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The eighth day (ashtami)of the waxing moon (shukl paksh) of Magh is celebrated as Bhishma Ashtami.Bhishma Ashtami or Bhishmashtami is observed on Shukla paksha Ashtami in Magh month (January - February). This is in reverence to Bhishma the most revered of characters of the Mahabharat who is respected for his honesty, sincerity and determination.Bhishma is known as the Kuru Vamsa Pitamaha (grandfather of Kaurava) and is described as the Lords of the Lord by Sri Krishna. As per the Mahabharata, Bhishma laid himself on the bed of arrows on Magh Shukla Ashtami day
Bheeshm was the son of King Shantanu by his wife Ganga. In order to please his father, Bheeshm took on oath of celibacy and hence promised that he would never marry and would forever remain faithful to the throne of Hastinapur (Kaurav dynasty). This oath has becoming the touchstone of determination in Indian. To take up a herculean task is described as a Bheeshma Pratigya
During the battle of Kurukshetra, Bhishama was obliged to enter the war on the side of the Kauravas. Since the Kauravas were facing one defeat after another, Duryodhan suspected that Bheeshm was not impartial. Bheeshm, to save his self respect, in anguish, took up such a weapon which could only be opposed by Lord Krishna.Krishna, was compelled to lift the Sudarshan Chakra. Seeing that, Bheeshm stopped fighting and laid himself on his death bed.
This day is observed as a festival in reverence to Bhishma.
Bhishma Ashtami is celebrated with utmost fervor in Vishnu temples and ISKCON Temples. The five days beginning from Bhishma Ashtami to Bhishma Dwadasi are known as Bhishma Panchaka vrata.