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Gandhari was angry on learning that Kunti had become a mother of one child before her, perhaps she had conceived much earlier than Kunti. Earlier Gandhari got a boon from sage vyasa of begetting hundred sons. She can’t wait more, so she decided to force the child out of her womb. Gandhari ordered her maids to get an iron bar and strike on her belly to deliver the child. Upon Gandhari’s order, the maids started to strike her womb until the child is delivered. As a result of this strike, her womb quivered and pushed out a ball of flesh, cold as iron. Gandhari was devastated as she had expected a hundred sons according to the blessing of sage Vyasa. She then inquired Vyasa about the reason for this. The sage vyasa told her that his blessings could not have been in vain. Vyasa then instructed Gandhari’s maid to break the ball of flesh into a hundred pieces and put them in jars full of ghee. So that after two years, they will transform into human children. Gandhari told vyasa that she needs a daughter also. Vyasa agreed his desire and said the maid to cut the ball of flesh into 101 pieces and put them in jars full of ghee.

Thus after two years of patience, Gandhari decided to open the jars. When the first jar was opened the first baby was born and was named "Duryodhana". As soon as the baby started crying, the palace dogs wailed and many signs of bad omens were seen. On seeing the bad omens, Vidura advised Dhritarashtra to abandon the baby, since it brings misfortune to the Kuru clan. But Gandhari refused vidura’s advice and also said that Duryodhana will be her favorite son. At the same time, Bhima was born to Kunti in the forest. During his wife’s long pregnancy, Dhritarashtra shared bed with a maid called Sukhada and she too gave birth to Dhritarashtra’s son named Yuyutsu on the same day as Bhima and Duryodhana were born. Like Vidura, Yuyutsu is also a wise man, but disqualified from ever sitting on the throne. The second born child to Kunti was Dusshasana and the only daughter born was Dusshala (later Dusshala was married to Jayadhrata, king of Sindhu). Thus one by one, all the 101 children were born consecutively. Collectively, the sons were called the Kauravas.
Pandu after some days of his second marriage was really unhappy, since his second wife was also unable to produce a child. He then realized the fact that Kunti and Madri are highly fertile and it was his problem for being not produce a child. He is frustrated that, he would die, like his father, leaving two childless widows.

One day, Pandu went on a hunt in the forest. During the hunting, his arrow struck an antelope. When Pandu came closer, he found that he had killed an antelope while it was mating with a doe. Suddenly the antelope changed into a sage called Kindama and the doe changed into sage’s wife. Using their supernatural powers, they are converted into animals to make their love openly. Before dying, Kindama cursed Pandu that he will never enjoy the pleasure of lovemaking in his remaining life, if he does so then he will die instantly.

Birth of Kunti's Children:

A distressed Pandu felt that a man who cannot father a child is unfit to be king. So he decided to leave the kingdom and to spare his remaining life in the forest along with other sages. He then went to forest and started a lonely life. The decision made by Pandu shocked everyone and they rushed to the Pandu’s hermitage in forest and asked to rethink his decision. But Pandu refused his both wives request. So the wives, Kunti and Madri decided to live along with their husband, since it is the dharma of every woman to share joy and sorrows of husband.

In the absence of Pandu, Bhishma decided to transfer the kingdom to the blind Dhritarashtra. The decision is against the law, but bhishma has no choice as there is no heir available and it may be the destiny of Hastinapuri to be ruled by a blind king and his blindfolded queen. After a few months later, Gandhari, the wife of Dhritarashtra became pregnant and this news reached Pandu’s ears. Pandu depressed with this news and he shared his sorrow with Kunti.  Kunti consoled Pandu that there is a rule in the texts of Dharma, that a women can approach any man for begetting child and the child born should belongs to the woman’s husband. There should be no rights for the approached man to claim the child’s fatherhood. Likewise the planet Mercury becomes the son of planet Jupiter (star’s husband), even though it was the moon who conceived Mercury in the womb of the stars.

Pandu decided to take advantage of this rule. He decided to approach any sage for the purpose. But Kunti informs her husband that she had got a magic formula from sage Durvasa to beget a child from any devas. But she never informed her husband about a child born before marriage. Delighted with Kunti’s solution, Pandu said to her that he want a child from Yama, the god of dharma. Kunti used the magic formula, invoked Yama and had a child with him. He was named Yudhishtira. As per Pandu’s choice, Kunti later invoked Vayu. Thus they got Bhima, the son from Vayu (wind). This time upon the wish from Kunti, she invoked Indra to get a son. Thus the son born upon Kunti’s wish is Arjuna and he became the favorite for Kunti. Only he was referred by all as Partha, the son of Pritha (Kunti). After giving birth to Arjuna, Pandu said her to invoke a child once more from another deva. But Kunti refused it by saying that she can’t invoke once more since she already have been with four men and it is decreed in the texts of dharma. If she does so, then she will become a whore. Pandu thought that the four men Kunti was referring were he and the three gods. Kunti however hides the secret of her one son from the Sun before marriage to Pandu. She never informed the truth to anyone including his husband about this act of shame that weighed heavy on her heart.

