In the time of the Mahabharat, a very special child named Devavrat was born to Shantanu, the king of the entire land of Bharat. Devavrat, better known as Bhishma, is forever remembered from the Hindu epics as the ideal son who gave up his happiness for the sake of his father. Shantanu was in love with Satyavati, the local head fisherman’s daughter. Her beauty and grace mesmerized Shantanu; he yearned to marry her and make her another one of his queens.
Unfortunately for the king, this would not be an easy task. Satyavati’s recent palm-reading predicted that her sons would be rulers of Bharat. Her father worried that if Satyavati married Shantanu, their children would not get a chance to rule the great kingdom since his son, Devavrat, was first in line for the crown.
Looking out for his daughter’s wellbeing, the fisherman placed a proposition before Shantanu: Devavrat would have to forfeit the throne, or else Shantanu could not have Satyavati’s hand in marriage. Shantanu was very hurt by this proposition because he knew that it was Devavrat’s right to be the next king.
Knowing he would be doing injustice to his son he tried to forget about Satyavati. However, being away from Satyavati caused Shantanu to become depressed. Devavrat, through his father’s charioteer, came to know of the reason behind his father’s depression and decided that as a son, he should help his father regain his happiness. Devavrat arranged a meeting with the fisherman. Devavrat promised Satyavati’s father that he would let her children rule the kingdom if he consented Shantanu to marry her.
However, this generous offer was not enough for the fisherman. He was worried that there was still a possibility that Devavrat’s future children may challenge the right of Satyavati’s future children. To quell the fisherman’s fears, Devavrat vowed to practice eternal celibacy. Devavrat’s will to help his father astonished the gods in the heavens, who immediately showered flowers upon him, crying “Bhishma, Bhishma, Bhishma!” Bhishma means “one with a terrible oath” and so from then on, Devavrat was referred to as Bhishma.
Hearing about his son’s immense sacrifice, Shantanu granted him the boon of iccha mrutyu, which gave him the ability to choose his time of death. In the Mahabharat it is said that Bhishma was strong enough to immobilize the entire army of the Pandavs. His archery skills were second to only the gods, and so he was labeled as the bravest warrior of his time. Bhishma was also one of the very few people who understood the true identity of Shri Krishna and so he is also remembered as a true devotee of God.
In our lives, we are not forced to take such harsh oaths for our parents. We are sometimes asked to do minor things like helping to clean the house, doing our homework on time, studying hard or even just spending some time with them. Our parents do a lot for us; sometimes it’s hard to see it all because we often take their efforts for granted. For example, they cook for us, clean up after us, buy us things, provide guidance and are always looking out for our best interests.
Bhishma’s story reminds us that we too have a duty towards our parents; we should be more understanding of them, as they have been to us. What about if we do at least one thoughtful thing each week for our parents to show them we love and appreciate them? It can be anything, from taking on one of their chores, to cooking them dinner, to making a special card. In this way Maharaj and Swami will be pleased with our actions and shower us with their blessings and eternal happiness. Bhishma’s story reminds us that we too have a duty towards our parents; we should be more understanding of them, as they have been to us.