Bhishm Jee is a principal root character of Mahabharat. He was Shantanu’s son from Gangaa. His real name was Devavrat. Once Shantanu was strolling on the banks of Gangaa River, he saw a beautiful woman on its banks and got attracted to her. She was Gangaa in the human form. He said to her – “I wanted to say something to you.&quuot; She said – “Not today, tomorrow. I will come tomorrow then you tell me.” Next day when Gangaa came Shantanu said that he wanted to marry her. Gangaa agreed on a condition that Shantanu will not ask anything what she was doing and why she was doing and the day he would ask this question she would leave him after replying his first question. Shantanu was so much in love with her that he agreed on all her conditions. They got married and Gangaa started living with Shantanu. After some time they had their first son, a cry of joy echoed the palace, but subsided soon when she flowed it in Gangaa River. Shantanu did not like it but could not say anything. The same thing happened to their second son too. Shantanu got very sad, but was helpless. Thus she flowed their seven sons in the river. When the eighth son was born, Shantanu couldn’t hold himself any more and asked her why she was doing this to him. She told him that she had not killed his seven children but freed them from a Shaap. Besides she herself was living on Prithvi as a result of a Shaap. And even Shantanu was also living on Prithvi with her as a Shaap. Then she told him the story. “In the previous life, you were king Mahaabhish. You had a good friendship with Indra, so sometimes you used to come there to see Apsaraa’s dance. One day when you were sitting there, I also came there with my father Brahmaa Jee. we both started looking at each other. In the meantime wind flew away my cloth from my body. Seeing this, all other Devtaa lowered their eyes but you kept looking at me. At this my father Brahmaa Jee got angry and gave Shaap to me that I should be born on Prithvi and gave Shaap to you that since you have behaved with indecency, you should also born on Prithvi with me. That is why I am living with you here.” Gangaa further said – “When I was returning to Brahm Lok, I saw eight Vasu descending from heaven. I was amazed to see them together descending like this. So I asked them the reason of this. The Vasu told that they got a Shaap from Vashishth Jee to take birth on Prithvi. Then they requested me to bear them as my sons and drown them in my waters so that Vashishth’s Shaap is also fulfilled and they can also get Mukti soon. I said – “All right, I will do as you say, but one of you will have to stay alive.” Vasu also agreed at this. They further said – “Then we will each bestow a part of our glory to the 8th Vasu Dhyanumaa who will be alive on Prithvi. He will be a great warrior, but his lineage will not continue after his death.” So I agreed to be their mother to give them Mukti from this Shaap. All these sons whom I have flowed in river, were those eight Vasu. Therefore by flowing them in river I have not killed them but have given them Mukti from that Shaap. Since this 8th Vasu has to live on Prithvi that is why you asked this question. And as you asked this question I also got free from my Shaap. According to my condition I have answered your one question and now I am going to my Lok.” She told him that she had named him as Devavrat and she was taking him with her and when he would grow up then she would return him to Shantanu.
After 16 years, a youth was found stopping the water flow of Gangaa with a wall of arrows. People complained about this to Shantanu. Shantanu himself went to see that. He found a young man doing this, then he got ready to have a fight with him, the then Gangaa came, introduced him as his son and handed over him to Shantanu. Shantanu brought him home. His Guru were Parashuraam Jee and Brihaspati Jee like teachers. Later he was declared as the Crown Prince of Hastinaapur. After declaring him as Crown Prince Raajaa Shantanu became free of worries.
Devavrat Becomes Bhishm
One day, he noticed that his father was not well for some time. He asked him about his worry, but didn’t find a proper answer. He consulted his elders and ministers and came to know that he was in love with Daash Raaj’s daughter Satyavatee and Satyavatee’s father was not ready to marry her to his father because his astrologer had said that Satyavatee’s child would rule the kingdom, and since Shantanu had already declared Devavrat as the Crown Prince how this prediction would be true.
At this Devavrat vowed that he will never ask for the kingdom and thus only Satyavatee’s children will rule the kingdom. At this Daash Raaj said – “You are a great Prince, but what would happen if your children will claim the kingdom later and fight with Satyavatee’s children?” Then he again vowed that not only he will ask kingdom, but he wouldn’t marry lifelong so that he would not have any children who will ask kingdom from Satyavatee’s children. At that time Devtaa showered flowers and Aakaashvaanee said – “Only you can take such a Bhishm vow so from today you will be known as “Bhishm” in Trilok. Neither anybody has taken such a vow before, nor anybody will take such a vow in future.” Since then nobody knows his real name and he is popularly known as Bhishm.
And since then, because of taking such a great and difficult vow, he was called Bhishm (Bhishm means difficult) and got popularly known as Bhishm Pitaamah. Seeing his dedication to himself his father Shantanu also gave him the Var of Ichchhaa Mrityu. (Bhishm would die only whenever he wanted to die, and Mrityu will not come to him without his wish.)
He was indeed a great warrior, he even satisfied his Guru Parashuraam Jee in a fight. He was a knowledgeable person and a great devotee of Bhagvaan. He was the first army chief of Kaurav army and remained their chief up to 10 days. Then he laid on the bed of arrows for a few days more – until the Sun came Uttaraayan and the Hastinaapur kingdom got secured from all sides. In the end Yudhishthir came for his guidance about politics and political matters and other matters of life. He left his mortal body looking at Shree Krishna.
