One of the most significant and pivotal characters of the great Indian Epic Mahabharat – Bhishma Pitamaha – was an exceptionally skilled archer, an able statesman and a devout nationalist, who sacrificed his all for Hastinapur and the future of Bharatvarsha.
Born to King Shantanu and Ganga, Bhishma was named Devavrata. He spent his early days with his mother and was trained by Sage Vashishta, Brihaspati, Shukracharya and Parashurama. Soon after completing his basic education, Ganga introduced him to his father, who was earnestly waiting for his son to return.
After reuniting with his son, Shantanu pronounced him as the Prince of Hastinapur and he was named as the successor of the king to the throne. However, destiny had some other plans for him.
Once while the father-son duo had gone for hunting, Shantanu found Satyavati, a poor man named Dashraj’s daughter rowing a boat. Her beauty cast a spell on him and he instantly lost his heart to her. In order to seek her hand for marriage, Shantanu reached out to her father who agreed to get his daughter married to the king but on one condition.
Dashraj wanted the king to promise him that the first son born to him by Satyavati would succeed him to the throne. On listening to this unjust condition, Shantanu refused to accept it since he had already named Devavrata as the crown prince.
Pained by the thought of separation from Satyavati, Shantanu immersed himself in grief. In a bid to know what has affected his father so much, Devavrata asked the charioteer to confide the truth to him about the cause of the king’s agony.
On being informed about Satyavati, Devavrata decided to end his father’s misery by reaching out to Dashraj. To convince Satyavati’s father that he wouldn’t ascend the throne, Devavrata vowed (Bhishma Pratigya) to remain a bachelor all his life and die childless.
He vowed that he would remain loyal to the kings who would occupy the throne of Hastinapur during his lifetime and remain a caretaker of the kingdom until he breathed his last.
Since he took such a drastic oath without thinking of the consequences and its implications on himself, Devavrata came to be known as Bhishma.