IN Mithila, ruled King Nimi who, as he began to grow in age, decided to perform a yajna so that he would not grow old or weak. He wanted to remain strong and youthful as ever. He approached Sage Vashishta to persuade him to perform the yajna for him. But Sage Vashishta excused himself from the job as he had already promised to perform a yajna for Lord Indra and this was to continue for 500 years. He told King Nimi, “You will have to wait for 500 years and as soon as I get over from the yajna for Lord Indra, I shall come to you.”
King Nimi did not want a lesser sage than Sage Vashishta to perform the yajna and so said to the sage, “I will wait for you to perform the yajna till you get free.”
But as time passed and the King began to feel weak and found himself growing old, he decided that a wait of 500 years was too long. So he went to Sage Gautama to perform the yajna. Since the yajna had to be done on a grand scale, it required large-scale preparations. Trees were felled in large numbers to provide firewood and incense and other herbs were collected from forest for organising the yajna.
On the auspicious day the yajna began and with the huge amount of wood and incense used to burn in the havan kund, smoke began to billow out and reached Sage Vashishta’s eyes in heaven. He looked down and saw King Nimi participating in the havan that was being conducted by Sage Gautama. Sage Vashishta became furious and rushed down to the earth to confront King Nimi. He shouted at the King, “How dare you get the yajna performed by another sage when you had promised to wait for 500 years for me to come and perform the yajna? What was the hurry? You were so concerned about remaining youthful that you did not even bother about my feelings and the promise that you had made to me? I curse you that you should lose your body by tomorrow.”
King Nimi realised that he had been at fault and fell down at the sage’s feet to ask for forgiveness but Sage Vashishta refused to relent. Seeing no other way, the King in utter humiliation cursed the sage in return, “I curse you that you too shall lose your body just as you have cursed me to lose mine.”
Then both Sage Vashishta and King Nimi lost their bodies. Now without their king’s presence, the people became worried and the yajna was stopped. The kingdom fell into disarray as the people began to do as they wished with no power above them to guide and control them. On seeing the chaos all around on earth, the God of Day, Mitra and God of Night and Water – Varun fashioned out a new body for Vashishta. King Nimi’s body was prevented from decaying so that he could return to his body. But King Nimi refused to go back into his body as he said, “I do not want to go into my body as I have suffered the sorrow of being derived of it once. I do not want to go through the torture of losing my body again when I die. Seeing death once was enough; I do not want to live and die again.”
The gods decided to make Nimi a part of the eyes of all living creatures and that is how we learned to blink the eye, which is known as nimisha, derived from the name of the King.