Kashyapa is a revered Vedic sage of Hinduism. He was one of the seven ancient sages (rishi) considered as Saptarishis in Rigveda, numerous Sanskrit texts and Indian mythologies. He is the most ancient rishi listed in the colophon verse in the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad, and called a self-made scholar in the Atharvaveda. He was based in the northwestern part of the Indian subcontinent, and legends attribute the region of Kashmir to be derived from his name.
Kashyapa is a common ancient name, referring to many different personalities in the ancient Hindu and Buddhist texts.
Kasyapa, alternatively kacchapa, means “turtle” in Sanskrit. According to Michael Witzel, it is related to Avestan kasiiapa, Sogdian kyšph, New Persian kašaf, kaš(a)p which mean “tortoise”, after which Kashaf Rud or a river in Turkmenistan and Khorasan is named. Others trace it to Tokarian B kaccap (“brainpan”), Polish kacap (czerep, “brainpan”, “hardliner”), Tokarian A kaccap (“turtle”, “tortoise”).
According to Frits Staal, Kasyapa means tortoise but it is a non-Indo-European word.
Kashyapa is one of Saptarishi, the seven famed rishis considered to be author of many hymns and verses of the Rigveda (1500-1200 BCE). He and his family of students are, for example, the author of the second verse of 10.137, and numerous hymns in the eighth and ninth mandala of the Rigveda. He is mentioned in verse 2.2.4 of the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad, along with Atri, Vashistha, Vishvamitra, Jamadagni, Bharadwaja and Gotama. Kashyapa is also mentioned as the earliest rishi in colophon verse 6.5.3 of Brihadaranyaka Upanishad, one of the oldest Upanishadic scriptures of Hinduism.
Kashyapa is mentioned in other Vedas and numerous other Vedic texts. For example, in one of several cosmology-related hymns of Atharvaveda (~1000 BCE), Kashyapa is mentioned in the allegory-filled Book XIX:
Undisturbed am I, undisturbed is my soul,
undisturbed mine eye, undisturbed mine ear,
undisturbed is mine in-breathing, undisturbed mine out-breathing,
undisturbed my diffusive breath, undisturbed the whole of me.
Thereafter rose Desire in the beginning, Desire the primal seed and germ of Spirit,
O Kama dwelling with the lofty Kama, give growth of riches to the sacrificer, (…)
Prolific, thousand eyed, and undecaying, a horse with seven reins Time bears us onward,
Sages inspired with holy knowledge mount him, his chariot wheels are all the worlds of creatures.
Kala [Time] created yonder heaven, and Kala made these realms of earth,
By Kala, stirred to motion, both what is and what shall be, expand, (…)
Kala created living things and first of all Prajapati,
From Kala self-made Kasyapa, from Kala Holy Fire was born.
—?Atharvaveda, Book XIX, Hymns L51-53
His name appears in Patanjali’s ancient bhasya on verse 1.2.64 of Pa?ini. His name is very common in the Epic and Purana literature.
In Buddhist Pali canonical texts such as Digha Nikaya, Tevijja Sutta describes a discussion between the Buddha and Vedic scholars of his time. The Buddha names ten rishis, calls them “early sages” and makers of ancient verses that have been collected and chanted in his era, and among those ten rishi is Kassapa (the Pali spelling of Kashyapa in Sanskrit).
Kashmir, the northern Himalayan region of the Indian subcontinent got its name from Kashyapa Rishi. The name Kashmir, states Christopher Snedden, may be a shortened form of “Kashyapa Mir” or the “lake of the sage Kashyapa”, or alternatively derived from “Kashyapa Meru” or the sacred mountains of Kashyapa.
In ancient texts of Greece, linked to the expedition of Alexander the Great, this land has been called “Kasperia”, possibly a contraction of “Kasyapamira”. The word “Kaspapyros” appears in Greek geographer Hekataois text, and as “Kaspatyros” in Herodotus who states that Skylax the Karyandian began in Kaspatyros to trace the path of Indus river from the mountains to where it drained in the sea. Kaspatyros may be same as Kaspa-pyrus or Kasyapa-pur (city of Kashyapa) in other texts.