Bhish­­­ma, the Virtuous
In Part VIII of our series, we see how Bishma defied death 

KK Shanmukhan

Bhishma was the son of king Santhanu and goddess Ganga. Santhanu was the son of king Pradeepa. With full vigour and adolescence, as Santhanu was wandering on the banks of river Ganga, he met with Ganga. It was love at first sight. He wooed her and entreated her to be his love. But there was a condition by Ganga. – Shantanu could never question her nor stand in her way. If he breakes this stipulation, she would leave him immediately. Love-struck Santhanu agreed to her conditions without even a second thought, as he was so captivated by her mesmerizing beauty. They became man and woman.
Meanwhile, one of the eight Vasus, Deo, under compulsion from his wife, with help of the other seven, forcefully snatched the pet cow of Sage Vasishta. The enraged saint cursed them to take birth as human beings. They repented and craved for mercy.
“All of you will be delivered from the womb of the Ganga and all the seven Vasus will be liberated as soon as they are born.” Said Vasishta. He continued, “But Deo, who actually stole the cow, will live upon the earth as a mighty warrior for long.” He gave deliverance from his curse.
No sooner did Gangadevi delivered the first boy, than she cast it off in the river. Santhanu was taken aback but could not utter a word to her. She cast off seven childre. On the birth of the eighth, as Ganga was proceeding to cast him off, Santhanu protested to her.
“Stop…stop here, why are you doing such ghastly murder of your own infants?”
“Oh King, you have had enough of me. You have breached our agreement. Let us part ways.”
She was firm. She said, “Howsoever, I am taking this boy now and will restore him to you when he completes his learning.”
The eighth child was named Devavrata. He was brought up in the forest. Saint Vasishta and goddess Ganga taught him all arts and sciences.
Many years passed by. One day as king Santhanu was walking on the banks of the river Ganges. He saw a well-built, god-like youth who was building a bund across the roaring Ganges with his arrows. As the king approched the boy, his estranged wife Ganga appeared before him. Ganga said: “King Santhanu, this is Devavrata, your son. You can take him now. He has mastered all arts and is an exponent of statecrafts. He is a man of justice. Make use of him.”
Santhanu’s heart was filled with love and joy. His son was chivalrous, magnanimous and upright.
After goddess Ganga left Santanu, he had been leading a life of celibacy. As he was strolling on the banks of the river, a captivating fragrance permeated all around the river. As the king followed the trail of the aromatic spell he reached the Dasara king’s abode.
The tribal king had a daughter, Kali, alias Satyavati. The fragrance originated from her.
Satyavati, used to help her father ferrying the travelers in a wooden boat across the river. One day during early dawn, saint Parasara wanted to reach the other side of the Ganga. It was Satyavati who was at the helm of the boat. Saint Parasara who had conquered all his senses of pleasure, became so tempted with the serene beauty of the girl. They were alone as a fog encircled them. Saint Parasara succumbed to her charm. She delivered a boy instantly and that was Vyasa. Parasara consoled her:
“You will remain a spinster for ever hereafter. Instead of the odour of fish emanating from your body, it will be the romantic smell of musk that will spread all around from you.”
Santhanu pleaded for give the hand of king Dasara’s beautiful daughter in marriage. “I am really thrilled at your request, oh King! My daughter is worthy to be your wife. But there is one condition.” he said.
“What is that?”
“It is that the child born of my daughter should be the king after you.” Santhanu never expected such a demand. To sideline the god-like Devavratha would be a grave sin. No father of some conscience can agree to this demand. The dejected king returned and spent his days in isolation.
Devavrata has been observing the change of mood of his father. He summoned the ministers and the
( be continued)