9. Chitrangadha and Vichitraveerya – Undesired fruits of desire

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.9. Chitrangadha and Vichitraveerya - Undesired fruits of desire

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.

8. Bheeshm Pratigya! – A Terrible Sacrifice of a Son

Devavrata was now an adult and had been declared the heir to the kingdom. Everyone had full trust in his capabilities and Shantanu also relaxed the reigns of Hastinapur into the hands of Devarata.

One day Shantanu thought of taking a break from the daily kingdom chores and go for what Kuru kings did best – hunt! During the hunt in the forest, he reached the banks of Ganga, where a gentle breeze brought to him a heavenly fragrance. The fragrance aroused in Shantanu the desires that he had been unaware of ever since his wife Ganga left him. Shantanu realized that the source of fragrance was a woman who was ferrying across the river; daughter of the leader of fishermen. This woman was Satyavati.

Shantanu ordered his charioteer to stop the chariot and alighted from it to proceed towards Satyavati. He told Satyavati that he had fallen in love with her (Love at first sight is the trend in our generation. In those days love happened at first sniff!)

Shantanu: Marry me and be my queen. The kingdom of Hastinapur has not had a queen in quite some time.

Satyavati: Maharaj, I am not the one who can decide this on my own. If you wish to marry me, you should ask my father for my hand in marriage.

Within an hour, Shantanu and Satyavati were in the cottage of the head of the fisher-folks, Daashraaj. Shantanu told Daashraaj that he wished to marry Satyavati. Daashraaj was more than happy at knowing this but he had to refuse Shantanu. On being questioned, he said that since his daughter was destined to become a mother of kings, marrying Shantanu who had already declared Devavrata his heir would be a hindrance to that prediction. The revelation infuriated Shantanu. Even though he was madly in love with Satyavati, he could not deprive his beloved Devavrata of his rights for anything.

Shantanu: Kurus are not famous for taking back their words and depriving the rightful people of what they deserve. If you have such a condition, then I shall not marry your daughter.

Shantanu left the cottage without looking in Satyavati’s direction for even an instant. On that day, and on the following days Shantanu again felt the void that had been created ever since Ganga left him. In his old age, the void seemed to hurt more and he was also losing his capability of hiding his sorrows.

Devavrata could not see his father sad and so he tried to investigate but Shantanu never told anything. He then went to Shantanu’s charioteer expecting that the charioteer might reveal to the prince what the father was not revealing to the son. The charioteer told the entire story to Devavrata.

On the very evening, when the thick clouds were eclipsing the moon desperate to shower themselves on the city of Hastinapur, the fisher community heard the sound of armies proceeding in their direction. The fisher-folks were convinced that the audacity of their chief had succeeded in incurring Devavrata’s wrath and that he had come to savage the entire village that dared to harm his prospects of inheriting the throne.

Powerful men are usually understood by the weak.

Devavrata summoned Daashraaj, who came along with his daughter and asked him what stopped him from giving his daughter’s hand to the king of Hastinapur. Daashraaj explained the foretelling and its implications.

Devavrata: It was not wise on your part to have asked from my father what is mine, Daashraaj. My father could not promise to your grandsons the throne of Hastinapur because he has already given it to me. And if this is what is keeping my father away from happiness then I promise you that I will never sit on that throne. You can now proceed with the arrangements of the wedding. Mother Satyavati shall marry my father with no further delay.

Daashraaj: That’s very kind and brave of you my prince! History will always remember your sacrifice. But I have a question. If your father had no right to promise on your behalf, then how come you have the right to promise on the behalf of your sons? What if your sons raise swords against my grandsons for this very throne. How can I be sure of their future?8. Bheeshma Pratigya - A terrible sacrifice of a son

Devavrata: You are right dude! I cannot decide and promise on behalf of my sons. But I can certainly decide something for myself. And so to remove all your doubt and apprehensions about future of your grandsons, I decide never to marry. May Brahma, Vishnu, Mahesh hear it today; may the devas and asuras hear it today; may all the directions hear it today; may all organic and inorganic forms of matter hear it today; may earth, fire, wind and water hear it today clearly – I, Devavrata, the son of Ganga and Shantanu, pledge never to marry and father children on any woman. I SHALL LIVE WITHOUT A WIFE AND A SON AND I SHALL DIE WITHOUT A WIFE AND A SON. THIS IS MY ULTIMATE PROMISE TO YOU!!!

The pledge disturbed the rhythm of the cosmos, the clouds burst into heavy rains and the devas descended on Earth to shower Devavrata with flowers and blessings. Time had never seen such a terrible oath being taken by anyone. Time would never see such a terrible oath being taken by anyone. There were tears in the eyes of every soldier that had accompanied Devavrata. Princes were known to slaughter the weak to show off their might and here they had the mightiest of their leaders sacrificing everything for the sake of his old father and his kingdom’s future. They felt blessed to have seen the most historical moment in time.

This terrible oath, also known as Bheeshm Pratigya in Hindi, earned Devavrata the title of Bheeshm. Though Bheeshm sacrificed everything to ensure that the king of Hastinapur stayed well and so did Hastinapur, he did not foresee the implications that this terrible oath would have and how his rigidity towards his oath would cost Kuru clan dearly. There were certain things only time could tell and this was one of those.