The Mahabharata Home
Janamejaya said, "Why did the adorable Arshtishena undergo the austerest of penances? How also did Sindhudwipa acquire the status of a Brahmana? How also did Devapi, O Brahmana, and how Vishvamitra, O best of men, acquire the same status? Tell me all this, O adorable one! Great is my curiosity to listen to all these."
Vaishampayana said, "Formerly, in the Krita age, O king, there was a foremost of regenerate persons called Arshtishena. Residing in his preceptor's house, he attended to his lessons every day. Although, O king, he resided long in the abode of his preceptor, he could not still acquire the mastery of any branch of knowledge or of the Vedas. O monarch! In great disappointment, O king, the great ascetic performed very austere penances. By his penances he then acquired the mastery of the Vedas, to which there is nothing superior. Acquiring great learning and a mastery of the Vedas, that foremost of Rishis became crowned with success in that tirtha. He then bestowed three boons on that place. (He said), 'From this day, a person, by bathing in this tirtha of the great river (Sarasvati), shall obtain the great fruit of a horse sacrifice! From this day there will be no fear in this tirtha from snakes and wild beasts! By small exertions, again, one shall attain to great result here!' Having said these words, that Muni of great energy proceeded to heaven. Even thus the adorable Arshtishena of great energy became crowned with success. In that very tirtha in the Krita age, Sindhudwipa of great energy, and Devapi also, O monarch, had acquired the high status of Brahmanhood. Similarly Kusika's son, devoted to ascetic penances and with his senses under control, acquired the status of Brahmanhood by practising well-directed austerities. There was a great Kshatriya, celebrated over the world, known by the name of Gadhi. He had a son born to him, of the name of Vishvamitra of great prowess. King Kausika became a great ascetic. Possessed of great ascetic merit, he wished to install his son Vishvamitra on his throne, himself having resolved to cast off his body. His subjects, bowing unto him, said, 'Thou shouldst not go away, O thou of great wisdom, but do thou protect us from a great fear!' Thus addressed, Gadhi replied unto his subjects, saying, 'My son will become the protector of the wide universe!' Having said these words, and placed Vishvamitra (on the throne), Gadhi, O king, went to heaven, and Vishvamitra became king. He could not, however, protect the earth with even his best exertions. The king then heard of the existence of a great fear of Rakshasas (in his kingdom). With his four kinds of forces, he went out of his capital. Having proceeded far on his way, he reached the asylum of Vasishtha. His troops, O king, caused much mischief there. The adorable Brahmana Vasishtha, when he came to his asylum, saw the extensive woods in course of destruction. That best of Rishis, Vasishtha, O king, became angry, O monarch, with Vishvamitra. He commanded his own (homa) cow, saying, 'Create a number of terrible Savaras!' Thus addressed, the cow created a swarm of men of frightful visages. These encountered the army of Vishvamitra and began to cause a great carnage everywhere. Seeing this, his troops fled away. Vishvamitra, the son of Gadhi, however, regarding ascetic austerities highly efficacious, set his heart upon them. In this foremost of tirthas of the Sarasvati, O king, he began to emaciate his own body by means of vows and fasts with fixed resolve. He made water and air and (the fallen) leaves of trees his food. He slept on the bare ground, and observed other vows (enjoined for ascetics). The gods made repeated attempts for impeding him in the observance of his vows. His heart, however, never swerved from the vows (he had proposed to himself). Then, having practised diverse kinds of austerities with great devotion, the son of Gadhi became like the Sun himself in effulgence. The boon-giving Grandsire, of great energy, resolved to grant Vishvamitra, when he had become endued with ascetic merit, the boon the latter desired. The boon that Vishvamitra solicited was that he should be permitted to become a Brahmana. Brahma the Grandsire of all the worlds, said unto him, 'So be it.' Having by his austere penances acquired the status of Brahmanhood, the illustrious Vishvamitra, after the attainment of his wish, wandered over the whole Earth like a celestial. Giving away diverse kinds of wealth in that foremost of tirthas, Rama also cheerfully gave away milch cows and vehicles and beds, ornaments, and food and drink of the best kinds, O king, unto many foremost of Brahmanas, after having worshipped them duly. Then, O king, Rama proceeded to the asylum of Vaka which was not very distant from where he was, that asylum in which, as heard by us, Dalvya Vaka had practised the austerest of penances."
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