"The graphical passages in the Mahabharata, for beauty of description, cannot be surpassed by anything in Homer’s epics.... Mahabharata rise far above the Homeric poems also in the fact that a deep religious meaning appears to underlie all the narrative, and that the wildest allegory may be intended to conceal a sublime moral, symbolizing the conflict between good and evil, teaching the hopelessness of victory in so terrible a contest with purity of soul, self-abnegation and the subjugation of the passions."--Sir Monier Williams
The Mahabharata describes the ideal polity and culture and religion and may be called the Epic of Society and State. It describes the victory of righteousness. There is scarcely a single human situation that it leaves untouched, and it covered most contingencies that mankind could experience till about a few hundred years ago. The Mahabharata is so intensely human, that it still has a special resonance in the hearts of whoever has read it. It is a text that one grows with, revealing deeper meanings as one's life unfolds, and a superlative guide to humans trying to work out their entelechy. Its grip on the human mind and consciousness will never ever diminish.
The Mahabharata is also a treasure house of information on ancient India , 6000 year ago - it has history, statecraft, religion and mythology all woven into a amazingly rich and glorious fabric.
The Mahabharata is also a treasure house of information on ancient India , 6000 year ago - it has history, statecraft, religion and mythology all woven into a amazingly rich and glorious fabric.
IT MUST BE NOTED , MAHABHARATA WAR HAPPENED 6000 YEARS AGO, WHEN THE WHOLE WORLD WAS DOING GRUNT GRUNT FOR LANGUAGE AND LIVING IN CAVES, WEARING ANIMAL SKINS --
CHECK OUT THE LOFTY MORAL PHILOSOPHY.
THE STORY WAS WRITTEN BY SAGE VYASA.
THE KURUKSHETRA BATTLE WAS A BATTLE WITH FIGHTER FLYING SAUCERS AND SCALAR INTERFEROMETRY SEEK AND DESTROY MISSILES TRIGGERED BY PERSONAL SOUND MANTRA PASSWORDS.
When Indians go to court they swear on the Bhagawat Gita , like how Christians do on Bible and Muslims do on Koran which is a very small episode of the Mahabharata story.
The Mahabharata story is full of intrigue and has maximum characters in any written story ever. This war happened in 4000 BC, just before the oldest Saraswati Vedic civilization 9500 BC ( Indian Aryan ) disintegrated due to tectonic shifts and drying up of the perennial Saraswati river.
A SAMPLE OF SANSKRIT VERSES OF MAHABHARATA WHICH HAPPENED IN 4000 BC --THERE ARE 210 000 OF THEM
-- YES --
TWO HUNDRED AND TEN THOUSAND VERSES-- OR MORE THAN 1.86 MILLION WORDS- - CAN NEVER EVER BE MATCHED
Almost all Quantum Physics pioneers knew the Bhagawat Gita
The Mahabharata is unique in many ways - unique for the deepest philosophic truths, for the wide range of human life covered by the ethics and for the high spiritual stimulus provided in this epic. It is sometimes called the fifth Veda. The Mahabharata though not technically a revelation, is more than a revelation in the nature of its contents. For one thing it contains the greatest spiritual treasure ever known to the world, the Bhagavad Gita, which may be rightly called the scripture of the world. This alone will suffice to make the epic the greatest work of the world.
On the surface it is just another story of a war between two rival sections of a dynasty, but its much more than that. It is the story of evolution of all life, it is a treatise on cosmogony, a code of universal ethics; it is also a history of the human race in its most general sense. All life is rooted in the One Life; the Devas, Rishis, men, beasts, flowers, rocks, why, everything in this manifested universe are all evolved in that One Life. There is a Great Plan in the mind of God (Ishwara Sankalpa) and everything that was, that is and that shall be, happens in accordance with that plan. Human free will is part of that Plan.
The Mahabharata is the story of the war for the throne between the virtuous Pandavas and their wicked cousins, the Kauravas. Symbolic of the struggle between the Good and the Evil, it recounts the inexorable rivalry between the two branches of the descendants of Bharata. A terrible war took place, in which kings from all over India and neighboring countries participated, opposing the one hundred Kauravas and their cruel chiefs to the five Pandava brothers, allies of Lord Krishna. For 18 days the battle raged with such violence that the heavens seemed to have disappeared behind a veil of flying arrows. The dead accumulated, the Kaurava leaders perished one after another. Thus the five brothers completed their earthly mission; only Yuddhisthira ascended the heaven alive but all others went there after death. An epic with a sad melancholy ending but softened by the Hindu notion of destiny.
The Mahabharata, the great fountain-head of Hinduism, is an account of its beliefs. It is, above all, a verse-chronicle of Krishna, the real hero of the epic, an incarnation of god Vishnu, whose divine nature reveals itself in magisterial interventions. There are hundreds of episodes which fruitfully soften the horror of the Kurukshetra war, full of charm, interposed as a form of digression; and they are based on high social ethics.
But the most admirable and notable is the Bhagavad Gita (the Song of the Lord). In it Krishna, revealing Himself as Bhagavan (Supreme Lord), destroys Arjuna's fear at the moment of going to the battle-field. He teaches him the importance of being in the moment, the philosophy of action without attachment, leading to deliverance, by the way of Bhakti, the way of ardent love, of union with the Blessed One, "participation with Him even in life"!
The Mahabharata has been described as "the longest exposition on Dharma to ever be written." The Mahabharata reflects the dynamic culture of India. It is a veritable encyclopedia and it carries this verse about its own scope. It is said that what is found here may be found elsewhere but what is not found here cannot be found elsewhere. The poetic, imaginative and questing spirit, the deeper thoughts and emotions, not easy sentiments, find expression in this great epic--all in exact digitally accurate verses.
INTRODUCTION OF BHAGAWAT GITA
"For the protection of the good and the destruction of the wicked...I am born in every age."
- Bhagavad Gita IV. 8
The immortal Bhagavad Gita is enshrined in the Mahabharata. It is a discourse on Duty and Right Action given by Lord Krishna to Arjuna on the field of battle at Kurukshetra. As an inspiration and guide to humanity in its conduct through modern life, the Bhagavad Gita can never be matched on this planet.
"The marvel of the Bhagavad-Gita is its truly beautiful revelation of life's wisdom which enables philosophy to blossom into religion." Herman Hesse (1877-1962) German poet and novelist, awarded the Nobel Prize for literature in 1946
Bhagawat Gita part 1
Bhagawat Gita part 2
Bhagavat Gita part 3
Bhagawat Gita part 4
Bhagawat Gita part 5
Bhagwat Gita part 6
Bhagawat Gita part 7
Bhagawat Gita part 8
Bhagawat Gita part 9
Bhagawat Gita part 10
Bhagwat Gita part 11
Bhagawat Gita part 12
Gita consists of the teaching given to the pupil Arjuna by Lord Shri Krishna on the battlefield of Kurukshetra when the pupil, at the critical moment when the war was about to commence, was in doubt as to whether he was to follow the promptings of his personal affection and reverence for those on the opposite side or follow the dictates of duty.
In unequivocal terms the Lord asks Arjuna to fight the battle irrespective of his personal ties with persons on the other side.
The occasion is utilized by the Lord to explain the whole purpose of Life, the meaning of all the world process and the place of man in the scheme of things. As the colophon at the end of every chapter puts it, the Gita is an Upanishad, it is a philosophical treatise. But it is something more than that. It is a code of conduct for man applicable to varying temperaments, various avocations and various levels of development. It is this aspect that makes for the unique place which the Gita has among the scriptures of the world.
The most important contribution of the Gita to the religious thought of India is the emphasis the Lord lays on action (karma) in Sanskrit. The attitude of escapism is severely condemned by the Lord. He says, "Nor can anyone, even for an instant, remain really action-less." What binds a man is not action but his attachment to the fruit of the action. And so the lord repeatedly enjoins activity without attachment to the fruit.
The Lord stresses throughout the central idea of all Indian philosophies, the Imminence of God and the interdependence of man - not only man, but of all beings. "The Lord dwelleth in the heart of all beings." 'Having pervaded this whole universe with one fragment of Myself, I remain." Everything in the universe partakes of one life; the wise man realizes that the outer differences are deceptive and illusionary, he looks beyond the veil and sees the common basis of all beings.
In the Bhagavad Gita, Lord Krishna describes the rhythmic play of creation in the following words:
"At the end of the night of time all things return to my nature, and when the new day of time begins I bring them again into light.Thus through my nature I bring forth all creation and this rolls around in the circles of time."
"But I am not bound by this vast work of creation. I am and I watch the drama of works.
I watch and in its work of creation nature brings forth all that moves and moves not; and thus the revolutions of the world go round."
"But I am not bound by this vast work of creation. I am and I watch the drama of works.
I watch and in its work of creation nature brings forth all that moves and moves not; and thus the revolutions of the world go round."
Aldous Huxley (1894-1963) the English novelist and essayist wrote: "The Bhagavad-Gita is the most systematic statement of spiritual evolution of endowing value to mankind. The Gita is one of the clearest and most comprehensive summaries of the spiritual thoughts ever to have been made."
Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862), American Philosopher, Unitarian, social critic, transcendentalist and writer: "In the morning I bathe my intellect in the stupendous and cosmogonal philosophy of the Bhagavad Gita in comparison with which our modern world and its literature seems puny."
Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882) author, essayist, lecturer, philosopher, Unitarian minister said this about the Gita: "I owed a magnificent day to the Bhagavad-Gita. It was as if an empire spoke to us, nothing small or unworthy, but large, serene, consistent, the voice of an old intelligence which in another age and climate had pondered and thus disposed of the same questions which exercise us."
MAHABHARATA STORY EPIC part 1
MAHABHARATA STORY EPIC part 2
MAHABHARATA STORY EPIC part 3
MAHABHARATA STORY EPIC part 4
MAHABHARATA STORY EPIC part 5
MAHABHARATA STORY EPIC part 6
MAHABHARATA STORY EPIC part 7
Rules of engagement
The two supreme commanders met and framed “rules of ethical conduct”, dharmayuddha, for the war. The rules included:
THE WAR STARTS--
ALL was ready for the battle. The warriors on both sides gathered together and solemnly bound themselves to honor the traditional rules of war.
The code of conduct in war and methods of warfare vary from time to time. It is only if what was in vogue at the time of the Mahabharata war is kept in mind that we can understand the epic. Otherwise, the story would be puzzling in places.
From what follows, the reader may have some idea of the rules of warfare followed in the Kurukshetra battle. Each day, the battle was over at sunset, and the hostiles mixed freely like friends.
Single combats might only be between equals and one could not use methods not in accordance with dharma. Thus those who left the field or retired would not be attacked. A horseman could attack only a horseman, not one on foot.
Likewise, charioteers, elephant troops and infantrymen could engage themselves in battle only with their opposite numbers in the enemy ranks.
Those who sought quarter or surrendered were safe from slaughter. Nor might one, for the moment disengaged, direct his weapons against another who was engaged in combat.
It was wrong to slay one who had been disarmed or whose attention was directed elsewhere or who was retreating or who had lost his armor. And no shafts were to be directed against non-combatant attendants or those engaged in blowing conchs or beating drums.
These were the rules that the Kauravas and the Pandavas solemnly declared they would follow.
The passage of time has witnessed many changes in men's ideas of right and wrong. Nothing is exempt from attack in modern warfare.
Not only are munitions made the target of attack, but dumb animals such as horses, camels, mules and medical stores, nay, non-combatants of all ages, are destroyed without compunction.
Sometimes the established conventions went overboard even in the Mahabharata war.
We see clearly in the story that occasional transgressions took place for one reason or another. But, on the whole, the accepted rules of honorable and humane war were observed by both sides in the Kurukshetra battle. And the occasional violations were looked upon as wrong and shameful.
Addressing the princes under his command, Bhishma said: "Heroes, yours is a glorious opportunity. Before you, are the gates of heaven wide open. The joy of living with Indra and Brahma awaits you. Pursue the path of your ancestors and follow the kshatriya dharma. Fight with joy and attain fame and greatness. A kshatriya does not wish to die of disease or old age in his bed but prefers to die on the battlefield," and the princes responded by ordering their trumpets to be sounded and shouted victory to the Kauravas.
On Bhishma's flag shone brightly the palm tree and five stars. On Aswatthama's the lion tail fluttered in the air.
In Drona's golden-hued standard, the ascetic's bowl and the bow glistened, and the cobra of Duryodhana's famed banner danced proudly with outspread hood.
On Kripa's flag was depicted a bull, while Jayadratha's carried a wild boar. Likewise others and the battlefield thus presented a pageant of flags.
Seeing the Kaurava forces ranged in battle array, Yudhishthira gave orders to Arjuna:
"The enemy force is very large. Our army being smaller, our tactics should be concentration rather than deployment that will only weaken us. Array our forces, therefore, in needle formation."
Now, when Arjuna saw men arrayed on both sides for mutual slaughter, he was deeply agitated and Krishna spoke to him in order to quell his agitation and remove his doubts.
Krishna's exhortation to Arjuna at this juncture is the Bhagavad Gita, which is enshrined in millions of hearts as the Word of God. The Bhagavad Gita is acknowledged by all as one of the supreme treasures of human literature.
Its gospel of devotion to duty, without attachment or desire of reward, has shown the way of life for all men, rich or poor, learned or ignorant, who have sought for light in the dark problems of life.
EVERYTHING was ready for the battle to begin. At this tense moment, both armies saw with amazement Yudhishthira, the steadfast and brave son of Pandu, suddenly doff his armor and put away his weapons. Descending from his chariot, he proceeded on foot towards the commander of the Kaurava forces.
"What is this that Yudhishthira is doing?" asked everyone and was puzzled by this sudden and silent proceeding on the part of the Pandava.
Dhananjaya too was perplexed and he jumped down from his chariot and ran to Yudhishthira. The other brothers and Krishna also joined.
They feared that perhaps Yudhishthira, surrendering to his natural inclination, had suddenly decided to seek peace on any terms and was going forward to announce this.
"King, why are you proceeding to the enemy's lines in this strange manner? You have told us nothing. The enemy is ready for battle, their soldiers sheathed in armor and with uplifted weapons. But you have doffed your armor and thrown aside your weapons and are proceeding forward, unattended and on foot. Tell us what you are about." Thus said Arjuna to Dharmaputra. But Yudhishthira was immersed in deep thought and proceeded forward silently.
Then Vasudeva, who knew the hearts of men, smiled and said: "He is going to the elders to ask for their benediction before commencing this terrible fight. He feels it is not right to start such a grave proceeding without formally taking such benediction and permission. He goes to the grandsire to take his blessing and that of Dronacharya. So he goes unarmed. It is right that he does this. He knows proprieties. It is only thus that we might fare well in this battle."
The men in Duryodhana's army, when they saw Yudhishthira advancing with hands clasped in humble attitude, thought: "Here is the Pandava coming to sue for peace, frightened at our strength. Truly this man brings disgrace to the race of kshatriyas. Why was this coward born among us?" Thus did they talk among themselves reviling Dharmaputra though delighted at the prospect of securing victory without a blow.
Yudhishthira went through the lines of soldiers armed from head to foot and proceeded straight to where Bhishma was and, bending low and touching his feet in salutation, said:
"Grandsire, permit us to begin the battle. We have dared to give battle to you, our unconquerable and incomparable grandsire. We seek benediction before beginning the fight."
"Child," replied the grandsire, "born in the race of Bharatas, you have acted worthily and according to our code of conduct. It gives me joy to see this. Fight and you will have victory. I am not a free agent. I am bound by my obligation to the king and must fight on the side of the Kauravas. But you will not be defeated."
After thus obtaining the permission and the blessings of the grandsire, Yudhishthira went to Drona and circumambulated and bowed, according to form, to the acharya, who also gave his blessings, saying:
"I am under inescapable obligations to the Kauravas, O son of Dharma. Our vested interests enslave us and become our masters. Thus have I become bound to the Kauravas. I shall fight on their side. But yours will be the victory."
Yudhishthira similarly approached and obtained the blessings of Kripacharya and uncle Salya and returned to the Pandava lines.
The battle began, commencing with single combats between the leading chiefs armed with equal weapons. Bhishma and Partha, Satyaki and Kritavarma, Abhimanyu and Brihatbala, Duryodhana and Bhima, Yudhishthira and Salya, and Dbrishtadyumna and Drona were thus engaged in great battles.
Similarly, thousands of other warriors fought severally according to the rules of war of those days.
Besides these numerous single combats between renowned warriors, there was also indiscriminate fighting among common soldiers. The name of "sankula yuddha" was given to such free fighting and promiscuous carnage. The Kurukshetra battle witnessed many such "sankula" fights wherein countless men fought and died in the mad lust of battle. On the field lay piles of slaughtered soldiers, charioteers, elephants and horses. The ground became a bloody mire in which it was difficult for the chariots to move about. In modern battles there is no such thing as single combats. It is all "sankula."
The Kauravas fought under Bhishma's command for ten days. After him, Drona took the command. When Drona died, Karna succeeded to the command. Karna fell towards the close of the seventeenth day's battle. And Salya led the Kaurava army on the eighteenth and last day.
Towards the latter part of the battle, many savage and unchivalrous deeds were done. Chivalry and rules of war die hard, for there is an innate nobility in human nature. But difficult situations and temptations arise which men are too weak to resist, especially when they are exhausted with fighting and warped with hatred and bloodshed.
Even great men commit wrong and their lapses thereafter furnish bad examples to others, and dharma comes to be disregarded more and more easily and frequently. Thus does violence beget and nourish adharma and plunge the world in wickedness.
DUHSASANA was leading the Kaurava forces and Bhimasena did the same on the Pandava side. The noise of battle rolled and rent the air. The kettledrums, trumpets, horns and conchs made the sky ring with their clamor.
Horses neighed, charging elephants trumpeted and the warriors uttered their lion-roars. Arrows flew in the air like burning meteors. Fathers and sons, uncles and nephews slew one another forgetful of old affection and ties of blood. It was a mad and terrible carnage. In the forenoon of the first day's battle the Pandava army was badly shaken. Wherever Bhishma's chariot went, it was like the dance of the destroyer. Abhimanyu could not bear this and he attacked the grandsire. When the oldest and the youngest warriors thus met in battle, the gods came to watch the combat. Abhimanyu's flag, displaying the golden karnikara tree brightly waved on his chariot.
Kritavarma was hit by one of his arrows and Salya was hit five times. Bhishma himself was hit nine times by Abhimanyu's shafts. Durmukha's charioteer was struck by one of Abhimanyu's sword-edge arrow and his severed head rolled on the ground.
Another broke Kripa's bow. Abhimanyu's feats brought down showers of flowers from the gods who looked on. Bhishma and the warrior supporting him exclaimed: "Indeed, a worthy son to Dhananjaya!"
Then the Kaurava warriors made a combined attack on the valiant youth. But he stood against them all. He parried with his own all the shafts discharged by Bhishma.
One of his well-aimed arrows brought the grandsire's palm tree flag down. Seeing this, Bhimasena was overjoyed and made a great lion-roar that further inspired the valiant nephew. Great was the grandsire's joy, seeing the valor of the young hero. Unwillingly, he had to use his full strength against the boy. Virata, his son Uttara, Dhrishtadyumna, the son of Drupada and Bhima came to relieve the young hero and attacked the grandsire who then turned his attentions on them.
Uttara, the son of Virata, rode an elephant and led a fierce charge on Salya. Salya's chariot horses were trampled to death and thereupon he hurled a javelin at Uttara. It went with unerring aim and pierced him in the chest.
The goad he had in his hand dropped and he rolled down dead. But the elephant did not withdraw. It continued charging until Salya cut off its trunk and hit it in many places with his arrows. And then it uttered a loud cry and fell dead. Salya got into Kritavarma's car.
Virata's son Sveta saw Salya slay his younger brother. His anger rose, like fire fed by libations of butter. And he drove his chariot towards Salya. Seven chariot warriors at once came up in support of Salya and protected him from all sides.
Arrows were showered on Sveta and the missiles sped across like lightning in clouds. Sveta defended himself marvelously. He parried their shafts with his own and cut their javelins down as they sped towards him. The warriors in both armies were amazed at the skill displayed by Sveta. Duryodhana lost no time now and sent forces to relieve Salya. Whereupon there was a great battle. Thousands of soldiers perished, and numerous were the chariots broken and the horses and elephants killed. Sveta succeeded in putting Duryodhana's men to flight and he pushed forward and attacked Bhishma.