Ambaa’s Vow to Kill Bhishm
Shantanu and Satyavatee had two sons in the course of time: Chitraangad and Vichitraveerya. Both grew up as a handsome brave mighty young men. When Chitraangad grew up, Bhishm appointed him as the king. He won many Devtaa, people, countries. Once he had a fight with a Gandharv named also Chitraangad on just a trivial matter “why do you have my name?” The fight continued for three years. At last the king Chitraangad was killed by Gandharv Chitraangad.
Then Bhishm appointed Vichitraveerya as the king of Hastinaapur. Now Satyavatee became worried about the heir of Hastinaapur so she asked Bhishm to marry Vichitraveerya. At that time Kaashee’s king Kaashee Raaj had three daughters – Ambaa, Ambikaa, and Ambaalikaa. They were of marriageable age so he was organizing their Swayamvar. When Bhishm came to know about this, he alone went there. Everybody was surprised to see him there because he had already vowed to remain unmarried. But He declared – “I am here on behalf of the king of Hastinaapur. For generations Kaashee’s princesses have been married in Hastinaapur royal family, so by organizing this Swayamvar Kaashee Raaj has insulted us. I am taking these three princesses to Hastinaapur for my younger brother, if anybody wants to stop me, he may.” But then who had the courage to do so. So he took the three princesses of Kaashee to marry his step brother Vichitraveerya, Satyavatee’s son.
Shaalv Kumaar wanted to marry Ambaa so he followed them and had a brief fight with Bhishm, but as it is clear that he was not a match to Bhishm, so he had to come back. He was given his life back to him. When Bhishm had brought them to Hastinaapur then Ambaa declared to Satyavatee that she loved Shaalv Kumaar only and she wanted to marry him only. Satyavatee asked Bhishm that why should he bring her if she loved someone else? Bhishm said – “She had not told me there, otherwise why should I have brought her here?” On asking “why didn’t you tell this there only?” Ambaa said – “I got scared of Bhishm.” Well, Satyavatee asked Bhishm to send her back to Shaalv with great respect.
But Shaalv Kumaar did not accept her as he felt insulted. She came back to Hastinaapur and asked Vichitraveerya for justice. She blamed Bhishm for all this and as a punishment she asked that he should marry her. But Bhishm could not have married her at any cost because first thing he did not bring them for himself, second he had already vowed to remain unmarried throughout his life. At this Ambaa in a great fury, vowed in the royal court that she would take the revenge of her insult from Bhishm even though she has to take any number of births and she will be the cause of his death. So at one time she was born as Shikhandee as Raajaa Drupad’s daughter and became the cause of Bhishm’s death.
Bhishm in War
Bheshm was the first Commander-in-Chief of Kaurav army. He stayed there in this position for 10 days. Till he was the Commander, he did not allow Karn to fight from his side. On the 1st Day of war he killed Shwet, the elder son of Raajaa Viraat. On the 9th day Bhishm declared that the next day either he will kill one Paandav or he will die himself. This was the sign to Yudhishthir to ask Bhishm about how he will die, because it was clear that he could not have killed any Paandav. So on Krishn’s advice Paandav went to him for his blessings to win this war which he gave them readily. But how could they win the war till Bhishm was the army chief of Kaurav army. Then Bhishm told them that he would not use any weapon on any woman. Yudhishthir said – “But where we will get a woman in the battlefield?” Bhishm said – “Go and ask Krishn, He will tell you.” Then Krishn told the whole story of Bhishm and Ambaa (now born as Shikhandee to take revenge). He went to Shukhandee and said to him – “Now your time has come, for which you had been waiting for several lives. Tomorrow you will fight with Bhishm.” So next day Shikhandee appeared in the battlefield and started shooting arrows at Bhishm. Bhishm didn’t counterattack him as he considered him as a woman. But still Bhishm did not die by Shikhandee’s attacks, so Krishn asked him to stand on Arjun’s chariot in front of Arjun, and then Arjun to shoot arrows from behind him. Bhishm still did not encounter Arjun’s arrows as he was shooting from behind Shikhandee. So at one time he was severely wounded and fell down. He had so many arrows on his body that when he fell down, his body didn’t touch the ground, he was lying on arrows only. He was removed from the battlefield and he lay down on the bed of arrows until the war came to an end and when he was assured that Hastinaapur was in good hands (Paandav’s hands). Besides the Sun at that time was in Southern Hemisphere (Dakshinaayan – see Uttaraayan for its explanation), he did not want to die then, so he waited till it came in Northern Hemisphere (Uttaraayan). When it was in Northern hemisphere then he left his mortal body. Yudhishthir and his brothers along with Shree Krishn came to learn many things from him about Dahrm, Karm, Upaasanaa, principles of life, when they had won the war. When Bhishm was explaining Dharm to Dharm Raaj’s son, Draupadee broke in laughter. Bhishm said – “You cannot laugh without reason, tell me the reason of your laughter.” Draupadee said – “Pitaamah, When I was being bared in the court, I asked you whether it was justified for Yudhishthir to lose me after he had lost himself in the game? You said that “My mind is not able to decide on this matter. Whatever Yudhishthir says would be right. And today you are preaching him Dharm?” Bhishm said – “Putree, At that time my intellect was polluted in the company of Kaurav, now since my whole body is pierced by arrows and all polluted blood has come out of the body, I can see what is Dharm?” He died on the 8th day of Maagh Shukl Paksh.
Bhishm Forced Krishna to Lift a Weapon
When Bhishm heard that Krishna would not take any weapon in His hand in the war, he smiled and said – “Vansheedhar, If I did not force you to take a weapon in your hand, then you tell me.” And he did force Krishn to take His Chakra (some say he ran towards Bhishma carrying the wheel of the chariot) to kill him. Then Arjun pacified Him not to do so.