Friday, June 10, 2016

Chapter 9 - Vichitraviryan and afterwards

So that was the story of the first princess of Kasi. However the Mahabharatha is not just the story of Amba. The story now moves on to Hastinapur. Bhishma had brought the three princesses of Kasi to be married to Vichitraviryan. Amba, as we had seen had seen did not marry Vichitraviryan.
Ambika and Ambalika, the other two beautiful princesses of Kasi were very happy at being chosen to be the queens of Hastinapur.
The two of them married Vichitraviryan and happily lived in Hastinapur. Vichitraviryan though trained well by his brother Bhishma, unfortunately, was not too inclined to look after the kingdom. He was content to leave that in the able hands of Bhishma. And after marriage Vichitraviryan became more focused on his wives than anything else. He spent all his time with his wives ignoring the kingdom completely.
However Satyavati and Bhishma were more than capable of dealing with the kingdom and the people  of the kingdom never complained. Seven years went by and still Vichitraviryan never showed any signs of taking charge of the kingdom.....However letting Vichitraviryan go his way, proved to be a serious error on the part of Satyavati and Bhishma. The excesses of Vichitraviryan went so bad that he came to suffer from tuberculosis.
The people in the court tried calling physicians from all over the country who tried every known remedy and even a lot of unknown cures.....However it was wasted. Vichitraviryan died seven years after the date of his marriage....

