Vivasvata Manu had a sneeze and was born the eldest son Ikshvaku who established the Solar dynasty. Devarshi Narada initiated him into the worship of Devi Bhagavati and prayed for the expansion of the Solar (Vaivsvata) dynasty and Ikshvaku was blessed with hundred sons; he ruled Ayodhya, sent ninty sons to the Eastern Provinces, eight to the Southern Provinces to govern and kept two with himself, including the eldest son Vikuksi. At the ‘Sraddha’ceremony of his father, Ikshvaku sent Vikuksi to fetch a deer from the forests for Sacrifice but Sage Vasishtha found defect of the cooked meat of the Sacrifice and Ikshvaku became furious and banished the son to forests who never returned and practised Yoga there till Ikshvaku died. Vikuksi or Sasada as known during his forest life became the King and his only son Kakustha (Indravahana or Puranjaya ) became a powerful Monarch. It was this time that Danavas attacked Indra and the Devas badly and the latter approached Maha Vishnu for help. Lord Vishnu asked them to seek King Kakustha’s assistance; he agreed to the proposal provided Indra became the carrier during the War. Indra reluctantly had to agree and changed himself into a bull (Kakud) on whose hump sat the King and routed the Danavas and that was how the King was known as Kakustha or Indravahana or Puranjana. He had a lasting alliance with Indra and gave away all the riches of Danavas gained from the War to Devas. Kakustha’s son was King Prithu who was a part Avatar of Vishnu and an unfailing Devotee of Maha Bhagavati. His lineage was Visvarandhi-Chandra- mighty Yuvanasya- Savanta who built Savanti like Paradise-Brihasva-Kuvalasya who killed the ferocious Demon Dhundhu and was thus known as Dhundhumara-Haryasva-Nikumbha-Varahasva- Krisasva- Parasenajit – Yavanasva and the legendary Mandhata who built one thousand and eight palaces and the immortal City of Benares and innumerable places of Pilgrimage.The story of Yavanasva was indeed interesting as he did not beget from several wives any child and hence performed a Sacrifice for days together. One night when he was sleeping in the Sacrificial Arena, felt terribly thirsty and drank the ‘Mantrik jal’ or Sacred water actually meant for his Senior Wife to let her conceive; subsequently he got pregnant and his Ministers had to cut his stomach open to deliver a male child. When the child cried for milk, Indra who was pleased with the Sacrifice appeared and fed the child with his forefinger and thus was named as Mandhata. Known for his valour and courage, Mandhata was acclaimed as‘Sarva-bhouma’ and Indra gave him the title ‘Trasadasyu’ as he was a terror to robbers. He and wife Bindumati begot two sons Purukustha and Muchukunda. The son and grandson were religious and noble Kings but in the fourth generation there was a wicked person by name Satyavrata who never had respect either father or Guru Vasishtha. He had performed a crime in kipnapping a Brahmana bride and thus got banished from the Kingdom by his father King Aruna who cursed the son to become a chandala or the lowest class of Society. While wandering in the forests, the Chandala could not get anything to eat and hence killed a cow; Vasishtha cursed Satyavrata to become a ‘piscachi’ (Goblin) who would carry three marks of ‘Shankhu’ of leprosy on his forehead to indicate three crimes, one to abduct a Brahmana bride, to defy father and Guru before abandoning the Royal Palace and three to kill and eat a cow! That was why Satyavrata was known as ‘Trisanku’!
Trisanku learnt a ‘Mula Mantra’of Maha Bhagavati from a Muni Kumara and being deeply hurt by his previous acts of sins lit up a Sacrificial Fire and sought to jump into the flames. Devi Bhagvati realised the extreme transformation of the highly repenting ‘Piscachi’ and appeared to bless him to reach his aged father and assume Kingship. Sage Narada conveyed Bhagavati’s wish and the King was highly pleased that his son Satyavrata finally secured Maha Devi’s kindness to his son, that his Piscachi and Chandala forms were freed and that he would be eligible for Kingship. He left for ‘Vanaprastha Ashram’ (Retirement) and crowned his son. But King Satyavrata had ideas to reach Heavens in his present form of a mortal and enjoy the sweet experiences there including with Apsarasas. He asked Maharshi Vasishtha to perform a Sacrifice to achieve that objective. The Maharshi said that the King could never ever fulfill his ambition, especially since his past actions were non – erasable sins giving him the ‘Tri Sankhus’. The King suggested that his ambition must be obtained even if he were to change his Guru and Spiritual Teacher! This angered Vasishtha who cursed the King to become a Chandala once again. As he might not carry on as the King in that form anymore, he paved the way for his son Harischandra to become the King. Meanwhile Sage Visvamitra’s wife Kausiki conveyed to her husband that Satyavrata was indeed a very kind person as when Visvamitra left on his Tapasya for several years, it was Satyavrata who saved her and her sons as they were srarved of hunger and she was even tried to sell one of the sons to save others. Satyavrata supplied deer meat daily to them but on one day no deer was available and thus killed Kamadhenu to feed them with its meat.
