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Bheeshm Pitaamaha-2

Who Was Bheeshm
Bheeshm was one of the 8 Vasu incarnated as Bheeshm. Vasu are 8 among our 33 Devtaa. They are 8 elemental gods representing aspects nature representing cosmic natural phenomena. Vasu means "dwelling" or "dweller".

Different Names of 8 Vasu
There are different names of these 8 Vasu in different texts.
According to the Brihad-Aaranyak Upanishad their names and meanings are - Agni, Prithvi, Vaayu, Antariksh, Aaditya, Dyaus, Chandramaa, and Nakstraani.
While according to Mahaabhaarat their names are - Anal, Dhaaraa, Anilaa, Ahaa (or Aap - means water), Pratyoosh, Prabhaas, Som, and Dhruv.
Though the Shatapath Braahman uses the Brihad-Aaranyak names, most later texts follow the Mahabharata names with the exception that Aap (water) usually appears in place of Ahaa.
The Vishnu Puraan equates Prabhaas with the lights of the 27 or 28 Nakshetra (Constellations/Lunar Mansions) and Dhruv with Aakaash Tattwa, that is "space", Dhruv seemingly taking over Ahaa's role when Aha is replaced by Aap.

Raamaayan says that the Vasu are the children of the sage Kashyap and his wife Aditi and thus are full siblings to the 11 Aaditya.
However the Mahaabhaarat makes them the sons of Prajaapati Manu, the  son of Brahmaa by various mothers.

Story of the Vasu Born as Bheeshm
The Mahaabhaarat, Aadi Parv/96 says that when Gangaa met them on her way and asked them why were they sad, they told her   "We are cursed by Vashishth Jee. He was sitting for his evening worship, we could not see him and crossed him, so he cursed us to be born on Earth. You be our mother, because we do not want to be born from just any human female." Gangaa said - "So be it, but whom you would like to be your father on Earth?" Vasu said - "King Prateep will have a son Shaantanu." Gangaa said - "That was exactly what I was thinking." Vasu again said - "You may throw your children in your water as soon as they are born, so that we won't have to live there for long time." Gangaa said - "That is fine. I myself was thinking so, but my living with him should not be completely fruitless, so one of you should live there." At this Vasu said - "We each will give 1/8th part of our energy to your one son and he will live there according to your and his wish. But this son will not have any child on Earth." After this Vasu went away.

The Mahaabhaarat relates how the 8 Vasu, were enjoying themselves in the forest, when the wife of Dyaus spotted an excellent cow. She said to her husband - "This cow is very beautiful. I want to have it." Dyaus said - "This cow belongs to sage Vashishth Jee. We cannot have this cow." She asked - "What is the specialty of this cow?" He said - "Whoever drinks her milk stays young forever. Besides she can give whatever you like too." Hearing this she thought of her on friend on Earth that if she got this cow she would stay young forever and will get anything whatever she would wish for. So she persuaded her husband Dyaus to steal it. Although Dyaus stopped her doing so but when she did not listen to him he had to steal her with the help of his brothers.

Unfortunately the sage Vashishth knew through his ascetic powers that the Vasu had stolen his cow and immediately cursed them to be born on Earth as mortals. When they came to know about this, they pleaded to him to be kind on them. He said - "My curse cannot go waste. You will have to be born on Earth, but the seven of you who have only helped the thief may be free of their earthly life within a year of being born and but the 8th one who has really stolen the cow, means Dyaus, will have to bear the result of his Karm."

Then Dyaus asked him how he will be free from his birth and death cycle after being born on Earth. Vashishth Jee said - "You will not leave your progeny there and you will have to leave your mortal body in Uttaraayan, then only you can attain Moksh." That is why Bheeshm did not marry, did not have any child and had to wait for Uttaraayan period to die.

When they were returning to their abode, they met Gangaa and requested to be their mother on Earth as they had known that Gangaa has also been cursed to be born on Earth by her father Brahmaa Jee. They also promised to give Dyaus their 1/8th part of powers to him to be able to stay on Earth. Gangaa agreed and the one who stayed on Earth was Dyaus - Bheeshm. To attain Moksh he did not marry and had to wait for Uttaraayan period to die.

Thus  Gangaa incarnated on Prithvi and became the wife of King Shaantanu on the condition that he would never ask her any question in any way whatever she would do and the day he would ask any question, she would reply to his question and go away to Swarg. Shaantanu agreed and she became his wife. All the Vasu were born to Gangaa one by one and Gangaa drowned them in her own waters, freeing them from their curse and the king could not ask her any question as per her condition. But when the eighth was born to Shaantanu and he saw Gangaa to drown him too in Gangaa River. the king could not resist himself and finally asked his wife as why was she doing this to his sons? She then told the story of her own, his own and his sons' curses, and then left him. So the eighth son, Dyaus incarnated on Earth, remained alive imprisoned in mortal form, and later became known in his mortal incarnation as Bheeshm.

Why only Bheeshm is always blamed for the course of events took in MBH? MBH is not about morality, it is about reality. The complexities of human personality are presented without prejudice.

Bheeshm was a megalomaniac. He had imagined himself an ideal role model for the family and the society, and that is why he should display the best filial affection. In other words he should fulfill every whim of his father. His tragedy started from his promise to Satyavatee's father to please his own father or to fulfill the wish of his own father - to marry him to Satyavatee, at any cost. It not only led to the vow of disclaiming the throne but to a very great extent - the vow of celibacy. From then on his life became tragic. He always felt bound by his word to Satyavatee’s father that he had to put her progeny on the throne and protect them also.

Bound by this promise, when Satyavatee asked him to produce children from her widow daughters-in-law, Ambikaa and Ambaalikaa, he clearly refused the offer referencing to his promise to her father. Besides he himself was not in Satyavatee's progeny.

When the matter arose between Kaurav and Paandav, that who would sit on the throne, he knew that Paandav did not meet this requirement either, because they were not the children of Satyavatee  - means of Ved Vyaas, or Dhritraashtra or even Paandu. They were not even the children of any human being, they were the children of gods by Paandu’s wives. Thus they were not genetically Paandav, that is why they were also not eligible to sit on Hastinaapur throne. So tragically his pledge to the fisherman bound him to stand by Dhritraashtra and his children. He had to accept whatever they did up to the end of his life.
This is exactly the teaching of the Mahaabhaarat. The reality in life demands creative solutions considering prons and cons of maximum situations, not that one should bind himself to any one course of action irrespective of the outcome.

MBH reading needs maturity of a high order. Scriptures cannot be quoted by ‘parrots’. Hinduism is against being a parrot. It may be tough to face life alone without props.
But there is no other way.



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Created by Sushma Gupta On 5/27/04
Modified on 09/24/13