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File:Varma - Vishvamitra Meditation.jpg
Vishvamitra by Raja Ravi Varma
Title Brahmarishi, Rajarshi, Saptarshi
Religion Hinduism
Children Many children including Madhuchhanda, Ashtaka, Shunahshepa, Sushruta and Shakuntala
Parents Gaadhi (father)
Notable work(s) Gayatri Mantra

Brahmarshi Vishvamitra (Sanskrit: विश्वामित्र, viśvā-mitra) is one of the most venerated rishis or sages of ancient India. A near-divine being, he is also credited as the author of most 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 Mantra. Vishvamitra is supposed to be the first, and Yajnavalkya the last.

Textual background[edit]

File:Coin of Dharaghosha king of the Audumbaras.jpg
Coin of Dharaghosha, king of the Audumbaras, in the Indo-Greek style, with depiction of Vishvamitra, circa 100 BCE.[1]
Obv: Standing figure, probably of Vishvamitra, Kharoshthi legend, 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.[1]

Most of the stories related to Vishvamitra's life is narrated in the Valmiki Ramayana.[2] Vishvamitra was a king in ancient India, also called Kaushik (descendant of Kusha) and belonged to Amavasu Dynasty. Vishwamitra was originally the Chandravanshi (Somavanshi) King of Kanyakubja (modern day Kannauj). 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 mindson (manasputra) 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 years.[3]

His story also appears in various Puranas; however, with variations from Ramayana. Vishnu Purana and Harivamsha chapter 27 (dynasty of Amaavasu) of Mahabharata narrates the birth of Vishvamitra. According to Vishnu Purana,[4] Kushanabha married a damsel of Purukutsa dynasty (later called as Shatamarshana lineage - descendants of the Ikshvaku king Trasadasyu) and had a son by name Gaadhi, who had a daughter named Satyavati (not to be confused with the Satyavati of Mahabharata).

Life and legends[edit]


Satyavati was married to an old man known as Ruchika who was foremost among the race of Bhrigu. Ruchika desired a son having the qualities of a good person 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 privately asked Satyavati to exchange her charu with her. This resulted in Satyavati's mother giving birth to Vishvamitra, and Satyavati gave birth to Jamadagni, father of Parashurama, a person with qualities of a warrior.[5]

Conflicts with Vashista[edit]

File:Viswamitra taking with Vasista.jpg
Viswamitra talking with Vasista

Maharshi Vasistha possessed a cow called Sabala who is able to give everything wished for. Once king Kaushika (Vishwamitra) saw the cow and wished to possess her. He asked Vasistha to hand her over but Vasistha refused to do so saying she actually belongs to Devas and not him. King Kaushika became angry and attacked Vasistha with all his forces. However, he was defeated by the power of his penance and was somehow rescued by Vamdeva. He asked Vamdeva, how can Vasistha defeat all his might on his alone. Vamdeva told him this happened due to Vasistha's Brahmashakti. Kaushika then wanted to become like Vasistha. Doing penance guided by Vamdeva, King Kaushika became Vishwamitra.

In one encounter, Vishwamitra cursed the king Harishchandra to become a crane. 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.[6]

Alternative version[edit]

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 Vaśiștha's ashram again and uses all kinds of powerful weapons to destroy Vashista and his hermitage. He succeeded in the killings of Vashista's thousand sons but not Vashista himself.

An enraged 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 humiliated while Vashista restores his hermitage.[7][8]

Seduction by Menaka[edit]

File:Menaka Vishwamitra by RRV.jpg
Viswamitra is seduced by Menaka.

