It is said that Lord Vishnu was once seated on his couch,
Lord Adisesa (the Lord of Serpents) watching the enchanting dance (tandava
nrtya) of Lord Shiva. Lord Vishnu was so absorbed in the dance movements
that His body began to vibrate to the rhythm of Lord Shiva. This
vibration made him heavier and heavier causing a lot of discomfort to
Lord Adisesa who was on the point of collapsing, gasping for breath. As
soon as the dance came to end, Lord Vishnu's body became light again.
Lord Adisesa was amazed with this sudden transformation and asked his
master about the cause of these stupendous changes. The Lord explained
that grace, beauty, majesty and grandeur of Lord Shiva had created a corresponding
graceful vibration in His own body. Amazed at this, Adisesa professed
a desire to learn dancing to inspire his Lord.
Lord Vishnu predicted that soon Lord Shiva would grace Lord Adisesa to
write a commentary on grammar and at that time he would also be able to
devote himself to perfection in the art of dance (nrtya). Lord
Adisesa was overjoyed by these words and looked forward to the grace of
Lord Shiva. He then began to meditate to find out who would be his intended
mother. While meditating, he had the vision of a female Yoga adept and
an ascetic (a yogini and tapasvini), Gonika who was
praying for a worthy son to whom she could impart her knowledge and wisdom.
He realized that she would be a worthy mother for him and waited for an
auspicious moment to become her son.
Gonika, thinking that her earthly life was approaching its end, had searched
for a worthy son to whom she could transmit her knowledge. But she had
found no one. When her penance (tapas) had come to an end, she looked
to the Sun God and prayed to Him to fulfill her desire. She took a handful
of water, as a final oblation to Him, closed her eyes and meditated on
the Sun. She opened her eyes and looked at her palms as she was about
to offer the water. To her surprise, she saw a tiny snake moving in her
palms who soon took on a human form. This tiny male human prostrated to
yogini Gonika and asked her to accept him as her son. Hence, she
named him Patanjali. ( Pata means fallen or falling and Anjali
means palms folded in prayer).
This is how Sage Patanjali is said to have come into this mortal world.