Today is Sunday and I am going to local market to purchase weekly requirements and on the way meet my friend Biplab. He looks highly frustrated and confused, asked me; can you tell me when ‘Euthanasia’ should be applicable in our country? The term ‘Euthanasia’ means the practice of intentionally ending a life to relieve pain and suffering. I asked him why? He mentioned, I am really upset with my wife. I told him, again the old story, I am also married. He again told me; really I am frustrated with my own wife. I told everybody upset with their own wife, they are happy with other’s wife. After making his mood I again started walking. But the word ‘Euthanasia’ buzzing in my head.

Though my friend Biplab does not know, Since March 2018, passive euthanasia is legal in India under strict guidelines. Patients must consent through a living will, and must be either terminally ill or in a vegetative state (absence of responsiveness and awareness due to overwhelming dysfunction of the cerebral hemispheres).

(Ref: https://www.reuters.com/article/us-india-court-euthanasia/indias-top-court-upholds-passive-euthanasia-allows-living-wills-in-landmark-judgment-idUSKCN1GL0MF). 

I searched online dictionaries and found the Hindi meaning of ‘Euthanasia’ is इच्छामृत्यु (Icchamrityu). Though I think it is wrong because Euthanasia will not allow you to live after your normal life span. The correct meaning of Icchamrityu(इच्छामृत्यु) should be ‘Wish Death’.

The word  ‘Wish Death’ (इच्छामृत्यु) is familiar with the mythological character of Mahabharata ‘Bhishma’. His father granted him the boon of Ichcha Mrityu (control over his own death — he could choose the time of his death, making him immortal till his chosen time of death). How he got it that is a different story. Bhishma’s original name was Devabrata.

Bhishma

 As the son of Goddess Ganga and having undergone a successful military campaign, he was easily confirmed as the actual heir and was loved by all in the city. Shantanu was proud of his son and happy that the future was secure. However, Shantanu had gradually been falling in love with a fisherwoman, Satyavati, who operated the boats crossing one of Hastinapur’s rivers. When Shantanu move toward for her hand in marriage, Satyavati’s father refused to give his daughter’s hand to Shantanu unless Shantanu would declare her children as his heirs. However, doing so would be against the hereditary rules of Bharat, and Shantanu had already promised the throne to Bhishma. So, Shantanu sorrowfully had to reject the offer. This made Shantanu unhappy, and upon discovering the reason for his father’s despondency, Devabrata sought out the girl’s father and surrendered his claim to the throne. At this, Satyavati’s father countered that even if Devabrata gave up his claim to the throne, Devabrata’s children would still claim the throne. Devabrata then took the vow of lifelong celibacy, thus sacrificing his ‘crown-prince’ title and denying himself the pleasures of married life. He became known as ‘Bhishma’ after he took the ‘bhishamna pratignya’ (‘terrible oath’). Then his father granted him the boon of ‘Wish Death’ or ‘Icchamrityu’. Now I am thinking is ‘Wish Death’ or ‘Icchamrityu’ is really boon or curse.

Bhishma

Before that let us know more about Bhishma. To know more about Bhishma we have to know about his grandfather King Pratipa. Once when King Pratipa was meditating on the bank of the river Ganges and mumbling prayers, the Ganges, in the form of an exceedingly beautiful woman, approached him and asked him to make love to her. But Pratipa refused to comply with her wishes in spite of her adamant requests, as he felt it was not in accordance with his own principle. But Ganga was so adamant that she rose from the water and sat on the right thigh of the royal ascetic.

The King was embarrassed and he told her thus:—”Oh sweet girl, who are you? Do you realize what a sinful deed you have done? Why did you sat on my thigh without seeking my permission? The right thigh is for the daughter, daughter in law and the wife or for the son. Since you have thus sat on my right thigh, you shall be the wife of my son when one is born to me.”

Bhishma

First of all I must appreciate that time poets or writers thinking the resemblance of Ganges with teenage girl. She is happy at times but become moody for some reason or another. To increase its acceptance among Indians and making it less polluted they imagined the river Ganges as goddess. But, I was really shocked to know a beautiful lady/girl without any introduction, without any hesitation directly sat on the right thigh of the royal ascetic. King Pratipa was aged then and he would not become a prey of Ganga as his testosterone was in lower side. King Pratipa also rose about her family background and marital status. He accepted her as daughter and mentioned that the right thigh is for daughter. King Pratipa then applied a unique strategy to accept her as daughter in law.

Finally, she proposed to her that she may marry his son and become his daughter-in-law. Ganga agreed on condition that Pratipa’s son should not know of her identity and should never question about his activity. Pratipa agreed, after that Ganga disappeared in the river. After some time Pratipa blessed with a son named Santanu. When Santanu grown up Pratipa decided to spend the rest of his life in forests and calling his son and gave him all advice and added “Son, perhaps a girl may come to you and if she comes accept her as your wife. Do not ask her about her identity and activity. By making her your truthful wife you will acquire a great many benefits.”

He was later to marry Ganga and became the father of Bhishma. Pratipa, thereafter, delegated the kingdom to his son and after accomplishment severe penance in the forests attained divyaloka.

(2nd Skandha, Devi Bhagavata, Puranic Encyclopedia).

My analysis says that to make the epic believable and attaching river Ganges with Aryan Civilization the writer/writers have tried hard. To establish river Ganges as goddess and mother of stalwart Bhishma of ‘Bharat Dynasty’ they have added many stories (whether those are real or imaginary-I do not know).

Also read Niyoga- Sperm donation in ancient India

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