Does Krishna advise Arjuna to use Shikhandi as a shield against Bhishma? If yes, in which part of Bhishmaparva? I am reading Kisari Mohan Ganguli´s version of Mahabharata. But I couldn't find the part where Krishna advises Arjuna to use Shikhandi as a shield.


4 Answers 4


TL;DR : Bhishma advised it himself . Bhishma gave the means of slaying him to Yudhishtira. You can find it in section CVIII of Kisari Mohan translation.

Krishna did not advise Yudhishtira or Arjuna to use Shikhandi as shield against Bhishma. Krishna advised Yudhishtira to ask Bhishma his (Bhishma's) means of death.

After the ninth day of the battle, Yudhishtira was stricken with fear.

Then king Yudhishthira, seeing that twilight had come and that his own troops, slaughtered by Bhishma, had thrown aside their weapons, and that stricken with fear, and turned off the field, they were seeking to flee away.

Yudhishtira wanted to abandon the battle and go to the woods.

O Krishna, I am, through the weakness of my understanding, plunged in an ocean of grief having got Bhishma (as a foe) in battle. I will retire into the woods, O invincible one. My exile there would be for my benefit. Battle, O Krishna, I no longer desire. Bhishma slayeth us always.

But Krishna laments him and advises Yudhishtira to ask Bhishma himself the means to kill him.

O king, he of Vrishni's race said unto Yudhishthira, 'O thou of great wisdom, these words of thine, O king, are to my taste. Bhishma, otherwise called Devavrata, is skilled in weapons. With only his glances he can consume the foe. Repair unto that son of the Ocean-going (Ganga), for asking him about the means of his death. Asked by thee, in particular, he will certainly say the truth. We will, therefore, proceed for questioning the Kuru grandsire. Repairing unto the reverend son of Santanu, we will, O Bharata, ask him his advice and according to the advice that he will give us we will fight with the foe.

Listening to the words of Krishna, All the Pandavas along with Madhava proceed to Bhishma's abode. Bhishma welcomes the Pandavas with a cheerful heart.

'Welcome art thou, O thou of Vrishni's race. Welcome art thou, O Dhananjaya. Welcome to thee, O king Yudhishthira the just, and to thee, O Bhima. Welcome to you also, ye twins. What am I to do now for enhancing your joy? Even if it be exceedingly difficult of achievement, I will yet do it with all my soul. Unto the son of Ganga who thus repeatedly spoke unto them with such affection.

Yudhishtira gets to the point straight away

'Tell us the means by which we may vanquish thee in battle, thee that art, when excited with wrath in the fight, like unto the Destroyer himself armed with mace. The wielder of the thunder-bolt may be vanquished or Varuna, or Yama. Thou, however, art incapable of being defeated in battle by even the gods and Asuras united together, with Indra at their head.'

Bhishma himself answers the question

One that hath thrown away his weapons, one that hath fallen down, one whose armour hath slipped off, one whose standard is down, one who is flying away, one who is frightened, one who says--I am thine--one who is a female, one who beareth the name of a female, one no longer capable of taking care of one's self, one who hath only a single son, or one who is a vulgar fellows,--with these I do not like to battle. Hear also, O king, about my resolve formed before. Beholding any inauspicious omen I would never fight. That mighty car-warrior, the son of Drupada, O king, whom thou hast in thy army, who is known by the name of Sikhandin, who is wrathful in battle, brave, and ever victorious, was a female before but subsequently obtained manhood. How all this took place, ye all know it truly. Brave in battle and clad in mail, let Arjuna, keeping Sikhandin before him, attack me with his sharp shafts. When that inauspicious omen will be there, especially in the form of one that was a female before, I will never seek, though armed with bow and arrow, to strike him. Obtaining that opportunity, let Dhananjaya the son of Pandu quickly pierce me on every side with his shafts.

This is the an excerpt from Bhishma parva section 108 of Kisari Mohan Ganguli translation of Mahabharata.

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    @H.Savithri You are welcome. If you find this answer helpful,please upvote and accept it. Stay active on the site. :) Feb 23, 2017 at 16:42
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    Upvoted in the morning. But then also wanted to say that it's a nice illustrative answer. As you have provided all the relevant details related to the event.
    – iammilind
    Jul 24, 2017 at 4:56

Does Kṛṣṇa advise Arjuna to use Śikhaṇḍī as a shield against Bhīṣma?

