Śrīmad Devi Bhāgavatam | Book 2 Chapter 4
THE SECOND BOOK
On the birth of the Vasus
1-8. Sūta said:
On the king Pratīpa, ascending to the Heavens, the truly hero-king Śantanu went out a hunting tigers and other forest animals.
Once, while he was roaming in a wild wilderness, on the banks of the Ganges, he saw a fawn-eyed well decorated beautiful woman. No sooner the king Śantanu saw her than he became addicted to her and thought within himself thus:
“Certainly my father spoke of this beautiful faced woman who is looking like a second Lakṣmī, endowed with beauty and youth.”
The king could not rest satisfied simply with seeing the lotus-like face. The hairs on his body stood on their ends and his heart was very much attracted to her.
Gangā Devī, too, knew him to be the king Mahābhiṣa and became, in her turn, very much attached to him. She then went smiling towards the king.
Seeing the blue- coloured lady looking askance at him, the king became very happy and consoled her in sweet words and said: -
“O, one of beautiful thighs! Are you Devī; Mānusī (human kind) Gandharvī; Yakṣī, the daughter of Nagas (serpents), or a celestial nymph?
Whoever you may be, O beautiful one! be my wife; your sweet smiles, it seems, are brimful of love; so be my legal wife today.”
9-26. Sūta said:
The king Śantanu could not recognise the lady to be Gangā; but Gangā knew that he is the king Mahābhiṣa and is born as Śantanu.
Hearing the above words of the king, Gangā, out of her previous affections, spoke out to the king, smiling:
“O king! I know that you are the son of the king Pratīpa. Behold! Though it is inevitable that woman will get their husbands, yet who is that beautiful lady that does not husband according to her liking and qualifications?
But I can take you as my husband, if you make a certain promise to me. Hear my resolve afterwards I will marry you.
O king! Whatever I will do, be it good or bad, auspicious or inauspicious, you must not hinder or interrupt me nor ever say that is not to your liking and satisfaction. Whenever you will break this my resolve, I will instantly quit you and go to another place wherever I like.
The king Śantanu, then, said:
“Well! That will be” and promised to the above effect;
then Gangā Devī recollected within herself Vasus words and thought of the attachment of the king Mahābhiṣa and accepted Śantanu as her husband. Thus married to the king Śantanu, the beautiful Gangā in human form went to his abode.
The king, on having got possession of her, began to enjoy in pleasant gardens. The lady, too, appreciated his mental feelings and began to serve him to his satisfaction.
Thus many years elapsed in lovely enjoyments and intercourses between the couple who looked like Indra and his pair Sachi; and they did not feel at all how the time passed. The lady endowed with all qualities and the clever king, well-versed in the art of loving, began to enjoy incessantly like Lakṣmī and Nārāyaṇa, in their divine palace.
Thus many years passed when the lovely eyed lady became pregnant of the king Śantanu's sperm and, in due time, gave birth to a son who was a Vasu.
No sooner the son was born than Gangā Devī threw it in the waters of the Ganges. Thus the second, third, fourth, fifth, sixth and seventh sons were thrown successively on the waters.
Then the king became very anxious and thought within himself “What am I to do now? How my family be preserved? This my wife, incarnate of sin, has killed my seven sons; if I now desist her, she will instantly leave me and go away.
Now this is the eighth pregnancy as desired by me. Now if I do not interrupt her, she will certainly throw my son in the Ganges. Whether a son will be born again or not is doubtful; and even if that be born, it is doubtful whether she will preserve that child; now what am I to do in this doubtful point? However I will try my best to continue the thread of my family line.”
27-46. Now, in due time, the Vasu who, having been influenced by his wife had stolen Vaṣiṣṭha's cow Nandini, became born as the eighth son of Gangā Devī; the king Śantanu, seeing this son fell unto Gangā's feet and said: -
“O thin-bodied woman! I pray to you to give my life today; better nourish this my one son. O beautiful one!
You killed in succession my seven exceedingly beautiful sons. O one of beautiful hips!
I now fall at your feet. O beautiful one! Save the life of this child of mine. If you ask from me any other thing today, even that be very rare, I will give it to you; but you better now keep the thread of my family line.
The Pundits, versed in the Vedas, say that he who has no issues cannot go to Heaven; so, O Beautiful one! Today I pray to you to keep the life of this my eighth son.”
