Marichi was the son of Brahma, the divine creator. Having created heaven and earth, Brahma went on to conceptualise and create seven sons (Mansaputras), of which Marichi was one. Marichi literally means a ray of light from either the moon or the sun, and Marichi was to be the chief of the Maruts (‘the shining ones’).
Marichi went on to have his own children. His son, Kashyap, was known as the ‘Lord of Creatures’; his grandson was the sun god Surya, the giver of life who is the god to whom Surya Namaskara (a salutation including Uttanasana, Adho Mukha Svanasana, Urdhva Mukha Svanasana, and Chaturanga Dandasana) is dedicated; and his great-grandson was Manu, the father of humanity. The first three letters of Manu are “man” which is a Sanskrit root meaning ‘to think’, and it is this same Sanskrit root that gave birth to the English word man.
The following story gives a taste of Marichi’s character.
One day Marichi went to the forest to collect wood and flowers and returned to his home extremely tired. He called to his wife, Dharmavrata, and told her that she was to wash his feet for him. Just as Dharmavrata began to wash her husband’s feet, Brahma arrived. Dharmavrata did not know what she should do, should she continue to wash her husband’s feet, or turn her attention to Brahma, who was Marichi’s father. She chose the latter and suffered the wrath of her husband. Marichi became extremely angry and put a curse on his wife, turning her into a stone.
Dharmavrata was naturally upset by this, believing that she was being punished unnecessarily. As a reaction to this, Dharmavrata began many years of meditation which were noticed by Lord Visnu who, impressed by her devotion, granted her a wish.
All Dharmavrata wanted was to have Marichi’s curse lifted. Unfortunately, Marichi was such a powerful sage that this was impossible to do. Instead, Dharmavrata was transformed into a holy stone, which was desired by all gods.
Judging by this story, Marichi was not a particularly a savoury character, but his position as a great sage and his status as the Sun God’s grandfather and the great-grandfather of the human race’s progenitor undeniably make him a key figure in Indian Mythology and may well explain why such a powerful, energy-giving lateral twist bears his name.