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Chapter 97

Mahabharata English - ADI PARVA

“Vaisampayana said. ‘There was a king of the name of Pratipa, who waskind to all creatures. He spent many years in ascetic penances at thesource of the river Ganga. The accomplished and lovely Ganga, one day,assuming the form of a beautiful female, and rising from the waters, madeup to the monarch.

The celestial maiden, endued with ravishing beauty,approached the royal sage engaged in ascetic austerities, and sat uponhis right thigh that was, for manly strength, a veritable Sala tree. Whenthe maiden of handsome face had so sat upon his lap, the monarch saidunto her, ‘O amiable one, what dost thou desire? What shall I do?’ Thedamsel answered, ‘I desire thee, O king, for my husband! O foremost oneof the Kurus, be mine! To refuse a woman coming of her own accord isnever applauded by the wise.’ Pratipa answered, ‘O thou of the fairestcomplexion, moved by lust, I never go in unto others’ wives or women thatare not of my order. This, indeed, is my virtuous vow.’ The maidenrejoined, ‘I am not inauspicious or ugly. I am every way worthy of beingenjoyed. I am a celestial maiden of rare beauty; I desire thee for myhusband. Refuse me not, O king.’ To this Pratipa answered, ‘I am, ‘Odamsel, abstaining from that course to which thou wouldst incite me. If Ibreak my vow, sin will overwhelm and kill me. O thou of the fairestcomplexion, thou hast embraced me, sitting on my right thigh. But, Otimid one, know that this is the seat for daughters and daughters-in-law.The left lap is for the wife, but thou hast not accepted that. Therefore,O best of women, I cannot enjoy thee as an object of desire. Be mydaughter-in-law. I accept thee for my son!’

“The damsel then said, ‘O virtuous one, let it be as thou sayest. Let mebe united with thy son. From my respect for thee, I shall be a wife ofthe celebrated Bharata race. Ye (of the Bharata race) are the refuge ofall the monarchs on earth! I am incapable of numbering the virtues ofthis race even within a hundred years. The greatness and goodness of manycelebrated monarchs of this race are limitless. O lord of all, let it beunderstood now that when I become thy daughter-in-law, thy son shall notbe able to judge of the propriety of my acts. Living thus with thy son, Ishall do good to him and increase his happiness. And he shall finallyattain to heaven in consequence of the sons I shall bear him, and of hisvirtues and good conduct.’

“Vaisampayana continued, ‘O king, having said so, the celestial damseldisappeared then and there. And the king, too, waited for the birth ofhis son in order to fulfil his promise.’

“About this time Pratipa, that light of the Kuru race, that bull amongstKshatriyas, was engaged, along with his wife, in austerities from desireof offspring. And when they had grown old, a son was born unto them. Thiswas no other than Mahabhisha. And the child was called Santanu because hewas born when his father had controlled his passions by ascetic penances.And the best of Kurus, Santanu, knowing that region of indestructiblebliss can be acquired by one’s deeds alone, became devoted to virtue.When Santanu grew up into a youth, Pratipa addressed him and said, ‘Sometime ago, O Santanu, a celestial damsel came to me for thy good. If thoumeetest that fair-complexioned one in secret and if she solicit thee forchildren, accept her as thy wife. And, O sinless one, judge not of thepropriety or impropriety of her action and ask not who she is, or whoseor whence, but accept her as thy wife at my command!'” Vaisampayanacontinued, ‘Pratipa, having thus commanded his son Santanu and installedhim on his throne, retired into the woods. And king Santanu endued withgreat intelligence and equal unto Indra himself in splendour, becameaddicted to hunting and passed much of his time in the woods. And thebest of monarchs always slew deer and buffaloes. And one day, as he waswandering along the bank of the Ganges, he came upon a region frequentedby Siddhas and Charanas. And there he saw a lovely maiden of blazingbeauty and like unto another Sri herself; of faultless and pearly teethand decked with celestial ornaments, and attired in garments of finetexture that resembled in splendour the filaments of the lotus. And themonarch, on beholding that damsel, became surprised, and his rapturesproduced instant horripilation. With steadfast gaze he seemed to bedrinking her charms, but repeated draughts failed to quench his thirst.The damsel also beholding the monarch of blazing splendour moving aboutin great agitation, was moved herself and experienced an affection forhim. She gazed and gazed and longed to gaze on him evermore. The monarchthen in soft words addressed her and said, ‘O slender-waisted one, bethou a goddess or the daughter of a Danava, be thou of the race of theGandharvas, or Apsaras, be thou of the Yakshas or the Nagas, or be thouof human origin, O thou of celestial beauty, I solicit thee to be mywife!'”

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