Bheeshma – the man of the terrible oath

Some lives are a longing

a hope for belonging

so it must have been for young Devrata, son of goddess Ganga. It is said that once when King Shantanu was walking by the side of the river,he chanced upon the beautiful Ganga was immediately desirous of marrying her. When he expressed his desire to marry her,Ganga agreed with one condition that Shantanu should not try to doubt her or question her deeds even if he found them unnatural. If Shantanu ever raised any objection, Ganga would end the marriage and return to her abode.

Love struck, Shantanu, the king of Hastinapur agreed without any protest. Over the years, the couple now happily married had many children. However, Ganga was indeed a strange mother. She mercilessly threw each of her new born babies into the river. This continued and Shantanu out of fear of losing her for ever kept quiet. When Ganga gave birth to the 8th son, Shantanu, took the baby in his arms and refused to allow Ganga to throw the child away. A furious Ganga reminded Shantanu of his promise and disappeared into the river with her son.  She told Shantanu that the sons born to her were the re-incarnation of Vasus and that they were cursed to be born on earth as humans.  Her eighth son, however had to live longer on earth and had a powerful destiny to fulfill. She promised to return the lad to his father once he was well trained. With this promise, she disappeared with Shantanu’s eighth son, who grew up to be called Devarata.

Later Ganga returned Devarata to his father as she had promised. In the meanwhile, Shantanu earned a good name as a pious and just king who was devoted to the welfare of his people. Devarata was well trained in armory by Sage Parasurama and in philosophy by Sage Vashishta under Ganga’s care. He was also a very obedient and devoted son. Together, the son and father led a happy life in the kingdom of Hastinapur.

One day while on hunting, King Shantanu was overwhelmed by a strange fragrance which seemed to enthrall him. He found out that a beautiful maiden called Satyavathi was the reason for his sweet trauma. He set out to seek her hand from Satyavathi’s father who was the head of the fisher folk. The father agreed to marry Satyavathi to the king on  the condition that her offspring would rule the kingdom after King Shantanu. Shantanu was taken aback and retreated to his kingdom.

The Prince, Devarata noticed that his father was growing pale by the day and gave only evasive replies for the cause of his suffering. Devarata found out the truth from the king’s charioteer and promised Satyavathi’s father that he would never lay claim to the throne. More over he committed himself to a life of celibacy and due to this oath he  came to be known as Bheeshma. Impressed by his dedication, Shantanu blessed his son with a boon that he would die only when he chooses to do so.

During the Mahabharatha war, Bheeshma stood by the side of the Kaurava brothers but was venerated and revered by warriors, philosophers and family across divisions due to his steadfast commitment to righteousness.

However, one of his youthful follies would cause him much pain and eventually lead to his death. As a young man, Devarata, abducted princesses Amba, Ambika and Ambalika of Varanasi for the sake of his half-brother, Vichitravirya. Amba was in love with Salwa and informed Bheeshma of her desire to be married only to Salwa. When Bheeshma took Amba back to Salwa, she was turned down by an angry Salwa. Humiliated and furious, Amba promised to be the cause of Bheeshma’s downfall even if she has to take many births.

During the Mahabharatha war, Amba, re-born as Shikandi takes her revenge and leads to the downfall of Bheeshma, the master strategist of the Kauravas. a2z-h-small



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