Vasishta, the son of Varuna, the God of Rains, was a great sage who had attained an exalted status through intensive penance. He was also known as Apava. He had his abode in Mount Meru, where he was doing penance.
Daksha had a daughter by name Surabhi who was married to Sage Kasyapa. Surabhi gave birth to Nandini, a cow. This divine cow was a Cow of Abundance, capable of granting any wish sought from it. Vasishta obtained this cow for performing the rites. This cow would provide him things like Ghee required for performing a Homa (fire sacrifice), which was a routine activity for sages like him. Nandini dwelled in Vasishta’s Ashram, roaming in the woods freely. Nandinin was adored by all sages for its divine power of delivering whatever was requested of it.
The Vasus, the eight brothers with Prithu as their head, came to the forests, along with their wives. When they were wandering in the forests, they sighted Nandini, magnificent in appearance. The wife of Dyu, one of the Vasus pointed the cow to her husband and asked about it. Dyu told her that it was a divine cow that belonged to Sage Vasishta and that those who drank its milk would retain their youthfulness for 10000 years. She said that she had a friend Jitavati, who was a daughter of Sage Usinara and who was endowed with intelligence and was devoted to truth. She wanted Nandini’s milk to be given to her so that she could live long without being affected by any disease.
Intending to please his charming wife,
Dyu momentarily failed to realize that he would be committing a sin and stole the cow with the help of his brothers. Sage Vasishta returned to his abode in the evening and fund that Nandini was missing. Through his divine vision, he realized what had happened. He got angry and cursed that the eight Vasus be born on earth.
The Vasus, on learning about the sage’s curse, returned the cow to him and begged him to forgive them. The sage said that he could not take back his curse but agreed to tone down the curse to the effect that the seven brothers other than Dyu would be freed from his curse within a year of their being born on earth. However, Dyu, the main culprit, would have to spend a long time on earth. He would not beget children and would remain a celibate throughout his life.
After narrating the story of the Astavasus to Santanu, Ganga told him about her meeting the Vasus and their requesting her to be their mother when they would be born as human beings.
Ganga suggested the names Gangeya and Devavrata to the child. She then went away taking the child with he,r after promising to send the child back to Santana after he grows up to become a youth.