Thursday, June 2, 2016

Chapter 2 - The marriage of King Shantanu


Afteer Hastee, the kingdom of Hastinapur passed from one son to another in the next generation.

One of the kings was King Kuru. The lineage after Kuru came to be known from his name.
[It is also believed that Kuru was actually an ascetic. He was chosen by the people to lead them as their king. By this move the democratic power to the people was restored to them. This was something that King Bharatha the first king had believed in and was probably what made King Kuru an important man in history and the reason why the people born after Kuru were called as Kuru Kings]

The story of the Mahabharatha starts with the Kuru King Shantanu. Shantanu was the son of King Prateep of Hastinapur. Shantanu ruled his people wisely and well. His people loved him. Shantanu spent most of his time  administering the kingdom.

The only pass-time that the king ever indulged in was hunting....

King Shantanu was riding his horse swiftly through the forest aiming for the deer.

Looking at the deer and keeping his arrow ready, he watched the deer silently. Shantanu could hear everything...the rustle of the leaves, the slight wind blowing, the sound of the flowing water from the nearby river....everything. However Shantanu's sole concentration was focused only on the deer.

Shantanu saw the deer relax and stand in the middle of the forest without making any move. Shantanu waited for the deer to relax some more...Quietly he pulled the bow back its string tensed.... The deer twitched and turned...Shantanu stopped. 

Finding nothing unusual, the deer resumed eating. Shantanu waited for a few more seconds, his heart thumping in his chest. Just when he felt the time was right, he let the arrow fly....

But this time Shantanu had met his match, the deer swiftly moved at the last time and the arrow missed it all together landing harmlessly in the tree near it. Shantanu narrowed his eyes and studied the movement of the deer leaping through the forest and once again spurred his horses deeper inside the forest towards the deer.

Shantanu listened to the galloping of his horses and continued the chase. He felt glad for the hundredth time that he had come alone for the hunt. Shantanu always came alone for the hunt. For him hunting was a passion...something that helped him come back to the wild and become one with nature. If he had brought his courtiers and ministers with him, the noise that they would have made would have scared away the prey and broken his oneness with nature more easier than anything else....

Shantanu had always been a quiet man...that was the reason he was named 'Shantanu'. He had always been a calm and peaceful man...or so Shantanu thought...

Shantanu chased the deer, but today the deer had proved faster than him. Shantanu had chased the deer all the way till the end of the forest, but today was the day of the deer.

Shantanu saw the end of the forest and from between the clearing of the forests saw the river Ganga flowing beautifully and majestically. Shantanu always felt an awe looking at the majestic Ganga which flowed like she was the Queen of the World with nothing to stop her...

Shantanu looked at the crystal clear water and got down from his horse. His robe rustling, he went towards the water. He gathered the fresh cool water in his hands and threw it on his face. He felt refreshed and ready to tackle the deer again. He turned as was about to get back to his horse, when he stopped....

Shantanu blinked....Standing before him was the most beautiful woman in the world. Looking at her, Shantanu felt like a man woken up from a dream...a man who felt the world suddenly inviting him with open arms. Shantanu looked at the woman's pure white dress with a slight bluish tinge....He stared at her like he had never seen a woman before in his life....

The woman looked exactly like the river behind him...calm passionate, majestic and powerful....It was as if the river goddess herself had come alive...

Shantanu hurried forward and almost stumbled on himself as he went near the woman. The woman paid no attention to him and studied the river as if it was talking to it...

'Wh...who are you?' Shantanu finally managed to ask the woman.

The woman looked at Shantanu with a peculiar expression. Shantanu could not define the expression....was it amusement or was it an expression of 'it has started...' Shantanu was not sure....But then Shantanu was not clear about many things...A whirr of images passed through his head and he felt joy...joy like he had never felt before...Like as if he had found something he had lost a long time ago...Shantanu shook his head...Looking at the woman somehow made his head jumbled and unclear.

The woman looked at him majestically and walked away without replying to him. Shantanu ran after her, 'Please...Please tell me who you are?' Shantanu almost begged her. 'I am Shantanu, the King of Hastinapur....' Talk something please...Shantanu was looking desperately at her.

The woman laughed looking at the nervous eyes of the king, 'Why do you want to know my name, king Shantanu?'

Shantanu blinked...it took him some time to realize that the woman had asked him a question and was waiting for an answer. 'Because...because...' Shantanu felt a little silly and little nervous, '..I want to marry you...'

The woman gave a tinkling laugh again and looked at the king straight in the eye, 'Well King Shantanu, I will marry you...' She said it so simply that Shantanu took a full minute to understand that the woman had actually said yes. He was about to hug the woman in joy when the woman held up her hands interrupting him with serious eyes. 'King Shantanu, I know you asked me a question when you met me first...you wanted to know my name and who I was....'

Shantanu nodded looking at the woman wondering what she was going to say. The woman said, 'That is what I will ask from you, before I marry you...A promise...You will never ask me who I am, or question anything I do...'

