When last we left our Indian dynasty, the children of Santanu and Satyavti both had died, and Bhisma had vowed celibacy. Looks like we’re heading for a dead-end.
But no. Bhisma is a clever guy. You might remember that Satyvati had a child with Parasara? That child was Vyasa. Bhisma says to Vyasa that if he lies with the widows of the second son, those children will continue the dynasty.
Who are those widows? Well, Bhisma arranged for the prince who was alive at the time of marriage to get married to three princesses: Amba, Ambika, and Ambalika.
Amba actually bows out of the bargain. She tells Bhisma that she loves another man, Salva, so Bhisma lets her go to him. Unfortunately for Amba, Salva feels her honor has been compromised. Amba returns to Bhisma, and Bhisma will not help her, so she vows to be the cause of his ruin. Remember this for later.
Meanwhile Ambika and Ambalika marry, but they are left widows. Vyasa sleeps with each of them. Ambika thinks that Vyasa is ugly and closes her eyes. As a result, she and Vyasa have a blind son Dhrtarastra. Ambalika paled in fear for Vyasa, so she gave birth to a pale son Pandu. Ambika was supposed to go to Vyasa again, but she sends a serving girl in her place, and that girl pleases Vyasa so much that she is blessed, and gives birth to the wiseman Vidura.
Next up: What happens because blind men can’t be king.