Once upon in the mist of history, King Kaushik was conducting an army drill amidst dense forests in a deep valley of his kingdom. He was amazed to spot an enchanting tapovan. The king had never known of such an exotic ashram to exist in his kingdom. His Majesty was swayed by the divine vibrations emanating from the spot. The king alongwith selected people proceeded for the ashram leaving behind his troop. The king was shocked to see such a great rishi living in a simple kutiya. Rishi Vashishta was then performing havan.
On finishing his chore, Vashishta met the king. The king offered to build a better accommodation which Vashishta declined politely saying they were wandering ascetics not to heed to any mundane trappings. Thereafter Vashishta offered the king along with his entire regiment to have their meal at the ashram. The king was taken aback. He wondered as how could a peripatetic hermit could muster to feed him and his one lakh soldiers. The king felt Vashishta might have glibly passed an off-hand invite. So the king politely made an excuse. But Vashishta insisted on serving his guests and the king had to finally give in. The king'stroop started pouring in the tapovan. And at that juncture, a spectacular transformation struck upon. Carpets and cushions replaced the erstwhile grass lawns. Gold goblets and salvers appeared before the guests and sumptuous food was served. A lavish fiesta stole the heart of guests. But the king grew inquisitive about the entire episode ? ?How could a hermit take umbrage to feed a lakh mouths.? The king couldn'tresist himself and asked Vashishta, ?Rishivar, how did you crack this miracle, otherwise an impossibility?? Initially the sage tried to skirt the issue but the king implored him to unravel the mystery.
Vashishta showed Kaushik an animal that was a cow in the rear half while the front half was of a beautiful woman. Vashishta declared, ?The animal in the front of you is Shabala, the offspring of Kamadhenu in swargaloka. Exactly like Kamadhenu, Shabala is endowed to grant all wishes. I was gifted Shabala by Gods in appreciation of my taposhakti. Now she assists me in doing benevolent acts like it did to feed your regiment.? But alas, these words of wisdom got pulverised under the avarice of the king. ?Rishivar, you are an ascetic. What shall you do with this asset? You give me your Shabala and I shall give you one thousand cows in return.? Vashisht told the king, ?Rajan, Shabala is like my own daughter and so how can I sell her off?? The king was adamant, blind with rage ranted out, ?Rajadharma dictates that such an animal can be possessed by a king alone?. Then the king in a rage ordered his soldiers to forcibly take away Shabala from Vashishta. The sage was shoved aside alongwith other ashramites. At the plight of Shabala, the sage reminded her, ?You may use your prowess to ward off these men.? Now Shabala infuriated at the king'sdeception retaliated and eventually vanquished his entire army. The king'ssons were reduced to ashes by Vashishta. The king realised that Vashishta'staposhakti stood above his regal prowess. On the spur of the moment, King Kaushik abdicated his throne to attain taposhakti and avenge himself upon Vashishta. He set forth the Himalayas. His penance and austerity pleased Lord Shiva to reward him a boon. Kaushik sought to become the master of weaponry?to wield astras aplomb.
Thus rewarded Kaushik got bloated with his newfound prowess headed for Vashishta'sashram to wage a war. He at once hurled Agni astra at the ashram, reducing everything to ashes. Vashishta who was in meditation came to know the situation. He took up his hermitsceptre, brahmadanda, an insignia of his probity. Kaushik mad with rage hurtled another Agni astra upon the sage but in vain. ?Nit-witted soul?, replied the rishi. The divine staff dispelled all the astras that Kaushik had procured from Lord Shiva. Kaushik then resorted to use Brahmastra, considered the most formidable but that too proved futile. The brahmadanda though a mere wooden staff proved invincible. ?Now Shiva'sastras have got engulfed by Vashishta. The only way to smoother him is by becoming a Brahmarishi like him. And for this, I have to give up arms? thus thought Kaushik to himself. Thereafter for five years, Kaushik observed utmost penance and austerity that transcended to Brahmaloka to appease Brahma. But before Brahma could have rewarded Kaushik, a blunder was perpetrated by Kaushik. An iota of doubt about his taposhakti crept in his mind. He decided to test his taposhakti by sending King Trishanku to the heaven retaining his mortal body. Kaushik had ignored all warnings of fellow sages to attain the unachieved feat. He failed in his attempt and as a result his entire accumulated taposhakti got squandered. Then on, a series of setbacks impaired his progress. Once, he got infuriated over some issue and cursed his two sons. And again, Maneka enticed him into an amorous fling. Now, wisdom dawned upon Kaushik. He realised, it was he who was verily responsible for these setbacks and he refrained from blaming others. With this outlook, he started his tapasya with a renewed vigour.
Now pleased with his tapasya, Brahma appeared before him? ?Kaushik, you have escalated your taposhakti by far and upon that conquered yourself to be hailed a Brahmarishi.? Kaushik was aggrandised to Brahmarishi Vishwamitra. And yet again, Kaushik now Vishwamitra returned to Brahmarishi Vashishta'sashram but not to wage a war. Vashishta at once welcomed Vishwamitra and complimented him over conquering himself. ?You have truly reached the echelons of a Brahmarishi. And as my blessings, I give upon you, Shabala whom you had once asked for a gift. Earlier you lacked the spiritual stature to possess her. But now Shabala can render her divine charity under your jurisprudence. Accept her.?