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  • Writer's pictureanjali mohapatra

Vishwamitra- the Brahmarshi!

Vishwamitra was the son of King Gadhi. He was also called Kaushika. Vishwamitra was a valiant warrior and famous for his short temper. After his father, he became the king. He loved his people and he was very fond of hunting. Once he had gone forest for hunting with his vast army. While roaming around the forest King Vishwamitra and all his troops felt hungry and thirsty. At last, they reached Rishi Vashishtha’s hermitage. 

Beholding King Vishwamitra, Rishi Vashishtha paid him respect and offered food and drinks to the king and his vast army. He was delighted to have such celestial delicacies but was surprised by the hospitality shown by Rishi Vashishtha living in such a simple ashram! He thought, ‘How is it possible for a person living in such a simple ashram to take care of all the arrangements to feed the entire army?’ With curiosity, he asked about it to Rishi Vashishtha. Without knowing his intention, Vashishtha told him about his divine cow Shabala who can give everything wished. 

Hearing his words, the king showed his interest in taking that celestial cow. He said, ‘O Holly sage! You have entertained me to my satisfaction! Give me the cow in exchange for a hundred thousand excellent cows. Shabala is a jewel and a king should enjoy that jewel as the law says!’ The king repeatedly tried to convince the sage with heavy valuable offerings. But his attempts became futile.

In return, Sage Vashishtha said, ‘O King! At no cost, I will be separated from Shabala! I fulfill all my needs with her help. So, O King! I can not give Shabala. She is my spiritual life!’

As the Holly Sage refused strongly, Vishwamitra resolved to carry her away by force. With grief, Shabala shedding tears came to Vashishtha and said, ‘O Lord! Why am I taken away from you by force? Have you abandoned me?’  

In a pitiful voice, Vashishtha said, ‘It is not my will nor do I abandon you, O dear! The king desires to take you away from me by force. He is mightier than I.’

Hearing his words Shabala said, ‘O Holy Sage! The strength of a Sage is based on the exercise of spiritual practices and is much stronger than the power of a Kshatriya. With your command, I will create my army and destroy the forces of the king.’ Thus, Shabala created her army with Yogic power and miserably defeated the king- Vishwamitra.

At one point Vishwamitra applied all his dreadful divine weapons that he obtained by his hard penances against Sage Vashishtha. But Sage Vashishtha lifting his Brahma staff in wrath, said, ‘O crooked King! Here I stand and I will deprive you of all these divine weapons!’

Being defeated by Vashishtha, Vishwamitra sighing heavily exclaimed, ‘Fie on my Kshatriya power! The real power is the spiritual power! The holy sage has conquered over me only by the strength of his spiritual power!’

Ashamed of his defeat, King Vishwamitra returned to his kingdom and thought, ‘What is the use of my Kshatriya Dharma? A Brahman is much more powerful than a Kshatriya! Yogic power is the strongest one!’ Thus, he renounced his kingdom and retired to the forest to practice asceticism. He observed hard penances and austerities. He passed a thousand years observing hard penances. Lord Brahma appeared before him and said, ‘O noble king! You have now become a royal Rishi by your severe penances and austerities. You will obtain all the prosperities in your life!’ 

Vishwamitra was not satisfied with this boon of the Grand Sire. Once again he was deeply engaged in Tapasya. Beholding his severe austerities, Lord Indra was terrified. He asked Menaka, the celestial apsara to break his penances by alluring him showing her physical beauty. Obeying his command, Menaka tried to seduce the king taking her bath in the Puskara lake. Seeing her physical beauty, Vishwamitra was filled with love for her. He expressed his desire to Menaka. Thus, Menaka lived with King Vishwamitra in his hermitage for a long time. They were blessed with a beautiful daughter- Shakuntala. Suddenly one day, Rishi Vishwamitra realized that he had been deluded. He was ashamed of his own mistake. All his hard austerities were destroyed by his passion for Menaka. 

After bidding farewell to the celestial nymph Menaka who was badly shaking out of fear, Vishwamitra allowed her to go to her abode. Controlling his passions he went to the northern mountains. He began his penances in the Himalayas on the bank of the river Kaushiki. Lord Indra and the other gods were filled with fear by his penances and requested Lord Brahma to grant him the title ‘Maharshi’.

