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How Satyavati was born

During the time our story is set, there were several other kingdoms in India apart from Hastinapura. One of them was Chedi whose ruler was Uparichara. Besides being a benevolent king, Uparichara was also deeply religious. He performed great sacrifices to the Supreme Lord. This activity of his was causing concern to Indra who was the lord of the regions inhabited by gods. There had been instances when a king, through severe penance, had pleased the Lord. The king would then ask for a boon. He would want to depose Indra and sit in his throne. Indra had constantly to guard himself from such usurpers. He would distract such kings and mislead them into bad ways. An easy way would be to send apsaras to dance before them. This device worked with Uparichara who relapsed into an easy life.
Uparichara was fond of hunting. He would leave alone with his bow and arrows on distant expeditions, deep into the jungle. In one such trip he suddenly realized that the stars had aligned in a way that it was auspicious to have a progeny. It was not possible to return to his kingdom. So he used an eagle to send his vital energy to his queen. The eagle, while on its way to Chedi, was attacked by another eagle and its precious cargo fell into the River Yamuna.
A fish swallowed what the eagle dropped. This fish was in reality an apsara who was undergoing a curse. Ten months after this strange happening, a fisherman chief caught the fish. When he took it home and cut it he was surprised to see a male and a female human baby in the fish’s stomach.
The fisherman was surprised and also frightened at what he found. He took the two babies to the king and told him of the strange occurrence. It happened that the king was issueless and was just then looking for a boy to adopt. He thought that God had sent him the baby in answer to his prayers. He therefore kept the boy and asked the fisherman chief to take away the girl. The fisherman named her Satyavati and brought her up as his daughter.
Vyasa is born to Satyavati
Satyavati grew up to be a beautiful maiden. But, being born of a fish, she had the repulsive smell of fish emanating from her. No effort on her part could rid her of this smell. Being a dutiful daughter, she assisted her father by plying a boat in the River Yamuna.
The sage Parasar, who had great mystic powers, was one day being ferried across the river by Satyavati. He was captivated by her beauty and told her of his desire for her. Satyavati pleaded that she wanted to remain a maiden. Parasar persisted and finally won her consent by giving her two boons.
Parasar’s first boon was that Satyavati would remain a maiden, even after union with him. The second boon was that the offensive odour she carried would disappear and, instead, she would smell of perfume. The second boon benefited Satyavati so much that she began to smell of flowers. She was transformed from Matsyagandha (she who smelt of fish) to Yojanagandha (she whose fragrance spread to a ‘yojana’ or nine miles).
On the boat, to avoid being seen by the rishis on either bank, Parasar caused a fog to occur. As soon as the sage left her, Sayavati conceived. By Parasar’s grace she gave birth to a male child immediately in an island in the river. Since the child had a dark complexion Satyavati named him Krishna. Since he was born in an island, Dwaipayana, or island-born, was added to his name. Krishna attained maturity as soon as he was born, again thanks to the mystical powers of his father. He was, after he grew up, to become proficient in scriptures and to earn the name Veda Vyasa for his elaboration of the Vedas. He left his mother to seek knowledge after assuring her that he would return to her side whenever she called him in her mind. For the present we shall leave Satyavati to ply her trade and turn to Santanu


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