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Thank you all for your comments and support. Today, I will write about Devavrata. Hope you all will like it.
In the Mahabharat, Bhishma (also known as Bhishma Pitamaha and Gangaputra Bhishma) was well known for his pledge of celibacy. Originally named as ‘Devavrata’, he was the eighth son of the Kuru King Shantanu and the river goddess Ganga. Bhishma was blessed with a boon from his father that he could choose the time of his death or he may remain immortal till he desires. He was related to both the Pandavas and the Kauravas through his half-brother, Vichitravirya (Son of Satyavati). He was one of the best archers and warrior of his time. He also handed down the Vishnu Sahasranama to Yudhishtria when he was on his death bed (of arrows) after the battle of Kurukshetra.
The history behind Bhishma’s birth is as follows – once the eight Vasus (“Ashtavasus”) visited Vashishta’s ashram accompanied by their wives. One of the wives took a fancy to Kamadhenu, Vashishta’s wish-bearing cow and asked her husband Prabhasa to steal it from Vashishta. Prabhasa then stole the cow with the help of the others who were all consequently cursed by Vashishta to be born in the world of humans. Upon the Vasus appealing to Vashishta’s mercy, the seven Vasus who had assisted in stealing Kamadhenu had their curse mitigated such that they would be liberated from their human birth as soon as they were born; however, Prabhasa being protagonist of the theft, was cursed to endure a longer life on the earth. The curse, however, is softened to the extent that he would be one of the most illustrious men of his time. It was this Prabhasa also called Vasu Dyaus who took the birth as Bhishma.
After Devavrata was born, his mother Ganga took him to different realms, where he was brought up and trained by many eminent sagas.
Brihaspati: The son of Angiras and the preceptor of the Devas taught Devavrata the duties of kings (Dandaneeti), or political science and other Shastras.
Shukracharya: The son of Bhrigu and the preceptor of the Asuras also taught Devavrata in political science and other branches of knowledge.
Vashishtha: the Brahmarshi and Chyavana, the son of Bhrigu taught the Vedas and Vedangas to Devavrata.
Sanatkumara: The eldest son of Lord Brahma taught Devavrata the mental and spiritual sciences.
Markandeya: The immortal son of Mrikandu of Bhrigu’s race who acquired everlasting youth from Lord Shiva taught Devavrata in the duties of the Yatis.
Parashurama: The son of Jamadangi of Bhrigu’s race. Parashurama trained Bhishma in warfare.
Indra: The king of the Devas. He bestowed celestial weapons on Bhishma.
Devavrata took the vow of lifelong celibacy, thus sacrificing his ‘crown-prince’ title and denying himself the pleasures of conjugal love. His father granted him the boon of Ichcha Mrityu (control over his own death – he could choose the time of his death, making him immortal till his chosen time of death). Criticism of King Shantanu from his subjects as to why he removed Bhishma from the title of the crown prince, as he was so capable, abounded. There was worry about the nobility of Shantanu’s unborn children, now promised the throne. Hearing this, Bhishma said it was his decision and his father should not be blamed as Shantanu had never promised anything to Satyavati’s father. The prime minister then asked who would be held responsible if the future crown prince isn’t capable enough. Bhishma then took another vow that he would always see his father’s image in whoever sat on the King’s throne, and would thus serve the king faithfully & truthfully.
I think there’s no need to write the common story of Mahabharat, as it is already known by all. We all know the conditions of Mother Ganga for Maharaj Shantanu and how and why he break his promise of never asking any questions regarding the actions of the Mother Ganga.
Special thanks to Shesha, Krishna and Prajkta for your comments.