Shringara Rasa – Ganga and her love


Devdutt-Ganga

Read this post about an introduction to the Rasas.

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While most of us associate the beginning of the Mahabharata with Santanu falling in love with Ganga (I blame BR Chopra and his wonderful TV Serial of the 1980s for that), the story actually begins a lot earlier than Santanu himself.

This post shall talk about Pratipa, Santanu’s father and how the rasa of shringaram (love, attractiveness) played a part in his story.

The king Pratipa was a wise and benevolent ruled and was loved by one and all. He spent many years in asetic penance on the banks of the river Ganga. One fine day, Ganga, assuming the form of a beautiful woman rose from the waters and sat on Pratipa’s right thigh.

Upon being disturbed from his penance, Pratipa asked her what she desired to which Ganga replied that she had fallen in love with the handsome countenance of Pratipa and wanted to marry him. Pratipa responded to Ganga’s proposal by gently refusing her offer and stating that while he appreciated her beauty, it was beyond him to agree to her offer.

When Ganga asked to know the reason why, he replied stating that he had taken a vow of abstinence and that he would be committing a sin by breaking the same. He further went on to state that she had chosen his right thigh and that the right thigh was reserved as a seat only for daughters and daughters-in-law. It was only the left thigh that was reserved for wives.

Hearing this, Ganga replied stating that it would be her honor to be the wife of Pratipa’s son as being a wife of somebody from the Bharata race was an honor in itself. She also stated that after becoming his daughter-in-law, her actions could not be judged for propriety by her son and that he would attain heaven as a consequence of the sons that she would bear him, and due to his actions and conduct.

Thus, the attraction that  Ganga had for Pratipa was one of the reasons that she would go on to marry Santanu in the future which most popular versions of the Mahabharata begin with.

Image courtesy : Devdutt Pattanaik’s illustration of Ganga

29 thoughts on “Shringara Rasa – Ganga and her love

  1. Now this is interesting, as always..however there are some things in mythology that are completely out of my comprehension.Like in one instant Ganga starts loving Pratipa and in another instant she is ready to marry Shantanu…why? Guess, she’s ‘maili’ for a reason then 😛

    • @Kajal, the point is not to take Ganga’s decision at face value. Instead what needs to be considered is that Ganga thought of it to be an honor to be a part of the Kuru dynasty that she was willing to take Pratipa’s son Shantanu as her husband to fulfill this wish of hers.

    • @Kajal, and we shouldn’t view most of the characters in these epics with our modern viewpoints, conditions, circumstances, motivations, everything was completely different in the era that these epics were written in as well.

  2. Awesome work man…..I am sure iof we delve a bit deeper, we can find out why Pratipa decided to do penance in the first place…that’s the epicness of Mahabharata right there…

    • @Ayush, I might already have an answer to that question 😉 Maybe another post after this series will explain that

  3. I smiled at your comment on B R Chopra’s Mahabharat. It is true how many of us got our education on this epic from his serial!
    This was yet another interesting tale from the mighty epic.

    • @Rickie, yes, I think the yardstick for most of us is that televised version of the Mahabharat, at least to people from our age grop I guess 🙂

  4. I have always wondered how Ganga come into the picture in Shantanu’s story. This makes sense. Not really, but yeah a little bit of sense like all Mythological stories. 🙂

  5. Interesting version! I’ve just started reading ‘Jaya’ and the story of Gangs comes in the initial chapters… In that is is said that Gangs intentionally sat on Pratipa’s right thigh. Devdutt had linked this to some prior tale and that Ganga had planned to marry Santanu and later break his heart…

    • @Aditi, there are multiple versions of this tale and this is just one of them, maybe I will put up another version sometime 🙂

  6. What I have read as a child was that Ganga had fallen for Shantanu in the court of Indra Dev. Since the Gods did not consent her affection she was cursed to assume a human manifestation and then marry Shantanu.

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