivers flow into the sea or the ocean[1] a bath in it also makes a person pure.

Rules for Bath in Sāgara

  • Generally, the days prescribed for such a bath are:
  1. Amāvāsya - new-moon day
  2. Purṇimā - full-moon day
  3. Five days of the week avoiding Tuesdays and Fridays
  • There are no restrictions regarding taking bath in the sea at Setu or Rāmeśvaram.

Number of Sāgaras

The purāṇas enumerate the oceans as seven. They are:[2]

  1. Lavaṇasamudra - ocean of salt water
  2. Ikṣusamudra - ocean of sugarcane juice
  3. Surāsamudra - ocean of wine
  4. Sarpis-samudra - ocean of ghee
  5. Dadhisamudra - ocean of curds
  6. Kṣīra-samudra - ocean of milk
  7. Jalasamudra - ocean of water

History Related to Sāgaras

  • The sage Agastya is said to have drunk the ocean at the request of Indra, so that the demons, Kālakeyas, who used to hide under its water, could be destroyed.[3]
  • At one period of time, samudrayāna or sea-voyage was prohibited for the brāhmaṇas, dubbing it as one of the items of kalivarjyas.[4]
  • It is difficult to understand this prohibition except by the historical fact that many learned brāhmaṇas were emigrating to foreign countries either on invitation or to spread their knowledge, thus making Bhārata that much poorer.
  • The Viṣṇudharmasutras[5] mentions a Samudravrata, a rite aimed at appeasing the presiding deities of the seven samudras, to be performed for seven days from Cāndramāna Yugādi. The performer is said to attain health, wealth and heaven.


References

  1. Ocean is also called as samudra or sāgara.
  2. Vāyupurāṇa 49.123; Viṣṇupurāṇa 2.2.6
  3. Mahābhārata, Aranyaparva 99
  4. Kalivarjyas means things to be given up during the kali-age or iron-age.
  5. Viṣṇudharmasutras 3.160.1-7
  • The Concise Encyclopedia of Hinduism, Swami Harshananda, Ram Krishna Math, Bangalore