Bhishma born as Devavrata, son of Shantanu and the holy River Ganga, is the most respected and perhaps the most fabulous character in the epic Mahabharata after Lord Krishna.
Bhishma is more famous for the pratigya or promise that he made to his father, that he would never marry in his whole life and would protect whoever sits on the throne of his father (the throne of Hastinapura). This was because when his father wanted to remarry a fisherwoman Satyavati, who wanted that her children should rule the Kingdom and not Santanu's previous wife's (Ganga's). Thus Bhishma sacrificed his crown-prince title for his father's happiness. This gave him immediate recognition among the Gods. His father granted him the boon of Ichcha Mrityu (control over his own death — he could choose whether to die or not), and thus immortality.
He learnt political science from Brihaspati, the guru of the Devas, Vedas and Vedangas from rishi Vasishta, and archery from Parashurama, also known as Bhargava. He was known as Bhismapitamha among Pandava's and Kaurava's.
Bhishma is one character who is the perfect example of a dutibound officer. He is the one who has witnessed the Mahabharata completely from the beginning since the rule of the Shantanu. Shantanu was the third king after Dushyanta and Bharata, though the vansh (family or progeny) is said to have started with Bharata the great.
In the great battle at Kurukshetra when he was badly stricken and chose to die, Arjuna created a bed of arrows with the water of Ganga flowing in his mouth. In his last days before he ascended to heaven, he recited to Yudhisthira the famous hymn to Vishnu, the Vishnu sahasranama.
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