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Vishvamitra - The Self-Made MaharishiVishwamitra - The Self-Made Maharishi

Vishvamitra – The Self-Made Maharishi

Once upon a time, Satyavati got married to Ruchika who was an old man and was greatest amongst the Brigus. Ruchika desired to have a son with a notable quality of being good. Hence he gave Satyavati an offering to fulfil this desire. He also gave Satyavati’s mother an offering to bore a child with the qualities of a Kshatriya. Satyavati’s mother however asked Satyavati to exchange the offering with her. Hence, Jamadagni was born to Satyavati having qualities of Kshatriya and Vishvamitra was born to Satyavati’s mother. Gaadhi is considered to be his father.

Vishvamitra is one of the seven revered sages of ancient India. He, like the other Saptarishi, have a semi-immortal life due to the presence of yogic aspects and penance. He is the author of Mandala 3 of Rigveda which includes the notable Gayatri mantra. In Vedic culture, Gayatri Mantra is recited thoroughly and repeatedly due to its divine powers. Today, the Gayatri mantra is considered to be one of the most powerful mantras in the world and chanting brings abundant positive energy into a person’s body, soul and life. Until now only 24 sages have understood and imbibed the meaning of the Gayatri mantra to the fullest giving us an idea of the kind of power that the Gayatri mantra holds in this universe. Vishvamitra is the first on this list and Yajnavalkya is the last one.

Vishvamitra has been mentioned in many Puranas but none like the narration of his life in Valmiki Ramayana. Before jumping into that let’s go through the story of how Kaushika, the descendant of Kusha, became Vishvamitra and got possession of unimaginable amounts of power. The story goes back to when Kaushika laid his eyes on the cow Sabala owned by Maharishi Vashishtha. He wished to possess the cow and asked Vashishtha to give it to him. After a stern rejection, Kaushika grew furious and attacked Vashishtha. Vashishtha defeated Kaushika. Kaushika wanted to understand the secret of the Maharishi and he prayed to Vamadeva. Vamadeva guided him to penance and this time, Kaushika turned into Vishvamitra. He had such great powers that he turned King Harishchandra into a crane.

This is his story of introspection and realization of the power that penance holds. His tiff and encounter with Vashishtha can be said to be the turning point of his life. It is often said that one cannot become a Maharishi only by his own merit since the position bends heavily towards divinity and greatness that a common man cannot understand. However, Vishvamitra proved them wrong. He became a maharishi by the power of his own merits, efforts and dedication.

Like other rishis, Vishvamitra too can be seen to have multiple birth stories. The one mentioned in the 51st prose of Bala Kanda of Valmiki Ramayan goes this way. Vishvamitra was the son of Gaadhi who was also known as Kushanabha. Kushanabha was the son of Kusha who is the son of Brahma. Vishvamitra was a great king and he ruled his kingdom and the earth for thousands and thousands of years.

Menaka, the celestial nymph born during the Samudra Manthan episode desired a family. Vishvamitra was growing powerful every day. It scared the gods as he was on the verge of creating another heaven – Trishanku Swarga. Indra sent Menaka from heaven to earth to lure Vishvamitra and break his penance. Menaka was successful in that but also fell in genuine love with him. Their love gave birth to a daughter named Shakuntala.

Rambha, another apsara also tried to test Vishvamitra. It resulted in him cursing her. Vishvamitra went to the highest mountains in the Himalayas to perform deep penance for thousands of years. This time it was Indra’s turn to test him. He went to Vishvamitra as a poor brahmin begging for food. Vishvamitra who was going to break his fast after several days of penance immediately gave away his food to the brahmin and slowly learned how to master his passions. This is how his journey started as a Maharishi.

Click here to read about Bharadwaja – The First Sage Of The Saptarishis.

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