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Arcane story of Amba & Bheeshma

Ganga
King Shantanu, a descendant of Bharata of Bharatavarsha of Kuru tribe (and ancestor of
Pandavas), was hunting for deer in the jungle when he separated from his group. His horse was
thirsty and so was he. He led the horse to the river for a drink. He saw a beautiful damsel by the
banks of the river Ganga. Are you thirsty? she asked the King. She then offered him some
water. Shantanu was taken in by her beauty and decided right there that she would be his queen.
Marry me, the King said simply. You do not know anything about me and yet you want to marry
me? I have one condition. You should not question what I do or stop me from doing what I want
to do. You should love me no less. If you can give me your word on it, I will marry you. However,
if you ever break your vow, I will go away from your life for ever, said the girl. You have my
word. It is a Kshatriyas(warriors) promise, said King Shantanu.
King Shantanu and the girl got married and she became the queen. Soon the queen gave birth to
a son. The king was very happy at the birth of his first child. The queen, however, took the child
and drowned him in the river Ganga. The King was very sad, but because of his vow he did not
stop or ask her. The queen gave birth to a second son and promptly drowned him in Ganga. The
King was very sad, but kept his word for he loved his queen dearly. And so it went on for seven
times, the queen would give birth to a son and promptly drown him. The King grew sadder with
the death of his every child. The queen gave birth to their eighth son. The King foresaw what the
queen would do. He could bear it no longer. As the queen carried the child to the river, King
Shantanu stopped her. O Queen, I love you dearly but please stop. What kind of mother are
you? You have drowned seven children of ours. I know I have broken my vow, but it was the vow
that kept me from saving my other children. I cannot let this child die too.
O King Shantanu, you have broken your vow and I will have to go away from your life. Please do
not judge me so harsh, hear my story. I am goddess Ganga. The eight sons that I bore were the
eight Vasus. Once they were having a picnic when they saw the sacred cow Nandini belonging to
Rishi Vasishtha. The wife of the youngest of the Vasus, Prabhasa, wanted to have the cow and
her husband obliged. When Nandini and her calf did not return from the pastures in the evening,
Rishi Vasishtha became concerned about them. Through his divine powers, the Rishi saw what
had happened. He grew very angry and cursed all the eight Vasus that they are born on earth as
mere mortals and go through the wheel of life (Chakra) until they attain moksha. The Vasus
pleaded the Rishi to calm down and take back his curse. An arrow that leaves the bow and words
that leave the tongue cannot be taken back. The Rishi gave them a way out. If Ganga were to be
their mother on earth and take them into her when they were born, they will be liberated from their
curse. I was doing a service to the Vasus. However, Prabhasa the youngest one has to live one
life and suffer the sorrows of this earth. This eighth child is Prabhasa. I will take him with me, but
will return him to you once he reaches the age of sixteen. You will attain higher regions of
Moksha for your service And goddess Ganga disappeared along with the little baby.
Years passed by, the King led a very austere life. He missed his wife Ganga and his son. Every
time the sorrow became too much to bear, he would stroll by the river.
One day, while he was walking the banks of Ganga, Shantanu came upon a very handsome boy
building dams with arrows and altering the flow of the river at his whim. It seemed like a child
playing with his indulgent mother. King Shantanu was impressed by the boys skill. Just then
goddess Ganga appeared before him. Shantanu, this is your son Devavrata. He has learned the
Vedas and Vendata from Rishi Vasishtha and arts and sciences from Rishi Sukra. He is skilled
archer and well versed in the craft of state. Devavratha this is your father King Shantanu. She
blessed the boy and handed him over to his father and disappeared.
Satyavathi (The Indian Cleopatra)

