Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Sage Viswamithra


Sage  Viswamithra

By
P.R.Ramachander

Viswamithra  (Friend of the world) was one  of greatest Vedic sages of India. He was a king belonging to Chandra  vamsa(moon clan to which King Santhanu belonged in later years). His great grand father was the great king Kusa. His grand father was Kusanabha  and his father’s name  Was Gadhi. Gadhi married and begot a daughter called Sathyavathi. Sathyavathi  married a sage called Ruchaka. When Sathyavathi and her mother wanted to have sons, Ruchaka gave a  Charu(cooked rice offering) each to Sathyavathi and her mother. The Charu given to Sathyavathi was the characteristic  of a Brahmin and that  given to her mother was the characteristic of  a royal  lineage. The mother and daughter without knowing this exchanged  the charus and , Sathyavathi’s mother gave  birth to a son called Kausika(Great grand son of Kusa)  and Sathyavathi gave birth to sage Jamadagni.
   Kusa grew up learning all Vedas   and became a great king after  his father. Once he went for hunting  in the forest along with a vast army. He lost his way and was stranded at night fall. He  saw a light  at a great distance  and it turned out to be the hermitage  of sage Vasishta. Vasishta  welcomed him along with his army and offered them food. King Kausika pointed out that  a huge army was with him. Vasishta summoned his cow Nandini who was  the daughter of the celestial cow Kamadhenu. She provided sumptuous food for all of them. King Kaushika thought that the possession of a cow like Nandini should rest with the king , because he can wipe out the hunger of his subjects. When he requested for it, sage Vasishta refused to part with the cow. King Kaushika wanted to take away  Nandini from Vasishta  and tried to wage a war against him. Sage Vasishta simply planted his   staff in front of him. None of the weapons of Viswamithra and his army could cross the staff. King Kaushika realized that sagehood was much more powerful than him .He gave his kingdom to his sons and  started  doing thapas addressed to lord Brahma. After 1000 years,  Brahma came before him and made  him as Rajarishi(Royal sage) . When Viswamithra  wanted the title of Brahmarishi , Brahma told him  that  he was not mature enough for that . After  another 1000 years ofd Thapas, which was interrupted by Indra by sending an Apasaras  called Menaka, of whom Viswamithra got a daughter Shakuntala, he was awarded   the title of Maharshi.  Brahma pointed out to him  that  still he had not attained the  detachment necessary to become a Brahma rishi and awarded the title of Maharshi.  Kaushika continued his thapas. At this time  a king called Trisanku , to whose clan sage Vasishta was  the Guru was cursed by the son’s of Vasishta   to become  a Chandala,  for wanting f to go to heaven along with his body. Sage Kaushika took great pity on him  and gave all his  Thapasya to Trisanku and lifted him up to the heavens. But Indra pushed him down from there. Sage Kaushilka started constructing  a new heaven for Trisanku. Lord Brahma appeared before  sage Kaushika   and dissuaded him from his job and trisanku was made in to a star  of the sky. Sage Kaushika had to recommence his thapas. This time  Indra send an apasaras  called Rambha to disturb his penance. Sage Kaushika cursed  her to become  a stone.  Lord Brahma came before him and  gave him the title of Brahmarishi. Sage Vasishta also recognized him as  a Brahma rishi. Sage Kaushika   was  given the status of one of the saptha rishis. (Seven great sages). At this time he authored one chapter  of the great  Rig Veda  , in which  the greatest gift to Human beings viz Gayatri Mantra occurs. Since this revelation helped the universe  in their march towards  greater realization , later on he was referred  to as sage Viswamithra(The friend of the world).

