Mahabharata is not the story of just a dynasty. It is not just the story of two groups fighting a horrendous war ever in the history of humankind. It is not just the story of intelligence of Yudhishthira, strength of Bhima, prowess of Arjuna, and skills of twin brothers. It is neither the story of a blind love of a father nor the story of opportunist Duryodhana. It is neither the story of friends nor of foes. It is neither the story of acumen of Vidura nor the Geeta jnana of Vāsudeva.
The story goes before the coronation of Shantanu, even before when Ganga first requested Pratipa to accept her. It goes even before when King Hasti formed Hastinapur, and even before Kuru, progenitor of Kuru dynasty became the king. It goes even before King Yayāti’s desires overpowered the youth of his son Puru, and even before King Nahusha’s arrogance rode on Saptarishis to possess Sakra’s wife. And it goes before the birth of founder of Chandravansh, Pururavas. The story starts when, Manu, the spiritual son of Brahma and great grandson of Daksha, desired for a boy but blessed with a girl Ilā.
Let us begin our journey of Mahabharata when Shantanu was coronated as king.
In the race of mighty king Bharat, Pratipa was an unrivalled king. He begat three sons Devapi, Shantanu and Bahlika. Devapi adopted the ascetic course of life and entered into woods, leaving behind all the materialistic desires. Bahlika and Shantanu became the guards of the kingdom. Shantanu took the southern part of the kingdom and Bahlika ascended to the northern. Kauravas and Pandavas were progenies of Shantanu.
Shantanu became the unrivalled ruler and he ensured the economic and military growth of the kingdom. He was fond of hunting and one day while out on hunting he encountered with a maiden with spotless beauty. Allured to mystified beauty of demoiselle sitting on the banks of river, he immediately took the decision of marrying her. He approached the beautiful woman no less than a celestial nymph and expressed his affection. He asked if she could accept him as well.
That lady was no other but Ganga, who because of a curse, had to walk on earth for one human cycle. Ganga looked at Shantanu and accepted the proposal but with the condition. The condition was firm and difficult too. She said, “I will accept you as my husband only if you promise that you will never ask me about the actions or decisions I will take in life.” Shantanu arrested by the divine beauty of the damsel couldn’t say no and accepted her as his wife. Days passed and months too. Ganga gave birth to first son of Shantanu. Shantanu was excited. He was elated. The future of his dynasty was born. The progeny who will lead the kingdom of mighty Bharat was born.
Alas! The fate was different for Shantanu. Instead of happiness, the birth of boy brought darkness to Shantanu’s life. Ganga took the newborn and drowned him in river, leaving everyone awestruck. How a mother could kill her newborn? Shantanu thought but couldn’t ask Ganga. He was bond to the shackles of his own promise he gave to Ganga. Awestruck… he started living his life…
That was not the end but the beginning of Shantanu’s miseries. Ganga impregnated second, third… and seventh son of Shantanu, ending all of their lives with same fate. Mercilessly Ganga killed all her sons as they were born. And Shantanu could do nothing. He wanted to stop, he wanted to save his sons but his promise to Ganga was bigger than his emotions. He was shattered.
When the eighth son was born, he couldn’t control his fatherly emotions as it was brim of his agonies. He walked to Ganga and said, “I will not let you kill this son of mine. He is my son, son of king of Hastinapur, the future of great dynasty. I will not let you push the future in darkness. How could you so do so even be a mother?”
Ganga smiled and said, “Lord! You broke your promise and now I cannot stay with you as your queen.” Ganga further said, “I understand your love for your son, so I promise that when your son attains his adolescence, I will return him to you.”
Shantanu left with no choice, surrendered before the wishes of Ganga. Ganga took the newborn with her. That son of Shantanu was named as Devavrata.
So, this was the story of birth of Devavrata. In next episode we will see the return of Devavrata and entry of Satyavati in Shantanu’s life. And if you are interested to know why Ganga killed her seven sons, please put a comment below and we will share the backstory of Devavrata’s birth.