Bhishma's flag was brought down by Sveta. Bhishma, in his turn, killed Sveta's horses and charioteer. There upon, they hurled javelins at one another and fought on.
Sveta took a mace, and swinging it, sent it at Bhishma's car which was smashed to pieces. But the grandsire, even before the mace dashed against the chariot, had anticipated it and jumped down. From the ground he pulled the string of his bow to his ear and sent a fatal arrow at Sveta. Sveta was struck and fell dead. Duhsasana blew his horn and danced in joy. This was followed by a great attack on the Pandava army by Bhishma.
The Pandava forces suffered greatly on the first day of the battle. Dharmaputra was seized with apprehension, and Duryodhana's joy was unbounded. The brothers came to Krishna and were engaged in anxious consultations.
"Chief among Bharatas," said Krishna to Yudhishthira, "do not fear. God has blessed you with valiant brothers. Why should you entertain any doubts? There is Satyaki and there are Virata, Drupada and Dhrishtadyumna, besides myself. What reason is there for you to be dejected? Do you forget that Sikhandin is awaiting for his predestined victim Bhishma?" Thus did Krishna comfort Yudhishthira.
65. The Second Day
THE Pandava army, having fared badly on the first day of the battle, Dhrishtadyumna, the Generalissimo, devised measures to avoid a repetition of it. On the second day, the army was most carefully arrayed and everything was done to instil confidence.
Duryodhana, filled with conceit on account of the success on the first day, stood in the center of his army and addressed his warriors.
"Heroes in armor", he said in a loud voice, "our victory is assured. Fight and care not for life."
The Kaurava army, led by Bhishma, again made strong attack on the Pandava forces and broke their formation, killing large numbers.
Arjuna, turning to Krishna, his charioteer, said: "If we continue in this way, our army will soon be totally destroyed by the grandsire. Unless we slay Bhishma, I am afraid we can not save our army."
"Dhananjaya, then get ready. There is the grandsire's chariot," replied Krishna, and drove straight towards him.
The chariot sped forward at a great pace. The grandsire sent his shafts welcoming the challenge. Duryodhana had ordered his men to protect the grandsire most vigilantly and never to let him expose himself to danger.
Accordingly, all the warriors, supporting the grandsire, at once intervened and attacked Arjuna who, however, fought on unconcerned.
It was well known that there were but three on the Kaurava side who could stand against Arjuna with any chance of success the grandsire Bhishma, Drona and Karna. Arjuna made short work of the warriors, who intervened in support of Bhishma.
The way in which he wielded his great bow on this occasion, extorted the admiration of all the great generals in the army. His chariot flashed hither and thither sundering hostile ranks like forked lightning, so rapidly that the eye ached to follow its career.
Duryodhana's heart beat fast as he watched this combat. His confidence in the great Bhishma began to be shaken.
"Son of Ganga," Duryodhana said, "it seems as if even while you and Drona are alive and fighting, this irresistible combination of Arjuna and Krishna will destroy our entire army. Karna whose devotion and loyalty to me are most genuine stands aside and does not fight for me only because of you. I fear I shall be deceived and you will not take steps quickly to destroy Phalguna (Arjuna)."
The gods came down to watch the combat between Bhishma and Arjuna. These were two of the greatest warriors on earth. Both chariots were drawn by white steeds.
From either side flew arrows in countless number. Shaft met shaft in the air and sometimes the grandsire's missile hit Arjuna's breast and that of Madhava (Krishna). And the blood flowing made Madhava more beautiful than ever as he stood like a green palasa tree in full bloom with crimson flowers.
Arjuna's wrath rose when he saw his dear charioteer hit and he pulled his bow and sent well-aimed arrows at the grandsire. The combatants were equal and the battle raged for a long while.
In the movements the chariots made they were so close to one another and moved about so fast that it was not possible to say where Arjuna was and where Bhishma. Only the flag could be distinguished.
As this great and wonderful scene was enacted in one part of the field, at another place a fierce battle was being fought between Drona and his born enemy Dhrishtadyumna, the son of the king of the Panchalas and brother of Draupadi.
Drona's attack was powerful and Dhrishtadyumna was wounded badly. But the latter retaliated with equal vigor and with a grin of hatred he shot arrows and sped other missiles at Drona.
Drona defended himself with great skill. He parried the sharp missiles and the heavy maces hurled at him with his arrows and broke them to pieces even as they sped in the air.
Many times did Dhrishtadyumna's bow break, hit by Drona's arrows. One of Drona's arrows killed the Panchala prince's charioteer. Thereupon Dhrishtadyumna took up a mace and, jumping down from the chariot, went forward on foot.
Drona sent an arrow that brought the mace down. Dhrishtadyumna then drew his sword and rushed forward like a lion springing on its elephant prey. But Drona again disabled him and prevented his advance.
Just then Bhima, who saw the Panchala's predicament, sent a shower of arrows on Drona and carried Dhrishtadyumna to safety in his chariot.
Duryodhana who saw this sent the Kalinga forces against Bhimasena. Bhima killed the Kalinga warriors in great number. Like Death itself he moved about among his enemies and felled them to the ground. So fierce was the destruction that the entire army trembled in fear.
When Bhishma saw this, he came to relieve the Kalingas. Satyaki, Abhimanyu and other warriors came up in support of Bhima. One of Satyaki's shafts brought Bhishma's charioteer down and the horses of Bhishma's chariot, left uncontrolled, bolted carrying Bhishma away from the field.
The Pandava army was wild with enthusiasm when Bhishma's chariot sped thus out of the field. They took advantage of the situation and made a fierce attack on the Kaurava army.
Great was the loss the Kaurava army suffered in that day's battle as a result of Arjuna's deeds of valor. The generals of the Kaurava army were greatly perturbed and their previous day's enthusiasm had all disappeared.
They eagerly looked forward to sunset when there would be an end to the day's battle. As the sun sank in the west, Bhishma said to Drona: "It is well we stop the fighting now. Our army is disheartened and weary."
On the side of the Pandavas, Dhananjaya and others returned in great cheer to their camp, with bands playing. At the end of the second day's battle, the Kauravas were in the mood that the Pandavas were in the previous evening.
The Third Day's Battle
ON the morning of the third day Bhishma arrayed his army in eagle formation and himself led it while Duryodhana and his forces protected the rear. So great was the care taken over every detail that the Kauravas were certain that there could be no mishap for them that day.
The Pandavas too arrayed their forces with skill. Dhananjaya and Dhrishtadyumna decided in favor of a crescent formation of their army so as more effectually to cope with the eagle formation of the enemy's forces.
On the right horn of the crescent stood Bhima and on the left Arjuna, leading the respective divisions. The battle began. All arms were at once engaged and blood flowed in torrents and the dust that was raised by chariots, horses and elephants rose to hide the sun.
Dhananjaya's attack was powerful but the enemy stood firm. A counter-attack was made by the Kauravas concentrating on Arjuna's position. Javelins and spears and other missiles flew in the air shining like forked lightning in a thunderstorm.
Like a great cloud of locusts the shafts covered Arjuna's chariot. But with amazing skill he raised a moving fortification around his chariot with arrows discharged in an unending stream from his famous bow.
At another point Sakuni led a large force against Satyaki and Abhimanyu. Satyaki's chariot was broken to pieces and he had to scramble up Abhimanyu's chariot and thereafter both fought from the same chariot.
They were able to destroy Sakuni's forces. Drona and Bhishma jointly attacked Dharmaputra's division and Nakula and Sahadeva joined their brother in opposing Drona's offensive.
Bhima and his son Ghatotkacha attacked Duryodhana's division and in that day's battle the son appeared to excel his great father in valor.
Bhima's shafts hit Duryodhana and he lay in swoon in his chariot. His charioteer quickly drove the chariot away from the scene. He feared that the Kaurava forces would be completely demoralised if they saw that the prince had been disabled.
But even this movement created great confusion. Bhimasena took full advantage of the position and worked havoc among the fleeing Kaurava forces.
Drona and Bhishma who saw the discomfiture and confusion of the Kaurava army came up quickly and restored confidence. The scattered forces were brought together and Duryodhana was again seen leading them.
"How can you stand thus," said Duryodhana to the grandsire, "looking on when our forces are scattered and put to disgraceful flight? I fear you are too kind to the Pandavas. Why did you not tell me frankly 'I love the Pandavas; Dhrishtadyumna and Satyaki are my friends and I cannot attack or slay them.' You should have stated the position explicitly to me. Surely these men are not equal to you. And if you were so minded, you could deal with them easily. Even now, it would be best if you and Drona told me frankly your mind in the matter."
The chagrin of defeat, and the knowledge that the grandsire disapproved of his ways made Duryodhana speak thus bitterly. But Bhishma merely smiled and said: "Wasn't I quite frank in my advice to you? That advice you rejected when you decided on war. I tried to prevent the war but, now that it has come, I am fulfilling my duties by you with all my might. I am an old man and what I am doing is quite my utmost."
Saying thus, the grandsire resumed his operations. The turn of events in the forenoon had been so much in their favor that the delighted Pandavas were now somewhat careless.
They did not expect Bhishma to rally his forces and attack them again. But stung by Duryodhana's reproaches, the grandsire raged about the field like a destroying fire.
He rallied his men and delivered the most severe attack yet made on the Pandava army. The latter thought that the grandsire had multiplied himself into a number of Bhishmas fighting at several points. So swift were his movements that afternoon.
Those who opposed him were struck down and perished like months in the fire. The Pandava army was thoroughly broken and began to scatter. Vasudeva, Partha and Sikhandin tried hard to restore order and confidence, but were unsuccessful.
"Dhanjaya," said Krishna, "now has the critical time come. Be true to your decision not to flinch from your duty to kill in battle Bhishma, Drona and all the other friends and relatives and respected elders. You have pledged yourself to it and you have now to carry it out. Otherwise our army is lost beyond redemption. You must now attack the grandsire."
"Drive on," said Arjuna.
As Dhananjaya's chariot sped on towards Bhishma, it met a hot reception from the grandsire, who covered it with his arrows.
But, Arjuna bent his bow and discharged three shafts that broke the grandsire's bow. Bhishma picked up another bow but it too met the same fate. The grandsire's heart was gladdened when he saw Arjuna's skill in archery.
"Hail, brave warrior!" applauded the grandsire, even as, taking up another bow; he poured shafts on Arjuna's chariot with unerring aim.
Krishna was not happy at the way Arjuna met the attack. The grandsire's bow was working fiercely. But Arjuna's hands did not do their best, for his heart was not in it.
He had too much regard for his great grandsire. Krishna thought that, if Arjuna went on like this, the army, which had been so badly demoralized already, would be utterly destroyed and all would be lost.
Krishna managed the chariot skilfully, but in spite of it, both he and Arjuna were hit many times by Bhishma's arrows.
Janardana's (Krishna) anger rose. "I can stand this no longer, Arjuna. I shall kill Bhishma myself if you will not do it!" he exclaimed, and dropping the reins, he took up his discus and jumped down from the chariot and dashed forward towards Bhishma.
Bhishma was far from being perturbed at this. On the contrary, his face expanded with ecstatic joy. "Come, come, Oh Lotus-eyed One!" he exclaimed.
"I bow to you, Oh Madhava. Lord of the World, have you indeed come down from the chariot for my sake? I offer you my life. If I be slain by you, I shall be glorified in the three worlds. Give me that boon. May your hands take this life away and save me for eternity."
Arjuna was distressed to see this. He jumped down and ran after Krishna. Overtaking him with great difficulty, he entreated Krishna to turn back.
"Do not lose your patience with me. Desist and I promise not to flinch," he said, and persuaded Krishna to return. The chariot reins were again in Krishna's hands. Arjuna attacked the Kaurava forces furiously and thousands were slain by him.
The Kauravas suffered a severe defeat on the evening of the third day. As they returned to their camps in torchlight, they said to one another: "Who can equal Arjuna? There is nothing strange in his being victorious." So marvelous was Arjuna's prowess that day.
The Fourth Day
THE battle was very much the same every day and the narrative is one of monotonous fighting and killing. Still, the great battle is the central event in the Mahabharata and, if we skip over it, we cannot fully understand the epic heroes of that crowded stage.
At break of day, Bhishma arrayed the Kaurava forces again. Surrounded by Drona, Duryodhana and others, the grandsire looked verily like great Indra, holding his thunder bolt, surrounded by the devas.
The Kaurava army, with its chariots, elephants and horses all arrayed in battle order and ready for the fight, presented the appearance of the sky in a great thunderstorm.
The grandsire gave orders for advance. Arjuna watched the hostile movements from his chariot, whereon the Hanuman flag was waving, and he too got ready.
The battle commenced. Aswatthama, Bhurisravas, Salya, Chitrasena and the son of Chala surrounded Abhimanyu and attacked him. The warrior fought like a lion opposing five elephants.
Arjuna saw this combined attack on his son and, with a wrathful lion roar joined his son whereat the tempo of fighting flared up. Dhrishtadyumna also arrived with a large force. The son of Chala was killed.
Chala himself now joined and he with Salya, made a strong attack on Dhrishtadyumna. The latter's bow was severed into two by a sharp missile discharged by Salya.
Abhimanyu saw this and sent a shower of arrows on Salya and put him in such danger that Duryodhana and his brothers rushed to Salya's help. Bhimasena also appeared on the scene at this juncture.
When Bhima raised his mace aloft, Duryodhana's brothers lost courage. Duryodhana, who saw this, was exceedingly angry and immediately charged against Bhima with a large force of elephants.
As soon as Bhima saw the elephants coming up, he descended from his chariot, iron mace in hand, attacked them so fiercely that they scattered in a wild stampede, throwing the Kaurava ranks into disorder.
It will be seen that even in our Puranic stories elephants fared as badly in battle as they did in the wars of the Greeks and the Romans. Bhima's attack on the elephants was like Indra's devastating onslaught on the winged mountains.
The slaughtered elephants lay dead on the field like great hills. Those that escaped fled in panic and caused great havoc in the Kaurava army, trampling numerous soldiers in their wild race. Duryodhana, thereupon, ordered a wholesale attack on Bhima.
But he stood firm as a rock and presently, the Pandava warriors came up and joined him. A number of Duryodhana's arrows struck Bhima's chest and he climbed up his chariot again.
"Visoka, now is the glad hour," said Bhima to his charioteer. "I see a number of Dhritarashtra's sons before me, ready to be shaken down like ripe fruits on a tree. Keep your hold well on the reins and drive on. I am going to dispatch these wretches to Yama's abode." Bhima's arrows would have killed Duryodhana then and there, had it not been for his armor.
Eight of Duryodhana's brothers were slain in that day's battle by Bhima. Duryodhana fought fiercely. Bhima's bow was smashed by one of Duryodhana's arrows. Taking up a fresh bow, Bhima sent an arrow with a knife-edge at Duryodhana that cut the latter's bow into two.
Not baffled by this, Duryodhana took up a fresh bow and discharged a well-aimed shaft which struck Bhima on his chest with such force that he reeled and sat down.
The Pandava warriors now poured a great shower of arrows on Duryodhana. Ghatotkacha, who saw his father sit dazed with the force of the blow, got exceedingly angry and fell on the Kaurava army, which was unable to stand against his onslaught.
"We cannot fight this Rakshasa today." said Bhishma to Drona. "Our men are weary. It is nearing sunset and at night of the Rakshasas grows stronger with the darkness. Let us deal with Ghatotkacha tomorrow."
The grandsire ordered his army to retire for the night. Duryodhana sat musing in his tent, his eyes filled with tears. He had lost many of his brothers in that day's battle.
"Sanjaya," exclaimed Dhritarashtra. "Every day, you give me nothing but bad news. Your tale has ever been one of sorrow, of defeat and loss of dear ones! I cannot stand this any more. What stratagem can save my people? How are we going to win in this fight? Indeed, I am full of fear. It seems fate is more powerful than human effort."
"King " said Sanjaya in reply, "is this not all the result of your own folly? Of what avail is grief? How can I manufacture good news for you? You should hear the truth with fortitude."
"Ah! Vidura's words are coming true," said the blind old king, plunged in great grief.
The Fifth Day
"I AM like a shipwrecked man seeking to save himself by swimming in a storm tossed ocean. I shall surely drown, overwhelmed in this sea of sorrow."
Again and again, when Sanjaya related the happenings of the great battle, Dhritarashtra would thus lament, unable to bear his grief.
"Bhima is going to kill all my sons," he said. "I do not believe there is anyone with prowess enough in our army to protect my sons from death. Did Bhishma, Drona, Kripa and Aswatthama look on unconcerned when our army fled in terror? What indeed is their plan? When and how are they going to help Duryodhana? How are my sons to escape from destruction?"
Saying thus, the blind old king burst into tears.
"Calm yourself, King," said Sanjaya. "The Pandavas rest on the strength of a just cause. So, they win. Your sons are brave but their thoughts are wicked. Therefore, luck does not favor them. They have done great injustice to the Pandavas, and they are reaping the harvest of their sins. The Pandavas are not winning by charms or magic incantations. They are fighting according to the practice of kshatriyas. Their cause being just, they have strength. Friends advised you, but you discarded wise counsel. Vidura, Bhishma, Drona and I tried to stop you in your unwise course, but you did not listen and you went on. Like a foolish sick man who refuses to drink bitter medicine, you obstinately refused to follow our advice, which would have saved your people, preferring to do as your foolish son desired. You are in distress now. Last night, Duryodhana asked Bhishma the same question as you put to me now. And Bhishma gave the same answer as I give you."
When the fighting was stopped on the evening of the fourth day, Duryodhana went by himself to Bhishma's tent and, bowing reverently, said:
"Grandsire, the world knows that you are a warrior who knows not fear. The same is the case with Drona, Kripa, Aswatthama, Kritavarma, Sudakshin, Bhurisravas, Vikarna and Bhagadatta. Death has no terror for these veterans. There is no doubt, the prowess of these great warriors is limitless, even like your own. All the Pandavas combined cannot defeat any one of you. What then is the mystery behind this daily defeat of our army at the hands of the sons of Kunti?"
Bhishma replied: "Prince, listen to me. I have given you advice on every occasion and told you what was good for you. But, you have always refused to follow what your elders counselled you to do. Again, I tell you that it is best for you to make peace with Pandu's sons. For your good as well as for that of the world, that is the only course that should be followed. Belonging to the same royal house, you can all enjoy this vast country as yours. I gave you this advice, but you disregarded it and have grievously wronged the Pandavas, the fruit of which you are now reaping. The Pandavas are protected by Krishna himself. How then can you hope for victory? Even now, it is not loo late for making peace and that is the way to rule your kingdom, making the Pandavas, your powerful brothers, friends instead of enemies. Destruction awaits you if you insult Dhananjaya and Krishna, who are none other than Nara and Narayana."
Duryodhana took leave and went to his tent, but he could not sleep that night.
The battle was resumed the next morning. Bhishma arrayed the Kaurava forces in a strong formation. So did Dhrishtadyumna for the Pandava army.
Bhima stood at the head of the advance lines as usual. And Sikhandin, Dhrishtadyumna and Satyaki stood behind, securely guarding the main body, aided by other generals.
Dharmaputra and the twin brothers held the rear. Bhishma bent his bow and discharged his shafts. The Pandava army suffered greatly under the grandsire's attack.
Dhananjaya saw this and retaliated by fierce shafts aimed at Bhishma. Duryodhana went to Drona and complained bitterly according to his custom.
Drona upbraided him severely: "Obstinate prince, you talk without understanding. You are ignorant of the Pandavas' strength. We are doing our best."
Drona's powerful attack on the Pandava army was too much for Satyaki who was meeting it and Bhima therefore turned his attentions to Drona. The battle grew fiercer still. Drona, Bhishma and Salya made a combined attack on Bhima.
Sikhandin supported Bhima by pouring a shower of arrows on Bhishma. As soon as Sikhandin stepped in, Bhishma turned away. For Sikhandin was born a girl, and Bhishma's principles did not permit him to attack a woman.
In the end, this same objection proved to be the cause of Bhishma's death. When Drona saw Bhishma turn away, he attacked Sikhandin fiercely and compelled him to withdraw.
There was a promiscuous battle the whole of the morning of the fifth day, and the slaughter was terrific. In the after noon, Duryodhana sent a large force to oppose Satyaki.
But Satyaki destroyed it completely and advanced to attack Bhurisravas. Bhurisravas, who was a powerful opponent, put Satyaki's men to fight, and pressed Satyaki himself so fiercely that he was in distress.
