Post No. 10,591

Date uploaded in London – –    23 JANUARY   2022         

Contact – swami_48@yahoo.com

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The clash between the great two Vedic Rishis Vasishta and Viswamitra is a well known story. It established the supremacy of Brahmins. Both rishis/seers figure in the oldest book in the world- The Rig Veda (RV). People who are pure at heart and selfless are more powerful than the AK 47 wielding Clint Eastwoods!

This message is in both the Mahabharata, the longest epic in the world and Purananuru, the oldest anthology in 2000 year old Sangam Tamil literature.

First let us look at Mahabharata (Adi Parva, the first of the 18 Books in the Mahabharata):_

Once upon a time great king Viswamitra went out on a hunting expedition. When he and his retinue were tired, they visited the great saint Vasistha. His ashramam (House of Saints; hermitage) was in the middle of the forest. He had a beautiful cow named Nandini. It had the power of fulfilling anyone’s wishes like Kamadhenu.

Vasistha received him with great honour. He gave to Viswamitra precious jewels which were obtained from his wonder working cow Nandini. Viswamitra wondered how come this sage in the middle of the forest , could feed all his retinue and give him precious gifts. Vasishta explained that his holy cow can give anything he wished for. Viswamitra asked Vasishta to give him the cow in exchange for hundred million cows or even his kingdom. When Vasishta refused  to comply with his demand Viswamitra  threatened to use force. He dragged the cow and pushed it hither and thither, but she would not move. She became angry and in order to punish Viswamitra and his army, she created Pahlavas , Dravidas, Sakas,Yavanas , Kiratas and other tribes.  The words of the poet Vyasa are

Asrujat pahlavan, puchchath prasravath dravidaan, sakaan yonidevascha  yavanan sakrutah  savaraan bahuun.

Beholding this great miracle, the Bramanical might , Viswamitra  was humbled at the impotence of a Kshatria nature, and exclaimed

Dhig balam kshatriya balam brahma tejo balam, balam

Balabalam vinistritya tapa eva balam balam

Shame on a Kshatriya’s strength.  The strength of a Brahmins lustre is strength indeed. Determining what is strength and what is weakness, we see that, penance is the greatest strength.

This legend is found in Valmiki Ramayana as well .

Later Viswamitra  went for doing Tapas(penance), but failed in first two attempts because of ego and women (Trisanku Episode and Menaka episode). When he won at the third attempt, Vasishta himself called him “Hello Mr Brahmin” (Brahma Rishi). That has become a phrase in Hindusim equal to ‘From the horse’s mouth’ in English.

The power of penance is in Purananuru, oldest portion of 2000 year old Sangam Tamil literature and later moral book Tirukkural of Tiru Valluvar

Here is the verse from Purananuru:-

Vanmiki , similar to Valmiki, the Ramayana author, has penned the verse 358 in Purananuru. Though there are very interesting information in these seven lined verse, I will highlight only one point here. If you weigh the earth and the penance, penance is so big that earth will look like an iota. Earth means earthly life that is family life, but penance is far greater than the family life. Tamil poet Vanmiki use the Sanskrit word Tavam. Tapo in Sanskrit is tamilized Tavam (P=V). here we are concerned only about the greatness of penance. It is a repetition of  what is said in Mahabharat. True Brahmins are doing penance even when they are in family life. So the word Antanar is used for anyone who is inward looking, ie. God searching. Brahmin also meant the same, i.e. Brahmam seeking. So it is an echo of Mahabharata lines. Even a kshatriya like Viswamitra is called Brahmin when he competed his penance successfully.

Tiruvalluvar also elucidated the power of saints. If any one does any harm to a saint the empire will crumble like dust, he says.

“If those of rigorous penance become enraged, even Indra will crash from power and position” – Kural 899

Venthan is the Tamil word used in this couplet. It means King or Indra. Tolkaappiam used the word for Indra.

The next couplet emphasizes this point,

“Though possessed of great support, they who are exposed to the wrath of persons of exceeding penance will perish”- Kural 900.

Brahma tejo balam balam!!


Visvamitra and Menaka

tags-  Brahmins, Kshatria, Power, Visvamitra, Vasistha