--> Skip to main content

Bhishma Sharashayya – Symbolism And Meaning Of Bhishma Lying On Arrows In Mahabharata

In the epic Mahabharata, the scene where Bhishma lies on a bed of arrows, also known as "Bhishma's Arrow Bed" or "Bhishma Sharashayya," is rich with symbolism and meaning. This poignant moment is one of the most significant in the epic, encapsulating various philosophical, spiritual, and moral lessons.

Symbol of Sacrifice and Devotion

Bhishma's decision to lie on a bed of arrows, rather than dying instantly, represents his immense sacrifice and unwavering devotion to his principles and his vow of celibacy (Brahmacharya). Despite the intense pain, Bhishma chose to prolong his life until the auspicious time of his choosing, which underscores his dedication to his duties and promises.

Personification of Duty and Dharma

Bhishma's entire life was governed by a strict adherence to Dharma (righteousness). Even in his moment of greatest suffering, he maintained his commitment to his duty. His state of lying on the arrows exemplifies the principle that adherence to one's duty often involves enduring great pain and hardship.

Divine Will and Acceptance

The bed of arrows symbolizes the acceptance of divine will and the transient nature of human life. Bhishma, despite being a formidable warrior and possessing a boon of choosing the time of his death, accepts his fate and the will of Krishna (an incarnation of Vishnu), who orchestrates the events leading to this moment. It signifies surrender to the divine plan and the importance of humility.

Spiritual Enlightenment and Liberation

Bhishma's prolonged state on the bed of arrows provided him the time to impart crucial wisdom and teachings to the Pandavas, especially Yudhishthira, on the duties of a king, ethics, and the principles of governance. This period allowed Bhishma to achieve spiritual enlightenment, sharing his knowledge and fulfilling his life's purpose. His state is also a metaphor for the soul's journey through suffering towards ultimate liberation (Moksha).

Symbol of Resilience and Endurance

Lying on a bed of arrows, Bhishma demonstrated extraordinary resilience and endurance. This serves as an inspiration, teaching that true strength lies in enduring life's trials and tribulations with grace and fortitude. It also illustrates the idea that physical suffering is secondary to the strength of the spirit.

Contrast Between Physical Suffering and Inner Peace

Despite the excruciating physical pain, Bhishma maintained inner peace and clarity of mind. This juxtaposition highlights the epic's philosophical teaching that the mind's strength and serenity can transcend physical agony. It emphasizes the power of mental discipline and spiritual focus.

Moral and Ethical Lessons

Bhishma's situation is a profound commentary on the consequences of choices and actions. His life, filled with vows and commitments, led him to this painful end. It serves as a reminder of the complexities of Dharma and the moral ambiguities that often accompany righteous living. Bhishma's life and death provoke contemplation on the nature of right action, duty, and the repercussions of one's decisions.

Bhishma lying on a bed of arrows is a powerful and multi-faceted symbol in the Mahabharata. It embodies sacrifice, duty, divine acceptance, resilience, and spiritual enlightenment. This moment in the epic continues to inspire and teach profound lessons on the nature of human existence, the importance of adhering to one's principles, and the ultimate journey towards spiritual liberation.