Faith

Bhishma’s fierce vow

Bhishma stands out as an exceptional character for many reasons. His antecedents reveal that he is actually one of the eight ‘Vasus’ and this birth as a human being is owing to Vasishta’s curse. Born as the eighth and only surviving son of King Santanu and Ganga, he is brought up by Ganga in celestial regions. He is named Devavrata and he receives training in Vedanta, archery, statecraft, etc, under illustrious gurus such as Vasishta, Parasurama, and Sukra and so on. When Ganga hands him over to Santanu, the king is overjoyed to receive the resplendent and princely Devavrata.

Devavrata exemplifies the essence of the ideal son, putra, as explained in the sastras, pointed out Sri K. Srinivasan in a discourse. Once, when he finds his father distraught for some reason, he promises to remove his anxiety at any cost. He speaks at length on the duties of a son quoting from the sastras and drawing inspiration from the paths shown by Rama, son of Dasaratha, Rohitasva, son of Harishchandra, Sunaschepa, Parasurama, etc, who have honoured their father’s word. He comes to know that his father desires to marry Satyavati, the daughter of a fisherman. But the father is caught in a dilemma because the fisherman desires that Satyavati’s sons should inherit the kingdom. Santanu is naturally unable to yield to this pressure.

So Devavrata meets the fisherman and vows he has renounced kingdom. To allay any further doubt about the likelihood of his sons staking a claim to the kingdom in future, Devavrata takes up the vow of celibacy known as Naishtika Brahmacharya. This is a fierce vow and the term Bhishma means one who undertakes this vow and fulfils it as well. Since then he is known as Bhishma and this name has come to stay, reminding posterity of his unique greatness.

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Printable version | Jul 11, 2020 8:33:24 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/society/faith/bhishmas-fierce-vow/article31917886.ece

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