Shantanu looked at her in confusion as the woman said, 'Remember king, everything I do...I do it for a reason....you may not know it, but there is a reason for it...' The King looked at her and wondered why the woman would impose such a strange condition as the woman continued speaking, 'The minute you question me, I will leave you forever...never to return...'

Looking at the woman, King Shantanu found his thoughts getting confused again...Such an intelligent lady...Nothing that this woman can do would possibly be bad...She is so majestic...Shantanu believed that the woman was his soul mate and believed her implicitly. He nodded and spoke quietly, 'I promise you lady! I will never ask who you are or question anything you do...'

The woman smiled. Shantanu looked at the woman and looked at the river and smiled, 'My Lady! I cannot call you Lady, my whole life. I need to call you something.' The woman met Shantanu's amused eyes as they both started laughing.

'...Because I found you near the banks of the river Ganga...I will call you Ganga...' Shantanu looked at the woman. The woman was not smiling. It was as if Shantanu had spoke the truth...Had Shantanu said something wrong? Shantanu wondered...but of course he received no answer and he knew that he would not receive an answer...

Shantanu took Ganga back to the kingdom of Hastinapur. There he announced to his people, about their queen. The people rejoiced. The king married Ganga, on an auspicious day and the celebrations lasted for a week...

Shantanu was very happy after his marriage. Ganga was a perfect wife and a perfect queen...He looked after Shantanu very well...Ganga was a good queen and the people also adored her.

Soon Ganga was pregnant and Shantanu became even more happy....

When he heard that his wife had given birth of a healthy son, he almost burst with joy and ran to see his son...

He walked into his wife's chambers and to his surprise he found it empty...Surprised he turned to his servants, 'Where is the queen and my son?'

The servants looked nervously at the King. One came forward and spoke, 'Your Majesty! The queen...' The maid swallowed. King Shantanu suddenly afraid spoke sharply, 'Speak! What has happened?' The main looked at the King and spoke, 'The queen took the child with her and ordered us not to follow her...'

Where would Ganga go? Shantanu wondered. Some time later he saw Ganga come back, but there was no child with her...

Shantanu looked surprised and looked at Ganga, 'Where is my son, Ganga?'

Ganga looked at Shantanu and spoke sharply, 'Shantanu, you promised me that you will not ask me anything about what I do...You asked me this question, without understanding that...So I forgive you, but please not further questions...'

Shantanu wanted to shout...Where is my son? But he knew Ganga too well...Once she had decided to keep quiet, she would not talk...that was it...So fuming to himself Shantanu kept quiet...

The next day Shantanu saw Ganaga back to her cheerful self...It was like she was his Ganga...The one he had fallen in love with...But Shantanu was not at peace...Where was his son, what had Ganga done to him...But Shantanu was bound by his promise and suffered silently by not knowing what happened to his son and what had made his wife act like that...

Shantanu and Ganga had six more sons....However Shantanu never knew what happened to any of them....He suffered and he was very angry with Ganga.

Finally when Ganga was about to give birth to the eighth child, Shantanu followed Ganga, without her knowing it...

He saw Ganga go alone towards the river, Ganga...Shantanu saw wide eyed as he saw his wife go near the water.

With a yell, he brought out his sword and ran towards Ganga and shouted at her, 'What are you doing? Who are you? What are you going to do...' Shantanu looked too grief stricken to talk properly and fumbled.

Ganga looked at the child between her arms and then looked at Shantanu with tears in her eyes. 'You broke your promise, Shantanu...You and me will have to part...' She handed the baby back to Shantanu and spoke quietly, 'Before we part I will tell you everything you wanted to know about me and explain everything I have done...'

Shantanu looked at Ganga with the baby in his arms...Somewhere deep inside he felt like he had done something grievously wrong....but he could not identify exactly what it was that he done wrong...

Ganga vanished from there...In her place stood a Goddess, a glowing Goddess....who looked like she was flowing....Shantanu breathed...He thought back...

Because I found you near the banks of the river Ganga...I will call you Ganga....

Ganga...The thoughtful look on her face...Shantanu had actually guessed the truth she was Ganga, the river Goddess...

The Goddess Ganga spoke, 'In your previous birth, Shantanu, you were King Mahabhishek...' Shantanu felt something deep stir within himself when he heard Ganga's words...Mahabhishek...Yes...yes...He had done something wrong...Shantanu shook his head paying attention to what Ganga was saying.

'King Mahabhishek was a great King. In fact he was so great that though he was just a human, Indra frequently invited him to the heavens...It was when you were in heavens that we met...' Ganga said as Shantanu felt fragments of his memory coming back, 'We met for the first time and you were so...stunned on looking at me...' Ganga said a little shyly, 'You kept staring at me....'

Shantanu remembered all this slowly...He had been so much in love when he had looked at her for the first time...In fact that was exactly how he felt when he looked at her...in this life...

