Bhishmashtami is a festival. It is celebrated on the twenty-third day of Magha and eighth lunar day of the light half. Bhishmashtami festival has special and traditional origin. The origin of Bhishmashtami has in the institutes of the Hindus. Important part of Bhishmashtami festival is the worship of the Pitris, the patriarchs or progenitors, the Dii Manes.
According to the Tithi Tattwa, Bhishmashtami day is dedicated to Bhishma, the son of Ganga, and great uncle of the Pandava and Kaurava princes. Bhishma was killed in the course of the Great War and died childless with no descendant in the direct line.
In order to pacify his soul, all the persons in general join to make libations of water on this day to his spirit as he is called `pitamaha` by all. People offer him sesamum seeds and boiled rice on this particular day of Bhishmashtami. These rituals performed on the Bhishmashtami day is believed to compensate the sins of a whole year.
One of the peculiarities of Bhishmashtami is that persons of all the four original castes need to perform this as per a text of Dhavala. Dhavala was an ancient lawgiver, quoted by Raghunandana. According to this, persons of all Varnas should offer water, sesamum seeds and rice, to Bhishma on Bhishmashtami i, e, on the eighth lunar day. Otherwise the value of all the good deeds done by a person during the preceding year is terminated.
Again, as per a different reading of the text, only the Brahmans, Kshatriyas and Vaisyas should make the oblations. The Sudras are excluded from this duty of offering oblations during Bhishmashtami.
This offering is given to the childless hero Bhishma of the race of Vyaghrapada. Then people pray saying, "May Bhishma, the son of Santanu, the speaker of truth and defeater of his passions, obtain by this water the oblations due by sons and grandsons." The simple nature of the offerings which are sufficient on such occasions, water and sesamum seeds, justifies the remark made by Ovid on the Feralia. All the people of Hindu Dharma perform this ritual.
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