The story behind Bhishma’s birth

The great warrior Bhishma is one of the unsurpassed heroes of the Mahabharat. Not only for his warrior skills, but he an inspiration for outstanding sacrifice and sincerity to the kingdom of Hastinapur and is remembered as one of the greatest legends born.

Bhishma was one of the Astavasoos who were the sons of Manu Prajapati. They were the attendants of Bhagwan Vishnu and resided in the Indralok. Once they went strolling in the Bhulok and reached the ashram of Rishi Vasishth. In the Ashram, they saw the divine cow Nandini whose milk was considered as most healthy and divine for a disease free life. Out of greed the youngest one instigates the others to steal it. When Rishi Vasishth goes out of the ashram for flowers, they take a chance and steal the cow and make their way to heaven.

Rishi Vasishth on returning back comes to know that Nandini has been stolen and thorugh his divine powers come to know that Astavasus have a hand in it. He gets angry and curses them all to be born as humans on Earth. The Astavasus come to know about this and ask for forgiveness for their audacity. Rishi Vasishth clams down and says that the sooner death approaches them, the faster they would be freed from the curse. However, he says that the youngest Vasu would have to lead a long life on earth for instigating the idea of stealing the cow.

Keeping in mind the condition of Rishi Vasishth, the Astavasus approach River Ganga and seek permission to be born as her children. They request her to throw them into the river as soon as they were born so that they would be free from the curse. Ganga agrees. Time passes and Maharaj Shantanu of Hastinapur once comes across Ganga who was strolling on the banks in form of a beautiful woman. He immediately proposes her to marry him. Ganga puts a condition that Shantanu would not question her for any of her actions after marriage, lest she would leave him. Madly in love with her, Maharaj Shantanu agrees. They both get married and lead a happy life for some time.

Sometime later, Ganga delivers a baby boy. While Maharaj Shantanu is happy as he has got an heir for his kingdom, Ganga silently goes to the river bank and throws the child into the river, thus freeing the first Vasu from the curse. Although it was painful as a mother to do so, she does it because of her promise to the Astavasus. Maharaj Shantanu is shocked by her behaviour, but abiding to his promise he doesn’t question her. In the same way, Ganga frees the rest of the six vasus too from their curse.


The eighth child is born and as usual Ganga makes her way to the River. Unable to bear her deeds of throwing his sons into the river, Maharaj Shantanu questions her and stops her from doing so and saves the eighth child. Ganga recalls his words and says that the time has come for her to leave him as he has broken his promise. Then she tells him all about the curse of the Astavasus and the reason behind her behaviour. The youngest of the Asatvasus according to Rishi Vashisht’s prophecy went on to live who was none other than Bhishma, the great. Thus, to fulfil his curse, the youngest Vasu thrives as Bhishma, lives a long life and is liberated from his curse only after the great war of Mahabharat.