The Story of Vishwamitra Rishi from a King to a Brahmarshi
Vishwamitra quarreled with Vashishtha and was defeated. But Vashishtha himself named him as a Brahmarshi. Vishwamitra created new stellar constellations and threatened to create a new Indra. Gods trembled at this. He tested the truthfulness of Harishchandra. He saved Shunahshepha who was to be sacrificed. He was the guru of Sri Rama and taught him the use of many divine arrows. He was responsible for the redemption of Ahalya and for the marriage of Sita with Rama. In him, we see a confluence of three high qualities-valor, knowledge and sympathy-which have made him great.
Kowsalya Supraja Rama Poorva sandhya pravartate Uttishtha nara-shardoola Kartavyam daivam anhikam (0 Rama, worthy son of Kowsalya, the day has just dawned in the east. Arise, 0 lion among men, it is time to offer ablutions to God.) This well-known stanza from Venkatesha Suprabhata was composed by Vishwamitra to awake Sri Rama.
Vishwamitra belonged to a dynasty of kings.
King Gandhi was his father. Vishwamitra was also called as Vishwaratha. He had several wives such as Haimavati, Shalavati, Drishadwati, Renu, and Madhavi, and so on. He had nine sons and their names were Madhuchchanda, Kati, Yajnyavalkya, Panina, Galava, Mudgala, Sanskrit, Devala, and Ashtaka. A nephew of his by name Shunahshepha is also a famous figure in the Puranas.
Vishwamitra ruled over his kingdom for a long time.
What a Host!
Once Vishwamitra set out with an Akshouhini’ of the army to see around places. (One Akshouhini consists of 21,870 chariots, 21,870 elephants, 65,610 horses, and 109,350 soldiers.) On his way, he came across a forest region. He was wonder-struck by what he saw there. Tigers and cows, lions, and deer were moving about as if they were great friends. “Oh ! How strange and wonderful!” thought Vishwamitra as he moved on. The entire region was an abode of peace and beauty. Happiness appeared to reign there.
The king moved on.
He found a hermitage at a little distance. It was the hermitage of the great sage Vasishtha.
It was due to his powerful spell that wild animals had given up their enmity and lived like friends.
Sage Vashishtha welcomed king Vishwamitra with respect and warmth. He was offered a suitable seat. The sage enquired about the welfare of the king and then offered cool drinks and tasty fruits. During the conversation, the sage came to know that the king had brought a large army with him.
“0 kings, please be my guest today along with your followers and army,” said Vashishtha.
The king thought, “How these sages living in forests can feed a large army? How will they find food for so many men and fodder for so many animals? It is hard to even for a king who resides in a palace. How then can a poor sage manage it?” and declined the offer.
But sage Vashishtha pressed him again and again. At last, king Vishwamitra agreed to be his guest.
In his hermitage, Vashishtha had a cow by name Nandini. Nandini was the daughter of Kamadhenu, the Heavenly Cow.
Vashishtha approached Nandini and prayed thus: “0 mother, king Vishwamitra has come to our hermitage. We must feed and satisfy him and his followers. Please arrange for it.” In minutes Nandini produced all the articles of food required. Heaps of rice and eatables, basketfuls of various fruits, and streams of milk and honey, all that each and everyone desired for appeared before them. All were satisfied.
“Let Nandini Be Mine!”
King Vishwamitra observed all this. It was a wonder of wonders. How could a poor hermit residing in a forest entertain so many people to a sumptuous meal of so high a standard? He asked Vashishtha as to how such a feat could be accomplished at such short notice. When he came to know that it was a boon granted by Nandini, he was dumbfounded.
A little later he thought, “Being a king, I should have such a cow.”
He addressed Vashishtha thus: “Make a gift of this cow Nandini to me. In return, I will give you one lakh cows, jewels, fourteen thousand sturdy elephants and eight hundred gem-studded chariots and many other valuables.” Vashishtha replied, “0, great king, this cow Nandini has been gifted to me by Kamadhenu, her mother, so that my daily sacrifices, rites, rituals, and penance are performed, as well as to entertain my guests in a befitting manner. That is all the riches I possess. How can I part with it?”