Shantanu courting Satyavathi Raja
Ravi Varma
King Shantanu was very happy at the
arrival of Devavratha who was soon
crowned the yuvaraj (crown prince). The
King had given up hunting after meeting
and loosing goddess Ganga. Four years
passed by, he still pined for her and would
often stroll by the banks of the river
Yamuna. One day, on one such trips, the
air suddenly filled with wonderful divine
fragrance. Shantanu traced the source to a
beautiful lady as divinely beautiful as the
fragrance.
Rishi Parasharaa had given her a boon
that emanated the divine fragrance.
Satyavathi was the daughter of the Chief
of the fishermen. She often rowed the boat
transporting weary travelers from shore to
shore. One day Rishi Parashara was
sitting in the boat with Satyavathi rowing.
The boat soon reached the middle of the
river Ganga. Rishi Parashara consulted
the position of the Sun and the time and deduced that a child born at that moment will go on to
give the humanity gems of knowledge. He pleaded Satyavathi to bear him a son.
"I am a daughter of fisherman. I smell like fish all the time. It is day time. And my father is on the
shore. Rishi Parashara told her, he will bring in clouds so that it becomes dark.
And now if I become unwed mother, who will marry me? What will become of me?" Rishi
Parashara assured her of his powers and said, "the child will be born instantly without going
through the nine months of pregnancy. You will retain your chastity after you begot the child. You
will emanate divine fragrance that no king can resist. You will soon meet the King from Bharat
clan. He will marry you. As for the child, I will take him with me and raise him. You can call for
your son anytime you need him and he will always attend to you." Satyavathi agreed and Rishi
Vyasa was born.
As promised by Rishi Parashara, Shantanu was smitten by Satyavathi's beauty and wanted to
marry her. "I am King Shantanu. Who are you O beautiful damsel? I want you to be my queen,"
said King Shantanu. "I am the daughter of chief of fishermen and my name is Satyavathi. You will
have to ask my father for my hand in marriage."
Satyavathi's father was a shrewd man. The information regarding goddess Ganga, Shantanu and
Devavrata was no secret. He wanted to guard Satyavathi's position in the palace. He replied to
King Shantanu, "You are a worthy match to my beautiful daughter. However, you must promise
me, that the child born to Satyavathi will be the next king." King Shantanu could not take away
that right from Devavrata. He declined to make the promise and returned to his Palace.
In the Palace, he could not get Satyavathi out of his mind. He was ashamed at his baffled desire
for Satyavathi and languished in loneliness. Devavrata was a very astute young man. He sensed
his father pining. He asked his father about his unhappiness and the source of his secret sorrow.
King Shantanu could not tell the whole truth to Devavratha, and he could not hold back. He
cleverly put forth his predicament, "I am indeed tortured with mental pain and anxiety. You are my
only son and you are always preoccupied with military ambitions. Life in the world is uncertain
and wars are incessant. If anything untoward befalls you our family will become extinct. Of
course, you are equal to a hundred sons. Still, those who are well read in the scriptures say that
in this transitory world having but one son is the same as having no son at all. It is, not proper that
the perpetuation of our family should depends on a single life, and above all things I desire the
perpetuation of our family. This is the cause of my anguish."

Devavrata knew he had to do some digging to find the true cause. He went to the charioteer and
asked about the places his father visited. He soon found out about Satyavathi and his father's
desire. He asked the fisherman his daughter's hand for his father. The fisherman was firm in his
demand. "You are the yuvaraj and will succeed your father as the King. Should my grandchildren
be denied the chance of being the King? I can understand your father cannot be unfair to you and
remove you as the heir apparent. This stands in the way of the union"

Without a moment' hesitation, Devavrata promised the fisherman, "I relinquish the throne for your
grandchildren. The children of my father and your daughter will the next King of Hastinapur." The
shrewd fisherman was taken aback. He was respectful but put forth his knotty doubts, "You are
the greatest of the Bharata clan, to renounce the throne. However, you are a great warrior and I
have absolutely no doubts that your children will be as great warriors as you are. What happens if
they challenge my grand kids? You do not have control over what your children will do."

Hearing this Devaratha who was bent on fulfilling his father's desire made the supreme
renunciation, "I relinquish the throne for your grandchildren, I will serve the throne of Hastinapur
all my mortal life. I make the severe vow that I will never marry and dedicate my life to unbroken
chastity."

"Bheeshma, Bheeshma, Bheeshma" the word filled the air as the gods from the heaven heard the
vow and rained flowers. It was a supreme, sever and formidable vow, and Devavratha came to be
known as Bheeshma.


Amba
King Shantanu married Satyavathi and Devavrata became Bheeshma. Shantanu and Satyavathi
had two sons, Chitrangada and Vichitravirya. Chitrangada was killed in battle heirless with the
Gandharvas. Young Vichitravirya was crowned the King and as he was a minor, Bheeshma ruled
until he came of age.
When Vichitravirya became of marriageable age, Satyavathi entrusted Bheeshma with finding
suitable bride for Vichitravirya. King of Kashi was arranging a swayamvara according to the old
Kshatriya practice for his three daughters Amba, Ambika and Ambalika to choose their husband.
The daughters of Kashi were famed for their beauty. When Bheeshma heard about it, he decided
to go there for Vichitravirya.
The Kings of Kosala,, Vanga, Pundra, Kalinga and other potential candidates were there in their
best attires. When Bheeshma reached there, all the assembled Kings and Princes thought he had
come to witness the Swayamvara as a guest. When he declined his seat as a guest, the
assembled suitors began to ridicule him not knowing that he was there for Vichitravirya. The
wisest of the Bharata clan is not wise enough to realize he is old and has forgotten his vow. The
princesses of Kashi turned their eyes away from Bheeshma.
This flamed Bheeshmas wrath. He challenged all the Kings and Princes and defeated them all.
Taking the three princesses in his chariot Bheeshma set out to Hastinapur.
On his way to Hastinapur, Bheeshma was intercepted by Shalva, the King of Saubala. He was
attached to the princess Amba. Shalva was defeated since Bheeshma was an invincible warrior.
Amba pleaded Bheeshma to spare his life and so Bheeshma let Shalva go.
Arriving at Hastinapur with the princesses, the preparations for the marriage began. Everyone
assembled for the wedding, Amba addressed Bheeshma mockingly, You are the wisest of the
Bharata clan and have read all the scriptures. I have chosen Shalva as my husband. What do the
scriptures say about it, do what is morally right.
Bheeshma acknowledged the forced abduction and Ambas argument. Vichitravirya married
Ambika and Ambalika the two younger sisters of Amba. Their sons were Dhritarashtra and
Pandu. Dhritarashtra and Gandhari had 100 sons with Duryodhana being the oldest and 1
daughter Dushala. The sons of Dhritarashtra were called the Kauravas. Pandu had 2 wives Kunti
and Madri. They had 5 sons called the Pandavas.