Sage Visvamitra was moved with this and agreed to repay Satyavrata in Chandala form to reach heavens in his human form and through his mystic powers and Fire Sacrifices sent Satyavrata in the very human form of Chandala to Heavens. But Devas did not allow his entry there because of Satyavrata’s record of sins and kicked him back to Earth. But, Sage Visvamitra utilised substantial stock of ‘Punya’ and created another Swarga just like the original called ‘Trisankhu Swarga’ and installed Trisankhu as the King of that duplicate Swarga in between Bhuloka and Devaloka with equally attractive luxuries made possible in that Swarga!
King Harischandra was at the top of the list of enemies for Sage Visvamitra, especially since the King was the disciple of Sage Vasishtha. On the other hand the King’s father Trisankhu was so close to Visvamithra that the Sage gave away a sizeable share of Visvamitra’s hard earned ‘Punya’ to forward ‘Trisankhu’ to Heavens and as his entry was disappoved there, further Punya was spent to create a brand new Trisankhu Svarga midway between Bhuloka and Svarga as a challenge to Devas and indirectly to Sage Vasishtha. There was another instance when Lohitasya the son of Harischandra was saved from Demi God Varuna’s debt to Harischandra on account of Lohithasya’s Sacrifice that got transfferred to the poor Brahmana boy Sunyasapha who was bought at a heavy price; Visvamithra gave the mantra to appease Varuna to Sunehesapha while Vasishta suggested the way out of the problem to Harischandra and arranged Sunehesapha to be bought over. Keeping in view the above incidents, Visvamitra was waiting for an oppornunity to strike at Harischandra.Meanwhile another incident happened which angered Harischandra.
Once King Harischandra was horse riding on the banks of Ganges and found a woman wailing and the reason was that the lady was highly disturbed at Visvamitra’s continuous Sacrifices. Harischandra forbade the Sage to perform the Sacrifices.He got annoyed and created a Demon in the form of a Boar who created havoc in the King’s forests; the King ran after the beast and finally killed it but lost his way.Visvamitra as an old Brahmana showed the way back but by a strange illusion created by the Sage extracted a promise to the Brahmana that he would give away his entire possessions in return. Harischandra’s Kingdom and power were gone on return back.Visvamitra idenified himself as the Brahmana and told the King Harischandra that he had also pay Dakshina as a cartful of gold for a Rajasuya Yagna that he did in the past. Harischandra moved out of the Kingdom to Kasi which was out of his domain. He sold his wife and son as slaves to repay Dakshina’s interest and he himself worked as a bonded labour at Kasi’s cremation ground to a Chandala who was his Master.[The Cremation Place is still named as ‘Harishchandra Ghat’ on the banks of Ganges] Untold misery of hundreds of years was experienced by the wife Saivya and son Rohitasya at the masters’ abode performing menial jobs and he himself toiled as Gate keeper as the bonded labour of ‘Chandala’with an endless debt by the years till their end. Subsequently, Lohitasya was bitten by a snake in the garden of the Master and died. There was no other help available even to carry the son’s dead body. Harischandra and Saivya could not recognise each other initially and Saivya begged of the Gate keeper to burn her son’s body. The Gate Keeper Harischandra insisted payment of fees for the task of cremation and she had none to afford. Half of her Sari was sold for the fees but the cremation charges were still due. It was at that final desperation when Saivya and Harischandra sought to jump into the fire along with the son’s dead body with their last silent prayers on their lips for Devi Satakshi that Trimurtis, Indra and Devas appeared on the scene. When Indra invited to Devaloka, Harischandra waited for the affirmative nod of his Master, Chandala, who was Yama Dharma Raja Himself! There were flowery rains from Skies as a ‘Pushpak Viman’ (Flight of Flowers) took off from the Cremation Ground for the Most Shining Couple of Truthfulness, Sacrifice, Perseverance and exemplary devotion to Devi Satakshi. Son Lohitasya was revived, as he too underwent the rigours of life at every stage since his birth by the threats of death from Varuna Deva with whose blessings that he was born, to the stage of a fugitive in the forests and passed through the hardest life as a slave dying finally by a snake bite!