Satyvathi was inconsolable. The death of Vichitraviryan had hit her bad and she lived like an automaton....without emotions or without having to think.....And then after all the funeral rites of Vichitraviryan were completed....the irony of the situation hit Satyavathi so suddenly that she came to sob uncontrollably....Unable to pacify her, the guards summoned Bhishma.
'Mother! What is it?' Bhishma asked as a whiff of her powerful perfume swept over Bhishma. Bhishma wondered for the millionth time about how Satyavathi had the heavenly divine perfume on her body and gave it up. The queen never spoke of it and Bhishma had smartly never asked. Over the years both Bhishma and Satyvathi had developed enormous respect for each other as they had both seen each other through all the sorrows which had plagued the Kuru family.
Satyavathi saw Bhishma and fresh tears filled her face. She shook her head unable to speak. Bhishma was alarmed. He knew enough of Satyavathi to know that she was a really tough person and did not break easily. Bhishma led Satyavathi to the chair and made her sit down and waited till Satyavathi regained some control over herself.
'This is so wrong.....This is all so wrong....' Satyavathi said murmuring looking at the strong and handsome face of the fierce man before her. Bhishma looked at Satyavathi not saying anything. 'You should have ruled this kingdom, Bhishma! This kingdom belongs to you! It always has....! All the things which are happening....' Satyavathi said wringing her hands in anguish. 'All these bad things are happening, because you were robbed of your kingdom! If only my foolish father had not imposed such a condition, then you would have been the king of this kingdom and I would have had both my sons with me.....!' Satyavathi said feeling like as if someone was poking her heart with a rather blunt instrument. 'Do you know Bhishma, after Vichitraviryna had....' Satyavathi choked and burst into fresh tears. However she shook her head and picked herself up. 'I thought of ending my life! I mean what use do I have! My husband is dead and both my sons have died....'
Bhishma looked rigid for a few minutes and said gruffly. 'You are the queen of Hastinapur! You cannot entertain such foolish thoughts!' Satyavathi looked at Bhishma not saying anything for a few minutes. For any passerby Bhishma looked the same – strict, proud and stubborn....However Satyavathi knew Bhishma better. From his sunken dull eyes, she knew exactly how much Bhishma missed Vichitraviryan. She knew that Bhishma loved Vichitraviryan like his own son and grieved him as much as she did...probably more...
Satyavathi smiled wryly through her tears as she heard what Bhishma had said. 'Trust me, that was exactly what prevented me from taking my life!' She shook her head hastily. 'I could not leave my kingdom just like that! Though I am a fisher woman by birth, I am now the queen of this kingdom! I cannot just forsake it!' Satyavathi looked at Bhishma straight in the eye. 'And that is the reason I want to talk to you now!'
Bhishma frowned. There was a subtle change in Satyavathi's behaviour just now. Until now she had just been his father's wife. Now she looked.....regal, like the queen of Hastinapur. 'I want you to break your vow and marry your brother's wives!' She said quietly.
Bhishma was beyond stunned. That was the last thing he had expected from Satyavathi. Though Bhishma was numb, a portion of him could not help but marvel at the woman before him. She had put her own grieving aside and had asked him this because of her love for her kingdom.. to make sure that her kingdom was not without a heir....Bhishma felt his respect for Satyavathi grow a little more.
But then he shook his head gravely. 'I am afraid, I cannot break my vow! You should know that by now!' Bhishma gave a peculiar look and Satyvathi knew exactly what that meant. They were both thinking of Amba. Amba with all her beauty, intelligence and stubbornness had wanted the exact same thing from Bhishma and Bhishma had resisted her not for one...two or three years but six years. The chances of Satyavathi succeeding where Amba had failed were exceedingly remote.
However the queen of Hastinapur did not give up easily. She took a deep breath. 'It was for the protection of Dharma that you took the vow, Bhishma! It is for the same Dharma that I am asking you to break it! The kingdom cannot be without a heir and you know it! You cannot just forsake Dharma and pretend that your vow is more important than that!' Satyavathi clutched her fingers tightly in a fist as she hoped.....really hoped that Bhishma could be made to see reason.
Bhishma looked stunned for the second time, as he looked at Satyavathi and suddenly images of his own mother came to him. He had no doubt that the majestic Ganga and this woman were more alike than anyone knew. He had images of his own learning of how Sage Parashurama had taught him....Bhishma shook his head. Focus! That was when he realized why these things were coming to his memory....
'Parashurama!' Bhishma breathed suddenly. Satyavathi looked completely puzzled unable to understand. Bhishma continued rapidly. 'Don't you see! That is your answer!' Satyavathi shook her head looking worried.
'Parashurama's father Jamadagni was killed by King Arjuna of the Haihaya clan! That is the reason Parashurama does not like warriors and kings! He hates all of them!' Before Satyavathi wondered what this had to do with her, Bhishma continued rapidly. 'And so Parashurama started his battle against all the warriors of the world. He killed not only King Arjuna but every single warrior in the world!' Satyavathi looked horrified as Bhishma continued. 'And soon all the kingdoms in the world were left without either the king or an heir to continue the kingdom and it was at that time that the queens of the kingdoms approached learned men....sages, rishis! It was an accepted custom for the queens to have children with sages and rishis!' Bhishma said his eyes suddenly smiling. 'That customs follows till now!' He said happily. 'So if you know of any powerful sages....they may be able to continue the Kuru line, as per your wishes!'
Bhishma looked alarmed as Satyavathi suddenly fell silent. Satyavathi's eyes had a mixture of guilt, shyness, and an emotion which Bhishma could not identify. She seemed so still that Bhishma wondered whether she had heard even a single word of what he had said. Satyavathi took in a deep breath. 'There is something I have to tell you!'
Satyavati looked at the floor probably seeking inspiration from it. 'I do not know the story of my birth, but it was said that I was found inside a fish!' Bhishma looked startled as Satyavati continued. 'I used to smell of fish continuously....that was the reason I was even called 'Matysagandhi'. The heavenly perfume from Satyavati (also called Yojanagandhi because of it) wafted towards Bhishma as he found himself listening to the story in rapt attention. 'My father as you know is the head fisherman. As I grew older I ferried people across the Yamuna in my boat!' Satyavathi took a deep breath as he continued. 'Once....the great sage Parasaran came to the banks of the Yamuna and I ferried him across...' Satyavathi said blushing slightly.
Satyavathi cleared her throat and continued the story. 'The sage fell in love with me....He created a mist which totally obscured the banks from the boat. And there in the island in the middle of the river, Sage Parasaran and me had a son!' Satyavathi said shyly. 'The son was no ordinary mortal! As I saw the son grew up before my very eyes! In a matter of minutes he crossed his childhood and reached manhood! My son was born with the knowledge of the four Vedas and he was the one who divided it into four. That was the reason he was called Veda Vyasa (Vyasa means one who divides.). He was black and was called Krishna because of that and because he was born on an island he was called as Dwaipayana.'
'Krishna Dwaipayana Veda Vyasa is your son?' Bhishma asked incredulously.
Satyavathi nodded her head with pride in her eyes. 'Yes! Veda Vyasa left for the Himalayas to meditate but he told me that if ever I needed him, all I had to do was think of him and he would appear before me!'
'After my son left, Sage Parasaran blessed me that the the smell of the fish which was always on me, would go away and I would have this perfume which could be smelled for miles around....Sage Parasaran also left after that!' Satyavathi shook her head as the memory faded. She turned her attention to Bhishma. 'So....Veda Vyasa is also Vichitraviryan's brother and he is a great sage! Do you think it would be a good idea to call him here....'

Bhishma vigorously nodded his head, part of him reeling from the story he had just heard and the other part happy that Satyavathi was not going to be after him for marrying his brother's wives.....