15- Bhishma’s fall in the war and his death -Part 1

Bhishma is the eldest of the Kurus, a person for whom the Pandavas, especially Arjuna, has great respect and love. Yet, in the way, Bhishma is in Duryodhana’s side and it is up to Arjuna to fight him and defeat him.
Arjuna is unable to fight to his full capacity with Bhishma and Krishna often has to remind him that he must defeat Bhishma. There is even an occasion when Krishna gets so angry with Arjuna for not putting forth his full prowess against the grandsire that he himself gets down, takes up a chariot wheel from nearby and rushes towards Bhishma.

On the 10th day of the battle, Arjuna decides that Bhishma must be stopped at all costs. Shikandin, who was born a woman, is given the responsibility of tackling Bhishma. Shikandin has a boon that HE will be responsible for the death of Bhishma.

Since Bhishma will not fight with Shikandin directly (because he was born a woman), and no one else (apart from Arjuna) can actually face the grandsire, it is left to Shikandin to face him. Shikandin is a very powerful warrior and he commands one segment of the Pandava forces. He rushes towards the grandsire, with Arjuna protecting his chariot from the rest of the kaurava forces.

This is where many recent books and TV shows add their own version of the story. They depict Shikandin as standing in front of Arjuna in his own chariot and Arjuna hiding behind him and shooting arrows at Bhishma. They show that Bhishma drops his arrow and is standing still, without fighting while Arjuna keeps shooting arrows at him and finally brings him down. Both of these are wrong.

According to the Mahabharata, during this battle, Arjuna and Shikandin are both fighting from their own chariots. Arjuna was busy keeping the entire Kaurava force away from Shikandin so that he could concentrate on Bhishma alone. There are many verses that show clearly that this was so.

Book 6: Bhishma Parva: Bhagavat Geeta Parva
The Mahabharata, Book 6: Bhishma Parva: Bhagavat-Gita Parva: Section CXVIII

1.And no car-warrior, O Bharata, of the Pandava host ventured to vanquish or even proceed against that warrior of gigantic proportions, save Indra's son (Arjuna) owning white steeds and having Krishna for his charioteer. Then Arjuna also called Vijaya, vanquishing Dussasana in battle, O king, in the very sight of all the troops, proceeded against Bhishma.
No mention of Shikandin AND Arjuna here. Only Arjuna on his chariot proceeding against Bhishma.

2. Then Bhishma, O king, invoking a celestial weapon, rushed at the son of Kunti (Arjuna), in the very sight of all the bowmen. Thereupon Sikhandin, clad in mail, rushed at Bhishma who was dashing towards Arjuna. At this, Bhishma withdrew that weapon resembling fire (in effulgence and energy). Meanwhile Kunti's son owning white steeds slaughtered thy troops, confounding the grandsire.
How can Shikandin rush at Bhishma who is rushing towards Arjuna if they re both on the same chariot?

3. the slayer of Madhu, viz., the son of Devaki, cheerfully addressing Dhananjaya, said, 'There, Bhishma, the son of Santanu, stayeth between the two armies. Slaying him by putting forth thy might, thou mayst win victory. There, at that spot, whence he breaketh our ranks, check him, putting forth thy strength. O lord, none else, save thee, ventureth to bear the arrows of Bhishma. Thus urged, the ape-bannered Arjuna at that moment made Bhishma with his car, steeds, and standard, invisible by means of his arrows
Krishna urges Arjuna to switch focus to Bhishma, telling him that no on except he can defeat Bhishma. If the plan was to put Shikandin in front of Arjuna to save Arjuna, why would Krishna ask his dearest friend to put himself in danger by fighting Bhishma without Shikandin covering him?? Krishna was never doubts Arjuna’s ability to defeat Bhishma, but he does know that Arjuna loves Bhishma too much to fight him with all his heart.

4. Then Sikhandin, taking up a mighty weapon and protected by Kiritin (Arjuna), rushed impetuously towards Bhishma ALONE. The unvanquished Vibhatsu then, knowing what should be done after what, slew all those that followed Bhishma, and then himself rushed at him.
Arjuna is protecting Shikandin from the other warriors of the Kaurava warrior while Shikandin rushes ALONE in his chariot at Bhishma. Then he also rushed to face Bhishma. On the other side, Dusshasana, Kripa, Ashwattama and many others rush to protect Bhishma against Arjuna.

5. And the grandsire baffled all those arrows, as if sporting the while. Frequently looking at Sikhandin the prince of the Panchalas with a laugh, he aimed not a single arrow at him, recollecting his femininity. On the other hand, he slew seven great car-warriors belonging to Drupada's division.
Bhishma is not unarmed, he is not standing still without fighting just because Shikandin is aiming arrows at him. He is avoiding shooting arrows at Shikandin but fighting with the others.

6. Thus all the Pandavas, placing Sikhandin before them pierced Bhishma in that battle repeatedly surrounding him on all sides. And all the Srinjayas, uniting together, struck him with dreadful Sataghnis, and spiked maces, and battle-axes, and mallets, and short thick clubs, and bearded darts, and other missiles, and arrows furnished with golden wing, and darts and lances and kampanas; and with long shafts, and arrows furnished with heads shaped like the calf-tooth, and rockets.
Shikandin was placed BEFORE them all- meaning he was leading the attack. Arjuna had given him the responsibility to LEAD the attack against Bhishma as he had led the attack against many others in the battle. How can one man become a shield to 100’s of others in battlefield?


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