This is a story of remote past. Santanu was a great king. He was good, wise and just. He loved his subjects. People had great respect for him. He was his own example. He incarnated the great Indian tradition.
Ganga agreed to such a marriage on her own condition “Firstly the king should not ever ask to know her parentage and identity which Ganga would like to do.”
The king was deeply in love with her at first sight. He was desperate. He could not foresee the dark side of the terms. He said simply “yes”. Santanu agreed to whatever Ganga said. That the breach of condition would end in their separation was also agreed to by the king.
Ganga was indeed divine. She was extremely devoted to the king; she served him with love and affection. King’s days flew like moments in her company. Even a year had passed without the feel of it. He also forgot his promise to Ganga by the by. Ganga gave birth to a son. The king was very happy to look at his heir apparent.
He very fondly looked at his child. The very night Ganga carried the baby to the river. Santanu felt disturbed.
He followed the queen. Before the king could know what was happening, she had thrown the baby into the river.
The King could not believe what he saw. He was about to ask her to explain such conduct. But was reminded of his promise. Both walked back into the palace in silence. The king kept brooding over the incident.
However, this event did not lessen the king’s love for his queen. The father in him only thought “ How could a mother kill her own child ? Is she a witch ?” Nevertheless the King forgot the incident, till it recurred. A second son child was born. He was also carried in the same way to the river like the first one, and got killed. Santanu became worried, but for his promise could not speak a word to his wife. He felt depressed.
Ganga gave birth to seven sons, each one of them was thrown into the river.
When the queen gave birth to her eighth son, Santanu resisted the new born from meeting the same fate. He stopped Ganga from throwing the child into the river. He asked her – “Do you ever think of what you are doing?”
Ganga got angry with him. She decided not to stay for a moment with Santanu. Santanu loved Ganga very much. He entreated Ganga not to leave him. He was grief-stricken. Ganga told him, that she would return to her abode, since she had finished her task here on earth. While thus parting from Santanu for good, Ganga explained to him what her task was on earth.
“Long long ago there were Vasus eight in numbers called as Ashtavasus. They were demigods, superior to man but inferior to God. Vasistha was a great hermit. His cow was stolen by the youngest of the Vasus namely Pravash. All other Vasus made the plan. Vasistha was infuriated at human beings. For the Vasus it was a degradation. They fell prostrate at the feet of Vasistha praying to him for rescue from the curse. They entreated for forgiveness. The sage, however did not relent. He mitigated their suffering by saying “the seven Vasus would live on earth only for a few hours, but Prabhas would live his full-life.” These Astha –vasus were born to queen Ganga on their own request. Ganga had agreed to throw them into the river as soon as they were born, to end their curse. Prabhas, the last of the Vasus, was only to live his full-life. Accordingly, Ganga threw her children till the last one, the seventh child was throw to the river. As soon as this store ended Ganga disappeared after promising him that she would entrust the eighth child to the King’s care later, on completion of his education.
Without Ganga, Santanu felt desolate. He felt very very lonely. The kingdom was nothing for him. The sweet memories of the past with Ganga overcame him. Time flew on. Seven years later, the King came across an awesome sight that the river Ganga was divided by an arrow barricade raised by a young boy. He was attracted towards him.
Suddenly Ganga appeared before the King and told him, “He is your son Dababrata, grown under my care, he has completed his training in warfare and archery under Parsuram. His education is complete. Take the boy to your care and love. He is not an ordinary boy. He will earn his fame and power as a great man. “may you groom him perfectly.”
Ganga disappeared. Santanu’s joy knew no bounds. He embraced his own child. The boy was taken to the palace with pomp and ceremony. The boy was reared with, all royal style.
Debabrata grew up as a brave man. He could tide over any problem. A tutor was appointed by the King for his education. He taught him all Sashtras. Debabrata for knowledge. He loved adventure and conquest. He had indeed inherited the hegemony of his father. Debabrata with great devotion was attached to his father, to a fault. In his age he was without a match.
Santanu was happy to crown Debabrata as the heir apparent.
Once Santanu had gone on a hunting expedition. He came across the sight of a beautiful girl ferrying the boat in a river. Her beauty was unspeakable. Santanu was forlorn without Ganga. His mind was fixed on the girl.
She was the daughter of Dasa Raja, a King of fishermen. Santanu sent a messenger to her father asking her hand in marriage. Dasa Raja agreed to give his daughter in marriage provided the king would agree to make her the queen and her sons the future Kings. Santanu found the conditions impossible as they would deprive Debabrata of the throne. How could he agree to the conditions of Dasa Raja ? Debabrata had been already crowned as heir prince. There were none to equal to Debabrata. So Santanu decided to go without Satyabati. It was a forgotten chapter. Debabrata intervened. He agreed to all the conditions of Satyabati’s father.
This decision by Debabrata to lead a single life for his father’s happiness pleased the Gods. They showered flowers from heaven on Debabrata. Henceforth Debabrata became Bhisma, with his unswerving vow. The man who never breaks his own promises is a “Bhisma.”
Debabrata came back to the palace. He performed the marriage of Satyabati and the King. Houdreds of citizens gathered. In the presence everyone once again, he proclaimed that he had given up his rights and claims to the throne.
Being highly pleased with the sacrifice of his son, Santanu embraced Bhisma and blessed him with a boon that “he would live till he “desires”. He told his son, “Let not death come to you as long as you don’t want it.”