Bhishma

Bhishma
Highlights

Bhishma, Devavrata came to be called Bhishma, a word that means ‘terrible’. Bhishma then took the fisher-girl to the palace and King Santanu married her.

BhishmaKing Santanu ruled over Hastinapura. He had a son named Devavrata.He was also called Gangeya, because Ganga was his mother.

Devavrata learned the sastras from Rishi Vasishtha and the divine teachers, Brihaspati and Shukra. Parasurama taught him the art of warfare.

One day King Santanu went for a hunt on the banks of the Yamuna.There he saw a beautiful girl. She was the daughter of a fisherman-chief, and her name was Satyavati.

Santanu went to the fisherman-chief and asked him: “Will you give me your daughter in marriage?” The fisherman said: "Sir, you are a king and I am a fisherman. If you want to marry my daughter, you must agree to make her son king of Hastinapura after you. Will you agree?”

The king said: "Devavrata is my eldest son and he should be crowned the king. How can I make a son born to your daughter as the king? The fisherman said: “If that be so, I cannot agree to your proposal.” Hearing this Santanu went home very sad.

As a result of his great love for the fisher-girl whom he could not marry, the king soon fell ill. Santanu found it too delicate to explain the cause of his illness to anyone.

Devavrata too noticed his father’s failing health. He thought his father’s charioteer might know the cause. So one day he went and asked him: “Can you tell me what ails my father?” The charioteer said: “A few days ago, the king met a fisher-girl. She was as beautiful as a goddess. He wanted to marry her, but found that he could not.”

Devavrata asked: "Why could he not? Have you any idea?" The charioteer said: “The girl’s father set a condition for the marriage, he wanted the son born to her to be crowned as the king.”

Devavrata said: “What was the objection?”The charioteer was surprised. “Don’t you see? You are the elder of the two sons, and you should be crowned king. Naturally, your father could not accept an impossible condition.”

Devavrata then went to the fisherman and said: “Sir, please give your daughter in marriage to my father. I am the elder son and heir. I promise that I will give up my claim to the throne, and make the son born to your daughter king of Hastinapura."

The fisherman said: “I believe you. But later on when you marry, and have a son, your wife and son may object!”Devavrata saw the point. He then said: "If you think so, I promise I will not marry at all."

The fisherman was somewhat taken aback, but said:' “Now I am satisfied. Your father can marry my daughter.”

From that day, Devavrata came to be called Bhishma, a word that means ‘terrible’. Bhishma then took the fisher-girl to the palace and King Santanu married her.

The whole kingdom celebrated the wedding. King Santanu was greatly pleased by his son’s unparalleled sacrifice. In return he gave him a boon. He said: “You will live as long as you wish, my son, and you will die only when you want to.”To the end of his life Bhishma remained unmarried.

To Satyavati were born two sons. They were Chitrangada and Vichitravirya. Bhishma helped his step-brothers rule Hastinapura. Dhritarashtra and Pandu were Vichitravirya’s sons.

Pandu’s sons were the Pandavas and Dhritarashtra’s sons, the Kauravas. Thus the Pandavas and Kauravas loved and respected, Bhishma as their grandfather.

Bhishma played a great part in the Mahabharata war. He loved and respected Lord Krishna very much. He was the first to sing the God’s praise with the Vishnu Sahasranama.

Bhishma lived for a hundred and eighty six years!

He died of his own free will on the eighth day of the bright half of Magh. That day is called Bhishmashtami. Even now, we observe that day as his punya tithi year after year.

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