Though thus spoken by Śantanu, Gangā Devī was eager to take away the son to throw in the waters; the king became very sorrowful and angrily spoke out:
“O vile and vicious woman! What are you going to do? Do you not fear hell! Of what villain are you the daughter, that you are always doing this vicious deed? O Sinner! Go away wherever you will or remain here as you like, it matters little; but my son will remain here. When you attempt to bring my family to extinction, what use is there in living with you?”
When the king thus spoke to the woman who was ready to take away the son she angrily spoke as follows:
O King! When you have acted against my promise, my word is broken and my connection with you has stopped from today. Therefore I will take this son to the forest, where I will nourish him. I am Gangā; to fulfil God's work I have come here. The high-souled Vaṣiṣṭha cursed before the eight Vasus “Better be born as men”; they became very anxious; and seeing me they prayed:
“O Sinless one! let you be mother of us all.”
O best of kings! I granted them what they desired; and then for the purpose of serving god's ends, I became your wife. Know this my history.
The seven Vasus already were born and were freed; now this is the last Vasu and he will remain here for some time as your son.
O Śantanu! Now take this son offered by Gangā. Know this to be the Deva Vasu and enjoy the pleasure of having a son.
O highly fortunate one! This son will be famous by the name of Gāngeya (Gangā's son) and will be the most powerful of all.
O King! Today I will take this son to the place where I chose you as my husband; I will nourish him and when he attains his youth, I will return him to you. For, this son, if deprived of mother, will not be happy nor will he live.”
Thus saying, Gangā vanished with the son; the King Śantanu became very sorrowful and passed away his time in his palace. The king thought always of the separation from his wife and son and thus painfully governed his kingdom.
47-69. Thus some time passed on, when, once on an occasion, the king Śantanu went out for a hunting and killed, with arrows, buffaloes, boar, and other wild animals and came to the banks of the Ganges.
Here he saw with great wonder that a boy was playing with a great bow and was shooting arrows after arrows. The king's attention was more attracted towards the boy, but whether that boy was his or not, did not at all come to his mind.
Looking at his extraordinary feats, his agility in shooting arrows with ease and quickness, his learning that can have no equal and his beautiful form, as if of Cupid, he became greatly surprised and asked him:
“O Sinless one! Whose son are you?”
The hero boy did not reply anything but went away shooting his arrows.
The king thought within himself: -
“Who is this boy? Whose son is he? What to do now? To whom shall I go now?”
Thus pondering, he recollected within himself and began to recite verses in praise of Gangā; Gangā, assuming her beautiful form as before, became visible to the king. Seeing her, the king said: -
“O Gangā! Who is this boy that has just gone? Will you show him once more to me now?”
Hearing these words of Śantanu, Gangā said: -
“O king of kings! He is your son, he is that eighth Vasu. So long I have nourished him and now I hand him over to you. O Suvrata! This is the great ascetic Gāngeya. He is the illustrious scion of your family. The glory of your line will be enhanced. I have taught him the whole science of archery. This pure son of yours dwelt in the hermitage of Vaṣiṣṭha and has become versed in all the Vidyās and skilled in all the actions. Your this son knows everything that Jamadgni Paraśurām knew.
So, O king of kings! Take now your son and be happy. Thus saying, Gangā gave him his son and vanished; the king also became very glad and embraced his son; he smelled his head and took him to his chariot and drove towards his own city.
On returning to Hastināpur, the king held a great festival (utsab) in honor of the arrival of his son; he called all his astrologers and enquired what day was auspicious. He then called all his subjects and ministers and installed Gāngeya as the Crown Prince. The religious Śantanu became very happy on making Gāngeya, the Crown Prince; he forgot the pains due to Gangā's bereavement.
“Thus I have described to you the cause of the curse on Vasus, the birth of Bhīśma from the womb of Gangā, the union of Gangā and Śantanu, etc., He who hears in this world this holy story of Gangā's birth and the birth of the Vasu, is freed of all sins and gets mukti.
O Munis! I have described these meritorious holy accounts, as I heard from the mouth of Vyāsa. Anybody who hears this holy Śrīmad Bhāgavatam, endowed with five characteristics and filled with various tales that came out of the mouth of Vyāsa, finds all his sins destroyed and attains peace and blessedness.
O Munis! Thus has been described completely to you this holy history.
Thus ends the fourth Chapter on the birth of the Vasus in the Mahāpurāṇa Śrīmad Devī Bhāgavatam of 18,000 verses.