Viswamitra (Sanskrit viswa, "all," and mitra, "friend," i.e. friend of all the gods), an interesting character in the mythological history of India, was the author of many hymns of the Rigveda, SEE VEDA; but his fame, which pervades all the periods of Sanskrit literature, is chiefly founded on the remarkable fact that, though by birth a Kshattriya, or man of military caste, he succeeded in having himself admitted into the Brahmanic caste, after a long contest which he had to wage against the Rishi Vasishtha (q.v.). From the epic poems and the Persians, it would seem that the result of this contest was the elevation of Viswamitra to the rank of a Brahmana, but the later traditions relating to this contest are otherwise accounted for. It is thought that, since the rivalry between Viswamitra and Vasishtha is alluded to in several of the Rigveda hymns, and since the caste distinction of later periods of Hinduism was not yet established, these traditions resulted from the circumstance that Sudas, a king named in the Rigveda, who employed Vasishtha for his house-priest, allowed, for some unknown reason, Viswamitra also to officiate for him at sacrifices and that the latter, incurring on this ground the jealousy of Vasishtha, had to maintain b1) force the prerogative conferred on him by his royal master. Many legends are related concerning him. See Muir, Original Sanscrit Texts (Lond. 1858).

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