Menaka or Menka (Sanskrit:: मेनका), in Hindu mythology, is considered one of the most beautiful of the heavenly Apsaras. She was sent by Indra, the king of the Devas, to break the severe penance undertaken by Vishwamitra. Vishwamitra was one of the most respected and revered sages in ancient India. Indra, frightened by his powers, sent a beautiful celestial nymph named Menaka from heaven to earth to lure him and break his meditation. Menaka successfully incited Vishwamitra's lust and passion when he saw her beauty.
- So many a Season rolled away,
When Menaká, fair nymph, one day
Came down from Paradise to lave
Her perfect limbs in Pushkar's wave,
The glorious son of Kus'ik saw
That peerless shape without a flaw
Flash through the flood's translucent shroud
Like lightning gleaning through a cloud.
He saw her in that lone retreat,
Most beautiful from head to feet,
And by Kandarpas might subdued
He thus addressed her as he viewed:
'Welcome, sweet nymph! O deign, I pray,
In these calm shades awhile to stay.
To me some gracious favour show,
For love has set my breast aglow.
- He spoke. The fairest of the fair
Made for awhile her dwelling there,
While day by day the wild delight
Stayed vow austere and fervent rite
There as the winsome charmer wove
Her spells around him in the grove,
And bound him in a golden chain,
Five sweet years fled, and five again.
Then Vis'vámitra woke to shame,
And, fraught with anguish, memory came
For quick he knew, with anger fired,
That all the Immortals had conspired
- To lap his careless soul in ease,
And mar his long austerities.
'Ten years have past, each day and night
Unheeded in delusive flight.
So long my fervent rites were stayed,
While thus I lay by love betrayed.'
As thus long sighs the hermit heaved,
And, touched with deep repentance, grieved,
He saw the fair one standing nigh
With suppliant hands and trembling eye.
With gentle words he bade her go,
Then sought the northern hills of snow.
With firm resolve he vowed to beat
The might of love beneath his feet.
Still northward to the distant side
Of Kaus'ikí, the hermit hide,
And gave his life to penance there
With rites austere most hard to bear.
The Mahabharata/Book 1: Adi Parva/Section LXXII
- And Sakra, thus addressed by her, then commanded him who could approach every place (viz., the god of the wind) to be present with Menaka at the time she would be before the Rishi. And the timid and beautiful Menaka then entered the retreat and saw there Viswamitra who had burnt, by his penances, all his sins, and was engaged still in ascetic penances.
- Saluting the Rishi, she then began to sport before him. And just at that time Marut [Wind] robbed her of her garments that were white as the Moon. And she thereupon ran, as if in great bashfulness, to catch hold of her attire, and as if she was exceedingly annoyed with Marut. And she did all this before the very eyes of Viswamitra who was endued with energy like that of fire. And Viswamitra saw her in that attitude. And beholding her divested of her robes, he saw that she was of faultless feature.
- Viswamitra best of Munis saw that she was exceedingly beautiful, with no marks of age on her person. And beholding her beauty and accomplishments that bull amongst Rishis was possessed with lust and made a sign that he desired her companionship. And he invited her accordingly, and she also of faultless features expressed her acceptance of the invitation. And they then passed a long time there in each other's company.
- Sporting with each other, just as they pleased, for a long time as if it were only a single day, the Rishi begat on Menaka a daughter named Shakuntala. And Menaka (as her conception advanced) went to the banks of the river Malini coursing along a valley of the charming mountains of Himavat. And there she gave birth to that daughter. And she left the new-born infant on the bank of that river and went away.
- Beholding the new-born infant lying in that forest destitute of human beings but abounding with lions and tigers, a number of vultures sat around to protect it from harm. No Rakshasas or carnivorous animals took its life. Those vultures protected the daughter of Menaka. I went there to perform my ablution and beheld the infant lying in the solitude of the wilderness surrounded by vultures. Bringing her hither I have made her my daughter. Indeed, the maker of the body, the protector of life, the giver of food, are all three, fathers in their order, according to the scriptures.
The Mahabharata/Book 1: Adi Parva/Section VIII
- ...a great Rishi called Sthulakesa possessed of ascetic power and learning and kindly disposed towards all creatures. At that time, Brahmana sage, Viswavasu, the King of the Gandharvas, Menaka, the celestial dancing-girl and the Apsara, Menaka, brought forth an infant near the hermitage of Sthulakesa.
