Brahmarshi Vishvamitra (Sanskrit: विश्वामित्र viśvā-mitra "friend of the world"; Kannada: ವಿಶ್ವಾಮಿತ್ರ; Telugu: విశ్వామిత్ర; Tamil: விஸ்வாமித்திரன் Visvāmittiraṉ; Thai: Swamit, Template:Lang-ms; Burmese: Bodaw) is one of the most venerated rishis or sages of ancient times in India. He is also credited as the author of most of Mandala 3 of the Rigveda, including the Gayatri Mantra. The Puranas mention that only 24 rishis since antiquity have understood the whole meaning of, and thus wielded the whole power of, the Gayatri Mantra. Vishvamitra is supposed to be the first and Yajnavalkya the last.
The story of Vishvamitra is narrated in the Balakanda of Valmiki Ramayana. The Mahabharata adds that Vishvamitra's relationship with Menaka resulted in a daughter, Shakuntala whose story is narrated in the Adi Parva of the Mahabharata.
Vishvamitra was a king in ancient India, also called Kaushika "descendant of Kusha". He was a valiant warrior and the great-grandson of a great king named Kusha. The 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 Prajapati, 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.Template:Cite needed
His story also appears in various Puranas, however they show variations from the Ramayana. The Vishnu Purana and Harivamsha chapter 27 (dynasty of Amaavasu) of Mahabharatha narrates the birth of Vishvamitra. According to Vishnu Purana, kushika married a damsel belonging to Purukutsa dynasty (later called as Shatamarshana lineage - descendents 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).
Satyavati was married to an old Brahman known as Ruchika who was foremost among the race of Bhrigu. Ruchika desired a son having the qualities of a Brahman, 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, the son of a Kshatriya Gadhi with the qualities of a Brahman; and Satyavati gave birth to Jamadagni, the father of Parashurama, a Brahman with qualities of a Kshatriya.
Quarrel with VasisthaEdit
On one of his exploits, he and his soldiers took rest in the ashram of Rishi Vasistha. There, his whole army was well fed and taken care of. This caused a doubt in the king's mind as to how it was possible for this simple ashram to take care of all the arrangements to feed an entire army. He expressed his surprise to the sage. Vasistha replied,
"O king, this feast that you have partaken with your kinsmen, has been provided by my calf Nandini (sometimes referred as Sabala), who was gifted to me by Indra. You must know that she is the daughter of Indra's cow Kamadhenu. She provides me with everything I need."
Kaushika was filled with wonder when he heard this. He began to think that possessing this cow would mean a lot to him; after all, the sage did not have to provide food and sustenance for a large army everyday. He expressed a desire to the sage for obtaining Nandini from him. Vasistha was polite, but steadfast in his refusal. He would not be tempted by the offer of untold wealth that was made by Kaushika, for after all who can set a price on a cow, which can readily yield all the riches in the world.
The king grew exceedingly angry. He insulted the Brahmarishi with harsh words, and ordered his soldiers to seize the cow, and drive it to his kingdom. By his yogic powers, the great sage Vasistha, called forth an entire army of fierce warriors. They fought the army of Kaushika and defeated it thoroughly. Kaushika was captured and presented before Vasistha. The sage pardoned the king and sent him away with words of advice.
In other version, Vasistha destroys Kaushika's entire army by the simple use of his great mystic and spiritual powers, breathing the Aum syllable. Vasistha also thus kills one hundred of Kaushika's sons, while restoring his hermitage's beauty and life.
Kaushika then undertakes a tapasya for several years to please Shiva, who bestows upon him the knowledge of celestial weaponry. He proudly goes to Vasistha's ashram again, and uses all kinds of powerful weapons to destroy Vasistha and his hermitage. He succeeds in the latter but not in the former.
An enraged Vasistha brings out his brahmadanda, a wooden stick imbued with the power of Brahma. It consumes Kaushika's most powerful weapons, including the brahmastra. Vasistha then attempts to attack Kaushika, but his anger is allayed by the Devas. Kaushika is left humiliated while Vasistha restores his hermitage.