Satyaki's ten sons saw their father's plight and sought to relieve him by launching an offensive against Bhurisravas, but Bhurisravas undaunted by numbers, opposed the combined attack and was not to be shaken. His well-aimed darts broke their weapons and they were all slain, strewn on the field like so many tall trees struck down by lightning. Satyaki, wild with rage and grief, drove forward at a furious pace to slay Bhurisravas.
The chariots of the two warriors dashed against each other and crumbled to pieces. And the warriors stood face to face with sword and shield in desperate single combat.
Then, Bhima came and took away Satyaki by force into his chariot and drove away. For Bhima knew that Bhurisravas was an unrivalled swordsman and he did not want Satyaki to be slain.
Arjuna killed thousands of warriors that evening. The soldiers, dispatched against him by Duryodhana, perished like moths in the fire. As the sun went down and Bhishma gave orders to cease fighting, the princes on the Pandava army surrounded Arjuna and greeted him with loud cries of admiration and victory.
The armies on both sides retired to camp, along with the tired horses and elephants.
The Sixth Day
ACCORDING to Yudhishthira's order Dhrishtadyumna arrayed the Pandava army in makara (fish) formation for the sixth day's battle. The Kaurava army was arrayed in krauncha (heron) formation.
We know, how, similarly, names were given to physical exercise, asanas, or postures. Vyuha was the general name for battle array. Which Vyuha was best for any particular occasion, depended on the requirements of the offensive and defensive plans of the day.
What the strength and composition of the forces arrayed should be and what positions they should take up were decided upon, according to the situation as it developed from time to time.
The sixth day was marked by a prodigious slaughter, even in the first part of the morning. Drona's charioteer was killed and Drona took the reins of the horses himself and used his bow as well.
Great was the destruction he effected. He went about like fire among cotton heaps. The formations of both armies were soon broken and indiscriminate and fierce fighting went on. Blood flowed in torrents and the field was covered by dead bodies of soldiers, elephants and horses and the debris of chariots.
Bhimasena pierced the enemy's lines to seek out Duryodhana's brothers and finish them. They, for their part, did not wait to be sought, but rushed on him, in a combined attack from all sides. He was attacked by Duhsasana, Durvishaha, Durmata, Jaya, Jayatsena, Vikarna, Chitrasena, Sudarsana, Charuchitra, Suvarma, Dushkarna and others, all together.
Bhimasena, who did not know what fear was, stood up and fought them all. They desired to take him prisoner and he to kill them all on the spot.
The battle raged fiercely, even like the ancient battle between the gods and the asuras. Suddenly, the son of Pandu lost his patience and jumped down from his chariot, mace in band, and made straight on foot for the sons of Dhritarashtra, in hot haste to slay them.
When Dhrishtadyumna saw Bhima's chariot disappear in the enemy lines, he was alarmed and rushed to prevent disaster. He reached Bhima's car, but found it was occupied only by the charioteer and Bhima was not in it. With tears in his eyes, he asked the charioteer: "Visoka, where is Bhima dearer to me than life?" Dhrishtadyumna naturally thought Bhima had fallen.
Visoka bowed and said to the son of Drupada: "The son of Pandu asked me to stay here and, without waiting for my reply rushed forward on foot, mace in hand, into the enemy ranks."
Fearing that Bhima would be overpowered and killed Dhrishtadyumna drove his chariot into the enemy lines in search of Bhimasena, whose path was marked by the bodies of slain elephants.
When Dhrishtadyumna found Bhima, he saw him surrounded on all sides by enemies fighting from their chariots. Bhima stood against them all, mace in hand, wounded all over and breathing fire.
Dhrishtadyumna embraced him and took him into his chariot and proceeded to pick out the shafts that had stuck in his body. Duryodhana now ordered his warriors to attack Bhimasena and Dhrishtadyumna and not to wait for them to attack or challenge.
Accordingly, they made a combined attack even though they were not inclined to engage themselves in further fighting. Dhrishtadyumna had a secret weapon, which he had obtained from Dronacharya and, discharging it, threw the enemy forces into a stupor.
But Duryodhana then joined the fray and discharged weapons to counter the stupor weapons of Dhrishtadyumna. Just then, reinforcements sent by Yudhishthira arrived.
A force of twelve chariots with their retinue led by Abhimanyu came upon the scene to support Bhima.
Dhrishtadyumna was greatly relieved when he saw this. Bhimasena had also by now refreshed himself and was ready to renew the fight. He got into Kekaya's chariot and took up his position along with the rest.
Drona, however, was terrible that day. He killed Dhrishtadyumna's charioteer and horses and smashed his chariot and Drupada's son had to seek a place in Abhimanyu's car. The Pandava forces began to waver and Drona was cheered by the Kaurava army.
Indiscriminate mass fighting and slaughter went on that day. At one time, Bhima and Duryodhana met face to face. The usual exchange of hot words took place and was followed by a great battle of archery.
Duryodhana was hit and fell unconscious. Kripa extricated him with great skill and took him away in his own chariot. Bhishma personally arrived at the spot now and led the attack and scattered the Pandava forces.
The sun was sinking, but the battle was continued for an hour yet and the fighting was fierce and many thousands perished. Then the day's battle ceased. Yudhishthira was glad that Dhrishtadyumna and Bhima returned to camp alive.
The Seventh Day
DURYODHANA, wounded all over and suffering greatly, went to Bhishma and said:
"The battle had been going against us every day. Our formations are broken and our warriors are being slain in large numbers. You are looking on doing nothing."
The grandsire soothed Duryodhana with comforting words:
"Why do you let yourself be disheartened? Here are all of us, Drona, Salya, Kritavarma, Aswatthama, Vikarna, Bhagadatta, Sakuni, the two brothers of Avanti, the Trigarta chief, the king of Magadha, and Kripacharya. When these great warriors are here, ready to give up their lives for you, why should you feel downhearted? Get rid of this mood of dejection."
Saying this, he issued orders for the day.
"See there," the grandsire said to Duryodhana. "These thousands of cars, horses and horsemen, great war elephants, and those armed foot soldiers from various kingdoms are all ready to fight for you. With this fine army, you can vanquish even the gods. Fear not."
Thus cheering up the dejected Duryodhana, he gave him a healing balm for his wounds. Duryodhana rubbed it over his numerous wounds and felt relieved.
He went to the field, heartened by the grandsire's words of confidence. The army was that day arrayed in circular formation. With each war elephant were seven chariots fully equipped.
Each chariot was supported by seven horsemen. To each horseman were attached ten shield bearers. Everyone wore armor.
Duryodhana stood resplendent like Indra at the center of this great and well-equipped army. Yudhishthira arrayed the Pandava army in vajravyuha. This day's battle was fiercely fought simultaneously at many sectors.
Bhishma personally opposed Arjuna's attacks. Drona and Virata were engaged with each other at another point. Sikhandin and Aswatthama fought a big battle at another sector.
Duryodhana and Dhrishtadyumna fought with each other at yet another point. Nakula and Sahadeva attacked their uncle Salya. The Avanti kings opposed Yudhamanyu, while Bhimasena opposed Kritavarma, Chitrasena, Vikarna and Durmarsha.
There were great battles between Ghatotkacha and Bhagadatta, between Alambasa and Satyaki, between Bhurisravas and Dhrishtaketu, between Yudhishthira and Srutayu and between Chekitana and Kripa.
In the battle between Drona and Virata, the latter was worsted and he had to climb into the chariot of his son Sanga, having lost his own chariot, horses and charioteer.
Virata's sons Uttara and Sveta had fallen in the first day's battle. On this seventh day, Sanga also was slain just as his father came up to his side. Sikhandin, Drupada's son, was defeated by Aswatthama.
His chariot was smashed and he jumped down and stood sword and shield in hand. Aswatthama aimed his shaft at his sword and broke it. Sikhandin then whirled the broken sword and hurled it at Aswatthama with tremendous force, but it was met by Aswatthama's arrow.
Sikhandin, badly beaten, got into Satyaki's chariot and retired. In the fight between Satyaki and Alambasa, the former had the worst of it at first but later recovered ground and Alambasa had to flee.
In the battle between Dhrishtadyumna and Duryodhana, the horses of the latter were killed and he had to alight from his chariot. He, however, continued the fight, sword in hand. Sakuni came then and took the prince away in his chariot.
Kritavarma made a strong attack on Bhima but was worsted. He lost his chariot and horses and acknowledging defeat, fled towards Sakuni's car, with Bhima's arrows sticking all over him, making him look like a porcupine speeding away in the forest.
Vinda and Anuvinda of Avanti were defeated by Yudhamanyu, and their armies were completely destroyed. Bhagadatta attacked Ghatotkacha and put to flight all his supporters.
But, alone, Ghatotkacha stood and fought bravely. But in the end, he too had to save himself by flight, which gladdened the whole Kaurava army.
Salya attacked his nephews. Nakula's horses were killed and he had to join his brother in the latter's chariot. Both continued the fight from the same car. Salya was hit by Sahadeva's arrow and swooned. The charioteer skilfully drove the car away and saved Salya.
When the Madra king (Salya) was seen retreating from the field Duryodhana's army lost heart and the twin sons of Madri blew their conchs in triumph. Taking advantage of the situation, they inflicted heavy damage on Salya's forces.
At noon, Yudhishthira led an attack on Srutayu. The latter's well-aimed arrows intercepted Dharmaputra's missiles, and his armor was pierced and he was severely wounded.
Yudhishthira then lost his temper and sent a powerful arrow that pierced Srutayu's breast-plate. That day, Yudhishthira was not his normal self and burnt with anger.
Srutayu's charioteer and horses were killed and the chariot was smashed and he had to flee on foot from the field. This completed the demorahsation of Duryodhana's army.
In the attack on Kripa, Chekitana, losing his chariot and charioteer, alighted and attacked Kripa's charioteer and horses with mace in hand and killed them.
Kripa also alighted, and standing on the ground, discharged his arrows. Chekitana was badly hit. He then whirled his mace and hurled it at Kripacharya, but the latter was able to intercept it with his own arrow.
Thereupon they closed with each other, sword in hand. Both were wounded and fell on the ground, when Bhima came and took Chekitana away in his chariot. Sakuni similarly took wounded Kripa away in his car.
Ninety-six arrows of Dhrishtaketu struck Bhurisravas. And the great warrior was like a sun radiating glory, as the arrows, all sticking in his breast-plate, shone bright around his radiant face. Even in that condition, he compelled Dhrishtaketu to admit defeat and retire. Three of Duryodhana's brothers attacked Abhimanyu who inflicted a heavy defeat on them but spared their lives, because Bhima had sworn to kill them. Thereupon, Bhishma attacked Abhimanyu.
Arjuna saw this and said to his illustrious charioteer: "Krishna, drive the car towards Bhishma."
At that moment, the other Pandavas also joined Arjuna. But the grandsire was able to hold his own against all five until the sunset, and the battle was suspended for the day. And the warriors of both sides, weary and wounded, retired to their tents for rest and for having their injuries attended to.
After this, for an hour, soft music was played, soothing the warriors to their rest. That hour was spent, says the poet, without a word about war or hatred. It was an hour of heavenly bliss, and it was a glad sight to see. One can see herein what the great lesson of the Mahabharata is.
The Eighth Day
WHEN the eighth day dawned, Bhishma arrayed his army in tortoise formation. Yudhishthira said to Dhrishtadyumna:
"See there, the enemy is in kurma vyuha (tortoise formation). You have to answer at once with a formation that can break it."
Dhrishtadyumna immediately proceeded to his task. The Pandava forces were arrayed in a three-pronged formation.
Bhima was at the head of one prong, Satyaki of another, and Yudhishthira at the crest of the middle division. Our ancestors had developed the science of war very well.
It was not reduced to writing but was preserved by tradition in the families of kshatriyas. Armor and tactics were employed suitably to meet the weapons of offence and the tactics that the enemy used in those days.
The Kurukshetra battle was fought some thousands of years ago. Reading the story of the battle in the Mahabharata, we should not, having the practice and incidents of modern warfare in mind, reject the Mahabharata narrative as mere myth with no relation to fact.
Only about a century and a half ago, the English admiral Nelson fought great sea battles and won undying renown.
The weapons used and the vessels that actually took part in Nelson's battles, would seem almost weird and even ridiculous if compared with those of modern naval warfare.
If a hundred and fifty years can make so much difference, we must be prepared for very strange things in the procedure and events of a period, so long back as that of the Mahabharata war.
Another matter to be kept in mind is that we cannot expect, in the books of poets and literary writers, accurate or full details about weapons and tactics, although the narrative may be of battles.
Military affairs were in ancient times the sole concern of the military order, the kshatriyas. Their culture and their training were entirely their own charge.
The principles and the secrets of warfare and the science and art of the use of military weapons were handed down from generation to generation by tradition and personal instruction.
There were no military textbooks and there was not any place for them in the works of poets and rishis. If a modern novel deals in some chapters with the treatment and cure of a sick person, we can not expect to see such details in it as might interest a medical man. No author would care, even if he were able, to include scientific details in his story.
So, we cannot hope to find in the epic of Vyasa, precise details as to what is tortoise formation or lotus formation. We have no explanation as to how one could, by discharging a continuous stream of arrows, build a defence around himself or intercept and cut missiles in transit, or how one could be living when pierced all over by arrows, or how far the armor worn by the soldiers and officers could protect them against missiles or what were the ambulance arrangements or how the dead were disposed of.
All these things appertaining to ancient war, however interesting, will have to be in the realm of the unknown in spite of the vivid narrative we have in the Mahabharata epic.
Bhima killed eight of Dhritarashtra's sons early in the battle that day. Duryodhana's heart lost courage before this. It seemed to his friends as if Bhimasena would complete his revenge this very day, even as he swore in the assembly ball, where the great outrage was enacted.
Arjuna had a great bereavement in this day's battle. His dear son Iravan was killed. This son of Arjuna by his Naga wife had come and joined the Pandava forces at Kurukshetra. Duryodhana sent his friend, the Rakshasa Alambasa, to oppose the Naga warrior.
Iravan was slain after a fierce fight. When Arjuna heard this, he broke down completely. Said he turning to Vasudeva: "Vidura had indeed told us plainly that both sides would be plunged in grief unbearable. What are we doing all this wretched destruction up on one another for? Just for the sake of property. After all this killing, what joy are we or they likely to find in the end? O Madhusudana, I now see why the far seeing Yudhishthira said he would be content if Duryodhana would give five villages to us, keeping everything else to himself and he would not resort to fighting if that were agreed to. Duryodhana, in his obstinate folly, refused to give even these five villages and so, these great sins have to be committed on both sides. I continue fighting only because men would otherwise think me a coward, who could submit tamely to wrong. When I see the dead warriors lying on the field, my heart is filled with unbearable anguish. Oh, how wicked we are to carry on in this miserable, sinful way."
Seeing Iravan killed, Ghatotkacha uttered a loud war-cry which made all the assembled soldiers tremble. And with his division, he fell upon the Kaurava army ferociously. So great was the destruction he wrought that at many points the Kaurava formation was broken.
Seeing this, Duryodhana personally led an attack on Bhima's son. The king of Vanga joined Duryodhana with his elephants. Duryodhana fought most bravely on this eighth day of the battle. He killed a great number of warriors on Ghatotkacha's side.
Ghatotkacha hurled a javelin which would have ended Duryodhana's career but for the Vanga chief's prompt intervention with one of his elephants.
The missile hit the beast, which fell dead, and Duryodhana was saved.
Bhishma was anxious about Duryodhana and sent a large force under Drona to support the Kaurava prince.
Many were the veterans who were in this force that attacked Ghatotkacha.
So tumultuous and fierce was the fight at this sector of the battle that Yudhishthira feared for Ghatotkacha's safety and sent Bhimasena to his aid.
Then the battle became even fiercer than before. Sixteen of Duryodhana's brothers perished on this day.
The Ninth Day
ON the morning of the ninth day, before the battle began, Duryodhana was closeted with the grandsire. He gave vent to his bitter feelings of disappointment over the way the battle was going. He uttered words that were like the sharp spears and pained the grandsire greatly but the latter was patient and said sadly:
"Like ghee on the sacrificial fire I am pouring my life out for you. Why do you seek to mortify me, who have been doing my very utmost for you? You speak like a man of no understanding, not knowing what is right and what is wrong. They say that, when a man is nearing his death, the tree appears to him to be made of gold. You see things now, not as they are. Your vision is clouded. You are now reaping the harvest of the hatred you deliberately sowed. The best course for you are to go on fighting, as well as you can. This is also the plain path of duty. It is not possible for me to fight Sikhandin, for I can never raise my hand against a woman. Nor can I with my hands kill the Pandavas, for my mind revolts against it. I will do everything barring these two and fight all the warriors opposed to you. Nothing is gained by losing heart. Fight as a kshatriya should and honor will be yours whatever the events."
Saying thus to Duryodhana and cheering him up with wise and affectionate words, Bhishma proceeded to issue instructions for arraying the forces for the day's battle.
Duryodhana was heartened. He sent for Duhsasana and said to him: "Brother, put forth all our strength in today's battle. I am convinced, the grandsire is fighting on our side with his whole heart. It is only against Sikhandin, he says, he cannot use his weapons. We should see that he is not exposed to Sikhandin's attacks, for you know, even a wild dog can kill a lion if the latter scorns to fight back."
There was a great fight between Abhimanyu and Alambasa. Abhimanyu demonstrated that his valor was no less than his illustrious father's. Alambasa had to flee on foot to save himself.
There were fierce combats between Satyaki and Aswatthama and between Drona and Arjuna. Thereafter, all the Pandavas attacked the grandsire and Duryodhana sent Duhsasana to support the old warrior. Bhishma fought furiously and beat the Pandavas back.
The Pandava forces were thoroughly demoralised and were flying hither and thither, like cattle that had lost their way in the forest.
Krishna halted the chariot and said to Arjuna: "Partha, you and your brothers were looking forward to this day, after thirteen years. Do not hesitate to kill the grandsire. Remember the duty of a soldier."
Arjuna bent his head down and, without looking up, replied: "I would much rather have continued to be an exile in the forest than kill the grandsire and the teachers whom I love, but I shall obey you. Drive on."
Arjuna's heart was not in the fight. Unwillingly and in great distress of mind, he proceeded to the combat. Bhishma, on the other hand, burnt fiercely like the noonday sun.
When the army saw Arjuna's chariot proceed towards Bhishma, it regained courage and order once again prevailed. Bhishma's arrows came thick and fast and covered the advancing chariot so completely that neither horses nor vehicles could be seen.
Krishna was unperturbed and drove on with circumspection and skill. Arjuna's shafts hit Bhishma's bow and shattered it many times. But the grandsire went on renewing his weapon.
"You are not fighting, Arjuna, as you should!" exclaimed Krishna, and jumped down in a rage from the chariot and, taking up his discus, he advanced towards the grandsire.
Bhishma saw Vasudeva approaching.
"Hail, O Lotus-eyed One!" he cried. "Blessed am I to be separated from the body by you! Come, come!"
Arjuna jumped down from the chariot and, rushing forward overtook and held Krishna, casting both his arms around him. "Stop, Krishna," he cried. "Do not break your pledge. You have promised not to use weapons in this battle. This is my work. I shall not fail. I shall send my arrows and kill the beloved grandsire myself. Pray, mount the car and take the reins."
Arjuna took Krishna back and the battle was resumed. The Pandava forces had been handled roughly, but now the sun was down in the west and the fighting ended for the day.
The Passing Of Bhishma
IT was the tenth day of the battle. Keeping Sikhandin in front of him, Arjuna attacked Bhishma. When Sikhandin's darts pierced his breast, sparks flew from the grandsire's eyes.
For a moment the old warrior's anger rose like flaming fire and his eyes glared as if to consume Sikhandin. But, at once, the grandsire restrained himself.
He decided not to be provoked into fighting Sikhandin, who was born a woman and to strike whom it seemed unworthy of a warrior.
He knew, however, his end was near and calmed himself. Sikhandin went on discharging his arrows, not minding the battle of emotions in his opponent's mind.
Arjuna also steeled his heart, and from behind Sikhandin aimed arrows at the weak points in Bhishma's armor, even while the grandsire stood still.
Bhishma smiled as the arrows continued to come down thick on him, and turning to Duhsasana, said: "Ah, these are Arjuna's arrows! These cannot be Sikhandin's, for they burn my flesh as the crab's young ones tear their mother's body."
