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An epitome of responsibility


If there is one figure from the ancient literature who provides the best example for selfless dedication towards the cause of ensuring a world free from wicked and evil forces that is the grand sire bheeshma of mahabharatha. The character of bheeshma is highly inspirational for many many reasons. His steely resolve made sure that the great war took place, the evil men were destroyed and the world was free of wretches.

He was personification of all those qualities that would make a virtuous man. Bheeshma was born to king santanu of clan of bharatas who ruled a kingdom called hastinapuram. King bharatha who had lived two epochal ages before king santanu was a great conqueror, who had brought under his control all the three worlds. Ancient poets and panegyrists while composing eulogy of rulers describe the deeds of ancient members of his clan neither to flatter and praise the ruler nor to imply that he holds unquestionable hereditory rights to weild authority. It is only done to underline the virtue and benevolence of the person being eulogized.

Bheeshma was born to king santanu as a result of a curse, to the king, his queen as well as bheeshma himself. Bheeshma was an incarnation of one of the vasus, who were celestial beings. It happened so that 8 vasus together hatched a plan to steal the great sage vasistha’s cow nandini. While first seven planned and abetted this act, the eigth one by name prabhasa executed the same. For their mean act the vasus were cursed by the sage to be born as human beings, considered by the celestials to be the worst form of existence. Since the first seven were only behind the scene supporters, the sage relented and reduced their period of being in earth to a few hours only after which they would be relieved of the same. Prabhasa who stole the cow was cursed to spend a long and painful life in earth.

Bheeshma was a perfect royal. He was a great warrior, an intelligent administrator, and a pious devotee who observed to perfection all rules of the ritualistic worship. He was trained in various arts and music. He gave up his claims to the throne much to the dislike and disapproval of king santanu, but agreed that he would serve as caretaker of the throne and protector of the kingdom until a truly brilliant and virtuous scion arises in the clan to take charge of the kingdom.

Thus his life ranks among the most painful ones in the history. Eventhough unmatched in warfare, he had to on numerous occasions accept the superiority of men who were much inferior to him in prowess. On behalf of his nephews whose administrative and military capabilities did not fall in line with the reputation of his race, he ruled the kingdom and made it stronger than before. Such was his commitment to the oath that he had taken that he confronted without a moment’s hesitation his great teacher parasuraman whom he held in great regard, in a fierce battle after the latter tried unsuccessfully to persuade bheeshma give up his oath of celibacy and wed princess amba of kashi.

He lived all his life to see to it that from the his kingdom maintained its reputation of being a noble and just kingdom a quality that it had been ordained with due to the exceptionally virtuous, even handed rule and brave exploits of clan of bharatas.

Knowing well that none other than yudhishtira who was an embodiment of virtuousity deserved to sit on the throne he unsuccessfully tried to persuade dritharashtra to crown yudhishtira. Knowing well that only with whom Lord Krishna fights shall win , he still takes the side of evil remembering his oath. He skillfully and willingly sidelines karma during his stewardship of army because he knew it would be an unfair fight if karna’s skills are combined with that of his and thrown on the opposition.

His gallantry is further exemplified when he remarks to dushasana in battlefield as he is being attacked by arjuna and shikandin that “ These are Arjuna’s arrows and not shikhandin’s because they tear my flesh like crab’s young ones tear their mother’s ”. On the penultimate day he does reveal to karma that he knew about latter’s high birth and also apologizes to him for any unintentional insults. He is most remembered for his composing and revealing Vishnu sahasranamam(thousand names of Lord Vishnu ) to yudhishtira before his death.
Published: 2008-04-16
Author: K Sethu Madhavan

About the author or the publisher
A management professional with eight years experience in telecommunications industry, I have written a lot of articles in subjects related to management and strategic information analysis.

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