Friday, February 22, 2008

Adi Parva - Sambhava Parva 36

"Vaisampayana said, 'The monarch Santanu, the most adored of the gods and
royal sages, was known in all the worlds for his wisdom, virtues, and
truthfulness (of speech). The qualities of self-control, liberality,
forgiveness, intelligence, modesty, patience and superior energy ever
dwelt in that bull among men, viz., Santanu, that great being endued with
these accomplishments and conversant with both religion and profit, the
monarch was at once the protector of the Bharata race and all human
beings. His neck was marked with (three) lines, like a conch-shell; his
shoulders were broad, and he resembled in prowess an infuriated elephant.
It would seem that all the auspicious signs of royalty dwelt in his
person, considering that to be their fittest abode. Men, seeing the
behaviour of that monarch of great achievements came to know that virtue
was ever superior to pleasure and profit. These were the attributes that
dwelt in that great being--that bull among men--Santanu. And truly there
was never a king like Santanu. All the kings of the earth, beholding him
devoted to virtue, bestowed upon that foremost of virtuous men the title
of King of kings. And all the kings of the earth during the time of that
lord-protector of the Bharata race, were without woe and fear and anxiety
of any kind. And they all slept in peace, rising from bed every morning
after happy dreams. And owing to that monarch of splendid achievements
resembling Indra himself in energy, all the kings of the earth became
virtuous and devoted to liberality, religious acts and sacrifices. And
when the earth was ruled by Santanu and other monarchs like him, the
religious merits of every order increased very greatly. The Kshatriyas
served the Brahmanas; the Vaisyas waited upon the Kshatriyas, and the
Sudras adoring the Brahmanas and the Kshatriyas, waited upon the Vaisyas.
And Santanu residing in Hastinapura, the delightful capital of the Kurus,
ruled the whole earth bounded by seas. He was truthful and guileless, and
like the king of the celestials himself conversant with the dictates of
virtue. And from the combination in him of liberality, religion and
asceticism, he acquired a great good fortune. He was free from anger and
malice, and was handsome in person like Soma himself. In splendour he was
like the Sun and in impetuosity of valour like Vayu. In wrath he was like
Yama, and in patience like the Earth. And, O king, while Santanu ruled
the earth, no deer, boars, birds, or other animals were needlessly slain.
In his dominions the great virtue of kindness to all creatures prevailed,
and the king himself, with the soul of mercy, and void of desire and
wrath, extended equal protection unto all creatures. Then sacrifices in
honour of the gods, the Rishis, and Pitris commenced, and no creature was
deprived of life sinfully. And Santanu was the king and father of all--of
those that were miserable and those that had no protectors, of birds and
beasts, in fact, of every created thing. And during the rule of the best
of Kurus--of that king of kings--speech became united with truth, and the
minds of men were directed towards liberality and virtue. And Santanu,
having enjoyed domestic felicity for six and thirty years, retired into
the woods.

"And Santanu's son, the Vasu born of Ganga, named Devavrata resembled
Santanu himself in personal beauty, in habits and behaviour, and in
learning. And in all branches of knowledge worldly or spiritual his skill
was very great. His strength and energy were extraordinary. He became a
mighty car-warrior. In fact he was a great king.

"One day, while pursuing along the banks of the Ganges a deer that he had
struck with his arrow, king Santanu observed that the river had become
shallow. On observing this, that bull among men, viz., Santanu, began to
reflect upon this strange phenomenon. He mentally asked why that first of
rivers ran out so quickly as before. And while seeking for a cause, the
illustrious monarch beheld that a youth of great comeliness, well-built
and amiable person, like Indra himself, had, by his keen celestial
weapon, checked the flow of the river. And the king, beholding this
extraordinary feat of the river Ganga having been checked in her course
near where that youth stood, became very much surprised. This youth was
no other than Santanu's son himself. But as Santanu had seen his son only
once a few moments after his birth, he had not sufficient recollection to
identify that infant with the youth before his eyes. The youth, however,
seeing his father, knew him at once, but instead of disclosing himself,
he clouded the king's perception by his celestial powers of illusion and
disappeared in his very sight.