Vishwamitra was unhappy with this reply.
“Why do you, a sage residing in a forest, require such a cow? I am a king. Such rare and worthy things rightly belong to the king. Nandini should be mine, “he said.
Vashishtha replied in a calm tone, “0 king, I have no power to gift her.”
“Who Can Stop Me?”
Now Vishwamitra’s anger knew no bounds.
How could he, a powerful and mighty king, tolerate such a blank refusal of his request from poor sage? “Oh, if I beg and entreat if it will not be gifted.
If I drag away this cow, what will this miserable sage do? Who can stop me?” he thought. He called his soldiers and ordered them, “Bind that cow and drag her away!”
The soldiers bound Nandini with a strong rope and pulled her. She was pained very much.
She jumped, shook off the soldiers and ran like wind to Vashishtha. She begged him to protect her.
Vashishta said, ‘Mother, before the power of a mighty king, what a poor sage like me can do to defend you?” Nandini realized this and prayed to him, “0 great sages! Permit me to protect myself.” Vashishta said, “Yes, there is nothing wrong with it.”
At once Nandini roared “Hum-bha!” Out of each hair on her body, thousands of armed men were born and jumped out. With tumultuous shouts, these men fell upon the army of Vishwamitra. No doubt, Vishwamitra’s army was mighty. But they could not stand the attack from these divine defenders of Nandini.
Before his very eyes, Vishwamitra’s army was annihilated. In a fit of desperate rage, he sent up his one hundred sons to punish Vashishta. They rushed against him. Seeing them, Vashishtha roared out only once. A huge fire enveloped them and all the hundred were burnt down to ashes.
Vishwamitra was grief-stricken. But his rage had not subsided.
“Grant Me All the Magical Arrows,” Vishwamitra thought, “Due to the power of Vashishta’s penance, I lost my army and my sons. Our entire valor was useless. Therefore I should also perform penance like Vashishtha and acquire such power.” Then and there he took the decision and left the hermitage of Vashishta.
He went to Himalaya and selected a peaceful place for performing penance. He started his penance to obtain the favor of Shankara, the lord of Kailasa.
Days rolled on. Months were over. Year after year passed on. But Ishwara did not show himself. Vishwamitra’s penance became harder and harder. Thousands of years rolled on. At last, Ishwara was pleased with the tenacity of Vishwamitra’s penance and presented himself.
“0 Vishwamitra! I am much pleased with your penance. Ask for whatever boon you desire from me,” he said.
Vishwamitra was jubilant.
“Lord, grant me all the secret knowledge of archery. Grant me the secret of all the magical arrows that Yaksha’s, Rakshasa, Gandharvas, and Maharshi’s have,” he prayed. Ishwara (read about Shiva Parvati story here) granted all these and went away.
Now Vishwamitra was highly pleased with his power. “Vashishtha destroyed my army and my sons. Now I will go to him and teach him a good lesson,” he thought. He rushed upon the hermitage of Vashishtha like a tempest.
At that moment Vashishtha was immersed in prayer. Other sages were sitting around him performing rites and chanting mantras.
Enraged beyond limits, Vishwamitra rushed against Vashishta with the utmost confidence in his victory. He launched many arrows from his bow.
Other sages saw this sudden danger and ran away halter-shelter shrieking loudly.
By this noise, Vashishta was disturbed out of his prayer. He opened his eyes.
Before him, stood king Vishwamitra with a deadly weapon ready to strike. Other sages and young disciples were running about in great excitement and fear. Some had been injured and blood was gushing out of the wounds. Vashishta called at once to all of them to cast away their fear. He took out the Yoga-danda on which he had been resting his arm and planted it in front.
Vishwamitra went on shooting arrows and throwing weapons.
But to his utter despair, every arrow and each weapon would come up to the Yoga-danda and would be swallowed by it. He did not know what to do. All the magical arrows and weapons he had obtained as a result of his penance for years had become useless before the power of this sage! He sat there with his head hung in great shame.
In the meanwhile, all the inmates of the hermitage returned and praised Vashishta for his prowess.
