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Mahabharat Chapter 3 - Bhishma's vow

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King Santanu was very happy at the arrival of Devavratha who was soon crowned the yuvaraj (crown prince). The King had given up hunting after meeting and loosing goddess Ganga. Four years passed by, he still pined for her and would often stroll by the banks of the river Yamuna. One day, on one such trips, the air suddenly filled with wonderful divine fragrance. Santanu traced the source to a beautiful lady as divinely beautiful as the fragrance. Rishi Parashar had given her a boon that emanated the divine fragrance. Satyavati was the daughter of the Chief of the fishermen. She often rowed the boat transporting weary travelers from shore to shore. One day Rishi Parashar was sitting in the boat with Satyavati rowing. The boat soon reached the middle of the river Ganga. Rishi Parashar consulted the position of the Sun and the time and deduced that a child born at that moment will go on to give the humanity gems of knowledge. He pleaded Satyavati to bear him a son. "I am a daughter of fisherman. I smell like fish all the time. And now if I become unwed mother, who will marry me? What will become of me?" Rishi Parashar assured her of his powers and said, "Lady, the child will be born instantly without going through the nine months of pregnancy. You will emanate devine fragrance that no king can resist. You will soon meet the King from Bharat clan. He will marry you. As for the child, I will take him with me and raise him. You can call for your son anytime you need him and he will always attend to you."  Satyavati agreed and Rishi Vyasa was born.

As promised by Rishi Parasher, Santanu was smitten by Satyavati's beauty and wanted to marry her. "I am King Santatnu. Who are you O beautiful damsel? I want you to be my queen," said King Santanu. "I am the daughter of chief of fishermen and my name is Satyavati. You will have to ask my father for my hand in marriage."

Satyavati's father was a shrewd man. The information regarding goddess Ganga, Santanu and Devavrata was no secret. He wanted to guard Satayavati's position in the palace. He replied to King Santanu,"You are a worthy match to my beautiful daughter. However, you must promise me, that the child born to Satyavati will be the next king." King Santanu could not take away that right from Devavrata. He declined to make the promise and returned to his Palace.

In the Palace, he could not get Satyavati out of his mind. He was ashamed at his baffled desire for Satyavati and languished in loneliness. Devavrata was a very astute young man. He sensed his father pining. He asked his father about his unhappiness and the source of his secret sorrow. King Santanu could not tell the whole truth to Devavratha, and he could not hold back. He cleverly put forth his predicament, "I am indeed tortured with mental pain and anxiety. You are my only son and you are always preoccupied with military ambitions. Life in the world is uncertain and wars are incessant. If anything untoward befalls you our family will become extinct. Of course, you are equal to a hundred sons. Still, those who are well read in the scriptures say that in this transitory world having but one son is the same as having no son at all. It is, not proper that the perpetuation of our family should depends on a single life, and above all things I desire the perpetuation of our family. This is the cause of my anguish."

Devavrata knew he had to do some digging to find the true cause. He went to the charioteer and asked about the places his father visited. He soon found out about Satyavati and his father's desire. He asked the fisherman his daughter's hand for his father. The fisherman  was firm in his demand. " You are the yuvaraj and will succeed your father as the King. Should my grandchildren be denied the chance of being the King? I can understand your father cannot be unfair to you and remove you as the heir apparent. This stands in the way of the union "

Without a moment' hesitation, Devavrata promised the fisherman, "I relinquish the throne for your grandchildren. The children of my father and your daughter will the next King of Hastinapur."

The shrewd fisherman was taken aback. He was respectful but put forth his knotty doubts, "You are the greatest of the Bharata clan, to renounce the throne. However, you are a great warrior and I have absolutely no doubts that your children will be as great warriors as you are. What happens if they challenge my grand kids? You do not have control over what your children will do."

Hearing this Devaratha who was bent on fulfilling his father's desire made the supreme renunciation, "I relinquish the throne for your grandchildren, I will serve the throne of Hastinapur all my mortal life. I make the severe vow that I will never marry and dedicate my life to unbroken chastity."

"Bhishma, Bhishma, Bhishma" the word filled the air as the gods from the heaven heard the vow and rained flowers. It was a supreme, sever and formidable vow, and Devavratha came to be known as Bhishma.

Santanu married Satyavati and had two sons, Chitrangada and Vichitravirya. When Chitrangada died heir less and Vichitravirya married Ambika and Ambalika. Their sons were Dhritarashtra and Pandu. Dhritarashtra and Gandhari had 100 sons with Duryodhana being the oldest and 1 daughter Dushala. The sons of Dhritarashtra were called the Kauravas. Pandu had 2 wives Kunti and Madri. They had 5 sons called the Pandavas. Bhishma lived long and had the power to die whenever he wanted. He was well respected by all his grand sires and died at the end of the battle of Kurukshetra.

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