Mahabharata: Generation 1

More Blood is Thicker than Water. Today, the voodoo special.

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We’re back in the saddle at work. It’s another scorcher in Iowa, but I see that surrounding states are also doing the heat advisory thing late into the evening. Today was ab day, so less melting than yesterday.

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And now…

Mahabharata: The first generation.

The epic Indian poem exists because it traces the lineage of the prince Janamejaya back through the rather elaborate family tree of the Bharata/Kuru family.

Generation One: King Santanu marries the river goddess Ganga. Ganga and Santanu have seven sons, all of which Ganga drowns. Santanu is bound by an earlier vow to his wife to say nothing, but when she goes to drown the eighth son, he can no longer contain his sorrow.

It turns out Ganga has been drowning her sons because they are the reincarnated Vasus, who want to get back on the wheel of life ASAP. Ganga spares the eighth son Devavrata and takes him away to be educated. Years later, she returns Devavrata to his father.

Santanu decides he wants to remarry, so he sets his sights on Satyavati, the daughter of a fisherman. The fisherman is worried that since Devavrata exists, none of Satyavati’s children will ascend to the throne. Devavrata vows that he will not take the throne. The fisherman suggests that there would still be trouble with Devavrata’s children. To avoid this, Devavrata takes a vow of celibacy. Then Santanu and Satyavati marry.

The gods think that Devavrata’s sacrifice is cool, and they rename him Bhisma, which means awesome and terrible. Bhisma picks up a lot of Indian hero points in this maneuver. The gods chant, flowers rain from the sky, and it’s a celestial moment.

As a side note, it turns out that while Satyavati is a virgin when she married, a wise man from the mountains has given her a son and yet she remained a virgin. Yup, another celestial secret. This son, Vyasa, is a wild man of the woods, seeking enlightenment, and will be important in the next part of the story. Also, Parasara, the wise man, removed the fishy smell from Satyavati and made her smell like beautiful flowers, which is why Santanu was interested in the first place.

Next: both of Satyavati’s sons die, so what do we about ascendancy now that Bhisma is celibate? Stay tuned for Generation 2!

Author: Catherine Schaff-Stump

Catherine Schaff-Stump writes fiction for children and young adults. Her most recent book, The Vessel of Ra, is the first book in the Klaereon Scroll series. She is currently working on its sequel, as well as penning the middle grade adventures of Abigail Rath, monster hunter.

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