The Lion’s roar – Arjuna Vishada Yoga 12

In our previous post we saw Duryodhana exhorting his troops to surround their Commander in Chief, the Grandsire Bhishma, since he was the most important person in their army. We also interpreted this to mean that once we are able to focus on what really matters in life, the other things automatically fall in place. We now see the description of some action in the battlefield..

tasya sanjanayan harsam kuru-vrddhah pitamahah
simha-nadam vinadyoccaih sankham dadhmau pratapavan

“Then Bhishma, the great valiant grandsire of the Kuru dynasty, blew his conchshell very loudly, making a sound like the roar of a lion, increasing Duryodhana’s cheerfulness.”


pratapavan-the valiant: kuru-vrddhah pitamahah – Bhishma, the grandsire of the Kuru dynasty: simha– lion: nadam vinadya– roaring: uccaih– loudly: sankham dadhmau – blew his conchshell: tasya harsham sanjanayan – increasing his (Duryodhana’s) cheerfulness

When the grandsire Bhishma heard Duryodhana’s words of praise for him and his anxiety before that, he wanted to cheer him up and lift his spirits. He then roars like a lion and blew loudly on his conchshell. By only sounding a blast on his conch shell without speaking Bhishma signified that, true to the code of warfare, he would fight until death.

The words Pratapavan are used to describe the grandsire Bhishma. This not only means valiant but also represents the extraordinary qualities of Bhishma. Even at a very young age, Bhishma had been able to renounce his kingdom for his own father – showing that he did not covet material wealth at all. He was also able to fight and defeat Kasi raja’s army when he had abducted the latter’s daughters for the sake of his brother Vichitravirya. Later during the war, when Bhisma was lying on a bed of arrows Lord Krishna directs Yudhisthira to learn and clear any doubts he might have on righteousness (Dharma) from Bhishma. Thus, Bhishma was someone who was not only brave and well versed in military warfare but also a person of high integrity and understanding of scriptures.

The word Pitamah means Grandfather. Grandfathers are always known to have a weak spot for their grandchildren. Once a grandfather and grandson were heard having this conversation..

GRANDFATHER TO GRANDSON:Go hide, your teacher is here because you bunked school today!
GRANDKID: YOU go hide… I told her YOU PASSED AWAY!!;)

Bhishma is referred to as Pitamah or grandfather here specifically because the relationship between him and Duryodhana was through family. In the earlier verses when Duryodhana had cast aspersions on Bhishma, his Guru Dronacharya who was listening to all this remains silent because he did not attach importance to the whims and fancies of Duryodhana. However, Bhishma who was Duryodhana’s grandfather was more indulgent towards him. He feels that Duryodhana needs to be cheered up since he was experiencing pre-war anxiety.

When a lion roars in the jungle, even larger and stronger animals shiver. Similarly, Bhishma blows on his conchshell and roars loudly indicating to Duryodhana and to the warriors that he is ready to take on the war and fight unto his death. Further, it is said thus about Leaders..

“Leaders instill in their people a hope for success and a belief in themselves. Positive leaders empower people to accomplish their goals”.

Along these lines, the roar and exhibition of confidence was a deliberate move by Bhishma to instill hope and belief in his warriors.

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