Menaka was born during the churning of the ocean by the Devas and Asuras and was one of the most beautiful apsaras (celestial nymph) in the world with quick intelligence and innate talent. However, Menaka desired a family. Due to his penance and the power he achieved through it, Vishwamitra frightened the gods and even tried to create another heaven. Indra, frightened by Vishwamitra's powers, sent Menaka from heaven to earth to lure him and break his meditation. Menaka successfully incited Vishwamitra's lust and passion. She succeeded in breaking the meditation of Vishwamitra. However, she fell in genuine love with him and a baby girl was born to them who later grew in Sage Kanva's ashram and came to be called Shakuntala. Later Shakuntala falls in love with King Dushyanta and gives birth to a child called Bharata.[9]

However, later Vishwamitra merely cursed Menaka to be separated from him forever, for he loved her as well and knew that she had lost all devious intentions towards him long ago.

Vishwamitra was also tested by the Apsara Rambha. She, however was cursed by Vishwamitra.[10]

Rise to Brahmarishi[edit]

After cursing Rambha, Vishwamitra 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 Vashishta 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 a change of heart and proceeded to greet Vishwamitra. Vishwamitra is also embraced by Vashista and their enmity is instantly ended.[11]


Another story Vishvamitra is known for is his creation of his own version of 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. 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 help him. 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.[12]

In the process of forming a new universe, Vishvamitra used up all the tapas he had gained from his austerities. Therefore, after the Trisanku episode, Vishvamitra had to start his prayers again to attain the status of a Brahmarshi and become an equal of Vashista.

Harishchandra/Ambarisha's sacrifice[edit]

While undertaking a penance, Kaushika helps a boy named Shunashepa who 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.[13]

Kaushika teaches secret mantras to Sunashepa. The boy sings these mantras at the ceremony, is blessed by Indra and Varuna and Ambarisha's ceremony is completed.

In another version of the story, Sunahshepa is lost son of Vishvamitra. When 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 they 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 Sura, 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 Lopamudra and 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 Harishchandra).[14]

Teacher of Rama[edit]

File:Ravi Varma-Rama-breaking-bow.jpg
Vishvamitra looks as Rama breaks the bow, winning the hand of Sita in marriage. Painting by Raja Ravi Varma.

In the Hindu epic Ramayana, Vishvamitra is the preceptor of Rama and his brother Lakshmana. Rama is prince of Ayodhya, and believed to be the seventh Avatar of god Vishnu .

Vishvamitra gives them the knowledge of the Devastras or celestial weaponry [bala and ati bala], trains them in advanced religion and guides them to kill powerful demons like Tadaka, Maricha and Subahu. He also leads them to the Swayamvara ceremony for princess Sita, who becomes wife of Rama.[15]


Vishvamitra is said to have found Gayatri Mantra. It is a verse from a sukta of Rigveda (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[16] and praised in several well-known classical Hindu texts such as Manusmriti ("there is nothing greater than the Savitri (Gayatri) Mantra.", Manu II, 83),[17] Harivamsa[18] and Bhagavad Gita.[19][20] 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.[21][22]


Vishwamitra had many children from different women. Madhuchhanda was also a composer of many hymns in the Rigveda.[23] According to the Mahabharata, Sushruta, the father of plastic surgery, was one of his sons.[24] Ashtaka, who was born from Madhavi, was successor to his kingdom.[25][26] Shakuntala was born from the damsel Menaka. She was the mother of Bharata, who became a powerful emperor as well as an ancestor of Kuru kings.[27][28]

Brahmins belonging to Kaushika or Vishwamitra gotra claim that they descended from Sage Vishwamitra.[29][30] The distinction can be found from the respective pravaras,[31]

  1. Visvamitra, Aghamarshana, Kaushika
  2. Visvamitra, Devarata, Owtala
  3. Visvamitra, Ashtaka

Kaushik is one of the main gotras of Brahmins.[32]

In film and television[edit]

See also[edit]


