MAHABHARATA Told by Sriram Raghavan

Chapter 004 - Devavrata becomes Bhishma

The story of Shantanu's marriage to Satyavati. The fisherman's condition and Devavrata takes the solemn vow to become Bhishma.

Mahabharata Chapter 004 - Devavrata becomes Bhishma - Told by Sriram Raghavan

In the years that followed, Shantanu was a happy man despite not having Ganga in his life, for he had a prince who was God Like in appearance, conduct and skill. Devavrata was soon made the heir to the throne.

One day, when Shantanu was walking by the sea, a divine fragrance blew across his face. He had never smelt anything so wonderful. He followed the fragrance to it’s source and found that it came from a beautiful girl called Satyavati. Till this moment, the king had fully restrained himself from seeking another woman to marry. His heart was filled with memories of Ganga and his prince and heir to the throne kept him content and happy. However, Satyavati’s arrival changed all that and the king was immediately drawn to her. On enquiry, he found that Satyavati was the daughter of the chief of fishermen in that area and went to speak to her father. Shantanu told the Chief that he wanted to get married to his daughter. The Chief replied “King, my daughter is a special woman and you are no doubt a worthy prospect. But I have one condition, which if you agree to, I have no objection to your wedding with my daughter.” The king asked what the condition was and the Chief of fishermen replied, “If I give my daughter in hand to you, she will be the queen. However, her children cannot become King as you already have a son born of your first wife. I ask that the Sons born to Satvavati and yourself be made the king instead of Devavrata. This is my condition.”

Shantanu was devastated. He could never do this injustice to Devavrata, the Son of Ganga. Saddened by this predicament, he quietly left the Fisherman and tried to forget Satyavati in time. As everyone knows, it is hard to remove a person from your mind once you are smitten by love. Once that feeling has entered the heart, it is near impossible to concentrate on wordly affairs. The king faced the same predicament. He was always thoughtful and depressed. On seeing this, Devavrata decided to find out why his father was in this shape. Shantanu refused to divulge anything to his son. So Devavrata investigated the matter himself by talking to Shantanu’s Charioteer and found out about Satyavati and the Fisherman Father. Devavrata - then went to see the Fisherman.

The Chief of Fisherman told Devavrata about the king’s desire and his condition. Devavrata immediately took a vow and said “I hereby give up my right to the throne. The sons born of your daughter will alone be King. This promise I make!”

Satyavati’s father was glad but he was not convinced. He said “O Prince. You are noble and you have made a promise that no prince would. However, please hear me out. You will keep your promise. I have no doubts that you will. But one day you will have children and they will certainly come in claim of their throne. No one can fight against your skills and your sons will no doubt be as skilled as you are. It is for this reason that I hesitate.”

Devavrata smiled and said, “In that case, I take another solemn vow. I shall remain unmarried and will live a life of celibacy.” Devavrata made this supreme renunciation by raising his hands and looking up at the sky. The moment he uttered these words, Gods and Angels appeared from the sky and showed flowers on Devavrata and cried “BHISHMA” “BHISHMA”.

The word Bhishma means “someone who has taken an impossible Vow and lives up to it. From that moment, Devavrata came to be known as Bhishma.

Why did Devavrata do this? Why did he give up his right to married life? And the throne? Shantanu did not ask him to do so. Devavrata did what he did for the immense love he had for his father and this unquestioned sacrifice was the way he paid respect to Shantanu. In our age, we will certainly not encounter such a situation. However, we will, in daily life, face situations where we get the opportunity to serve our parents. They could be through simple tasks. Buying Grocery. Cutting vegetables. Taking out the trash. Or they could come in slightly more complex situations like standing up for your parents when there are disagreements between them and your spouse or even your children. Maybe even a a third person who you may hesitate to antagonize. Or - When your parents are old, they will need your support and love more than ever. We may not be Bhishma, but taking Bhishma as a yard stick, we can strive to make a difference to our parents lives, for without them, we are nothing.

Bhishma took Satyavati back to the kingdom and she married King Shantanu. They were blessed with 2 sons. Chitrangada and Vichitraveerya. Vichitraveerya had 2 sons Pandu and Dhiridarashtra, who in turn were the fathers of the Pandavas and Kauravas.

But all that comes later. Now we are going to talk about Shantanu's 2 sons – Chitrangada and Vichitraveerya. Even before that, it's time for some stories within this story - which will come in the next chapter.

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