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Birth of Dhritarashtra and Pandu

Vichitravirya, the Kuru King, under the benevolent guidance of Bhishma, ruled wisely. However, after seven years of married life, he fell victim to a deadly disease. He died, leaving his two wives without children. A crisis of the first order descended on the family. They had lost a young king and there was no successor to the throne.
The Queen Mother, Satyavati, was plunged in grief at the loss of both her sons with no progeny to occupy the throne. She summoned her stepson, Bhishma, and told him, “Virtuous prince! It is in your hands to ensure the perpetuation of the Kuru race. Your brother has left two wives, neither having children. Oh! If I could only release you from the promise you made to my father that you would neither be a king nor marry and beget children.
“I however see a way out. You may be aware of the convention that permits you to act as the husband of Vichitravirya’s queens and sire a successor to our dynasty.”
Bhishma turned down the proposal, reminding Satyavati of his vow of strict celibacy. He instead came up with a plan. He said, “Parasurama, the son of Jamadagni, vowed to destroy all the Kshatriya males on earth. He wiped them out twenty-one times. The Kshatriyas had to find a way to perpetuate their race. The widowed women begot children through the priestly class of brahmins. Hence, seeking the help of a brahmin to be a father is an accepted Kshatriya practice.”
With Bhishma’s refusal, Satyavati’s thoughts now turned to her son from the sage Parasar. Vyasa was both a brahmin and a brother of Vichitravirya. Satyavati related to Bhishma the story of Vyasa’s birth and his promise to appear whenever Satyavati desired his presence. “I would call him now,” she said, “and ask him to help us during this critical time.” Bhishma fully supported the idea of Vyasa siring the queens’ children. Satyavati mentally summoned Vyasa.
Vyasa appeared before his mother and after paying his respects to her, asked her the reason for her summoning him. Satyavati explained to him the grave crisis faced by the Kuru dynasty.
Satyavati told Vyasa, “Only you can ensure the future of our dynasty. With the death of Vichitravirya, only you can sire his successors through his queens.”
Vyasa replied, “Your plan is certainly sanctioned by our laws. I shall follow your wishes.”
Ambika, the elder of Vichitravirya’s two widows, was selected by Satyavati for the purpose of begetting a child. Ambika agreed to the plan. But what she expected was that Bhishma would take her husband’s place.
Although Vyasa was endowed with all the best qualities, he was dark in complexion, with matted locks and blazing eyes. Waiting in her chamber, Ambika was expecting to receive the handsome Bhishma. On seeing the formidable-looking Vyasa enter her room, a frightened Ambika closed her eyes. When later Satyavati asked her son about the meeting, Vyasa replied that Ambika would have a strong and powerful son, but he would be born blind. Satyavati anxiously asked Vyasa, how a blind man can rule a kingdom like the Kauravas’, although he may be endowed with all the best qualities of a king. Vyasa expressed that what was done could not be undone.
Even as Vyasa had predicted, Ambika brought forth a healthy baby with the one handicap of being blind. The baby was named Dhritarashtra,
A dissatisfied Satyavati again summoned Vyasa and persuaded him to give her another grandson. This time a meeting with the younger wife of Vichithravirya, Ambalika, was arranged. Unlike her sister, Ambalika kept her eyes open while receiving Vyasa in her chamber. But she became pale out of fear when Vyasa came near her. The result was that the son born to her was of sallow complexion. But Ambalika’s son, Pandu, otherwise looked a noble child, born to be a king. This gave Satyavati great satisfaction.

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