This incident made a deep impression on the King. He realized that the 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 Vasistha. He took on the name Vishvamitra. It is very interesting to see all the challenges that Viswamitra faced in his life to become a Brahmarishi, before eventually giving up the greed to possess the cow. After many trials and undergoing many austerities, Vishvamitra at last obtained the title of Brahmarishi from Vasistha himself. During this time he had a daughter named Shakuntala (who appears in the Mahabharata) with Menaka, an apsara in the court of Indra. Son of Shakuntala became a great emperor. He came to be known as Emperor Bharata, in whose name the land of India got its name Bharatha.
Kaushika seeks to attain the same spiritual power as Vasistha, to become his equal, a brahmarishi. He undertakes a fierce penance for one thousand years, after which Brahma names him a Rajarishi, or royal sage.
After another long penance of ten thousand years, Brahma names him a rishi, thus leaving his royal lineage permanently.
At this point, Indra, the king of Swarga attempts to test the tapasvin by sending Menaka, an apsara to seduce him. Kaushik then lives with Menaka for 10 years. They have a baby girl Shakuntala. Kaushik becomes angry as Menaka had destroyed his years of meditation and thus he cursed her that she won't possess her beauty, of which she was proud, in next birth. And hence in the next birth she became a monkey and mother of Hanuman, Anjani.
Kaushika now goes to the banks of the river Kaushiki, which is the spirit of his own sister. After many thousands of years of penance, Brahma names him maharishi, but also tells him that he hasn't 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 a thousand years.
Rise to BrahmarishiEdit
After cursing Rambha, Kaushika goes to the highest mountain of the Himalayas to perform an even more severe tapasya for over a thousand 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, at the head of the Devas led by Indra, names Kaushika a brahmarishi, and names him Vishvamitra, or Friend of All for his unlimited compassion. He is also embraced by Vasistha, and their enmity is instantly ended.
As a former king, and one over as vast a realm as he had been, Vishvamitra was known to retain a regal and often haughty bearing. He was known for his high temper and often cursed people in his anger, thereby depleting his yogic powers obtained by much penance. People feared his temper and prayed that their actions might not get misconstrued by the touchy sage.
However, as a former king, Vishvamitra also possessed great compassion for all beings. Having taken pity on Trishanku, he willingly exhausted all the punya he gained from his tapas, to enable him to ascend to the heavens. Following his attainment of the status of brahmarishi, he was known to use the power of his tapas to help anyone who was in need, whatever the cost to himself.
Kaushika's love of Menaka is considered to have been intense and passionate beyond estimation.
Vishvamitra was the author of the revered great Mantra - The Gayatri Mantra. It is a mantra and a prayer found in the Rig, Yajur, and Sama Vedas. The Vedas clearly state that anyone can chant this Mantra, and gain its benefits. Gayatri Mantra:
Auṃ Bhur Bhuva Svah,
Tat Savitur Varenyam.
Bhargo Devasya Dhimahi
Dhiyo yo nah prachodayat
We meditate on the glory of the Creator;
Who is worthy of Worship,
Who is the source of knowledge,
Who is the bright light,
May he illuminate our intellect.
Gayatri Mantra is so called because it liberates one who chants it.
Vishvamitra is famous in many legendary stories and in different works of Sanatana dharma.
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, Vasistha, to send him to heaven in his own body, the guru responded that the body cannot ascend to heaven.
King Trisanku then asked Vasistha's hundred sons to send him to heaven. The sons, outraged that Trisanku should not come to them when their father had refused, cursed him to be a Chandala, or untouchable. Trisanku was transformed into a person with body smeared of ash, clothed in black and wearing Iron jewellery. Since none of his subjects could recognize him, he was driven out of the kingdom.
