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Story of Sage Vishwamitra and Apsara Menaka

The story of Sage Vishwamitra and Apsara Menaka is found in Mahabharata and the Puranas. Menaka is a celestial woman or apsara and she is one of the most beautiful dancers in the palace of Indra, the king of Devas. Sage Vishwamitra was a king who abdicated the throne when he realized that the powers of a sage are far more superior to that of a king.

Indra, the king of Devas, who is constantly scared of being disposed by more pious living being, takes the help of Menaka to keep his throne intact. When saints perform intense penance to achieve greater spiritual powers, Indra deputes Menaka to distract the saints.

As per Mahabharata, Shakuntala is the daughter of Menaka and Sage Vishwamitra.

Sage Vishwamitra was performing intense austerities on the banks of Godavari River to achieve greater spiritual powers. Indra felt his position as king of celestial beings would be threatened if the Sage acquired great spiritual powers by virtue of the penance.

So he deputed Menaka to distract the sage. The heavenly damsel was scared because the Sage was famous for his short temper. If she failed in her attempt to arouse sexual passion, she would be cursed.

But Menaka was left with no option. So she reached the banks of the Godavari river and created an environment for sexual union with music, scented oil and fragrant flowers. She then performed a sensuous dance with amorous glances and moves.

The Sage was forced to break his meditation and open his eyes. Senses overpowered the sage and he married her as per the Gandharva marriage.

He lived in the ashram with her. When the flames of sexual passion got extinguished, the sage realized that he was tricked. He then abandoned Menaka.

Later, Menaka gave birth to a girl child – Shakuntala.

As her mission was successfully completed, she abandoned the little girl on the banks of Malini River near the ashram of Sage Kanva and left for the palace of Indra.