In the older generations, the king of Hastinapura had a short-lived marriage with the goddess Ganga and had a son named Devavrata who in later years came to be called Bhishma. Many years later, king Shantanu came across a beautiful young lady Satyavati while he was out for hunting. Satyavati was the daughter of Dashraj, a fisherman and wished to marry her. The fisherman agreed her to get married to the mighty king but on condition that the child Satyavati would bear would inherit the throne. However, king Shantanu's first son Devavrata was the apparent heir to the throne.
Devavrata agreed not to take the throne with the intention of solving the king's dilemma and Shantanu promised to make any future son of Satyavati the king upon his death. Furthermore, Bhishma also took a vow of lifelong celibacy to guarantee his father's promise. King Shantanu got married to Satyavati and two sons Chitrangada and Vichitravirya, among the older generations were born to them.
When Shantanu died, Chitrangada became king, unfortunately, the young prince had a very short and uneventful life. Vichitravirya, the younger son, ruled Hastinapura after the death of his brother. Bhishma was concerned for his brother Vichitravirya's marriage. Vichitravirya and Bhishma went to Kasi for a swayambara of the three princesses Amba, Ambika and Ambalika.
Bhishma abducted the three princesses on account of his strength, rather than their will. Ambika and Ambalika consented to get married to Vichitravirya. Amba informed Bhishma that she wished to get married to Shalvaraj (king of Shalva). When Vichitravirya died young without any heirs, Satyavati asked Vyasa to father children on the widows.
Dhritarashtra was born blind to the first queen Ambika as she had shut her eyes due to the terrifying presence of Vyasa. Ambalika turned pale and bloodless seeing Vyasa thus her son Pandu was born pale. Vyasa fathered another third son Vidura from maid who turned to be an intelligent person.