Vishvamitra (viśvā-mitra) is one of the most venerated
rishis or sages of ancient India. He is also credited as the author of
Mandala 3 of the Rigveda, including Gayatri Mantra. The
Puranas mention that only 24 rishis since antiquity have understood
the whole meaning of—and thus wielded the whole power of—Gayatri
Vishvamitra is supposed to be the first, and
The story of
Vishvamitra is narrated in the
Balakanda of Valmiki
Mahabharata adds that Vishvamitra's relationship with
Menaka resulted in a daughter, Shakuntala, whose story is narrated in
Adi Parva of Mahabharata.
Vishvamitra was a king in ancient India, also called Kaushika
(descendant of Kusha). Vishwamitra was originally the Chandravanshi
(Somavanshi) King of Kanyakubja. He was a valiant warrior and the
great-grandson of a great king named Kusha.
Valmiki Ramayana, prose 51
of Bala Kanda, starts with the story of Vishvamitra:
There was a king named Kusha (not to be confused with Kusha, son of
Rama), a brainchild of
Brahma and Kusha's son was the powerful and
verily righteous Kushanabha. One who is highly renowned by the name
Gaadhi was the son of Kushanabha and Gaadhi's son is this great-saint
of great resplendence, Vishvamitra.
Vishvamitra ruled the earth and
this great-resplendent king ruled the kingdom for many thousands of
His story also appears in various Puranas; however, with variations
Vishnu Purana and
Harivamsha chapter 27 (dynasty of
Mahabharata narrates the birth of Vishvamitra. According
Vishnu Purana, Kushanabha married a damsel of Purukutsa dynasty
(later called as Shatamarshana lineage - descendents of the Ikshvaku
king Trasadasyu) and had a son by name Gaadhi, who had a daughter
Satyavati (not to be confused with the
Satyavati was married to an old
Brahmin known as Ruchika who was
foremost among the race of Bhrigu. Ruchika desired a son having the
qualities of a
Brahmin and so he gave
Satyavati a sacrificial offering
(charu) which he had prepared to achieve this objective. He also gave
Satyavati's mother another charu to make her conceive a son with the
character of a
Kshatriya at her request. But Satyavati's mother
Satyavati to exchange her charu with her. This
resulted in Satyavati's mother giving birth to Vishvamitra, son of a
Kshatriya Gadhi with qualities of a
Satyavati gave birth
to Jamadagni, father of Parashurama, a
Brahmin with qualities of a
2 Conflict with Vashista
2.1 Alternative version
3.1 Alternative version
4 Rise to Brahmarishi
5 Gayatri mantra
6.2 Harishchandra/Ambarisha's sacrifice
6.3 In Ramayana
7.2 Kaushika gotra
9 In film & television
10 See also
Vishwamitra (Sanskrit: विश्वामित्र) is a
Sanskrit word, meaning friend of the world. Other names for the sage
include Kannada: ವಿಶ್ವಾಮಿತ್ರ; Malayalam:
விசுவாமித்திரன் Vicuvāmittiraṉ; Thai:
Swamit; Burmese: Bodaw; Javanese: Wiswamitra, Malay: Nila
Conflict with Vashista
Coin of Dharaghosha, king of the Audumbaras, in the
with depiction of Vishvamitra, circa 100 BCE.
Obv: Standing figure, probably of Vishvamitra,
around: Mahadevasa Dharaghoshasa/Odumbarisa "Great Lord King
Dharaghosha/Prince of Audumabara", across: Viçvamitra "Vishvamitra".
Rev: Trident battle-axe, tree with railing,
Brahmi legend identical in
content to the obverse.
In one encounter, Vishwamitra cursed the king
Harishchandra to become
Vashista accompanied him by becoming a bird himself. There
were several such instances of violent encounter between the sages and
at times, Brahma, god of creation, had to interfere.
Vashista destroys Vishvamitra's entire army by the simple use of his
great mystic and spiritual powers, breathing the Om syllable.
Vishvamitra then undertakes a tapasya for several years to please
Shiva, who bestows upon him the knowledge of celestial weaponry. He
proudly goes to Vashista's ashram again and uses all kinds of powerful
weapons to destroy
Vashista and his hermitage. He succeeded in the
killings of Vasishtha's thousand sons but not in the former.
Vashista brings out his brahmadanda, a wooden stick imbued
with the power of Brahma. It consumes Vishvamitra's most powerful
weapons, including the brahmastra.
Vashista then attempts to attack
Vishvamitra, but his anger is allayed by Devas.
Vishvamitra is left
Vashista restores his hermitage.
Vishvamitra and Menaka, painting by Raja Ravi Varma.
This incident made a deep impression on the King. He realized that
power obtained by penances was far greater than mere physical might.
