Among the noble line of the Bharatas, after whom the Mahabharata is named, there was a king named Pratipa. Once, when the king was praying on the banks of the Ganga (or, Ganges) River, he saw a beautiful woman. She wanted to make love with him, but it was not his dharma to do so. Instead, Pratipa promised the lovely woman (who was actually the goddess Ganga) that she could marry his son Samtanu when he came of age. Ganga agreed.
Years later, when king Pratipa’s son Samtanu had become king, he encountered the lovely Ganga and fell madly in love with her. Ganga agreed to marry Samtanu on one condition: he must never question any of her actions. Drunk with love, Samtanu agreed.
In time, Ganga fathered a son by king Samtanu. To the king’s horror, she drowned the baby in the Ganges river. Though he was heartbroken, Samtanu dared not confront the queen, remembering his promise never to question her actions. All together, Ganga gave birth to eight sons, all of whom she immediately drowned in the river. When the eighth son was born, Samtanu could take it no longer. He finally spoke up, saying: “Do not kill him! Who are you, or whose are you? Why do you harm your sons? Stay, wicked child-killer: do not incur this dreadful sin!”
Ganga spared the life of the eighth child and explained to Samtanu that her eight sons were actually incarnations of cursed gods, and that, by killing them, she was actually freeing them to return to heaven. Ganga allowed Samtanu to keep the eighth child, whose name was Bhisma. Because Samtanu had broken his promise to Ganga, she left him. Bhisma would grow to become a wise and powerful man.
|Samtanu meets Ganga.|