Guiding Light: Bhishma Ekadashi

Guiding Light: Bhishma Ekadashi

Prof S AinavoluUpdated: Tuesday, February 20, 2024, 05:57 PM IST
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Bhishma Ekadashi | Pinterest

Bhishma in Mahabharata displays the gravitas very few can even imagine. He was the true and close witness to the many incidents and developments that finally resulted in Kuru clan’s major elimination.

Ashta-vasus were required to be born as humans and this was due to the sin committed by the eighth named Prabhasa. It was but natural that the suffering had to be longer for the one who did the mischief. All eight get born as sons to Ganga and Shantanu. Ganga married on the condition of ‘no objection’ to her acts. Shantanu painfully witnesses her throwing the first seven children into river, but could not stop himself from protesting when she attempted the eighth act. The child gets saved and becomes Gangeya, son of Ganga and Devavrata. When he saved a situation for his father by taking recourse to a firm promise, he gained the title of ‘Bhishma’, meaning the very difficult vow he took.

Bhishma got educated by Parashurama, acquired the immense warrior-ness. It was difficult to defeat him in the war and hence Pandavas sought his blessings in the form of the secret to defeat him which was fronting either a woman or transgender before him so that he stops fighting. In such moment alone he could be faced. Arjuna hurt him in the fight but could not kill as he enjoyed the boon from his father of the ‘ichha maranam’ (choice-exit). The famed ‘bed of arrows’ is where he waited for the auspicious moment of Magha Shuddha Ashtami. The Ekadashi tithi that happens after three days is termed Bhishma Ekadashi in his honour. Offerings and tarpanas are made to Bhishma, and inspiration is drawn from his life.

Bhishma was also a great scholar of the tradition. In war none could defeat him including his own guru Parashurama. Though an outstanding warrior, he never minded working under the commandership of lesser warriors, as the purpose was more important than individual. Life is larger than ego. At the end of the Kurukshetra war Sri Krishna advised Yudhishtira to acquire the wisdom of tradition from Bhishma. The rajadharma was taught, so also dharma. To the question of what to do to get rid of ‘janma samsara bandhanaat’, Bhishma narrated Vishnu Sahasranama Stotram, and it stayed.

Prof S Ainavolu is a Mumbai-based teacher of tradition and management. He is with VPSM. Views are personal. https://www.ainavolu.in/blog

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