Bhishma Pitamah, from the holy Mahahbharata is well known. His loyalty and devotion won him the boon of getting to choose his own death time. His demise occurred during Uttarayan period on Ashtami day of Magh and known as Magha Shukla Ashtami. Even though he was seriously injured in the great Mahabharata war, Bishma’s soul left the body only at his time of choice.
It is said that he chose the auspicious time when the Surya bhagwan moves in the northwardly direction known as Uttarayana.
On the day of Bhishma Astami, devotees whose fathers (Pitha) are no longer alive observe what is called as “Ekodishta Shraadha.” It calls for taking bath in holy waters such as Ganga, offering of rice and til, in dedication to dead ancestors and also to Bhishma Pitamah. Strict fast must be observed on this day.The person who fasts will take a sankalp after sunset in the evening. He will also perform Arghyam and chant relevant mantra in dedication to Bhishma.