As Indra got worried, he called his most beautiful apsara – Menaka to meet him in his garden. He told her, 'Menaka! I have a work for you...' he said as he sat in the garden looking at the beautiful fountain in between the lush green garden.
Menaka nodded her head waiting for Indra to continue. Indra said, 'Do you know Kaushika?...'
Menaka frowned as she spoke, 'Are you talking about Kaushika who fought with Sage Vasishta for the cow Nandini?'
Indra nodded, 'Yes! The same one...'
Menaka frowned again, 'I thought he no longer wanted to be a king...He had given up everything and started his penance...'
Indra sighed, 'Yes! That is the problem...You see I underestimated exactly how powerful his penance would be...If he continues the same way, I am afraid...I am afraid he would become even more powerful than me...Well...he has been a king before...I would not put it past him to try conquering the heavens once he has enough power...' Indra said to Menaka feeling a little desperate.
Menaka sighed. Indra always got paranoid every time any sage tried to perform any difficult ritual. She sat down in the garden beside him. 'Indra...not everyone in the world would be interested in dethroning you...To the best of my knowledge that man wants to be better than Sage Vasishta...he has no quarrel with you...Why do you think he should be interested in your throne?'
Indra said, 'You do not understand...Menaka, He has been king, people like that will always have the desire to rule others...otherwise there is no other reason for him to undertake this particular penance now...'
Indra went on and on until Menaka reluctantly nodded her head, 'Fine! What do you want me to do, Indra?'
Indra smiled slyly, 'You are the most beautiful woman ever...Nobody can ever resist you ever...' Menaka sighed and nodded her head. She knew where the conversation was leading. Indra continued, 'I want you to use your beauty and destroy his penance...' Indra finally said.
Menaka said quietly, 'Indra you yourself have said that he is very powerful. What if he curses me...if he finds out what I have done....'
Indra shook his head, 'Who in his right mind would curse you, Menaka? One look at you and everyone would be charmed by you...Please...?' Indra said holding Menaka's hands.
Despite everything, Indra was the king of the heavens. Menaka was duty bound to do what her king asked her to do.
Menaka nodded her head. That very day, she set out for earth to meet Kaushika. Menaka found Kaushika deep in penance. Unfortunately for Indra, there was a twist in the tale. Menaka, who was supposed to charm Kaushika fell in love with Kaushika, the moment she saw him. She already knew of his bravery and his valiant nature. The minute Menaka saw Kaushika, she fell in love with him.
Kaushika used to meditate in wild forest and perform his penance there. While he was deep in meditation, Menaka came there. Out of her love for him, she used all her powers and created one of the most beautiful gardens there. The fragrance from the garden was amazing and the garden had every conceivable colour of flower in it. When Menaka was finished, the place surrounded Kaushika was not a wild untamed forest, but a fragrant beautiful garden with a spring season. As Kaushika opened his eyes, he saw a beautiful maiden before him. Added to that Kaushika also saw that the garden around him was so beautiful that he somehow felt different...
As Kaushika opened his eyes, Menaka started dancing, a beautiful dance which was lovely to look at. Kaushika saw Menaka, he forgot his penance, his meditation, his desire to get better than Sage Vasishta, he forgot everything....He fell in love with Menaka immediately. As she finished dancing, Kaushika looked at her with rapt eyes as she bowed to him.
'Wh...Who are you?' Kaushika croaked, his heart thumping.
'I am Menaka...' She said in a beautifully haunting voice, which Kaushika liked very much. 'I am a maiden in Indra's court...I was seeing you perform penance...' Menaka shyly bowed her head and spoke, 'I...liked you very much....so...so...I came down to see you...' Menaka faltered as she felt Kaushika look at her.
Kaushika felt drawn towards Menaka, the way he had never felt towards any other woman. He looked at Menaka and spoke innocently and little desperately, 'Menaka...I do not know whether I am worthy of you...But....but will you...you... please marry me....' He spoke in a hurry.
Menaka gave a tinkling laugh and bowed before the sage shyly, 'Sir! I thought you would never ask...'
