Mystery of Bhishma Nirvana (Duration) – Part 1 (Mahabharata references) of 15

“The test of originality for an idea is not the absence of one single predecessor but the presence of multiple but incompatible ones.”
– Nassim Nicholas Taleb

I will refer to these reference numbers in critically discussing proposals of other Mahabharata researchers for the duration/timing of Bhishma Nirvana.

(1) Bhishma fell down in the War on the 10th day of the War. The War continued for 8 more days (total of 18 days).

(2) Ashwatthama killed numerous Pandava warriors at the end of 18th (and thus last) day of the War. Bhima and Arujuna humbled Ashwatthama the next day. Kuru women ran to the battlefield in search of their beloved. Yudhishthir asked Sanjaya and others to perform fire rights (funeral) for the dead. Numerous funeral pyres could be seen at Kurukshetra.

(3) Pandava left for the bank of Ganga (Janhavi) and stayed there for a month.

(4) When the month long time was over, Pandava returned to Hastinapur. Yudhishthir was crowned a king, he assigned posts to his brothers and others, honored Krishna, compensated to families of the dead.

(5) Soon, Krishna asked Yudhishthir to visit Bhishma (who was lying on the bed of arrows, from the 10th day of the War) at Kurukshetra. Pandava brothers went to Kurukshetra along with Krishna, Satyaki, Sanjay, Krupacharya. The party arrived at Kurukshetra and the place was filled with hair and bones of animals (horses, elephants, etc.) and human skulls. The party also saw places where funeral pyres were ablaze in the past (only little more than a month before).

(6) During this visit, Krishna told Bhishma that Bhishma had 56 more days to live, i.e. there were 56 more days to Uttarayana (the day or one day after the day of winter solstice)

(7) Pandavas returned to Hastinapur at the end of the day ( 56th day before Bhishma Nirvana)

(8) Next day Pandava brothers visited Bhishma, along the company of only select few (Krishna, Satyaki, etc.). They returned to Hastinapur at the end of the day (55th day before Bhishma Nirvana)

(9) Next day, Pandava brothers visited Bhishma. (54th day before Bhishma Nirvana)

(10) Mahabharata refers to Yudhishthir spending day along with Bhishma and returns to Hastinapur to discuss the matter further with his brothers (53rd day before Bhishma Nirvana)

(11) Next day, Yudhisthir returns to Bhishma, to discuss further. (52nd day before Bhishma Nirvana)

(12) Yudhishthir returns to Bhishma, for the ‘second-last’ time, this time with an entourage (brothes, Krishna, Satyaki, Dhritarashtra, Gandhari, ministers and more). This is the day Bhisma recited the famous ‘Vishnu-sahasra-nama’. Bhishma asked all to return to Hastinapur and only come back to him when the sun turned north (the day or one day after the day of winter solstice). (51st day before Bhishma Nirvana)

(13) Mahabharata text states that Yudhishthir (along with his entourage) returned to Hastinapur and became busy in the affairs of the state. He stayed in Hastinapur for 50 days before returning to Bhishma for the one final time.

(14) When 50 days had elapsed, Yudhisthir noticed that the sun had turned north, and returned to Bhishma with his entourage.

(15) Bhishma passed away on either the day or one day after the day of winter solstice.

This is the chronological narrative of Bhishma Nirvana.

The total (and minimum) duration of Bhishma on the bed of arrows can be thus determined as equal to = 9 (days of the War) + Y + 27-30 + X + 56 = 92-95 + X + Y i.e. MINIMUM OF 92 AND MORE LIKELY >92 DAYS!

There are additional references from Mahabharata text. They are as follows

(16) Bhishma states that he was on the bed of arrows for 58 nights and he felt as if he was in that state for a long time.

(17) Bhishma also states that the month (at the time of Bhishma Nirvana) appeared to be (appeared to him) as that of lunar month of Magha. He also states the lunar tithi. Unfortunatley, the description of tithi has led to numerous interpretations. I will list all I can think of, but other readers may add if they of more. Shukla Paksha 3, 4, 8, 12 and/or also Vadya Paksha 3, 4, 8, 12.

(18) Although considered ‘interpolated’ by many, the reference states that the day of Bhishma Nirvana was that of Shukla Paksha Ashtami (Shukla 8) and that the moon was near nakshatra Rohini. This description of tithi and position of the moon naturally leads to the day/tithi of Magha Shukla 8.

While ‘interpolation’ is a common phenomenon, my approach is to talk in terms of rational and scientific approach of ‘corroborated’ and ‘not corroborated’ as opposed to emotional and opportunistic approach of ‘interpolated when convenient’. I prefer to make a case for ‘interpolated reference’ only when either independent evidence is available and/or futility/inconsistency of ‘alleged interpolated reference can be shown, or the interpolated reference (or inference derived based on such reference) can be falsified.

I have selected proposals of numerous Mahabharata researchers for the day/duration of Bhishma Nirvana. I selected those proposals where specific date for either first day of the Mahabharata war or the date for Bhishma Nirvana is stated. This is a requirment for rational criticism of their proposals.

Some of the proposals I will critically discuss are:

(1) P V Holay (3143 BCE)

(2) Raghavan (3067 BCE)

(3) Ketkar (2585 BCE)

(4) SenGupta (2449 BCE)

(5) Anand Sharan (2156 BCE)

(6) Mohan Gupta (1952 BCE)

(7) Siddharth (1311/1312 BCE)

(8) Velandi Aiyer ( 1194 BCE)

(9) P V Vartak (5561 BCE)

Readers may suggest other proposals only if it meets the specific criteria (proposal must have, at a minimum, date for the first day of the War and/or date for the Bhishma Nirvana).

To be continued…


2 thoughts on “Mystery of Bhishma Nirvana (Duration) – Part 1 (Mahabharata references) of 15

  1. Shukla Paksha 8 can be ruled out as Bhishma Ekadasi occurs in the Shukla Paksha and Bhishma obviously obtained Nirvana after that in the Krisna Paksha.

    • Prof. Sharan,

      Aren’t both claims (Bhishma Nirvana = Magha Shukla 8) and Bhishma Ekadashi (Magha Shukla 11) traditional in nature?

      Both of them conflict with entire Mahabharata text evidence.

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