He renounced his kingdom and began his quest to become a greater rishi
than Vashista. He took on the name Vishvamitra.
Vishvamitra faced many
challenges in his life to become a Brahmarishi, before eventually
giving up the greed to possess the cow.
Vishwamitra Archery Training
After many trials and undergoing many austerities,
Vishvamitra at last
obtained the title of
Vashista himself. During this
time he had a daughter named Shakuntala(who appears in Mahabharata)
with Menaka, an apsara in the court of Indra. Son of
a great emperor. He came to be known as Emperor Bharata, in whose name
the land of India got its name Bharata.
Kaushika seeks to attain the same spiritual power as Vashista, to
become his equal, a brahmarishi. He undertakes a fierce penance for
one thousand years, after which
Brahma names him a
Rajarishi or royal
After another long penance of thousand years,
Brahma names him a
rishi, thus leaving his royal lineage permanently. And
him to take Bramharshi grade from his guru
Vashista only as he only
has the power to call you as Brahmarshi.
Birth of Shakuntala
At this point, Indra, the king of
Swarga attempts to test the tapasvi
by sending Menaka, an apsara to seduce him.
Kaushik then lives with
Menaka for 10 years. They have a baby girl Shakuntala.
Menaka had destroyed his years of meditation and thus he
cursed her that she will not possess her beauty, of which she was
proud, in next birth.
Kaushika now goes to the banks of the river Kaushiki, which is the
spirit of his own sister.
Menaka and Vishvamitra
After many thousands of years of penance,
Brahma names him maharishi,
but also tells him that he has not become a jitendriya yet, lacking
control over his passions. This is brought to light to Kaushika when
he angrily curses Rambha, an apsara sent by
Indra to seduce Kaushika
again, to become a stone for 1000 years.
Menaka and Vishvamitra
The visvamitra is also known for his skatriya.
Rise to Brahmarishi
After cursing Rambha, Kaushika goes to the highest mountain of
Himalayas to perform an even more severe tapasya for over 1000 years.
He ceases to eat, and reduces his breathing to a bare minimum.
He is tested again by Indra, who comes as a poor
Brahmin begging for
food just as Kaushika is ready to break a fast of many years by eating
some rice. Kaushika instantly gives his food away to
Indra and resumes
his meditation. Kaushika also finally masters his passions, refusing
to be provoked by any of Indra's testing and seductive interferences.
At the penultimate culmination of a multi-thousand year journey,
Kaushika's yogic power is at a peak. At this point, Brahma, as the
head of Devas led by Indra, names Kaushika a brahmarishi and names him
Vishvamitra or Friend of All for his unlimited compassion. He then
goes to meet Vashishta. It was customary that, if a sage was greeted
by an equal or superior person, the sage would also greet the person.
If the sage was greeted by an inferior person, the sage would simply
bless them. Initially, when Vishwamitra greeted
Vashista with the
pride of being a new brahmarishi in heart, Vashishta simply blessed
him. Suddenly all pride and desire left Vishwamitra's heart and he
became a clean and clear brahmarishi. When Vishwamitra turned back to
leave, Vashishta realised the change of heart and also greeted
Vishwamitra. Vishwamitra is also embraced by
Vashista and their enmity
is instantly ended.
Vishvamitra is said to have found Gayatri Mantra. It is a verse from a
Mandala 3.62.10). Gāyatrī is the name of the Vedic
meter in which the verse is composed.
Gayatri mantra is repeated and cited very widely in Vedic
literature and praised in several well-known classical Hindu texts
Manusmriti ("there is nothing greater than the Savitri
(Gayatri) Mantra.", Manu II, 83), Harivamsa and Bhagavad
Gita. The mantra is an important part of the upanayana
ceremony for young males in
Hinduism and has long been recited by
dvija men as part of their daily rituals. Modern Hindu reform
movements spread the practice of the mantra to include women and all
castes and its recitation is now widespread.
Vishvamitra is featured in many legends and in different works of the
Vishvamitra is known for is his creation of his own
Svarga or heaven, called Trisanku Svarga.
When a proud King Trisanku asked his guru
Vashista to send him to
heaven in his own body, guru responded that the body cannot ascend to
heaven. King Trisanku then asked Vashista's hundred sons to send him
to heaven. The sons, believing that Trisanku should not come to them
after their father had refused, took outrage and cursed Trisanku to be
a Chandala, or untouchable. Trisanku was transformed into a person
with body smeared of ash, clothed in black and wearing iron jewelry.
Unrecognizable to his subjects, he was driven out of the kingdom.