In his utter desperation, Vishwamitra sighed and said, “Dhig-balam Kshatriya-balam, Bramha-tejo-balam balam.” It means, “Power of arms is worse than useless, before the power of Brahmatejas (divine power bestowed by Brahma on those performing intense penance) which is the only power worth possessing,”
“Let Me Be A Brahmarshi”
But this defeat did not deter Vishwamitra. He did not swerve from his decision to defeat Vashishta. He decided to perform penance once more to increase his powers. He went southwards with his queens. There he settled down in a forest and started his penance to please Brahma, the Creator.
Hundreds of years passed, but Brahma did not appear before him. Vishwamitra did not budge from his decision and penance. After a thousand years, Brahma was pleased with his unshakable determination and appeared before him and said, “0 King Vishwamitra, you have now become a Rajarshi.”
How could this satisfy Vishwamitra? He repeated his resolve – I must become a Brahmarshi. I will continue my penance until I reach my goal.” He continued his penance.
“I Shall Guide the Sacrificial Rite” At this time a new development took place.
Trishanku was a king of the lkshwaku dynasty.
He desired to purify himself of his sins and go to heaven in his earthly body itself. Vashishta was his family, Guru. He went to Vashishta and sought his help to attain his desire. But Vashishta replied, “Trishanku, no one can attain heaven in this earthly body,” and refused to guide the sacrificial rite to achieve such an impossible goal.
Trishanku felt very sad, but could not get rid of his desire. He left Vashishta’s hermitage and set out in a southerly direction. There, in a forest, a hundred sons of Vashishtha had settled down for penance. Trishanku hoped that these sages might help him in fulfilling his desire. He went to them and explained his plight and then requested them thus: “After Vashishtha, you, his sons are the only guides I can look to. Kindly help me.” Vashishta’s sons laughed at him in derision and said, “What our father has refused, cannot be granted by us also.”
Trishanku was angered by their derisive laughter. He stood erect and said – “if you and your father refuse to help me out, can I not find someone to do it? I will get the help from someone else and perform the necessary sacrificial rite.” This bold reply piqued the sons of Vashishtha.
They said, “Because you have turned a traitor to your Guru, You shall become a ‘Chandala’.” Immediately king Trishanku lost his color and beauty.
He became black, his hair became rough and he indeed became a ‘Chandala’. His followers and ministers left him in disgust. Trishanku’s grief knew no bounds.
Still, his courage did not desert him. He moved further south and found Vishwamitra performing penance. He was elated by this good luck and approached Vishwamitra, with outstretched hands.
Long ago rains had failed in the country. Great famine had appeared and people were starved to death. Vashishta had gone away for performing the penance. His wives and children were residing in the kingdom of Trishanku. He had himself looked after the welfare of Vishwamitra’s family members. When Vishwamitra returned home he learned about the great famine and was worried about the fate of his wives and children.
When he came to know that they were safe and that Trishanku had taken care of them he was immensely pleased.
Though Trishanku had become ugly, Vishwamitra addressed him with sympathy and kindness. He asked, “0 King how did this happen to you?”
Trishanku explained his plight in detail, and finally prayed thus: “0 sage, I have never uttered a falsehood. I have ruled over the people according to Dharma (read more about Dharma from Yada Yada hi Dharmasya perspective). But now there is none to protect me. Can we not please gods by human effort?
If it pleases you, help me and see that I attain heaven in this human body itself.” Realizing the great hardships that Trishanku had undergone, Vishwamitra was very kind.
“Trishanku, do not worry about yourself. I will guide your sacrificial rite,” he assured. Vishwamitra had another aim in helping Trishanku. Vashishta had refused to guide the sacrificial rite, which he would now get performed and thereby put Vashishta to shame and embarrassment.
At once Vishwamitra called his disciples and followers and told them thus, “You go round and meet all the sages. Tell them that I invite them to take part in this sacrificial rite along with their disciples and followers. If anyone refuses, come and inform me.” They went out in all the directions with this message and invited all the sages they knew and came across.
