Viśvāmitra

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By Swami Harshananda

Sometimes transliterated as: Visvamitra, ViZvAmitra, Vishvaamitra


Viśvāmitra literally means ‘friend of all’.

Viśvāmitra, along with Vaṣistha, is one of the most well-known ṛṣis or sages that we come across not only in the Vedas but also in the epics and the purāṇas. He is the ṛṣi for the entire third maṇḍala of the Ṛgveda. However, only 501 ṛks are directly attributed to him, the rest are assigned to his descendants.

His prayer to the rivers Vipāṭ and Śutudrī[1] to make way for him so that he could cross over safely and escape from the robbers pursuing him is famous as the Nadisukta.[2] He has been mentioned as a great sage by several texts of Vedic literature.[3][4][5][6] In the story of Sunaśśepha[7] Viśvāmitra appears as the savior of the young man who had been earmarked to be killed in a Vedic sacrifice. Viśvāmitra adopts him as his son.

As per the Nirukta[8] and the Pañcavimśa Brāhma,[9] Viśvāmitra was a king. According to the epics and the purāṇas, he was the son of the king Gādhi of Candravanśa, known first as Viśvaratha. He had several wives and sons. The Rāmāyaṇa[10] gives his story in detail. This contains some important incidents like creating a heaven for the king Triśaṅku, his conflict with Vasiṣṭha and his ultimately being raised to the status of a Brahmarṣi. He is one of the Saptarṣis[11] for the present age. His greatest contribution was revealing the "Gāyatrīmantra" for the human welfare.


References

  1. They are the modern Beas and Sutlej rivers in the Punjab State.
  2. Ṛgveda 3.33
  3. Aitareya Āraṇyaka 2.2.1
  4. Taittiriya Samhitā 2.2.1.2
  5. Kausitaki Brāhmana 15.1
  6. Pañcavimśa Brāhmana 14.3.12
  7. Ṛgveda 1.24
  8. Nirukta 2.24
  9. Pañcavimśa Brāhma 21.12.2
  10. Bālakānda, Chapters 51 to 65
  11. Saptarṣis means the Seven Sages.
  • The Concise Encyclopedia of Hinduism, Swami Harshananda, Ram Krishna Math, Bangalore