How Devavrath became Bhishma
By Manju Gupta
Hastinapur was ruled by King Shantanu, who had a son named Devavrath. One day, while out on a hunt, the king felt an unusual fragrance drifting across from somewhere. So he followed the direction from where the sweet smell was emanating and reached a village on the shores of the ocean. And there he saw a beautiful girl named Satyawati, who happened to be a fisherman’s daughter.
Now the king wanted to marry her and so he approached her father for her hand in marriage. The fisherman asked him if he was not already married. The king replied that he was and also had a son. The fisherman said, “How can you marry my daughter then? Even if I were to agree to give her hand in marriage to you, what would happen if she were to beget a son from you? Would you make him the next king when you already have a son?”
The king was caught in a dilemma and, feeling distressed and deeply saddened, retuned to his kingdom empty handed. Days passed but the king could not forget Satyawati. He tried his best to get over her but memories of her saddened him. Devavrath had been noticing his father looking lost in thought and sad of countenance since the past many days. So he went to the king and asked him point blank, “Father, you look tense and worried. Do tell me what’s bothering you. Maybe I can provide a solution to your problem.”
The king told his son about his desire to marry Satyawati and her father’s condition for marriage.
Without saying anything to the king, Devavrath went to the fishermen’s colony and told the fisherman that he was prepared to forego his claim to the throne after his father’s death and adds, “Now please do agree to marry your daughter to my father.”
The fisherman was a wily man and asked, “What if your sons were to lay claim to the throne of their grandfather?”
Devavrath knew that the fisherman wouldn’t relent easily, so he told him, “I take the bhishma pratigya here and now, promising never to get married or to have children. A son born to my father and your daughter shall be the next heir to the throne.”
At this the fisherman willingly agreed to the marriage and King Shantanu got happily married to Satyawati, who began to live in the palace as his queen.
This is how prince Devavrath came to be known as Bhisma.