- Menaka dropped the newborn infant on the banks of the river. She, being destitute of pity and shame, went away. And the Rishi, Sthulakesa discovered the infant lying forsaken in a lonely part of the river-side. It was a female child.
- Sthulakesa, filled with compassion, took it up and reared it. And the lovely child grew up in his holy habitation. Rishi Sthulakesa performed in due succession all the ceremonies beginning with that at birth as ordained by the divine law. And because she surpassed in goodness, beauty, and every quality, the great Rishi called her by the name of Pramadvara.
The Mahabharata of Krishna-Dwaipayana Vyasa
Mahabharata translated by Kisari Mohan Ganguli The Mahabharata of Krishna-Dwaipayana Vyasa, Fullbooks.com Some excerpts from Sections LXIX, LXXI, LXXII,LXXIII, LXXIV of Sambhava Parva related to Menaka and Shakuntala.
- Thou, O Menaka, art the first of celestial Apsaras...My heart is trembling with fear. Indeed, O slender-waisted Menaka, this is thy business...you must see that Viswamitra of soul rapt in contemplation and engaged in the austerest penances, who might hurl me down from my seat. Go and tempt him and frustrating his continued austerities accomplish my good.
- And the timid and beautiful Menaka then entered the retreat and saw there Viswamitra who had burnt, by his penances, all his sins.... And beholding her beauty and accomplishments that bull amongst Rishis was possessed with lust and made a sign that he desired her companionship...
- And they then passed a long time there in each other's company. And sporting with each other, just as they pleased, for a long time as if it were only a single day, the Rishi begat on Menaka a daughter named Shakuntala. And Menaka went to the banks of the river Malini...And there she gave birth to that daughter. And she left the new-born infant on the bank of that river and went away.
SHAKUNTALÁ An Indian Drama Translated into English Prose And Verse From The Sanskrit Of Kálidása
Kalidasa in: by Sir Monier Monier-Williams [SHAKUNTALÁ An Indian Drama Translated Into English Prose And Verse From The Sanskrit Of Kálidása, Gutenberg. org Only text related to Menka.
:[Forest scene with King Dushyanta on a hunting expedition].
The sage Kanwa lives in the constant practice of austerities. How, then, can this friend of yours [Shakuntala] be called his daughter?
I will explain to you. Sir. You have heard of an illustrious sage of regal caste, [[w:Vishwamitra|Vishwámitra, whose family name is Kaushika....Know that he is the real father of our friend. The venerable Kanwa is only her reputed father. He it was who brought her up, when she was deserted by her mother.
'Deserted by her mother!' My curiosity is excited; pray let me hear the story from the beginning.
You shall hear it, Sir. Some time since, this sage of regal caste, while performing a most severe penance on the banks of the river Godavari, excited the jealousy and alarm of the gods; insomuch that they despatched a lovely nymph named Menaká to interrupt his devotions....
You shall hear it, Sir. Some time since, this sage of regal caste, while performing a most severe penance on the banks of the river Godávarí, excited the jealousy and alarm of the gods; insomuch that they despatched a lovely nymph named Menaká to interrupt his devotions....
The rest may be easily divined. Shakoontalá, then, is the offspring of the nymph....It is quite intelligible.
How would a mortal to such charms give birth? The lightning's radiance flashes not from earth. And so my desire has really scope for its indulgence. Yet I am still distracted by doubts, remembering the pleasantry of her female companions respecting her wish for a husband....I am so eager to hear the particulars of your friend's history, that I have still another question to ask.
Hinduism: An Alphabetical Guide
Roshen Dalal in: Hinduism: An Alphabetical Guide, Penguin Books India, 2011
- [Menaka] An apsara who attracted the rishi Vishvamitra. From her, Shakuntala was born. With the Gandharva king Vishavasu she was the mother of Mramadavara. She is considered the foremost of apsaras.
- In: p. 254.
- Pramadvara was an apsara whose story is described in ancient texts. She was the daughter of Menaka and Vishvavasu. Menaka left her near the ashram of the rishi Sthulakesha who brought her up.
- In p. 312.
- When Vishvamitra undertook severe austerities to become a rishi, the gods were afraid of his power, and sent the apsara Menaka to seduce him. She succeeded, and a daughter Shakuntala was born. Vishvamitra then realized his error and sent Menaka away.
- In p. 462.