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Lived around 500-200 BC
Patanjali's 108 Names

Several Patanjali
Almost nothing is known about this great man. It is only with the help of legends that we know something about him. In fact there have been several Patanjali in Indian history, but three of them are well known, the last one is not so well known -

(1) One Patanjali is known for writing the commentary on Paanini's "Ashtaadhyaayee" - the Mahaabhaashya - the first great grammar written for any language. he not only wrote the grammar, but also refined it. he made the Sanskrit language more subtle, precise, effective and artistic instrument capable of expressing whatever a human being could think. This Patanjali is supposed to be born in Gonard and lived in Kashmeer too for a while. He was living around 140 BC.

(2) Another Patanjali wrote the Yog Sootra - the classical book on Raaj Yog. This Patanjali certainly many centuries before the grammarian Patanjali.

(3) The third Patanjali wrote the Nidaan Sootra, considered indispensable resource to study Vaidik ritual literature.

(4) There is one Patanjali, more in fashion, who is supposed to be the father of Dance.

All the four were living in different periods and thus are different people. But the Indian tradition considers all of them as one person and all the writings written by one person.

Patanjali is said to be the father of Yog. In one of the prayers to him, he is described as ---
Om Yogen Chittasya Paden Vaachaam Malam, Shareerasya cha Vaidyaken
Yo'paakarottam Pravaram Munee Naam,  Patanjalim Praanjali raanato'smi
Aabaahum Purushaakaram Shankh Chakraasi Dhaarinam,  Sahastra Shirasam Shwetam Pranamaami Patanjalim
The noblest of sages Patanjali, who gave Yog for serenity of mind, grammar for purity of speech, and medicine for the health of the body, I prostrate with folded hands. To this white Patanjali, who has human form, holding conch, disc and sword and having a thousand heads, I bow.

The Science of Yog is one of several unique contributions of India to the world. It seeks to discover and realize the ultimate Reality through Yaugik practices. Aachaarya Patanjali (200 BC) the founder of Yog, hailed from the district of Gondaa (Ganara) in Uttar Pradesh, India. Patanjali is believed to be the incarnation of Anant serpent or Aadi Shesh Naag Bhagavaan. When he decided to teach Yog to the world, he fell from sky and fell into the open palms - Anjalee (Pat mean fall and when two open palms are joined together side by side, it is called Anajalee), that is why he is known as Patanjali. Thus he is regarded as Swaayambhu (self-born).

Birth of Patanjali
Another legend goes that once when Vishnu was seated on Shesh Naag Jee, and was watching the enchanting dance of Shiv. he got so much absorbed in that dance that His own body started to shake with the rhythm of the dance. The vibration of Vishnu's body made Him heavier and heavier and Shesh Naag got restless and to the point of so much discomfort that he was about to collapse. As the dance came to an end and Vishnu's body became as light as before. Shesh Jee got surprised to see this, so he asked Vishnu the reason of this. Vishnu said to him - "In fact Shiv's graceful dance caused these vibrations in His body and these vibrations made His body heavier." Shesh Jee got very happy to hear this, and he decided to learn this so that he could also please Vishnu. Vishnu thought about it and said to him - "You will soon write a grammar book by the grace of Shiv. And he would make you perfect in dance too." Shesh Jee got very happy to hear this and looked forward for that day when Shiv will show his grace on him. Shesh Jee meditated upon that who would be his mother on Earth? he saw in his meditation that there was a Yoginee named Gonikaa who was praying for a worthy son to whom she can transfer her knowledge and wisdom. he made up his mind that she would be his worthy mother and waited for the right moment to be born to her.

On the other side, Gonikaa thought that her life on Prithvi is coming to an end and she will not be able to have a son in this life, she turned towards Soorya Dev and prayed him. She took a handful of water and offered her final oblation to him, closing her eyes and mediatating on him. As she was about to offer the water, she opened her eyes and was greatly surprised to see a tiny snake in her palms. She got frightened but soon that snake changed to a human being. This tiny male prostrated to Gonikaa and requested her to accept him as her son. This she did and named him Patanjali because he fell (Pat - pronounced as in Pattaa for leaf) in her Anjalee (hands).