Among these, only one sage by name Mahodaya and the hundred sons of Vashishtha derided the sacrificial rite to be guided by Vishwamitra. They laughed at his disciples and followers. “Ah! Sacrifice is being performed by a ‘Chandala’! How will gods receive the ‘Havis’ (offering)? Can you believe it – can this windbag Vishwamitra send Trishanku to heaven?” and similar were the taunts with which they derided Vishwamitra and his decision.
When the disciples returned with these reports, Vishwamitra was extremely angered. He cursed sage Mahodaya to perdition for having derided the sacrificial rite undertaken by Trishanku. And to sons of Vashishta, his curse was – “Let them be burnt down to ashes.” As a result of these curses, Mahodaya was ruined and Vashishtha sons were burnt to ashes.
“I Shall Create Another Indra!”
Under the leadership of Vishwamitra, the sacrificial rites began in right earnest. Trishanku, as per the instructions of Vishwamitra, offered ‘Havis’ to gods to the accompaniment of incantations chanted by sages.
But none of the gods came to receive his portion.
This enraged Vishwamitra further. He called Trishanku and said, “Trishanku, do not be afraid of all this. Now I will send you to heaven in your earthly body by the power of my penance.” The congregation of sages was wondering at these words. In their presence itself, Vishwamitra made Trishanku rise from the earth and dispatched him to heaven.
Trishanku, in his earthly body itself, rose higher and higher and reached the world of gods.
Seeing Trishanku approaching heaven, Indra the lord of heavens became angry. He shouted out, ‘Trishanku, the senseless one, you have no place in our world, as you have been polluted by the curse of your Guru’ and catching Trishanku by the neck, pushed him away.
Trishanku turned upside down and began falling to the earth. He was filled with great fear. In this agony, he shouted out, “0 great sage! 0 Vishwamitra, I am ruined. Save me! Save me!” Hearing this entreaty Vishwamitra rose to the occasion and ordered, 0 Trishanku, do not fear.
Stop there!” He made Trishanku stand there in mid-heavens by the sheer power of his penance.
To finalize the act he had undertaken, Vishwamitra created a new Saptarshi constellation and many other stellar constellations in the southern sky.
After this, he roared, “I shall now create another Indra or I will see to it that heavens do not have an Indra!”
Hearing this, the gods and sages shuddered in fear. They came and told Vishwamitra, “0 great sages! Trishanku bears the curse of his Guru. He cannot have a place in heaven.” Vishwamitra told them, “But my vow and word cannot become false. Let those stellar constellations created by me be permanent. Amidst them let Trishanku be there in his earthly body.” Gods agreed to it.
Vishwamitra was immensely pleased. He had won his battle against Indra and gods. But to his dismay, he realized that all the power he had gained by his long and hard penance had been spent due to his anger. So, he went westwards to the holy place called Pushkara to perform penance again.
A Child as A Sacrificial Animal
At this time Ambareesha was the king of Ayodhya. He had decided to perform a sacrificial rite.
But gods stole away his sacrificial animal. The king was grief-stricken. He was going through a forest in search of the sacrificial animal as suggested by sooth-savers. On the way, he found the hermitage of a sage by name Rucheeka. He explained his predicament to the sage. That sage was extremely poor. He told the king, I will give one of my sons as a sacrificial animal.
He had three sons. He did not want to sell his eldest son; his wife did not want to part with the youngest. So, the middle one by name Shunahshepha was sold to the king for one lakh cows. Young boy Shunahshepha became very sad about that matter. But in obedience to his parents, he set out with king Ambareesha to become the sacrificial animal. On their way, they came to Pushkara.
Vishwamitra who was performing penance there was a maternal uncle of Shunahshepha.
“0 Child, Do Not Fear!”
Now seeing his uncle, Shunahshepha hoped that his life might, after all, be saved. He ran to his uncle, seated himself on his lap and explained his plight and wept.
“Uncle, even though I have my father and mother, it is as good as not having them. You are a protector of all. Please save me. My life must be saved, but the king’s sacrificial rite should not be ruined,” he prayed.
