Rishi Vishwamitra is considered to be one of the most revered rishis (sages) of the ancient India. As per the holy Puranas, there have been only 24 Rishis in India who have the Gayatri Mantra. It is believed that Sage   Vishwamitra is the first saint of the 24 saints, and Sage Yajnavalkya the last. Rishi Vishwamitra was born as ‘Kaushika’ and was the great-grandson of a great sage king, known as Kusha. He was born to Gadhi, one of the four sons of Kusha.

On one of his exploits, he and his soldiers took rest in the ashram of Rishi Vasistha. There, his whole army was well fed and taken care of. This caused a doubt in the king’s mind as to how it was possible for this simple ashram to take care of all the arrangements to feed an entire army. He expressed his surprise to the sage. Vasistha replied, “O king, this feast that you have partaken with your kinsmen, has been provided by my calf Nandini (sometimes referred as Sabala), who was gifted to me by Indra. You must know that she is the daughter of Indra’s cow Kamadhenu. She provides me with everything I need.”

Kaushika was filled with wonder when he heard this. He began to think that possessing this cow would mean a lot to him; after all, the sage did not have to provide food and sustenance for a large army everyday. He expressed a desire to the sage for obtaining Nandini from him. Vasistha was polite, but steadfast in his refusal. He would not be tempted by the offer of untold wealth that was made by Kaushika, for after all who can set a price on a cow, which can readily yield all the riches in the world.

The king grew exceedingly angry. He insulted the Brahmarishi with harsh words, and ordered his soldiers to seize the cow, and drive it to his kingdom. By his yogic powers, the great sage Vasistha, called forth an entire army of fierce warriors. They fought the army of Kaushika and defeated it thoroughly. Kaushika was captured and presented before Vasistha. The sage pardoned the king and sent him away with words of advice.

This incident made a deep impression on the King. He realized that the power obtained by penances was far greater than mere physical might. He renounced his kingdom and began his quest to become a greater rishi than Vasistha. He took on the name Vishvamitra. After many trials and undergoing many austerities, Vishvamitra at last obtained the title of Brahmarishi from Vasistha himself. During this time he had a daughter named Shakuntala (who appears in the Mahabharata) with Menaka, an apsara in the court of Indra. Son of Shakuntala became a great emperor. He came to be known as Emperor Bharata, in whose name the land of India got its name Bharatha.

Vishvamitra was the author of the revered great Mantra – The Gayatri Mantra. It is a mantra and a prayer found in the Rig, Yajur, and Sama Vedas. Vishvamitra is famous in many legendary stories and in different works of Sanatana dharma.

In the Indian epic Ramayana, Vishvamitra is the preceptor of Rama, prince of Ayodhya and the seventh Avatar of Vishnu, and his brother Lakshmana.

Vishvamitra gives them the knowledge of the Devastras or celestial weaponry [bala and adi bala], trains them in advanced religion and guides them to kill powerful demons like Tataka, Maricha and Subahu. He also leads them to the svayamvara ceremony for princess Sita, who becomes the wife of Rama.

There are two gotras, or lineages, bearing the name of Vishvamitra.

Vishvamitra Gotra:

People belonging to the Vishvamitra Gotra consider Brahmarishi Vishvamitra as their ancestor.

There is an off-shoot of “Vishvamitra Gotra” called “Chakita Vishvamitra Gotra”. Two explanations have been suggested for this off-shoot. The group is supposed to have sprung from a “surprised” reaction of  Vishvamitra. The other, more likely, explanation, is that a group of descendants decided to split from the main group and started their own branch of this line.

Kaushika Gotra:

People belonging to Kaushika ( Kaushik /Kousika/Kousikasa/Koushika/Kausika) Gotra take Rajarishi Kausika as their root.

Kausika was one of the names of Vishvamitra who was supposed to have lived in Mithila (presently in Nepal’s Terai and India’s Bihar) where his sister river Koshi still flows turbulently as she is said to be unmarried. Many Maithil Brahmins are of Kaushik gotra with moola Nikutwar barhi, Nikutwar nikuti and garh.
11 Royal clans of 96 clan of Marathas belong to Kaushik gotra including the illustrious house of Shivaji and Rashtrakutas. 2 more clans belong to the Vishvamitra gotra.
Kaushika gotra also belongs to Bais clan of rajputs, who are suryavanshi rajput.
Many Kashmiri pandits belong to Kaushika gotra. Many Kanyakubji Bramhins found in different states also belong to this gotra,as their forefathers have migrated from Kashmir valley before settling around Kanyakubja (present day Kanauj in U.P.India).
Many Deshastha and Kokanastha Brahmins from Indian State of Maharashtra belong to Kaushik Gotra.
Many of the Niyogi Brahmins as well as Vaidika Brahmins from the state of Andhra Pradesh also belong to the Kaushika/Kaushika-sa Gotra.
Some members of the Anavil Brahmin community from South Gujarat have Kaushik as a Gotra.
Some members of Iyer or Iyengar Tamil Brahmin communities as well as Namboodiri kerala Brahmins have kausika gotra lineage.
Nandwana Bhramins of Gujrat and Rajasthan have Kaushik Gotra as well
Nallani Chakravartula’s from Andhra Pradesh belonging to Kaushika Gotra
Daivadnyas of Konkan, Goa have both Vishwamitra and Kaushika Gotra.They have surnames like Baikerikar,Bhatt, Shekejan, Kurdikar, Shet, Kurdikar, Shejwadkar, Revankar, Mankame,Ambavane.They popularly refer to Vishwamitra gotra as Kaunsh gotra.

A collection by Upendra kumar.

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