Birth of Madris’ children:

After the three babies born, Kunti refused to invoke another deva for fourth Son. But this time Pandu asked Kunti to invoke a deva for Madri to get the baby. Kunti obeyed and upon Madri’s request she invoked the Ashwini twins for getting the twin babies. Ashwini twins are shining of sunrise and shining of sunset. Thus through Ashwini Kumaras, Pandu got the twin sons, Nakul and Sahadev. Nakula became the handsome man, whereas Sahadeva became most knowledgeable man.
The five sons of Pandu, three by Kunti and two by Madri, became known as the Pandavas. Collectively, the five sons had the five qualities of a great king - Yudhisthira as honesty, Bhima as strength, Arjuna as skill, Nakul as beauty and Sahadev as wisdom.
Vichitravirya died early in his life before he could father any children. Satyavati’s dream of being the mother of kings was shattered. Thus there is only one way for her to get the grandsons’ through the law of Niyoga.

According to Niyoga cited in the texts of dharma, the child born for her widowed daughters-in-law from any man should belong to their deceased husband if they not married any other man. So Satyavati asked Bhishma to make the widowed queens pregnant. But Bhishma is not ready to break his pledge and simply refused her. Satyavati then thought of his first son, Krishna Dwaipayana (Vyasa) to carry out her wish. Having received approval from Bhishma, Satyavati called her first born son Vyasa.

Vyasa, after hearing the crisis of their family decided to carry out his mother’s wish. He who lived as an ascetic in the forest for over fourteen years is now seen like a man with gaunt features. His hair is matted and his skin is coarse and he believed that the queens will scare on seeing him. So he asked his mother to give him one year for preparing himself to become a good looking man. But Satyavati was impatient and she informed Vyasa to perform his task immediately. Not wanting to disobey his mother, Vyasa went to Vichitravirya's first wife Ambika. But she became terrified at the sight of the sage and kept her eyes closed for the entire duration of the encounter. As a result, the child that conceived in her womb would become a blind. Satyavati disappointed with Vyasa’s prediction of child becoming blind. So she now sent Vyasa to Vichitravirya's second wife, Ambalika. She grew pale on seeing Vyasa. Vyasa then informed Satyavati that the child that conceived in Ambalika’s womb would be a pale.

The disappointed Satyavati then returned Vyasa to forest by taking a promise from him that he will return after Ambika’s delivery for impregnating her once more to get a brave child with eyesight. In time both queens Ambika and Ambalika gave birth to their sons. As per Vyasa’s prediction, Ambika gave birth to a blind child, whereas Ambalika gave birth to pale one. Ambika’s son was named as Dhritarashtra, while Ambalika’s son was named as Pandu. Vyasa later went to Satyavati to keep his promise. This time, Satyavati warned Ambika to be careful. But Ambika sent his maid that night to share bed with Vyasa. The maid made her love to him fearlessly. Next day, Vyasa told Satyavati that last night he shared bed with the Satyavati’s maid and she will beget a healthy and wise child who would be a replica of dharma. In time, the child was born and is later named Vidura. Vidura became the half-brother to the heirs, Dhritarashtra and Pandu of Hastinapura. Vidura was none other than Yama, the god of death incarnated in earth due to a curse.

The curse that led Yama to incarnate in earth is explained below.

Once, a set of robbers took shelter in the hermitage of sage Mandavya after robbery. Mandavya who was at that time lost in penance, totally unconscious of robbers’ presence in his hermitage. King’s guards found the robbers in Mandavya’s hermitage. So Mandavya was accused for protecting robbers by the guards, despite being unknown. They punished the sage and was tortured and impaled. But after the renounce of sage from world, he appeared before Yama, lord of death. Yama inquired about his sufferings on earth. The sage told his tortures for wrong reason. But the Yama said that his suffering was repayment for torturing birds and bees in his childhood. Mandavya protested the Yama’s taking on crimes committed in childhood. But Yama made the verdict by saying that it is due to law of karma. An angry Mandavya then cursed Yama that he would take birth as a man and suffer the fate of becoming a king, despite having all the qualities of a king. Thus Vidura was later born in Hastinapuri and he would not become the king even though wiser than his half-brothers.

