Gangeya, the exemplary ‘Bhishma’, of Mahabharata

For a long time since Ganga Devi left Shantanu, the latter had no interest in life and Gangeya, who was increasingly aware of his father’s disenchantment in the duties of Kingship, virtually carried on the burden lightly. As a dutiful son, he did whatever was possible or even impossible, but for the replacement of the position of a mother. Once when he accompanied his father on a royal hunt on the banks of River Yamuna and found an extraordinarily stunning woman whose body flavour was heavenly and intoxicating. Her captivating physical features sent tremors in Shantanu’s mind and asked his son Gangeya to enquire about her. The lady replied that she was a fisherwoman and any enquiry about herself be ascertained by her father only at their abode. The fisherman was not sure whether her daughter’s future would be assured since a grown up King-in-Waiting was already in place. Gangeya gave an assurance that he would not put in a claim for Kingship. But this did not satisfy the fisherman as Gangeya’s next kin would definitely make the claim to the throne. Then Gangeya declared that in view of the apprehensions expressed by the fisherman and subtly endorsed by his daughter, he would take a Sacred Vow before all witnesses concerned that he would never ever marry! Shantanu as well as the entire Kingdom were taken aback by the decision of Gangeya. Shantanu tried to wriggle out of the deal, but Gangeya did not allow any departure from his vow; he said that the sacrifice being performed was not comparable to that of Parasurama, who for the asking by his father Jamadagni, had cut his own mother’s head on the flimsy reasoning of her imagined flicker of mind when she saw a Gandharva bathing; or to Lohitasya who allowed himself to be sold to a Brahmin as a servant boy, for working heinous household duties leading to death, to repay his father Harischandra’s debt to Sage Visvamitra; or obeying the implicit instruction of his father Dasaratha conveyed by Queen Kaikayi to abandon the self and wife Sita to fourteen years of forest life as an ascetic couple ending by the kidnapping of his wife and undergoing untold misery and torture! Thus quoting such examples, Gangeya announced to the whole World that not only he would not marry but protect the entire progeny of the ‘Vamsa’ as long as he lived! Thus was given Gangeya the indelible name of Bhishma in the generations to follow!

Sri V.D.N.Rao and Shri Kanchi Kamakoti Peetham presents the Essence of Puranas in English, condensed by Sri. V.D.N.Rao, devotee of Sri Kanchi Kamakoti Peetam. Compiled, Composed and Interpreted by V.D.N.Rao, Former General Manager, India Trade Promotion Organisation, Pragati Maidan, New Delhi Ministry of Commerce, Govt. of India The author can be contacted at [email protected]