So the war raged for nine
days. Bhishma played havoc in the ranks of the Pandavas. They suffered heavily, and lost
all hopes of success. Yudhishthira was utterly desperate and took the advice of Sri
Krishna. Sri Krishna said that the only way to success was to seek the guidance of Bhishma
That night Krishna took Yudhishthira to Bhishma secretly. Yudhishthira fell at the feet
of Bhishma. He said, "Grandfather, we are your grandchildren. We cannot overcome you
not even the gods can do it. We cannot count how many men we have lost. I beg of you,
grant us victory."
Krishna added his voice to Yudhishthiras prayers. He said, "Sir, both the Kauravas
and the Pandavas are your grandchildren. You brought up the Pandavas. They are just and
virtuous. They kept their promise. But Duryodhana did not give them back their kingdom. So
it is your duty to protect them."
Bhishma knew very well that Sri Krishna was partial to the Pandavas. The Kauravas were
wicked men, they were unjust, and Krishna would surely slay them. It was true that Bhishma
was with the Kauravas; but it was only his body and not his heart that was with them. He
had lived in Duryodhana's court. So it was his duty to fight for him. But the Pandavas had
been just and virtuous, and so his heart was with them. It was right that he should help
them. So he said, "My son, Duryodhana was doomed when he brushed aside Krishna's
advice; your victory was assured. Place Shikhandi before me and I shall throw down my bow
and arrows. I shall not fight."
Bhishma knew that Shikhandi was none other than Amba whom he had refused to marry. She
wanted vengeance. She meditated on Lord Shiva; she wanted a boon that she would kill
Bhishma. Lord Shiva granted her the boon; she was born again to kill Bhishma. Bhishma
refused to consider Shikhandi as a man and would not fight with him.
The battle of the tenth day raged in greater fierceness. Bhishma was a terror to the
enemies. Arjuna faced him and a terrible fight followed. As the fight progressed,
Shikhandi appeared before Bhishma ready with weapons to fight with him. At once Bhishma
threw down his bow and arrows. Arjuna's arrows had already weakened him.
He fell to the ground.
But his body did not touch the ground.
Arjuna's arrows had formed a bed for him.
Bhishma thanked Arjuna for having given him a hero's bed of piercing arrows. He said, I
want a pillow! Give me a pillow of arrows!" Arjuna raised the old warrior's head and
shot arrows piercing the ground. Bhishma's head rested on them. By then Duryodhana, Karna,
Kripa and other leaders of the Kaurava army raced to the spot where Bhishma lay.
Yudhishthira, Bhima and others too stood near him.
Bhishma was thirsty and asked for water.
Duryodhana asked his men to bring water. Bhishma smiled even in his pain and said to
him, "My son, the water I seek is not the water you offer."
He then looked at Arjuna. Arjuna understood his mind. He sent an arrow which pierced
deep into the 'ground; crystal-clear waters shot up in fountains and fell straight into
the open mouth of Bhishma. The stream of water welling up from the ground was none other
than Mother Ganga coming in the steam form to quench the thirst of her beloved son
Bhishma. He felt the living presence of his mother and even while lying on the bed of
arrows felt that he was resting on the lap of his mother.
Bhishma turned towards Duryodhana and said, "My son, give up your obstinacy. Make
peace with Yudhishthira. Live happily with the Pandavas as brothers."
Bhishma, you remember, could die at will. So he waited for Uttarayana Punyakala. The
belief is that on the day of Uttarayana Punyakala the doors of Vaikuntha, where Lord
Vishnu dwells, will be thrown open and the soul leaving the earth will see the Lord.
Duryodhana did not listen to Bhishma's advice. In the meanwhile, as the old sage lay on
his bed of arrows the war went on. Drona, Dusshasana and Kama all died. And Duryodhana
himself met with death, his thigh broken by Bhima's mace.
Yudhishthira was crowned. He went with Sri Krishna to pay his respects to Bhishma and
seek his blessings. Bhima, Arjuna, Nakula, Sahadeva and Draupadi were all there. They
touched his feet and he blessed them. His last words of advice to Yudhishthira were:
"Protect Dharma. Punish the wicked. Do not give up Truth. Give up egoism. Rule in
the interests of the subjects. May you all prosper!"
Bhishma gazed upon Krishna in great joy.
He said, "Where there is Lord Krishna there is Dharma (right conduct) and where
there is Dharma there is victory. I bow to you, my Master. You are the Lord of all the
worlds. I am tired of this life. Dharma has triumphed and I am happy. So now I leave the
Uttarayana arrived. Bhishma's soul winged its way to Lord Vishnu's feet.
I Sage Vyasa have composed the Mahabharata in Sanskrit. He has drawn there a clear
picture of the sublime character of Bhishma.
Let us all read the Bharata and follow in the footsteps of Bhishmacharya.