Dhritarashtra, Pandu and Vidura received education under the guidance of Bhishma. Dhritarashtra was strong, Pandu was good at archery and Vidura was ever wise. Bhishma eventually had the task of choosing brides for them. Yadava council in Mathura was ruled by the descendents of Yadu. It is located on the banks of the river Yamuna and also south to Hastinapuri. King Kuntibhoja, belonging to Kunti Kingdom adopted a daughter called Pritha from Shurasena of Yadava council. Kuntibhoja renamed Pritha to Kunti. When Kunti was of marriageable age, her adopted father Kuntibhoja conducted a swayamvara for his daughter. Kunti chose Pandu as her husband, who was also present at the event.

Around the same time, Dhritarashtra wedded Gandhari, who belongs to Gandhara Kingdom. At first she did not knew that her husband was blind, but after realized his blindness, she decided to marry him without any hesitation. She then blindfolds herself to pay the respect to her husband and also to share his sufferings. According to the laws, one can marry for second if his first wife was infertile. Believing that Kunti is infertile, Pandu marries once again to Madri, who was the sister of Shalya. Kunti had proof of his fertility, since she had secretly given birth to a child before marriage. But Kunti remained silent for the fulfillment of her husband’s wish to marry second and also to avoid her premarital liaison.

Dhritarashtra was the eldest of Vichitravirya’s children for becoming the next king. But he was forbidden from sitting on the throne, since he is blind and the rules did not allowed him to become the king due to this physical defect. So Pandu was made king instead, just as earlier Shantanu succeeded over Devapi. Dhritarashtra who was hurt with the decision, but he never expressed his protest and obeyed the laws. At the night of Pandu’s succession to the throne, Dhritarashtra expressed his feelings to his wife. He then told his wife to make a son quickly before Pandu makes one, so that he can regain the lost kingdom from his brother.
Soon after the death of Shantanu, Bhishma took the care of his father’s second wife and her two sons. Satyavati, the second wife of Shantanu wanted her sons to grow up fast, marry and to hand over the rule to her sons. They grew under the guidance of Bhishma. But the elder son of Satyavati, Chitrangada was killed in battle with a gandharva before marriage. Chitrangada was an arrogant man and he brought his own death by challenging to a duel by a Gandharva of the same name. Vichitravirya thus became the next heir and was suitably crowned king. But he was a minor, so the bhishma governed the kingdom in his name until he reached the age.

When Vichitravirya reached his adolescence, bhishma searched for a suitable bride for him. He heard that the king of Kasi was organizing a swayamvara for his three daughters - Amba, Ambika and Ambalika. No invitation had been sent to Vichitravirya as the king thought he was an unfit groom for any woman. This irked bhishma as he believed that the absence of an invitation caused an insult to the dignity of his family. He rode into Kashi and abducted the three princesses in the swayamvara ceremony. Salva, the king of the Saubala and the love interest of Amba tried to stop him, but he was defeated by bhishma and took the three princesses in his chariot to Hastinapara. He then gave the three princesses to Vichitravirya.

Amba begged both Vichitravirya and Bhishma for leaving her as she was in love with Shalva. Feeling sorry for her, Bhishma let her go to the man she loved. But Shalva refused to take back Amba, since bhishma defeated him and had taken away. Shalva was a man with right perception, so he is disgraced in taking back a girl as charity after defeat. He returned Amba to Hastinapara, but Vichitravirya sent her away as he doesn’t want to take back once given. Amba then went to Bhishma and demanded that he take her as his wife. Since she believed that bhishma is the cause for her destiny. Bhishma would hear none of this and he said her about his oath that prevents him from being with any woman. Then he said Amba to leave him and to select her own way, since neither Shalva nor Vichitravirya accepted her.

Amba was hurt with the words of Bhishma and she then spent six bitter years in sorrow and baffled hope. He then decided to take revenge against bhishma for ruining her life. She resorted to hard austerities to get the grace of Lord Subrahmanya. Due to her strict penance, the six-faced lord appeared in front of her and presents her a garland of ever-fresh lotuses and said her that anyone wearing the garland would become the cause of Bhishma's death. Amba then went to several foremost warriors in seek of fight and kill bhishma with the help of wearing this garland. But all kshatriyas feared bhishma, so they paid no heed to her appeal. Finally, she went to King Drupada, who also refused to declare a war with bhishma. Then she hung the garland of ever-fresh lotuses at Drupada's fort door and went away to forest for penance. Some ascetics she met in the forest advised her to tell her sorrow to the great warrior, Parasurama who was also the Bhishma’s teacher.

On hearing the sad story of Amba, Parasurama was shocked and instantly challenged his student to a battle. A dreadful fight followed which lasted for several days. It was a lengthy and equal combat between the two greatest warriors of the era. Finally, Parashurama gave up the battle and asked Amba that no one can kill him unless he wants to die. If this fight continues, then we want to release deadly weapons that result in the destruction of world.

