The Mahabharata Home
(Sambhava Parva continued)
"Vaisampayana said, 'The unfortunate Satyavati then became plunged in grief on account of her son. And after performing with her daughters-in-law the funeral rites of the deceased, consoled, as best she could, her weeping daughters-in-law and Bhishma, that foremost of all wielders of weapons. And turning her eyes to religion, and to the paternal and maternal lines (of the Kurus), she addressed Bhishma and said 'The funeral cake, the achievements, and the perpetuation of the line of the virtuous and celebrated Santanu of Kuru's race, all now depend on thee. As the attainment of heaven is inseparable from good deeds, as long life is inseparable from truth and faith, so is virtue inseparable from thee. O virtuous one, thou art well-acquainted, in detail and in the abstract, with the dictates of virtue, with various Srutis, and with all the branches of the Vedas; know very well that thou art equal unto Sukra and Angiras as regards firmness in virtue, knowledge of the particular customs of families, and readiness
of inventions under difficulties. Therefore, O foremost of virtuous men, relying on thee greatly, I shall appoint thee in a certain matter. Hearing me, it behoveth thee to do my bidding. O bull among men, my son and thy brother, endued with energy and dear unto thee, hath gone childless to heaven while still a boy. These wives of thy brother, the amiable daughters of the ruler of Kasi, possessing beauty and youth, have become desirous of children. Therefore, O thou of mighty arms, at my command, raise offspring on them for the perpetuation of our line. It behoveth thee to guard virtue against loss. Install thyself on the throne and rule the kingdom of the Bharatas. Wed thou duly a wife. Plunge not thy ancestors into hell.'
"Vaisampayana continued, 'Thus addressed by his mother and friends and relatives, that oppressor of foes, the virtuous Bhishma, gave this reply conformable to the dictates of virtue, 'O mother, what thou sayest is certainly sanctioned by virtue. But thou knowest what my vow is in the matter of begetting children. Thou knowest also all that transpired in connection with thy dower. O Satyavati, I repeat the pledge I once gave, viz., I would renounce three worlds, the empire of heaven, anything that may be greater than that, but truth I would never renounce. The earth may renounce its scent, water may renounce its moisture, light may renounce its attribute of exhibiting forms, air may renounce its attribute of touch, the sun may renounce his glory, fire, its heat, the moon, his cooling rays, space, its capacity of generating sound, the slayer of Vritra, his prowess, the god of justice, his impartiality; but I cannot renounce truth.' Thus addressed by her son endued with wealth of energy, Satyavati said unto Bhishma, 'O thou whose prowess is truth, I know of thy firmness in truth. Thou canst, if so minded, create, by the help of thy energy, three worlds other than those that exist. I know what thy vow was on my account. But considering this emergency, bear thou the burden of the duty that one oweth to his ancestors. O punisher of foes, act in such a way that the lineal link may not be broken and our friends and relatives may not grieve.' Thus urged by the miserable and weeping Satyavati speaking such words inconsistent with virtue from grief at the loss of her son, Bhishma addressed her again and said, 'O Queen, turn not thy eyes away from virtue. O, destroy us not. Breach of truth by a Kshatriya is never applauded in our treatises on religion. I shall soon tell thee, O Queen, what the established Kshatriya usage is to which recourse may be had to prevent Santanu's line becoming extinct on earth. Hearing me, reflect on what should be done in consultation with learned priests and those that are acquainted with practices allowable in times of emergency and distress, forgetting not at the same time what the ordinary course of social conduct is.'"
Next: Section CIV