Reading Guide. As mentioned earlier, Devavrata, the son of King Shantanu and the goddess Ganga, will be known as Bhishma. This part of the story explains how he got that name: the Sanskrit word the "terrible oath" which Devavrata takes here so that King Shantanu can marry Satyavati is bhishama pratigya, hence the name "Bhishma."
Image: The illustration of Bhishma and his "terrible vow" is another work by Raja Ravi Varma.
Source. Indian Myth and Legend by Donald A. Mackenzie (1913). [300 words]
Greatly the king sorrowed in his heart because of his love for the dark-eyed maiden, and at length Devavrata was given his secret. Then that noble son of Ganga went to search for the beautiful daughter of the fisherman, and he found her. The fisherman said unto him, when he had made known his mission, "If Satyavati bears sons, they will not inherit the kingdom for the king hath already a son, and he will succeed him."
Devavrata thereupon made a vow renouncing his claim to the throne and said, "If thou wilt give thy daughter unto my sire to be his queen, I, who am his heir, will never accept the throne, nor marry a wife, or be the father of children. If, then, Satyavati will become the mother of a son, he will surely be chosen rajah." When he had spoken thus, the gods and apsaras caused flowers to fall out of heaven upon the prince's head, and a voice came down the wind, saying, "This one is Bhishma."
So from that day the son of Ganga was called Bhishma, which signifies the "Terrible," for the vow that he had taken was terrible indeed.
Then was Satyavati given in marriage to the king, and she bore him two sons, who were named Chitrangada and Vichitravirya.
In time Shantanu sank under the burden of his years, and his soul departed from his body. Unto Bhishma was left the care of the queen-mother, Satyavati, and the two princes.
When the days of mourning went past, Bhishma renounced the throne in accordance with his vow, and Chitrangada was proclaimed king. This youth was a haughty ruler, and his reign was brief. He waged war against the Gandhari of the hills for three years, and was slain in battle by their rajah.
Then Bhishma placed Vichitravirya on the throne, and, as he was but a boy, Bhishma ruled as regent for some years.