“Remember… that women are central to creation, patriarchy only lives in delusion… only the woman knows who the father of her child is, so quite obviously, only she indirectly determines the race of the child. Do not undermine the power of a woman …..”
Powerful words that throw new light on weak links in patriarchy in Mahabharatian times, when with a line up of women defying custom, Amba, Gandhari, Kunti, even Satyavati.
She was different, risen from fisherfolk to Kuru matriarch. More noteworthy: her arrival transformed Prince Devavrata into Bhisham Pitama and finally, in a sensational twist to history that even Bhishma never foresaw, eliminated Kuru genes from the Kuru line!
How did that happen? When?
In Satyavati’s own lifetime.
The story goes that when her two sons died without heirs, Satyavati sought out Bhishma to revive the ancient Niyoga custom of allowing a close family male or a Brahmin to impregnate the widow for an heir.
Bhishma reared vociferously pleading his celibacy vows. With neighbouring kings casting lustful glances at both the heirless throne and the widowed princesses, Satyavati took a fateful decision. She recalled her son, Ved Vyasa (yes, the man credited with writing the Mahabharata), born of Sage Parasher’s lust for Satyavati. Raised by his father, Vyasa was a fearful sight with tangled hair, bushy beard and manic red eyes.
BUT, as elder Jethji of the widowed princesses, he was perfect for Niyoga… except that the unprepared princesses went into shock seeing him and were cursed to produce blind and albino offspring, while their lusty maid produced a wise scholar, Vidur.
What that ultimately boiled down to was that:
Drithrashtra, Pandu and Vidur had no Kuru genes. Their father, Vyasa was the child of Satyavati, a fishergirl and Sage Parasher; mothers belonged to different families. No blood came to them from Satyavati’s husband, Shantanu, a true blue Kuru. Since none of Pandu’s sons were born of him, End of Kuru line!
Unwittingly perhaps, Satyavati had her revenge against the Kshtriyas, the king who raped her mother and of the twins born, kept the son, rejecting her, the daughter. Later, Satyavati herself was assaulted by Rishi Parashar…hence Vyasa, whom she never acknowledged until circumstance prescribed.
Mumbai mythologist Utkarsh Patel, in his book Satyavati, took a novel look at the woman who calls Bhishma a selfish man more concerned about vows than a child for the throne he swore to save. About her own son, Vyas, Satyavati is equally blunt.
“What would I say to the world? My son … result of my inability to stop a sage? Or son of a renowned sage, who couldn’t control himself?
Why is motherhood so overrated … Just because we give birth to children? Does love have no role to play? If the child is not conceived with love and joy, why burden the likes of us with the ‘joy of motherhood’?”
She rejected a society that reminds constantly of the trauma, prescribing love, until willy nilly the poor mother agrees to love the child. After all it was not the child’s fault. What about the absconding father?