Hearing Vishwamitra’s request to his sons to help Shunashepa by replacing him at the sacrificial altar of King Ambarisha and thereby allowing the king to complete the sacrifice to the gods, one of his sons—Madhucchanda—spoke derisively of his father. He asked how could a father sacrifice his own son to protect another man’s son. The sage had decided to protect Shunashepa who has fallen at his feet seeking protection from death. Angered by his own son's questions, Vishwamitra cursed his sons to be born as people feeding on dog flesh and live so for a thousand years.
He then taught some mantras to Shunashepa and said that when he was tied up at the sacrificial fire, he should invoke Indra and his brother Vamana, an incarnation of Vishnu, and sing their glories. The gods would protect him. Shunashepa did so and Indra was pleased. He blessed him with a long life and also said that Ambarish would attain the results of his sacrifice. Vishwamitra had lost a lot of his austere energy by cursing his sons and so he went to the banks of the Pushkar lake to meditate for another thousand years.
At the end of a thousand years of tapasya, Brahma granted Vishwamitra the title of a ‘Rishi’. At that time, Menaka—a beautiful woman from the heavens—appeared before Vishwamitra. He welcomed her with sweet and endearing words, and lived with her. After 10 years, Vishwamitra realised what he had done and he was torn asunder by his remorse for wasting precious energy gained by severe austerities.
To continue his austerity as a celebate, he went to the banks of the river Kaushiki and began his tapasya anew. The gods intervened on his behalf and asked Brahma to award the title of ‘Rishi’ to Vishwamitra. However, Vishwamitra told Brahmaji that he should be known as ‘Brahmarshi’. Vishwamitra surrendered the title given by Brahma and began further intense austerities. The Devas met with Rambha, the celestial dancer and asked her to go where the yagna of Vishwamitra was done. The gods wanted to break his tapasya.
Though Rambha did not meet him directly, Vishwamitra realised Indra’s hand and cursed Rambha to stand like a statue for a thousand years and that she would be rescued by the Brahmana, Vasishtha. Both Indra and Kamadeva went away on hearing Vishwamitra’s curse. Their job was done to free him of his own powers of a thousands of years of tapas. Vishwamitra said that he would continue with his auterities by not getting angry, by remaining silent and by hardly breathing. He also gave up eating for a thousand years.
The author is Sevak, Chinmaya Mission, Tiruchi; email: firstname.lastname@example.org; www.chinmayamission.com