Saturday, April 9, 2016

The Vishwamitras and Vasishthas in history

 A peculiar feature that any keen reader will observe in our literature is the Vishwamitra-Vasishtha relation. Whether it's Mahabharata or Ramayana, this pair is always present.
But due to excessive lack of vision, our 'great' historians generally confuse these and consider them as existing only in a single era thus ending up concluding that the Indian scriptures are thoroughly confused.

The one click which needs to be understood is that there were many Vasishthas and Vishwamitras in history. Just like the name Narendra is not of a single person but of different people like Narendra Modi or Swami Vivekananda. Similarly, there were many rishis hailing from the Vasishtha and Vishwamitra family who used their patronymic viz Vasishtha or Vishwamitra. 

According to me, there were 11 Vasishthas and 4 Vishwamitras. There existed many other Vasishthas and Vishwamitras but these mentioned are related to popular legends. I will talk about each of them. Their position is explained relative to the Ikshvaku family of kings where Vaivasvat Manu is at number 1, Rama at number 65 and Brihadvala ( Mahabharata era) at number 97. 
But first, let me clarify on the use of word 'eponymous'. It means the name on which an entire tribe or group is named. So an eponymous Vasishtha or an eponymous Vishwamitra is mentioned, it means we are talking of the 'original' rishi from whom the tribe started.

Vasishthas
  • Vasishtha I - The first ever Vasishtha to be ever mentioned is the Manas-Putra of Brahmadev who lived in the Swayambhuva Manvantara. He was one of the 7 Saptarshis. His wife was the daughter of rishi Kardama. He is said to have burned down to death. Since the concept of Saptarshis in Swayambhuva Manvantara is still a bit doubtful ,we can neglect this Vasishtha.

    Relative position in Ikshvaku Genealogy - 23 generations before Vaivasvata Manu.
  • Vasishtha II - The reference to this Vasishtha comes from only one source, the Bhagwat Purana (9.1.18) where he is called the great-grandfather of Vaivasvata Manu. He had helped Vaivasvata Manu in a Putrakameshthi Yagya for begetting a son. Thus, this Vasishtha can be placed 3 generations before Vaivasvata Manu.

    Relative position in Ikshvaku Genealogy - 3 generations before Vaivasvata Manu.
  • Vasishtha III- He was the priest of Ikshvaku himself, of Ayodhya. Ikshvaku had son called Vikukshi who was sent to bring meat of a rabbit. But he ate it on his way and was banished from the kingdom. In the same era, there was another brother of Ikshvaku called Nimi. Vasishtha had promised Nimi that he would perform a Yagya for him but Nimi performed it with another Purohit. Thus Vasishtha got angry and cursed him to leave his body. Thus Nimi became Videha i.e a person without a body. His kingdom thus came to be known as Videha which is located in Bihar. Sita belonged to this kingdom.

    Relative position in Ikshvaku Genealogy - 1 generation after Vaivasvata Manu, 64 generations before Lord Rama.
  • Vasishtha IV - He is the most famous among the Vasishthas. Mitra and Varun, the Devas, had ejaculated when they saw Urvashi Apsara and they collected the sperms in pots from which Vasishtha and Agastya were born. Removing aside tangential things,simple meaning of the story is, Vasishtha was born from Urvashi and Mitravarun. Hence he was called Vasishtha Maitravaruni. Urvashi was also the wife of Pururavas Aila. So this Vasishtha is contemporary to Pururavas. At this time, king Purunjaya was ruling Ayodhya.

    Relative position in Ikshvaku Genealogy - 3 generations after Vaivasvata Manu, 62 generations before Lord Rama.
  • Vasistha V - Haiheyas are a branch of Yadavas. Their kingdom ,called Anupa, used to be in Gujarat and MP. They had a famous king called Kartavirya Arjuna who was killed by Lord Parshurama. The Puranas for the first time mention the personal name of this Vasishtha - Apava. ( Matsya Purana 44). This Apava Vasishtha had cursed Arjuna which resulted in he getting killed by Lord Parshurama.

    Relative position in Ikshvaku Genealogy - 30 generations after Vaivasvata Manu, 35 generations before Lord Rama.
  • Vasishtha VI - He existed during the time of king Satyavrata Trishanku of Ayodhya. Satyavrata was whisked out of his kingdom. Till his son became capable of ruling, this Vasishtha had taken charge of administering Ayodhya. His personal name is said to be Devaraj. Here,Vishwamitra comes into picture for the first time when Vishwamitra tried to snatch away the Kamdhenu cow from him.