"King Santanu, wondering much at what he saw and imagining the youth to
be his own son then addressed Ganga and said, 'Show me that child.' Ganga
thus addressed, assuming a beautiful form, and holding the boy decked
with ornaments in her right arm, showed him to Santanu. And Santanu did
not recognise that beautiful female bedecked with ornaments and attired
in fine robes of white, although he had known her before. And Ganga said,
'O tiger among men, that eighth son whom thou hadst some time before
begat upon me is this. Know that this excellent child is conversant with
all weapons, O monarch, take him now. I have reared him with care. And go
home, O tiger among men, taking him with thee. Endued with superior
intelligence, he has studied with Vasishtha the entire Vedas with their
branches. Skilled in all weapons and a mighty bowman, he is like Indra in
battle. And, O Bharata, both the gods and the Asuras look upon him with
favour. Whatever branches of knowledge are known to Usanas, this one
knoweth completely. And so is he the master of all those Sastras that the
son of Angiras (Vrihaspati) adored by the gods and the Asuras, knoweth.
And all the weapons known to the powerful and invincible Rama, the son of
Jamadagni are known to this thy illustrious son of mighty arms. O king of
superior courage, take this thy own heroic child given unto thee by me.
He is a mighty bowman and conversant with the interpretation of all
treatises on the duties of a king.' Thus commanded by Ganga, Santanu took
his child resembling the Sun himself in glory and returned to his
capital. And having reached his city that was like unto the celestial
capital, that monarch of Puru's line regarded himself greatly fortunate.
And having summoned all the Pauravas together, for the protection of his
kingdom he installed his son as his heir-apparent. And O bull of
Bharata's race, the prince soon gratified by his behaviour his father and
the other members of the Paurava race: in fact, all the subjects of the
kingdom. And the king of incomparable prowess lived happily with that son
of his.

"Four years had thus passed away, when the king one day went into the
woods on the bank of the Yamuna. And while the king was rambling there,
he perceived a sweet scent coming from an unknown direction. And the
monarch, impelled by the desire of ascertaining the cause, wandered
hither and thither. And in course of his ramble, he beheld a black-eyed
maiden of celestial beauty, the daughter of a fisherman. The king
addressing her, said, 'Who art thou, and whose daughter? What dost thou
do here, O timid one?' She answered, 'Blest be thou! I am the daughter of
the chief of the fishermen. At his command, I am engaged for religious
merit, in rowing passengers across this river in my boat.' And Santanu,
beholding that maiden of celestial form endued with beauty, amiableness,
and such fragrance, desired her for his wife. And repairing unto her
father, the king solicited his consent to the proposed match. But the
chief of the fishermen replied to the monarch, saying, 'O king, as soon
as my daughter of superior complexion was born, it was of course,
understood that she should be bestowed upon a husband. But listen to the
desire I have cherished all along in my heart. O sinless one, thou art
truthful: if thou desirest to obtain this maiden as a gift from me, give,
me then this pledge. If, indeed, thou givest the pledge, I will of course
bestow my daughter upon thee for truly I can never obtain a husband for
her equal to thee.'

"Santanu, hearing this, replied, 'When I have heard of the pledge thou
askest, I shall then say whether I would be able to grant it. If it is
capable of being granted, I shall certainly grant it. Otherwise how shall
I grant it.' The fisherman said, 'O king, what I ask of thee is this: the
son born of this maiden shall be installed by thee on thy throne and none
else shall thou make thy successor.'

"Vaisampayana continued, 'O Bharata, when Santanu heard this, he felt no
inclination to grant such a boon, though the fire of desire sorely burnt
him within. The king with his heart afflicted by desire returned to
Hastinapura, thinking all the way of the fisherman's daughter. And having
returned home, the monarch passed his time in sorrowful meditation. One
day, Devavrata approaching his afflicted father said, 'All is prosperity
with thee; all chiefs obey thee; then how is it that thou grievest thus?
Absorbed in thy own thoughts, thou speakest not a word to me in reply.
Thou goest not out on horse-back now; thou lookest pale and emaciated,
having lost all animation. I wish to know the disease thou sufferest
from, so that I may endeavour to apply a remedy.' Thus addressed by his
son, Santanu answered, 'Thou sayest truly, O son, that I have become
melancholy. I will also tell thee why I am so. O thou of Bharata's line,
thou art the only scion of this our large race. Thou art always engaged
in sports of arms and achievements of prowess. But, O son, I am always
thinking of the instability of human life. If any danger overtake thee, O
child of Ganga, the result is that we become sonless. Truly thou alone
art to me as a century of sons. I do not, therefore, desire to wed again.
I only desire and pray that prosperity may ever attend thee so that our
dynasty may be perpetuated. The wise say that he that hath one son hath
no son. Sacrifices before fire and the knowledge of the three Vedas
yield, it is true, everlasting religious merit, but all these, in point
of religious merit, do not, come up to a sixteenth part of the religious
merit attainable on the birth of a son. Indeed, in this respect, there is
hardly any difference between men and the lower animals. O wise one, I do
not entertain a shadow of doubt that one attains to heaven in consequence
of his having begotten a son. The Vedas which constitute the root of the
Puranas and are regarded as authoritative even by the gods, contain
numerous proof of this. O thou of Bharata's race, thou art a hero of
excitable temper, who is always engaged in the exercise of arms. It is
very probable that thou wilt be slain on the field of battle. If it so
happen, what then will be the state of the Bharata dynasty, It is this
thought that hath made me so melancholy. I have now told thee fully the
causes of my sorrow.'

