AFTER being defeated by Vasishtha, Vishwamitra repaired to a lonely forest and engaged in even greater austerities. Pleased at this, Brahma appeared before him and gave him the title of ‘Rajarishi’. But Vishwamitra had made up his mind to obtain full Brahmin status. He wished to match Vasishtha at any cost. So, once again he resumed his austerities.
There was another king called Trisanku who wished to reach heaven in his human form; he asked Vasishtha to help him but the sage advised him to give up this impossible ambition. Trisanku then sought help from Vasishtha’s hundred sons but they too turned him down. At this, Trisanku said that he would take help from greater sages. Outraged at the implication that there were sages wiser than themselves, the hundred sons cursed Trisanku, condemning him to become a Chandala, one of the ‘outcasts’. Desperate, but still harbouring his ambition, he approached Vishwamitra, who assured him that he would perform a holy ceremony of such power that the gods would be forced to grant him his boon.
The ceremony began and continued for many days, with much chanting of hymns and mantras. But the gods paid scarce attention. Then Vishwamitra dismissed the assembled sages and concentrated the source of energy unto himself, which he had accumulated during all those years of penance. The energy swept up Trisanku to the very gates of heaven, but Indra turned him away saying no human could enter those hallowed portals. Trisanku began to fall towards earth at a terrifying speed; his cries for help roused Vishwamitra who caught him and saved him. But this failure only inspired him to greater efforts. He managed to create seven new stars-the Northern Bear, adding science to his penance. And now Trisanku found himself slicing through the skies and found himself suspended with the stars, hanging in the heavens.
The gods now began to pay attention to Vishwamitra’s powers. He was intending to create a whole new race of gods through the power of his scientific knowledge. Alarmed at this, the gods finally gave in. Trisanku was allowed to enter heaven on the condition that Vishwamitra abandon his scientific undertakings. But Vishwamitra still seethed with discontent; his ultimate aim was to become a Brahmin. When would the gods grant him this wish?