Bheeshma: The unvanquished Kuru or the defeated soul?

Bheeshma …

The very name is enough to evoke a sense of power, discipline, virtue, and strength. But with time, as one gets to know the man, he is seen bent by the burden of his own words. The journey from the grand Debabrata to the weak Bheeshma is one of power to lifelong bondage towards Hastinapur. Tridib Kumar Chattopadhyay’s Bengali novel Tumi, Pitamoho translated to English as Bheeshma by Riddhi Maitra and published by Bee Books; makes the reader visualize the realistic Bheeshma and not the symbol of grandeur that he is usually portrayed as.

Bheeshma, the eighth Vasu, who is cursed for his misdeeds came to be addressed as the unvanquished Kuru. But is he really as undefeated as common perceptions hold? Behind the strong, sturdy, handsome, and wise frame; lies reminiscences of a young boy yearning for motherly love and affection. As he lay on the bed of arrows counting his last days in the war field of Kurukshetra, the memories of a younger Debabrata flash past his eyes.

How he pined for his mother, but the only affection he received was at the hermitage and from his Guruma. Destiny had it that he would have to leave them once he came of age. How he dearly loved his father and to honor his wishes took upon himself the biggest curse of his life. How he expected his mother to visit him once during his long life, to advise him on his deeds but was disappointed by her absence every time, including on the battlefield. How he had once set his eyes upon love, but his oath made him commit a crime so deadly, that it ultimately became his downfall.

Like every character in the epic, Bheeshma too portrays two sides of the same coin. While he serves as the undefeated, feared, and revered royal patriarch of the Kuru clan after King Shantanu’s demise; he is also so tightly bound by his oath that it reduced him to nothing but the likes of a loyal royal guard. Most of his advice was paid no heed. His long life was that of emotionless and painful existence with a sacrifice long forgotten and lost in worth.

Bheeshma reignites the fire within the readers that the oldest Kuru prince was also mortal like his father. He too was witness to momentous love, albeit unrequited. But it also compels the readers to question, had Bheeshma really given up his oath, what would have then been the course of the Great War, where every move was predestined?

A flashback narrative of the most virtuous man on the battlefield, recounting his decisions as the numerous arrows stung and bled his body, Bheeshma, is a contemplation of one’s actions and their reactions in life. The narrative makes the mighty man question himself. His portrayal of a man who won the hearts of many but was defeated in life’s purpose is tragic. A figure of calmness and rationality with an unending tempest blowing inside him would ignite melancholy in the reader’s heart.

Maitra’s translation is unputdownable. Its simplicity is hard-hitting and will compel you as a reader to wonder about this great man and the course of his life. The incidental narrations appearing as memories carefully portray unknown traits of the great-grandfather of the Kurus. His dilemma, defeat, and mere existence reflect well through the English translation of the original text.

Bheeshma is a must-read if you are passionate about the epic and want to delve deep into the intellect and personalities of each of its characters, especially Debabrata.

No. of Pages: 143

Publisher: Bee Books

Availability: Bee Books / Amazon / Flipkart

* I would like to Thank Bee Books for giving me the opportunity to review this book.

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