6. Devavrata – The Son of Ganga

Sixteen years later, after Ganga had left him, Shantanu was seated in his palace when a messenger informed that some warrior had dared to obstruct the flow of river Ganga near the capital of Hastinapur. This warrior, with his arrows, had created a barrier in the middle of the river and obstructed the flow of its waters. Shantanu was infuriated at this flagrant display of valour that was causing harm to the organisms inside the river as well as forcing the river-form of his beloved wife to be obstructed.

Shantanu immediately reached the river-bank where this nearly impossible feat was taking place. He witnessed that a young lad was practicing his archery skills on Ganga. An angry Shantanu sought clarification for this. The young lad revealed that he was just practicing his skills on the water of Ganga; by no way did he harm any organisms. But Shantanu was too impatient to listen to anything. He raised his bow and challenged the young lad to fight.

Suddenly, the waters of Ganga moved in a whirlpool, taking a human form and appearing in front of Shantanu. It was Ganga, his long-gone wife.

Maharaj, the young lad that you challenge is no enemy. He is your own son. The same son who I took away sixteen years back to return to you. He was just practicing his archery skills that he learnt from sage Parshuram. His name is Devavrata.”

“What? He’s my son? After sixteen years of isolation, today I am seeing my son. What an auspicious day this is!” Shantanu cried in happiness.

6.2 Bheeshm - The Son of Ganga“Yes Maharaj! He’s the same son for whom you broke your oath. Today I am returning him to you as my duty is over. Today, there is no one in Jambudweep (Indian Peninsula) who is more skilled and knowledgeable than Devavrata. He has learnt the scriptures from Sage Vashishta; Sage Brihaspati and Sage Shukracharya are his teachers in political science and Sage Markandeya is his spiritual guru. On my request, Sage Parshuram made an exception to teach martial arts and archery to this Kshatriya son of yours.  I hand over this son to you Maharaj!” said Ganga to Shantanu.

Turning over to her son, Ganga said, “Your father has seen a lot in his life. Make sure he is never sad with you around. You must live your life and direct your dharma towards your father and Hastinapur. It’s time for me to leave now. Whenever you feel like meeting me, just visit my banks. Your mother will always be there to guide you.” Saying this, Ganga disappeared in her own waters.

The void in Shantanu’s life was partly filled with the arrival of his capable son. Even though the love of his life was not there, at least the heir of Hastinapur was. (His new-found love is about to come in the next post though.) The father and son spent years together discussing the intricacies of kingship, politics, strategies, vedas and the history of ancestors and great kings and warriors. In due course, the young prince gained fame among the people of Hastinapur and considering his knowledge, wisdom and power, Shantanu declared Devavrata as his successor.

After seeing its king Shantanu lonely and depressed for years, the people of Hastinapur finally saw a ray of hope in the form of Devavrata – he who will become the new king and expand the boundaries of the kingdom, will begin a new family and fill the palace with new princes and princesses, the symbol of growth and happiness of the kingdom at large.

What one expects does not always come true! At times things take a different turn on their own; at times one turns them at one’s will. The destiny of Hastinapur and Devavrata were about to take a massive turn that would impact the generations. The impact of Vashishta’s curse would take its effect soon. Time, gritting its teeth in fear, was waiting for the day.

II. Vyas and Ganesha

Ganesha entered Vyas’ hermitage with great excitement. His eyes gazed around for some traces of Modak but the hermitage of one such as Vyas would not allow much hope for sweets.

***

Ganesha: I hear you need my help. What can I do for you?

Vyas: I have a story to narrate and I was wondering if you could help me pen it down. I have a whole set of latest Parker pens ready for you.

Ganesha: Oh sure! But I don’t need the pens to write. Do you see this broken tooth? Lord Parshuram said that one day you would address me to write something of massive importance and I should write it with this.

Vyas: Then I feel this is the best time you put this broken tooth to use. By the way, isn’t this broken tooth a result of his attack itself?

Ganesha: Yes. He broke it because he got angry when I stopped him from meeting my father as he was deep in meditation. Later, he felt bad and stated that this broken tooth will do something that this world will thank for eons.

Vyas: I am sure! The story that I wish to narrate is of this magnitude and the world will inherit wisdom from it till eternity. This is the story of my people, my sons and great-grandsons. It is long, it is vast and it has everything that bothers humanity.

Ganesha: OK! I will write it but on one condition. You will not take a pause while narrating this story. If you do, I will stop writing that moment itself. I don’t want that story of your family be hampered by your human prejudices.

Vyasa: I agree! But you promise me that you will not write anything unless it makes sense to you. It is pointless if it does not appeal to the divine.

Ganesha: I agree. Let’s begin!

***

Vyas began to narrate the story. This story was called Jaya, which means Victory. Later, it came to be known as the Great Story of India or The Great Indian Epic – Mahabharata.