Post 9- Bhishma’s boon of choosing his time of death

When the Kurukshetra ends with the death of Duryodhana, his 11 akshauhini army has been fully destroyed. Almost every single warrior on his side has been killed. Only Kripa and Ashwtattama remain apart from Kritavarma from Krishna’s Narayani sena. But there is one great warrior who had been felled on the 10th day but who is still alive when the war has ended and Duryodhana has been killed- Bhishma.

After his coronation as king, Yudishtira is asked by Krishna to go see Bhishma and get his blessings. More importantly, Krishna wants him to gain knowledge from Bhishma about various things including what the duties of a king are. He tells Yudisthira that Bhishma is just waiting for the right time, that is, for the sun to start moving north, before he gives up his life.

Bhishma has the boon of choosing his time of death and this is how he got this boon.
Devavrata (who later gets the name Bhishma) is the son of the Goddess Ganga and the King Santanu. Ganga takes the child with her and once he has learned the use of weapons, and also gained knowledge of all kinds, she brings him back to Santanu. Santanu is very happy to have his son back since now he has someone who will rule the kingdom after he is dead. Devavrata is a very capable young man and the people of Hastinapur love him too and everybody is happy.

Four years pass in this way. And then one day Santanu comes across the beautiful daughter of the chief of the fishermen, Satyavati. He is attracted to her and he asks her father for her hand in marriage. When her father insists that only her children should become king, Santanu comes back to the kingdom dejected.

Devavrata comes to know about this and he goes to the fisherman chief and promises that only Satyavati’s children will become king, not him. The fisherman chief is happy to hear that but he questions what will happen in Devavrata’s children fight for the throne. This is when Devavrata promises that he will never marry at all.

As soon as he makes this promise, the celestials shower flowers upon him from the heavens and the name BHISHMA is given to him by them because of the terrible promise that he has made.

This vow of Bhishma’s satisfies the fisherman chief and he agrees to the marriage of Satyavati with Santanu. Santanu is very happy to be united with Satyavati and hearing how Bhishma made this possible, he blesses him and give him a boon, that Death will not come to him until he wishes it.

At the end of the 10th day of the Kurukshethra war, Bhishma falls after a fierce battle with Arjuna. His whole body is covered with Arjuna’s arrows so that he is lying on a bed of them. But he does not give up his life because at this point the sun is moving southwards. After the war is over, when the sun starts its northward journey, Bhishma chooses to end his life.

Adi Parva: Sambhava Parva

The Mahabharata, Book 1: Adi Parva: Sambhava Parva: Section C

Santanu also, hearing of the extraordinary achievements of his son, became highly gratified and bestowed upon the high-souled prince the boon of death at will, saying, 'Death shall never come to thee as long as thou desirest to live. Truly death shall approach thee, O sinless one, having first obtained thy command.'"