Another incident occurred in Chidaambaram (also known as Thillai), about 100 miles from Madraas. There is great Shiv Temple there where Shiv lives in Nataraaj form. Its story goes like this that in once in Daaruk Van many Saadhu gathered to discuss on spiritual matters. Shiv thought that all were very proud of their knowledge, so he thought to teach them a lesson. he went there in the form of a Saadhu. He had a begging bowl in his hand and he took Vishnu with him in the form of Mohinee. Wives of those Rishi got enchanted to see this wonderful couple. Rishi got angry at this and they tried to kill this couple. They lighted a sacrificial fire and produced a tiger from that fire. The tiger made a jump over Shiv, but Shiv just touch him with the tip of his big toe and peeled his skin. He wrapped his skin around his waist as if he has worn a silk wrapper. Rishi did not accept their defeat and they produced a Naag this time and sent him to bite Shiv. Shiv tamed him and hung around his neck like a garland. Rishi still did not accept their defeat, so this time they produced a male, Muyaalak, and sent him to destroy Shiv. Shiv killed him by pressing him by his foot. At this Rishi accepted their defeat, so Shiv started dancing there.

Shesh Jee heard about Shiv's dance in Daaruk Van from Vishnu so he requested Him to be allowed to see that dance. Vishnu allowed him. Shesh Jee did penance and Shiv, pleased with his penance, Shiv told him that he would dance in Tillai. So Shesh Jee was born as a human being and went to the forest of Tillai.

Tradition holds [which seems more correct] that Sage Patanjali was not born in Bhaarat Varsh - in any ordinary place. He was rather born in Ilaavrit Varsh. Some insist that Ilaavrit is not one of the divisions of Jamboo Dweep at all but is an exalted place beyond this Prithvi, means another Lok. It is inhabited only by gods and those few spiritual beings who embody supreme spirituality and transcendence. Ilaavrit, therefore, is not strictly a part of India, or any other earthly country, but an ethereal and celestial abode.

However and wherever he was born, Patanjali eventually appeared on Earth to fulfill his self-appointed destiny.

Patanjali's Other Life Events

Patanjali has not only acutely and accurately analyzed and discussed things of the present, but has revealed the matters of both the ancient past and the immediate and distant futures with accuracy. The cut and thrust of his eye, mind and mouth were of a great intensity that on one occasion, when the inhabitants of Bhotabhandra disturbed him in the middle of his religious austerities and ridiculed him, he reduced them to ashes with nothing more than the fire of his mouth and speech.

His marriage is also a kind of legend. One day he seems to have discovered an exquisitely and enchantingly beautiful maiden, Lolupaa, in the hollow of a tree on the north slope of Mount Sumeru. He promptly married her, thus indissolubly joining himself to the fruits of his spiritual quest, and lived to a ripe and happy old age.

At the same time there lived a sage named Vyaaghrapaad also lived in this forest. Vyaaghrapaad was the son of Madhyaandin Rishi who lived on the banks of Gangaa River. Vyaaghrapaad moved to South at the order of his father and started praying the Swaayambhu Ling which was under a banyan tree near the tank in the forest of Tillai. He daily worshipped him and prayed him to get tiger's feet and claws, so that he could easily go around to pluck flowers and even climb up the trees to get enough flowers for his worship. he also prayed for the eyes of a bee so that he can pluck flowers even before any bee had tasted it. His prayer for these two wishes was granted. Since he had the feet of a tiger, he was called Vyaaghrapaad.