In his exile, Trisanku came across the sage Vishvamitra, who agreed to
Vishvamitra organized a great sacrifice and ritual
propitiating the Devas, pleading that they accept Trisanku into
heaven. Not one Deva responded. Angered,
Vishvamitra used his yogic
powers and ordered Trisanku to rise to heaven. Miraculously, Trisanku
rose into the sky until he reached heaven, where he was pushed back
down by Indra.
Enraged even more by this,
Vishvamitra commenced the creation of
another Universe (including another Brahma) for Trisanku. He had only
completed the Universe when
Brihaspati ordered him to stop. Trisanku,
however, did not fully transcend through Trisanku
Svarga created for
him. He remained fixed and upside-down in the sky and was transformed
into a constellation, which is now known as Crux.
In the process of forming a new universe,
Vishvamitra used up all the
tapas he had gained from his austerities. Therefore, after the
Vishvamitra had to start his prayers again to attain
the status of a
Brahmarshi and become an equal of Vashista.
Rama breaking the bow
While undertaking a penance, Kaushika helps a boy named
has been sold by his parents to be sacrificed at
Harishchandra/Ambarisha's yagna to please Varuna. The king's son Rohit
does not want to be the one sacrificed, as was originally promised to
Varuna, so young Sunashepa is taken. A devastated and terrified
Sunashepa falls at the feet of Kaushika, who is deep in meditation and
begs for his help.
Kaushika teaches secret mantras to Sunashepa. The boy sings these
mantras at the ceremony, is blessed by
Ambarisha's ceremony is completed.
In another version of the story, Sunahshepa is lost son of
Vishvamitra was Prince of Bharats(Kaushik) - and his
name was Vishwarath then, he was abducted by the enemy king Shambar.
There, Shambar's daughter, Ugra, falls in love with Vishvarath. Ugra
convinces Prince Vishvarath to marry her. Looking at the good
character of Vishvarath, Shambar also agrees for the marriage. Soon
after the marriage, the Bharatas win the battle against Shambar. When
theu found their Prince Vishvarath alive, they feel happy but they
could not accept Ugra as their future queen as she is an Asura. To
convert Ugra into an Aryan, Vishvarath creates Gayatri Mantra, but
people still refuse to accept her. Soon she gives birth to a son, but
to save the son from the angry people, the greatest female sage
Lopamudra sends the child to a hidden place. To
Vishvarath's sadness, people kill Ugra. But the son is saved, without
the knowledge of Vishvarath. This child grows young and he comes to
sacrifice himself in the ceremony of Ambarisha(or King
Vishvamitra looks as
Rama breaks the bow, winning the hand of
marriage. Painting by Raja Ravi Varma.
Indian epic Ramayana,
Vishvamitra is the preceptor of Rama,
Ayodhya and seventh
Vishnu and his brother
Vishvamitra gives them the knowledge of the Devastras or celestial
weaponry [bala and adi bala], trains them in advanced religion and
guides them to kill powerful demons like Tataka,
Maricha and Subahu.
He also leads them to the
Swayamvara ceremony for princess Sita, who
becomes wife of Rama.
Brahmins belonging to Kaushika or Vishwamitra gotra are considered
extremely oppressive and wrathful since they were descended from regal
In the case of Viswamitra, we have two Pravaras,
People belonging to the
Vishvamitra Gotra consider Brahmarishi
Vishvamitra as their ancestor.
This is one of the main gotra of Brahmins.
See also: Kaushik
Kausika was one of the names of
Vishvamitra who was supposed to have
lived in Mithila(presently in Nepal's Terai and India's Bihar) where
his sister river Koshi still flows turbulently as she is said to be
unmarried. Kaushika gotra is also one of the main gotras of Brahmins
and also of some Kshatriyas.
Vishvamitra is worshipped in Sri Aabathsahayeswarar
temple, Alangudi, Thanjavur, Tamil Nadu. The temple is estimated to be
1000–2000 years old.
In film & television
Vishwamitra is shown in Tamil movie
Rajarishi with Legendary Actor
Sivaji Ganesan playing the role of the Sage.
Vishvamitra is shown in Telugu Movie Brahmashri Vishwamitra.
Vishwamitra is shown in the show
Siya Ke Ram
Siya Ke Ram airing on Star Plus
played by Manish Wadhwa.
The TV show Piya Albela is also based on the classic love story of
Menaka and Vishwamitra depicted as a modern-day love story revolving
around Naren and Pooja
Hindu mythology The first poetry on Vishwamitra in Hindi was written
by Shahjad Singh Nikumbh who hails from royal family of Nikumbh
Wikimedia Commons has media related to Vishvamitra.
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^ "Sage Viswamitra,Dinamalr".
1st (Svayambhuva) Manvantara
2nd (Svarocisha) Manvantara
3rd (Uttama) Manvantara
4th (Tapasa) Manvantara
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