Seeing his nephew, a mere child, in tears, Vishwamitra took great pity on him. “0 sons, do not fear,” he said. Then with great love and ceremony, he taught the boy some mantras (special incantations) which could save one from all difficulties. “Child, when you will be tied to the sacrificial altar, chant these ‘mantras’ with devotion. Your life will be saved,” he instructed the boy and blessed him.
King Ambareesha took away the boy. He started the rites and got the boy tied to the sacrificial altar. Shunahshepha began chanting the ‘mantras’ his uncle had taught. They were prayers offered to Devendra, the king of gods.
Hearing these mantras being chanted with pure devotion, Devendra and the gods were highly pleased. They blessed the boy and saved his life.
The sacrificial rite came to a successful conclusion and Ambareesha got the boons he desired.
“You are A Brahmarshi,” Vashishta Agrees
Vishwamitra continued his rigorous penance for a thousand years. Brahma appeared before him and said, “0 Vishwamitra, now you have truly become a Rishi.”
But this did not satisfy Vishwamitra. His goal was to become a ‘Brahmarshi’. So, he continued his penance.
During this time Vishwamitra met a beautiful woman by name Menaka. Menaka was a dancer in the court of gods. Vishwamitra lived with her happily for ten years. They got a daughter called Shakuntala. One day Vishwamitra began thinking, “Why did I give up my penance?” and felt sorry for it. He left Menaka and went to the north.
He started his penance again. This time he over-came his tendency to anger. He performed his penance for a thousand years in peace. At the conclusion, he prepared a meal for himself and was getting ready, for taking it. Just then Indra came there dressed as a Brahmin and begged for a meal. Vishwamitra gave him a prepared meal and started his penance again.
After a thousand years Brahma appeared again and said, “Vishwamitra, now you have become a ‘Maharshi’.” Even this did not make him happy, but he did not feel sorry. He continued his penance to attain the status of a ‘Brahmarshi’. He faced all the obstacles with equanimity and peace.
Due to his rigorous penance, the whole universe was upset. Devendra himself came in the form of a Brahmin and tested Vishwarnitra, but failed to make him swerve from the penance to reach his goal. At last, Brahma, accompanied by all the gods, appeared and said, Vishwamitra, you have become a Brahmarshi.”
Vishwamitra prostrated himself before Brahma and gods and said, “My desire is to be called a Brahmarshi by Vashishta, who is learned in all the Vedas.” Then the gods requested Vashishta to fulfill the desire of Vishwamitra. Vashishta came and said, “Vishwamitra, you are indeed a Brahmarshi.”
Thus Vishwamitra reached his goal by his tenacious efforts and concluded his penance.
He was honored by gods and sages alike.
Vow in the Court of Gods
Once in the court of gods, Devendra asked Vashishta, “0 great sages, kings of lkshwaku dynasty are your disciples. Among them is there anyone brave enough to tread only the path of truth in all situations?” Vashishta was immensely happy at the question and said, “King Harishchandra of the solar dynasty is the one who will stick to the path of truth at any cost.”
Vishwamitra was also seated in the court and he did not agree with this assertion. He rose and said, “0 Vashishta, this Devendra has no better business to engage himself in. He asked you first only out of regard and you are telling something which makes no sense.” This resulted in a wordy duel between the two sages. As the arguments became strong, the whole court began trembling in fear. Even Devendra became anxious about the outcome.
None dared to intervene. At last, Vishwamitra gnashed his teeth in anger, and with raised hands declared, Vashishtha, if I do not prove you and your disciple false, I will no more call myself Vishwamitra.” He shouted these words as if lightning was striking and left the court of gods in a huff.
“I Need a Gift”
From there Vishwamitra came to the earth and went to his hermitage. He started evolving a plan to make king Harishchandra utter a falsehood. As he calmly thought, he realized that his task would not be as easy as he had imagined it to be while addressing the court of gods.
Sometime later Harishchandra performed a sacrificial rite, which involved gifting of a large quantity of gold. Vishwamitra bided for a time when Vashishta was away and visited Harishchandra. The king received him with great honor and offered him a suitable seat. He washed the hands and feet of the sage and Enquired as to what brought him there.
