Atri and Anasuya - The Story of a Pious Indian Woman

Anusuya happens to be the daughter of Devahuti and Kardama. She was a pious woman and would practice austerity with devotion. We get to see her in the Ramayana. She lived with her husband Atri in a small hermitage on the southern border of Chitrakoot (forest). Anusuya was endowed with miraculous abilities. ' Anusuya ' means free from jealousy. The great Kapila was her brother, and she learnt under him. Anusuya is extolled as ' Sati Anusuya ' She was the mother of Dattatreya, Chandra, Durvasa and Shubatreyi. Rama and Sita had visited Anusuya and Atri during their period of exile. Anusuya was very attentive to the couple, and she gave Sita an ointment which could maintain her beauty for eternity. The chaste wife of Atri told Sita that Sativa was the greatest and would add to the beauty of the woman.

The Bhagavata Purana tells us about the family of Anusuya. She was born along with Sage Kapila and eight other girls. All the daughters of Kardama were married to Rishis (Sages). Valmiki informs us about the severe drought at Chitrakoot. The place had become dry, and Anusuya performed severe austerities. This resulted in the River Mandakini coming to the succor of the denizens of the forest.

A number of stories are connected with the strength of Anusuya and the one which talks about the Brahmin Kaushik is quite interesting. This Brahmin used to visit a prostitute regularly. He did so in spite of being blessed with a good wife. The Brahmin got afflicted with leprosy and the prostitute stopped accepting him. He had to return to his wife. However, he longed for the woman of pleasure. Therefore, he requested his wife to take him to her. One Rishi Mandavya had been impaled on a spike due to a crime that had been committed. Kaushik tripped on him while being taken through the forest by his wife. The angry Rishi cursed him by stating that he would die before sunrise. Kaushik's wife Sumathi used the power of her chastity to stop the sun from coming out. It caused havoc in all the three worlds. The Gods led by Brahma sought the help of Anusuya. The chaste wife of Atri convinced the wife of Kaushik to let the sun rise. She used her powers to bring Kaushik back to life thereafter.

Sati Anusuya is celebrated in her ashram at Chitrakoot. It is located in the dense jungle. The Anusuya Devi Temple is in Uttarakhand. Two movies were produced in connection with Anusuya, and both were in Telugu. ' Sati Anusuya ' was produced in 1957 and in 1971. The movie from the year 1957 was directed by Kadaru Nagabhushanam and the lead roles were played by Anjali Devi and Gummadi. The movie from 1971 was directed by B. A. Subba Rao. Jamuna donned the role of Anusuya and Tadepalli Krishna Rao came in as Atri Maharishi. Music was by P. Adinarayana Rao.

The story of the Trimurti-s and Anusuya is etched in the minds of the people of India. This story is amazing, for it makes one understand the power of steadfastness. Chastity is not being given any importance anymore. We should read and understand this from the perspective of our ancestors. Chastity, or steadfastness, can be equated to a singular aim or the prime focus in a relationship. Suchindram, the noted pilgrim center in the south, is connected with the story of Anusuya and the power of her chastity. The Sthalapuranam (Temple story) of Suchindram throws a lot of light on this.

Suchindram had been known as Jnanaranya, a place where several Rishis performed austerities. This name happened due to the fact that several had attained salvation here. Anusuya and Atri had taken up their abode in Jnarananya. The chaste Anusuya used to make earthen vessels with her power of chastity and would make the holy Ganga to enter the vessels. There was a drought for many years at Jnanaranya. Rishi Atri prayed to the Trinity and was advised by them to gather himself in the Himalayas in order to offer his prayers to Devendra.

Anusya had to be kept safe until his return. The Chaste Anusuya suggested that Atri leave some padatirtha (Water that had been used to wash his feet) with her. He left his padatirtha in a conch and proceeded happily. Atri went on with his Yagya and the Gods wanted to test him. Narada was given the task, and he put out a plan. According to the plan, Narada sought to make the world understand the power of chastity. Thereafter, he told the trimurti-s to Anusuya's dwelling and requested her to do the impossible. The trimurti-s had taken the form of three rishi-s. Anusuya used the padatirtha of her husband Atri and got it accomplished.

Narada then wanted this news to reach the three Goddesses: Parvati and Saraswathi. He collected some gram shaped iron pieces and requested the three Goddesses to fry it for him. They stated that Narada was mad, but the clever Trilokhasanchari (Wanderer) told them that Anusuya was capable of doing it. Narada took the pieces of iron to Sati Anusuya, and she used to padatirtha of her husband to make them edible. The three Goddesses were stunned to taste the soft and sweet fried iron grams!

The devi-s became jealous of Anusuya and sought the help of Narada to test her. It was, after all, Narada who had stated that Anusuya was the chaste woman in the three worlds. Narada suggested that they take the help of their spouses. A scheme was set, and the trimurti-s transformed themselves into beggars. They visited the Ashram of Atri and Anusuya. She served them the best of food, but they did not touch a morsel. They told Anusuya that they would eat the food only if they were served by a woman who was nude.

No woman would agree to this, but Sati Anusuya did not want to send away her hungry guests. She was in a great fix. But she was reminded of her husband's padatirtha. She sprinkled it on her guests, and they were transformed into babies. Thereafter, Anusuya threw away her garments and suckled them. Anusuya had never experienced motherhood. She wanted to enjoy the babies. Cradles were obtained with the aid of the padatirtha. She sang lullabies while rocking the cradles. Narada Maharishi wanted to intervene now. He went to Atri and told him that Anusuya had given birth to three kids during his absence. An angry Atri went to his ashram and felt bad on learning the real story from his chaste wife.

Meanwhile,the wives of the Trimurti-s were getting worried. Their husbands were missing! Narada Maharishi advised them to visit Jnanaranya and seek maangalya biksha. Therefore Lakshmi, Parvati and Saraswathi visited Anusuya. They requested her to help them regain their respective husbands. Only then did the chaste Anusuya realize that the kids were the Trimurti-s (Holy Trinity. showed them the cradles and the three babies ran towards the cradles and took the babies into their hands.

Anusuya requested Agni to help the Goddesses. The Trimurthi-s regained their forms but were in the wrong hands. Brahma was in the hands of Lakshmi, Shiva in the hands of Saraswathi, while Vishnu was found in the arms of Parvati. The Devis (Goddesses) had made the world understand the power of chastity through this episode. Narada was worried about getting cursed by Atri and he had to remain invisible to him. But Atri understood the plot and pardoned Narada Maharshi.

Everything was in order, but the vision of the Devis was blurred. Narada advised them to plunge into the Homa Kunda after a bath in Prayag. They were to also observe a fast on Arudra Nakshatram in the month of Dhanus. The Devis did so and their sins were washed off. Both Atri Maharishi and Sati Anusuya were overjoyed on seeing the Lords of the Universe united again with their wives. The Holy Trinity blessed Atri and Anasuya by taking birth as their sons. They were born as Chandra, Dattatreya and Durvasa. They assumed the form of a Linga which represented them together. Thereby, the bottom represented Brahma, the middle portion represented Vishnu, and the top portion represented Shiva. The Trimurti-s are thus present in Suchindram as Thanumalayan (Sthanu - Shiva, Mal - Vishnu Ayan - Brahma).

The steadfastness of Sati Anusuya became well known to everyone in the three worlds. Bharat, that is, India became known as the land which had become the home to the power of chastity. Sati Anusuya had earned the unique distinction for herself and her motherland.