Vishwamitra Rishi in Ramayana appears as a great store house of knowledge. His contributions make the epic crazy. Ramayana was purposefully written to prove and show the true style of life worthy to be followed by all human beings in the current and the forthcoming generations.

Vishwamitra Rishi training Rama and Lakshmana
Vishwamitra Rishi with Rama and Lakshmana

Vishwamitra is the son of Gadhi Maharaj. His country was similar to Kashi. When he attained the age of eight years, his father has put him the sacred thread over his shoulder and in that evening, has shown him the sun setting in the west slowly turning saffron in color.  After lifting a small quantity of water with his both hands joined together and pouring towards west, his father taught him to pray the angels in that direction, for their future wellbeing. They repeated three times and saluted to Sun. Then they turned to north direction. His father has shown him the Dhruva star in the North Pole (Ursa Minor or the North Polaris star). His father explained to him that Dhruva was a small boy like him but a sincere devotee of God. Dhruva has been blessed by God and that star is always positioned by God in the North Pole being kept in memory of him. Vishwamitra had been taught to study the following lines:

स्त्यं वद । धर्मं चर ॥

The meaning is, one must always speak truth. His actions should be in complement to the Dharma. Vishwamitra studied them and assured his father, saying, in future if he happened to see God as small child he would also show him Dhruva star.

Later he mastered all the lessons required for the ruling of his country. After his marriage, a child was born to him, called Sushrutha. When Sushrutha was very young child, Vishwamitra’s wife, the queen had fallen ill and despite treatments, expired. He brought up Sushrutha and taught him medicine and sent him to Varanasi (Kashi) for learning surgery of higher risks. Sushrutha mastered medicine.

औषधं जाह्नवी तोयं । वैद्यो नारायणो हरिः ॥

The meaning is, the doctor should be treated as a visible God, Narayana, or Hari, and the medicines provided by him are precious being equivalent to the blessings of Jahnu Rishi, like the water he allowed to this world. Sushrutha has written many books on Ayurveda, called Sushrutha Samhitha (Ayurvedic medical books). 

When the prince Sushrutha grew up, Vishwamithra conducted his marriage. After the expiry of Gadhi, Vishwamitra was ruling the country. Vishwamitra was the master of all trade and a great warrior.

The achievements in the life of Vishwamitra are exemplary to all. One day, when his people complained about the forest animals and birds, causing loss of their harvests grown with great difficulties, he started for hunting in the forests. He got tired by hunting, moved to a nearby hermit’s hut with his following servants. He got a sumptuous feast in the middle of the deep forest, that day and wished to know the secrets of provision of such luxury. It was Vasishta Rishi’s Ashram. Vasishta Rishi had showed him his domestic cow called Nandini, with its calf which provided his boon to arrange the noon feast for them. Vishwamitra argued as such a cow is fit for the king of the larger country to feed his people in times of famine and not proper to be used by Vasishta in the forest.   

Initially, Vishwamitra tried to overpower and pull the cow to his country. His people also joined to pull it but failed. Vishwamitra being a strong king, waged war against Vasishta. He experimented all his weapons on Vasishta but their effect got nullified by the Yoga Danda of Vasishta. Vishwamitra got ashamed of his status, him being a great ruler. He surrendered under Vasishta and asked his pardon. Very politely, Vasishta enquired him the reason for asking food during hunting, since usually, in many previous occasions Vasishta observed the king and his people used to eat the hunted animals. Vishwamitra explained him about the education he got and the importance of vegetarianism he liked in his life. Then, Vasishta mentioned him about the previous occasion, of such a similar incidence that had happened in the life of king Kartyavirarjuna with respect to Jamadagni Rishi. Unbiased Vasishta continued, thus Vishwamitra may also try. Vishwamitra took his leave but assured Vasishta that he would come again and carry his cow on another day. Vasishta laughed and told “Best of luck”.

Vishwamitra was well planned in his life. He knew hard work and determination are the secrets of success. His desire was strong but he wished to move in a legally approved way of life. He had council of Ministers. During the discussion, he understood that Parashurama is the only man who would help him. He approached Parashurama with honorable gifts for him and saluted him and prayed to show a remedy to procure the cow of Vashishta. Parasurama explained as follows:

धिक्बलं क्षत्रिय बलं । ब्रह्म तेजो बलं बलं ॥

Parashuram had condoned the powers of a king. Only when the powers of Brahma Tejas predominate, it is possible. Then, Vishwamitra renounced his throne and removed all his war uniforms and started the life of a Rishi. Parashurama has taken a promise from Vishwamitra to that effect and revealed the secret lessons of truth so that his noble cause may succeed and his countrymen may become happy. Then and there he called his son Prince Sushrutha and crowned him in front of Parashurama. Sushrutha had satisfied Parashurama by worshipping him. Both Parashurama and Vishwamitra went exile.

