The Mahabharata/Book 1: Adi Parva/Section XCVII
(Sambhava Parva continued)
"Vaisampayana said. 'There was a king of the name of Pratipa, who was kind to all creatures. He spent many years in ascetic penances at the source of the river Ganga. The accomplished and lovely Ganga, one day, assuming the form of a beautiful female, and rising from the waters, made up to the monarch. The celestial maiden, endued with ravishing beauty, approached the royal sage engaged in ascetic austerities, and sat upon his right thigh that was, for manly strength, a veritable Sala tree. When the maiden of handsome face had so sat upon his lap, the monarch said unto her, 'O amiable one, what dost thou desire? What shall I do?' The damsel answered, 'I desire thee, O king, for my husband! O foremost one of the Kurus, be mine! To refuse a woman coming of her own accord is never applauded by the wise.' Pratipa answered, 'O thou of the fairest complexion, moved by lust, I never go in unto others' wives or women that are not of my order. This, indeed, is my virtuous vow.' The maiden rejoined, 'I am not inauspicious or ugly. I am every way worthy of being enjoyed. I am a celestial maiden of rare beauty; I desire thee for my husband. Refuse me not, O king.' To this Pratipa answered, 'I am, 'O damsel, abstaining from that course to which thou wouldst incite me. If I break my vow, sin will overwhelm and kill me. O thou of the fairest complexion, thou hast embraced me, sitting on my right thigh. But, O timid 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 my daughter-in-law. I accept thee for my son!'
"The damsel then said, 'O virtuous one, let it be as thou sayest. Let me be united with thy son. From my respect for thee, I shall be a wife of the celebrated Bharata race. Ye (of the Bharata race) are the refuge of all the monarchs on earth! I am incapable of numbering the virtues of this race even within a hundred years. The greatness and goodness of many celebrated monarchs of this race are limitless. O lord of all, let it be understood now that when I become thy daughter-in-law, thy son shall not be able to judge of the propriety of my acts. Living thus with thy son, I shall do good to him and increase his happiness. And he shall finally attain to heaven in consequence of the sons I shall bear him, and of his virtues and good conduct.'
"Vaisampayana continued, 'O king, having said so, the celestial damsel disappeared then and there. And the king, too, waited for the birth of his son in order to fulfil his promise.'
"About this time Pratipa, that light of the Kuru race, that bull amongst Kshatriyas, was engaged, along with his wife, in austerities from desire of
offspring. And when they had grown old, a son was born unto them. This was no other than Mahabhisha. And the child was called Santanu because he was born when his father had controlled his passions by ascetic penances. And the best of Kurus, Santanu, knowing that region of indestructible bliss can be acquired by one's deeds alone, became devoted to virtue. When Santanu grew up into a youth, Pratipa addressed him and said, 'Some time ago, O Santanu, a celestial damsel came to me for thy good. If thou meetest that fair-complexioned one in secret and if she solicit thee for children, accept her as thy wife. And, O sinless one, judge not of the propriety or impropriety of her action and ask not who she is, or whose or whence, but accept her as thy wife at my command!'" Vaisampayana continued, 'Pratipa, having thus commanded his son Santanu and installed him on his throne, retired into the woods. And king Santanu endued with great intelligence and equal unto Indra himself in splendour, became addicted to hunting and passed much of his time in the woods. And the best of monarchs always slew deer and buffaloes. And one day, as he was wandering along the bank of the Ganges, he came upon a region frequented by Siddhas and Charanas. And there he saw a lovely maiden of blazing beauty and like unto another Sri herself; of faultless and pearly teeth and decked with celestial ornaments, and attired in garments of fine texture that resembled in splendour the filaments of the lotus. And the monarch, on beholding that damsel, became surprised, and his raptures produced instant horripilation. With steadfast gaze he seemed to be drinking her charms, but repeated draughts failed to quench his thirst. The damsel also beholding the monarch of blazing splendour moving about in great agitation, was moved herself and experienced an affection for him. She gazed and gazed and longed to gaze on him evermore. The monarch then in soft words addressed her and said, 'O slender-waisted one, be thou a goddess or the daughter of a Danava, be thou of the race of the Gandharvas, or Apsaras, be thou of the Yakshas or the Nagas, or be thou of human origin, O thou of celestial beauty, I solicit thee to be my wife!'"
Next: Section XCVIII