Monday, July 30, 2012

The Mahabharata (book 1.XCVIII)

Ganga was about half way through her eighth pregnancy. This was the last of the Vasus and her promise would finally be fulfilled, but rather than feeling relieved that it was almost over she felt uneasy instead. She decided that perhaps a walk in the countryside would help her clear her head.

After some time she came upon a farmhouse with a woman and boy sitting on front steps. They had a book open and didn't notice her. She hid behind a tree and continued watching.

"cha...rye..oat?" said the boy, looking up at the woman.

"chariot," she replied.

"What's a cha-ri-ot, Mama?"

"It's used by kings and warriors in battle. It's like our ox cart, except smaller and pulled by horses. It is usually very beautiful and shiny, and sometimes even embedded with jewels. One person commands the reins to steer the horses, while the other stands behind with a bow for attacking." as she spoke she motioned with her arms as if she were holding reins, then drawing a bow with an arrow and shooting.

Turning somber, she continued, "King Santanu hasn't been to the city to speak with the people and address their concerns in many years now, but the next time he does perhaps we can go and you can see him in his chariot."

"Oh, I would love that, Mama."

Ganga watched as they read together a bit more, then could see the boy was starting to get restless.

"Mama, can I play now?"

"Sure. You're doing really well with your reading and I'm very proud."

The boy hopped down from the steps and started running around in front of the house.

"Look how fast I can run Mama. I think I'm even faster than you now."

"Is that so?" said his mother, smiling, as she kicked off her chappals. "I think we'll have to see about that."

She jumped up and started chasing her son around the yard. He was giggling and screaming with delight as she feigned catching him during several instances. Finally, she scooped him up in her arms and hugged him tightly as she spun around. He too threw his little arms around her neck and hugged her back saying, "I love you Mama."

Ganga quietly left and returned to the castle reflecting on what she had seen.

A few months later Ganga gave birth, but on the day after, when the early morning arrived she followed a different course of action. Instead of going to the river alone, today she turned to Santanu and said, "Come with me."

Santanu pretended to be asleep and not hear her, but when she was at the door she said with authority, "Now!" to which he scurried out of bed and followed her.

They stood on the river bank together as she gathered her thoughts and then spoke. "During all of our years together we have done nothing but indulge ourselves in sensual pleasures while neglecting the kingdom and the people. We have even failed to produce an heir," she said while looking down at her sleeping son in her arms.

"As I look back, I am now sickened and disgusted by what we have done. What I have done. What you have allowed me to do."

She paused and looked at him for a response; he had none, so she continued. "So whether or not you decide to stop me from murdering our eighth son," as she motioned with her arms, "we are through."

Nooo!! Santanu felt his whole world crumble. He begged for forgiveness with his eyes, while reaching out to touch his wife’s shoulder. She pulled it away saying, "Don’t touch me!" then proceeded to walk into the water to drown her son.

Santanu fell to his hands and knees, but quickly realized there was still one thing in his life that could be salvaged, "Stop! Stop!"

He was weeping on the ground when Ganga came and stood before him. She shook her head and said, "Get up and be a man for God’s sake! Be a king!"

Santanu was startled by this new side of his wife, and got himself together and stood up. She then continued, "You have incredible talents and abilities that have all gone to waste during our years together. You are now going to put those talents to work and be the best king you can be."

Santanu's self-esteem was feeling a boost as she went on, "You are not only going to bring prosperity and happiness to your own people, but to people everywhere and be renowned throughout the world."

Santanu nodded in agreement as his life regained its purpose, but Ganga still was not finished, "As for our son, I will use my astral powers and take him to heaven with me and raise him there. He will have the best teachers in all three planes, to develop his mind, body and spirit to levels rarely seen on earth. I will teach him that life on earth is not about indulging in sensual pleasures as I had once thought, but about love. . . for your parents, your family, friends, neighbors and all the people of your kingdom. I will be the best. . . "

Ganga's emotions had been building throughout her speech, until her voice finally cracked. She looked down into the face of her son, and tears rolled down her cheeks as she said, "the best mother ever!"

Santanu watched as they dematerialized from view. He then focussed his attention on what she had commanded, for if there was any hope of ever winning her back, he would pursue it with every waking moment.


1. Derived from: Adi Parva, Section XCVIII, p. 210.

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