After many years of penance, one day, Vishwamitra appeared before the hut of Vasishta and informed him that he has come there to carry away his Nandini cow with the calf for and on behalf of his countrymen. Vasishta agreed to hear his calm, friendly request. Vishwamitra had brought with him few handful of green grass, undressed himself from his kingly outlook but had white cloths alike a Rishi. He offered the grass to the Nandini cow with the following manthra:

गावो मे मातरः सन्तु पितरः सन्तु गोवृषः ।
ग्रासमुष्टिं मया दत्तं गृहाण परमेश्वर ॥

The meaning is, let the cow be my mother, the calf be my father. The green grass offered by me may kindly be accepted, as you are God to me. He had given the handful of grass to the calf and put the calf on his shoulder and started walking towards his country. The Nandini cow silently followed them and Vasishta became silent.

Vishwamitra had succeeded by the power of his manthra and his country got the cow and started flourishing. Sushrutha being a good physician king, people were very happy, but Vasishta could not continue to live in the forest without Nandini.

Vishwamitra continued his life by looking after Nandini like a God. Vasishta approached king Satyavrata for his livelihood and got the job as his consultant. Satyavrata thought by appointing Vashista as his court priest, he may rise to heaven alive retaining his physical body. Satyavrata paid to Vasishta whatever sought by him to live himself and one day expressed his malicious interest to go to heaven alive. Vasishta told him it may not be proper for human beings to enter heaven alive. Satyavrata was ready for arranging any yaga or yajna to go alive to heaven. The desire grew more in his heart and he renounced his throne, and with the help of Vasishta he crowned his son called Harishchandra. Satyavrata left his country and went to exile.

After a few days, Vashista with his wife Arundhati performed Swargarohana and got the star position along with other eligible Rishis. They have been accommodated just below the Dhruva star as Saptarshi Mandala, Arundhati appearing behind Vasishta. This group of stars is called Ursa Major or Big Bear (Saptarshi Mandala) near the North Pole.

ह्रीस्चते लक्ष्मीस्चपत्न्यौ अहो रात्रे पार्श्वे नक्षत्राणि रूपम् ॥

The above one verse is in Yajurveda Purusha sukta. It is chanted during the first night on the marriage day by the bride groom, showing Arundati star appearing behind Vasishta as a star among seven stars to his bride looking towards North Pole.

Satyavrata approached Vishwamitra pleading his inherent wish to go to heaven alive. Even though Vishwamitra tried to convince him to leave his malicious wish, the ex-king obliged to try once for his sake and show his power of penance. So Vishwamitra and Satyavrata had arrived at the palace of Harishchandra.

In the palace, Harishchandra had arranged for the yaga to satisfy his father and Vishwamitra had chanted the mantas. With the help of Darba grass, Vishwamithra Rishi lifted Satyavrata high into the sky. Satyavrata went on ascending in the sky.

In the heaven, Devendra had been alerted the approach of a man near to his main entrance with sweating body. Devendra gently pushed the mortal body of Satyavrata by his diamond mace. Satyavrata has become upside down and started falling into earth. Vishwamitra stopped the body near the South Pole and created a separate small heaven for him. Four stars show the location of Satyavrata and it is called Trishanku swarga. Trishanku swarga means between earth and heaven. Vishwamitra had become a matured Rishi by this time and felt satisfied to think that the Trishanku stars may remain in memory of the father of Harishchandra for his loyalty towards truth.  Due to devotion to truth, he became Satya Harishchandra.

अहं वृक्षस्य रेरिवा कीर्तिपृष्टं गिरेरिवा... इति त्रिशंकोर्वेदां ॥

The above mantras are usually chanted in rituals. It is always to praise him.

Vishwamitra Rishi has assigned star position to Satyavrata but to become a full-fledged Rishi, there are still miles ahead of him that he has to go.

Hence Vishwamitra Rishi continued his penance. Due to jealousy, Indra sent Menaka to disturb his penance. Leaving behind the penance, Vishwamitra married Menaka. Vishwamitra and Menaka couple was offered a female child by God. Menaka abandoned the child and returned to heaven without minding anything. Vishwamitra again started his penance leaving the child in the forest. Later, the child has been brought up by Kanva Rishi and her name was Shakuntala. She married Dushanta. Shakuntala and Dushanta couple was offered a male child by God. He became the famous emperor Bharata and has written books on dancing.

॥ सत्यं शिवं सुन्दरं ॥

The above words mean truth, God Shiva and beauty on which Indian culture exists.

Famine had been playing in another country. The reason for such a social status was negligence of education. One day, Narada visited its capital and the king enquired about a remedy against the famine. Narada directed to perform a yaga and offer the head of an unmarried man. The king started searching for a man unmarried and suitable for sacrifice in the yaga. He walked to nook and corner of his country. He was ready to purchase one man for the sacrifice purpose.

At last, he reached a hill top where he saw a small hut. There were three children. The smallest one was playing with his mother. The eldest one was learning verses from his father. The middle one was plucking mangoes for eating and his name was Shunashepa. The king enquired for a man for sacrifice. The mother holding the youngest son denied offering him. The father called his eldest son near to him and denied to offer the eldest son. There was no body to support Shunashepa, the middle child and the king asked for him. Both the parents kept silent. The king offered some money, kept it on the door steps of the hut, canvassed the middle one, Shunashepa and succeeded to accompany him towards his palace.

