This part talks about some missing links like
* Satyavati's Past,
* The true origin of Dhiridarashtra and Pandu, and
* The birth of Vidura
We learnt that Shantanu and Satyavati had 2 sons in Chitrangada (who died young) and Vichitraveerya. Vichitraveerya had 2 sons in Dhiritarashtra and Pandu. Dhiritarashtra was born blind and Pandu was born pale and weak. There is a story behind the characteristics of these two children – which is a lesser-known story in the Mahabharata.
Vichitraveerya actually died before having any children leaving his wives Ambika and Ambalika childless. Satyavai – Vichitraveerya’s mother was distressed as this left the kingdom with no heir to the throne.
If you remember, Satyavati was Shantanu’s second wife and the characteristic that attracted Shantanu to Satyavati was her Devine Fragrance. We are now going to delve into Satyavati’s past and how Dhiritarashtra and Pandu came to being. Satyavati – as you know – was a fisherman’s daughter. When she was young, she gave a sage called Paraashara, a ride in her ferry across the Yamuna River. Taken in by Satyavati’s beauty, Paraashara fathered her son out of wedlock. Satyavati was scared as she was very young and yet unmarried. So the sage granted her 2 boons. One that her son would be born immediately without her having to go through nine long months of pregnancy and second that Satyavati would enjoy a divine and everlasting fragrance. This was the secret behind Satyavati’s fragrance which King Shantanu fell for.
The son born to Satyavati and Sage Paraashara was Vyasa – who incidentally is the author of the Mahabharata. Vyasa, having been born to Satyavati out of wedlock, never lived with his mother and spent his growing years in the forest. But he promised his mother that he would come in aid whenever she needed him.
When Vichitraveerya died without having children, Satyavati, his mother, asked Bhishma to marry the widows of Vichitravirya. Bhishma refused, reminding Satyavati of the promise he made to her father and his vow of bachelorhood. He suggested that a Brahmin could be called upon to bear children from the widows through the practice of Niyoga. In current day, it equates to the practices of Surrogacy and Insemination. According to tradition, not everyone can perform Niyoga and there were very strict rules for performing it. The Brahmin called upon for this purpose must be a Highly Revered Man and must do this for the sake of Dharma alone. He should neither claim the woman nor the resulting child as his own. The child would only be regarded as that of the Husband of the woman and not the Brahmin. To explain. Say a couple decides to have a child through artificial insemination. The Donor will not be considered the father of the child. The couple will remain to be the father and mother even though the child was conceived by other means.
Satyavati – thus calls upon Vyasa, her first born as he was truly a realized soul and a wise sage to perform Niyoga with her widowed daughters-in-law Ambika and Ambalika.
Ambika was first. She was scared and closed her eyes upon seeing Vyasa. The child born was thus blind. He was Dhiritarashtra.
Ambalika was next. She was frightened. The child born was thus pale and weak. He was Pandu.
Having failed twice, Satyavati invited Vyasa again. However, Ambika having been frightened the first time, sent her servant maid to Vyasa instead of going herself. The servant was neither scared nor pale. She was brave and did her duties to the sage with great conviction. The son born to Vyasa and the servant maid was Vidura.
Vidura was the reincarnation of Lord Yama Dharma. As a result of a curse from Sage Maandavya, Lord Yama Dharma was destined to be born as a human. This human was Vidura. Since Vidura was Lord Dharma’s incarnation, he was unparalleled in his knowledge of Dharma and Sastras and was considered a Mahatma during his lifetime. He was completely devoid of attachment and anger. However, since he was born to a servant maid, he could never become the King. I.e., He was not born of royal blood. Bhishma thus appointed Vidura as the Councellor to the King.
Dhiridarashtra was blind. Vidura was born to a maid servant. Neither of them could become Kings. Thus, Pandu became the next king of Hastinapura.
Here is another interesting point to note. Vidura was Lord Yama Dharma's incarnation. Later, we will see that Pandu's first son, Yudhishtra, was born off Lord Yama Dharma. In effect, Yudhishtra in a way, is Vidura's son.
Ancient customs and current day practices have much in common. Remarriage, Surrogacy, Insemination, children born out of wedlock, etc. have all occurred then and they occur now as well. What has changed is the loss of Dharma. Actually, Dharma and Virtues still exist today. It is just being followed by far fewer people than before. Today, our primary need in life has become self gratification. Culture, values and most importantly, Dharma and Righteousness have taken a backseat. Fortunately, our culture is so rich that there are numerous doctrines and stories that keep reminding us of the pure qualities of humanity. We merely need to devote a little bit of time in studying them so that what came naturally to our ancestors, can come to us with some practice.