Saturday, August 15, 2015

9. Santanu

Pratipa, while being a powerful monarch was also an ascetic.  He would often do penance sitting on the banks of the river Ganga.

One day, when he was meditating on the river bank, the river Ganga assumed the form of a beautiful damsel and sat on the right side of his lap. When the king asked her what she wanted, Ganga said that she wanted him to marry her. Pratipa told her that the right thigh was the seat for the daughters and daughters in law while the left thigh was the seat for the wife. Since she had sat on his right lap, she couldn’t become his wife, he clarified.

Ganga then beseeched him to accept her as his daughter in law. She said that she would make his son happy and bear him children and thus help him reach heaven. However, she told Pratipa that his son should never question the propriety of her actions. She then left for her abode.

After some time, Pratipa got a son. It was Mahabhisha who was born as his son as per Brahma’s curse. He was named Santanu. The name was derived from the word ‘Santi’ meaning tranquility and equanimity, the state of mind of Pratipa!

Santanu, like his father, grew up as a man of virtues. When he became a youth, his father told him “A beautiful young woman approached me sometime back and expressed her wish to marry you. She said she would bear you children and keep you happy. If she approaches you and offers to marry you, accept her offer. However, you should not question the propriety of any of her actions. He then crowned Santanu as the King and retired to the forests for doing penance.

King Santanu was fond of hunting and spent most of his time hunting animals in the forest. One day, he saw a beautiful lady on the banks of Ganga. Enchanted by her looks, he approached her and asked her who she was.

She said that she won’t reveal her identity but offered to marry him. However, she said that he should not question any of her actions, however disagreeable they might be. Santanu accepted her condition and married her, without knowing her identity. She conducted herself with dignity and the couple had a happy living. After sometime, a child was born to them. Immediately after giving birth to the child, Ganga carried the child to the Ganga and drowned it in the river. Though shocked by this cruel act, Santanu had to restrain himself from questioning her, since he was bound by the word he had given her before marrying her.

Ganga drowned her second child also and then went on to drown the next five children too. When she was about to drown her eighth child, Santanu stopped her and wanted to know why she was doing that cruel thing.

Ganga said that she won’t drown the eighth child but told him that she had to leave him since he had, in violation of his promise, questioned her action. She then revealed her identity to him and narrated the story about the curse of the Ashta Vasus and about why she was born as the mother of the Ashta Vasus.

Santanu wanted to know why the Ashta Vasus had to bear the curse of being born into the world as human beings. Ganga then narrated the story of the Ashta Vasus.

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