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Shantanu - The Estranged Husband

Shantanu – The Estranged Husband

Shantanu is best known as the king who was the father of Bhishma but his life is not given as much focus as the war of Kurukshetra. However, Shantanu has a very interesting story from his birth to his death. He was the king of Hastinapur and the kingdom came very easy to him. Here is a look at his life.

Interestingly, the story of Shantanu born as the king of Hastinapur traces back to his previous birth. Shantanu was Mahabhisha in his previous birth. He was a king with enormous strength and power. He had performed several thousands of Ashwamedha Yagna and hundreds of Rajasuya Yagnas to become the emperor of the world. After this accomplishment, he was allowed to visit heaven and witness the beauty there.

It so happened that while he was sitting with other gods and enjoying in the court, a strong gush of wind blew and the clothes of Ganga blew from her body. Everyone put their heads down in shame but Mahabhisha could not resist. Ganga also was smitten by the reaction of Mahabhisha and she was delighted for his interest. Brahma saw all this happening in the court and he cursed both Ganga and Mahabhisha to be born as mortals on Earth. He also cursed Ganga that he would break Mahabhisha’s heart in the birth as a mortal. Devastated and upset by the curse, Mahabhisha requested Brahma to allow him to be born as a son of Pratipa.

Thus, Shantanu was born to King Pratipa and Sunanda in their old age. He had two elder brothers- Devapi and Bahlika. Devapi had leprosy and he gave up his throne and inheritance to become a hermit. Bahlika was also not so interested in the kingdom and he left it to go to Baikh, where his maternal uncle stayed and inherited that kingdom. Hence, Shantanu became the default king that Pratipa bestowed the kingdom to with the permission of Bahlika.

Shantanu was once walking on the shore while he saw Ganga. They both met and Shantanu instantly fell in love with her and asked her to marry him. Ganga agreed but with the condition that her actions shall never be questioned by him. Thus started the cycle of Ganga killing her seven sons and Shantanu not raising against her. He finally stopped Ganga when she was about to drown their eighth son and the story of their previous birth was told to him. Ganga promised to return their son to him once he becomes a teenager.

An upset and disappointed Shantanu lived alone for several years until he saw Satyavati – the fisherwoman. He was smitten by her and wanted to marry her. She agreed but on the condition of her lineage being the kings of Hastinapur. Shantanu refused because Bhishma was the rightful heir. Bhishma resolved this issue by giving up the throne and taking the oath of celibacy. Thus, Satyavati and Shantanu got married.

They gave birth to two sons – Chitrangada and Vichitravirya. Chitranagada was killed in a war by a Gandharva while Shantanu was alive. Vichitravirya became the default king. Shantanu was very unhappy in their marriage and always felt guilty about taking away the throne from Bhishma. He died of old age.

Click here to read about Krishna In Mahabharata – The Unrivaled Strategist.

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