Yogi Matsyendranath: The life story of Gorkhanath’s Guru


Read to know about the story of Great Yogi Matsyendranath, how he became guru of Yogi Gorakhnath, and his time in Nepal.

In certain Buddhist and Hindu traditions, Matsyendrantha—also referred to as Macchindranth, Minapa, Matsyendra, and Mnantha—was a saint and yogi. He is credited for revitalizing hatha yoga and writing a few of the discipline’s first literature. Since he obtained the teachings from Shiva, he is also acknowledged to be the founder of the Natha Sampradaya. He has a strong connection to Kaula Shaivism. He is also regarded as Gorakshanath’s master and belongs to the group of eighty-four Mahasiddhas, another significant person in the ancient history of hatha yoga. Both Hindus and Buddhists venerate him, and he is occasionally believed to be the incarnation of Avalokitevara.

Yogi Matsyendranath is a distinguished person in the yoga and tantric traditions. He is regarded to be among the founders of the Nath lineage of yoga and is said to have thrived in India around the 10th century CE.

The Legends of Matsyendranath Origin

According to some mythologies, Matsyendra was birthed below an unlucky star. This prompted his parents to abandon the infant in the sea. The baby was swallowed by a fish and survived for many years as a result. The fish traveled to the bottom of the ocean, where Shiva was teaching his spouse, Parvati, the mysteries of yoga. Matsyendra started practicing yoga mantras within the fish’s stomach after learning the mysteries of yoga. He eventually escaped as an awakened Siddha after 12 years.

A different legend tells that Lord Shiva was devoured by a fish while imparting the mysteries of yoga (the genesis of the Natha teachings) to his spouse, Parvati, beside the sea. She slept off, but he overheard it all while hiding in the fish. Unfortunately, he was found by them, and Parvati became enraged and cursed him to forget everything about yoga. His pupil, Gorakshanath, disguised himself as a dancing girl and used the lyrics of his songs to free Matsyendranath from his spell.

Yet another common legend is that Lord Shiva created Matsyendranath from a fish because he desired total purity, which may be discovered in the five components of life: water, fire, sky, air, and earth. Lord Shiva was formed by combining a portion of each of the five components. In all the above legends, he had a link to a ‘fish,’ which is why he was called Matsyendranath, “Lord of the Fish.” likewise, there are several other legends and stories of the origin of Yogi Matsyendranath.

Gorakshanath’s Guru

According to popular mythology, Matsyendranath discovered Gorakhnath, who was said to have been created from excrement, and took him as a student. As per the legend from Nepal, Siva promised a lady food in exchange for a son upon reciting the Yoga philosophy to Parvati while standing on the seashore while Matsyendra (in the guise of a fish) was listening. The lady threw the stuff on a dung mound rather than eating it. Matsyendra visited the exact location 12 years later and requested to meet the kid. He inquired about searching in the dung heap after learning what the lady had done. She found a twelve-year-old boy there and he was named Gorakhnath. He served as an obedient pupil to Matsyendranath, who later became his divine guru.

Nath Tradition 

As days progressed, Matsyendranath earned a reputation for being among the finest yogis of all time, admired for his profound knowledge, esoteric understanding, and supernatural abilities. During his life, he proceeded to mentor and uplift others. He had several followers, Gorakhnath being the most renowned. He co-founded the school of hatha yoga alongside Gorakshanath, who honored him as his guru. As per the Nath tradition of yoga, Matsyendranath was the originator of the practice and the first guru of the Natha lineage.

Matsyendranath’s teachings and practices were passed down through the Nath tradition of yoga, which he founded. This tradition has had a profound influence on the development of yoga in India and beyond and is still practiced by many yogis today.

Yogi Matsyendranath in Nepal

Yogi Matsyendranath is also an important figure in the spiritual and cultural traditions of Nepal. In Nepal, Yogi Matsyendranath is referred to as Machindranath and is regarded as an avatar of the Hindu god Shiva. He is held in awe as a strong god who can bestow benefits and shield his followers from danger. His methods and ideas had a significant impact on the growth of yoga and spirituality in Nepal, and his presence is now honored via ceremonies, festivals, and other cultural activities.

Arrival in Nepal

As per mythology, Machindranath journeyed from India to Nepal to promote his teachings and assist individuals in achieving spiritual enlightenment. He is said to have landed in the Kathmandu Valley around the 10th century CE and is worshipped as the valley’s guardian god.

Events and Temples honoring Matsyendranath

  • During the 11th century, Yogi Matsyendranath is said to have started meditating in a cave beside the Bagmati river in Kathmandu, today regarded as the Guhyeshwari temple. This temple is one of the holiest locations in Nepal devoted to him.
  • The Machindranath Jatra event, honoring Yogi Matsyendranath, is said to have begun in the 12th century CE, which is one of Nepal’s most significant festivities. The celebration, which still unfolds every year in Nepal, comprises the parade of a giant wooden chariot bearing the figure of Machindranath through the roads of Kathmandu that lasts for many weeks. The event serves as a period of purifying and rejuvenation, and those who take part are said to be bestowed with luck and wealth.
  • Yogi Matsyendranath is honored at a large number of temples and shrines across Nepal, but especially in the Kathmandu Valley. The Machindranath temple in Lalitpur is one of the oldest temples in the valley and the most significant of them, which is said to have been constructed in the 14th century CE. Many people go to these locations in the hopes of interacting with the spirituality that they think he embodies as well as to ask for his blessings and direction.
  • Later on, Yogi Matsyendranath is believed to appear to be a Nepalese monarch in a dream, directing him to seek a specific tree, which resulted in the foundation of the renowned Pashupatinath temple in Kathmandu. This temple, which honors the Hindu deity Shiva, is regarded as one of Nepal’s holiest places.

The God of Rain

Another tale has stated that when Gorakshanath toured Patan, Nepal, he trapped every one of the rain-showering serpents of Patan and began his meditation upon his disappointment by the villagers who refused to provide him any alms on his demand. As a consequence, Patan experienced a prolonged drought. On the recommendation of his counselors, the monarch of Patan invited Gorakshanath’s master, Matsyendranath, to Patan. Once Gorakshanath found out that his guru was in Patan, he summoned all of the rain-showering serpents and set out to meet him. Patan received an abundance of rain each year after the rain-showering serpents were liberated. Following that, the people of Patan worshiped Matsyendranath as the rain god.

The Machindranath Jatra event gained prominence and cultural importance in the early 1900s because of the involvement of the Nepalese royal family. The celebration now draws thousands of worshippers and visitors every year, making it among the biggest and most significant in Nepal.

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