Thus did the grandsire look upon his dear pupil's arrows and, while saying this to Duhsasana, he took up a javelin and hurled it at Arjuna. Arjuna met it with three arrows which cut it to pieces even as it was speeding through the air.
Bhishma then decided to end the combat and made as if to dismount from his chariot, sword and shield in hand. But before he could do so, his shield was cut to pieces by Arjuna's arrows.
With arrows sticking all over his body so thickly that there was not even an inch of intervening space, Bhishma fell headlong to the ground from his chariot.
As he fell, the gods, who looked on from above, folded their hands in reverent salutation and a gentle breeze, laden with fragrance and cool raindrops, swept over the battlefield.
Thus fell the great and good Bhishma, the son of Ganga, who came on earth to hallow it and all it bears.
The blameless hero who, unasked, made the great renunciation to give joy to his father. The undefeated bowman who had humbled the pride of Rama of the axe. The selfless worker for righteousness' sake, thus repaid his debt to Duryodhana, and lay wounded to death sanctifying with his life-blood the battlefield. As the grandsire fell, the hearts of the Kauravas also fell along with him.
Bhishma's body did not touch the ground, on account of the arrows sticking out all over his body. His body shone more brightly than ever before, as it lay as on a bed of honor, supported by the shafts that had pierced his flesh.
Both armies ceased fighting and all the warriors came running and crowded round the great hero, who lay on his bed of arrows. The kings of the earth stood with bowed heads round him, as the gods round Brahma.
"My head hangs down unsupported," said the grandsire. The princes who stood near, ran and brought cushions. The old warrior rejected them with a smile and, turning towards Arjuna said: "Dear son Partha, give me a cushion befitting a warrior."
When Arjuna, whose arrows were just then burning the grandsire's flesh, heard those words addressed to him, he took three arrows from out of his quiver and so placed them that the grandsire's head found support on their points.
"Princes," said Bhishma addressing the assembled chiefs, "Arjuna's arrows were indeed what my head required to be supported on. This pillow gives me satisfaction. Now, I must lie thus until the sun turns north. My soul will not depart till then. ( THIS IS THE ICHAMRIYTHYU DATE OF MAKARAVILAKKU AT SABARIMALA , KERALA ) When I pass away, those of you who may be alive then may come and see me."
Then the grandsire turned again to Arjuna and said: "I am tormented with thirst. Get me some drinking water." At once, Arjuna raised his bow, and drawing, it to the ear, shot a shaft down into the earth near the grandsire on his right side.
Upon the opening made by the arrow, there gushed a stream of pure sweet water to the very lips of the dying man. Ganga came up, says the poet, to quench her dear son's burning thirst. Bhishma drank and was happy.
"Duryodhana, may you be wise!" said Bhishma, addressing the Kaurava prince. "Did you see how Arjuna brought me water to quench my thirst? Who else in this world can do such a deed? Make peace with him without further delay. May the war cease with my exit. Listen to me, son, make peace with the Pandavas."
The grandsire's words did not please Duryodhana. Even when dying, the patient does not like medicine. He objects to the bitter taste. All the princes retired to their camps.
Karna and the Grandsire
WHEN he learnt that Bhishma lay wounded and dying, Karna hurried to the place and fell at his feet and said:
"Eldest of the race. Radha's son, who, through no fault of his, incurred your great displeasure, humbly prostrates himself before you."
When after humble salutation Karna stood up, the grandsire, greatly moved, tenderly placed his hand on Karna's head and blessed him.
"You are not Radha's son, young man," he said in loving tones: "You are Kuntidevi's own first born. Narada, who knows all the secrets of the world, himself revealed this to me. Son of Surya, truly I entertained no dislike for you. But I was grieved to see your increasing hatred of the Pandavas although they gave you no cause for it. I know and admire your valor and your open handedness. And I know also that you belong to the class of Phalguna and Krishna in prowess. It is proper that you befriend the Pandavas. Therein lies the right path for you who are their brother. With the closing of my part in this war, may the chapter of your enmity also close. This is my wish, Karna."
Karna listened respectfully and replied: "Grandsire I know I am Kunti's son, and not charioteer born. But I have eaten Duryodhana's salt and must be true to him, to be true to my own lineage. It is impossible for me to go over to the Pandavas now. You must permit me to repay with my life, if it so be the debt I owe to Duryodhana for his love and trust. I have erred greatly in word and deed. You must forgive me for it all and give me your blessings."
The great acharya, who knew all the laws of right conduct and what Karna said, replied: "Do reflect for a while and then do as you wish, for that is the right way."
Even when Bhishma was mortally wounded and lay dying, the battle did not cease. Discarding the grandsire's words of wisdom, the Kauravas resumed the battle.
Deprived of Bhishma's leadership, the Kaurava forces felt like sheep without a shepherd when Bhishma no longer led them. Indeed, even as Bhishma fell wounded, the men shouted:
"O Karna, you are the one left to lead and protect us."
The Kaurava warriors felt that, if but Karna would agree to take up the command, victory was certain. During the first ten days when Bhishma led the forces, the son of Surya kept away from the battle.
As already narrated, deeply hurt at the grandsire's contempt, Karna had said: "So long as you are up fighting, I shall keep aloof. If you slay the Pandavas and bring victory to Duryodhana, I shall be glad. And I shall then, taking the king's leave, go to the forest. But, if you be defeated and go to the abode of the brave, I who am not deemed by you as an adhiratha (master of chariot warfare) will ride my chariot and oppose those whom you deem to be of greater prowess than myself. And defeating them, bring victory to Duryodhana."
Thus had Karna sworn and, with Duryodhana's consent, kept aloof from the battle during the first ten days. Now he went on foot to Bhishma who lay on his bed of arrows waiting for his end and, saluting him, addressed him thus:
"Veteran grandsire, vanquisher of Parasurama, you lie on the field of battle, struck down by Sikhandin. If you, who had reached the summit of right living and were an embodiment of purity itself, must lie wounded in this manner, it is clear that no one can attain in this world what he deserves by his merit. You were the one boat on which the Kaurava princes depended for crossing the flood of their troubles. Heavy indeed will be the blows that the Pandavas will now deal at the Kauravas and great will be their consequent distress. Like fire and wind burning down the forest, Arjuna and Krishna will destroy the army of Kauravas. This is certain. Turn your gracious eyes on me and bless me, who have accepted the command of the forces."
Bhishma gave his blessings to Karna."You are like the good earth to the seeds, like rain clouds to living beings, ever dependable, firm in your loyalty. Serve Duryodhana and save him. You vanquished the Kambojas for him. You put down the Kiratas of the Himalayan fastnesses for him. You fought the Girivrajas on his behalf and defeated them. Many more things you have accomplished for him. Take charge of the Kaurava army now as your own rich possession and guard it well. May you lead Duryodhana's forces to success! May you have every good fortune! Fight your enemies, go."
Karna, having received the benediction of the grandsire, mounted his chariot and rode to the battlefield. When the valorous Karna entered the field on his war chariot, Duryodhana's joys knew no bounds. His sorrow, at having lost Bhishma, was in some degree alleviated.
Drona in Command
DURYODHANA and Karna held counsel as to who should be put in supreme command of the forces.
"Well, everyone of these princely warriors fighting on your side is great enough to be put in charge of our forces as supreme commander," said Karna.
"All these kings are of equal prowess, strength, energy, skill, courage, valor, ancestry and wisdom. They cannot all be put in joint command and, if any of them be chosen, each of the others would feel hurt and may not put forth his whole strength in the cause. Thereby we stand to suffer. So, my advice is that we install Dronacharya, the teacher of all these princes and warriors, as supreme commander. He indeed is the greatest of all those that carry arms today. No kshatriya equals him in the qualities required for leading our army. Let us therefore install him."
Duryodhana agreed that this was the right thing to do, and so it was decided.
Duryodhana went to Dronacharya and, in the presence of the assembled warriors and princes, bowed and addressed him:
"Revered Master, you are unrivalled among all those assembled here in caste, ancestry, knowledge of sciences, age, wisdom, valor and skill. I beg of you to accept the supreme command. Under your command, this army will be victorious." The assembled kings received this proposal with loud cheers and war cries that gladdened Duryodhana's heart.
Drona was installed in due form amidst thunderous acclamation. The praise of courtiers and the sound of trumpets that accompanied the ceremony, made the Kauravas feel as though they had already vanquished the enemy. So great was their enthusiasm and confidence in Drona's leadership.
Drona arrayed the army in circular formation. Karna, who had till then stood aside was now seen moving about in his great chariot on the battlefield and this put new courage and joy into the hearts of the Kaurava soldiers.
The talk went round in the army that the great Bhishma did not wish to slay the sons of Pandu and therefore had not put his whole heart in the fight. But now that Karna was in the field, it was certain that the Pandavas would be destroyed.
Dronacharya was in command for five days of the battle. Though of advanced years, he was everywhere in the field and displayed the fierce energy of a young warrior. Whenever he led an attack, the Pandava forces were scattered like clouds before a storm.
He personally engaged the greatest warriors on the Pandava side in battle. He fought Satyaki, Bhima, Arjuna, Dhrishtadyumna, Abhimanyu, Drupada and Kasiraja and defeated them on many occasions.
He harassed and inflicted severe punishment on the Pandava army during the five days he was in command.
To Seize Yudhishthira Alive
AS SOON AS Drona assumed command of the Kaurava forces Duryodhana, Karna and Duhsasana sat in council and decided on a plan. And Duryodhana went to Dronacharya to put it in operation.
"Acharya, we desire that you should capture Yudhishthira alive and give him over to us. We desire nothing more, not even a total victory. If you achieve this for us, we shall all be exceedingly satisfied with your conduct of the war."
When Drona heard Duryodhana address him thus, great was his joy, for he hated the very idea of slaying the Pandava brothers. Even though, to fulfil his obligation, the acharya loyally joined the Kaurava side against the Pandavas, he loved the sons of Kunti and especially the pure-minded Yudhishthira.
So, when he heard Duryodhana request that Yudhishthira should be captured alive, he felt greatly relieved.
"Duryodhana, may you be blessed!" the acharya said. "Do you too wish to abstain from killing Yudhishthira? How it gladdens my heart! Truly, Yudhishthira is one without an enemy and the name Ajatasatru, which the people have given to Kunti's eldest son, has been justified by your great decision. When even you have made up your mind that he should not be killed but should be captured alive, his unrivalled glory has become ten times enhanced."
"I see, dear Duryodhana, what you intend," Drona continued. "You wish to defeat the Pandavas in battle and then give them their share in the kingdom and live in peace and amity with them. I see this clearly from your desire to capture Yudhishthira alive."
Drona was exceedingly glad and he said again: "Indeed Yudhishthira is the most fortunate man on earth. The gods are showering their favors on Kunti's good son. So has he won the hearts of even enemies."
But Duryodhana's motives in wishing to take Yudhishthira alive were far different. And as soon as Drona acceded to his proposal and gave his pledge that he would do his best to capture Yudhishthira, he began to reveal his real intentions.
If Yudhishthira were slain, nothing would be gained by it, and the anger of the Pandavas would be all the greater. The battle would rage more fiercely than before. And Duryodhana knew that it would only mean the utter defeat of his army.
Even if the fight were to be continued relentlessly until both armies were destroyed, Krishna would still remain alive and he would put either Draupadi or Kunti in sovereign possession of the kingdom.
What then was the point in killing Yudhishthira? On the other hand, if Yudhishthira was captured alive, Duryodhana thought, the war would end more speedily and victoriously for the Kauravas.
Thereafter, he could surely play on Yudhishthira's goodness and his loyalty to the traditional code of kshatriya conduct. It was pretty certain he could be drawn into the battle of dice again and sent to the forests once more.
Ten days of fighting had demonstrated to Duryodhana that further fighting would only result in the destruction of the race, not the fulfilment of the desires.
When Duryodhana made his motives clear to Drona, the acharya was greatly disappointed and he cursed Duryodhana in his heart. But whatever the reason for it, he was glad that Yudhishthira was not to be killed.
The news that Drona had given a solemn assurance to Duryodhana that he would take Yudhishthir a prisoner, was carried by their spies to the Pandava army.
The Pandavas knew that, when the acharya was determined on something and gave his pledged word for executing it, his unrivalled eminence in the art of war and his valor made it a most serious affair.
So, they soon got busy and so arrayed the forces that Yudhishthira was never left unsupported. Whatever movements might take place, they always took care to leave sufficient protection against any surprise attack on Yudhishthira.
In the first day's battle under the leadership of Drona, the acharya amply demonstrated his great skill and energy. He moved about destroying the Pandava forces like a fire burning up dry logs. His rapid movements made the Pandava army feel as if Drona was everywhere at the same time showering arrows like rain and converting the battlefield into a stage for the dance of the God of Death. He cut the Pandava army in twain where Dhrishtadyumna stood.
Many were the single combats among renowned warriors. There was a fierce battle between Sahadeva and Sakuni skilled in illusion warfare. When their chariots broke, they alighted on the ground. And, like two hills sprung to life and motion, they struck each other with maces and closed with one another in single combat. Between Bhima and Vivimsati there was a great battle in which chariots were broken on both sides. Salya fought his nephew Nakula and harassed him exceedingly, smiling most provokingly all the time. But, in the end, Salya had his car smashed and his flag brought down, and he withdrew admitting defeat. Between Kripacharya and Dhrishtaketu there was a battle in which the latter was worsted.
So also was there fierce fighting between Satyaki and Kritavarma and between Virata and Karna. Abhimanyu's valor was also demonstrated as he fought Paurava, Kritavarma, Jayadratha and Salya single-handed and made them withdraw.
Then there was a great combat between Salya and Bhimasena in which Salya was defeated and made to retire. The Kaurava forces began to lose courage and the Pandava army, who saw this, attacked the Kaurava army with renewed energy and broke its ranks.
When Drona saw this, he decided to restore lost morale by leading a straight attack on Yudhishthira. His golden chariot went forward, drawn by four noble Sindhu horses, in the direction of Yudhishthira. Yudhishthira answered with barbed arrows, feathered with eagle-feathers. But Drona did not mind, and advanced at great speed. Yudhishthira's bow was cut down and Drona was coming very near.
Dhrishtadyumna tried to intercept Drona but in vain. The whole army shouted: "Yudhishthira has been taken!" So near came Drona.
Suddenly, then, Arjuna appeared on the battlefield, the earth rumbling under the wheels of his chariot, as it coursed swiftly over the bloody field, over bones and bodies lying in heaps. Drona held back, for Arjuna had come on the scene. From his Gandiva bow issued a continuous stream of arrows. No one could see the shafts taken out of the quiver or placed in position. It seemed as if, from out of the great bow, an unending flood of arrows issued without intermission. The battlefield was darkened by flying missiles.
Drona retreated. Yudhishthira was not taken. The battle was stopped for the day and the Kaurava forces went to their camp in chastened mood.
The Pandava army marched proudly to camp and behind them walked Kesava (Krishna) and Arjuna conversing. Thus closed the eleventh day of the battle.
The Twelfth Day
THE attempt to capture Yudhishthira alive failed. Drona was speaking to Duryodhana about this. "It is clear we cannot succeed in our efforts to seize Yudhishthira so long as Dhananjaya is nearby. It is no want of interest on my part. If by some stratagem we could draw Arjuna away to some other part of the field, I could pierce the Pandava formations and capture Yudhishthira. I promise to seize him and deliver him to you provided he does not flee from the battle, renouncing honor. If he does that, then also we win indeed, do we not?"
The chief of the Trigartadesa who heard Drona say this talked it over with his brothers, and they made a plan. They resolved to take the samsaptaka oath and challenge Arjuna to battle and draw him away from Yudhishthira's side.
Accordingly, together with a large force, they gathered, and sat before the fire, dressed in matted grass, and went through funeral gifts and ceremonies for themselves as if already dead, and took their oath: "Not till we have killed Dhananjaya will we turn back. If we flee in fear from battle, may we be punished as for deadly sin!"
Having adjured themselves thus before the sacred fire, they marched south for that was the direction of Death, and shouted "O Arjuna!" challenging him to battle.
It was a great suicide squad organized to achieve what Drona had pointed out to be essential. Arjuna turned to Yudhishthira and addressed him thus: "King, the samsaptakas are calling me to battle. I am pledged to accept a challenge thus thrown out. Susarma and his men are calling me to battle. I shall destroy them all and return. Permit me to go."
"Brother beloved," said Yudhishthira, "you know Drona's intentions. Keep that in mind and do whatever you think fit. He has promised Duryodhana to take me alive. He is a matchless warrior, brave, strong and skilled in, every branch of archery. He knows no fatigue and nothing escapes his watchful eyes."
"King, here is Satyajit, standing in support of you," replied Arjuna. "As long as he is alive and by you, nothing can happen to you." So saying Arjuna asked the Panchala prince Satyajit to stand guard by Yudhishthira's side and marched off like a hungry lion to meet the samsaptakas.
"There, Krishna, see the Trigartas standing, cheerful under the intoxication of their oath, though they know they go to certain death. Indeed they are full of the exultation of approaching swarga." So speaking to his great charioteer, Arjuna approached the large samsaptaka force.
This was the Twelfth Day of the great battle. It was a fierce fight. After a time, Arjuna's attack began to tell and the Trigartas fell in swathes before him but Susarma reminded them of their oath. "Heroes, we have taken our oaths before the fire and in the presence of the whole army of warriors. Having sworn terrible resolves, it is unworthy to flinch. Let us not fall into public ridicule." The samsaptakas cheered their leader, and faced Arjuna with the sublime courage of accepted deaths.
"Hrishikesa, they are resolved on fighting to the last. Drive on," said Arjuna.
Driven by Madhusudana (Krishna) Arjuna's chariot moved like Indra's car in the great war of the gods against the asuras. It went here and it went there and wherever it went, Arjuna's great bow, the Gandiva, scattered death among the doomed Trigartas.
The burst of blood in their compct ranks was like the burst of Palasa blossoms in a springtime forest. The fighting was severe. At one time Arjuna's car and flagpole were immersed in darkness under the downpour of arrows.
"Are you alive, Dhananjaya?" shouted Krishna.
"Yes," replied Arjuna, and pulling the string of his Gandiva, discharged shafts that dispelled the arrow-shower. It was like the Rudra dance of dissolution. The field was full of severed limbs and headless bodies and presented a terrible spectacle.
As Arjuna proceeded to oppose the samsaptakas, Drona gave orders for a violent assault on the Pandava forces at the point where Yudhishthira stood.
Yudhishthira saw this movement and spoke to the Panchala prince Dhrishtadyumna:
"The brahmana is coming to seize me. Look after the forces with vigilance."
The son of Drupada did not wait for Drona to advance but marched forward in his car himself to meet Drona. Dronacharya avoided Dhrishtadyumna, for well he knew that his death was destined to be at his hands and that death was not yet due. And he wheeled his chariot in another direction where Drupada was leading his forces.
Drupada's forces suffered heavy punishment at Drona's hands and blood flowed in streams on the battlefield. Drona, then, again turned his attention to Yudhishthira. The Pandavas stood firm and answered Drona's attacks with showers of arrows.
Satyajit made a charge on Drona's car and there was a fierce combat in which Drona's figure assumed the grimness of the Destroyer. Many a warrior was slain by him in succession. Vrika, a prince of Panchala, as well as Satyajit, fell dead.
Seeing this, Satanika, son of Virata, marched against Drona. In a moment, Satanika's severed head rolled on the ground with the golden kundalas shining in the earlobes.
Ketama, another chief, followed the attack but he too perished. Then, Vasudhana rushed forward to stop the advance of Drona, but he too fell dead. Yudhamanyu, Satyaki, Sikhandin and Uttamaujas who came to push Drona back, were repulsed and all these great warriors had to retreat. Drona was now almost within reach of Yudhishthira.
At that moment, Panchalya, another son of Drupada, rushed madly up to stop the acharya and fought most desperately. But, he too was mortally wounded and fell from his chariot like a failing star.
Then, Duryodhana was delighted and said exultingly to Karna:
"Radheya, do you see the valor of our mighty leader? No more will the Pandavas be inclined towards battle. See how their army reels under Drona's blows."
