GP edition, Shanti Parva 1:2
तत्र ते सुमहात्मानो न्यवसं पाण्डुनन्दना:
शौचं निवर्तयिष्यन्तो मासमात्रं बहि: पुरात
(Pandavas lived on the bank of Ganga, outside the city, for a month, in order to purify themselves).
Many sages and others pursued Yudhishthir to return to Hastinapur.
GP edition Shanti Parva 37:28
एतैश्र्चान्यैश्र्च बहुभिरनुनीतो युधिष्ठिर:
व्यजहान्मानसं दु:खं संतापं च महायशा:
(Yudhishthir became free from mental pain and anger, after consolation by many)
After spending one month on the bank of river Ganga, Yudhishthir and his brothers returned to Hastinapur. Yudhishthir left for Hastinapur and along with his borthers, Dhritarashra, Gandhari, Kunti, Krishna and others, entered Hastinapur in a great procession (GP edition, Shanti Parva 37:30-43)
Yudhishthir was crowned a king. Various key personalities present at the ceremony included his brothers, Sudharma, Dhaumya, Vidur, Dhritarashtra, Yuyutus, Sanjay and Gandhari (GP Shanti Parva 40:3-6)
Yudhishthir appointed his brothers and others to various administrative posts and also assigned palaces for their residence (GP edition, Shanti Parva 41). Yudhishthir performed final rites for remaining warriors (GP edition, Shanti Parva 42) and honored Krishna (GP edition, Shanti Parva 43).
Yudhishthir went to meet Krishna, and it is at this time, that Krishna reminded Yudhishthir to visit Bhishma (GP edition, Shanti Parva 46).
GP edition, Shanti Parva 46:11
शरतल्पगतो भीष्म: शाम्यन्निव हुताशन:
मां ध्याति पुरूषव्याघ्रस्ततो मे तद्वतं मन:
(Bhishma while lying on the bed of arrows, is thinking of me and thus I am also thinking of him)
GP edition, Shanti Parva 46:29
आवृते भगवत्यर्के स हि लोकां गमिष्यति
त्वददर्शनं महाबाहो तस्मादर्हति कौरव:
(Bhishma will leave us when the Sun turns in the other direction).
Yudhisthrir agreed with suggestion of Krishna and expressed his desire to meet Bhishma, upon which Krishna asked Satyaki to have his chariot ready (GP edition, Shanti Parva 46:31-32).
Mahabharata text is not explicit on exact duration of the time interval between return of Yudhishthir to Hastinapur (from the bank of river Ganga) and his leaving for Kurukshetra to meet Bhishma.
Let’s call the length of this time interval = X days.
Thus, Bhishma was lying on the bed of arrows for a ‘MINIMUM’ of ’36+X’ days, when Yudhishthir decided to meet Bhishma.
Soon, Krishna, Yudhishthir, rest of Pandava brothers, Kripacharya and others left for Kuruskehtra in their chariots (to meet Bhishma) (GP edition, Shanti Parva 48:1-2)
GP edition, Shanti Parva 48:3-5
तेsवतीर्य कुरुक्षेत्रं केशमज्जास्थिसंकुलम
देहन्यास: कृतो यत्र क्षत्रियैस्तैर्महात्मभि
(They reached Kurukshetra, that was filled with hair, flesh and bones, where great Kshatriya warriors had given up their bodies in the War.)
गजाश्वदेहास्थिचयै: पर्वतैरिव संचितं
नरशीर्षकपालैश्र्च शखैरिव च सर्वश:
(The place was filled with huge piles made up of bodies and bones of elephants and horses. The place was surrounded by human skulls that appeared like conch shells.)
आपानभूमिं कालस्य तथा भुक्तोज्झितामिव
(Many fire rites had taken place at this place (not that long ago). The place was covered with body protection and military equipment. The place appeared as if ‘dining hall’ of that destroyer – The Great Time, and as if he (The Great Time) had left the remnants after eating heartily.)
Krishna narrated (upakhyan) few instances of the life of sage Parashurama. While Krishna was busy in this narration, they arrived at the location where Bhishma was lying on the bed of arrows. (GP edition, Shanti Parva 50:5).
Krishna and Yudhshthir saw that many sages were sitting around Bhishma, on the bank of river Oghavati. Yudhishthir and his brothers, Krishna, Satyaki and Kripacharya approached the sages and paid their respects to Vyasa, Bhishma and assembled sages (GP edition, Shati Parva 50:7-11).
And here comes the ringer…
GP edition, Shanti Parva 51:14
पंचाशतं शट च कुरुप्रवीर
शेषं दिनानां तव जीवितस्य
तत: शुभै: कर्मफलोदयैस्त्वं
समेष्यसे भीष्म विमुच्य देहं
(It is during this meeting, Krishna told Bhishma that Bhishma had 56 more days to live)
The narration of Bhishma Nirvana is not over yet. In fact it is only beginning. It only amazes me that over 100+ known and many unknown Mahabharata researchers (with the exception of Bharat Ratna & Mahamahopadhyay P V Kane, Dr. P V Vartak, Limaye and G N Dandekar)completely missed this narration. And even those few who did acknowledge this specific Mahabharata reference (GP edition, Shanti Parva 51:14) missed subsequent Mahabharata references, unfortunately, and along with it, missed the implication of this narration for the duration of Bhishma on bed of arrows, but more important, for the timing of Mahabharata War (i.e. 5561 BCE).
To be continued….