Bheeshma sent Amba with proper escort and respect to King Shalva. Amba was rejoiced at the
prospect of marrying Shalva. I have chosen you as my husband in my mind. I have come here to
you, so we can marry according to the sastras.Amba said to Shalva. However, Shalva refused
her proposal, Bheeshma defeated me in front of every one and carried you away. I have been
shamed and I cannot marry you. You have been won by Bheeshma, go back to him and do as he
says. I cannot marry you.
Amba came back to Hastinapur and told Bheeshma what had transpired. Bheeshma advised
Vichtrvirya to marry Amba. However, Vichitravirya refused to marry Amba saying that she is
already some one elses wife in her mind. Amba then turned to Bheeshma and asked him to
marry her. Bheeshma was sorry for Amba and the situation she was in, but he could not marry
her because of his vow. He appealed again to Vichitravirya to marry Amba and solve the tricky
problem. However, Bheeshmas attempts went in vain to change Vichitraviryas mind. Bheeshma
then suggested to Amba to go back Shalva.
Amba was too proud to go back to Shalva and grieved over her situation for four long years in
Hastinapur. At last out of sheer desperation she went back to Shalva. Shalva however, adamantly
refused to marry Amba. The lotus eyed Amba spend six years in bitter sorrow. All the beauty and
sweetness inside her turned into hatred for Bheeshma. She blamed him for the root of all her
sorrows. She then began her quest to find a warrior who would fight and kill Bheeshma. She
searched long and hard but could not find any one. She then turned to Lord Subramanian and
prayed to help find the enemy of Bheeshma. The Lord answered her prayers and gave her a
garland of ever-fresh lotus flowers. One who wears the garland will be the enemy of Bheeshma.
She took the garland and again sought to find a Kshatriya who will wear the garland. Bheeshma
was an invincible warrior and no one wanted to incur his wrath by wearing the garland. Amba was
once again dejected. Finally, she went to King Drupad and challenged all the Kshatriyas , when
none came to the front to wear the garland, she hung it by the gates of King Drupads palace and
went away to the forest.
In the forest, Amba met some ascetics who advised her to go to Parasuram for help. Amba went
in search of Parsurama. When she met him, she told him all that had transpired. Parasurama was
moved by her plight and the lack of courage amongst the Kshatriyas to champion Ambas cause.
Due to his abiding hatred towards the Kshatriya race, he challenged and fought Bheeshma. It
was a long and equally contested battle. When it seemed like no one was winning and the battle
was getting long drawn, the gods intercepted and asked both Bheeshma and Parsuramaa to
stop. Parasurama addressed Amba, Dear child, I have done everything I can with Bheeshma. I
can ask Shalva to marry you. Amba replied, I no longer have any desire to marry any one. I am
filled with hatred towards Bheeshma. I want to be avenged.
Filled with grief and rage, Amba began her penance to please Lord Shiva as all human aid had
failed. Lord Shiva appeared before her and granted her the boon that she would slay Bheeshma
in her next life. Amba was impatient to wait for the rebirth. She lit a pyre and with the hatred in her
heart hotter than pyre, she jumped into the fire.
Amba was born again as King Drupads daughter. When she grew up and saw the ever-fresh
lotus garland hanging by the palace gate, all the memories of her past life came flooding back to
her. Enraged that no one had yet worn the garland, she went and wore it herself. Drupad was
mortified, at the thought of incurring Bheeshmas wrath. His own daughter was to be Bheeshmas
enemy. He exiled her to the forest. Amba was baffled that she was born again as a girl. How
could she challenge Bheeshma to a fight and slay him. Angry at the cruelty of fate, she began her
austerities in the forest to turn into a man. After long tapasya, she transformed into a man and
became a great warrior Shikhandi.
During the war of Mahabharata, Shikhandi faced Bheeshma. Knowing that Shikhandi was born a
girl, Bheeshma refused to raise his arms against a woman as was his code of chivalry. Screened
by Shikhandi, Arjuna was able to fell Bheeshma. Bheeshma as he fell was able to tell the arrows
that came from Shikhandi and those that came from Arjuna his favorite grand sire.