Viswamithra  and king Harischandra
  The enmity between Vasishta with sage Viswamithtra continued   even then. At that time , in the Sun dynasty for which Vasishta was  a Guru, there a king called Harischandra. Harischandra married a princess called Chandramathi . Since they did not have children ,as per their advice of Guru Vasishta, he did penance  addressed  to Varuna.  Varuna blessed  them to have a son but demanded that the son so born should be given  to him for being used   as the animal of sacrifice for the Yaga that  he was doing. The king and queen agreed and they got a son called Lohithaksha. Whenever  Varuna asked  their son for being used  as animal for sacrifice, The king told some reasons  and postponed it. Vasishta then advised them , that  a son can be bought with the willingness of a father  and given for sacrifice .Harischandra bought a Brahmin boy called Soonasaphan , who was  very sad about his fate. Viswamithra happened to see  him and  taught him the Varuna manthra, by chanting which the Brahmin boy escaped. Viswamithra then decided to trouble king Harischandra. He approached  the king and asked him for a dhana(Charitable offering) . the king gladly agreed. Viswamithra asked all his riches as well as his kindom. The king agreed. But along with a dhana to a Brahmin, a Dakshina(cash offering) need to be given. Viswamithra insisted on this. Since king Harischandra did not have money, he was first forced to sell his wife and later himself. His master employed him to guard the cremation ground that  he owned.
One day Lohithaksha , his son died of snake bite and Chandramathi who was a slave  somehow brought his body for cremation. Harischandra was forced  to reject the cremation of the body   of his son as  his wife did not have any money. Gods appeared before them  and gave life to Lohithaksha. They also blessed  Harischandra and his wife. Sage Viswamithra   returned his kingdom to him.

Viswamithra  and Menaka
   It was at the time when Viswamithra was doing great penance that Indra  became scared  of his great power. So he sent one of the pretty dancer in his court  called Menaka  to  tempt  sage Viswamithra. She succeeded in her endevour  and became  pregnant with his  child. That   Menaka then gave birth to a pretty female child , whom she left at the banks of  river Malini. Some birds called Shaakunthas  took care of the baby for some time.Sage Kanva who came  that way took that baby to his ashram and brought  her up  there. When she grew up , she fell in love with king Dushyantha and became pregnant of his child. Due to some curse king Dushyantha forgot about his relation with  Shakunthala.  Sage Kanva also disowned her. Shakunthala  brought up her son Bharatha in the forest .When Dushyantha  got redemption from his  curse, he recognized both of them  and took them back  to his  kingdom.That son Bharatha became the king after him and conquered the entire India. Because of that India was called  Bharata varsha .

Viswamithra  and sri Rama

    Viswamithra did many Yagas   for the betterment of the world. The ogress  called Thadaka  and her two sons with their retinue did not allow  Viswamithra to carry  his yagas. So Viswamithra went to Ayodhya and requested king Dasaratha  to send hisson  Rama  with him , to kill the Rakshasas , so that he can carry out the Yaga in peace. Initially Dasaratha  was reluctant but  as her the advice  of his Guru Vasishta , he sent the Boys Rama and Lakshmana  to help sage Viswamithra. Viswamithra taught them two manthras  called Bala  and Athibala , by chanting which  Rama and Lakshmana   were  able to live without  hunger and sleep. He also taught them several divine astras. Rama killed Thadaga  as well as her son Subahu  and protected  the yaga.After the   Yaga was completed  Viswamithra took both of them to Mithila  , where Rama  broke  the bow of Shiva and got married  to Sita. On the way Viswamithra also  made Rama to step on a stone and  gave redemption to Ahalya  from the curse of her husband.

Viswamithra  and Rambha
     Rambha was  another  celestial dancer who came to   to disturb the penance of Viswamithra. However she could not entice Viswamithra. Viswamithra  cursed  her to become  a stone. When she begged his pardon, he told her the curse  would be lifted  after her being  a stone   for ten thousand years  and at that time a Brahmin called  Bhoorithejas  will touch  the stone and she will regain her original form.

Viswamithra  and Vidhyuthprabha
   Once Viswamithra started a penance  to get  the position of Khubera. Disturbed by this Khubera  sent an apsaras  called Vidhyuthprabha to disturb his penance. When with her pretty form she was not able  to  disturb the  penance of Viswamithra, she took a  horrible  and fearful form of a rakshasi  and started  disturbing him. Viswamithra  became very angry and cursed her to permanently assume that form. When  she begged his forgiveness , he said to her that the curse  will be lifted  when Sridatha, the son of Kalanemi catches hold of her hair..After  several years Kalanemi was born to a Brahmin called  Yajnasena in the Malawa kingdom. When his son Sridatha  caught hold of her hair , she regained her original form.