Menaka and Kaushika were married very soon enough. However Menaka was thoroughly miserable sometimes. Indra's words kept on haunting her...She could not accept the fact that she had been responsible for destroying the powers of meditation and penance, which were accumulated by Kaushika.
Kaushika on the other hand was delighted with his loving and understanding wife. She seemed to sense his every need and was there to fulfill it. He also tried his best to keep Menaka as happy as possible. Menaka was delighted to find Kaushika a very thoughtful and loving husband. Soon after their marriage they had a daughter – Shakuntala.
Shakuntala is famous in history for her marriage to Dushyant. Shakuntala and Dushyant had a son Bharata, after whom the entire country of Bharata (India) is named. However that is another story.
After the birth of Shakuntala, Menaka felt even more unhappy especially when she saw what a loving and doting father Kaushika was. So ten years after their marriage, Menaka steeled herself and spoke to Kaushika, 'Kaushika, there is something which I have to tell you...Something that I should have told you a long time ago and something which I never had the nerve to tell you...'
Kaushika smiled, 'Menaka, you cannot have done anything that terrible...what is it?'
Menaka blinked away tears and she spoke, 'I am a bad person...I told you that I came from Indra's court did I not?' Kaushika nodded asking Menaka to continue. Menaka took a deep breath and spoke, 'The truth is that Indra sent me...' Kaushika frowned as he listened to her in silence. Menaka continued, 'Indra was getting worried that you would become very powerful with your penance and dethrone him...' Kaushika felt a whiff of anger at Menaka. Menaka almost faltered but resolutely continued, 'He sent me here to break your penance...That was why I came here...' Menaka said miserably. Kaushika had gone very still and said quietly, 'Go on...what happened?'
'But when I came here and saw you...the unthinkable happened...I...actually...actually fell in love with you...I wanted to be with you....' Menaka said feeling thoroughly miserable. Kaushika closed his eyes and took a deep breath.. He felt that over the decade, his powers, once which he had been so obsessed about, had been drained from him...He had nothing with him..Kaushika was in a fit of rage when he realized that he had lost all the power for a woman, who was acting under someone else's orders...Kaushika opened his eyes and looked at Menaka once more standing before him. She said quietly, 'That is the truth Kaushika! I don't care what you do...And there is one more truth that is I love you...' Menaka said with utmost sincerity in her eyes.
Kaushika closed his eyes as he felt the pain in her words. He understood that she loved him as much as he had loved her. Kaushika opened his eyes, 'Menaka! You have fooled me..you have stripped me of my powers...For this I curse you...' Menaka did not even flinch. She looked like she welcomed it. She looked at Kaushika as he spoke, 'I curse you Menaka...I curse you that you will always be separated from me...' Menaka looked at him with anguished eyes as Kaushika released his curse. Menaka disappeared from there immediately as Kaushika let out a wail of frustration. Menaka was sent back to Indra's court...she could never meet Kaushika again.
He had sent away the only woman who had loved him...Kaushika knew. He had also spent all his yogic powers...But Kaushika did not care...The old fire was back in his eyes. He wanted to regain all his yogic powers. He would regain his penance and meditation. But first he had to take care of his daughter.
He went back to his ashrama and found his baby daughter Shakuntala alone in the ashram. Wherever he saw her, he had memories of Menaka. Shakuntala had the same features like Menaka...He took a deep breath. Kaushika remembered that his friend Sage Kanva had wanted to adopt Shakuntala some time ago. Menaka had point blank refused it...But now...Kaushika took a deep breath and he took the baby and went straight to the ashrama of Sage Kanva.
There he spoke with the Sage. Sage Kanva looked at his friend. His friend looked like something had been torn apart from his heart...But Sage Kanva decided not to question it. Kaushika spoke dully, 'You wanted to adopt my child...did you not? I am willing...Are you still interested...in...' Kaushika looked at the child and did not say anything more. Sage Kanva readily agreed and soon the ceremonies were completed.
Leaving Sage Kanva with his daughter, Kaushika went back to the Himalayas to forget Menaka and also focus on his penance and meditation. Kaushika's penance was now more difficult as he had to continuously forget his thoughts of Menaka...But he still did it...Kaushika started his penance with great vigour and again started his meditation....