Story of Gautam Rishi from Koorm Puran
It is a tale of old time: Indra held rain for fifteen years to punish people for their sins. A severe famine followed resulting from no rain for so many years. Thousands of people began to die everyday. Huge piles of corpses became visible everywhere. In this situation, some rishi-munis gathered to think that Gautam is a brilliant rishi. Only he can solve this sad situation. He regularly performs prayer and worship of Goddess Gayatri. Due to the boon of the Goddess, the harm of the famine has not reached at the ashram of Maharshi Gautam. Hence we should go to his refuge. Having thought this, all of those rishi-munis along with their family went to the ashram of Gautamji.
Maharshi Gautam welcomed them with open heart. Then he asked the reason of their arrival. Munis narrated their sorrow. Listening to this Gautam consoled them and said humbly, "Sirs! This ashram is actually meant for you people. I am only a servant of yours. You should not worry as long as I am there. You live here happily without worry."
Thus after providing shelter to all the rishi-munis, Maharshi Gautam started praying Bhagwati Gayatri with ill vine stotras.
Pleased with the prayer and worship of Maharshi Gautam, Bhagwati Gayatri appeared before him and said affectionately, "Son Gautam! I am very pleased with your prayer. Tell me, what is your wish that I should fulfil?"
Gautam said in humble words, "Godmother (Mateshwari)! T he earth is reeling under severe famine. There is great scarecity of grain and water everywhere. Thousands of people are dying everyday. Lakhs of people have taken shelter in my ashram. Mother, I am worried on the issue of feeding and nourishing them."
Then Bhagwati Gayatri offered him a kamandalu and said, "Son! This divine kamandalu will fulfil all your wishes. You will never be short of grain until it is with you." Bhagwati Gayatri disappeared after saying this.
Maharshi Gautam bowed to the kamandalu reverentially. Then expressing his desire, kamandalu produced huge piles of different kinds of delicacies, divine ornaments, the material for yajna, and grain etc. Gautam happily offered all the munis money, wealth, clothes, and ornaments.
Maharshi Gautam's ashram had turned into a large refugee ground. All the objects visible in the ashram were produced through the divine kamandalu by the boon of Goddess Gayatri. There was neither fear of disease nor demons in the ashram by the blessing of Bhagwati Gayatri. Thus Gautam muni continued sustenance of all the munis for twelve years.
Once, singing praise for the goddess, Devarshi Narad arrived at the ashram. He was seated in a gathering of munis. Hailing Maharshi Gautam, he said, "Hey great among munis! Your praise is being sung in the three loks. Gods, gandharvas, yakshs (demi-gods), naags (snakes) - all bow their heads before your generosity and adherence to duty (dharmanishtha). Although you are sustaining so many people, yet you do not display even an iota of ego. King of gods, Indra, himself praises you highly in the paradise. I have visited you after listening your praise from his mouth.
There were some rishi-munis who envied Maharshi Gautam. Their envy grew even more when they heard Maharshi Gautam's praise from the mouth of Devarshi Narad. They decided to spoil the honour of Maharshi Gautam and started waiting for the right opportunity.
Some days later, by the kindness of Lord Vishnu, the rain started on the earth. Famine came to an end. Then the rishi- munis who were envious to Maharshi Gautam gathered and decided to invoke curse on Gautam. They created an illusory cow. It was mere skeleton of bone. When Maharshi Gautam was performing hawan at his place of yajna, the cow arrived there. Maharshi Gautam, out of compassion, thought to keep the cow in his cowshed. But it died as soon as he touched her.
As the cow died, those ungrateful rishi-munis arrived there speaking unkind words and alleging him responsible for the killing the cow and refused to accept his grain.
Seeing that the cow died merely by touching, Maharshi Gautam started pondering over it. Then, to know the reason of the cow's death, he closed his eyes and went into deep meditation.
Soon he came to know about the evil plot of the envious munis. Then he was filled with wrath like the annihilating Rudra, and, invoking curse on those ungrateful rishi-munis, said, "Wretched men! You will become incapable of praying and worshipping Vedmata Gayatri and Lord Shiv from today onwards. The men and women taking birth in your families would also be inflicted with this curse. You will live in the ponds of hell by the fury of mother Gayatri."
The Gayatri mantra became unapproachable for those ungrateful munis due to the curse of Maharshi Gautam. They forgot all the mantras of Ved. Then, filled with remorse, they went to Maharshi Gautam and falling on his feet begged forgiveness for their misdeed.
Their aggrieved entreaty melted Maharshi Gautam's heart. I le said, "Sirs! My curse cannot forego. Therefore you worship Lord Shiv incessantly to reduce its influence. He is extremely kind and capable to end one's sufferings. He who goes to his shelter never returns disappointed. He fufils the wishes of everyone."
Aggrieved with the curse, the rishi-munis started praying Lord Shiv on the advice of Maharshi Gautam. Pleased with I heir prayer, Shivji consulted Lord Vishnu about the way of their salvation.
Then Lord Vishnu said, "God! Conduct against Vedas, and being unfaithful to the host erode one's all punya (holy reward) and one suffers the torture of hell for several kalps. However, since these rishi-munis have accepted their mistake by true heart, the only way fot their salvation is that they pray and worship me after taking birth again in the human yoni.” Thus, inflicted with the curse of Maharshi Gautam, the rishi-munis took birth again in the human yoni and prayed and worshipped Lord Vishnu. As a result, their salavation became possible.