Ganga was saying something. 'That proved to be a problem...' Ganga said a little wistfully. 'Indra the King of the Devas became angry with you. He felt that he had invited you to the heavens because he felt you were worthy of it...' Ganga shook her head, 'After you kept on staring at me, Indra was disgusted with you, because he felt you were still swayed by your emotions...'

Shantanu remembered Indra's angry face as Ganga spoke, 'Indra cursed you to be born again as a human and experience love and separation...' Ganga looked around, 'This was the result...'

Shantanu shook his head unhappily, 'My sons! What about them?' He looked at the baby in his arms and hugged the child dearly, 'What about my children Ganga?' He shouted angrily.

Ganga smiled sadly, 'There in one more curse you have to know about Shantanu! Sage Vasishta had a cow Nandhini. Sage Vasishta loved Nandhini and her calf like he would love his own daughter. There are eight heavenly Devas called Vasus. The Vasus when they saw Nandini wanted to take Nandini for themselves. Egged on by his brother, the Vasu called Prabhhasa, stole the cow and the calf...' Images swam through Shantanu's head...Eight Vasus...his eight sons...He shook his head to clear it.

'Sage Vasishta was furious...he cursed the Vasus...' Shantanu shuddered. Ganga continued, 'He cursed the Vasus to be born as humans...The Vasus when they heard the curse, they were shaken. They ran to Vasishta and pleaded before him....They requested him to take back the case...'

Ganga shook her head and continued, 'But Sage Vasishta was too powerful a sage...Though he realized that the Vasus regretted their actions, he could not take back his words...He however lessened the curse. He said that seven of the Vasus, would go to heaven as soon as as they were born...But Vasu Prabhasa....' Ganga let out a deep breath, 'as he was the one who actually stole the cow...Vasishta said that he was to have a long and meritorious life as a human...As I was already coming to earth, the Vasus requested me to be their mother...' Ganga shrugged. 'The first seven sons were the first seven Vasus...They reached heavens as soon as they were born...'

Shantanu had tears in his eyes as he realized he had been wrong in doubting his wife...With sudden fear he asked her, 'Please...please...don't leave me...I asked you questions because I did not understand...please...' Shantanu said a little desperately.

Ganga shook her head sadly, 'I was hoping I could change the Vasu Prabhasa's destiny and make sure he also reached heaven as soon as he was born...But no...that was not to be...' Ganga looked at Shantanu with pained eyes, 'That will be the end of the road for us...We will not meet, not in this life...'

Shantanu suddenly panicked. He hurriedly handed over the baby to Ganga, 'Ganga! What about our son? You need to...to be there for the son...Please don't leave...'

Ganga smiled sadly, 'No Shantanu! Our son will never live with both his parents...' She said it with a finality that Shantanu was brokenhearted. Ganga looked at Shantanu and asked him hesitatingly, 'Shantanu! This son of ours, he is right now the heir to the whole of Hastinapur...! He is to have a long and difficult life..I was just wondering...'

Shantanu looked at Ganga numb with grief unable to understand what she was saying. Ganga spoke again, 'I was just thinking if I would take him with me and bring him up in the heavens...' Shantanu looked alarmed at Ganga, as Ganga said hurriedly, 'I will make sure he learns everything there is to learn and then I will send him back...to you..' Ganga looked hesitatingly at Shantanu.

Shantanu was too brokenhearted. In a single day, he had found and lost both his wife and son...But deep down he realized the intelligence in her words...His son would receive a better upbringing in the heavens, then on the earth....Shantanu nodded his head. He watched as Ganga held the baby in her hand and disappeared to the heavens. Shantanu stood in the spot watching..waiting...waiting for a miracle...But deep down Shantanu realized that it was not to be...He knew that Ganga was gone, forever...She would not come back...Shantanu's life with Ganga was over...

11 comments:

  1. Nice! Every rarest stories, I would like more mythological stories which have not heard or read. Usually I come across this type of stories in FM stations early morning

    ReplyDelete
  2. Thanks for writting this story....such a rare story.....

    ReplyDelete
  3. If parshuram taught bheesma in heaven then how come he faught bheesma on earth??.....?? Did he follow bheesma to earth or was he immortal and would travel between heaven and earth?? Please do clarify

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Parashurama is considered as one of the ten Avatars of Lord Vishnu so it is obviously possible that he could travel between the heaven and the earth.

      Delete
  4. Is two avatars of lord Vishnu like parshurama and Krishna existing at same period of time possible???

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Parashurama is a unique avatar of Lord Vishnu, in the sense, he also saw the subsequent avatars of Rama and Krishna. In the Ramayana, Parasurama is said to have been furious with Rama for breaking Shiva's bow during Sita's swayamvara and wanted to have a fight with Rama for this reason.

      Delete
  5. Rama n parasuram are avatar of krishna.... How come they fight each other.... Can u explain.... Correct me if I'm wrong.....

    ReplyDelete
  6. He looked after Shantanu very well.

    The correct line is

    "She looked after Shantanu very well"

    ReplyDelete