Mithila was ruled by King Nimi, who was growing on in years and who feared dying out of old age and looking ugly. So he called his priests and asked what he could do to become immortal. The priests told him to perform a yajna. So King Nimi went to Sage Vashistha and begged him to perform the yajna for him. The sage replied, ?Though I would have loved to do so but as I have already promised to conduct a prayer for Indra for the next 500 years, I cannot do it for you. If you are prepared to wait, then I shall come when I am free and perform the yajna for you.?
King Nimi replied, ?Since I would like you alone to perform the yajna, I will wait for you till you are free.?
A dejected King Nimi returned to his kingdom to attend to his daily duties. As days passed, he began to get impatient and overcome with the fear of getting older and dying one day and he decided to contact Sage Gautama. The sage agreed to perform the yajna.
Thus the preparations began for the yajna?collection of firewood by felling trees, gathering of herbs from the mountains, extracting ghee (clarified butter) from pure milk and so on. On the appointed day, the yajna began in a huge havan kund prepared for the occasion, which had to continue to burn for days. As the fire was lit in the huge kund using kilos of herbs and roots, the flames rose high and the smoke reached the sky. Sage Vashistha, engaged in performing the prayers for Indra, felt the smoke enter his eyes. He discovered that King Nimi had not waited for him but was getting the yajna performed by someone else. So angry he became that he rushed to King Nimi'spalace and shouted angrily, ?King Nimi, you promised to wait for me but you have already decided to get the yajna performed without me. I curse you that you will lose your body, which is so full of pride at being a king.?
King Nimi, knowing the consequences of Sage Vashistha'sanger, fell at the sage'sfeet and begged, ?Please, sir, I beg of you, do take back your curse. I do not want to die so soon.?
The sage refused to listen and pushed him away. King Nimi could not bear this disgrace and shouted behind him, ?I too curse you that you lose your body which makes you so proud as to consider yourself the greatest sage.?
Both the sage and the king died and the yajna was stopped. Without the king, the kingdom of Mithila went into turmoil and the kingdom became topsy-turvy. The gods in heaven became worried at the situation and deputed Lord Varuna to go and set things right. Varuna fashioned a new body for Sage Vashistha so that his soul could reside in it. He then went to King Nimi who lay dead and was about to bring him to life, when King Nimi begged of him, ?No, I do not want to live again. I have experienced the anguish that one has to pass through when alive, so I do not want my body to come to life.?
On seeing the king realise the value of the body and, as such of life and death, ordained that Nimi would from then onwards be the eyes of living beings. That is how the word nimisha, meaning ?the blink of an eye?, came into origin.