Lord Brahma then appeared before Vishwamitra and said, ‘O Holy one! O Rishi! I am pleased with your meditations! I grant you the boon- ‘Maharshi’. You will be the chief among the rishis.’

Having paid obeisance to Lord Brahma, Vishwamitra said, ‘O Lord! All these severe pain I had undertaken to become a Brahmarshi, not to be addressed as Maharshi.’

Then, the Grand Sire consoled him saying, ‘O Great Muni! You have not yet got the mastery over your senses! O Rishi, do furthermore penances.’ Having said these words, Lord Brahma went back to his abode.

Hearing the words of Grand Sire, once again Vishwamitra began extreme penances, standing on one leg with his arms upraised during a blazing fire in the summer season, standing in the rainy season without a cover, and underwater in the winter season, he passed a thousand years. His severe penances caused a terrible fear in Lord Indra’s mind. He approached Rambha requesting her to lure Vishwamitra to break his penances. He said, ‘O Rambha! Divert the mind of the muni by your charming appearance and spoil his spiritual practices.’

Joining her palms, Rambha told Indra in a trembling voice, ‘O Lord! Vishwamitra is short-tempered and wrathful. I am afraid of getting cursed if I approach him. I wish not to do this job, O Lord!

Having heard her words, Indra assured her saying, ‘Fear not, O Rambha! With the God of love, I will be there as a cuckoo.’

Forced by Indra, the celestial nymph attired in beautiful clad appeared before Rishi Vishwamitra. And the cuckoo began its melodious note. But, this time, Rishi Vishwamitra could understand the trick of Indra. Outraged he cursed Rambha to become a stone lying down there for ten thousand years. After she requested tearful eyes, Rishi said, ‘O Rambha, a Brahmin would release you from this curse!’

Thus, Vishwamitra regretted for losing the fruits of his hard penances by showing anger. Controlling his five senses, he performed the highest degree of penance for a thousand years to obtain brahmanhood. After the completion of his penances, he thought of eating some food. While he was ready to eat, Lord Indra appeared before him in the guise of a Brahmin. And requested him to offer him some food. Without delay, Vishwamitra gave him the whole food that he had prepared for himself. That time he was under the vow of silence. Thus, he didn't utter a word.

Once again, he controlled his breath and continued severe penances for another thousand years. By the power of his penances, all three worlds were greatly afflicted. Being shaken by the power of his Tapasya, all the devas, kinnaras, and Gandharvas together addressed Lord Brahma saying, ‘O Lord! If you do not grant Vishwamitra Brahmahood, verily the three worlds will be destroyed. Grant him his desire or else none will exist any longer! Whatever he desires, O Lord, grant him in haste!’

Accompanied by the gods, Lord Brahma appeared before Vishwamitra. In a pleasing voice, Brahma addressed, ‘O Brahmarshi! We are pleased with your penances by which you deserve the Brahmanhood. May you be blessed by all the gods and prosperity attended by you!’

Rishi Vishwamitra joined his hands and offering salutations to Lord Brahma humbly said, ‘O Lord! If you are pleased, grant me knowledge of ‘aum’ and Vedas with Brahmanhood. And grant me the authority to officiate at the sacrifice. O Lord, let the Brahmana, the greatest Rishi Vashishtha acknowledge me as a Brahmarshi.’ 


All the gods and Lord Brahma said, ‘So it be! And if you turn your back to a person who desists to address you Brahmarshi, then that person will be turned into ashes.’ Saying this, all of them went to their abode.

Being blessed by Lord Brahma, Vishwamitra went to the hermitage of Rishi Vashishtha. Beholding the Rishi Vishwamitra, Vashishtha with great humility addressed him saying, ‘O Maharshi! Come and take your seat with me.’

Thereupon Rishi Vishwamitra was in a deep thought! ‘If I turn my back to him, he will turn into ashes! What will I gain by terminating a great Brahmarshi?’ Thus, his heart filled with compassion, and without turning back, he stepped back foot.

No sooner did he step back, Vashishtha smiled and addressed, ‘O Brahmarshi! O venerable Vishwamitra, come, come and have a seat with me. I acknowledge you as a Brahmarshi!’

Thus, Vishwamitra accomplished his purpose and became one of the greatest Rishi!

PS: Used both Sanskrit and Odia Ramayana.

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