By Swami Harshananda
Aitareya literally means
- Pertaining to or son of Itarā
- Unique; special
Aitareya, also known as Mahidāsa Aitareya, is the ṛṣi (sage) credited with the authorship of the Brāhmaṇa, Āraṇyaka and Upaniṣad (of the Rgveda) that go in his name. The Chāndogya Upaniṣad mentions him as having lived for 116 years as a result of meditating upon his life as a yajña or sacrifice. This has become known as ‘puruṣayajña.’
According to other accounts given in the purāṇas, he was the son of Itarā and Māṇḍuki (whence his name Aitareya). Since he never spoke, the mother Itarā, thought that he was dumb, prayed to Mahī (mother Earth) to bless him with divine knowledge and wisdom (whence the additional appellation Mahidāsa).He was an ardent devotee of Lord Vāsudeva. He had been constantly repeating the dvādaśāksari mantra, the twelve-lettered mantra.
‘Om namo bhagavate Vāsudevāya’Once the Deity appeared to him in a vision and commanded him to take to the second stage of life, that of the householder, to please his parents. Accordingly he went to one Harimedhas who was performing a sacrifice, exhibited his divine powers and knowledge and secured the hand of his daughter in marriage along with enough wealth to sustain them.
The Vedic sections associated with his name are said to have been revealed to him in the yajñaśālā of Harimedhas.
- Chāndogya Upaniṣad 3.16.7
- The Concise Encyclopedia of Hinduism, Swami Harshananda, Ram Krishna Math, Bangalore