Mahabharata constantly reminds us of one thing – we can wish for something, we can try for it and we can even take brutal steps to ensure that it happens. But what actually happens is never completely in our hands.
When the news reached Shantanu that his eldest son had taken a terrible oath, he was heartbroken. He wanted Bheeshm to take the oath back but it was no ordinary oath and Bheeshm was no ordinary man. Impressed with his son’s devotion towards his father, Shantanu gave Bheeshm the boon to decide the time of his death. Bheeshm promised that the oath was taken for the happiness of his father and the security of Hastinapur so he would not leave the world unless he saw Hastinapur in safe hands.
There was resentment in the people of Hastinapur that why a promise was made to make someone else the king when the most capable of all, Bheeshm was amidst. Bheeshm ensured that his oath would not prevent his service to the kingdom. He passionately argued and convinced the citizens of Hastinapur that he was not facing any injustice, it was his own will and that he would serve the king with utmost devotion and anybody sitting on the throne would be as respectable to him as his father.
Satyavati’s father had foreseen that his daughter would be a mother of kings but he probably didn’t see that how strong or how capable they would be. Had he seen that, probably the father and daughter would not have kept the condition in front of Shantanu that made Devavrata take that terrible oath.
The effects of the oath were terrible, both in the short and long term. As a result of this oath, Shantanu was able to marry Satyavati, but his guilt never stopped eating into his health. In due course, Shantanu and Satyavati were blessed with two sons. The elder one was named Chitrangadha (this has nothing to do with Chitrangadha Singh and I am glad about it.) and the younger one was named Vichitraveerya (this suggests strangely powerful. There are speculations that he was named so because of his doubted masculinity.) A few days later, consumed by guilt and grief for his eldest son, Shantanu breathed his last and left everything behind. Bheeshm was now an unmarried man handling the family of his father that included a mother and two sons. Bheeshm took the responsibility of educating and training Chitrangadha and Vichitraveerya.
Chitrangadha grew up to be a powerful but extremely arrogant man. Of course, when you are told from your childhood that the throne belongs only to you and you see the most powerful of all warrior like Bheeshm serving as a regent, you are bound to have the illusion of superiority. He was challenged for a duel by a gandharva of the same name for sharing the name and was killed by him. The throne then ultimately went to Vichitraveerya. As his veerta was vichitra, everyone knew that the so-called king is not good for nothing.
Hastinapur’s throne now had a weakling as its king as a result of an oath which was in turn the result of a condition. And we know what happens to the kingdoms with weaklings as kings. Right? They are doomed. And so was Hastinapur supposed to be.