Patanjali was a sage from ancient India who is deemed to be the author of many Sanskrit works. Yoga Sutras, a yoga text that is considered to be a classic and greatest of all was composed by Patanjali. Indian tradition mentions that Patanjali had written treatises on various topics like medicine, yoga and grammar. This is mentioned in Rajamarttanda by Bhoja at the start of his analysis. Patanjali is a revered name in the Yoga tradition and sees a remarkable contribution in that field. Some people have also gone to the extent of claiming that Patanjali known for his grammatical brilliance is different from the Patanjali that we know for Yoga.
Patanjali is known to have lived in the 2nd century BCE where he wrote “Mahabhasya”. This is a major work on linguistics and Sanskrit grammar. His work of Yoga Sutras speaks highly of the benefits of Yoga and the importance of practising Yoga. Patanjali lived a long life and taught many disciples his yoga skills. One understands what Yoga is just by reading the Yoga Sutras composed by Patanjali.
Let’s now understand the life and birth of Patanjali. In the Indian Vedic Culture, Patanjali is said to be Swayambhu meaning self-born. He grew up to be a very evolved and highly revered soul who decided to transform into a human to help humanity and the beings on earth. Some ancient texts mention that he is the incarnation or manifestation of Ananta and Shesha. Ananta is the source and giver of all knowledge and wisdom there is in this world and Shesha is the 1,000 headed serpent. Shesha is the one who guards the hidden precious treasures of the world. People practising yoga follow the tradition of bowing down to Ananta before starting their yoga each day.
Other legends mention the story of Lord Vishnu being seated on Adishesha and watching the dance of Lord Shiva. He was so engrossed in the dance that the rhythm started causing vibrations in his body making him heavier by the minute. He grew so heavy that Adishesha had to gasp for breath. When Lord Shiva’s dance was completed, Lord Vishnu’s body returned to its normal weight and became light again. Adishesha was thoroughly shocked by this and could not understand what he had experienced. He asked Lord Vishnu to which he said that the grandeur, majesty and beauty of the dance-filled his body with vibrations and vibes leading him to become heavier. Adishesha was stunned and wanted to learn this art. Vishnu asked Adishesha to write a grammar analysis and stated that only then he would be able to dedicate himself completely to dance. Adishesha was ecstatic to hear this and looked forward to learning from Lord Shiva.
Adishesha meditated to understand who his mother would be on earth. He came across a vision of Gonika, a yogini praying to be blessed with a son who is worthy of her knowledge and wisdom. He realised that he was not very worthy to become the son of such a powerful and knowledgeable woman and hence waited for the right moment to be her son. Gonika thought that her time on the earth was very limited and hoped to bear a son. She looked at the son and prayed to him with utmost desire and sincerity. She was going to be offering some water to the sun when she opened her eyes slightly at first to notice her palms. She noticed a small snake in her palms which shortly turned into a human baby. The son is none other than Patanjali.