He came across the sage Vishvamitra, who agreed to help him. Visvamitra organized a great sacrifice and ritual proptiating the Devas, pleading that they accept Trisanku in heaven. Not one Deva responded. Angered, Viswamitra 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, the powerful Visvamitra then commenced the creation of another heaven for Trisanku. He had only completed the heaven when Brihaspati ordered him to stop. Trisanku, however, did not enjoy Trisanku Svarga, he remained fixed in the sky and was transformed into a constellation.
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 Brahma Rishi, to equal Vashistha.
While undertaking a penance, Kaushika helps a boy named Shunashepa who has been sold by his parents to be sacrificed at Harishchandra's yagna to please Varuna, the God of the Oceans. The king's son Rohit does not want to be the one sacrificed, as was originally promised to Varuna, so young Sunashep is being taken. A devastated and terrified Sunashepa falls at the feet of Kaushika, who is deep in meditation, and begs for his help.
In the RamayanaEdit
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 svayamvara ceremony for princess Sita, who becomes the wife of Rama.
There are two gotras, or lineages, bearing the name of Vishvamitra.
People belonging to the Vishvamitra Gotra consider Brahmarishi Vishvamitra as their ancestor.
There is an off-shoot of "Vishvamitra Gotra" called "Chakita Vishvamitra Gotra". Two explanations have been suggested for this off-shoot. The group is supposed to have sprung from a "surprised" reaction of Vishvamitra. The other, more likely, explanation, is that a group of descendants decided to split from the main group and started their own branch of this line.
- 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. Many Maithil Brahmins are of Kaushik gotra with moola Nikutwar barhi, Nikutwar nikuti and garh.
- 11 Royal clans of 96 clan of Marathas belong to Kaushik gotra including the illustrious house of Shivaji and Rashtrakutas. 2 more clans belong to the Vishvamitra gotra.
- Kaushika gotra also belongs to Bais clan of rajputs, who are suryavanshi rajput.
- Many Kashmiri pandits belong to Kaushika gotra. Many Kanyakubji Bramhins found in different states also belong to this gotra,as their forefathers have migrated from Kashmir valley before settling around Kanyakubja (present day Kanauj in U.P.India).
- Many Deshastha and Kokanastha Brahmins from Indian State of Maharashtra belong to Kaushik Gotra.
- Many of the Niyogi Brahmins as well as Vaidika Brahmins from the state of Andhra Pradesh also belong to the Kaushika/Kaushika-sa Gotra.
- Some members of the Anavil Brahmin community from South Gujarat have Kaushik as a Gotra.
- Nandwana Bhramins of Gujrat and Rajasthan have Kaushik Gotra as well
- Mithila- Nepal Terai and present Bihar's north portion
- Assam valley
- Himachal Pradesh
- Andhra Pradesh
- West Bengal
- Mittagunta (are Niyogi Brahmins of the Kaushika Gotra)
- Pavani/voruganti (are Niyogi Brahmins of the Kaushika Gotra)(AndhraPradesh Brahmins)
- Jayanthi (Vaidika Bhramins of Kaushika-sa Gotra from Andhra Pradesh)
- Nanduri (Niyogi Brahmins of Kaushika-sa Gothra from Andhra Pradesh)
- Basavaraju (Niyogi Brahmins of Kaushika Gothra from Andhra Pradesh)
- Yeleswarapu (Vaidika Brahmins of Kaushika-sa Gothra from Andhra Pradesh)
- Ganduri (Vaidika Velanadu Brahmins of Kaushika Gothra from Andhra Pradesh)
- Chitrapu (Niyogi Brahmins of Kaushika Gothra from Andhra Pradesh)
- Desai (some Desai of Anavil Brahmin of Gujarat are of Kaushika Gotra)
- Trivedi of Modh Brahmin belonging to Kaushika Gotra
- Sripada of Andhra Brahmin belongs to Kaushika Gotra
- Shenoy of Saraswat Brahmin belongs to Kamshi Gotra
- Dhulipala of Andhra Brahmin belongs to Kaushika sa Gotra
- Mitra of West Bengal belongs to Vishvamitra Gotra
- Chakrabarty (some of them)in West Bengal belongs to Ghrita Kaushik Gotra.
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