"Vaisampayana continued, 'Devavrata who was endued with great
intelligence, having ascertained all this from the king, reflected within
himself for a while. He then went to the old minister devoted to his
father's welfare and asked him about the cause of the king's grief. O
bull of Bharata's race, when the prince questioned the minister, the
latter told him about the boon that was demanded by the chief of the
fishermen in respect of his daughter Gandhavati. Then Devavrata,
accompanied by many Kshatriya chiefs of venerable age, personally
repaired to the chief of the fishermen and begged of him his daughter on
behalf of the king. The chief of the fishermen received him with due
adorations, and, O thou of Bharata's race, when the prince took his seat
in the court of the chief, the latter addressed him and said, 'O bull
among the Bharatas, thou art the first of all wielders of weapons and the
only son of Santanu. Thy power is great. But I have something to tell
thee. If the bride's father was Indra himself, even then he would have to
repent of rejecting such an exceedingly honourable and desirable proposal
of marriage. The great man of whose seed this celebrated maiden named
Satyavati was born, is, indeed, equal to you in virtue. He hath spoken to
me on many occasions of the virtues of thy father and told me that, the
king alone is worthy of (marrying) Satyavati. Let me tell you that I have
even rejected the solicitations of that best of Brahmarshis--the
celestial sage Asita--who, too, had often asked for Satyavati's hand in
marriage. I have only one word to say on the part of this maiden. In the
matter of the proposed marriage there is one great objection founded on
the fact of a rival in the person of a co-wife's son. O oppressor of all
foes, he hath no security, even if he be an Asura or a Gandharva, who
hath a rival in thee. There is this only objection to the proposed
marriage, and nothing else. Blest be thou! But this is all I have to say
in the matter of the bestowal or otherwise, of Satyavati.'

"Vaisampayana continued, 'O thou of Bharata's race, Devavrata, having
heard these words, and moved by the desire of benefiting his father thus
answered in the hearing of the assembled chiefs, 'O foremost of truthful
men, listen to the vow I utter! The man has not been or will not be born,
who will have the courage to take such a vow! I shall accomplish all that
thou demandest! The son that may be born of this maiden shall be our
king.' Thus addressed, the chief of the fishermen, impelled by desire of
sovereignty (for his daughter's son), to achieve the almost impossible,
then said, 'O thou of virtuous soul, thou art come hither as full agent
on behalf of thy father Santanu of immeasurable glory; be thou also the
sole manager on my behalf in the matter of the bestowal of this my
daughter. But, O amiable one, there is something else to be said,
something else to be reflected upon by thee. O suppressor of foes, those
that have daughters, from the very nature of their obligations, must say
what I say. O thou that art devoted to truth, the promise thou hast given
in the presence of these chiefs for the benefit of Satyavati, hath,
indeed, been worthy of thee. O thou of mighty arms, I have not the least
doubt of its ever being violated by thee. But I have my doubts in respect
of the children thou mayst beget.'

"Vaisampayana continued, 'O king, the son of Ganga, devoted to truth,
having ascertained the scruples of the chief of the fishermen, then said,
moved thereto by the desire of benefiting his father, 'Chief of
fishermen, thou best of men, listen to what I say in the presence of
these assembled kings. Ye kings, I have already relinquished my right to
the throne, I shall now settle the matter of my children. O fisherman,
from this day I adopt the vow of Brahmacharya (study and meditation in
celibacy). If I die sonless, I shall yet attain to regions of perennial
bliss in heaven!'

"Vaisampayana continued, 'Upon these words of the son of Ganga, the hair
on the fisherman's body stood on end from glee, and he replied, 'I bestow
my daughter!' Immediately after, the Apsaras and the gods with diverse
tribes of Rishis began to rain down flowers from the firmament upon the
head of Devavrata and exclaimed, 'This one is Bhishma (the terrible).'
Bhishma then, to serve his father, addressed the illustrious damsel and
said, 'O mother, ascend this chariot, and let us go unto our house.'

"Vaisampayana continued, 'Having said this, Bhishma helped the beautiful
maiden into his chariot. On arriving with her at Hastinapura, he told
Santanu everything as it had happened. And the assembled kings, jointly
and individually, applauded his extraordinary act and said, 'He is really
Bhishma (the terrible)!' And Santanu also, hearing of the extraordinary
achievements of his son, became highly gratified and bestowed upon the
high-souled prince the boon of death at will, saying, 'Death shall never
come to thee as long as thou desirest to live. Truly death shall approach
thee, O sinless one, having first obtained thy command.'"

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