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Story of Sage Asita Devala and Jaigisavya in the Mahabharata

Story of Sage Asita Devala and Sage Jaigisavya is narrated in the context of the pilgrimage of Balarama mentioned in the Mahabharata (9.48). Symbolically the story suggests that asceticism and sannyasa (nivrtti) is superior to sacrifice and rituals of the world (pravrtti). In simple terms, self realization is far superior to rituals and pujas.

The hermitage of Sage Asita Devala was located near Aditya Teertha.

Aditya Teertha was of great importance:
  • Surya had obtained kingship over all grahas by performing austerities here.
  • Lord Vishnu performed ablutions here after killing demons Madhu and Kaitabha.
  • Sage Vyasa performed holy dip here and attained liberation.
Story of Sage Asita Devala and Jaigisavya
Jaigisavya was a wandering sage. He once reached the ashram of Sage Asita Devala at Aditya Teertha. Sage Devala used to strictly perform all rituals and pujas. He performed Yajnas and had the power to fly in the sky and move in various worlds.

Jaigisavya practiced various rigid austerities but was never bothered about rituals and pujas. He was the exponent of Samkhya Philosophy.

Many a times, Jaigisavya disappeared suddenly without any notice and then returned after sometime.
Sage Asita Devala was always happy to welcome him. But was perplexed by the odd behavior of the strange guest.

One day Sage Asita realized that Jaigisavya had never spoken a word to him in these years.

Reflecting on this unusual behavior of his divine guest, Asita went to the sea to perform his ablutions.

To his surprise, the sage found Jaigisavya, whom he had left at the ashram, in the sea performing austerities.

After performing his ablutions, Sage Asita flies back home and to his surprise, he finds Jaigisavya in the ashrama.

Asita Devala then decides to find the mystery behind Jaigisavya. He follows him and flies to the sky and meets a group of Siddhas who accidently happened to be the disciples of Jaigisavya.

From them, the sage learns that Jaigisavya can travel to different worlds. He moves freely in heaven, the world of ancestors, yama, soma, shivaloka, gods…

Sage Asita Devala one day follows Jaigisavya to all the worlds. Then suddenly Jaigisavya vanishes and Asita is unable to locate him.

Sage Asita then returns to three Siddhas to find out as to where Jaigisavya vanished. The Siddhas tell him that he has gone to the world of Brahman – the eternal and imperishable world.

Devala attempts to enter the world but falls down.

The Siddhas then tell Devala that there is no way he can enter the world of Brahman.

Devala then returns home only to find Jaigisavya practicing austerities in the ashram, as if nothing had happened.

Sage Devala then humbly asks Jaigisavya to teach him moksha dharma – the method to reach salvific liberation.

Jaigisavya then initiates him into the Samkhya Yoga.