Satyavati was the mother of the great sage Vyasa. However, her story is quite interesting, as well as complicated because of all the nested elements. She was born of a fish who had been cursed, given to a king but returned because of her smell, named three times, and impregnated by a sage, who gave her a famous child but returned her virginity.
Satyavati’s mother was a nymph (devastri) named Adrika who had been turned into a fish by the curse of a brahmin. One day the semen of King Uparicaravasu happened to fall in the river Ganga, and Adrika swallowed it. She became pregnant. Later she was caught by a fisherman who found two human babies in the stomach of the fish, a boy and a girl. The two babies were presented to King Uparicaravasu. He accepted the son, but gave the girl child back to the fisherman because of her smell. That smell earned her the name Matsyagandhi (the one who smells like a fish). The fisherman brought up the girl as his daughter, giving her the name Kali (“black [girl]”), because she was so dark.
One day the fisherman was ferrying a sage across the Ganga, when the brahmin became attracted to Matsyagandhi (Kali). He created an artificial fog, made love to her, changed her smell to musk, and instantly a son was born. He blessed her so that she was still a virgin. The brahmin Parashara left immediately. Kali raised her son as Krishna (“dark [boy]”), as he was also dark. Later he received the name Vyasa. Vyasa went to the forest to practice austerities (tapas) soon after his birth.Another day a king was hunting beside the Ganga and caught the wonderful scent of musk. He found its source inside the fisherman’s cottage and made this fisherwoman his second wife, renamed Satyavati. She bore him two sons. King Santanu’s first son, Bhishma, chose celibacy. One of Satyavati’s sons died in infancy and the other, Vicitravirya only lived long enough to marry. But he too died, leaving his wives, Ambika and Ambalika, without children and the kingdom with an heir. Satyavati arranged for her earlier son, Vyasa, to provide the kingdom with an heir. (For further details see Ambika.) Ambalika gave birth to Pandu, and Ambika gave birth to Dhritarashthra. Pandu had five divine sons, while the other had one hundred sons who were their enemies in the Mahab- harata war. When Pandu died, his grandmother Satyavati retreated to the forest with Ambika and Ambalika. There the three women practiced austerities (tapas) and devotion (bhakti) and attained heaven (svarga).