They had come a great distance and near River Ganga, they halted for evening prayer. Then they saw Vishwamitra Rishi there. The king knew him. Being a trustworthy Rishi, the king entrusted Shunashepa to him and instructed to accompany him to the sacrificial yaga in his palace. They agreed. The king alone proceeded to his palace.

Vishwamitra Rishi wished to save Shunashepa. He taught him the following verse:

त्र्यंबकं यजामहे सुगन्धिं पुष्टि वर्धनं ।
उर्वारुकमिव बन्धनात् मृत्योर्मुच्यीव माऽमृतात् ॥

Shunashepa by hearted the verse. When he reached the holy fire, he started chanting the verse repeatedly. Then the priests found him unsuitable for this occasion. The man suitable for sacrifice should be uneducated by condition and he should be totally ignorant about any verses. The Rishis on hearing the chanting of the verse by Shunashepa as above, declared him unfit for sacrifice. The king was puzzled and consulted the guest, Vishwamitra Rishi.

Vishwamitra Rishi explained the king about the benefits of education. He told him to be confident about his future plans. Consoling Shunashepa, he assigned the work of looking after the cow, Nandini, and its calf to Shunashepa. He assured the king, he would instruct his son Sushrutha to take care of his country also. It may be better for him to merge it voluntarily into that country so that people could work hard for their own benefits through the fruits of education and free movement. All agreed. He declared, thereafter, human beings sacrifice should not be done since it is against the will of God and it has a root from ignorance.

Vishwamitra Rishi has stopped human sacrifice and encouraged education.

He has earned a great knowledge of administration in due course of time. Four distinct things may shine in four different types of persons that he has understood. He desired to pour the entire experience acquired by him in his life time down to four different persons, if got as four disciples and hence started rituals for the benefits of mankind.

He wished to remain as a Rishi and hence he could never kill anybody. When the demons started disturbing his rituals, he decided to call help from Shree Rama and brought Rama and Lakshmana to the forest. Punishing the erring persons is the duty of kings and priests should continue the chanting of manthras only. He thought, trade and procurement of various items essential to human life may be handled separately and Shunashepa has become a wealthy person later by his hard works on the line of commerce. The labor executed with knowledge is more effective and if things go without scientific knowledge, it would end life of innocent people like Shunashepa.

He desired for a Rama without Parashu, means an efficient king but without killing by an axe, another king. Let him punish the erring demons. He honored the labor of Vasishta and treated the labor of any teacher alike. Then he directed his son Sushrutha to treat the illness of Harishchandra and he cured without any human life sacrifice later.

He continued his penance for getting suitable four disciples under a common roof. One day, Narada Maharshi came to the hut of Vishwamitra and started discussions. He informed, king Dasharatha was having four sons and their higher education was yet to be completed. Vishwamitra decided to meet Dasharatha. He asked for Rama, to hand over to him but Lakshmana also voluntarily joined them. Then their higher learning commenced. Vishwamitra administered Gayatri mantra to Rama as follows:

ॐ तत्सवितुर्वरेण्यं भर्गो देवस्य धीमहि । धियो योनः प्रचोदयात् ॥

Rama and Lakshmana had learned all the protocols of war techniques from Vishwamitra. Vishwamitra observed inner chapters of Vedas getting corrupted in due course of time and for its own auto correction, he laid the six organs for it:

ज्योतिः कल्पो निरुक्तं च शिक्षा व्याकरणं तथा ।
छन्दो विचितिरेतानि षडंगानि विदुः श्रुते ॥
  1. Astrology (jyothihi)
  2. Kalpa (ritual procedures)
  3. Vocabulary (nirukta)
  4. Shiksha (phonetics)
  5. Grammar (vyakaran)
  6. Chandas (meters)

Shruti means Veda. It is learnt along with the above six branches. Later for making the teaching and learning easier, Veda Vyasa Rishi has divided the Shruti into four groups as Rig, Atharva, Sama and Yajur Vedas. In the later stages, each group is further classified by collecting some minor items from each group into four Upa-Vedas as Ayurveda, Artha Shastra, Sangeetha Nataka Shastra, artilleries including architecture called as Dhanurveda.

Son of Vishwamitra, Sushrutha has written some books on Ayurveda. His adopted son Shunashepa has mastered commerce and contributed to Artha Shastra but his books are not traceable now. Rama and Lakshmana are his beloved disciples and the protectors of Shruti, and they have preserved the sciences related to Artilleries including Architecture and Dhanurveda. His grandson Bharata, daughter of Shakuntala later propagated the Indian Sangeetha Nataka Shastra.

Vishwamithra has taught the following lines to Lakshmana:

शरीरमाद्यं खलु धर्म साधनं । मनुष्याणां वसुधैव कुटुम्बकं ॥

The meaning is the mortal physical body is the first tool to perform Dharma. For human beings, the world as a whole is like a family.

Vishwamitra Rishi has showed many heroic deeds by proving himself.

It is humbly prayed for the blessings of God Rama upon us.

Next post, being of Lava Kusha of Ramayana, may not be missed. Readers may provide feedback and share this story to friends and family.

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