In the Satya Yuga there lived a great king by name Kusha. Kusha had four sons – one of the sons was Kushanabha. Kushanabha had a son – Gadhi. Gadhi had a son Kaushika. The story of Vishwamitra starts with Kaushika. Kaushika was a brave and valiant king.
Kaushika had a huge kingdom. He very often traveled from one place to another to look after his people and listen to their complaints personally. Once as Kaushika was traveling from one place to another, he passed through a dense forest. Kaushika was traveling with a part of his huge army. When Kaushika came to the centre of the forest, he saw a beautiful hermitage there.
Kaushika sent his men to find out whose ashrama it was. His men came back, 'Your Majesty! The ashrama belongs to the great Sage Vasishta!' Kaushika immediately got down from his horse. 'Wait here! I will go and pay respects to sage. Ask the men to be ready...We will be leaving soon...' His men nodded as Kaushika went inside the hermitage.
Kaushika met the great sage inside the ashrama and bowed to him. 'Sir! I was passing from a city in my kingdom to another, when I saw your hermitage. I just came to pay my respects to you sir!'
Sage Vasishta smiled, 'Your majesty! Please accept my hospitality and have your lunch here!'
Kaushika hurriedly shook his head. It was after all a small hermitage. There was no way, they could feed an entire army. 'Sir! We are in a hurry...Kindly excuse us now...'
Sage Vasishta smiled, 'Your majesty! You think I will not be able to feed you or your men...I think that is the reason you are refusing my hospitality...Please let that not bother you...All of you please have your lunch here...'
Kaushika frowned. There was no way he could back out now. But the sage seemed insistent on feeding all of them. He shrugged. 'As you wish sir!'
Sage Vasishta said, 'There is a river nearby! Please ask your men to clean themselves and come for lunch...' Sage Vasishta laughed, '...a sumptuous meal...'
Kaushika was a little curious now. He went back outside. He told his men that they would be having their lunch here. When the cooks got ready. Kaushika shook his head. 'We are going to enjoy the hospitality of the sage today...' If the men found the order of the king a little strange, they did not say anything about it. They just went to the river and washed themselves. The king also came back after refreshing himself.
Much to surprise of the king and his men, they had a lovely lunch that day. It was wholesome and was sufficient for the entire army. Kaushika was now more than curious. After his lunch he hurriedly cleaned himself. He asked his men to take rest and ran back to the sage.
'Sir! I am sorry to be asking this question...But how were you able to feed our entire army?....' The king asked the sage.
The sage smiled, 'I have a cow with me your majesty – Nandhini. Kamadhenu, the divine cow, came out during the churning of the ocean. Nandhini is Kamadhenu's daughter. Indra, the Lord of the Heavens presented Nandini to me...Nandhini can provide as much food as is necessary sir! There is no end to how much she can provide...'
'Can I see the cow, sir?' Kaushika whispered in awe. The sage nodded and took the king to the back of his ashrama. There Kaushika saw a beautiful cow calmly grazing. There was a powerful aura around the cow...' Looking at the cow, Kaushika had no doubt that the cow had indeed provided them with all the lunch they had had today. The king nodded. The sage lovingly caressed Nandini and spoke, 'She is like my daughter to me...All of us in the hermitage love her and worship her...'
Frowning Kaushika walked out of the ashrama. Head bowed he went towards his horse.
Such a cow is meant to be with a king...Why with this cow, I can feed my army anytime any place and there would be no problem...If I take it with me to my palace, every single person in my kingdom would benefit from this...The sage should understand and gift this cow to me...As a king I deserve to have the cow with me...Such ran the kings thoughts as he neared his horse. Finally when he was about to get on the horse, he signaled his men again. 'Wait for me! I have some work...'
Saying this Kaushika again went back into the ashrama. Sage Vasishta was surprised to look at the king. He was even more surprised on seeing the king come in with a determined look...as if he wanted something. Frowning the sage went forward and greeted the king. 'Your Majesty! Is there anything else?'
Kaushika slowly nodded his head and looked at the sage, 'Yes sir! I have a favour to ask of you...'
Sage Vasishta remained silent and looked at the king waiting for him to continue. The king said, 'Sir! I am a king and I have an army which goes with me and lots of people in my kingdom...my subjects whom I love like my own children...'
Sage Vasishta still did not say anything and asked Kaushika to continue. 'Sir! I think it would be better if I had Nandini with me...' Sage Vasishta looked at Kaushika with anger as Kaushika continued hurriedly, 'Sir! You have only a hermitage here...You will not need the cow much...I on the other hand will make good use of the...'
Sage Vasishta looked at the king with anger and slowly calmed himself, 'You just look at the cow and look at it like a source of food...Do you know what she means to me and to my family members...She is part of my family King Kaushika! I cannot just hand it over to you...She will not like it...'
