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. She succeeded in breaking the meditation of Vishwamitra and the two had sex for many years. However, she fell in genuine love with him. When Vishwamitra realized that he had been tricked by Indra, he was enraged. But he merely cursed Menaka to be separated from him forever, for he loved her as well and knew that she had lost all devious intentions towards him long ago.
Later, Menaka is also said to have been the mother of Shakuntala, who was left at the hermitage of a Sage Kanva when she was a baby. Later Shakuntala became the love of King Dushyanta and gave birth to his son Bharata, after whom India was named "Bharat".