Bhishma And Jatayu! An Analysis Which Shows How Dharma and Karma Changed Through Different Yuga! A Moral For Lifetime!

Yuga in Hindu Dharma is era within a four-age cycle. A complete Yuga starts with the Satya Yuga, via Treta Yuga and Dvapara Yuga into a Kali Yuga.

The ages see a gradual decline of dharma, wisdom, knowledge, intellectual capability, life span, emotional and physical strength.

Satya Yuga – Virtue reigns supreme. Human stature was 21 cubits (33 ft 6 inches). Average human lifespan was 100,000 years.

Treta Yuga – There was 3 quarter virtue and 1 quarter sin. Normal human stature was 14 cubits (22 ft 4 inches). Average human lifespan was 10,000 years.

Dwapara Yuga – There was 1 half virtue and 1 half sin. Normal human stature was 7 cubits (11 ft 2 inches). Average human lifespan was 1,000 years.

Kali Yuga – There is 1 quarter virtue and 3 quarter sin. Normal human stature is 3.5 cubits (5 ft 3 inches). Average human lifespan will be 100 years.

This is how we summarise Yuga in modern times. There was a drastic change in dharma and karma of people even during the shift from Treat Yuga to Dwapara Yuga.

Here is a beautiful narration of two characters from the period of Mahabharatha and Ramayana respectufully and how their actions  speak of their character and also the shift in the principles of Dharma.

Scholar on Dharma and Sankrit language, Sri Keshava Rao in a pravachana says,

No two people react to the same situation in a similar way.

The examples he give is of two legendary personalities who were faced with a very similar situation, but thier responses were diagonally apart.

One has been elevated to a higher rank on virtue but the other only got recognised.

The two characters referred here to are Bhisma and Jatayu.

Both, of them were confronted with character defining asssault on womanhood.

One chose to die protecting the woman who was in an adverse condition while the other chose to be a mute spectator of the crime.

Who is strong – the POWERFUL or POWERLESS?

Bhisma was a powerful and capable warrior and if he wanted, he could have stopped the disrobing of Draupadi – the Queen of Panadavas.

But he chose to be a silent witness of this act.

Where as , Jatayu was old and fragile being who knew that in all probability, Ravana would kill him. Still, he chose to try his best to protect Sita.

Bhisma was powerful yet acted powerless, where as Jatayu was powerless yet acted powerful and strong. That is why scholars say,

The Real power is not about physical strength but about the deep desire to help.

To be ALIVE or be DEAD trying:

Bhisma  chose silence and lived on but died everyday to his conscience, Where  as Jatayu acted upon, faced death, died once but lived eternally true to his conscience.

“Our only constant companion is our concience – better to be true to it.” Is what the Dharma teaches. And Jatayu stands taller than Bhishma in this regard.

What is important FAME or INFAMY?

Bhisma’s name and fame suffered and went down in history because of this one act of not stopping the disrobing of Draupadi.

But Jatayu’s name and fame is held high in history because of his act of trying to save Sita.

“Many of us are going to be mere names in history, sooner or later. Will we be equated with the bad or the good – is our choice.”

Let us understand this. The only thing eternal is our guna which speaks for us even after our death.


Bhisma was supposed to be a highly cultured human being, a prince, a son who sacrificed his desires and made a sacrifice which many couldn’t even think of, but acted highly insensitive and stooped low in values like a vulture, when the situation truly demanded his interference.

Where, Jatayu was supposed to be a lowly uncultured bird vulture, acted highly sensitive and soared the skies in values like an evolved human.

“One doesn’t become a human, by being born as a human -one only becomes a human by being a human.”


Draupadi begged and pleaded protection from Bhisma because she knew if someone could protect her it was only him but still Bhisma didn’t protect her.

Where as, Sita didn’t even know Jatayu was around and called on him for protection – when she saw Jatayu, she just wanted him to inform Rama about her kidnapping by Ravana because she knew Jatayu was not powerful but still Jatayu tried to protect Sita.

“The language of heart is more powerful than the language of words.”


Bhisma was confused regarding his Royal duty that he forgot that he had a higher duty – a moral duty.

Where as, Jatayu was so clear about his moral duty that no other duty was a consideration for him.

“When caught up in dilemmas, best is to follow the higher principles – to follow our heart because it always knows the truth.”


Bhisma set a very bad precedent for generations to come.

Where as, Jatayu set the most ideal precedent for generations to come.

“If we can’t be a great example atleast let us not be a bad one.”


Another interesting point is that Bhisma was an elderly relative of Draupadi but acted as a total stranger in this episode.

Where as, Jatayu was not at all related directly to Sita, he was just friends with Rama’s father Dasharatha, he was a stranger but acted more than a dearest relative.

“True relationships is based on heartly connections not just bodily connections.”


Both, Bhisma and Jatayu had a few moments to decide what to do.

Life, sometimes puts in situations where in a few moments we need to take crucial decisions. What we decide very much depends on the kind of inner integrity we have cultivated by the association we keep.

Bhisma’s intelligence was clouded and it failed the test of life because he associated with the wicked minded, selfish Kauravas;

Where, Jatayu’s intelligence was crystal clear and it passed the test of life because he associated with the saintly, selfless Lakshman and the All-pure Lord Rama. _

“After all, who we are solely depends on whom we associate with.”

This recount is to criticism of Bhisma – he is undoubtedly a great personality, but it is a vehemently criticism of his inaction. When we see some injustice, some problem, we have only two options – Either close your eyes to it or do something about it – follow “the Bhisma way” or “the Jatayu way”. Whichever way we choose remember there will also be a result – “the Bhisma result” or “the Jatayu result”.


Dr. Sindhu Prashanth


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