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Penances - from Valmiki Ramayana

  1. Penance of Sri Vishnu (At Siddhashrama) (Prior to incarnating as Vamana Avatara)
  2. Penance of sage Kashyapa (At Siddhashrama) (For getting Lord Vishnu as son)
  3. Penance of king Bhagiratha (At Gokarna) (For descent of river Ganga)
  4. Penance of sage Vishwamitra (For becoming Brahmarshi)

Penance of Sri Vishnu - from Valmiki Ramayana:

Sri Vishnu Valmiki Ramayana (Bala Kanda 29): Penance of Sri Vishnu: Sri Rama visited Siddhashrama while travelling with sage Vishwamitra and enquired about the hermitage. Sage Vishwamitra told that it was the hermitage of Vamana avatara of Sri Vishnu. Sri Vishnu performed tapas there for hundreds of yugas (before assuming the form of Vamana Avatara).

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Penance of sage Kashyapa - from Valmiki Ramayana:

Sri Vamana Avatara Valmiki Ramayana (Bala Kanda 29): Penance of Kashyapa and Aditi: Sri Rama visited Siddhashrama while travelling with sage Vishwamitra and enquired about the hermitage. Sage Vishwamitra told that it was the hermitage of Vamana avatara of Sri Vishnu. Sage Kashyapa and Devi Aditi performed penance there for thousand divine years and eulogized Sri Vishnu as: Tapomaya (filled with tapas), Taporashi (aggregate of all tapas), Tapomurti (embodiment of tapas) and Tapatmaka (whose atma is tapas). Sage Kashyapa also said that he was seeing the whole universe within the divine body of Vishnu Who is without beginning and cannot be defined.

Granting of Boon: Sri Vishnu was pleased and told sage Kashyapa to ask for a boon. Sage Kashyapa asked the boon that He (Vishnu) be born as their son and help the devas to overcome the asuras. The sage also wished that since his penance got accomplished there the hermitage be known as Siddhashrama (or the hermitage of accomplishment). Sri Vishnu bestowed the boons and descended as their son Vamana.

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Penance of king Bhagiratha and descent of river Ganga - from Valmiki Ramayana:

Penance of king Bhagiratha Valmiki Ramayana (Bala Kanda 35): Sri Rama hearing about descent of Ganga: While Sri Rama was going from Siddhashrama to Mithila with sage Vishwamitra and other sages, He camped at the bank of river Ganga and heard the story of the descent of river Ganga from Vishwamitra. Covering many earlier incidents, sage Vishwamitra finally came to the penance of king Bhagiratha.

Valmiki Ramayana (Bala Kanda 42): Tapas of Bhagiratha for thousands of years and pleasing Brahma: Delegating the kingdom to ministers, king Bhagiratha engaged in tapas at Gokarna. Raising his hands, sitting amidst the five fires, taking food only once a month, and with controlled senses, he practised severe tapas for thousands of years. Then Bhagavan Brahma became pleased and arrived there with the devas to give boon. Knowing about the wish of Bhagiratha to bring Ganga to earth, Brahma told him that Hara (Shiva) needs to be involved here as He is the only one capable of bearing the descent of Ganga, which the earth cannot endure.

Valmiki Ramayana (Bala Kanda 43): Tapas of Bhagiratha on Shiva to bear Ganga: Then Bhagiratha performed tapas on Lord Shiva for one year. Shiva was pleased and told Bhagiratha that he will bear Ganga on his head during her descent.

Descent of Ganga on the head of Shiva and getting locked: Then Ganga assuming a huge form and unbearable speed descended on the auspicious head of Shiva. Devi Ganga thought that taking Shankara with her streams, she will enter the patala. Coming to know about her egotism, Shiva became angry and restrained Ganga on his head. Ganga tried hard to free herself but was not able to do so. She went round and round the matted hairs of Shiva for many years.

Penance of Bhagiratha on Lord Shiva to free Ganga: Not seeing Ganga descending from the matted hairs of Shiva, Bhagiratha again sat down for performing austere penance. Shiva became pleased and released Ganga from his head.

Seven streams of Ganga emerging: Shiva released Ganga on Bindu Sarovar. Seven streams emerged from her. Hladini, Pavani and Nalini are eastward flowing Ganges. Sucakshu, Sita and Sindhu are westward flowing Gangas, and the seventh stream followed Bhagiratha who was sitting on a divine chariot.

Jahnu muni drinking Ganga and later releasing her: While following Bhagiratha, Ganga inundated the yagya sthala of Jahnu muni, who became angry and drank off all the waters of Ganga. The devas were astounded and pleaded the muni to release Ganga considering her as his daughter. The muni was pleased and released Ganga from his ears. Therefore Ganga was considered as the daughter of Jahnu muni and came to be known as Jahnavi.

Bhagiratha leading Ganga to nether world and liberating ancestors: Thereafter king Bhagiratha lead Ganga to ocean and then to the nether world where the ashes of his ancestors were lying. Ganga washed away the ashes with her pure water and liberated the sixty thousand ancestors of king Bhagiratha from their curse.

Valmiki Ramayana (Bala Kanda 44): Ganga came to be known as Bhagirathi: Lord Brahma was pleased with Bhagiratha and told that due to his acts Ganga will become renowned in the world as Bhagirathi.

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Penance of sage Vishwamitra - from Valmiki Ramayana:

Rishi Vishwamitra Valmiki Ramayana (Bala Kanda 64): Sri Rama hearing about the penance of Vishwamitra: Sri Rama heard the story of sage Vishwamitra from sage Shatananda at Mithila. After telling about various incidents in the life of Vishwamitra, sage Shatananda told about the great penance of Vishwamitra.

Vishwamitra resolving: Sage Vishwamitra resolved: Till I attain Brahmanhood through my tapas, I will continue my tapas for endless years without breathing and without food. Neither will my body decay while performing tapas.

Valmiki Ramayana (Bala Kanda 65): Tapas of Vishwamitra for thousand years: Then Vishwamitra leaving the Himalayas went to the eastern direction and performed severe tapas. Remaining silent for thousand years he performed his unparallel vow which is extremely difficult. The mahamuni became like wood. He was shaken by many barriers but still anger did not enter his heart.

Tapas of Vishwamitra for another thousand years: Indra came to test him. Vishwamitra continued his tapas for another thousand years without breathing. Thereafter due to controlled breath, fumes started to emit from his head. The three worlds became agitated by that heat. The devas and other celestial beings went to pitamaha Brahma requesting him to stop the penance of Vishwamitra by giving sought after boon.

Valmiki Ramayana (Bala Kanda 66): Vishwamitra attains Brahmanhood: Pitamaha Brahma appeared before Vishwamitra with the devas and bestowed Brahmanhood on him along with long life and marud ganas. Vishwamitra said: If I have indeed attained Brahmanhood and long life, let the Omkara, Vasatkara and Vedas give boon (of knowledge) to me, and let Vashistha, the best one in the knowledge in Vedas, also acknowledge my Brahmanhood. Then invoked by the devas, Vashistha appeared and making friendship with Vishwamitra said: "You are a Brahmarshi".

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Last updated on Sep-2021

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