Episode # 8 – Why was King Dhridiraashtra blind?

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In the previous episode we had been witnessing a brief about the huge family tree that forms the crux of the Mahaabhaarata text. In that, we saw how Bhishma was born. We saw that Bhishma was the son of King Saanthanu and Ganga Devi. However, after Ganga Devi’s departure, King Saanthanu fell in love with another woman by name Sathyavati. It is between both of them that Vichitra-Veerya was born. Thus, Vichithra-Veerya was the successor of King Saanthanu. We also saw the previous history of Satyavati and the birth of Sage Veda-Vyaasa too. We also saw that Sage Paraasara transformed Satyavati once again into a virgin woman with the strength of his deep penance.

Thus Satyavati married King Saanthanu and Vichitra-Veerya was born. However, Vichitra-Veerya passed away in due course because of a disease. Thus because of Vichitra-Veerya’s untimely death, there was a stop in the growth of the generation. Many of us might have heard that it was only for this Vichitra-Veerya that Bhishma defeated Kaasi-Raaja and brought his three daughters along with him – Amba, Ambika and Ambaalika. Out of these three girls, Amba confessed that she was in love with another person and thus left Vichitra-Veerya’s palace. However due to various reasons, Amba couldn’t go anywhere else and later on with her deep penance she was the person who created “Shikandi”, who was responsible for Bhishma’s death!

Now, as Amba has left, Ambika and Ambaalika are remaining! King Vichitra-Veerya marries both of them, however they were childless for a very long time! It is at this time that Vichitra-Veerya’s untimely death happens. Now Vichitra-Veerya’s mother Satyavati thinks within herself, “Oh! I had married Saanthanu with the desire of growing this generation, however my son has died without obtaining a child!” Hence she calls Bhishma and talks with him to find a solution. She is now worried that the kingdom does not have the next successor after Vichitra-Veerya. Hence, Bhishma if you can find out a way to solve this issue it would be helpful for the kingdom!”

As Satyavati says thus, Bhishma himself was confused! He couldn’t find out a solution for this problem by himself. On one hand he should not act against the Dharma, and on the other, there should be a child that needs to be born immediately so as to protect the kingdom.

It is at this point only that Satyavati reveals her previous history to Bhishma – That she already has a son by name Sage Veda-Vyaasa! However, when Sage Veda-Vyaasa left Satyavati forever, he gives a promise to his mother saying thus, “I shall come immediately whenever you call me! I shall help you for sure, when the time and need arises!” Saying thus, Satyavati decides that this is the crucial time when she would require her son Vyaasa’s help.

Thus, she calls Vyaasa with her penance. As we know that Sage Veda-Vyaasa is an embodiment of innumerable spiritual powers, he realizes that his mother is in dire need of help. As Bhishma agrees for inviting Sage Veda-Vyaasa, Satyavati thinks of him and enters into penance. Realizing the importance, Sage Veda-Vyaasa arrives at the palace to meet his mother. As Sage Veda-Vyaasa arrives, Satyavati explains the situation to him, that Vichitra-Veerya has passed away and the kingdom is currently without a successor. Satyavati points out to Ambika and Ambaalika and requests Vyaasa’s help to obtain a proper successor for the kingdom. Hearing this from his mother, Sage Veda-Vyaasa replies, “Oh Mother! I’m a sage and I’ve totally renounced my worldly life! Hence, technically I cannot do what you ask for! However, I do understand that you’re asking for a reason, which is also pertaining to the Dharma. Maybe what can be done is that, please ask Ambika and Ambaalika to observe a sincere fast (Vratha) for a year. I shall come again after one year, when the fast is getting over. At that time I shall bless them with children.”

As Sage Veda-Vyaasa replies thus, it was not very convincing for Satyavati. How could she wait for one full year for all this to happen? She wanted immediate results. As she expresses this to Sage Vyaasa, he replies back, “Oh mother! If they wait for one year by fasting sincerely, it would have an excellent effect in future! I want to see if these two women are having the capability of tolerance and patience. However, you are not ready to let them undergo this important test!”

Sage Veda-Vyaasa continues further, “OK! In that case, if you want to have immediate results, let’s do one thing! If these two women would accept me with this dirty body of mine, which is smelling full of fish everywhere (it is to be remembered that he was born from Satyavati who was in turn from a fisherman’s community) and be with me by tolerating this, I shall bless them with children! This is the only way out now!”

As Satyavati listens to her son’s reply, she accepts this deal and agrees to convince both these women Ambika and Ambaalika to be ready. Accordingly she goes to Ambika and Ambaalika, makes both of them prepared by saying, “I’ve arranged a Sage to bless you in becoming a mother of a child!” Hearing thus, Ambika was also happy to hear this and she waited till the night dawns. As the night dawns, Sage Veda-Vyaasa arrives again and Ambika goes to meet him. However, Satyavati did not let her know that Sage Veda-Vyaasa’s body would be unimaginably dirty with toxic smell emanating from everywhere. Thus upon seeing Sage Vyaasa’s dirty body, Ambika immediately closed her eyes in deep shock! Since she had closed her eyes while Sage Vyaasa’s blessings were passing through to her body, she had to obtain a child who had no eyesight! This child was none other than King Dhirdriraashtra, who was blind right from his birth! Sage Veda-Vyaasa later conveys to Satyavati saying that since Ambika closed her eyes due to intolerance of my appearance, her child would be blind! However, this child would have hundred sons in future and each of them would be extremely powerful in nature!

Now for the next woman, Ambaalika – As the next night dawns in, Sage Veda-Vyaasa arrives again and this time it is Ambaalika’s turn to see him. As Ambaalika sees him, she doesn’t close her eyes (as Ambika did), however, she was shell-shocked on seeing his dirty and smelling body! She couldn’t take it and her body started shivering all over! She became white with fear and trembling! Thus again, Sage Veda-Vyaasa’s blessing couldn’t completely reach this woman also. Thus Ambaalika had to deliver a child who was having the same problem as Ambalika had – With nervousness and shivering nature! This child was none other than Paandu.

Thus to summarize for the day, Vichithra-Veerya’s two wives Ambika and Ambaalika meet Sage Veda-Vyaasa and thus, Ambika gives birth to the blind King Dhirdriraashtra and Ambaalika gives birth to Pandu, who was born with fever and nervousness.

We shall stop with this for today, and continue the family tree in the next episode! 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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