Bhishma Ashtami falls during the Uttarayan, the holy half of the year when the sun is in its northward movement. Since Bhishma wished to die during Uttarayan, he chose to remain on the bed of arrows following his defeat in the Mahabharata battlefield. Bhishmashtami is the most auspicious day marking the death of Bhishma and is a day to observe fast, pujas and Tarpan.
Bhishma Ashtami Vrat Story
Bhishma was the son of Mharaja Shantanu and Ma Ganga. On his birth, he was named Devavrata. For the sake of his father, Devavrata took a resolution to remain celibate throughout his life. His mother goddess Ganga nurtured him and arranged for his education. Devavrata learnt Shastra Vidhya (knowledge of warfare) from Maharishi Parashuram and received his education under the tutelage of Shukaracharya, the preceptor of asuras. He acquired great fighting skills and became an invincible one and a terror to his enemies.
Following his education, Devavrata was brought by Ma Ganga to his father Shantanu who declared him as the prince of the kingdom. Meanwhile, Shantanu fell in love with Satyavati and wished to marry her. Satyavati’s father agreed to give his daughter in marriage to him with the condition that the progeny ensuring through her shall only be given the chance to rule the kingdom. Devavrata perceived the situation and wished to make his father happy. Therefore he decided to give the kingship to Satyavati’s sons and resolved himself to remain a bachelor. Due to this firm resolution, he came to be called as Bhishma.
Shantanu was highly pleased with Bhishma and therefore blessed him with a boon that Bhishma shall die only when he wished. In course of his life, Bhishma took the side of Kauravas in the battle of Mahabharata. As he had earlier pledged not to wield any weapons against Shikandi, he discarded all his weapons in the battlefield at the sight of Shikandi. Therefore he fell injured in the battlefield. Since it is believed that leaving the body in Uttarayan shall give salvation (Moksha) to the individual, Bhishma waited for 18 days on the bed of arrows awaiting uttarayan.
Bhishma Ashtami Puja Vidhi
The eighth day of the Shukla Paksha in the month of Mgha is called as Nirvan Tithi or the day of salvation. It is highly auspicious to perform Tarpan in memory of Bhishma with the offering of kush grass, til and water.
Bhishma Ashtami Fasting Rules
The observer wakes up early in the morning and does Shiva Puja after taking a holy bath. The whole day is spent in fasting and the fasting concludes in the evening after repeating the puja.
Benefits of Bhishma Ashtami Vrat
Observing Bhishma Ashtami blesses the individuals with glorious and honest children.
The puja, tila tarpan and vrat on this day can remove all sins and bless people with several merits.
Bhishma was a Brahmachari (celibate) by his resolution and therefore doing Tarpan for him wins the blessings of gods
Bhishma Ashtami vrat and tarpan on this day can free one from pitru dosha