When India’s national saga Mahabharata was first broadcasted on the small screen, It took the television industry by storm. The epic involves countless characters, places, events and ironies. Also known as the “Pancham Ved”, Mahabharata has many idiosyncratic characters that have a profound effect on Indian psyche. However, if we roll back everything to find out the root cause of the epic battle, all we find is one ambitious man called Nishadraja, without whom no Mahabharata was possible. Who was he? Let’s spare a glance to the whole thing.
As the epic goes, king Shantanu was married to Ganga. She gave birth to eight sons out of which she sacrificed seven to river Ganga. Shantanu was bound by a commitment, so he had to keep quite, but his patience gave way when Ganga also took her last child to river. He refrained Ganga to do so, to which she replied – “Oh King! You have broken your promise, now I’ll have to leave you” and then Ganga disappeared. Shantanu raised the boy up and named him Devvrut. In his adolescence, Devvrut was declared prince of Hastinapur. He later came to be known as Bhishma.
One day Shantanu caught sight of a pretty girl in a boat while he was walking on the bank of Yamuna river. Lust gripped him. He approached her and asked, “Oh Lady, Who are you?” She Replied, “King, my name is Satyavati and I am daughter of Nishadraja.”
Shantanu followed her all the way to her home and proposed to marry her. Nishadraja replied “I don’t have any problem in marrying my daughter to you. I only have one condition. In near future only the son of Satyavati should become the successor of the state.” Saddened by the inappropriate proposal, King Shantanu returned home silently.
Devvrut noticed that all is not well with the king so he inquired about it. Ministers told him whole story. Devvrat then approached Nishadraja and promised him that only the son of Satyavati will be the heir of state. He requested him to marry Satyavati to his father. He also took an oath to remain celibate to avert any dispute over the throne. A satisfied Nishadraja gave approval to the marriage of Shantanu and Satyavati.
Satyavati gave birth to two sons named Chitrangad and Vichitravirya. When Chitrangad died in a battle, Vichitravirya was coronated. He opted polygamy and married Ambika and Ambalika, but remained childless.
The story of birth of Dhritrashtra and Pandu is also interesting. Ved Vyas accepted the proposal of his mother but insisted that Ambika and Ambalika should walk around naked in front of him. First elder queen Ambika went to Ved Vyas room, but due to fear closed her eyes. While younger queen Ambalika turned pale after seeing Ved Vyas. Ved Vyas then told his mother that the son of Ambika will be born blind as she had closed her eye while son of Ambalika will suffer from disease. After hearing this Satyavati asked Ambika to visit Ved Vyas again. As Ambika was still shivering in fear, she sent her maid to Ved Vyas. Barely any clothes on her, the maid visited Ved Vyas room. Ved Vyas said to her mother, “Oh mother, this maid will give birth to a learned and ethical son.” This boy later came to be known as Vidur.
Now it was a triangular contest for the throne between Dhritrashtra, Pandu and Vidur. Dhritrashtra was the blind son of Ambika, Pandu was son of Ambalika, Vidur was the son of maid, who was most physically and mentally fit and erudite of them all. However throne was offered to Pandu. This set in motion the whole dynamics of Mahabharata as the sons of Pandu and Dhritrashtra eventually fought a battle in Kurukshetra.