Karna shook his head. "Do not be so confident," he said. "The Pandavas are not to be so easily vanquished. They will never surrender. The wrongs they have undergone are too great to be forgotten. You tried to poison and kill them. You tried to burn them alive. You have grieved and humiliated them at the game of dice and you have forced them out to live in the forest for long years. They will not surrender. See there, their army has rallied and all their forces are leading a combined attack on Drona. There, see Bhima, Satyaki, Yudhamanyu, Kshatradharma, Nakula, Uttamaujas, Drupada, Virata, Sikhandin. Dhrishtaketu and other warriors have all come to protect Yudhishthira and are pressing Drona hard. We should not stand idly watching, when we have put such a heavy burden on the acharya. Great as he is, there is a limit to the load even he can carry. Even wolves combined in large numbers can harass and kill a mighty elephant, Let us proceed. It will not do any longer to leave Drona unsupported."
DRONA made many attempts to take Yudhishthira prisoner, but failed. Duryodhana led a large elephant division against Bhima. Bhima defended himself from his chariot with well-aimed arrows.
He sent crescent-headed shafts and tore down Duryodhana's flag and cut down his bow even as he held it in his hand. Seeing the king harassed in this manner, the Mlechchha king Anga marched against Bhimasena seated on a huge elephant.
But Bhima sent shafts that laid the elephant low and killed the Mlechchha king, which resulted in scattering that section of the Kaurava forces in fear and confusion. When the elephants stampeded, the horses also took fright and thousands of footmen were trampled under the feet of the elephants and the horses, flying in wild panic.
Seeing this great confusion and the scattering of the Kaurava forces in all directions, the king of Pragjyotisha, the brave Bhagadatta grew indignant.
He got up on his renowned elephant Supratika and charged against Bhimasena. The gigantic beast rushed forward with widespread ears and twirling trunk, crashed into Bhimasena's chariot. And in an instant, horses and vehicle were an unrecognizable mass. But Bhima escaped by jumping off the car in the nick of time.
He knew all about elephants. He got below the great and fierce elephant and showered blows on its vital points. The great beast got mad and whirled round like a potter's wheel, trying to throw off Bhimasena, who was sticking to its legs and attcking it from below.
It bent down and caught Bhima by its trunk and was about to crush him under its knees, when Vrikodara somehow released himself from its hold and again got below, in between its limbs and sticking to the elephant's under-regions, caused exceeding pain to the beast.
Bhima was thus gaining time in the hope that some elephant on the Pandava side would be led to attack Bhagadatta's elephant and enable him to get away.
But, when Bhima disappeared from view, being hidden in between the beast's legs, the soldiers thought Bhima was slain. They exclaimed: "Bhima is dead! Bhagadatta's elephant has crushed Bhimasena!" and the cry was repeated all over Kurukshetra.
Yudhishthira heard the cry and, thinking Bhima was slain, urged the forces to destroy Bhagadatta. The king of Dasarna charged against Bhagadatta. Dasarna's elephant was also a fierce beast and there was great battle between Supratika and Dasarna's elephant.
But Supratika's tusk pierced Dasarna's beast in the side and it crashed down dead. At that moment, Bhima emerged from below Supratika and ran out safe. And the Pandava army cheered when they saw Bhima alive.
Bhagadatta was now attacked on all sides, but he did not lose heart. Resplendent on his elephant, he shone like a forest fire on a hill. Ignoring the enemies around him, he drove his beast on Satyaki's chariot.
The elephant seized the chariot with its great trunk and lifting it high dashed it upside down. Satyaki jumped out of the chariot in time to save himself.
His charioteer displayed great agility and skill and saved the vehicle as well as the horses, and righting the chariot, drove it to where Satyaki stood.
Bhagadatta's elephant wrought great havoc in the Pandava army, hurling warriors about and killing them in great number, striking terror wherever it went. Bhagadatta stood on its back, like Indra on Airavata when he fought the asuras.
With ears spread out rigid in anger and trunk extended in front, the great beast trampled upon numerous horses, chariots and soldiers and wrought destruction all over the Pandava army. The shafts hurled at it seemed only to incense it more.
Like a herdsman in the forest driving the cattle where he would, Bhagadatta drove the soldiers of the Pandava army before him. Bhimasena, equipping himself once again with a chariot, renewed his attack on Bhagadatta.
The elephant stretched out its trunk and blew out a violent spray of mucus that scared the horses of Bhima's chariot and they bolted in wild flight and the charioteer could not check them.
A great cloud of dust rose from the field where this great elephant battle raged. Arjuna saw this from where he was fighting the samsaptakas and he also heard the tumult created by Bhagadatta's elephant.
He feared things had gone wrong and said to Krishna: "Madhusudana, this is the cry of Supratika, Bhagadatta's elephant. This king of Pragjyotisha is terrible with his elephant, and has no equal in that kind of warfare. He is sure to defeat and confound our men. We must proceed at once and save the situation. We have punished these samsaptakas enough. Drive to where Drona is engaging Yudhishthira." Krishna drove the chariot accordingly towards the main battlefront.
Susarma and his brothers came up behind the chariot and shouted "Stop, stop." At the same time, they discharged shafts at Arjuna's chariot.
Arjuna was of two minds.
"Here is Susarma challenging me to battle and I hated declining this kind of invitation, but there, to the north of us, our formation seems broken and our men are in need of immediate relief."
While Arjuna was pondering thus, a javelin came hurtling at Arjuna and another towards Janardana. Wild with anger, Arjuna sent three well-aimed shafts, which compelled Susarma to turn back.
They lost no more time but drove quickly to where Bhagadatta was doing havoc. As soon as Arjuna's car was seen, the Pandava forces rallied and soon Arjuna reached the lines where Bhagadatta was.
Bhagadatta attacked Arjuna on Supratika like the Destroyer incarnate. But Vasudeva's skill avoided the shock, each time the beast charged.
Bhagadatta showered arrows on Arjuna and Krishna. But Arjuna's arrows broke the elephant's armor and began to hurt the beast. Bhagadatta saw that his elephant could no longer stand the attack and he hurled a javelin at Krishna.
Arjuna met it with a shaft from his bow and broke it into two. Bhagadatta then discharged another javelin that struck Dhananjaya's helmet.
Readjusting his helmet, Arjuna bent his bow exclaiming: "Bhagadatta, take your last look at the world and prepare for death!"
Bhagadatta was a veteran of very advanced age. His grey hair and the wrinkles on his noble old face gave him the intrepid appearance of a lion. Indeed, so old was he that the skin hung loose down over his eyes and he had tied its folds over his forehead with a silk kerchief so that they might not interfere with his sight.
Bhagadatta was not more renowned for valor than for purity of character and conduct and was one of the most illustrious among the brave men of his time. Men gave him the title 'Friend of Indra' in recognition of his greatness.
"Look around for the last time," said Arjuna to this great man and hurled at him shafts that broke his bow, shattered his quiver and pierced the joints of his armor.
In those days, all warriors wore heavy armor and the secret of hitting weak points such as joints and moving parts was specially studied by kshatriyas and was an important part of military training.
When deprived of all his weapons, Bhagadatta hurled his elephant goad at Arjuna. It was sent with deadly aim and charged with the Vaishnava mantra.
It would have killed Arjuna, but Krishna came in between and presented himself as a target for the missile. It settled on his chest as a shining necklace.
Charged with the mantra of Vishnu, it could not hurt Vishnu but just became the Lord's jewelled garland round his neck.
"Janardana, how is it you have offered yourself as a target for the enemy's missile? You said you would be charioteer and leave all the fighting to me. How could you do this?" protested Arjuna.
"Beloved Arjuna, you do not understand. This shaft would have killed you if it had hit you. But it is really my own thing and came back to its lawful owner," Krishna said and laughed. Then, Partha sent an arrow that entered the head of Bhagadatta's elephant as a serpent enters into the anthill.
Bhagadatta tried to urge his great beast forward, but it stood stark rigid. And his loud command went in vain even as the words of man, who has lost his wealth, are disregarded by his wife.
Like a great hill the elephant stood rigid for a moment and then it suddenly sank down driving its tusks into the earth and yielded up the ghost with an agonised squeal.
Arjuna was somewhat grieved at the death of the noble animal and for his not having been able to slay Bhagadatta, without killing the beast.
Arjuna's shafts tore the silken napkin that bound up the folds of the aged king's forehead and he was blinded at once by his own hanging wrinkles.
Soon, a sharp crescent-headed shaft came and pierced his chest. And Bhagadatta fell like a great tree in a storm, his golden necklace shining like flowers on the uprooted tree. The Kaurava forces fell into utter confusion.
Sakuni's brothers Vrisha and Achala tried their best to oppose Arjuna and attacked him in front and rear. But their chariots were soon dashed to pieces and they were themselves stricken dead on the field like two lion cubs. They both looked much alike and equally noble in appearance. The poet says that the bodies of these two valiant heroes who did not flee when the rest fled, shed a strange lustre all around. Sakuni was full of anger when he saw his brave and incomparable brothers lying dead on the field.
He attacked Arjuna fiercely and used all the weapons of illusion, in which he was skilled. But Arjuna's strokes broke all the charms and rendered them useless. And Sakuni had to leave the field, as fast as his horses could bear him.
The Pandava forces then attacked Drona's army and wrought great havoc till the sunset, and the twelfth day's fight ended. Drona gave orders to cease fighting and the Kaurava forces, which had lost heavily, retired in sullen dejection to their camp.
The Pandava army, on the other band, was in high spirits and its warriors gathered round campfires in cheerful talk and praise of Arjuna and the other heroes, who had led them to victory.
EARLY next morning, Duryodhana went to Dronacharya in a state of bitterness and anger. After the customary salutation, he addressed him thus in the presence of a large number of generals:
"Esteemed brahmana, Yudhishthira was quite within your reach yesterday and, if you had really wished to take him no one could have prevented you. Yet, you did not take him, and to me the events of yesterday are inexplicable. I cannot understand what makes it hard for you to carry out your promise to me. Verily great men are not understandable."
Dronacharya was exceedingly hurt by this insulting insinuation.
"Duryodhana," he said, "I am putting forth on your be half all the strength and skill I possess. You entertain thoughts unworthy of a king. As long as Arjuna is present, supporting Yudhishthira, it is not possible for us to seize him. I have told you that already. It is only if we manage some how to get Arjuna out of the battlefield that we can hope to carry out this plan as you desire. And I am devising ways to attain this objective."
Thus did Drona nobly conquer his just anger and seek to comfort Duryodhana in his distress.
On the thirteenth day, the samsaptakas again challenged Arjuna to battle and he accordingly went to attack them, where they were arrayed to the south of the main battlefront. The battle that was fought between the samsaptakas and Arjuna was the fiercest that ever had been seen or heard of till that day.
When Dhananjaya left the main front for meeting the samsaptakas, Drona rearranged his army in lotus formation and attacked Yudhishthira fiercely.
Bhima, Satyaki, Chekitana, Dhrishtadyumna, Kuntibhoja, Drupada, Ghatotkacha, Yudhamanyu, Sikhandin, Uttamaujas, Virata, the Kekayas, Srinjayas and many others opposed him. But their resistance seemed paralysed by the violence of Drona's offensive.
Abhimanyu, son of Arjuna and Subhadra, was still adolescent, but had already won recognition as a mighty man-at arms even as the equal of his father and uncle in battle. Yudhishthira called Abhimanyu and said to him:
"Dear son, Dronacharya is attacking our army greatly. Arjuna is absent and, if we should be defeated in his absence, he will be grieved beyond measure. No one among us has been able to break Drona's array. You know you can do it and no one else. I ask you to take up this task."
"I can do it," replied Abhimanyu. "I have been instructed by my father how to penetrate this formation and can certainly do so. But if after forcing my way, it should unfortunately become necessary for me to come out, I shall be at a loss what to do, being as yet uninstructed in the art of extrication."
"Valiant boy, break this impregnable formation and open a passage for us. We shall all break in your wake. We shall be with you to face any danger and no question can arise of your having to come out."
Bhimasena supported Yudhishthira's proposal: "I shall be immediately behind you and enter when you succeed in breaking the enemy's formation. So also will Dhrishtadyumna, Satyaki, the Panchalas, the Kekayas and the forces of Matsyadesa. Only break the formation as you alone can do. We shall do the rest and smash the Kaurava army."
Abhimanyu thought of his father and Krishna. Feeling encouraged by what had been said by Bhimasena and Yudhishthira, and impelled by his own gallant nature, undertook the adventure.
"I shall please my great father and uncle," he said with enthusiasm. "Let my valor be staked on this."
"May your prowess grow," said Yudhishthira and blessed the youth.
"Sumitra, see Drona's flag flying there! Drive straight and fast to that point," said Abhimanyu to his charioteer.
"Faster, faster!" urged Abhimanyu as they sped along.
"May the gods protect you!" said the charioteer. "Yudhishthira has placed a very great burden on your young shoulders. Think well before you pierce Drona's array and enter. The acharya is unrivalled in skill and experience, while you, though his equal in valor, have not his long years to back it."
Abhimanyu smiled and replied: "Friend, I am Krishna's nephew and son of Arjuna, am I not? Which other has that advantage? Fear dares not approach me! These enemies here have not a sixteenth part of my strength. Drive fast towards Drona's division. Do not hesitate."
The charioteer obeyed.
As the golden chariot to which were yoked beautiful young horses approached, the soldiers in the Kaurava army shouted: "Abhimanyu is corning! He has come!" The Pandavas followed Abhimanyu close behind him.
The Kaurava warriors were perturbed as they saw Abhimanyu's chariot approach them with great speed.
"Here is one greater in valor than Arjuna," they thought and began to lose heart.
Like a young lion on a herd of elephants, Abhimanyu rushed on. There was a ripple in the Kaurava ranks which bent under his headlong onslaught.
The bend soon became a break and under Drona's very eyes, the formation was breached and Abhimanyu entered. But the breach closed under the inspiration of Jayadratha, king of the Sindhus, before the other Pandava warriors could force their way in according to plan and Abhimanyu was alone!
Kaurava warriors opposed him, but they fell like moths in the fire, one after another. Abhimanyu's shafts searched the weak points in the armor of his enemies. And the bodies of soldiers lay strewn on the field like Kusa grass on the sacrificial platform.
Bows, arrows, swords, shields, javelins, pieces of harness, chaiot canopies, axes, maces, spears, whips, conchs, along with severed heads and limbs of slain warriors, covered the field.
Seeing the destruction wrought by Abhimanyu, Duryodhana was wroth and rushed in person to oppose the youthful warrior. Drona, having leant that the king himself was engaged in battle with Abhimanyu, became anxious and sent veterans to protect Duryodhana.
With great difficulty, they managed to rescue the king from the boy-hero who greatly disappointed at the escape of Duryodhana, vented his anger on the warriors that had come to rescue him and put them to headlong flight.
Then, throwing away all sense of shame and chivalry, a large number of veteran warriors made a combined and simultaneous attack on the hero, who found himself alone, surrounded by enemies on all sides. But, even as on all sides a rock receives the rising tide of the sea, Arjuna's son withstood this united ouslaught.
Drona, Aswatthama, Kripa, Karna, Sakuni, Salya and many other great warriors in their chariots, equipped with all arms, surged in attack on the young hero, only to be dashed back, baffled and broken.
Asmaka rode his chariot at great speed against Abhimanyu's. But smiling, Abhimanyu sent his shafts and disposed of him in no time. Karna's armor was pierced.
Salya was badly wounded and sat, unable to move, in his chariot. Salya's brother came up in great wrath to avenge his brother's disgrace but he fell and his chariot was broken to pieces.
Thus did Abhimanyu, alone and unsupported, oppose a host of veteran warriors and show the skill in the use of arms which he had learnt from his illustrious father and from Vasudeva, his uncle. Seeing this, the poet says, Dronacharya's eyes were filled with tears of affectionate admiration.
"Was there ever a fighter to equal this boy Abhimanyu?" exclaimed Drona to Kripa, in the hearing of Duryodhana who could not contain his anger.
"The acharya's partiality for Arjuna prevents him from killing Abhimanyu," Duryodhana said, "and he sings his praises instead of fighting him. Indeed, if the acharya were minded to dispose of Abhimanyu, would it take him long to do it!"
Often did Duryodhana suspect and complain in this manner against Bhishma and Drona. Having undertaken a war of adharma, he was often led to speak in this manner and hurt the feelings of the acharyas who stood loyally by him, even when they saw the wickedness of his ways.
Duhsasana roared in anger and exclaiming: "This obstinate lad will perish now!" led his chariot forward to attack Abhimanyu. The chariots of Abhimanyu and Duhsasana made wonderful movement against each other and the battle raged long.
Duhsasana was struck senseless in his car, and his charioteer just managed to drive away from the field saving Duhsasana's life. Karna attacked Abhimanyu with his shafts and harassed him greatly.
But one of Abhimanyu's arrows felled Karna's bow and the young warrior followed up this advantage so vigorously that he put Karna and his supporters to flight. The Kaurava forces, when they saw this, were completely demoralised.
The army was in confusion and men fled in all directions, not caring for Drona's shouts of remonstrance. And Abhimanyu destroyed those that stood, as fire destroys a dry jungle in summer.
The Death Of Abhimanyu
THE Pandavas, proceeding according to plan, had closely followed Abhimanyu when he broke into the Kaurava formation. But Dhritarashtra's son-in-law Jayadratha, the gallant king of the Sindhus, swooped down upon the Pandavas with all his forces and enabled the breach in the formation to be effectively and solidly closed up, so that the Pandavas found it impossible to force their way in.
Yudhishthira hurled a javelin and cut Jayadratha's bow. But in an instant, the Saindhava took up another bow and sent unerring shafts at Dharmaputra.
Bhimasena's arrows made deadly work, crashing down the canopy and flagstaff of Jayadratha's car. But the Saindhava, was alert and rearmed himself, each time his equipment was broken. He killed Bhima's chariot horses, and the latter had to go into Satyaki's car.
In this manner, Jayadratha, with stubborn valor, prevented the Pandavas from entering in Abhimanyu's wake. The young hero was thus isolated and surrounded by the Kaurava forces.
The son of Subhadra was however undaunted. He attacked all the warriors around him and slew them in great number. Like rivers losing themselves in the ocean, the soldiers that went to attack him, disappeared before his arrows. The Kaurava army reeled under Abhimanyu's onslaughts.
Duryodhana's son Lakshmana, a gallant young warrior, then charged on Abhimanyu. When they saw this, retreating soldiers came back and supported Lakshmana, showering arrows on Abhimanyu, like rain falling on a hill.
Still, Arjuna's son was undaunted and, his shaft came swift and shining, like a serpent fresh-sloughed, and pierced Lakshmana. The handsome youth, with beautiful nose and eyebrows and hair, lay dead on the field and the Kaurava soldiers were filled with grief.
"To hell with the wicked Abhimanyu," shouted Duryodhana, and the six great warriors, Dorna, Kripa, Karna, Aswatthama, Brihatbala and Kritavarma closed upon Abhimanyu.
"It is impossible to pierce this youth's armor," said Drona to Karna. "Aim at the reins of his horses and cut them off. Disable him thus and attack him from behind."
The son of Surya did accordingly. Abhimanyu's bow was broken by a shaft discharged from behind. His horses and charioteer were killed. Thus disabled, the young warrior stood on the field, with sword and shield, facing his enemies.
As he stood dauntless like kshatriya dharma incarnate, he filled the warriors around with amazement. Whirling his sword, he held his own against the numerous warriors who had surrounded him, with a skill that confounded them.
It seemed to them as if his feet did not rest on earth and he was on wings, in the air. Drona sent a shaft that broke Abhimanyu's sword. Karna's sharp arrows tore his shield into bits.
Then Abhimanyu bent down and taking up one of his chariot wheels and whirling it like a discus, stood up facing all the enemies that surrounded him.
The dust from the chariot wheel covered him and the poet says it enhanced the natural beauty of the young hero. He fought fiercely like a second Vishnu with the discus.
But soon, the combined onslaught of the warriors that surrounded him overpowered him. The chariot wheel was shattered to pieces. The son of Duhsasana came up then and closed with him in mortal combat.
Both went down together but Duhsasana's son rose again and, while Abhimanyu was struggling to his feet, struck him with his mace and killed him.
"Subhadra's son who, like an elephant in a lily pond, single-handed worked havoc in the Kaurava army, was thus overpowered by numbers and killed cruelly," said Sanjaya to Dhritarashtra.
