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Why Was Bhishma Forced To Participate And Be On The Side Of Kauravas In Mahabharata War?

Bhishma was forced to participate and be on the side of the Kauravas in the Mahabharata War due to several factors rooted in his vows, his sense of duty (dharma), and his loyalty to the throne of Hastinapura. Here are the key reasons:

Vow of Loyalty to Hastinapura: Bhishma had taken a solemn vow to protect and serve the throne of Hastinapura. This vow was made when he renounced his claim to the throne to ensure that his father, King Shantanu, could marry Satyavati. By this vow, Bhishma committed himself to the welfare of the kingdom, irrespective of who sat on the throne.

Obligation to the Kuru Dynasty: As a member of the Kuru dynasty, Bhishma felt an obligation to support the ruling king. At the time of the war, Dhritarashtra was the king, and his son Duryodhana was the crown prince. Bhishma's duty to the Kuru lineage and the reigning monarch bound him to support them.

Respect for Dhritarashtra's Authority: Despite knowing the unrighteousness of Duryodhana, Bhishma had a profound respect for Dhritarashtra, the blind king. Dhritarashtra’s decision to support his son Duryodhana meant that Bhishma, bound by his duty, had to align himself with their side.

Elder Statesman Role: Bhishma was one of the eldest and most respected figures in the Kuru court. His participation was also seen as an attempt to maintain some semblance of order and justice. He hoped that his presence might restrain some of Duryodhana's excesses and lead to a more honorable conduct of war.

Commitment to Dharma: Bhishma’s understanding of dharma (duty/righteousness) was complex and multifaceted. He believed in adhering to his commitments and vows, even when they placed him in morally challenging situations. His commitment to his personal dharma often conflicted with the larger moral righteousness but he chose to uphold his vow to serve the throne above all.

Loyalty to His Word: Bhishma was known for his steadfastness to his word. Once he made a commitment, he would not break it under any circumstance. This unwavering loyalty to his promises was a hallmark of his character and left him little choice but to support the Kauravas.

While Bhishma was personally more sympathetic to the Pandavas and disapproved of Duryodhana’s actions, his complex sense of duty and loyalty ultimately dictated his participation on the side of the Kauravas. This tragic conflict of duty versus righteousness is one of the many profound ethical dilemmas explored in the Mahabharata.