Kaushika was now getting angry. The man was not understanding that the cow was underused here and that he needed the cow...He curbed his anger and tried again, 'Please sir! Think how many people would benefit from this...'
Vasishta flatly shook his head, 'No your majesty! I cannot give you this! Please...understand...'
Kaushika impatiently spoke, 'Name your price! I am a king...I can give you whatever price you want for the cow...'
Vasishta laughed, 'Seriously your majesty! You cannot expect me to take your offer seriously. What riches can you offer me in return of a cow, which already offers me everything?' He spoke to the king contemptuously.
Kaushika angrily looked at the sage and said, 'Fine! If you will not give the cow to me...I am going to take the cow...Who says I need your permission for it...'
Sage Vasishta said quietly, 'Do what you want, Kaushika! I am not giving the cow to you...'
Kaushika stomped out of the hermitage angrily..If its a battle that silly sage wants...it is a battle he will get... Kaushika eyed his trained soldiers all ready and waiting for his command and almost laughed out as he saw the small hermitage....The cow is mine... He went outside and called his general, 'Get your men ready for battle!'
The general looked surprised, 'What are we going to do, your majesty?'
Kaushika angrily pointed at the hermitage, 'I am going to bring down that hermitage brick by brick...I am going to make it such as if it never existed...'
The general did not like the idea of attacking defenceless people one bit. He spoke calmly, 'Please tell me what happened your majesty! Probably I can find a way out...'
Kaushika angrily hit his hands in a fist and spoke, 'There is nothing to discuss...That man has a cow, which I need..That silly man is refusing to give me...the king...So he must be punished...'
The general slowly got the whole story out of the king. He could see that the king wanted to use the cow for the benefit of the kingdom...But he also understood that the sage loved the cow...he would not hand it over...
Kaushika barked at his general, 'Now don't question my orders! Get the men ready...' Kaushika looked at the hermitage with contempt, 'We are going to make short work of this...'
The general tried reasoning with the king, but the king was too angry to see anything in the right perspective. Finally having no choice the general asked his men to get ready to attack the ashrama. The king himself led the attack and went in front of his men and stood outside the ashrama, 'Vasishta! Give me the cow or face my attack...Now!'
Sage Vasishta came outside and looked at huge army standing before the hermitage and smiled. Sage Vasisha spoke quietly with his steely angry eyes, 'Kaushika! This is the last chance I am giving you...If you want to prevent a massacre of your men, leave NOW!
Kaushika failed to notice the anger in the sage's voice or the determination with which he spoke. He thought the sage was bluffing and shook his head, 'The cow, or a battle...Which is it?'
Sage Vasishhta closed his eyes and muttered a mantra. The king was about to order his men to attack, when he stopped cold. As the sage finished talking and opened his eyes, a huge and fierce army carrying all types of weapons appeared before the ashrama, to protect it! The king faltered for a minute. The sage had the power to create such a huge army, by the mere power of words! Probably it was best not to ruffle a man like that...However the king had already given the command. He could not go back on his word.
And so the attack started.
No matter what the king tried, the warriors of Sage Vasishta were superior in strength and strategy. Needless to say that Kaushika's entire army was routed by the attack! Kaushika was captured by the army of the Sage Vasishta. They tied up the King and dragged him before the Sage Vasishta. Kaushika was staring angrily at Sage Vasishta. A mere sage, with no riches or possessions of any kind had defeated him...one of the greatest warriors in the world...All with what? The power of the meditation was that powerful? All his fighting skills were useless and unnecessary...
Sage Vasishta looked at the bound king and spoke, 'Kaushika! You behaved out of arrogance...You thought that might was right and did not even pause to think about your actions. But I think you acted out of ignorance...For this I forgive you...Take your remaining army and leave....Never ever fight with the power of the Brahman....The powers of meditation are much more stronger that brute force and strength...Always remember that...Now GO!'
Kaushika listened to the words of the sage...He felt something change inside him... He realized that he no longer wished to be a king...A king was someone who had to bow to the might of a sage...A sage...The power of penance, that was what he wished...he wanted to be the most powerful of them all...He bowed to Sage Vasishta and walked away from there.
He immediately gave up all the rights to his kingdom and walked away. He immersed himself in meditation and cared for nothing else in the world. His whole body burnt with only one passion – he had to become a better sage than Vasishta.
Kaushika started his penance and kept to it very steadfast. In fact he concentrated so much on the power of the Brahman that he was able to perform his meditation and penance effortlessly. He just shrugged off all physical challenges...
High up in the heavens, Indra was getting worried with Kaushika's penance. Kaushika was becoming more and more powerful and there was nothing which seemed to stop him. If this went on Kaushika would become even more powerful than him. Indra realized that something had to be done to stop Kaushika...