Episode 7 – Who is Vidhura? A brief background!!!

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The previous episode has set a strong foundation for analyzing a very important part of the Mahaabhaarata text – Vidura-Neethi. We witnessed that this Vidura-Neethi is nothing but the advice given by Vidura to King Dhirdriraashtra on various important aspects of “Raaja-Dharma”, which is extremely relevant to our modern day life. We witnessed that this Vidura-Neethi is part of the “Udyoga Parva of the Mahaabhaarata. King Dhirdriraashtra has a fear within him that his son Duryodhana might end up being on the losing side if he had to split the kingdom and give a portion of it to the Paandava camp. Thus repeatedly thinking of this, his fear starts to multiply and thus he loses his peace of mind. It is at this point that he calls Vidura, his able minister to seek advice from. As per the king’s instruction, Vidhura comes into the chamber and sees his king in an extremely sad state.

Before we move on further into the Vidura-Neethi, I’ll quickly brief what had happened just before this context. The previous day, King Dhirdhriraashtra had sent Sanjaya (Another important minister of King Dhirdhriraashtra) as his messenger to the Paandava camp to analyze what is the mood there! Sanjaya had come back with some important news from the other camp, but by the time he arrived at the palace of King Dhirdhriraashtra, he was extremely tired owing to the long journey that he had to undertake. Hence he seeks permission from King Dhirdhriraashtra to rest for this night and convey the important message in detail, the next day morning. Accordingly, King Dhirdhriraashtra requests him to go and rest.

It is at this interval does King Dhirdhriraashtra feels tensed and worried – He is worried now as to what would be Sanjaya’s message from the Paandava camp. Thus the conversation that happened during this midnight spans for around eight “Adhyaayaas” within the Udyoga Parva. Thus from the 33’rd Adhyaaya till the 40’th Adhyaaya, it talks only about the important advice that Vidhura is giving to King Dhirdhriraashtra.

Now comes the next important question – Who is this Vidhura? It is a very interesting context to be discussed. Vidhura is none other than the complete embodiment of “Dharma”! Vidhura knows only to talk Dharma. When he talks, he talks straightaway to the point, without any nonsense in between! That is, he doesn’t know to bluff around and beat around the bush. Whatever he talks, he talks from his heart and that would be only pertaining to the Dharma. It should be noted here that this Vidhura is an incarnation of the epitome of Dharma – Yama-Dharma-Raaja.

I shall narrate in brief about Vidura’s background – How was he born? To whom was he born? It might be a bit confusing and hence I request readers to pay full attention to the details.

All of us would be knowing about the great “Bhishma” in the Mahaabhaarata. He was the son of Mother Ganga and hence is known as “Gaangeya”. Bhishma’s father was Shaantanu. This Shaantanu married Ganga Devi initially. After their marriage, they had many children and each child was killed because of an understanding between Shaantanu and Ganga Devi. The eighth son born to them was named “Devavratha”. This Devavratha is none other than Bhishma. He got his name “Bhishma” much later, and his original name was Devavratha. As per the understanding, Ganga Devi wanted to kill this Devavratha also and she takes the child to the river bank. Upon seeing the beautiful child, Santhanu was moved to tears. How could Ganga Devi kill this child? As he stops her from proceeding to kill Devavratha, Ganga Devi decides to end her relationship with Santhanu (as per their initial agreement). She hands over Devavratha to Santhanu and merges with the river Ganga. Thus Santhanu takes the little child and grows him up gradually.

After a few years, Santhanu meets another woman by name “Satyavathi”. This Satyavathi is from a fisherman community. Santhanu falls in love with this Satyavati, marries her, and obtains a son by name “Vichithra-Veerya”.

Here comes another twist to the story – Prior to marrying Santhanu, Satyavathi was having a past background. Owing to certain reasons, (I’m not going into those reasons for now) she was born out of a fish. Subsequently, a fisherman sees this baby, takes her to his house and grows her up. It is thus, Satyavathi was amidst a fisherman’s family and community. It is this Satyavathi upon which Santhanu falls in love with. During the marriage, Satyavathi’s father obtains a promise from Santhanu saying that, the successor of the kingdom should be only that child which would be born between these two people, and not the already existing Devavratha. Upon hearing this, little Devavratha pledges in front of his father Santhanu that he would remain single without marrying anyone, and that, his father can pass on the kingdom to the son who would be born to his step-mother Satyavathi. Thus, this promise of Devavratha was not an easy one to execute and this is why it is called as “Bhishma-Prathignya” (Prathignya means promise). It is only because of this promise that he made, Devavratha obtained the name as “Bhishma”.

Thus to sum up, Santhanu’s son with Ganga Devi was Devavratha (Bhishma) and Santhanu’s son with Satyavathi was Vichitra-Veerya. Thus we can see that Bhishma and Vichitra-Veerya are brothers.

There is another twist to this story. I had previously mentioned that this Satyavathi had a previous background prior to marrying Santhanu. Let me brief it a little more – Before she married Santhanu, once upon a time, Sage Paraasara had visited Satyavathi. Somehow he fell in love with Satyavathi instantaneously. Thus a son was born between both of them and this son is none other than Sage Veda-Vyaasa. Now combining these two stories now, Sage Veda-Vyaasa is also the brother of Vichitra-Veerya. However as Sage Veday-Vyaasa was born, Sage Paraasara takes him away from Satyavathi and he never returned back! After this episode, with his power of penance, Sage Paraasara transforms Satyavathi into a virgin woman again! It is only because of this reason, Satyavathi was able to marry Santhanu.

Now we’ve seen the first part of the huge family tree. For today, I’m stopping at this point because if I go further inside the tree, we would get confused. Hence let us recall and remember this part of the family tree for today. We shall continue the story in tomorrow’s episode and see how Vidura was born! Stay tuned!

Published by Dr. Jeayaram

Holds a PhD in Management Psychology from Universite Paris Saclay, Paris, France. Also an Asst. Professor of Human Resources management at Amrita Vishwa Vidyapeetham in Kerala, India. A professional South Indian classical musician (singer) performing concerts. Through this blog, I'm trying to bring out the richness of Indian culture & values and I request your support and feedbacks in making this humble effort a success!!

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