Religions of South Asia, Vol 5, No 1/5.2 (2011)

Between History and Divine Plan: The Mahābhārata’s Royal Patriline in Context

Alf Hiltebeitel
Issued Date: 23 May 2012


The Mahābhārata royal patriline is tracked and contextualized here in relation to two prominent themes: its concept of a divine plan (somewhat paralleled in the Rāmāyaṇa) and its chief genre term itihāsa or ‘history’. It is found that these two themes intersect in the Mahābhārata at the point where the goddess Gaṅgā ‘descends’ into the royal line as the wife of King Śaṃtanu. Gaṅgā’s intervention then provides new means to interpret the part played by Śaṃtanu’s second wife, Kālī Satyavatī. Attention is given to etymological clues to the ways these two mothers, and their sons Bhīṣma and Vyāsa respectively, supply continuity to the dynastic line.

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DOI: 10.1558/rosa.v5i1/2.103


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