Ekadashi is a special day for prayers for all Hindus. It is the 11th day of the fortnight between a New moon to a full moon and vice versa. Typically there are two Ekadashi every month and both days are regarded as a day of fasting and prayers to Lord Vishnu. As I have already stated that an Ekadashi is an auspicious day for Hindus, what is the importance of the Bhishma Ekadashi? To explain that, you need to know a little about the life story of Bhishma pita maha and his role in the Mahabharata.
When does the Bheesham Ekadashi fall?:
Bhishma Ekadasi is the first Ekadashi that falls in the month of Magha. It is the Ekadashi after the New moon that marks the start of the Magha Masam. This masam itself is an auspicious month for prayers and penance. Magha masam marks the start of the Uttarayanam after Makar Sankranti. It is believed, Magha masam is the symbolic dawn of the year, all prayers offered in this masam will yield extra blessings. Hence, the Ekadashi that falls in this month of Magha is more special to Lord Vishnu and all prayers reach him directly.
Now that we know the importance of Ekadashi and when it falls, let us learn about how Bhishma pita maha is associated with this day and what makes him so special.
In 2020, Bhisma Ekadashi falls on the 5th of February. Make sure to pray to Lord Vishnu and do Bhishma parayanam on that day, apart from upavasam.
Here is an abridged story Of Bhishma:
Once upon a time, the ashta Vasus were travelling across the skies and planned to steal the Kamdhenu. They were caught and cursed, to be born on earth, for their crime. The last born Vasu by the name Prabhaasa took responsibility for his mistake. He opted to take the punishment all his brothers. The brothers were all born yet, they died immediately, but only Prabhaasa lived a long lifespan.
Prabhaasa was born as the son of king Shantanu of Kuru dynasty and goddess Ganga. Before Prabhaasa, she had 7 other sons, whom she threw into the river to fulfil the curse. When the 8th son was born, king Shantanu could not take it anymore. He stopped goddess Ganga from killing the child. Then, the goddess revealed the backstory to the king and left with the 8th son. She named her son as Devavrata and taught him all the Vedas and dharmas. He was also trained in archery and warcraft by Parashurama. Once he finished his training, he was sent to his father Shantanu. Devavrata became an acclaimed swordsman, archer, learned in dharma and dhandaneeti (duties of a king). His fame spread throughout the kingdom and he was the heir apparent to the Kuru dynasty.
Oath Of Devavrata (Bhishma Pratigna):
Meanwhile, King Shantanu fell in love with another maiden by the name Satyavati. She was the daughter of a fisherman. Satyavati’s father feared that her children would be ill-treated and ignored, as the king already had an heir in Devavrata. The father asked the king a promise in return for her hand. The king had to promise that Satyavati’s son would be made the future king, and not Devavrata. King Shantanu was appalled at this and he refused the proposal. When Devavrata got news of this proposal, he was deeply disturbed for his father. He met Satyavati’s father and promised to fulfill the conditions. Devavrata took an oath of celibacy and abdicated his throne to the future son of Satyavati. Henceforth, Devavrata became known as Bhishma. His moniker represents his strong willpower and infallible character. The king was deeply moved by this sacrifice and blessed him with a boon. Bhisma could choose his hour of death. Bhishma led the rest of his life, bound to his word, by serving the Kuru dynasty as a guide, acharya and caretaker.
Bhishma was not only a pious and religious man but also, a devout Vishnu upasak. During the Kurukshetra war, he was bound to his word as a caretaker of the Kuru dynasty. He fought on the side of the Kauravas, though he loved the Pandavas equally. After his fall at the hands of Arjuna, Bhishma did not die immediately. He lay on the bed of arrows and meditated on Lord Vishnu. Since he could choose his time of death, Bhisham chose Magha Shukla Ashtami, to depart from earth. Hence, Magha Shukla Ashtami and the following Ekadashi are named after the great soul, that Bhishma was.
After Kurukshetra (Vishnu Sahastranama Stotram):
During his time on the bed of arrows, Lord Krishna sent all the Pandava to Bhishma and asked them to take his blessing and learn from the great man. Bhishma spoke extensively on dharma and taught Yudhistira the best dharma and recited the Vishnu sahastranamas (Thousand names of Lord Vishnu). During the Gitopadesam by Lord Krishna, apart from Arjuna, Bhishma was the only other soul who could see the Vishwarupam of Lord Krishna. Such was the purity and greatness of Bhishma’s soul.
What To Do On Bhishma Ekadashi:
On Bhishma Ekadashi apart from the regular puja and upavasa, we should read the Vishnu Sahastranama stotram. We can donate umbrellas, clothes or footwear to others. Making such donation will earn blessings from all Bhisma, his guru Parashurama and the great sage Jamadagni. We should also read or listen to the story of Bhishma to remember him. There are some sects of people who leave tarpanam to Bhishma during the Bhishma panchakam (it starts on the shashti before Ratha saptami and ends on the dwadashi after Bheeshma Ekadasi). People believe that offering special prayers on this day will bless you will progeny who are as virtuous as Bhisma. Lord Krishna himself gave this Ekadashi the name of Bhisma Ekadashi as a boon to Bhisma.
Disclaimer: I do not own these images. They are the paintings of Raja Ravi Verma that were sourced from Google.
This is a Guest Post by ‘Aishwarya Komandur’ of Random Musings.