The sage said, “I need a gift.” Harishchandra agreed to give whatever was asked for. Then Vishwamitra asked, “0 kings! I need gold of a quantity, which may be measured thus: A tall man must stand on a huge elephant and throw up a cowries shell. I want a heap of gold which would measure up to that height.” Without any hesitation Harishchandra replied,
“0 great sage, gladly I give what you have specified. It is in my treasury and you may take it.” Vishwamitra had not expected such a reply.
It was his first defeat. Without giving expression to his disappointment he said, “King, let it be in your treasury. I will take it when I require it.” He received the honors and went away to his hermitage.
He planned his next creation. By the power he possessed, he created many wild animals. He sent them to trouble the people of Harishchandra’s kingdom. People came to the king and begged him to protect them from these wild beasts.
Harishchandra set out for hunting along with his wife Chandramati, son Lohitashwa and many followers.
Defeated By Harishchandra
Vishwamitra created two beautiful dancing girls and sent them to the place where the king was camping. They purposefully haughtily talked with the king. Harishchandra became angry and turned them out with beatings. As per his plan, Vishwamitra appeared before king Harishchandra and said, “You have beaten my daughters.”
As punishment for this either he should marry these low-cast girls or he took away the kingdom and then demanded the money he had been gifted earlier. Harishchandra did not want to marry them. He gave away all that he had including his throne and treasury.
But that was not enough. Vishwamitra gave him time up to forty-eight days to make up the remaining gold. Harishchandra left his kingdom with his wife and son. Vishwamitra sent his disciple Nakshatraka along with them to the trouble and tease them.
Harishchandra came to Kashi. He sold his wife and son, and then sold himself to slavery and paid the entire amount of gold due to Nakshatraka.
His new master made Harishchandra the watchman of the cremation-ground. His son Lohitashwa died due to snakebite and Chandramati brought the dead body for cremation. At first, Harishchandra did not recognize his wife. He demanded the prescribed fee for the cremation.
Chandramati’s grief-stricken words revealed the tragedy in full. But still, Harishchandra demanded the fee, which rightfully belonged to his master.
Chandramati returned to the town to arrange for that small amount. On the way, the king’s soldiers arrested her on the charge of murdering the Prince of Kashi. The king sentenced her to death. The execution was the duty of Harishchandra as the watchman of the cremation-ground. Harishchandra did not hesitate to perform his duty.
He raised the sword to behead her.
All of a sudden Vishwanantha, the Lord of all the Worlds, appeared there. Lohitashwa was given back his life. Harichandra’s truthfulness was extolled by Vishwanatha himself. Vishwamitra too blessed Harishchandra, gave back his riches and kingdom and went away to his hermitage.
Guru of Sri Rama
In the Ramayana the role of Vishwamitra is great. King Dasharatha of the Ikshwaku dynasty had four sons-Rama, Lakshmana, Bharata, and Shatrughna. His guru was Vashishta. The princes grew up and learned archery. They were the pet of the eyes of their parents and the hope of the people.
One day Vishwamitra came to the palace of Dasharatha. The king welcomed him with great respect and offered a high seat. After the salutation, the king asked, “May I know what brought you to this place?”
Vishwamitra explained the purpose of his visit.
“0 great kings, two Rakshasa (Demons) – Mareecha and Subahu – are obstructing my sacrificial rites. They are very wicked but extremely brave.
I can curse them and get rid of the menace. But according to the vow of the rite, I should not become angry. Send with me your son Rama who is wise and brave. Let him kill the ‘Rakshasa.’
In return, I will teach Rama things which would make him famous in all the three worlds.”
Hearing this, Dasharatha became worried.
How can Rama, still a young boy, fight the mighty ‘Rakshasa’? He explained this to Vishwamitra and then said, “Great sage, I shall accompany you with my army. I shall remove their menace.” Vishwamitra, in a most reassuring tone, said, “Have no doubt about the valor of Rama.” Still, Dasharatha felt uneasy.
Vishwamitra then became angry, and warned Dasharatha, “Having agreed to fulfill my request, you are now backing out.” Vashishta, the Guru of the king, advised him thus: “Vishwamitra is the bravest among the brave and the wisest among the wise. He is a master of all arms and weapons. There is none else in the world that knows the art of archery and warfare better than him. He alone can kill all the ‘Rakshasa.’
