Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Glimpses from Mahabharata # 1 - King Shantanu

Owing to the tremendous response from friends and followers of the blog to the Savitri story, am planning to run one more month of stories and glimpses from Mahabharata through November. Will try to cover some interesting characters, stories, plots and morals from this great epic. Will start with the origin or roots of Mahabharata - commencing from Shantanu, Bhishma and others.

Long long ago, there lived a king by the name of "Shantanu" in Hastinapura. He was wise, kind and just. All the citizens loved him and respected him. The river Goddess Ganga was his first wife. Shantanu had met Ganga at the riverbank, fallen in love with her.

But then, Ganga had laid down certain conditions to say "Yes" to his proposal and had warned him that whatever she did, he was not to counter - question her or ask for an explanation to what she did. So desperate was the king to marry her that without a moment's hesitation, he agreed to obey her conditions.

Ganga was a beautiful woman. She was also a devout wife and looked after the king with love and affection. They were so happy that Shantanu even forgot that a year had already passed. He also forgot about his promise to Ganga.

Meanwhile Ganga gave birth to a baby boy. The king's happiness knew no bound as he fondly looked at his heir. But his joy was short-lived. The same night Ganga carried the baby and headed towards the river.

Shantanu was perplexed. So he followed her. By the time he could realize her intentions she had thrown the baby into the river. Shantanu was about to ask her the reason attitude when he remembered his promise to her at the time of their marriage. He could not question her about anything. Both of them returned to the palace silently.

Even after this incident Shantanu's love for Ganga did not diminish in any way. But he was perplexed about her behavior. How could she kill her own child? Was she a demon or a woman, he wondered. Nevertheless, he decided to forget about this incident and continued to lead a happy life with Ganga.

Subsequently, Ganga gave birth to another baby boy. The baby met a similar fate as the first born, Shantanu turned pale with worry. But still he did not have the courage to question Ganga. He felt very sad and depressed.

Ganga gave birth to seven baby boys, one year after the another. But all the babies were thrown into the river after their birth. And it was none other than their own mother who killed them.

When Ganga gave birth to a baby boy for the eighth time, Shantanu could no longer bear the situation. By then, he had already been a dejected man. When Ganga was about to throw the newborn into the river, Shantanu stopped her and asked her. "Do you know what you are doing? Are you a demon or a devil? You have killed seven sons of ours. I can no longer bear it. I will save at least this child." He could not control his emotions.

Ganga was angry with Shantanu because he dared question her actions. "I will not live with you even for another moment" she said. Shantanu loved Ganga very much. He was grief-stricken. He begged and pleaded with her not to desert him. But Ganga told the king that she had to return to her abode as she had fulfilled her task upon the earth. She then explained to Shantanu what her task was.

(The answer to this lies in understanding another sequence of events - which will form part of tomorrow's post)..

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