King Pratipa, a descendent of the Puru Vansh, ruled a vast kingdom with his capital in Hastinapura. Pratipa had three sons, Devapi, Balhika and Santanu. The eldest, Devapi, was afflicted by skin disease. He was therefore declared unfit for kingship by the brahmins and other elders. A disappointed Devapi renounced the world and wandered as an ascetic. The next son, Balhika, was adopted by his maternal grandfather whose rich kingdom he became heir to. It was to Santanu that the prized possession of Hastinapura fell when Pratipa died. Santanu was a worthy scion of the Kuru dynasty and he ruled wisely.
King Santanu’s birth as Pratipa’s son was due to certain happenings in the heavenly court of the Supreme Lord. All kings who had performed their duties properly on earth were eligible to enter heaven when their mortal life was over. King Mahavisa was one such who had gained admittance to heaven.
In the great hall of the Lord, Mahavisa was seated along with many sages and kings worshipping the Supreme Being. When Goddess Ganga, the Queen of Rivers, entered the hall, her garment inadvertently fell off her person. All those assembled in the august conclave avoided looking at her. But Mahavisa alone kept his gaze fixed on her. This angered the Lord who cursed him, “For your wretched action, you shall be re-born on earth. Ganga would also be born on earth and provoke your anger.”
As a result of this curse, Mahavisa was born to King Pratipa on earth and given the name Santanu.