Viswamithra  curses Vasishta
     In the aftermath of  the happenings to Harischandra , once  Vasishta met Viswamithra who was  walking in the form of an imposter. Vasishta  told Viswamithra , that like a crane doing penance to catch fish, he deceived king Harischandra and so Vasishta cursed  Viswamithra  to become a crane. In turn  Viswamithra cursed Vasishta to become a golden dear as long as he was a crane. They both went to Manasaras  and started living there. They daily fought with each other, Lord Brahma , who was the father of Vasishta intervened and made  both of them assume  their original form.

Viswamithra  and river saraswathi
     Once sage Viswamithra ordered river saraswathi to rise and flood and drag in her  tide sage Vasishta and bring before the place he himself was  doing penance. Though river Saraswathi  was reluctant to do this,  fearing the curse  of Viwamithra, she rose in to a flood and dragged sage Vasishta down in to the river. Being not willing to  offer sage Vasishta to sage Viswamithra , she  increased her  speed when nearing the hermitage of Viswamithra  and went below the earth. Viswamithra  got very angry and cursed her  to become reddish.All the devas were  very disturbed by this  and talked to both of them. They made that place where river saraswathi turned red  in to a holy spot called Vasishtapaham.

Viswamithra  and Galava
   Sage Galava  was the son of  sage Viswamithra  himself . He  did not want to  have any other Guru but studied under Viswamithra himself. Once   Lord Yama  came as a guest to Viswamithra’s house . When Viswamithra  came  with food to be given to the guest, Lord Yama disappeared. Sage Viswamithra stood at that place  for one hundred years  expecting the return of the guest. He came after one hundred years. Sage Galava  stood by the side of Viswamithra doing him service all these years. Viswamithra   was greatly pleased and told him , that Galava has learned everything that needs to be learned. Galava then asked for the Guru dakshina.  After  several refusals  Viswamithra asked him for  eight hundred horses  with only one black coloured ear. After  great struggle  sage Galava   could get only six hundred such horses. When he was not knowing what to do, Garuda advised him to give  six hundred horses  and a princess Madhavi , on whom he had absoulute control. Sage Viswamithra accepted this. He got a son called  Ashtaka  from her.

Viswamithra  and Arundathi
  Once  for a Sradha  in Vasishta’s home , Viswamitrhra   was invited   as  a Brahmin. However he put a condition that  he would come provided  1008 vegetables are  cooked. Arundathi, the wife  of Vasishta agreed  . On the day of Sradha  she served, Plantain, colocasia(Chembu), Banana pseudo stem(Vazhai thandu), lab lab beans(Avarai kkai), cluster beans, snake gourd, Agathi leaf,bitter gourd,  amaranthus stem, jack fruit  and pirandai(bone vine or adamant creeper).When Viswamithra asked  how  they are 1008 vegetables,Arundathi told that  bitter gourd is equal to 100 vegetables,  the jack is equal to 600 vegetables  and pirandai is equivalent to  300 vegetables.So these 3  become equivalent to 1000 vegetables and along with eight  other vegetables they constitute 1008  vegetables. Viswamithra agreed  with her and blessed her.
Viswamithra and rig Veda
     Sage Viswamithra is the author of  the third Mandala  of the fourth anuvaka  of Rig Veda. It is in this section that , the great  Gayatri manthra   was given to the human beings for  their welfare.   Even in this section  Viswamithra  has berated sage Vasishta  in the last part of this section. The particulars   of sage Viswamithra of the Vedas  are slightly  different  from that of  the Sage given in the Puranas. But The enmity between Viswamithra and Vasishta  is found there  also.

Viswamithra Gothra  and Kaushika Gothra
   There are  two separate  major Gothras  which exist  in the name  of this great saint. The pravara  rishis  for these  gothras  are  Vaiswamithra, Devaratha(soonasapha whom he rescued from Harischandra) , Oudhala and Vaiswamithra  and  Vaiswamithra, Agamarshana  and Kaushika respectively. Viswamithra  is also a pravara rishi for more than  40 gothras. Among the important one is Aghamarshana gothra , which also  has the same pravara  as Kaushika gothra.
   It is interesting to note that Kaushika gothra  is common among the Kshatriyas  of India also.



1 comment:

Ramachandran said...

It is really nice to read.good for children as well as elders to understand stories regarding viswamitra. Thanks to rajathatha.