TL;DR: No, Kṛṣṇa did not pressurize Arjuna into using Śikhaṇḍī as a shield against Bhīṣma. Neither did Bhīṣma suggest any such idea to the Pāṇḍavas. Arjuna fought Bhīṣma face to face without employing any human shield. In fact, it's the other way round: Arjuna and the rest of the Pāṇḍavas were merely supporting Śikhaṇḍī in fulfilling his oath to kill Bhīṣma.

The Mahābhārata texts available today – K. M. Ganguli's tr. based on Bengal and Bombay editions or Bibek Debroy's based on the BORI critical edition) – contain many interpolations. One needs a thorough understanding of the whole text to weed out exaggerations and obvious plot holes to get a clear grasp of the actual events that took place.

  1. First of all, it is very unlike Arjuna to engage in a battle hiding behind somebody else. He's famously called Bhībhatsu for never committing a detestable act on battlefield.

  2. Secondly, Bhīṣma would be committing adharma on a monumental scale by colluding with the enemy (the Pāṇḍavas) on the 9th night of the war and secretly planning his own murder behind Duryodhana's back. His reluctance to fight and that too on Duryodhana's side is understandable but a General planning a murder in enemy's favor is an unpardonable act. And Bhīṣma being epitome of dharma would never do such a thing.

    This [fictitious statement], speaking to the Pāṇḍavas (from the night before the 10th day of war):

    If, therefore, ye desire victory in the battle, smite me down without delay. I give you permission, ye sons of Pritha, strike me as ye please.

    ...and this (very believable statement) from the 10th day on the battlefield:

    O Duryodhana, listen calmly to what I say, O king, O thou of great might, formerly I vowed before thee that slaying every day ten thousand high-souled Kshatriyas, I would come back from the battle. I have fulfilled that vow, O bull of Bharata's race! O thou of great might, today I will achieve even a great feat. Today I will either sleep myself being slain, or, I will slay the Pandavas. O tiger among men, I will today free myself from the debt I owe thee, – the debt, O king, arising out of the food, thou gavest me, – by casting away my life at the head of thy army.' Having said these words, O chief of the Bharatas, that invincible warrior, scattering his shafts among the Kshatriyas, attacked the Pandava host.

    ...don't go together. How do you repay your debt? By getting yourself killed? No way!

  3. On the 7th day, at one point, Bhīṣma does fight Śikhaṇḍī and destroy his weapon. Yudhiṣṭhira rebukes Śikhaṇḍī for failing to keep his promise and running away from battlefield instead of facing Bhīṣma.

    King Yudhishthira then, beholding Sikhandin flying away, having had his weapon cut off by Santanu's son became filled with anger. The high-souled Ajatasatru, angrily addressing Sikhandin in that battle, said these words, 'Thou saidst at that time, in the presence of thy sire, unto me – Even I shall slay Bhishma of high vows with my shafts of the hue of the effulgent sun. Truly do I say this. – Even this was thy oath. That oath of thine thou dost not fulfil inasmuch as thou dost not slay Devavrata in battle. O hero, be not a person of unfulfilled vow.

    Here's how Debroy translates the above:

    Shikhandi's weapon had been sliced down by the king who was Shantanu's son. On seeing that he was running away in that battle, the great-souled Ajatashatru [Yudhiṣṭhira] became wrathful and spoke these words of anger to Shikhandi...

    Now ask yourself:

    • Why did Bhīṣma destroy Śikhaṇḍī's weapon? What happened to his oath?
    • Why would Śikhaṇḍī run away from Bhīṣma if he's aware of Bhīṣma's oath that he would not fire at him no matter what?
  4. Lastly, it is stated that, on the 10th day of the war, Duḥśāsana was protecting Bhīṣma. And if Arjuna was shooting arrows at Bhīṣma from behind Śikhaṇḍī's back, Duḥśāsana would surely notice and complain about it to Droṇa or Duryodhana immediately after Bhīṣma fell from his chariot. But then he doesn't. This is what Sañjaya reports to Dhṛtarāṣṭra:

    Beholding Bhishma fallen, thy son Dussasana, with great speed, entered the division commanded by Drona. That hero, clad in mail and at the head of his own troops, had been placed by his elder brother (for the protection of Bhishma). That tiger among men now came, plunging the troops he had commanded into grief. Beholding him coming towards them, the Kauravas surrounded prince Dussasana, desirous, O monarch, of hearing what he had to say. Then Dussasana of Kuru's race informed Drona of Bhishma's slaughter. Drona then, hearing those evil tidings, suddenly fell down from his car. Then the valiant son of Bharadwaja, quickly recovering his senses, forbade the Kuru army, sire, to continue the fight. Beholding the Kurus desist from battle, the Pandavas also, through messengers on fleet horses, forbade their orders, ceased to fight, the kings of both armies, putting off their armour, all repaired to Bhishma.

    No report of Arjuna or Śikhaṇḍī engaging in any illicit fight to take down Bhīṣma.


For all the above reasons, both – the secret meeting between Kṛṣṇa, Pāṇḍavas & Bhīṣma during the war, and, Bhīṣma's oath to not fight Śikhaṇḍī – have to be rejected as later additions or interpolations to the original Mahābhārata text.

What's the Real Story then?

In those days, failing to keep an oath was very unmanly. After Abhimanyu was killed, Arjuna took an oath to kill Jayadratha and Kṛṣṇa did everything he could to help Arjuna keep his promise.

Similarly, when Śikhaṇḍī took an oath to kill Bhīṣma, the Pāṇḍavas too were simply helping him out.

On the 7th day of the war it is already stated that Śikhaṇḍī was leading Arjuna. And both of them already tried killing Bhīṣma that day but they failed and Śikhaṇḍī tried to run away from Bhīṣma's onslaught. Yudhiṣṭhira then reminds Śikhaṇḍī of his oath to motivate him.

And having slain also the forces of those kings, Jishnu sped for Bhishma's slaughter. Then the ruler of the Trigartas, beholding his friends those mighty car-warriors slain, speedily advanced upon Partha, with a number of (other) kings in his van, for slaying him. Then the Pandava warrior headed by Sikhandin, beholding those combatants advancing upon Dhananjaya that foremost of all conversant with arms, proceeded with whetted weapons in hand, desirous of protecting the car of Arjuna.

We can also infer a lot of things from the many questions Dhṛtarāṣṭra asks Sañjaya:

  • How could Bhishma who was reckoned as an Atiratha and who could not be resisted by the very gods, be slain in battle by Sikhandin, the prince of Panchala?

    The above implies that it was Śikhaṇḍī who finally killed Bhīṣma although the later chapters say that it was Arjuna who shot the final stream of arrows at Bhīṣma.

  • What great bowmen of my army, O Sanjaya, did not desert that hero of unfading glory?

    This implies that Bhīṣma was left unprotected by the Kauravas. They fled as the battle ensued which ultimately led to Bhīṣma's demise.

  • When all the Pandavas placing Sikhandin in their van advanced against Bhishma, did not all the Kurus, O Sanjaya, stay by the side of that hero of unfading prowess?

    The above question from Ganguli translation doesn't make a lot of sense, in that, how can all the Pāṇḍavas place Śikhaṇḍī in the same chariot? Debroy's translation is more clear:

    When all the Pandavas advanced against the undecaying Bhishma, with Shikhandi at the forefront, were the Kurus frightened?

    Again, 'at the forefront' here doesn't mean Śikhaṇḍī was shielding the Pāṇḍavas, it only means he was leading the charge.


Well to understand that we need to know, who was Shrikhandi.

Actually Shrikhandi was reincarnated Princess Amba. In her and her sister's Swayamvar Hastinapur was not invited and to avenge this Bhishma goes to the Swayamvar and kidnap all the Princess, and challenges all the kings who have cme to Swayamvar, but no one was able to stood up against mighty Bhishma.

Out of the 3 Princess, 2 were married to king of Hastinapur. But Amba said to Bhishma, l like someone else so can't marry Hastinapur king. Accordingly he sent Amba to the that king but he rejects her and says l didn't want charity from Bhishma.

