6- Bhisma, the Terrible!
Vaishampayan said: ‘O King Janmejaya! Listen to the marvelous stories of your ancestors.
Installing Devavrata as Yuvaraj, King Shantanu spent four years very happily! One day he wished to revisit a forest. He went to the forest where the river Yamuna was flowing. While roaming along the river, suddenly he perceived a beautiful fragrance. He was fascinated by the smell. He was too curious to know about it. Tracing the sweet smell, he found a beautiful lady rowing a boat and the scent was coming from her body. He was astonished! Long after parting from his divine wife Ganga, once again the King was lured by her beauty and requested her to marry him.
The lady said, ‘O King! I am the daughter of the fishermen's chief! Without my father’s consent, I can not marry you.’
Shantanu didn't hesitate to take his permission. But, when he asked, the fishermen chief said, ‘O noble King of Hastinapur! I’ll be honored if my daughter would marry you! But, I know very well you can't keep my condition. And that's the reason why she can't be your wife.’
The king very politely asked him about his condition. The chief said, ‘O King! Listen to me carefully. If you beget a child by my daughter- Satyavati, then he should be your heir-apparent. He will be the next King after you. And I know that you have a magnificent son Devavrata. He deserves to be your heir apparent. In that case, how my daughter’s son will be the king?!’
Shantanu was aghast hearing the terrible condition put by the fishermen's chief! It would be awful injustice towards his first son Gangeya! Without uttering any word, he came back to his kingdom.
Time passed but King Shantanu was haunted deep inside with the memory of that incredible beauty of the maiden Satyavati!
Devavrata was extremely wise, courageous, virtuous, and well skilled in the art of war. He was adorned and loved by all the subjects of Hastinapur. It didn't take him much time to notice his father’s remorseful condition. Once he went to his father and asked, ‘O father! Having the earth under your feet, what made you so sad? Ask me anything in these three worlds, I will put it in front of you. But, I can't tolerate your grief. Please command me, father.’
Without mentioning Satyavati, the king explained to him that he was always worried about him being the only son and engaged himself in warfare. Though he said it clearly that he did not doubt his skill yet he was constantly stressed. But Devabrata was not satisfied with his father’s answers. He went to his (King Shantanu’s minister) and requested him to explain the past incident. When he heard about his father's meeting with the beautiful maiden Satyavati, accompanied by a few Kshatriya chiefs, he headed towards the fishermen's chief.
Very humbly Devabrata addressed the chief, ‘O noble chief! Please bestow your divine daughter to my father- King Shantanu! She will be adorned as a queen by the subjects of Hastinapur!’
Beholding the virtuous, radiant son of Ganga, the fishermen chief joined his hands and very politely said, ‘O worthy descendant of Kuru race, you are the lord of great prowess! I feel blessed in your presence! But, I have something to tell you. I truly confess that- if the bride’s father is Indra himself, still he has to repent for rejecting this honorable and desirable proposal of marriage. But, I am helpless since I kept some conditions for bestowing my daughter.’
Then, Devavrata anxiously asked, ‘O Chief! Reveal your wish without any hesitation. Keep faith in me! Anything, anything you desire, I am taking a vow before all the Kshatriya chiefs that I will fulfill all your demands.’
Listening to the terrible oath of Gangeya, the fisherman chief began, ‘Well then, O virtuous son of Shantanu! If my daughter Satyavati will be the wife of King Shantanu, the child born to her will be the heir-apparent of King Shantanu! He will be the next King of Hastinapur.’
All the Kshatriyas were aghast hearing the cruel words of the fisherman! A humming sound of the crowd filled the surrounding! ‘Alas! How is it possible? When the most virtuous, chastiser of foes Devavrata is there, how can another one be the King?!’
But, Devavrata was not moved an inch by the crowd’s reaction. He, once again announced in a deep voice, ‘O chief! O potentates of Kshatriya race present here, listen to me- neither before nor after none will have this courage to take such vow! The son that will be born of your daughter Satyavati will be our king- the King of Hastinapur!’
The desirous fishermen chief joined his hands and pleaded, ‘ O worthy son of Bharata race! I do not doubt your righteousness and truthfulness! You may not claim the throne but what about your son or son’s son?! I do not want to be a cause of breach among the cousins in the future.’
Knowing the scruple of the fisherman, Devavrata declared boldly, ‘O all the potentates, chiefs, mighty Kshatriyas, I had relinquished the throne a few moments before. Now, I take the vow of Brahmacharya! I shall never marry anyone! Abstain me from women till I am alive!’
Beholding the terrible words uttered by Devavrata, the Gandharvas, Apsaras, and Devas poured down the flowers from heaven saying- ‘Bhishma, Bhishma, Bhishma, which means terrible!’
The goosebumps popped up on everybody's body! At last, the fisherman led his daughter Satyavati to the chariot of Devavrata. Thereafter, Devavrata was called Bhishma!
No one ever had taken a vow like Bhishma! The sacrifice he made for his father startled the three worlds!