    Relative position in Ikshvaku Genealogy - 32 generations after Vaivasvata Manu, 33 generations before Lord Rama. 
  • Vasishtha VII - King Bahu was the king of Ayodhya. He was attacked by the Haiheyas and driven out. His son was Chakravartin Samrat Sagara who defeated these Haiheyas forever. But he did not kill them but put restrictions on their living. This was done on the advice of Vasishtha. His personal name was Atharvanidhi.

    Relative position in Ikshvaku Genealogy - 41 generations after Vaivasvata Manu, 24 generations before Lord Rama.
  • Vasishtha VIII - King Samvarana was the king of Paurava kingdom in Punjab. He was forced to go out of his kingdom by the North Panchala kings with his wife Tapati. On his way, he met Vasishtha who gave him shelter in the Sindhu kingdom.

    Relative position in Ikshvaku Genealogy - 49 generations after Vaivasvata Manu, 16 generations before Lord Rama.
  • Vasishtha IX - He is the main of all the Vasishthas. He existed during the time of king Kalmashpada of Ayodhya and king Sudas of North Panchala who is the hero of Dasharadnya war ( War of 10 Kings) described in the Rigveda. This Vasishtha was the priest of Kalmashpada. By the trick of Vishwamitra, this Vasishtha was fed meat by Kalmashpada. Thus Vasishtha cursed him to be an animal. This Vasishtha had assisted Sudas in his war against the 10 kings and emerged victorious. He is the composer of majority hymns in the 7th Mandala of Rigveda, but misquoted as Vasishtha Maitravaruni. His personal name was Shreshthabhaja. He had 100 sons among which the most famous was Shakti, whose son was Parashara. His wife was Arundhati, sister of Narada rishi.

    Relative position in Ikshvaku Genealogy - 53 generations after Vaivasvata Manu, 12 generations before Lord Rama.
  • Vasishtha X - He existed during the time of king Dileep Khatvanga of Ayodhya. He was the one who blessed Dileepa with a son.

    Relative position in Ikshvaku Genealogy - 60 generations after Vaivasvata Manu, 5 generations before Lord Rama.
  • Vasishtha XI - He existed during the time of Lord Rama. He was the Purohit of Dasharatha. Lord Rama had asked questions about this world to Vasishtha and the answers that he gave are compiled in a scripture called Yoga Vasishtha of 96000 verses.

    Relative position in Ikshvaku Genealogy - 65 generations after Vaivasvata Manu, contemporary to Lord Rama.
  • Apart from these, many other Vasishthas have existed till the Mahabharata era.

    Vishwamitras
    • Vishwamitra I - He is the eponymous Vishwamitra. He was a king belonging to the Kanyakubja dynasty in Kannauj. He was a Chandravanshi and a descendant of king Amavasu, son of Pururavas. His father was Gadhi. He existed during the time of king Satyavrata Trishanku of Ayodhya. He tried to take away the Kamdhenu cow from Vasishtha VI but was cursed. Hence he decided to become a Brahmarshi. He was the one who was the Purohit of Satyavrata Trishanku. This Vishwamitra is acclaimed to have created a parallel universe. He was also present during the reign of king Harishchandra, the son of Satyavrata Trishanku. In the sacrifice conducted by Harishchandra, it was he who adopted a kid called Shunacheepa Ajigarti and made him his son called Devaraat. This Vishwamitra had 50 sons like Madhuchhandas, Kata, Utkil,etc who all are composers of the 3rd Mandala of Rigveda. He was in love with Menaka Apsara from whom he begot Shakuntala who was married to the Paurava king Dushyanta.

      Relative position in Ikshvaku Genealogy - 32 generations after Vaivasvata Manu, 33 generations before Lord Rama.
    • Vishwamitra II - He was present during the war of 10 kings. He was against Sudas. In the earlier days, he was with Sudas and had helped him to expand his kingdom in Punjab till the Indus. This Vishwamitra had conducted a Yagya for Sudas near the river Indus where the Vasishthas were also present. There was a fight between them due to which Vishwamitra killed the 100 sons of Vasishtha.

      Relative position in Ikshvaku Genealogy - 53 generations after Vaivasvata Manu, 12 generations before Lord Rama.
    • Vishwamitra III - He was present during Lord Rama's times. He was the one who took Lord Rama and Lakshman with him for training and fighting Daityas.

      Relative position in Ikshvaku Genealogy - 65 generations after Vaivasvata Manu, contemporary to Lord Rama.
    • Vishwamitra IV - He was present during the Mahabharata times and had come to visit Krishna at Syamantapanchaka mountain. He was the priest of Yudhishtira.

      Relative position in Ikshvaku Genealogy - 97 generations after Vaivasvata Manu, 32 generations after Lord Rama.
    • Apart from these, there have been many rishis belonging to this line. 
      For detailed look over how many Vasishthas and Vishwamitras are composers of Rigveda

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