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.

I. Vyas and the Devas

The world had suffered a long terrible drought. It had taken its toll on millions and had rendered the Earth almost lifeless. The Indian mainland was dry, with scorching heat making it worse for life to exist. Even the 1894 drought of Champaner was nothing compared to this one.

Among the few who survived were the rishis, who, through their yogic powers had mastered the art of living for hundreds of years without food, water and even air. One such rishi was Krishna Dwaipayana. Krishna, because he was dark in complexion and Dwaipayana, because he was born on an island. He was one of the few rishis who had read and absorbed the Vedas completely.

When the drought ended and the world resurrected, he saw that the Vedas were almost alien to the modern civilization. So like a responsible citizen of Mankind, he undertook the task of re-writing and compiling the Vedas. It is only that hard work of his that inspires the writer of this blog. Anyway, this earned him the title of Ved Vyas (compiler of the Vedas).

After this exercise got over, Vyas breathed a sigh of relief. “I have finally compiled the centuries older ancient Vedic wisdom,” he thought. Then another thought passed his mind making him restless, “How would I make sure that this will be of some significance to posterity?” An idea flashed in his mind. He sought the help of the Devas, the gods who live in the sky.

The Deva summit descended on Earth and listened to Vyas’ concern.

Ved Vyas

Vyas: I want to narrate a story and I want someone to write it for me. This is a real story and it has all that the Vedas have to say. The future generations would gain Vedic wisdom from it. Years of continuous writing of the Vedas has exhausted me so I can’t write it myself. Can you help me find a writer?

Deva (anonymous): How about Ganesha? He too is yearning for some adventure these days. And since he is the son of Shiva and Shakti, his divinity is unquestionable. Why not seek divine intervention for a task so monumental and respectful?

Vyas: Supercool! Please help me and arrange a meeting with him.