Due to this, Amba says Bhishma is reason for all this as l can't marry to the Hastinapur king n her lover too. Bhishma shud accept responsibility to these events and shud marry her. But Bhishma had vowed not to get marry in his lifetime. So Amba was insulted due to this.

She went Parshuram to resolve this matter bt Bhishma defeated his own Guru in the battle.

Finally, Amba went for Tapasya of Lord Shiva and asked for boon that I want kill Bhishma to revenge my insult. God said u can't do that as he has the iccha-mrityu Vardan. So he give a boon that u will becum cause to Bhishma death, u will reincarnated as half man n half lady, it will be a reincarnation however u will remember ur pastlife. This was Shrikhandi.

Further, it was impossible to win battle of Mahabharta as there was no one who can defeat mighty Bhishma. Bhishma too knws this, so he tells in a enigma that l will gave up my weapons if a lady comes against me a war.

Shrikhandi came n Bhishma gave up his weapons and Shrikhandi becomes the cause of Bhishma's death and boon was fruitful

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    Welcome to Hinduism StackExchange. You can cite some sources
    – Pandya
    Mar 1, 2017 at 9:45

Arjun had Krishna for his charioteer and Hanumanji on his banner. Why then did he require any shield least of all Shikhandin as a shield? It may be recalled that on the 9th day Arjun dissuaded Krishna from slaying Bhishma. If he wanted to use Shikhandin as a shield, then he might as well have let Krishna slay Bhishma on the 9th day of the battle. Both options were disastrous as they would send a message to the Kauravas that Arjun was scared of Bhishma and was cowed down by his might. It would have also sent the message that Arjun was short on confidence. That would have emboldened the Kauravas(even after Bhishma's death) to launch an all-out attack on Arjun. Dont forget that the Kauravas had a star-studded line-up even minus of Bhishma and Bhisma's fall would bring Karna into the action. Instead from Day Nos.11 to 13, we see the Drona-Karna duo were on the backfoot. They wanted Arjun away from the battle-field so as to capture Yudhisthir They were not willing to take on Arjun like Bhishma did on first 9 days with great success.

Of course, Bhishma's success on fist 9 days was partly due to Arjun being reluctant to slay his grandfather. But Bhishma's 9th day ferocious attack changed Arjun's mindset and his own professional reputation as warrior was in tatters. So,Arjun had resolved to put things straight on the 10th day. His 10th day objectives were (i)Slay Bhishma (ii)Undo the damage to the morale of Pandava Army(iii)Severely and irreparably damage the morale of Kauravas through aggression and psycho ops (iv)Undo the damage to own professional reputation and inspire awe in Kauravas

When the Pandavas and Sri Krishna met Bhishma on the night of the 9th day, Bhishma suggested that he cant be defeated because of his "Iccha mrityu" boon an suggested use by Arjun of "Shikandin as a shield". This was a psychological warfare (psycho ops) on Arjun in the guise of helping Yudhishthir and the Pandavas.

Arjun saw the ploy of Bhishma for what it was and decided against use of Shikhandin as a shield. Instead Shikhandin moved in his own chariot and Arjun's chariot followed Shikhandin and protected him. Arjun always regarded Bhishma as role model from his childhood.( In fact, he could be considered Bhishma Version 2.0). Arjun emulated his illustrious grandfather's 9th day example in professional soldiering.

Arjun unleashed unprecedented aggression like what wasnt seen from him on the first 9 days and breached Kaurava formation so that he and Shikhandin reached Bhishma. He inspired so much awe in Dronacharya that the latter decided not to attempt to stop Arjun and also advised Ashwatthama against the same. In fact, Arjun's offensive made various supporting warriors and kings abandon Bhishma and only Dusshasana put up decent resistance before being defeated by Arjun

A plain reading of the 119th Chapter of Bhishma Parva of Mahabharata reveals the following: Arjun rightly read the "Iccha mrityu" boon correctly as conferring no more than Bhishma being able to choose the moment of his death. **He had decided that after cutting down Bhishma's bow, he would not attempt powerful shots on Bhishma's armour as that would give Bhishma valuable seconds to pick up a fresh bow, string it and start shooting again to neutralise Arjun's arrows. Instead, Arjun just kept shooting down bow after bow of Bhishma without letting Bhishma shoot a single arrow and decided to wait for opportune moment to launch his powerful strikes on vulnerable points on Bhishma's armour.**** Bhishma then hurled fearsome Shaktis at Arjun which he cut to pieces with his arrows. Then Bhishma again picked up bow to shoot at Arjun and again Arjun cut down bow after bow without letting Bhishma shoot a single arrow. Bhishma realised that "Iccha mrityu" boon meant no immunity from the present situation he was in.