"And, having killed him, your people danced around his dead body like savage hunters exulting over their prey. All good men in the army were grieved and tears rolled from their eyes. Even the birds of prey, that circled overhead making noises seemed to cry 'Not thus!' 'Not thus!' "
While there was blowing of conchs and cries of victory all over the Kaurava army, Yuyutsu, the son of Dhritarashtra, did not approve of all this. "This is ignoble," he angrily cried.
"Soldiers, you have forgotten your code. Verily, you should be ashamed but, instead, you shout brazen cries of victory. Having committed a most wicked deed, you revel in foolish joy, blind to the danger that is imminent."
So saying, Yuyutsu threw his weapon away in disgust and left the battlefield. This young son of Dhritarashtra feared sin. His words were not sweet in the Kaurava ears, but he was a good man and spoke out his mind.
A Father's Grief
YUDHISHTHIRA was plunged in sorrow. "He has gone to the sleep that knows no waking, he who in battle overcame Drona, Aswatthama and Duryodhana and who was like a destroying fire to enemy forces. O warrior that made Duhsasana flee in fear, are you dead? What then is there for me to fight for or win? Why do we want kingdom now? What words of comfort can I offer to Arjuna? And what shall I say to Subhadra, quivering like a cow bereaved of her calf? How can I utter to them vain words of solace that serve no purpose? Truly, ambition destroys the understanding of men. Like the fool who, looking for honey, falls into a precipitous pit below and is destroyed, in my desire for victory I pushed to the battlefront this boy, whose life was all before him in love and joy. There is no fool like me in the world. I have killed Arjuna's beloved son, instead of protecting him during the absence of his father."
Thus was Yudhishthira lamenting in histent. Around him were sitting warriors, silent in sorrowful thought of the valor of the youthful hero and his cruel death. It was always the custom with Vyasa to come and comfort the Pandavas, whenever they were in great sorrow.
He was their great teacher as well as grandsire. So he appeared now before Yudhishthira. The sage was received with all honor and Yudhishthira, having made him sit, said: "I have tried very hard to find peace of mind, but I am unable to find it."
"You are wise and a knower," said Vyasa, "and it is not meet that you should allow yourself to be lost in grief in this manner. Knowing the nature of death, it is not right that you should grieve like the unlearned."
Vyasa proceeded to console the bereaved Dharmaputra: "When Brahma created living beings, he was filled with anxiety. These lives will multiply and soon their number will be beyond the capacity of the earth to bear. There seems to be no way of coping with this. This thought of Brahma grew into a flame which became bigger and bigger until it threatened to destroy all creation at once. Then Rudra came and pleaded for allaying this destructive fire. Brahma controlled the great fire and subdued it into the law that is known to mortals as Death. This law of the creator takes many forms, such as war or sickness or accident and keeps the balance between birth and death. Death is thus an inescapable law of existence, ordained for the good of the world. It is not true wisdom to be impatient with Death or to grieve immoderately for those who die. There is no reason to pity those who pass away. We may have reason indeed to grieve for those who remain." After saying these words of solace, Krishna Dwaipayana retired.
Dhananjaya and Krishna were proceeding towards their camp after defeating and slaying the samsaptakas.
"Govinda, I do not know why," said Arjuna, "but my mind is not at ease. My mouth feels parched and my heart is troubled with a great foreboding of loss. I wonder if any calamity has happened to Yudhishthira. Something makes me afraid, Krishna."
"Do not be concerned about Yudhishthira," replied Krishna."He and your other brothers are safe." On the way, they halted and did the evening prayers. Remounting the chariot, they proceeded to the camp. As they approached the camp, Arjuna's premonitions of calamity increased.
"Janardana, we do not hear the usual auspicious music in the camp. The soldiers, seeing me from a distance, hang down their heads and avoid my sight. This is strange behavior on their part. O Madhava, I fear greatly. Do you think my brothers are safe? I am confused. How is it Abhimanyu does not run out to meet us today as usual, accompanied by his brothers?"
They entered the camp.
"Why are you all wearing sad faces? I do not see Abhimanyu here. How is it I see no glad faces? I understood that Drona arrayed his army in the lotus formation. No one among you could pierce it as far as I know. Did Abhimanyu force his way in? If so, he is dead, for I did not teach him how to make his way out of that formation. Has he been slain indeed?"
When their mournful silence, and downcast eyes, that dared not meet his, had confirmed his worst fears, the bereaved father burst into heart-broken lamentation.
"Alas, has my dear boy indeed become Yama's guest? Yudhishthira, Bhimasena, Dhrishtadyumna and great Satyaki have all of you allowed the son of Subhadra to be slain by the enemy? Alas! What comfort shall I give to Subhadra? What shall. I say to Draupadi? And what solace can be given to Uttara and who shall give it?"
Vasudeva spoke to his stricken friend. "Beloved Arjuna," he said, "do not give way thus to grief. Born as kshatriyas we have to live and die by weapons. Death is ever the companion of those who have taken up the profession of arms and go into battle, determined not to retreat. Warriors must be ever ready to die young. Abhimanyu, boy as he was, has attained the happy regions above which grey haired veterans yearn to reach in battle. Abhimanyu's end is indeed the prescribed and much desired goal of all kshatriyas. If you give way to grief in this inordinate way, your brothers and other kings will lose heart. Stop grieving and infuse courage and fortitude into the hearts of the others,"
Dhananjaya desired to be told the full story of his brave son's end and Yudhishthira related it: "I incited Abhimanyu to enter the enemy's formation. For I knew that he alone could do it among all of us. 'Make your way into the lotus array and we shall follow immediately behind you. This great deed of yours will please the hearts of your father and your uncle,' I said. The youthful hero did accordingly and broke the great formation and made his way in. We went behind him according to plan. But, just then, the wicked Jayadratha came and effectively stopped us. He caused the breach in the formation to be closed up at once and we found ourselves unable to follow Abhimanyu. The Sindhu kept us out, and then, Oh, shame on kshatriyas who could do this! A crowd of redoubtable warriors hemmed him in, thus isolated, and slew him."
When he heard the full story, Arjuna was again over whelmed by grief and he fell on the ground in a swoon.
When he recovered, he took an oath: "Before sunset tomorrow, I shall slay this Jayadratha who caused my son's death. If Drona and Kripa come between him and me these acharyas also shall be overwhelmed and slain!"
Saying this, he twanged the Gandiva string, and Krishna blew the Panchajanya. And Bhima said:
"This twang of Arjuna's bow and this blare of Krishna's conch shall be, unto the sons of Dhritarashtra, the summons of Death!"
The Sindhu King
NEWS of Arjuna's oath reached the enemy. The spies informed Duryodhana's friends that Arjuna, having learnt that Jayadratha was the cause of Abhimanyu's death, had vowed to kill the Sindhu king before sunset next day.
Vriddhakshatra, the illustrious king of the Sindhus, was blessed with a son, who was named Jayadratha. At the time of the birth of the prince, a voice was heard to say: "This prince will attain great glory and he will attain the happy regions above, slain in battle. One who, among the warriors of all ages, ranks among the most illustrious will, in the field of battle, sever his head from the body."
All living beings must die but hardly any, however wise or brave, welcome it. Vriddhakshatra was grieved to hear the voice declare his son's end.
In his disturbed state of mind, he uttered a curse: "He, who shall cause my son's head to roll down on the ground, shall have his head burst at that very moment into fragments."
Jayadratha grew up and, when he reached manhood, Vriddhakshatra handed over the care of the State to the prince. He retired to the forest, where he spent the evening of his days in austerities in an ashrama near the plain, which afterwards became the Kurukshetra field of battle.
When Jayadratha came to know about Arjuna's vow, he remembered the prediction about his death and feared his end was near.
"I do not want to be in this battle any longer. Let me go back to my country," he said to Duryodhana.
"Do not fear, Saindhava," replied Duryodhana. "Here are all these veterans and warriors who will stand between you and danger. Karna, Chitrasena, Vivimsati, Bhurisravas, Salya, Vrishasena, Purumitra, Jaya, Bhoja, Kamboja, Sudakshina, Satyavrata, Vikarna, Durmukha, Duhsasana, Subahu, Kalinga, the Avanti princes, Drona, Drona's illustrious son and Sakuni all these warriors and I myself are here and you cannot be in danger. The whole of my army will have but one task today, to defend you against Arjuna. You should not leave us now." Jayadratha agreed to remain. He went to Drona and said to him:
"Master, you taught me and Arjuna and you know us both well. What is your appraisal of us two?"
"Son, I discharged my duties as teacher and dealt with you both impartially. The instruction was the same to you and to Arjuna, but Arjuna excels because of his superior discipline and his own practice. But, you need not be discouraged by this. You will be placed behind a strong force that Arjuna cannot easily pierce. Fight according to the tradition of your ancestors. Death comes to us all, cowards as well as brave men. And the warrior dying in battle attains with ease the happy regions which others only attain with great difficulty. Discard fear and fight."
Drona, having spoken thus to Jayadratha, proceeded to marshal the forces for the next day. Twelve miles to the rear of the main army Jayadratha and his detachment were placed in a strongly guarded position.
Bhurisravas, Karna, Aswatthama, Salya, Vrishasena and Kripa were there with all their forces. Between them and the Pandava army, Dronacharya arrayed the main Kaurava forces in circular formation.
Durmarshana's army was beaten. Like clouds driven about by a gale, the Kaurava forces were scattered and fled in all directions. When Duhsasana saw this, his anger rose.
Leading a huge force of elephants he surrounded Arjuna. Duhsasana was a very wicked man but he was brave also. He fought Arjuna fiercely and the field was strewn with the dead. Finally, he withdrew defeated and went back to join Drona's forces.
Savyasachi's car swiftly proceeded forward and passed Drona. "Illustrious one, grieving for my son, I have come to wreak vengeance on the Sindhu king. I crave your blessings for the fulfilment of my vow," said Arjuna to the acharya.
The acharya smiled and said: "Arjuna, you must first fight and defeat me before you can reach Jayadratha." Saying this Drona discharged a shower of arrows on Arjuna's car. Partha also replied with his arrows but these the acharya parried with ease and sent flaming shafts that hit Krishna and Arjuna.
The Pandava then decided to cut Drona's bow and bent his Gandiva for that purpose. Even as he was pulling his bowstring Drona's shaft came and cut the string.
The acharya, still retaining the smile on his face, rained a shower of arrows on Arjuna and his horses and chariot. Arjuna fought back, but the acharya showered his arrows that covered Arjuna and his chariot in darkness.
Krishna saw things were not going at all well and said: "Partha, no more waste of time. Let us proceed. It is no use fighting this brahmana, who seems to know no fatigue." Saying this, Krishna drove Arjuna's chariot to the left of the acharya and proceeded forward.
"Stop, surely you will not proceed without defeating your enemy," said Drona.
"You are my guru, not my enemy, O acharya. I am in the position of a son to you. There is no one in the wide world that can defeat you," said Arjuna and they proceeded forward at a swift pace bypassing Drona.
Then Arjuna pierced the Bhoja army. Kritavarma and Sudakshina who opposed his passage were defeated. Srutayudha also tried to stop Arjuna's progress. There was a fierce battle in which Srutayudha lost his horses and he hurled his mace at Krishna.
His mother had obtained this mace as a result of her offering but the condition attached to the boon operated and it came back and struck Srutayudha himself dead. This is the story of the mace.
Parnasa went through penances that pleased Varuna and obtained from that god a boon that her son Srutayudha may not be killed by any enemy.
"I shall give your son a divine weapon. Let him use it in all his battles. No enemy will be able to defeat him or kill him. But he should not use the weapon against one who does not fight. If he does, the weapon will recoil and kill him. Saying this, god Varuna gave a mace. Srutayudha, when fighting Arjuna, disregarding the injunction, hurled the mace at Krishna who was not fighting but was only driving Arjuna's chariot.
The missile hit Janardana's chest and immediately rebounded fiercely back to Srutayudha. And like a demon recoiling fatally on the magician, that commits an error in uttering the spell of power that holds it in thrall, it slew Srutayudha and laid him dead on the field, like a great forest tree blown down by a storm.
Then the king of Kamboja led his forces against Arjuna. After a fierce fight, he lay stretched dead on the field like a great flagstaff after the festival is over.
When they saw the strong warriors, Srutayudha and the king of Kamboja, slain, the Kaurava force was in great confusion.
Srutayu and his brother Asrutayu then attacked Partha on both sides trying to save the situation, and greatly harassed him. At one stage of this battle, Arjuna leaned on the flagstaff, dazed with the wounds he received.
But Krishna spoke to him encouragingly and Arjuna recovered and resumed the fight, slaying the two brothers as well as their two sons who continued the struggle. Arjuna marched on and, killing many more warriors successfully made his way to Jayadratha.
WHEN Dhritarashtra heard Sanjaya relate the success of Arjuna, he exclaimed: "Oh Sanjaya! When Janardana came to Hastinapura seeking a settlement, I told Duryodhana that it was a great opportunity and he must not lose it. I told him to make peace with his cousins. 'Kesava has come to do us a good turn. Do not disregard his advice,' I said. But Duryodhana heeded not. What Karna and Duhsasana said seemed to him better advice than mine. The Destroyer entered his mind and he sought his own ruin. Drona deprecated war, so also did Bhishma, Bhurisravas, Kripa and others. But my obstinate son would not listen. Impelled by inordinate ambition, he got entangled in anger and hatred, and invited this ruinous war."
To Dhritarashtra thus lamenting, Sanjaya said: "Of what avail are your regrets now? The life-giving water has all run to waste and you now seek to stop the breach. Why did you not prevent the son of Kunti from gambling? Had you done the right thing then, all this great grief would have been stopped at the source. Even later, if you had been firm and stopped your son from his evil ways, this calamity could have been avoided. You saw the evil and yet, against your own sound judgment, you followed the foolish advice of Karna and Sakuni. Kesava, Yudhishthira and Drona do not respect you now as they did before. Vasudeva now knows that your rectitude is only hypocrisy. The Kauravas are now doing their utmost as warriors, but they are unequal to opposing the strength of Arjuna, Krishna, Satyaki and Bhima. Duryodhana has not spared himself. He is putting forth his utmost strength. It is not meet that you should now accuse him or his devoted soldiers."
"Dear Sanjaya, I admit my dereliction of duty. What you say is right. No one can change the course of fate. Tell me what happened. Tell me all, be it ever so unpleasant," said the old king convulsed with grief. And obedient to the old king's behest, Sanjaya continued his narration.
Duryodhana was greatly agitated when he saw Arjuna's chariot proceeding triumphantly towards the Sindhu king. He rushed to Drona and complained bitterly:
"Arjuna has effected a breach in the great army and has advanced to Jayadratha's position. Seeing our discomfiture, the warriors, protecting the Sindhu king, will surely lose heart. They had believed that it was impossible for Arjuna to get past you and that has now been falsified. He advanced before your eyes and nothing was done to prevent it. You seem indeed bent on helping the Pandavas. I am in great distress of mind. Sir, tell me, in what matter have I offended you? Why are you letting me down in this way? If I had known that you would do this, I should not have asked Jayadratha to stay here. It was a great mistake I committed in not letting him go, as he desired, back to his own country. If Arjuna attacks him, it is not possible for him to escape death. Forgive me. I am talking foolishly, distracted by grief. Do go in person yourself to save the Saindhava."
To this frantic appeal Drona made answer: "King, I shall not take offence at your thoughtless and unworthy remarks. You are like a son to me. Aswatthama himself is not dearer! Do what I ask you. Take this coat of armor and, donning it, go and stop Arjuna. I cannot do so for my presence is necessary in this part of the field. See there, the clouds of arrows! The Pandava army is attacking us in great force. Yudhishthira is here unsupported by Arjuna and is this not just the opportunity we wanted? Our very plan has borne fruit and I must now take Yudhishthira prisoner and deliver him to you. I cannot give up this objective and run after Phalguna now. If I go after Arjuna now, our battle array will be hopelessly broken and we shall be lost. Let me put this armor on you. Go in confidence. Do not fear. You have valor, skill and experience. This coat will protect you against all weapons. It will not let any blow pass through your body. Go forth to battle, Duryodhana, in confidence as Indra did, clad in the armor given by Brahma. May victory be yours." Duryodhana's confidence was restored and, as the acharya directed, he went, dressed in magic armor and accompanied by a large force of soldiers, to attack Arjuna.
Arjuna had crossed the Kaurava army and gone far ahead towards where Jayadratha had been kept for safety. Seeing that the horses were somewhat fatigued, Krishna stopped the chariot and was about to unyoke the tired animals, when the brothers Vinda and Anuvinda came up suddenly and began to attack Arjuna.
They were defeated and Arjuna scattered their forces and slew them both. After this, Krishna unyoked the chariot and let the horses roll in the mud. The horses rested for a while and were refreshed. Then, they proceeded again according to plan.
"Dhananjaya, look behind! There comes the foolhardy Duryodhana. What good luck! Long have you suppressed your anger, and now is the time for you to let yourself go. Here is the man who caused all this grief, delivering himself into your hands. But remember he is a great archer, well-versed in bow lore, and also a keen and strong-limbed fighter." Thus said Krishna and they halted to give battle to the Kaurava.
Duryodhana approached without fear.
"They say, Arjuna, that you have done acts of prowess. I have not seen this myself. Let me see if your courage and your skill are indeed as great as your reputation," said Duryodhana to Arjuna as he began to battle.
The combat was fierce indeed and Krishna was surprised.
"Partha, I am astonished," said Krishna, "How is it your arrows do not seem to hurt Duryodhana? This is the first time I see the shafts proceeding from the Gandiva bow strike their targets without effect. This is strange, Have your arms lost their power? Or has the Gandiva bow lost its quality? Why do your arrows strike Duryodhana and drop to the ground without piercing him? This is most puzzling."
Arjuna smiled and replied: "I understand. This man has come dressed by Drona in charmed armor. The acharya has taught me the secret of this armor, but this man wears it as a bullock might do. You will see some fun now!"
Saying thus, Arjuna proceeded to shoot his arrows, first depriving Duryodhana of his horses, his charioteer and his car. Then, Arjuna broke his bow and disarmed him completely. There after he sent needle-eye darts which pierced just those parts of Duryodhana's body that were not covered by armor, until he could bear it no longer and turned and fled.
When Duryodhana was thus discomfited, Krishna blew his conch and it sent a thrill of fear in Jayadratha's army. The warriors around the Sindhu king were surprised. They at once got ready in their chariots and Bhurisravas, Chala, Karna, Vrishasena, Kripa, Salya, Aswatthama and Jayadratha, eight of them, arrayed their forces against Arjuna.
WHEN the Pandavas saw Duryodhana proceeding in the direction of Arjuna, they attacked the Kaurava army in force so as to hold Drona and prevent him from going to Jayadratha's rescue.
So, Dhrishtadyumna led his forces repeatedly against Drona. As a result of all this, the Kaurava army had to fight on three fronts, and was greatly weakened.
Driving his chariot right against Drona's, Dhrishtadyumna attacked him violently. Drona's chestnut horses and the Panchala's dove-colored ones were entangled with one another and presented a picturesque sight like the clouds at sunset.
Dhrishtadyumna threw away his bow and, sword and shield in hand, he sprang upon Drona's chariot. Now standing on the shafts of the vehicle, now on the horses and now on the yoke, he attacked Drona bewilderingly, all the while seeming to scorch him with baleful and bloodshot eyes.
Long did this fight go on. Drona pulled his bow in great wrath and sent a shaft, which would have drunk the Panchala's life but for the unexpected intervention of Satyaki who sent an arrow and diverted the acharya's shaft.
Drona then turned and attacked Satyaki, which enabled the Panchala warriors to take Dhrishtadyumna away. Drona, hissing like a black cobra, his eyes red with anger, advanced on Satyaki who was among the front rank warriors on the Pandava side and who, when he saw Drona desiring battle, went forward to accept the challenge.
"Here is the man who, giving up his vocation as a brahmana has taken up the profession of fighting and is causing distress to the Pandavas," Satyaki said to his charioteer. "This man is the principal cause of Duryodhana's arrogance. This man fancies himself a very great soldier and is ever bursting with conceit. I must teach him a lesson. Take the chariot up quickly."
Satyaki's charioteer accordingly lashed the silver-white horses and took the car at a great pace. Satyaki and Drona shot shafts at one another so quick that they covered the sun, and the battlefield was in darkness for a while. The steel shafts swished glimmering like newly-sloughed snakes rushing about.
The chariot hoods and the flagstaffs on both sides were battered down. Drona as well as Satyaki were bleeding profusely. The warriors on either side stood still watching the duel and they did not blow their conchs or raise their war cries or sound their lion-roars.
