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Bhishma was an unparalleled warrior of his times and was one of the central characters of the Mahabharata epic.

Bhishma was the son of king Shantanu and Ganga.

How was Ganga, the Celestial Queen of rivers, born in the world of humans?

What are the details of the illustrious Bhishma's birth as the son of King Shantanu and Ganga?

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The story of Bhishma’s birth, is explained in –The Mahabharata book 1:Adi Parva:Sambhava Parva:Sections XCVI, XCVII and XCVIII. The details are as under:-

1.Ganga is cursed by Brahma to live on earth.The 8 Vasus also get cursed by Rishi Vasishtha to live on earth.The Vasus request Ganga to become their mother on earth.They also request Ganga to throw them into water, immediately on birth, so as to return back to heaven quickly. Ganga accepts their request.

2.As cursed by Brahma, Ganga comes down to earth.A very virtuous king named Prateepa, spent many years in ascetic penances at the source of river Ganges.One day Ganga meets king Prateepa and expresses a desire to become his wife.King Prateepa declines politely and promises to make Ganga his daughter-in-law instead.A son Shantanu{Ishvaku king, Mahabhisha re-born, due to a curse by Brahma} is born to king Prateepa in his old age.King Prateepa keeps his promise to make Ganga his daughter-in-law.

3.Shantanu promises never to question any acts of Ganga . Ganga and Shantanu get married.Eight children are born to them{being the eight Vasus cursed by rishi Vasishtha}.Seven children are thrown in water by Ganga immediately as they are born.When the 8th child{Vasu Prabhasa re-born on earth} is about to be thrown in water, king Shantanu breaks his promise and stops Ganga.

4.The reply given by Ganga and the events that follow are as under:-

Ganga replied, 'O thou desirous of offspring, thou hast already become the first{best} of those that have children. I shall not destroy this child of thine.

But according to our agreement, the period of my stay with thee is at an end.

I am Ganga, the daughter of Jahnu. I am ever worshipped by the great sages;

I have lived with thee so long for accomplishing the purposes of the celestials. The eight illustrious Vasus endued with great energy had, from Vasishtha's curse, to assume human forms. On earth, besides thee, there was none else to deserve the honour of being their begetter.

There is no woman also on earth except one like me, a celestial of human form, to become their mother. I assumed a human form to bring them forth. Thou also, having become the father of the eight Vasus, hast acquired many regions of perennial bliss.

It was also agreed between myself and the Vasus that I should free them from their human forms as soon as they would be born. I have thus freed them from the curse of the Rishi Apava. Blest be thou; I leave thee, O king!

But rear thou this child of rigid vows. That I should live with thee so long was the promise I gave to the Vasus. And let this child be called Gangadatta.'"

5.The 8th child Gangadatta was thus not thrown in water. The child was named Devavrata ,and went on to become Bhishma ,one of the most illustrious characters of Mahabharata.


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    Tiny addition if you don't mind - Santanu and Ganga are both cursed at the same time to take birth on earth due to their misdemeanor in Brahma's court. Santanu is also a divine being. – user1195 Aug 17 '16 at 2:45
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    Thumbs Up, Uday. BTW, it is King Pradeepa not Pratipa. You might want to edit? – user1195 Aug 18 '16 at 7:26

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