Rishi Agastya drank the oceans so the Devtas can iradicate the asura's hiding in the depth of Oceans,but he digested all the water and it was not filled back. Then after many 1000s of years later Bhagirathi prayed to Brahma/Ganga/and Shiva so that Devi Ganga could come to earth, and then oceans were filled again.

We know that Bhagirathi did tapas for 1000s of years, so how did earth managed without oceans for such a long time, wouldn't that kill all the sea life.

It also happened in this manvantara, so what happened to all the species of oceans before that? Did someone restore fishes etc?

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    " Then after many 1000s of years later Bhagirathi prayed to Brahma/Ganga/and Shiva so that Devi Ganga could come to earth, and then oceans were filled again.". - Source please ?
    – Vivikta
    Commented Feb 21, 2021 at 14:10
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    @Vivikta source is Mahabharata Vana Parva Chapter 55 and 56
    – Adiyarkku
    Commented Feb 21, 2021 at 17:18
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    Agatsya drained ocean water to kill the asuras; not the land water. Mahabharata says sea life was removed and were introduced when refilled.
    – Kanthri
    Commented Feb 21, 2021 at 20:36
  • @SHebbar when did it mentioned that? , there was no mentioning of removal of any life (at-least not in Vana parva) , also how would others have sustained for such long time?, the rivers and pond would die because of no rain, no agriculture etc.
    – vince
    Commented Feb 21, 2021 at 21:00
  • I don't think that this incident can be taken literally. It only indicated that our ancient rishis were having enormous power to do the task which all Devas together could not do. Else, there was no need to Samudra Manthan, isn't it?
    – Mahendra
    Commented Feb 23, 2021 at 4:25

2 Answers 2


The oriental propensity for exaggeration, embellishment, mythologization and conscripting of purported history for spiritual instruction it is impossible to say what actually took place in any form of verifiable detail. For example the alleged long and detailed conversations between the characters cannot possibly have actually taken place, since there were no voice recorders and they are all in poetic verse. The way we traditionally approach epic literature is not as “history” but rather as instruction in DHARMA as well as entertainment. The key events are irrelevant as “history” - they are to be dissected and deconstructed for their value in working through Dharma Sankat - problematic issues in Dharma - and for the practical lessons that can be learned. Just as lawyers study previous cases in order to learn how to deal with current complex situations, in the same way we use the events as “case studies” to improve our own best practice in Dharma. We need to suppress this obsession to find answers to these kind of questions in the epics - that is not their purpose.

These kind of statements that Agastya drank all oceans are Arthavadas i.e. hyperbolic eulogistic statements and are extremely important concepts to understand when delving into the ocean of Hindu literature, and is a key teaching of Mimamsa. It is important to grasp the idea that Hinduism in all its schools is about Dharma - “right action” and not right “belief”. Dharma is a form of Utilitarianism. It is not about what to believe but rather how to act - to achieve the greatest common good. This is also why one can be an atheist and a skilful Dharma Practitioner. Arthavada is of three types.

  • Anuvada – is to state what is already known.
  • Bhutarthavada – listing of the ingredients or component parts
  • Gunarthavada - the narrating of a story which is untrue in terms of facts but true in the moral message conveyed to illustrate the benefits of the observance of a rule or abstention from a prohibition.

The stories may be based on actual historical or well known incidents, or made-up or maybe conscripted well-known folk-tales which have been spiced up with handfuls of salt and chillies. ALL the narratives in the epics and Puranas belong to the category of Gunarthavada and can thus be set aside once the moral juice (rasa) has been extracted and prepared for consumption and application.

You elucidate it with the help of your imaginative power in a way that will generate devotion in the mind of men for Sri Hari who is the soul and support of all. (Bhagavata 2.8.51-52)

The Supreme Lord is said to be fond of such figurative expositions of spiritual truth through stories. (For it is understandable even to common men while an abstract philosophical statement can be understood only by a very few. (Bhagavata 4.28.65)

In times past I learnt this wonderful allegory, which teaches the truth of the Atman indirectly in a story form. (Bhagavata 4.29.85)

I have narrated to you the stories of many who lived to make their names famous in their lifetimes and then to pass away and become a memory or a mere name soon after. These narratives are only the literary device that I have used with a view to instil into you the importance of renunciation and God-realization. They have no ultimate significance in themselves (or are not to be taken as literal facts). (Bhagavata 12.3.14-15)

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    >Gunarthavada , i did not knew about this. Most of our texts have been altered by own people and hence many stories have lost tark(reasoning). with heavy adulteration and the fact some stories were purely written maybe to change social views might be reason for this. Although i am sure, Vyasa would not have written baseless story but real facts, meaning the truth is mostly lost by maya of kalyuga maybe. Also 1/100 of Mahabharata is available to us, the rest is only known to devta's.i think reasoning of answer might be along these lines. I appreciate your darshanik (philosophical answer)
    – vince
    Commented Feb 25, 2021 at 13:28
  • "The oriental propensity for exaggeration, embellishment, mythologization and conscripting of purported history for spiritual instruction it is impossible to say what actually took place in any form of verifiable detail." Please quote sources for this
    – The Destroyer
    Commented Apr 30, 2021 at 16:51
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    Can't I write statements in my own language and later quote verses and explain them sir? Why to delete this answer? It doesnt look bad does it @TheDestroyer Commented Apr 30, 2021 at 17:09
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    @SethuSrivatsaKoduru i didn't delete answer. I asked only references for answer.
    – The Destroyer
    Commented Apr 30, 2021 at 17:25

It is pertinent to note that although Rishi Agastya drank the ocean the earth was not devoid of water i.e. seas, rivers etc. were still around. This can be confirmed from Vana Parva.

After Devas had slain the Kalakeya demons, they asked Sage Agastya to replenish oceans but he replied

'That water in sooth hath been digested by me. Some other expedient, therefore, must be thought of by you, if ye desire to make endeavour to fill the ocean.'

The Devas along with Vishnu ji then approached Brahma ji who said

Go ye, O gods! whither your pleasure may lead you, or your desire conduct you. It will take a long course of time for the ocean to resume its wonted state; the occasion will be furnished by the agnates of the great king Bhagiratha.' Hearing the words of the (universal) grandfather (Brahma), all the foremost gods went their way biding the day (when the ocean was to be filled again).'

Then Vana Parva gives lineage of Bhagiratha. Emperor Sagara from Ikshvaku Dynasty had sixty thousand sons from princess of Vidarbha and a son Asamanjas from princess of Sivi. Ansuman was Asamanjas' son who and his son was Dilipa. Dilipa made great efforts towards the descent of Ganga but was unsuccessful. The task was completed by his son Bhagiratha .

Now there are at least two references to water bodies other than ocean in the time period between Sage Agastya drinking ocean water and Emperor Bhagiratha bringing about the descent of Ganga.

First one is when Sagara's sixty thousand sons failed in their quest to locate the horse meant for Ashwamedha yagna that disappeared in front of the waterless ocean. They mentioned to Sagara

'O Protector of men! O ruler of the earth! O king! by thy command, the whole of this world with its hills and its forest tracts, with its seas, and its woods, and its islands, with its rivulets and rivers and caves, hath been searched through by us. But we cannot find either the horse, or the thief who had stolen the same.'

Next reference is when describing the cruel nature of Asamanjas. It is said

he used to seize by throat the feeble children of the townsmen, and threw them while screaming into the river.

Based on the above references we can conclude that seas and rivers were still present even though oceans were devoid of water. And thus in this particular time period ocean life could be present in seas, rivers etc

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    – TheLittleNaruto
    Commented Feb 27, 2021 at 6:24

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