Consumed with grief and fury, Amba took a vow that she would not eat or sleep until the gods grace her in killing Bhishma. She then went to the Himalayas and stood on one foot on top of a hill for days until Shiva (the destroyer) graced her. Shiva appeared in front of him and said that she would be the cause of Bhishma’s death but only in her next life. Amba was impatient for that rebirth, so she suddenly put an end to her life by leaping into a pit of fire. Later she was reborn in the household of Drupada, king of Panchala. While in her childhood itself, she saw the garland of never-fading flowers at the fort door and coiled it around her neck. Nobody touched the garland and it remained there untouched by anyone in the fear. After hearing that she put the garland in her neck, King Drupada sent his daughter in exile out to the forest for practicing austerities. But by the time passed, she transformed into a male warrior called Shikhandi.

Note: The first decision made by Bhishma in his life that went wrong was Amba's tragedy. Bhishma was a person who was blinded by his traditional beliefs, which resulted in his failure of judging right from wrong. The second sin that he did was keeping mum when his own daughter-in-law, Draupadi was getting disrobed by the Kauravas. Later he paid its result by his own death in the hands of Shikhandi.
Devavrata grew up to be a beautiful crown prince and he was trained under the martial guru, Parashurama. He also studied the Vedas and Dharma Shastras. The natives of Hastina-puri respected him and looked to the time when he would be king. But it never happened due to various reasons.

One day King Shantanu during hunting in a spring season saw Satyavati near the river, Ganga. Due to the season, trees and plants were flourished with flowers. In the eyes of king, Satyavati also seemed like a blooming flower with a fragrant body. The king again fallen in love towards a woman. He expressed his desire of marrying her. Satyavati forward a condition to Shantanu in order to marry him as the Ganga earlier did to him. The condition is that he should promise her that only her children would be his heirs. Shantanu got in trouble as he did not know how to convince Satyavati as Devavrata is already declared as the crown prince of Hastina-puri. Devavrata noticed his father’s depression and when he learnt the reason for his father’s sadness, he went to Satyavati and said to marry his father and he is ready to renounce his royal heir of the kingdom.

But Satyavati’s father was not satisfied with this, since he believed that there are chances for fight between Satyavati’s and Devavrata’s children for the kingdom. Devavrata understood the intention of Satyavati’s father and without any regret, he took the oath that he will never marry and also never father a child. Devavrata’s oath and his sacrifice for his father stunned all the creatures of the universe. Devas showered him with flowers and had given a new name, Bhishma since no one will took this kind of most terrible vow. Also Devas felt so sorry for Devavrata, since he wants to live without any successors and was destined to live forever in the land of the dead across the river Vaitarni. So Devas gave a boon for Bhishma that he would have the power to choose the time of his own death.

Shantanu later married Satyavati. In due course, Satyavati gave birth to two sons of Shantanu. They were named Chitrangada and Vichitravirya. Soon after, Shantanu died leaving his wife and her sons in the care of Bhishma.

Matsyagandhi, the daughter of Uparichara Vasu of Chedi Kingdom grew up into a beautiful young woman. One day, the sage Parashara arrives near the river and asked the fisherman to cross him across the river by his boat. Since the fisherman was busy, he told his daughter Matsyagandhi to ply the boat for Parashara. On the way, Parashara got attracted to Matsyagandhi and gazed at her. Matsyagandhi continued the rowing without noticing sage. Due to the sweet breeze and pleasant nature, Matsyagandhi hummed a song. By the way, the boat reached almost at the middle of the river. Suddenly she realized the fact that the sage was staring at her. Parashara expressed his desire of lust. She felt uncomfortable and told him that he was just a daughter of mere fisherman and she will lose everything if her virginity was lost. Also it is not good for a sage like Parashara to be fascinated by her. But Parashara, out of his love convinced her by giving her two boons. One is her smell which is like a fish will change to flower’s smell and another is she would give birth to his son and then regains her virginity.

Soon thereafter both parted. Matsyagandhi carried the sage's child. She then given birth to a dark child and named him Krishna Dwaipayana. Krishna Dwaipayana later got the name, Vyasa. Vyasa in his infant age went to the forest for beginning the Tapas by giving his mother, a promise that he will return to her whenever she remembers him. Matsyagandhi was not able to stop his child from that. Matsyagandhi later came to be called Satyavati. She continued to live with her foster father and she again became virgin and also a fragrant woman with the power of boon given by sage Parasara.

Vyasa then became a celebrated sage. He is the one, who written and classified the Vedas and also several Puranas. Vyasa is also the compiler of the great epic, Mahabharata.


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