The Devas, Vidyadharas, Gandharvas and Yakshas watched the great battle from above. Drona's bow was broken by a well-aimed shaft from Satyaki, and the son of Bharadwaja had to take another bow and, even as he strung it, Satyaki shot it down again. Drona took up another bow that too was shot down.
And so it went on till Drona lost a hundred and one bows without being able to shoot an arrow. The great acharya said to himself: "This man Satyaki is a warrior in the class of Sri Rama, Kartavirya, Dhananjaya and Bhishma,"and was glad he had an opponent worthy of him.
It was a craftsman's professional joy at skill displayed in the art he loved. For every specially-charged shaft that Drona sent, Satyaki had a ready answer of equivalent quality. Long did this equal combat continue. Drona of unrivalled skill in archery then resolved on killing Satyaki and sent the fire astra. But Satyaki saw this and, losing no time, sent the Varuna astra to counteract it.
But now Satyaki's strength began to fail and, seeing this, the Kaurava warriors were glad and shouted in satisfaction. When Yudhishthira saw Satyaki was hard pressed, he told those nearby to go to Satyaki's relief. "Our great and good hero Yuyudhana (Satyaki) is being overpowered by Drona. You should go there at once," he said to Dhrishtadyumna.
"The brahmana will otherwise slay Satyaki in a few minutes. Why are you hesitating? Go at once. Drona is playing with Satyaki as a cat plays with a bird. Satyaki is indeed in the paws of the Destroyer." Yudhishthira ordered the army to make a powerful attack on Drona. Satyaki was saved with difficulty. Just then, the sound of Krishna's conch was heard from the sector where Arjuna was fighting.
"O Satyaki, I hear Panchajanya," cried Yudhishthira; "but the twang of Arjuna's bow does not accompany it. I fear Arjuna has been surrounded by Jayadratha's friends and is in danger. Arjuna is opposed by forces both in front of him and in his rear. He pierced the Kaurava ranks in the morning and he has not come back yet though the greater part of the day is gone. How is it that only Krishna's conch is heard? I fear Dhananjaya has been slain and therefore Krishna has taken up arms. Satyaki, there is nothing you cannot accomplish. Your bosom friend Arjuna, he, who taught you, is in mortal danger. Often has Arjuna spoken to me admiringly of your great skill and prowess. 'There is not another soldier like Satyaki,' he said to me when we were in the forest. Oh, look there! The dust is rising that side. I am certain Arjuna has been surrounded. Jayadratha is a powerful warrior, and there are many enemy warriors there helping him and resolved to die in defence of him. Go at once, Satyaki." Thus did Dharmaputra speak in great trepidation.
Satyaki, who was weary after his battle with Drona, replied: "Faultless among men, I shall obey your command. What would I not do for Dhananjaya's sake? My life is the merest trifle in my eyes. If you order me, I am ready to fight the gods themselves. But allow me to put before you what the wise Vasudeva and Arjuna told me when they left. 'Until we return after slaying Jayadratha you should not leave Yudhishthira's side. Be vigilant in protecting him. We entrust this to you in confidence and go. There is only one warrior in the Kaurava army whom we fear, and he is Drona. You know his sworn intention. We go leaving Dharmaputra's safety in our hands.' Thus said Vasudeva and Arjuna to me when they went. Arjuna laid this trust on me, believing me fit for it. How can I disregard his command? Do not have any fear about Arjuna's safety. No one can defeat him. The Sindhu king and the others cannot cope with a sixteenth part of Arjuna. Dharmaputra, to whom shall I entrust your safety if I must go? I see no one here who can stand against Drona if he comes to seize you. Do not ask me to go. Consider well before you command me to leave."
"Satyaki," replied Yudhishthira, "I have thought over it. As I have weighed the danger against the need and I have concluded that you must go. You leave me with my full permission. Here is the powerful Bhima to look to my safety. There is Dhrishtadyumna also, and there are many others besides. There is no need to worry about me."
So saying, Yudhishthira placed a boxful of arrows and other weapons in Satyaki's chariot and got fresh horses yoked thereto and sent Satyaki uttering benedictions on him.
"Bhimasena, Yudhishthira is your charge. Be vigilant," said Satyaki, and went to join Dhananjaya.
Satyaki met with violent resistance as he proceeded to dash through the Kaurava forces. But he cut his way through bearing down all opposition. But the resistance was very stiff and his progress was slow.
When Drona saw Satyaki part from Yudhishthira, he began to assault the Pandava formation without rest or interval, until it began to break and retreat. Yudhishthira was greatly agitated.
Yudhishthira's Fond Hope
"ARJUNA has not returned, nor has Satyaki, who was sent after him. Bhima, my fear grows. I hear the Panchajanya, but not the twang of Arjuna's bowstring. Satyaki, that bravest and most loyal of friends, has not come back with any tidings. My anxiety is increasing every moment," said Yudhishthira to Bhima in great perplexity of mind.
"I have never seen you so agitated," replied Bhimasena. "Do, not let your fortitude grow less. Command me as you please. Do not let the wheels of your mind stick in the mud of anxiety."
"Dearest Bhima, I fear your brother has been slain, and it seems to me Madhava has now himself taken up arms. I hear the conch of Madhava but I hear not the resounding twang of Gandiva. I fear Dhananjaya, the unrivalled hero, in whom were centerd all our hopes, has been killed. My mind is confused. If you would do as I tell you, go at once to where Arjuna is. Join him and Satyaki, and do what needs to be done, and come back. Satyaki, under orders from me, pierced the Kaurava ranks and proceeded in the direction of Arjuna. You go now, and do likewise and, if you indeed see them alive, I shall know it by your lion-roar."
"My Lord, do not grieve. I shall go and let you know they are safe," said Bhima, and immediately turning to Dhrishtadyumna said: "Panchala, you know very well that Drona is seeking, by some means or other, to seize Dharmaputra alive. Our foremost duty is to protect the King. But I must also obey him and fulfil his command. And so I go, trusting him to your care."
"Bhima, do not be concerned. Go with an assured mind. Drona cannot take Yudhishthira without first killing me," said the heroic son of Drupada, sworn enemy of Drona. And Bhima hurried away.
The Kauravas surrounded Bhima in full force and vowed to prevent him from going to Arjuna's relief. But like a lion scattering less noble beasts he put his enemies to flight, killing no less than eleven of the sons of Dhritarashtra. Bhima then approached Drona himself. "Stop," cried Drona. "Here I am, your enemy. You cannot proceed further without defeating me. Your brother Arjuna went in with my consent. But I cannot let you go." Drona spoke thus believing that he would receive the same courtesy from Bhima as he did from Arjuna. But Bhima was furious at hearing these words of Drona, and answered scornfully.
"Oh brahmana, it was not with your permission that Arjuna went. He broke your resistance and pierced your battle lines fighting his way through, but he did not hurt you out of pity. But I shall not, like Arjuna, show mercy to you. I am your enemy. Once upon a time, you were our preceptor and were like a father to us. We respected you as such. Now, you have yourself said you are our enemy. May it be so!" Saying this, Bhima aimed his mace at Drona's chariot that crumbled to pieces. And Drona had to take to another chariot.
The second chariot too was broken to pieces. And Bhima forced his way through overcoming all opposition. Drona lost eight chariots that day. And the army of the Bhojas, that tried to stop Bhima, was completely destroyed.
He proceeded mowing down all opposition and reached where Arjuna was fighting Jayadratha's forces.
As soon as he saw Arjuna, Bhima roared like a lion. Hearing that roar, Krishna and Arjuna were exceedingly pleased and raised yells of joy. Yudhishthira heard these roars and, relieved of his doubts and anxieties, he pronounced blessings on Arjuna. And he thought within himself:
"Before the sun sets today, Arjuna's oath will be fulfilled. He will slay the man who caused Abhimanyu's death and will return in triumph. Duryodhana may sue for peace after Jayadratha's death. Seeing so many of his brothers slain, it is possible that foolish Duryodhana may see light. The lives of numerous kings and great warriors have been sacrificed on the field of battle and even the stubborn and narrow-visioned Duryodhana may now see his fault and ask for peace. Will this indeed happen? The great grandsire Bhishma has been offered as a sacrifice. Will this wicked enmity end with it and shall we be saved from further cruel destruction?"
While thus Yudhishthira was fondly hoping and dreaming of peace, the battle was raging with great fury where Bhima, Satyaki and Arjuna were engaging the enemy.
Only the Lord knows through what travail the world must evolve. His ways are inscrutable.
Karna And Bhima
ARJUNA had left Yudhishthira behind to repel Drona's attacks and had gone to make good his word that before sunset Jayadratha would lie dead on the field of battle.
Jayadratha had been the main cause of Abhimanyu's death. He it was who had effectively prevented the relief of Abhimanyu by the Pandavas, and thereby caused Abhimanyu to be isolated, overpowered and slain.
We have seen how Yudhishthira in his anxiety sent first Satyaki and then Bhima to join Arjuna in his battle against Jayadratha. Bhima reached where Arjuna was engaged and sounded his simhanada (lion-roar). Dharmaputra heard the lion-roar of Bhima and knew that Arjuna was found alive.
It was the fourteenth day and the battle raged fiercely at many points, between Satyaki and Bhurisravas at one place, between Bhima and Karna at another and between Arjuna and Jayadratha at a third.
Drona remained at the main front resisting the attack of the Panchalas and the Pandavas, and leading a counter-offensive against them.
Duryodhana arrived with his forces at the sector where Arjuna attacked Jayadratha, but was soon defeated and turned back. The battle thus raged long and furiously on more than one front. The armies were so deployed that each side was exposed to danger in its rear.
Duryodhana was speaking to Drona:
"Arjuna, Bhima and Satyaki have treated us with contempt and proceeded successfully to Jayadratha's sector and they are pressing hard on the Sindhu king. It is indeed strange that, under your command, our battle array should have been broken and our plans completely foiled. Everyone asks how it is that the great Drona with all his mastery of the science of war has been so badly outmaneuvered. What answer shall I make? I have been betrayed by you."
Duryodhana thus, once again, bitterly reproached Drona, who replied unperturbed:
"Duryodhana, your accusations are as unworthy as they are contrary to truth. There is nothing to be gained by talking about what is past and beyond repair. Think of what is to be done now."
"Sir, it is for you to advise me. Tell me what should be done. Give your best consideration to the difficulties of the situation and decide and let us do it quickly." Puzzled and perplexed, thus did Duryodhana plead.
Drona replied: "My son, the situation is no doubt serious. Three great generals have advanced, outmanoeuvring us. But they have as much reason to be anxious as we, for their rear is now left as open to attack as ours. We are on both sides of them and their position is not therefore safe. Be heartened, go up to Jayadratha again, and do all you can to support him. It is of no avail to dishearten oneself by dwelling on past defeats and difficulties. It is best I stay here and send you reinforcements as and when required. I must keep the Panchalas and Pandava army engaged here. Otherwise, we shall be wholly destroyed."
Accordingly, Duryodhana went with fresh reinforcements again to where Arjuna was directing his attack on Jayadratha.
The narrative of the fourteenth day's fighting at Kurukshetra shows that, even in the Mahabharata times, the modern tactics of turning and enveloping movements was not unknown.
The advantages and risks of such strategy appear to have been fully understood and discussed even in those days. Arjuna's flanking manoeuvres perplexed his enemies greatly. The story of that day's battle between Bhima and Karna reads very much like a chapter from the narrative of a modern war.
Bhima did not desire to fight Karna or remain long engaged with him. He was eager to reach where Arjuna was. But Radheya would, by no means, permit him to do this. He showered his arrows on Bhimasena and stopped him from proceeding.
The contrast between the two warriors was striking. Karna's handsome lotus-like face was radiant with smiles when he attacked Bhima saying: "Do not show your back," "Now, do not flee like a coward," and so on.
Bhima was all anger when taunted in this manner. He was maddened by Karna's smiles. The battle was fierce but Karna did everything with a smiling air of ease whereas Bhima's face glowed with rage and his movements were violent.
Karna would keep at a distance and send his well-aimed shafts but Bhima would disregard the arrows and javelins failing thick upon him and always try to close with Karna.
Radheya did everything he did, calmly and with graceful ease, whereas Bhimasena fumed and fretted with impatience, as he showed his amazing strength of limb.
Bhima was red with bleeding wounds all over and presented the appearance of an Asoka tree in full blossom. But he minded them not, as he attacked Karna cutting bows in twain and smashing his chariot.
When Karna had to run for a fresh chariot, there was no smile on his face. For anger rose in him, like the sea on a full moon day, as he attacked Bhima. Both showed the strength of tigers and the speed of eagles and their anger was now like that of serpents in a fury.
Bhima brought before his mind all the insults and injuries which he and his brothers and Draupadi had suffered, and fought desperately, caring not for life.
The two cars dashed against each other and the milk white horses of Karna's chariot and Bhimasena's black horses jostled in the combat like clouds in a thunderstorm.
Karna's bow was shattered and his charioteer reeled and fell. Karna then hurled a javelin at Bhima. But Bhima parried it and continued pouring his arrows on Karna, who had taken up a fresh bow.
Again and again did Karna lose his chariot. Duryodhana saw Karna's plight and calling his brother Durjaya said: "This wicked Pandava will kill Karna. Go at once and attack Bhima and save Karna's life."
Durjaya went as ordered and attacked Bhima who, in a rage sent seven shafts which sent Durjaya's horses and his charioteer to the abode of Yama and Durjaya himself fell mortally wounded.
Seeing his bleeding body wriggling on the ground like a wounded snake, Karna was overwhelmed with grief and circled round the hero, paying mournful honor to the dead.
Bhima did not stop but continued the fight and greatly harassed Karna. Karna once again had to find a fresh chariot. He sent well aimed shafts and hit Bhima who in a fury hurled his mace at Karna and it crashed on Karna's chariot and killed his charioteer and horses and broke the flagstaff. Karna now stood on the ground with bent bow.
Duryodhana now sent another brother to relieve Karna. Durmukha went accordingly and took Karna on his chariot.
Seeing yet another son of Dhritarashtra come to offer himself up to death, Bhima licked his lips in gusto and sent nine shafts on the newly arrived enemy. And, even as Karna climbed up to take his seat in the chariot, Durmukha's armor was broken and he fell lifeless.
When Karna saw the warrior bathed in blood and lying dead by his side, he was again overwhelmed with grief and stood motionless for a while.
Bhima relentlessly continued his attack on Karna. His sharp arrows pierced Karna's coat of armor and he was in pain.
But he too at once returned the attack and wounded Bhima all over.
Still the Pandava would not stop and attacked Karna furiously. The sight of so many of Duryodhana's brothers dying for his sake one after another was too much for Karna.
This, and the physical pain of his own wounds made him lose courage and he turned away defeated. But, when Bhima stood up on the field of battle red with wounds all over like a flaming fire and emitted a triumphant yell, he could not brook it but returned to the combat.
DHRITARASHTRA, hearing of the slaughter of his sons and the check received by Karna, was desolate. "O Sanjaya, like moths falling in the fire, my sons are being destroyed. The stubborn Duryodhana has led the lads Durmukha and Durjaya, to their doom. Alas, I have lost these boys! The fool said: 'Karna, unrivalled among men for courage and the accomplishment of war, is on our side. Who then can defeat us? Even the gods cannot win a battle against me when Karna is on my side. What can these Pandavas do to me?' But now he has seen Karna beating a retreat when Bhimasena attacked him. Has he seen wisdom at least now? Alas, Sanjaya, my son has earned the undying hatred of the son of Vayu, Bhima, who has the strength of the god of death! We are indeed ruined!"
Sanjaya replied: "O king, was it not you who brought about this unquenchable hatred, listening to the words of your foolish and stubborn son? To you indeed must be traced this greater disaster. You are now but reaping the fruit of your discarding the advice of Bhishma and the other elders. Blame yourself, king. Do not blame Karna and the brave warriors who have done their best in battle."
After thus admonishing the blind king, Sanjaya proceeded to tell him what happened. Five sons of Dhritarashtra, Durmarsha, Dussaha, Durmata, Durdhara and Jaya, when they saw Karna put to flight by Bhima at once rushed on the latter.
When Karna saw this, he was heartened and turned back to resume his attack. Bhimasena at first ignored the sons of Dhritarashtra and concentrated on Karna.
But they became so violent in their assault that Bhima got incensed and, turning his attentions on them, disposed of all five of them. They lay dead on the field, with their horses and their charioteers.
The young warriors with their bleeding wounds presented the appearance of a forest with trees, uprooted by a strong wind and lying flat on the ground with their beautiful red blossoms.
When Karna saw another batch of princes slaughtered for his sake he fought more grimly than ever before. Bhima too was more violent than before, thinking of all the evil that Karna had wrought against the Pandavas.
He used his bow so as to disarm Karna completely. His horses and charioteer were also laid low. Karna now jumped down from his chariot and hurled his mace at Bhima.
But Bhima warded it off with shafts from his powerful bow and covered Karna with a shower of arrows and forced him to turn back and walk on foot.
Duryodhana, who watched this combat, was greatly grieved and sent seven of his brothers Chitra, Upachitra, Chitraksha, Charuchitra, Sarasana, Chitrayudha and Chitravarman, to relieve Radheya.
They gave battle to Bhima displaying great skill and energy. But fell dead one after another, for Bhima's passion was roused and his attack was irresistible.
When Karna saw so many of the sons of Dhritarashtra sacrificing themselves for him, his face was wet with tears and he mounted a fresh chariot and began to attack Bhima with deadly effect.
The two combatants clashed like clouds in a thunderstorm. Kesava, Satyaki and Arjuna were filled with admiration and joy as they watched Bhima fighting.
Bhurisravas, Kripacharya, Aswatthama, Salya, Jayadratha and many other warriors of the Kaurava army also broke into exclamations, astonished at the way in which Bhima fought.
Duryodhana was stung to the quick and burned with anger. Karna's plight caused him extreme anxiety. He feared Bhima would kill Radheya that day, and sent seven more of his brothers directing them to surround Bhima and attack him simultaneously.
The seven brothers sent by Duryodhana attacked Bhima. But fell one after another, struck down by his arrows. Vikarna, who was killed last, was beloved of all.
When Bhima saw him fall dead after a brave fight, he was deeply moved and exclaimed: "Alas, O Vikarna, you were just and knew what was dharma! You fought in loyal obedience to the call of duty. I had to kill even you. Indeed this battle is a curse upon us wherein men like you and the grandsire Bhishma have had to be slaughtered."
Seeing Duryodhana's brothers, who came to help him, slain one after another in this manner, Karna was overwhelmed by anguish. He leant back on his seat in the chariot and closed his eyes unable to bear the sight.
Then recovering control over his emotions he hardened his heart and began again his attack on Bhima. Bow after bow was broken up by Bhimasena's shaft, but Karna kept the battle.
Eighteen times he had to take up a fresh bow. Karna had long ago discarded his smile and his face showed savage anger even as Bhima's. They now glared fiercely at each other as they fought.
Yudhishthira now heard Bhima's roar rise above the tumult of battle, and heartened by it, he fought Drona with increased vigor.
In the renewed and fierce battle between Bhima and Karna, Bhima lost his horses and charioteer. Soon his chariot also was smashed to pieces. Then, Bhima hurled his spear at Karna who was in his chariot and as Karna parried it with his shaft, Bhima advanced with sword and shield.
But Karna broke the shield at once with his shafts. Then, Bhima whirled his sword and hurled it, and it cut Karna's bow into two and fell on the ground. But Karna took up yet another bow and assailed Bhima with arrows more fiercely than before.
Bhima, in a fit of uncontrollable rage, sprang upon Karna. Radheya took cover behind his flagstaff and escaped destruction. Thereupon, Bhima jumped out of Karna's car down into the field of battle where, deprived of all arms, he used the elephants lying dead on the ground to protect himself from Karna's arrows and continued the fight.
He picked up anything he could lay hands upon, wheels of broken chariots, the limbs of horses and elephants that were lying about, and hurling them at Karna, kept him engaged without interval. But this could not long continue and Bhima was soon at a great disadvantage. Karna said exultingly:
"Foolish glutton, you do not know the science of war; why do you engage yourself in battle here? Go to the jungle and fill yourself with fruits and roots and grow fat. You are a savage, not fit for kshatriya battle. Get away!" Hurling insulting taunts at him, he made the helpless Bhima burn with rage, but mindful of his word to Kunti, refrained from killing him.