Shesh Naag Sees the Dance of Shiv
Both built their own Aashram - Patanjali settled in Ananteeshwaram, Vyaaghrapaad at Tirupuleeshwaram in Chidaambaram. Both started worshipping Shiv Ling in Swaayambhu form in the forest of Tillai. Time passed and now the time came for Shiv to give then his Darshan. There, in that forest, was a temple of Kalikaa Devee (the guardian of that place). She objected Shiv to give his Darshan to those two devotees. Later they came on a contract that both will participate in dance and whosoever will lose, has to leave that forest. So the dance started. It so happened that during the dance Shiv's earrings fell down on the ground, but he picked them up so nicely that nobody could notice their falling and picking up. At last Kalikaa Devee lost. This dance is called Oordhwa Taandav. Now Shiv started his Aanand Taandav (Dance of Bliss) in the presence of Shiv Kaam Sundaree, Devtaa and Rishi. he fulfilled the wishes of his devotees also by allowing them to see his dance.

Another Story
Once Nandee, Shiv's Bull, would not allow Patanjali to have Darshan of Shiv (Nataraaj of Chidaambaram). So to have Darshan of Shiv, Patanjali with the skill of his grammar, he instantly composed a prayer in praise of hiv without using any extended (Deergh) syllable and without CHaran and Shring (feet and horns) to tease Nandee. Shiv was immediately pleased with Patanjali gave him his darshan and danced too.

About His Life
Unfortunately not much is known about the life of Patanjali, like place of birth, his personality etc, but this does not diminish the importance of Patanjali's Yog Sootra - a book of 195 Sootra (aphorisms) - see also  Yog.

About His Yog
see also  Yog.

He prescribed the control of Praan (life breath) as the means to control the body, mind and soul. This subsequently rewards one with good health and inner happiness. Aachaarya Patanjali's 84 Yaugik postures effectively enhance the efficiency of the respiratory, circulatory, nervous, digestive and endocrine systems and many other organs of the body.

Yog has eight limbs where Aachaarya Patanjali shows the attainment of the ultimate bliss of God in Samaadhi through the disciplines of: Yam, Niyam, Aasan, Praanaayaam, Pratyaahaar, Dhyaan and Dhaaranaa. The Science of Yog has gained popularity because of its scientific approach and benefits. Yog also holds the honored place as one of six philosophies in the Indian philosophical system. Aachaarya Patanjali will forever be remembered and revered as a pioneer in the science of self-discipline, happiness and self-realization.

Temple of Patanjali
The world's first temple dedicated to Patanjali was inaugurated by His Holiness Shree Shree Yogaachaarya BKS Iyengar in his holy birthplace of Belloor, a village in Karnaatak, South India, on the 31st October 2004. Patanjali was the son of the Divine Yoginee Gonikaa and is the Divine Expounder of Yog as taught by Bhagavaan Kapil (Incarnation of Vishnu, the son of Rishi Kardam and Devahooti).

Patanjali himself is generally depicted as half human and half serpent. His human torso emerges from the coils of the all-powerful serpent, who is awakening in the moment of creation. The serpent embodies that creative energy. It is coiled three and a half times. There is one coil each for the earth, the atmosphere and the heavens. Or, again, one coil each to represent his omnipresent, omnipotent and omniscient natures. And then a further half-coil to show that he sets aside the material nature, rises above them all, and is absorbed only in the world seen in meditation, being free from everything else.

Above Patanjali's head, there is the cobra's hood, the sign of ultimate protection from all possible evils and difficulties in the world. There are seven serpent hoods forming a divine umbrella protecting both Patanjali and all aspirants who turn to him for guidance. Those seven hoods symbolize his mastery and conquest of the five elements of earth, water, fire, air and ether, along with the attainment of Moksh and Samaadhi, liberation and enlightenment. Patanjali's hands are in the pose of Namaste.

He is generally depicted in a meditative trance. His folded hands are both blessing and greeting those who have approached him seeking Yog and its truths. Patanjali has four hands. The two immediately in front of him create the blessings while the other two are raised at the back. One of the uplifted hands holds Shankh, the conch that embodies the energy of sound. His other uplifted hand holds the Chakra or discus that embodies both the turning wheel of time and its associated law of cause and effect.

Information taken from



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Created by Sushma Gupta On 5/27/04
Modified on 08/15/13