A resolute Arjun was cutting down his bows without allowing him to shoot a singe arrow. This was humiliating to a legendary bowman like Bhishma. He decided to withdraw his mind from the fight and be felled by Arjun rather than standing and having his bows cut off without being able to shoot a single arrow.

Lord Krishna had said in Bhagavad Gita that for a man of excellence "Apakeerti marnat atirichyate" (disgrace worse than defeat). Bhishma's predicament was precisely that. He was unable to string a bow and shoot an arrow as Arjun was not letting him to!! He decided to bow out honourably (pun intended). He withdrew his mind away from the fight and his decision was hailed by rishis and gandharvas and celestials. A cool breeze blew over the battlefield followed by nectarine rain. Then Arjun who had bid his time patiently cutting bow after bow of Bhishma in quick succession unleashed powerful strikes on Bhishma's armour in vulnerable points. He shot 125 arrows which hit and hurt like thunderbolts. Bhishma turned to Dusshasana and praised these arrows and said they are of Arjun and not of Shikhandin. More arrow strikes followed from Arjun and Bhishma fell headlong and his body didnt touch the ground as he was pierced all over by Arjun's arrows without even two fingers' space between two arrows.

The fight carried out by Arjun with so much aggression was in itself a pyscho-op crushing the morale of Kaurava Army. Arjun didnt stop at that. When Bhishma said to him "Twam hi shakto maheshwasa datum aapo yatha vidhi" ('O mighty bowman, thou alone can give me the divine water I seek as per proper procedure), Arjun ascended his chariot, strung his Gandiva and twanged it till its twang resonated in all quarters. It was a way of telling the Kauravas "Look you sore losers. See how I humiliated and felled your C-in-C who is a legendary warrior. Still, he asks me(his foe)for water as you guys are worthless and good for nothing. I am using my fearsome bow to provide him water today. From tomorrow, these arrows will drink your blood ". Then riding his chariot he circumambulated (parikrama) the fallen legendary bowman and man of learning Bhishma and invoked Parjanyaastra and shot it near Bhisma's head and brought Ganges and quenched his thirst. Note that Bhishmaparva is also the parva of Bhagavad Gita or the ganges of knowledge. Bhishma was felled by a warrior who was in the same league as him as an archer and as a man of wisdom and learning

From this episode of Arjun felling Bhishma originated the famous Hindi idiom "Acche achhon ko paani pilaana"

The Kaurav Army was always on the backfoot from the 11th day. Drona wanted Arjun away from battlefield to capture Yudhishthir. THe cowardly slaying on Abhimanyu signalled to Arjun that Kauravas were sacred of him. He vowed to Kill Jayadrath forcing Kauravas even more on the backfoot. On the 14th day as Arjun went after Jayadrath, Kauarava army lost 8 of their 11 Akshuhinis (Dvisions) and 7 of those to Arjun alone. Many great Maharathis were lined up to defend Jaydrath and got killed. Some 30 brothers of Duryodhna were killed by Bhima on the 14th day!

**Following points emerge: ** 1)Bhishma did no match fixing with Arjun & Krishn. He did not drop weapons on seeing Shikhandin in front of him. He didnot attack Shikhandin but he fought all other Pandava warriors includig Arjun 2)Bhishma kept fighting Arjun till he ran out of ammunition (bows)/till his strength failed him and then only withdrew his mind from the fight 3)Arjun did no act of cowardice. If he had done, the star-studded Kaurava Army would not have been on back foot against him on days 11 to 18 4)Saying Arjun used Shikhandin as shield is incorrect and insults Arjun, SriKrishna and Hanumanji 5)Let us not insult heroes like Bhishma and Arjun. Bhishma, take a bow. Arjun, take a bow.

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