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Thu Sep 22, 2011 10:26 am

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Bhishma, was the grand old man of both the Kauravas and the Pandavas. He was the oldest member of the house as he had been granted the boon of dying at will and therefore could have been hundreds of years old.

In his younger days he had promised his prospective step-mother that he would never marry and bear children and it would be her sons who would rule after his father. He promised to lay no claim to the throne as she was refusing to marry his father, the king of Hastinapur, as her sons might not have much of a position in the royal family. She was the beautiful and ambitious daughter of a lowly fisherman and the king was madly in love with her. So Bhishma made this supreme sacrifice for the sake of his father and so earned the respect of the three worlds.

He had promised to look after the descendants of his father and to protect the throne of Hastinapur. And so he had to take an active part in the battle of Kurukshetra and fight on the side of the Kauravas even though his heart belonged to the Pandavas. He had always been morally upright and was forced to live up to his word.

During the great battle he had been badly wounded by hundreds of arrows that had pierced his back. When he fell to the ground, these arrows formed a bed for him to lie on. But he did not die because of the boon. He lay on this painful bed of arrows for fifty-six days as many rishis and gods surrounded him offering their love and moral support. And he finally left his body only after he knew he could protect the throne no longer.
Lord Krishna was worried that the entire race would lose out on all the wisdom that this great man had collected down the ages. And so Yudhisthir and a few others surrounded him trying to absorb as much knowledge as they could.

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