The Mahabharata Home
"Vaisampayana said, 'Then the royal son of Kunti, having duly honoured the citizens and the inhabitants of the province, dismissed them to their respective homes. The Pandava king then consoled these women, who had lost their heroic husbands and sons in the battle, with abundant gift of wealth. Having recovered his kingdom, Yudhishthira of great wisdom caused himself to be duly installed on the throne. That foremost of men then assured all his subjects by diverse acts of good will. That foremost of righteous men then set himself to earn the substantial blessing of the Brahmanas, of the foremost military officers, and the leading citizens. The blessed monarch having passed fifty nights in the capital recollected the time indicated by his grandsire as the hour of his departure from this world. Accompanied by a number of priests he then set out of the city named after the elephant, having seen that the sun ceasing to go southwards had begun to proceed in his northward course. Yudhishthira the son of Kunti took with him a large quantity of clarified butter and floral garlands and scents and silken cloths and excellent sandalwood and Aquilaria Agallocha and dark sloe wood, for cremating the body of Bhishma. Diverse kinds of costly garlands and gems also were among those stores. Placing Dhritarashtra ahead and queen Gandhari celebrated for her virtues, and his own mother Kunti and all his brothers also, Yudhishthira of great intelligence, accompanied by Krishna and Vidura of great wisdom, as also by Yuyutsu and Yuyudhana, and by his other relatives and followers forming a large train, proceeded, his praises hymned the while by eulogists and bards. The sacrificial fires of Bhishma were also borne in the procession. Thus accompanied, the king set out from his city like a second chief of the deities. Soon he came upon the spot where the son of Santanu was till lying on his bed of arrows. He beheld his grandsire waited upon with reverence by Parasara's son Vyasa of great intelligence, by Narada, O royal sage, by Devala and Asita, and also by the remnant of unslain kings assembled from various parts of the country. Indeed, the king saw that his high-souled grandsire, as he lay on his heroic bed, was guarded on all sides by the warriors appointed for that duty. Alighting from his car, King Yudhishthira with his brothers saluted his grandsire, the chastiser of all foes. They also saluted the Rishis with the island-born Vyasa at their head. They were saluted in return by them. Accompanied by his priests each of whom resembled the grandsire Brahman himself, as also by his brothers, Yudhishthira of unfading glory then approached that spot whereon Bhishma lay on his bed of arrows surrounded by these reverend Rishis. Then king Yudhishthira the just, at the head of his brothers, addressed that foremost one of Kuru's race, viz., the son of the River Ganga, as he lay on
that bed of his, saying, 'I am Yudhishthira, O king! Salutations to thee, O son of the River Janhavi! If thou hearest me still, tell me what I am to do for thee! Bearing with me thy sacrificial fires, I have come here, O king, and wait upon thee at the hour indicated! Preceptors of all branches of learning, Brahmanas, Ritwiks, all my brothers, thy son, viz., king Dhritarashtra of great energy, are all here with my counsellors as also Vasudeva of great prowess. The remnant of unslain warriors, and all the denizens of Kurujangala, are also here. Opening thy eyes, O chief of Kuru's race, do thou behold them! Whatever should be done on this occasion has all been arranged and provided for by me. Indeed, at this hour which thou hadst indicated, all things have been kept ready!'
"Vaisampayana continued, 'Thus addressed by Kunti's son of great intelligence, the son of Ganga opened his eyes and saw all the Bharatas assembled there and standing around him. The mighty Bhishma then, taking the strong hand of Yudhishthira, addressed him in a voice deep as that of the clouds. That thorough master of words said, 'By good luck, O son of Kunti, thou hast come here with all thy counsellors, O Yudhishthira! The thousand-rayed maker of day, the holy Surya has begun his northward course. I have been lying on my bed here for eight and fifty nights. Stretched on these sharp-pointed arrows I have felt this period to be as long as if it was a century. O Yudhishthira, the lunar month of Magha has come. This is, again, the lighted fortnight and a fourth part of it ought by this (according to my calculations) be over.' Having said so unto Yudhishthira the son of Dharma, Ganga's son Bhishma then saluted Dhritarashtra and said unto him as follows.'
