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Menaka And Rambha - Vishvamitra's Test Of Dedication

Menaka And Rambha – Vishvamitra’s Test Of Dedication

The great sage Vishvamitra is said to have had various wives named Haimavati and Shailavati but their mention is not as prominent as his celestial nymph wife – Menaka. Menaka, an extraordinarily beautiful apsara, was a result of the Samudra Manthan incident between the gods and the demons. The churning of the ocean episode in the history of Indian Mythology led to the origin of many magical and divine beings and objects like Goddess Lakshmi, Kamadhenu Cow, Tree of Parijat, Poison, Nectar, Moon and many more. Menaka was one of them. Menaka, along with beauty, also had talent and intelligence in her.

Her and Vishvamitra’s stories started to get entangled when Menaka wished for a family. Vishvamitra on the other hand was focused and directed his entire attention towards penance and meditation. He wanted to become a Maharishi. Maharishis are often said to be born as it takes a divine power to classify them as Maharishis. With the dedication and sincerity of Vishvamitra, he became the first Maharishi to have earned it on his own merit. His unbreakable penance and continuously increasing power frightened the gods. They were truly scared when he tried to make another heaven.

Lord Indra, the god of rains, decided to send Menaka to earth to lure him with her beauty and break his spell of meditation. Menaka reaches the forest Vishvamitra was meditating in. Soon Vishvamitra opens his eyes to be invited by a figure of a beautiful woman. Menaka was successful in breaking his meditation and influencing him with her beauty, talent and intelligence. She incited his lust and passion towards her. A version of this story mentions that she births a child from this engagement. Then, she leaves Vishvamitra and the daughter to return to heaven. Vishvamitra leaves the child in the forest to be found by Kanva and raised by him. He names her Shakuntala.

Another version of this story mentions Vishvamitra being an impressive personality and Menaka falling in love with him genuinely. They have a daughter, Shakuntala. This incident is mentioned and explained in detail in the Balakand of Valmiki Ramayana. Shakuntala grew up in sage Kanva’s ashram. She fell in love with king Dushyanta of Hastinapur. They fell in love when they first met in Kanva’s hermitage. Shakuntala and King Dushyanta got married and had a son named Bharata who went on to become a beloved Emperor.

Menaka soon tells Vishvamitra about why she appeared in his life. He came to know that he had been tricked by Indra and Menaka was the medium to fulfil what the gods wished for. He was furious and he almost cursed her for a forever separation with Vishvamitra. He could not complete his curse as he loved Menaka and knew deep inside his heart that she genuinely loved him. She had lost all her ill intentions for him long back and wanted to spend a happy life with him. There is an alternate version to this story that mentions that he does curse her and continues his journey of penance and meditation.

Rambha, a beautiful apsara having multiple accomplishments in dancing, music, arts and beauty was sent by Lord Indra to break Sage Vishvamitra’s penance. Vishvamitra wanted to become a Brahmarishi. Brahmarishi is a sage who belongs to the highest class of sages and has attained enlightenment like no other. To become an obstacle in this mission, Rambha goes to lure Vishvamitra through her beauty and talent. However, Vishvamitra realises that it is one of Indra’s tricks and curses Rambha to turn into a rock for tens of thousands of years. Her path of regaining her original form would be when a Brahmin relieves her from this curse.

Defying all odds and standing strong against all challenges, Vishvamitra made his way to becoming a Brahmarishi.

Click here to read about Vishvamitra vs Vashishtha – The Fight For Superiority.

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