Category Archives: Bhisma

Five Arrows of Bhisma


As the Kauravas were losing the battle, Duryodhana approached Bhishma one night and accused him of not fighting the battle to his full strength because of his affection for the Pandavas. Bhishma, greatly angered, immediately picked up five golden arrows and chanted mantras declaring, “Tomorrow I will kill the Pandavas with these five golden arrows.” Duryodhana, not having faith in Bhishma’s words, asked Bhishma to give him custody of the five imbued golden arrows saying that he would keep them with him and return them the next morning.

Long before, when Pandavas were in living in the forest, Duryodhana once came to the forest to flaunt his material opulence in contrast with the Pandavas who were living in exile due to his wicked usurption of their kingdom, thus displaying his venom and hubris. He placed his camp on the opposite side of a pond where the Pandavas used to stay. Once, while he was taking bath in that pond, the heavenly princes, named Gandharvas, came to take a bath.

Duryodhana could not tolerate this; he had a fight in which the Gandharvas captured him. On the request of Yudhisthir, Arjuna saved Duryodhana and set him free. Duryodhana was ashamed, but being a kshatriya, he asked Arjuna what benediction or boon he would like. Arjuna replied that he would ask for the boon later when he needed it.

It was during that night that Krishna reminded Arjuna of his unsatisfied boon and told him to go to Duryodhana and ask for the five golden arrows. When Arjuna came and asked for the five golden imbued arrows, Duryodhana was shocked, but knowing full well his honour and duty as a kshatriya declared, “I will give you the five golden arrows. But can you please tell me who told you the five golden imbued arrows existed in the first place?” Arjuna replied with a smile, “Who else other than Shri Krishna could have advised me?” Afterwards, Duryodhana honourably kept his word and gave the five golden arrows imbued with a lifetime of austerity and power by Bhishma. Later, Duryodhana broke his customary manner and conceded to himself privately, “All of the rishis say Krishna is the Supreme God, maybe they are right.” Being shocked and convinced by Arjuna’s knowledge of the very existence of the five golden arrows, Duryodhana secretly got on his knees and said a quick prayer to Krishna.

Duryodhana again went to Bhishma, informing him of all that happened and requesting another five golden imbued arrows. To this Bhishma laughed and replied, “That is not possible, child. The will of the Lord is Supreme and undeniable. I have already spent the merits of my lifetime of celibacy and austerity in those five arrows, a potency strong enough to end all the five Pandavas. However, Krishna, being the Supreme Lord has foreseen this, knowing past, present, and future as He alone can, and has thus arranged for you to voluntarily give up the five golden arrows, imbued with the power and potency of my lifelong austerities. I cannot imbue another five arrows, having spent all of the merits of my austerities. However, tomorrow I shall fight like a lion, and this time, either I will kill Arjuna or I will make Lord Krishna break His promise of not picking up any weapons during the war.” On the next day there was an intense battle between Bhishma and Arjuna. Although Arjuna was very powerful, he was no match for Bhishma. Bhishma soon shot arrows which cut Arjuna’s armour and then also his Gandiva bow. Arjuna was helpless before the wrath of the grandsire.

As Bhishma was about to kill Arjuna with his arrows, Lord Krishna threw down the chariot reins and jumped off the chariot onto the battlefield, lifted a chariot wheel and charged Bhishma. Arjuna tried to stop Lord Krishna, but the Lord said, “In order to protect my devotee, I must break my own promise.” However, this is actually a double entendre. Krishna, one who was a perfect Yogi and in control of senses including anger, lifted the Chariot Wheel in order to respect and uphold Bhisma’s promise and word, as the latter promised he would make Krishna yield weapons.

Eventually, however, Arjuna convinced Krishna to return to the chariot and put down the wheel, promising to redouble his determination in the fight. All the while Bhishma stood with folded palms and tears in his eyes, awed by the beauty of the wrath of the Lord and the intense love that God bears for his friends, so great that He is willing to endure the censorship of ignorant foolish men. Later the Lord told Arjuna how he could bring down the old grandsire, through the help of Sikhandhi. Using Sikhandhi as a shield, Arjuna shot arrows at Bhishma, piercing his entire body. Thus, finally, Bhishma gave up the fight, focusing his life force and breath, sealing the wounds, and waiting for the auspicious moment to give up his body.

Its said that once Bhishma fell down pierced with arrows he was feeling thirsty. Duryodhana went to fetch water, but Arjuna shot an arrow at the ground and water came pouring out directly into Bhishmas mouth. Its actually river goddess Ganga coming to satisfy the thirst of her son Bhishma.

