King Shantanu and Bhishma

One day, King Shantanu of the Kuru dynasty along with his entourage went for hunting in the forest. He went deep inside the forest searching for the right hunt. As a matter of ill luck, he did not find a suitable hunt for a long time. Though exhausted the king resolved to persist. He noticed a river bank at short distance and proceeded in that direction where there was likelihood of finding a lot of wild animals.  While King Shantanu was absorbed in searching for a hunt, he was suddently struck by a breeze – a breeze carrying a strong and sweet celestial like fragrance. Wonderstruck by the fragrance, the king gave up the purpose of hunting and decides to find out the source of fragrance. He crossed the river bank.

The king noticed a young tribal girl who was ferrying the people across the bank. As he approached nearer, he understood that she was the source of aroma. Bewitched by her beauty and struck by Cupid, the king decided to marry her.  He sent one of his accomplices to find her whereabouts. Learning that she was Satyavati, the daughter of the local tribal chief Dasharaj, the king immediately proceeded to meet her father. The king with great hope proposed to the chief to marry his daughter. The tribal chief having known that the king already had a well-qualified son – Devavrata from his former wife – Ganga, paused a while to contemplate. The chief thought – “Devavrata is the prince reagent now and he will have his children in future, Satyavati will have her own children. It’s likely that the children of Devavrata may claim the throne in the future being elder to Satyavati’s children. Then what will happen to my daughter’s children.” Keeping the king, waiting for a while, the tribal chief at last spoke in a stipulating voice – “My dear King, this marriage can only happen if my daughter’s children are promised the throne in the future”.

The king taken aback by such a demand, started to contemplate. He began to remember his son Devavrata whom he begot from his former wife – the demigoddess Gangadevi. Devavrata was trained in the heavenly planets in archery, diplomacy and various other skills. He was decorated with all good qualities – sober, well behaved, and obedient. All the ministers, citizens were happy with Devavrata and he was unanimously coroneted as the prince-reagent. He recollected how Devavrata is very loyal to him and tried to please his father by all means. The king decided not to do injustice to his son. It will be ingratitude to wrong his worthy and beloved son for his own pleasure. The king left the place in dismay and returned to his palace. Devarata ever-obedient, eagerly received his father. However he noticed that his father is somewhat morose. Devavrata asks the king’s accomplices about what happened in the hunting expedition. They related to him the entire incident and the king’s vain attempts to wind the hand of Satyavati. Devavrata remembered his father’s sacrifice – when his mother left him alone, his father did not remarry and grew him with all affection and care. Feeling so grateful and indebted, Devavrata resolved to fulfil his father’s desire at any cost. He immediately approached the tribal chief. Her father repeated his condition and Devavrata agreed. He would never ascend Hastinäpura’s throne; the crown could go to Satyavati’s children. Still her father hesitated. He had heard enough about court intrigues to know that if Devavrata relinquished the throne, then Devavrataù’s children might feel cheated and oppose Satyavati’s son. The fisher-king voiced his doubts. Hearing them, Devavrata uttered a terrible vow. He would never accept a wife but would maintain life-long celibacy. In order to secure his father’s happiness, he said, he was ready to renounce all personal enjoyment. When Devavrata made that vow, flowers had rained from the sky and a thunderous voice had echoed from the heavens: “From this day his name shall be Bhisma, one of an ardous vow.”


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