Encyclopedia for Epics of Ancient India

A - B - C - D - E - G - H - I - J - K - L - M - N - P - R - S - T - U - V - Y


Read about Bhishman at Wikipedia.

BHISHMA. [Source: Dowson's Classical Dictionary of Hindu Mythology] `The terrible.' Son of King Santanu by the holy river goddess Ganga, and hence called Santanava, Gangeya, and Nadija, `the river-born.'

When King Santanu was very old he desired to marry a young and beautiful wife. His son Santanava or Bhishma found a suitable damsel, but her parents objected to the marriage because Bhishma was heir to the throne, and if she bore sons they could not succeed. To gratify his father's desires, he made a vow to the girl's parents that he would never accept the throne, nor marry a wife, nor become the father of children. Santanu then married the damsel, whose name was Satyavati, and she bore him two sons.

At the death of his father, Bhishma placed the elder son upon the throne, but he was headstrong and was soon killed in battle. The other son, named Vichitravirya, then succeeded, and Bhishma acted as his protector and adviser. By force of arms Bhishma obtained two daughters of the king of Kasi and married them to Vichitravirya, and when that prince died young and childless, Bhishma acted as guardian of his widows.

By Bhishma's arrangement, Krishna Dwaipayana, who was born of Satyavati before her marriage, raised up seed to his half-brother. The two children were Pandu and Dhritarashtra. Bhishma brought them up and acted for them as regent of Hastinapura. He also directed the training of their respective children, the Pandavas and Kauravas.

On the rupture-taking place between the rival families, Bhishma counselled moderation and peace. When the war began he took the side of the Kauravas, the sons of Dhritarashtra, and he was made commander-in-chief of their army. He laid down some rules for mitigating the horrors of war, and he stipulated that he should not be called upon to fight against Arjuna. Goaded by the reproaches of Duryodhana, he attacked Arjuna on the tenth day of the battle. He was unfairly wounded by Sikhandin, and was pierced with innumerable arrows from the hands of Arjuna, so that there was not a space of two fingers' breadth left unwounded in his whole body, and when he fell from his chariot he was upheld from the ground by the arrows and lay as on a couch of darts.

He was mortally wounded, but he had obtained the power of fixing the period of his death, so he survived fifty-eight days, and delivered several long didactic discourses.

Bhishma exhibited throughout his life a self-denial, devotion, and fidelity which remained unsullied to the last. He is also known by the appellation Tarpanechchhu, and as Talaketu, `Palm banner.'

Modern Languages MLLL-4993. Indian Epics. Laura Gibbs, Ph.D. The textual material made available at this website is licensed under a Creative Commons License. You must give the original author credit. You may not use this work for commercial purposes. If you alter, transform, or build upon this work, you may distribute the resulting work only under a license identical to this one. No claims are made regarding the status of images used at this website; if you own the copyright privileges to any of these images and believe your copyright privileges have been violated, please contact the webmaster. Page last updated: October 16, 2007 12:22 PM