- Satyavati was a daughter of king Uparichar by the Apsara Adrika. who was then in the form of a fish. Since Satyavati smelled of fish, Uparichar did not adopt her and returned her to the fisherman Dashraj, who had found her. Dashraj looked after her as his own daughter. Satyavati often helped her father out by ferrying people across the river.
- One day, the sage Parashar, who was passing by, saw her and was smitten by her beauty. When they were in the middle of the river, the sage created an artificial fog and begot on Satyavati a son. From then on Satyavati lost the fishy body odour and gained the pleasant fragrance of musk. Satyavati delivered the son on an island in the river. He was named Vyas.
- Parashar left her saying that her virginity would remain intact. Vyas left his mother too, saying that whenever she would need him, she only had to think of him. Satyavati went on with her life, and one day, king Shantanu, who was out hunting, saw her and fell head over heels in love with her. He followed her home, and asked her father Dashraj for her hand in marriage, but the fisherman refused as the king had already one son named Bhishma who would gain the throne and the son of Satyavati would not become king.
- Shantanu returned unhappy to his camp. When Bhishma found out the reason of his father's slackness, he went personally to Dashraj to ask permission for Satyavati to marry his father. Only when Bhishma had vowed to give up the throne was the match accepted. Shantanu and Satyavati were married and had two sons, Chitrangad and Vichitravirya. After the death of Shantanu and Chitrangad, Vichitravirya was installed on the throne by Bhishma. Vichitravirya died heirless.
- Satyavati therefore asked Bhishma to break his vow and marry the widows of Vichitravirya, Ambika and Ambalika, so that their line would not become extinct. When Bhishma refused on the grounds that he could not break his promise, Satyavati thought of her eldest son Vyas, who came to her assistance, and begot on Ambika and Ambalika two sons, Dhritrashtra and Pandu respectively. Soon Satyavati became the great-grandmother of the Kauravs and Pandavs. After Pandu's death, Satyavati retired to the forest with her daughters-in-law, Ambika and Ambalika, where she passed away.