Devavrata/Bhishma is on his deathbed -- he tells Yudhishthira the story of Hastinapura and how it was affected by the crisis. His father Shantanu had tried to address the crisis caused by the collapse of the Panchnad cities. The Kavi Sangha’s proposed social policies to control the growth of population were oppressive. Enforcing those policies led to the suicide of Devavrata’s mother Ganga. Later, his father fell in love with Satyavati and disinherited Devavrata so that Satyavati’s descendants would be the future rulers of Hastinapura. Devavrata believed that Satyavati had manipulated him and angrily vowed to remain celibate his whole life. Satyavati thought that Devavrata had lacked courage and had failed to support her when she needed it. When Shantanu died, his two sons were too young and Devavrata ruled as co-Regent with Satyavati, despite their mutual enmity. Devavrata’s first half-brother died fighting Shakas, invaders from the north of the mountains. Devavrata then ruled as co-Regent for his second half-brother Vichitravirya who died without any children. Vichitravirya’s two wives were pregnant when he died. Once again, Devavrata ruled as co-Regent until his nephews, Dhritarashtra and Pandu, were ready to be crowned. Devavrata described to Yudhishthira what he tried to do with the support of the Kavi Sangha. Yudhishthira wanted to understand how the Kavi Sangha’s policies had worked and how he, Yudhishthira, could be a more effective ruler. The Vyaasa, the head of the Kavi Sangha, contributed to the narrative, eliciting personal details and observations. In the process, Devavrata learned secrets that had been kept from him. This new knowledge made him wonder if the personal costs that he had endured were justified by the value of what he had accomplished.
12/15/2016The Making of Bhishma, a ground-breaking novel of Bronze Age India