Bhishma on the bed of arrows for >92 days:
6 specific references
The response below is taken from my series (of responses) to one, let’s call him, BRF Peter. I hope, one day, I will write a series of articles on the subject of ‘Curious case of BRF Peter’. For now, enjoy 6 crisp and clear references of Bhishma Nirvana chronology.
I wrote to BRF Peter…..
Here they are. When I hear from you and when I answer if anything is still confusing… and once you are convinced and agree to the Mahabharata text assertion of Bhishma on the bed of arrows for >92 days, I will proceed to explain ‘Bhishma’s statement of ’58 sleepless nights on the bed of arrows’
Bhishma fought bravely for first 10 days of the war and fell down in the battlefield on the 10th day of the war. He chose to rest on bed of arrows from this day onwards and thus by the end of the war, he was already on the bed for 9 nights (10th through 18th day of the war, both inclusive).
Yudhishthir made arrangements for the fire rights of fallen warriors and then left for the bank of Ganga, along with his brothers. He lived on the bank of Ganga for a month.
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).
Estimating this time interval of one month, by most conservative method, would still amount to 27 days (sidereal lunar month). If one interprets this month long interval using ‘synodic’ lunar month, it would amount to ~30 (29.53) days.
Thus Yudhishthir and party spent about a month on the bank of river Ganga.
Total duration of Bhishma, on the bed of arrows, so far = 9 + 27 = 36 days.
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). 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 urukshetra 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
Krishna, along with Pandavas and also with Sanjay, Kripacharya, met Bhishma at Kurukeshetra. At this time Krishna stated to Bhishma that Bhishma had 56 more days to live.
GP edition, Shanti Parva 51:14
पंचाशतं षट च कुरुप्रवीर
शेषं दिनानां तव जीवितस्य
तत: शुभै: कर्म फलोदयैस्त्वं
समेष्यसे भीष्म विमुच्य देहम
Total duration of Bhishma on the bed of arrows = 36 + X+ 56 = (92 + X) days.
Yudhishthir continued to meet Bhishma for the next few days, seeking counseling and guidance (Rajadharma and other subjects) from Bhishma. These discussions went on for few days and ended with Bhishma reciting ‘Vishnu-Sahasranama’ to Yudhishthir and all others (Gandhari, Dhritarashtra, Krishna, Pandava brothers, etc.) present. On this day, Bhishma asked Yudhishthir to go back to Hastinapur and return only when the Sun turned north (day or day after winter solstice). Let’s assume this duration of Yudhishthir-Bhishma savamd = Y days
Thus, remaining days (R) for Bhishma to be on the bed of arrows, at the end of Bhishma-Yudhishthir Samvad: R = (56 – Y) days
Mahabharata narration tells us that Yudhishthir returned to Hastinapur and stayed in Hastinapur for 50 nights, before returning to Bhshima, on the day of Bhishma Nirvana.
GP edition Anushasan parva 167:5-6
उषित्वा शर्वरी: श्रीमान्पचांशन्नगरोत्तमे
समयं कौरवाग्रह्यस्य सस्मार पुरुषर्षभ:
स निर्ययौ गजपुराद्याजकै: परिवारित:
दृष्ट्वा निवृत्तमादित्यं प्रवृत्तं चोत्तरायणं
Since, Mahabharata text reference in (6) states that, R = 50 days
We can estimate the duration of Bhishma-Yudhishthir samvad = 56-R = 56-50 = 6 days.
Conclusion: Total days of Bhishma on the bed of arrows (from 10th day of the war to the day of winter solstice/Bhishma Nirvana) = (92 + X) days = >92 days.