"Bhishma said, 'O king, thou art well-conversant with duties. All thy doubts, again, relating to the science of wealth have been well-solved. Thou hast waited upon many Brahmanas of great learning. The subtle sciences connected with the Vedas, all the duties of religion, O king, and the whole of the four Vedas, are well-known to thee! Thou shouldst not grieve, therefore, O son of Kuru! That which was pre-ordained has happened. It could not be otherwise. Thou hast heard the mysteries relating to the deities from the lips of the island-born Rishi himself. Yudhishthira and his brothers are morally as much thy sons as they are the sons of Pandu. Observant of the duties of religion, do thou cherish and protect them. In their turn, they are always devoted to the service of their seniors. King Yudhishthira the just is pure-souled. He will always prove obedient to thee! I know that he is devoted to the virtue of compassion or abstention from injury. He is devoted to his seniors and preceptors. Thy sons were all wicked-souled. They were wedded to wrath and cupidity. Overwhelmed by envy, they were all of wicked behavior. It behoveth thee not to grieve for them!'
"Vaisampayana continued, 'Having said this much unto Dhritarashtra
of great wisdom, the Kuru hero then addressed Vasudeva of mighty arms.'
"Bhishma said, 'O holy one, O god of all gods, O thou that art worshipped by all the deities and Asuras, O thou that didst cover the three worlds with three steps of thine, salutations to thee, O wielder of the conch, the discus, and the mace! Thou art Vasudeva, thou art of golden body, thou art the one Purusha (or active agent), thou art the creator (of the universe), thou art of vast proportions. Thou art Jiva. Thou art subtle. Thou art the Supreme and eternal Soul. Do thou, O lotus-eyed one, rescue me, O foremost of all beings! Do thou, give me permission, O Krishna, to depart from this world, O thou that art Supreme felicity, O foremost of all beings! The sons of Pandu should ever be protected by thee. Thou art, indeed, already their sole refuge. Formerly, I spoke to the foolish Duryodhana of wicked understanding that thither is Righteousness where Krishna is, and that there is victory where Righteousness is. I further counselled him that relying on Vasudeva as his refuge, he should make peace with the Pandavas. Indeed, I repeatedly told him, 'This is the fittest time for thee to make peace! The foolish Duryodhana of wicked understanding, however, did not do my bidding. Having caused a great havoc on earth, at last, he himself laid down his life. Thee, O illustrious one, I know to be that ancient and best of Rishis who dwelt for many years in the company of Nara, in the retreat of Vadari. The celestial Rishi Narada told me this, as also Vyasa of austere penances. Even they have said unto me that. Thyself and Arjuna are the old Rishis Narayana and Nara born among men. Do thou, O Krishna, grant me leave, I shall cast off my body. Permitted by thee, I shall attain to the highest end!'
"Vasudeva said, 'I give thee leave, O Bhishma! Do thou, O king, attain to the status of the Vasus, O thou of great splendour, thou hast not been guilty of a single transgression in this world. O royal sage, thou art devoted to thy sire. Thou art, therefore, like a second Markandeya! It is for that reason that death depends upon thy pleasure even as thy slave expectant of reading thy pleasure!'
"Vaisampayana continued, 'Having said these words, the son of Ganga once more addressed the Pandavas headed by Dhritarashtra, and other friends and well-wishers of his, 'I desire to cast off my lifebreaths. It behoveth you to give me leave. Ye should strive for attaining to truth. Truth constitutes the highest power. Ye should always live with Brahmanas of righteous conduct, devoted to penances, ever abstaining from cruel behaviour, and who have their souls under control!' Having said these words unto his friends and embraced them all, the intelligent Bhishma once more addressed Yudhishthira, saying, 'O king, let all Brahmanas, especially those that are endued with wisdom, let them who are preceptors, let those who are priests capable of assisting as sacrifices, be adorable in thy estimation.'"
Next: Section CLXVIII