Bhishma Ashtami

Bhishma Ashtami

January-February, eighth day of waxing half of Hindu month of Magha or during Hindu month of Kartika (October-November)
In Hindu mythology Bhishma was the son of King Shantanu. When his father decided he wanted to marry a beautiful young maiden named Satyavati, her parents would not permit it because it was Bhishma who was heir to the throne, and if she had sons they could not inherit the kingdom. To allow the marriage to go forward, Bhishma vowed never to marry and have children of his own, nor to accept the crown. Shantanu then married Satyavati, and she bore him two sons.
The two sons died without producing any offspring, but Satyavati had two grandchildren by a son who had been born before she married the king. Bhishma ended up raising these two and taking charge of the training of their children, who were known as the Kauravas and the Pandavas ( see also Anant Chaturdashi). In the battle that was eventually fought between the two groups of offspring, Bhishma sided with the Kauravas and was so badly wounded it was said that there was barely a space of two fingers' width on his body that had not been pierced by an arrow. Since he had been allowed to choose the time of his death, he waited on his death-bed of arrows for 58 days, during which he delivered many religious discourses. He later became the model for modern ascetics who lie on nail-studded beds, and to this day is considered a great example of self-denial, loyalty, and devotion.
During the festival held in his honor, libations are offered to Bhishma with barley, sesame, flowers, and water from the sacred Ganges River.
CONTACTS:
India Tourist Office
1270 Ave. of the Americas, Ste. 1808, 18th Fl.
New York, NY 10020
800-953-9399 or 212-586-4901; fax: 212-582-3274
www.indiatouristoffice.org
SOURCES:
DictFolkMyth-1984, p. 139
RelHolCal-2004, p. 182