The Mahabharata Home
(Sambhava Parva continued)
"Bhishma, continued, 'Listen, O mother, to me as I indicate the means by which the Bharata line may be perpetuated. Let an accomplished Brahmana be invited by an offer of wealth, and let him raise offspring upon the wives of Vichitravirya.'
"Vaisampayana continued, 'Satyavati, then, smiling softly and in voice broken in bashfulness, addressed Bhishma saying, 'O Bharata of mighty
arms, what thou sayest is true. From my confidence in thee I shall now indicate the means of perpetuating our line. Thou shall not be able to reject it, being conversant, as thou art, with the practices permitted in seasons of distress. In our race, thou art Virtue, and thou art Truth, and thou art, too, our sole refuge. Therefore hearing what I say truly, do what may be proper.
"My father was a virtuous man. For virtue's sake he had kept a (ferry) boat. One day, in the prime of my youth, I went to ply that boat. It so happened that the great and wise Rishi Parasara, that foremost of all virtuous men, came, and betook himself to my boat for crossing the Yamuna. As I was rowing him across the river, the Rishi became excited with desire and began to address me in soft words. The fear of my father was uppermost in my mind. But the terror of the Rishi's curse at last prevailed. And having obtained from him a precious boon, I could not refuse his solicitations. The Rishi by his energy brought me under his complete control, and gratified his desire then and there, having first enveloped the region in a thick fog. Before this there was a revolting fishy odour in my body; but the Rishi dispelled it and gave me my present fragrance. The Rishi also told me that by bringing forth his child in an island of the river, I would still continue (to be) a virgin. And the child of Parasara so born of me in my maidenhood hath become a great Rishi endued with large ascetic powers and known by the name of Dwaipayana (the island-born). That illustrious Rishi having by his ascetic power divided the Vedas into four parts hath come to be called on earth by the name of Vyasa (the divider or arranger), and for his dark colour, Krishna (the dark). Truthful in speech, free from passion, a mighty ascetic who hath burnt all his sins, he went away with his father immediately after his birth. Appointed by me and thee also, that Rishi of incomparable splendour will certainly beget good children upon the wives of thy brother. He told me when he went away, 'Mother, think of me when thou art in difficulty.' I will now call him up, if thou, O Bhishma of mighty arms so desirest. If thou art willing, O Bhishma, I am sure that great ascetic will beget children upon Vichitravirya's field.'
"Vaisampayana continued, 'Mention being made of the great Rishi, Bhishma with joined palms said, 'That man is truly intelligent who fixes his eyes judiciously on virtue, profit, and pleasure, and who after reflecting with patience, acteth in such a way that virtue may lead to future virtue, profit to future profit and pleasure to future pleasure. Therefore, that which hath been said by thee and which, besides being beneficial to us, is consistent with virtue, is certainly the best advice and hath my full approval.' And when Bhishma had said this, O thou of Kuru's race, Kali (Satyavati) thought of the Muni Dwaipayana and Dwaipayana who was then engaged in interpreting the Vedas, learning that he was being called up by his mother, came instantly unto her without anybody's knowing it.
[paragraph continues] Satayavati then duly greeted her son and embraced him with arms, bathing him in her tears, for the daughter of the fisherman wept bitterly at the sight of her son after so long a time. And her first son, the great Vyasa, beholding her weeping, washed her with cool water, and bowing unto her, said, 'I have come, O mother, to fulfil thy wishes. Therefore, O virtuous one, command me without delay. I shall accomplish thy desire.' The family priest of the Bharatas then worshipped the great Rishi duly, and the latter accepted the offerings of worship, uttering the usual mantras. And gratified with the worship he received, he took his seat. Satyavati, beholding him seated at his ease, after the usual inquiries, addressed him and said, 'O learned one, sons derive their birth both from the father and the mother. They are, therefore, the common property of both parents. There cannot be the least doubt about it that the mother, hath as much power over them as the father. As thou art, indeed, my eldest son according to the ordinance, O Brahmarshi, so is Vichitravirya my youngest son. And as Bhishma is Vichitravirya's brother on the father's side, so art thou his brother on the same mother's side. I do not know what you may think, but this is what, O son, I think. This Bhishma, the son of Santanu, devoted to truth, doth not, for the sake, of truth, entertain the desire of either begetting children or ruling the kingdom. Therefore, from affection for thy brother Vichitravirya, for the perpetuation of our dynasty, for the sake of this Bhishma's request and my command, for kindness to all creatures, for the protection of the people and from the liberality of thy heart, O sinless one, it behoveth thee to do what I say. Thy younger brother hath left two widows like unto the daughters of the celestials themselves, endued with youth and great beauty. For the sake of virtue and religion, they have become desirous of offspring. Thou art the fittest person to be appointed. Therefore beget upon them children worthy of our race and for the continuance of our line.'
"Vyasa, hearing this, said, 'O Satyavati, thou knowest what virtue is both in respect of this life and the other. O thou of great wisdom, thy affections also are set on virtue. Therefore, at thy command, making virtue my motive, I shall do what thou desirest. Indeed, this practice that is conformable to the true and eternal religion is known to me, I shall give unto my brother children that shall be like unto Mitra and Varuna. Let the ladies then duly observe for one full year the vow I indicate. They shall then be purified. No women shall ever approach me without having observed a rigid vow.'
"Satyavati then said, 'O sinless one, it must be as thou sayest. Take such steps that the ladies may conceive immediately. In a kingdom where there is no king, the people perish from want of protection; sacrifices and other holy acts are suspended; the clouds send no showers; and the gods disappear. How can a kingdom be protected that hath no king? Therefore, see thou that the ladies conceive. Bhishma will watch over the children
as long as they are in their mother's wombs.
"Vyasa replied, 'If I am to give unto my brother children so unseasonably, then let the ladies bear my ugliness. That in itself shall, in their case, be the austerest of penances. If the princess of Kosala can bear my strong odour, my ugly and grim visage, my attire and body, she shall then conceive an excellent child.'"
"Vaisampayana continued, 'Having spoken thus unto Satyavati, Vyasa of great energy addressed her and said, 'Let the princess of Kosala clad in clean attire and checked with ornaments wait for me in her bed-chamber.' Saying this, the Rishi disappeared, Satyavati then went to her daughter-in-law and seeing her in private spoke to her these words of beneficial and virtuous import, 'O princess of Kosala, listen to what I say. It is consistent with virtue. The dynasty of the Bharatas hath become extinct from my misfortune. Beholding my affliction and the extinction of his paternal line, the wise Bhishma, impelled also by the desire of perpetuating our race, hath made me a suggestion, which suggestion, however, for its accomplishment is dependent on thee. Accomplish it, O daughter, and restore the lost line of the Bharatas. O thou of fair hips, bring thou forth a child equal in splendour unto the chief of the celestials. He shall bear the onerous burden of this our hereditary kingdom.'
"Satyavati having succeeded with great difficulty in procuring the assent of her virtuous daughter-in-law to her proposal which was not inconsistent with virtue, then fed Brahmanas and Rishis and numberless guests who arrived on die occasion.'"
Next: Section CVI