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Viswamitra


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South and Central Asia

One of the seven great rishis, he was of royal lineage, the son of a kshatriya with the qualities of a brahmin. The Rig Veda, the collection of ancient Hindu-hymns, alludes to the rivalry between Viswamitra and Vasishtha, a struggle for precedence that these seers were prepared to carry over into deeds of violence. Once Viswamitra ordered the River Saraswati to bring Vasishtha to him for execution, but instead of doing so, the waters floated Vasishtha out of his reach. Thereupon, the enraged rishi turned the river into blood. In the Ramayana, however, Vasishtha humiliates his relentless enemy, a defeat that the kshatriya determines to overcome through his own elevation to the brahmin caste. Finally, the incredible austerities of Viswamitra—so alarmed did Indra become at the seer's gain in power that he sent a nymph to beguile his senses—won him the prerogatives he sought, and a reconciliation with Vasishtha took place.

Subjects: Religion.


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