Viswamitra brings Rama and Lakshmana to Janaka’s palace. Janaka welcomes them warmly and requests them to stay in Mithila.

Sadananda, son of Gautama and Ahalya, greets them and when he learns from Viswamitra that Ahalya had been released from the curse, he expresses his gratitude to Rama. Sadananda then describes the sage’s antecedents, prowess and accomplishments to Rama, who listens with great attention.

Viswamitra’s life proves that it is possible for a kshatriya king to attain the status of a Brahma Rishi through severe penance and austerities performed with determination and grit, pointed out Sri M. V. Anantapadmanabhachariar in a discourse.

Endowed with sharp intellect and known for valour, Viswamitra had ruled for many years as a powerful and righteous kshatriya king. He hailed from the illustrious race of Kusa (his great grandfather) Kusanabha (grandfather) and Gadhi (father) and was proud of his ancestry.

Once, he visited Vasishta’s hermitage, and this became a turning point in his life. When he learnt that Vasishta had a sacred cow which would provide whatever one desired, Viswamitra was determined to possess it. Vasishta was equally determined not to part with it and there ensued a combat between the two of them that assumed unimaginable proportions. It was a battle between the valour of a kshatriya king and the spiritual power of a sage.

Supremacy of sage

Finally, Viswamitra realised the truth that the supremacy of the sage who had gained the Brahma Danda could not be challenged by the might of the king. Plunging himself in deep and severe penance, he gained the status of a maharishi, rajarishi and finally a brahmarishi. To him was revealed the sacred Gayatri mantra. Penance and austerities can win for one the fulfilment of desires. The desire for power, prowess and wealth is natural, and many have gained them through penance. The demons consolidated their strength through boons gained from penance and austerities. But they indulged in atrocities that led to destruction. Penance is also a path to atone for one’s sins as was the case with Ahalya.