Source : Wikipedia

Gangaputra Pitamah Bhisma’s Vow


Bhishma means He of the terrible oath, referring to his vow of life-long celibacy. Originally named Devavratha, he became known as Bhishma after he took the bhishan pratigya (‘terrible oath’) — the vow of life-long celibacy and of service to whoever sat on the throne of his father (the throne of Hastinapur). He took this oath so that his father, Shantanu could marry a fisherwoman Satyavati — Satyvati’s father had refused to give his daughter’s hand to Shantanu on the grounds that his daughter’s children would never be rulers as Shantanu already had a son in Devratha. This made Shantanu despondent and upon discovering the reason for his father’s despondency, Devratha sought out the girl’s father and promised him that he would never stake a claim to the throne, implying that the child born to Shantanu and Satyavati would become the ruler after Shantanu. At this, Satyavati’s father retorted that even if Devratha gave up his claim to the throne, his (Devratha’s) children would still claim the throne. Devratha then took the terrible vow of life-long celibacy, thus sacrificing his ‘crown-prince’ title and denying himself the pleasures of intercourse. This gave him immediate recognition among the gods and his father granted him the boon of Swachhanda Mrityu (control over his own death — he could choose the time of his death, but he was not immortal). Bhishma also took another vow shortly after the marriage of Shantanu and Satayavati. Bhishma vowed he would see his father’s image in whoever sat on the throne of Hastinapur and would serve him without question. This vow ended up being the main cause of his problems later on when his nephew Dhritarashtra  took the throne and wished to make his own son, Duryodhana  the crown prince instead of Dhritarashtra’s brother Pandu’s son Yudhishtira who was the elder to Duryodhana (and reckoned by all to be the most worthy to become king). As a result Bhishma was forced to comply with all of Dhritarashtra’s orders no matter what injustice was done to the Pandavas.

Bhishma was a great archer and a warrior. In the process of finding a bride for his half-brother the young king Vichitravirya, Bhishma cleverly abducted princesses Amba, Ambika and Ambalika of Kashi (Varanasi) from the assemblage of suitors at their swayamvara. Salwa, the ruler of Saubala, and Amba (the eldest princess) were in love. Upon reaching Hastinapura, Amba confided in Bhishma that she wished to wed Salwa. Bhishma then sent her back to Salwa who turned her down as it was humiliating for a man to accept a woman who had been so long in the company of another man. She then naturally approached Bhishma for marriage who refused her, citing his oath. Amba, humiliated and enraged beyond measure, vowed to avenge herself against Bhishma even if it meant being reborn over and over again.

Legend has it that at her maternal grandfather’s suggestion Amba sought refuge with Parasurama who ordered Bhishma to marry Amba. Bhishma politely refused saying that he was ready to give up his life at the command of his teacher but not the promise that he had made. Upon the refusal, Parasurama called him for a fight at Kurukshetra. At the battlegrounds, while Bhishma was on a chariot, Parasurama was on foot. Bhishma requested Parasurama to also take a chariot and armor so that Bhishma would not have an unfair advantage. Parasurama blessed Bhishma with the power of divine vision and asked him to look again. When Bhishma looked at his guru with the divine eye-sight, he saw the Earth as Parasurama’s chariot, the four Vedas as the horses, the Upanishads as the reins, Vayu (wind) as the Charioteer and the Vedic goddesses Gayatri, Savitri & Saraswati as the armor. Bhishma got down from the chariot and sought the blessings of Parasurama to protect his dharma, along with the permission to battle against his teacher. Parasurama was pleased and said to Bhishma that if he had not behaved in this manner, Parasurama would have cursed him, for it is the duty of warriors who fight against elders to not abandon the traditions of humility and respect for elders. Parasurama blessed him and advised him to protect his dharma of brahmacharya as Parasurama himself must fight to fulfil his dharma of fighting to uphold his word as given to Amba. They fought for 23 days without conclusion — Parasurama was chiranjeevi (immortal) and Bhishma had a boon that let him choose the time of his death. Two versions exist about how their battle came to and end.

As per one, On the 22nd night, Bhishma prayed to his ancestors to help him end the battle. His ancestors gave him a weapon which was not known to Parasurama. They told him that it would put Parasurama to sleep in the battlefield. A person who sleeps in the battlefield is considered to be dead as per Vedas. They advised Bhishma to call back the weapon at the end of day after sunset so that Parasurama will come back to his sense and that shall bring the end to war. However the weapon was never used as Bhishma walked out of the war.

As per the other version, on the 23rd day, Bhishma summoned the infallible celestial weapon(astra) Prashvapastra, the method of using which was known to him and him alone. Neither did a counter-attack exist, nor was a defense against it known to Parasurama. As Bhishma mounted the astra on his bow, a divine voice (ākāshavānī) implored Bhishma not to fire the weapon as its use would lead to the humiliation of Bhishma’s guru(Parasurama himself). Bhishma refrained from using the weapon that would have brought him certain victory. Upon witnessing this, Parasurama was overcome with adulation for his disciple and proclaimed Bhishma as the victor.

Parasurama thus told Amba that he could not win over Bhishma and gave her the boon of “mahakal shiva”. Amba did penance to please Lord Shiva. Shiva gave her the boon that she would be instrumental in the death of Bhishma. Amba would later be reborn as the eunuch prince Shikhandi in the household of king Drupada.

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–From Wiki–

Dhruv Gaba