When he is with Rama, what danger can there be for him? This is a good opportunity to send Rama with Vishwamitra.” At last, Dasharatha agreed.
Rama, accompanied by Lakshmana, went with Vishwamitra.
They approached the river Sarayu. On the banks of this river, Vishwamitra taught two ‘mantras’ namely Bala and Atibala, to Rama. These mantras could give unmatched bodily power and wisdom. Afterward, they came to a forest. This forest was full of noise made by wild beasts and insects. Their anemones by name Tataka lived.
Vishwamitra asked Rama to kill her. Accordingly, Rama killed Tataka who was pursuing him.
Early the next morning. Vishwamitra woke up Rama. He taught Rama the secrets of magical arrows which could defeat all the gods and demons. He also taught the methods of withdrawing them.
Vishwamitra made all the preparations for the sacrificial rite. He instructed Rama in the means and methods of defending the rite. The rite began and continued for five days with-out hindrance. On the sixth day, there started a deafening roar in the sky. Mareecha and Subahu came in its wake with their followers. They began pouring blood into the sacred fire. Rama killed Subahu, and Mareecha ran away. The rite was ended in peace. All the sages were happy.
Redemption of Ahalya
King Janaka, who was famous for his wisdom and knowledge, was ruling over the kingdom of Mithila. He had a wonderful bow. It was known as the bow of Shiva. None had been able to bend and string it. Janaka had decided to perform a sacrificial rite. Vishwamitra wanted to go there.
He took Rama and Lakshmana also. On the way, he told them about the wonderful bow.
All along the way, there were beautiful forests and hermitages of sages. Vishwamitra narrated many stories and legends to Rama and Lakshmana. The journey was invigorating.
They came across a beautiful but vacant hermitage. It belonged to sage Gautama. Out of curiosity, Rama asked as to why it was empty.
Ahalya was the wife of sage Gautama. For a sin she committed, the sage cursed her to “become a stone and be in dust for thousands of years,” and left the hermitage for performing penance elsewhere. Vishwamitra narrated the story to Rama and said, “Rama, now you redeem Ahalya.” They entered the empty hermitage. As soon as Rama stepped over the stone, which was once Ahalya, she regained her old form and beauty.
She welcomed them and treated them to sumptuous food. Realizing that his wife had been redeemed from the curse, sage Gautama also returned to the hermitage. All were happy.
Marriage of Rama with Sita
Vishwamihtra along with Rama and Lakshmana arrived at Mithila. King Janaka welcomed them with great delight and ceremony. Vishwamitra introduced Rama and Lakshmana to King Janaka. In the meanwhile, Janaka had decided and declared that he would give his daughter Sita in marriage to anyone who would bend and string the bow of Shiva. None had been able to perform this feat. Vishwamitra said, “My boy, Rama, try that.” As Rama lifted the bow and bent it, it broke into two, with a thunderous noise. It was unable to bear the strength of Rama’s arms.
Janaka gave his daughter Sita in marriage to Rama. Another daughter of his, Urmila, married Lakshmana. Bharata and Shatrughna were given two daughters of Kushadhwaja, a younger brother of Janaka. Vishwarnitra blessed all of them heartily and went away to the Himalayas.
A Great Personality
Vishwamitra was the bravest among the brave.
He was the personification of power. His personality is attractive but awesome like lighting. He was fearless. No gods or demons or men could deter him from his chosen path. The episode of Trishanku is a testimony to this. When he was in error he was humble enough to take his defeat, as highlighted by the story of Harishchandra.
Tenacity, fearlessness, and rigorous penance mark Vishwamitra out as a great sage. Along with these great qualities, he was kind and sympathetic to those who were suffering. He saved Shunahshepha and was responsible for the redemption of Ahalya. His vigor and power may be realized by his decision to create another Indra. The rigor of his penance was such that he could achieve even impossible goals. He was a Guru to Sri Rama himself. The towering personality of Vishwamitra pictures many values of Ancient Bharat.