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Chapter 21: King Shantanu and Ganga

Posted by Arun Mohan ~ on ~ 0 comments

There lived a King named Mahabhisha (Ikshvaku dynasty) who was very liberal and moral person. He conducted one thousand Ashwamedhas and a hundred Rajasuyas. For the merits earned during his lifetime, Mahabhisha was granted the Heaven. He enjoyed all luxuries of heaven including the dance of the Apsaras and the music of the Gandharvas. A special drink called Sura is allowed there in Heaven for him. He can even access the Kalpataru tree, Kamadhenu cow and Chintamani gem, which has the power to accomplish any wish of man.

One day, Ganga paid a visit to Indra’s sabha in the form of a woman. A gust of wind blew and it caused her thinly veiled garment to blow and her thighs were shown. All those present in the court closed their eyes to show their respect, but Mahabhisha looked at her with lust. This display of uncontrolled passion of Mahabhisha angered Indra and he cursed Mahabhisha to return to the earth. Ganga also enjoyed Mahabhisha’s brazen altitude. So Indra also cursed Ganga to leave the heaven and return only after breaking Mahabhisha’s heart. Mahabhisha was reborn in Earth as the son of King Pratipa from Kuru Dynasty. Pratipa named his son Shantanu and he grew as a handsome youth in the city of Hastinapuri. Pratipa decided to renounce the world as his sons were brave enough to rule the kingdom. Devapi was the eldest son of Pratipa, but he was unable to become a king, since he is suffering a skin disease and the rules did not allowed him to become the king due to this physical defect. So Pratipa preferred his younger son, Shantanu as his heir. After refusing to live under Shantanu, Devapi went to forest for penance.

One day, while Pratipa was doing penance on the banks of river Ganga, suddenly Ganga in the form of woman came and sat on his right thigh. Pratipa replied that since he sat on his right thigh, she wishes to become his daughter and if she sat on his left thigh, it would means that she wishes to became his wife. Pratipa asked about her desire. Ganga said that she want to became the wife of his son, Shantanu. Pratipa wished her that it will happen. Once, when Shantanu visited his father on the river bank, he told his son that a beautiful woman named Ganga will approach him and you should marry her to fulfil his wish.

Soon after some days, Shantanu saw Ganga gliding on a dolphin. When both saw each other, they fell in love instantly. Shantanu expressed his wish to marry him. Ganga agreed to marry him with a condition that he should not question her actions. She leaves him the moment he question her.  Shantanu to keep his father’s wish and also driven by Ganga’s beauty promised the condition. Both were very compatible and happy with each other’s altitudes. Times passed and Ganga gave birth to a healthy baby boy, she immediately took the newborn baby to the river and drowned him in the river. Shantanu was horrified but he didn't utter a word for this cruel action to keep the promise. She repeated her action of drowning the babies soon after giving birth for seven consecutive times. Shantanu was heartbroken but he kept quiet. Ganga became pregnant for the 8th time and as usual when she began to drown the eight child, Shantanu became angry and said to stop this pitiless action and let him live.

Ganga stopped right there and smiled. Then she said that he questioned her action and the time had come for her to leave him as Urvashi once left Pururava. She then said Shantanu about his mistake of considering her as a human and she introduced him that she is a river. All that she did was a part of two curses. One is Indra’s curse and other is Vasishtha’s curse. Indra’s curse was to break Shantanu’s heart since his earlier birth was Mahabhisha and Vasishtha’s curse was to punish the eight babies, since in their earlier birth, these eight babies were eight gods called Vasus and cursed for stealing Vasishtha’s sacred cow Nandini. Upon the request of these eight gods Vasus, Ganga became their mother. Ganga also said that the eight child saved by Shantanu will live, but he will pass through terrible life and he should not have any descendants or family. He also will not inherit shantanu’s throne and should have a shame death at the hands of a man who was actually a woman. But Shantanu argued Ganga that he will raise his son as a great warrior and he will be skilled under the martial guru, Parashurama. He even told her that Bhishma would marry and should become King. Ganga then disappeared by leaving the son to Shantanu. Shantanu named him Devavrata. Devavrata later get the name, Bhishma.

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