Bhishmashtami

This festival is associated with 'Bhishma Pitamaha',the grandsire of the epic 'Mahabharata'.Bhishma is known as the legendary king of Mahabharata whom Lord Krishna praised as the Lords of the lord. Bhishmashtami ie Bhishma Ashtami,is the festival which is celebrated on the twenty-third day of Magha (Jan-Feb) and eighth lunar day of the light half (waxing phase of the moon)and it has special and traditional origin.

Important part of Bhishmashtami festival is the worship of the Pitris, the ancestors.It is the next day to Ratha Saptami.It is believed that Bhishma's soul departed on this day after the war of Kurukshetra came to an end.According to the Tithi Tattwa, Bhishmashtami day is dedicated to Bhishma, the son of Ganga, and great uncle of the Pandava and Kaurava .Bhishma died childless without any direct descendant.

Rituals

On this day devotees take bath early in the morning,perform the pooja and observe the fast from sunrise to sunset.Being the 'Pitamaha' of all,in honour and to pacify his soul, all the devotees come together and make religeous offerings of Ganga-water, to his spirit.The sesamum seeds and boiled rice is offered to him.These rituals compensate the sins of the whole year.

This offering is given to the childless hero Bhishma of the race of Vyaghrapada. Then people pray saying, "May Bhishma, the son of Santanu, the speaker of truth and defeater of his passions, obtain by this water the oblations due by sons and grandsons."

Dhavala was an ancient lawgiver, quoted by Raghunandana and as per Dhavala,persons of all the four original castes need to perform this.rituals on Bhishmashtami.Also,the persons of all Varnas should offer water, sesamum seeds and rice, to Bhishma on Bhishmashtami ie on the eighth lunar day.It is strongly beleived that if this is not done then the value of all the good deeds done before is nullified. As per some texts, only the Brahmans, Kshatriyas and Vaisyas should observe these rituals,whereas the Sudras are excluded from these rituals of Bhishmashtami.

Legend

As per the mythology, Bhishma was the son of King Santanu from his wife Ganga.When his father decided to marry a beautiful young maiden named Satyavati,her parents were not in favour, because it was Bhishma who was heir to the throne and if she had sons they would not inherit the kingdom.

To fulfill the desire of his father's marriage, Bhishma vowed neither to get married and have children,nor to accept the crown as a prince of Hastinapur(Kaurav dynasty to Dhritrashtra, Duryodhan etc.).Shantanu then married Satyavati, and she bore him two sons.

The two sons died without producing any children, 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.

Later on as years passed there was a tiff between Kaurawas and Pandavas for the throne of Hastinapur.Since the issue was not settled amicably,the war of Kurukshetra was declared.

During the war of Kurukshetra, Bhishma had to enter the war on the side of Kauravas. As there were defeat after defeat,prine Duryodhan of Kauravas,suspected the behaviour of Bhishma Pitamaha.Bhishma was disturbed by this and to save his self respect,in anguish,he took up the most powerful 'Astra', which could only be opposed by anyone including Shri.Krishna.However,Krishna had alredy declared before hand that he would not touch a weapon during the war.

But since Bhisham's attack could not be counteracted,Krishhna had to break his promise and was compelled to use the Sudarshan Chakra.On Seeing Shri.Krishna's decision, Bhishma stopped fighting and laid himself to death on the bed of arrows(Sharashiayya).Father Shantanu had given a boon to Bhishma,that he will die only when he wishes so.

Accordingly after the 18-day war in Mahabharata, Bhisma opted for the Ashtami day on the Shukla Paksha of Magh month to leave his body and merge with the Supreme God.This was the the auspicious Uttarayan period, the daytime of Devas.Hence this day is celebrated as Bhishmashtami in the honour of Bhishma Pitamaha.

Bhishmashtami Arghyam

Procedure:

(a) Perform the sandhya and all other routine rituals.
(b) Sit down facing the East direction.
(c) Say the sankalpa " Bhishmashtami punyakale Bhishma Tarpanam karishye"
(d) Having Yajnopavita in Nivita mode,offer arghyam by both hands in pure water without mixing tila and

chanting the following Shlokas-

Bhishmah Santanavo virah satyavsdi jitendriyah l
Abhiradbhiravapnotu putrapautrocitam kriyam ll

Bhishmaya namah idam arghyam l
Vaiyaghrapada gotraya sankritya pravaraya ca l
Aputraya dadamyarghyam salilam bhIshma varmaNe ll

Bhishmaya namah idam arghyam l
Gangaputraya Santaya Santanoh atmajaya ca l
Aputraya dadamyarghyam salilam bhIshma varmaNe ll

Bhishmaya namah idamarghyam l
Anena arghyapradanena bhIshmah PrIyatam ll