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  1. 1.0 1.1 Ancient India, from the earliest times to the first century, A.D by Rapson, E. J. p.154 [1] [archive]
  2. "Valmiki Ramayana" [archive]. Retrieved 26 March 2013.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. A Classical Dictionary of Hindu Mythology and Religion, Geography, History, and Literature [archive]. Trübner & Company. 1870. p. 341.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  4. "Viśwamitra" [archive]. 16 October 2007. Retrieved 26 March 2013.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  5. Parashurama. Amar Chitra Katha Private Limited. April 1971. ISBN 8184823444.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  6. Wilkins, W.J. (2003). Hindu Mythology. New Delhi: D.K. Printworld (P) Limited. pp. 380–2. ISBN 81-246-0234-4.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  7. Paramahamsa Prajnanananda. Life And Values [archive]. Sai Towers Publishing. p. 113. ISBN 9788178990491.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  8. Torchlight Publishing (23 May 2016). A Prince in Exile: The Journey Begins [archive]. Jaico Publishing House. ISBN 9788184958614.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  9. Sattar, Arshia (22 June 2017). "The ultimate male fantasy" [archive]. The Hindu. ISSN 0971-751X [archive]. Retrieved 5 September 2020.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  10. "apsara rambha | अप्सरा रम्भा को क्यों एक हजार वर्ष तक बने रहना पड़ा शिला, जानिए रहस्य" [archive]. Retrieved 1 September 2020.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  11. "Vishwamitra - The King Who Became a Great Sage - Indian Mythology" [archive]. Retrieved 5 September 2020.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  12. "Crux – Trishanku" [archive]. 30 January 2012. Archived from the original [archive] on 30 January 2012.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  13. Pargiter, F.E. (1972) [1922]. Ancient Indian Historical Tradition, Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass, p.92.
  14. Munshi, K. M. (1933). Munshi Granthavali : 7. Ahmedabad: Gurjar Prakashan (for Bharatiya Vidhya Bhavan).
  15. "Rama and Lakshmana Slay the mighty tataka" [archive]. The New Indian Express. Retrieved 5 September 2020.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  16. Bloomfield 1906, p. 392b.
  17. Dutt 2006, p. 51.
  18. Vedas 2003, p. 15–16.
  19. Rahman 2005, p. 300.
  20. Radhakrishnan 1994, p. 266.
  21. Rinehart 2004, p. 127.
  22. Lipner 1994, p. 53.
  23. Wilson, John (23 April 1877). Indian Caste [archive]. Times of India Office. p. 105 [archive] – via Internet Archive. madhuchanda son of vishvamitra rigveda.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  24. Bhishagratna, Kunjalal (1907). An English Translation of the Sushruta Samhita, based on Original Sanskrit Text [archive]. Calcutta. pp. ii(introduction).<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  25. Bibek Debroy (2016). Harivamsha [archive]. Penguin UK. ISBN 9789386057914.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  26. (India), Uttar Pradesh (23 April 1988). "Uttar Pradesh District Gazetteers: Farrukhabad" [archive]. Government of Uttar Pradesh – via Google Books.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  27. Jestice, Phyllis G. (2004). Holy People of the World: A Cross-cultural Encyclopedia [archive]. ABC-CLIO. p. 899. ISBN 9781576073551.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  28. Doniger, Wendy (23 April 1988). Textual Sources for the Study of Hinduism [archive]. Manchester University Press. ISBN 9780719018671 – via Google Books.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  29. Pande Bechan Sharma (2007). About Me [archive]. Penguin Books India. p. 33. ISBN 9780143101802.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  30. John Garrett (1871). A Classical Dictionary of India: Illustrative of the Mythology, Philosophy, Literature, Antiquities, Arts, Manners, Customs &c. of the Hindus [archive]. Higginbotham and Company. p. 328. Retrieved 4 April 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  31. John Brought (26 September 2013). The Early Brahmanical System of Gotra and Pravara: A Translation of the Gotra-Pravara-Manjari of Purusottama-Pandita [archive]. Cambridge University Press. p. 149. ISBN 978-1-107-62398-9. Retrieved 26 September 2013.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  32. Prabhākara Mācave (1994). Hinduism: Its Contribution to Science and Civilisation [archive]. Machwe Prakashan. p. 65.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  33. Just now. "Siya Ke Ram Latest Updates & Tweets - The Times of India" [archive]. Retrieved 23 April 2018.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

Template:Rishis of Hindu mythology


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