"There, Arjuna! See how poor Bhima is being harassed by Karna," said Krishna. Dhananjaya's eyes burned red with wrath, when he saw the plight of his valiant brother.
He bent his Gandiva bow and discharged his arrows on Karna who then gladly turned his attentions from Bhima to Arjuna. He had pledged his word to Kunti not to kill more than one of the Pandavas and he reserved that option for the great Arjuna.
"THERE comes the valorous Satyaki," said Krishna, the charioteer, to Dhananjaya. "Your disciple and friend is marching up, triumphantly breaking through enemy ranks."
"I do not like it, Madhava," replied Arjuna. "It was not right for him to have left Dharmaputra and come here to join me. Drona is there ever seeking an opportunity to seize Dharmaputra. Satyaki should have stuck to his post there to guard him. Instead, he has come here. Old Bhurisravas has intercepted Satyaki. It was a great mistake for Yudhishthira to have sent Satyaki away here."
There was a family feud between Bhurisravas and Satyaki that made them inveterate foes.
It had come about this way. When Devaki, who was to be the blessed mother of Sri Krishna, was a maiden, many princes competed for her hand and there was a great battle between Somadatta and Sini over it.
Sini won, and on behalf of Vasudeva he placed Devaki in his chariot and took her away. Since that incident there was feud between the two clans, the Sini family and that of Somadatta. Satyaki was Sini's grandson.
Bhurisravas was Somadatta's son. When they found themselves on opposite sides in the Kurukshetra battle, it was natural that, as soon as Bhurisravas saw Satyaki, the old warrior challenged Satyaki to battle.
"Oh Satyaki," cried Bhurisravas, "I know you strut about thinking yourself a man of great prowess. Here now I have you in my power and will presently finish you. Long have I sought for this meeting. Like Indrajit destroyed Dasaratha's son Lakshmana, you will die today and go to the abode of Yama, gladdening the hearts of many a bereaved widow."
Satyaki laughed. "Have done with your vaunting," he interrupted. "Words are not deeds and do not frighten fighting men. Demonstrate your valor in action and do not indulge in dry thunder like autumn clouds."
After this exchange of words, the battle began, and the combat was as between two fierce lions. Their horses were killed, their bows were broken, and both were rendered chariotless.
They were now standing on the ground fighting with swords and shields, till their shields were hacked to bits and their swords broken. Then they were locked in a deadly embrace without weapons.
They rolled together on the ground. They leaped up and they sprang on each other. They fell down again and so the combat went on for a long while.
Partha's mind was at the time concentrated on Jayadratha's movements and he did not watch this combat between Satyaki and the son of Somadatta.
But his charioteer Krishna was deeply concerned about Satyaki's fate. For Krishna knew about their family feud.
"Dhananjaya," said Krishna, "Satyaki is exhausted. Bhurisravas is going to kill him now."
Still Arjuna was following only Jayadratha's movements.
"Satyaki who came after an exhausting battle with the Kaurava forces has been forced to accept Bhurisravas' challenge," said Krishna again. "It is a most unequal battle. Unless we help him, beloved Yuyudhana will be slain."
Even as Krishna was saying this, Bhurisravas lifted Satyaki up and brought him crashing to the ground and all the men around in the Kaurava army exclaimed: "Yuyudhana is dead!"
Again Krishna importuned: "Satyaki is lying almost dead on the field, the best among the Vrishni clan. One who came to help you, is being killed before your eyes. You are looking on, doing nothing."
Bhurisravas caught hold of the prostrate Satyaki and dragged him on the ground as a lion drags its elephant prey.
Arjuna was in a great conflict of mind. "Bhurisravas has not been called to battle by me, nor has he challenged me to fight. How can I send my shaft at Bhurisravas when he is engaged with another? My mind recoils from such an act, although it is true a friend who came to help me is being slaughtered before my eyes."
Just as Arjuna finished saying this to Krishna, the sky was darkened by a cloud of arrows sent by Jayadratha. Arjuna replied with a shower of arrows, but he constantly turned with pain to where Satyaki was in the mortal grip of Bhurisravas.
Krishna again pressed Arjuna to consider Satyaki's condition. "O Partha, Satyaki has lost all his weapons and he is now in Bhurisravas' power, helpless."
When Arjuna turned, he saw Bhurisravas with his foot on the prostrate body of Satyaki and sword upraised to slay him.
Before Bhurisravas could deliver the fatal thrust, Arjuna shot an arrow which went with the speed of lightning and the next moment the uplifted arm fell chopped off to the ground still holding the sword. Bhurisravas, all amazed, turned and saw who had done it.
"Son of Kunti," he exclaimed, "I had not expected this of you! It befits not a warrior to shoot from behind in this manner. I was engaged in combat with someone else and you have attacked me without notice. Indeed, then, no man can resist the evil influence of the company he keeps, as your unchivalrous conduct proves. Dhananjaya, when you go back to your brother Dharmaputra, what account are you going to give him of this valorous deed. Ah! Who taught you this low trick, Arjuna? Did you learn this from your father Indra or from your teachers Drona and Kripa? What code of conduct was it that permitted you to shoot your arrow at a man who was engaged in combat with another and could not so much as turn his eyes on you? You have done the deed of a low-bred fellow and foully besmirched your honor. You must have been instigated into it by the son of Vasudeva. It was not in your own nature to do it. No one with princely blood in his veins would think of such a dastardly deed. I know you have been incited to it by that contemptible Krishna."
Thus did Bhurisravas with his right arm cut off, bitterly denounce Krishna and Arjuna in the Kurukshetra field.
Said Partha: "Bhurisravas, you are old and age seems to have affected your judgment. You accuse Hrishikesa and me without cause. How could I look on doing nothing, when, before my eyes, you were in the act of killing my friend, who came and risked his life in battle on my behalf, one who was like a right hand to me, and whom you were going to stab when he was lying helpless on the ground? I would have deserved to go to hell if I had failed to intervene. You say, I have been ruined by keeping company with Madhava. Who in the wide world would not wish to be so ruined? You have spoken out of confused understanding. Satyaki who was weary and exhausted when he came here and who was inadequately armed, was challenged by you to give battle. You overcame him. Having been defeated, he lay on the ground, powerless. What code of honor enabled you to raise your sword to thrust it into the body of the fallen warrior and slay him? Do I not remember how you cheered the man who killed my boy Abhimanyu when he stood staggering, exhausted and weaponless, his coat of armor torn off?"
Bhurisravas who heard this did not answer but spread his arrows on the ground with his left hand and made a seat for meditation.
The old warrior sat in yoga and the sight deeply moved all the Kaurava soldiers. They cheered Bhurisravas and uttered reproaches against Krishna and Arjuna.
Arjuna spoke: "Brave men, I am sworn to protect every friend within bow-shot of me and I cannot let an enemy kill him. It is my sacred pledge. Why do you blame me? It is not right to hurl reproaches without due thought."
After saying this to the warriors in the field who reproached him, he turned to Bhurisravas and said: "O excellent among brave men, you have protected many who have gone to you for help. You know that what has happened is due to your own error. There is no justice in blaming me. If you like, let us all blame the violence which governs kshatriya life."
Bhurisravas, who heard this, lowered his head in salutation.
Satyaki now recovered consciousness and rose. Carried away by the impetuosity of his passion, he picked up a sword and, advancing to Bhurisravas, sitting in yoga on his seat of arrows, even when all around were shouting in horror and before Krishna and Arjuna, who rushed to the spot, could prevent him, with one swift and powerful cut, he struck off the old warrior's head which rolled down, while the body was still in the posture of meditation.
The gods and the siddhas, who looked on from above the battlefield, uttered blessings on Bhurisravas. Everyone in the field condemned Satyaki's act.
Satyaki maintained he was right, saying: "After I fell down senseless, this enemy of my family placed his foot on my prostrate figure and attempted to kill me. I may slay him in whatever posture he might choose to be." But none approved of his conduct.
The slaying of Bhurisravas is one of the many situations of moral conflict woven into the story of the Mahabharata to demonstrate that, when hatred and anger have been roused, codes of honor and dharma are powerless to control them.
"THE decisive hour has come, Karna," said Duryodhana, "If before nightfall this day Jayadratha is not slain, Arjuna will be disgraced and he will kill himself, for not having redeemed his oath. With Arjuna's death, the destruction of the Pandavas is certain and this kingdom will be ours in unquestioned and absolute sovereignty. Dhananjaya swore this impossible oath in a moment of thoughtlessness, because the gods had willed it that he should be thus destroyed by his own hand. It seems my stars are now in the ascendant. We should not let this opportunity slip. We must see somehow that his challenge fails. The whole thing depends on you. Your great skill in battle is on trial today. Prove yourself this day. See the sun has sloped down in the west. Within the little time left before nightfall, I do not think it possible for Partha to reach Jayadratha. You, Aswatthama, Salya, Kripa, and I must guard Jayadratha and do all we can to see that he does not fall into Arjuna's hands during the next few hours before sunset."
"My king," Karna replied "I have been wounded all over by Bhimasena, and am so weary that my limbs have no power in them. Still, I shall put forth all the strength that is in me. I only live to serve you."
When Karna and Duryodhana were thus planning, Arjuna was engaged in a great attack on the Kaurava army and putting forth all his strength, so that before sunset he could break through to Jayadratha.
Krishna put his Panchajanya in his mouth and blew a loud note in the rishabha swara, which was the signal for his own charioteer Daruka to arrive at once with his chariot.
When it came, Satyaki took his place in it, and attacked Karna vigorously and skilfully, keeping him fully engaged. Daruka's mastery of driving and Satyaki's archery were such as brought down the gods to witness the combat.
Karna's four chariot horses were disabled and the charioteer was unseated. Then the flagstaff was cut asunder and the chariot was smashed. The great Karna stood chariotless and the event produced a great flutter in the Kaurava army.
Karna had to run and climb up into Duryodhana's chariot. Sanjaya here tells Dhritarashtra to whom he was relating the incident: "The greatest adepts in archery are Krishna, Partha and Satyaki. There is not a fourth to match them!"
Arjuna broke through the Kaurava opposition and reached Jayadratha. Inflamed by the thought of the slaughter of Abhimanyu, and all the great wrongs inflicted by the Kauravas, Arjuna fought with fury.
Savyasachin as he was, he discharged shafts from the Gandiva bow, now using one hand and now the other. He struck terror and confusion among his enemies, who felt as if Death had come to the battlefield with wide-open jaws.
It is only the poet of the Mahabharata that can describe the combat that raged between Arjuna and Aswatthama and the other great warriors that protected the king of Sindhu. They fought fiercely but were all defeated and could not prevent Arjuna from reaching Jayadratha. The attack on Jayadratha began and the battle raged long. Both sides were constantly looking westwards, for the day was nearing its end. The Saindhava was no mean foe, and taxed to the full, Arjuna's strength and skill were hard put to it.
The sun sank towards the horizon and reddened, but the battle did not cease. "There is but a very little time left. It seems Jayadratha has been saved and Arjuna's challenge has failed. The vow is unfulfilled and Arjuna is going to be disgraced," said Duryodhana to himself in great glee.
Then, there was darkness and the cry went round in both armies: "It is sunset and Jayadratha has not been killed. Arjuna has lost." The Pandavas were depressed and there were shouts of joy in the Kaurava army.
Jayadratha turned to the western horizon and thought within himself, "I am saved!" for he did not see the sun then and thought the time-limit of danger from Arjuna was over.
At that moment, however, Krishna said to Arjuna: "Dhananjaya, the Sindhu raja is looking at the horizon. I have caused this darkness. The sun is still up and has not set. Do your work. This is the moment for it, for Jayadratha is off his guard."
A shaft flew from the Gandiva bow, and, like a vulture swooping down on a chicken, carried away Jayadratha's head. "Listen, Arjuna," cried Krishna, "send your shafts in swift relays, so that the head may be supported from falling to the earth and borne into Vriddhakshatra's lap."
And Arjuna sent his wonderful arrows that carried away the head in the air. It was a strange sight. Vriddhakshatra was in his ashrama sitting in the open absorbed in his evening meditation with eyes closed, when his son's head with beautiful black hair and golden earrings gently dropped into his lap.
The old king finished his meditation and got up, when the head rolled down and fell on the ground. And, as ordained, Vriddhakshatra's head burst into a hundred fragments. Jayadratha and his father together reached the abode of the brave.
Kesava, Dhananjaya, Bhima, Satyaki, Yudhamanyu and Uttamaujas blew their conchs and Dharmaraja who heard the triumphant noise knew that it meant that Arjuna had redeemed his oath and that the Saindhava had been slain.
Then, Yudhishthira led his army fiercely against Drona. It was nightfall, but on the fourteenth day of the battle the rule of cease-fire at sunset was not observed. As the passions rose from day to day, one by one the rules and restraints broke down.
Drona Passes Away
ALL those who have heard the story of the Mahabharata know about Ghatotkacha, Bhimasena's famous son by his asura wife. There are two young men among the Mahabharata figures who embody all the qualities of heroism, fortitude, strength, courage, and amiability. They are Arjuna's son, Abhimanyu, and Bhima's son, Ghatotkacha. Both of them gave up their lives on the Kurukshetra battlefield.
Towards the latter part of the Mahabharata fight, the hatred roused on both sides did not find satisfaction in battle conducted during the daytime and close at nightfall. On the fourteenth day, when the sunset, they did not cease fighting but went on with it in torchlight.
The Kurukshetra field presented a strange sight, the like of which had not been seen before in Bharatadesa. The generals and soldiers on both sides were engaged in battle, with thousands of torches burning and using signals specially devised for nighttime.
Ghatotkacha and his troops of asuras who are strongest at night, found darkness an additional advantage and violently attacked Duryodhana's army. Duryodhana's heart sank within him when he saw thousands of his men destroyed by Ghatotkacha and his demon army moving in the air and attacking in weird and unexpected ways.
"Kill this fellow at once, Karna, for otherwise, soon our whole army will cease to be. Finish him without further delay." Thus begged all the perplexed Kauravas of Karna.
Karna was himself angry and bewildered, having just been wounded by one of the asura's arrows. He had with him no doubt the spear of unerring effect which Indra had given to him. But it could be used only once, and he had carefully husbanded it for exclusive use on Arjuna with whom a decisive encounter he knew was inevitable.
But in the confusion and wrath of that eerie midnight melee, Karna, impelled by a sudden urge, hurled the missile at the young giant. Thus was Arjuna saved, but at great cost. Bhima's beloved son, Ghatotkacha, who from mid-air was showering his deadly arrows on the Kaurava army, dropped dead, plunging the Pandavas in grief.
The battle did not stop. Drona spread fear and destruction in the Pandava army by his relentless attacks. "O Arjuna," said Krishna, "there is none that can defeat this Drona, fighting according to the strict rules of war. We cannot cope with him unless dharma is discarded. We have no other way open. There is but one thing that will make him desist from fighting. If he hears that Aswatthama is dead, Drona will lose all interest in life and throw down his weapons. Someone must therefore tell Drona that Aswatthama has been slain."
Arjuna shrank in horror at the proposal, as he could not bring himself to tell a lie. Those who were nearby with him also rejected the idea, for no one was minded to be a party to deceit.
Yudhishthira stood for a while reflecting deeply. "I shall bear the burden of this sin," he said and resolved the deadlock!
It was strange. But when the ocean was churned at the beginning of the world and the dread poison rose threatening to consume the gods, did not Rudra come forward to swallow it and save them? To save the friend who had wholly depended on him, Rama was driven to bear the sin of killing Vali, in disregard of the rules of fairplay. So also, now did Yudhishthira decide to bear the shame of it, for there was no other way.
Bhima lifted his iron mace and brought it down on the head of a huge elephant called Aswatthama and it fell dead. After killing the elephant Aswatthama, Bhimasena went near the division commanded by Drona and roared so that all might hear.
"I have killed Aswatthama!" Bhimasena who, until then, had never done or even contemplated an ignoble act, was, as he uttered these words, greatly ashamed.
They knocked against his very heart, but could they be true? Drona heard these words as he was in the act of discharging a Brahmastra. "Yudhishthira, is it true my son has been slain?" Dronacharya asked addressing Dharmaputra.
The acharya thought that Yudhishthira would not utter an untruth, even for the kingship of the three worlds.
When Drona asked thus, Krishna was terribly perturbed. "If Yudhishthira fails us now and shrinks from uttering an untruth, we are lost. Drona's Brahmastra is of unquenchable potency and the Pandavas will be destroyed," he said.
And Yudhishthira himself stood trembling in horror of what he was about to do, but within him also was the desire to win. "Let it be my sin," he said to himself and hardened his heart, and said aloud: "Yes, it is true that Aswatthama has been killed."
But, as he was saying it, he felt again the disgrace of it and added in a low and tremulous voice, "Aswatthama, the elephant" words which were however drowned in the din and were not heard by Drona.
"O king, thus was a great sin committed," said Sanjaya to the blind Dhritarashtra, while relating the events of the battle to him.
When the words of untruth came out of Yudhishthira's mouth, the wheels of his chariot, which until then always stood and moved four inches above the ground and never touched it at once came down and touched the earth.
Yudhishthira, who till then had stood apart from the world so full of untruth, suddenly became of the earth, earthy. He too desired victory and slipped into the way of untruth and so his chariot came down to the common road of mankind.
When Drona heard that his beloved son had been slain, all his attachment to life snapped. And desire vanished as if it had never been there. When the veteran was in that mood, Bhimasena loudly spoke indicting him in harsh words:
"You brahmanas, abandoning the legitimate functions of your varna and taking to the Kshatriya profession of arms, have brought ruin to princes. If you brahmanas had not gone astray from the duties belonging to you by birth, the princes would not have been led to this destruction. You teach that non-killing is the highest dharma and that the brahmana is the supporter and nourisher of that dharma. Yet, you have rejected that wisdom which is yours by birth, and shamelessly undertaken the profession of killing. It was our misfortune that you descended to this sinful life."
These taunts of Bhimasena caused excruciating pain to Drona who had already lost the will to live. He threw his weapons away and sat down in yoga on the floor of his chariot and was soon in a trance.
At this moment Dhrishtadyumna with drawn sword, came and climbed in to the chariot and heedless of cries of horror and deprecation from all around he fulfilled his destiny as the slayer of Drona by sweeping off the old warrior's head. And the soul of the son of Bharadwaja issued out in a visible blaze of fight and mounted heavenwards.
The Mahabharata is a great and wonderful story. The sorrows of human life are painted with sublime beauty and rolled out in a grand panorama. Behind the story of errors and sorrows the poet enables us to have a vision of the Transcendent Reality. Thus it is that the Mahabharata, though a story, has come to be a book of dharma. This book, in style and substance, is altogether different from tales and romances. In modern novels, dramas and pictures, exciting scenes are enacted, the hero passes through dangers and difficulties and finally marries a woman whom he loves. Or else everything seems to go on happily but suddenly things go wrong and terrible misfortune happens and the curtain drops. This is the art scheme of ordinary sensational stories. The Ramayana and the Mahabharata are quite a different kind of artistic creation. When we read them, our inner being is seized and cleansed, so to say, by being passed alternately through joys and sorrows, and we are finally lifted above both and taken to the Transcendent and Real.
The Death Of Karna
WHEN Drona died, the princes of the Kaurava army installed Karna as Generalissimo. Karna stood up in his gorgeous war chariot driven by Salya. The dauntless confidence of his bearing and his great renown as a warrior heartened the Kauravas. The battle again began. Readers of the stars were consulted and the Pandavas chose the propitious hour for grim battle. Arjuna led the attack on Karna, supported by Bhimasena immediately behind his chariot.
Duhsasana made a concentrated attack on Bhima and sent a shower of arrows at him. Bhima chuckled and said to himself. "I have this wretch now safe in my hands. I shall today redeem my promise to Draupadi. Too long has my oath waited for performance."
As Bhima thus bethought himself of what Duhsasana had done to Draupadi, the anger within him blazed up uncontrollably and throwing down all his weapons, he jumped from his chariot and leapt upon Duhsasana like a tiger on its prey, hurled him down and broke his limbs.
"Wicked beast, is this the wretched hand that held Draupadi by the hair? Here, I tear out the root from your body. If there be any here wishing to help you, let him come forward and try!"
Glaring hatefully at Duryodhana as he roared this challenge, Bhimasena tore Duhsasana's arm out and threw the bleeding limb on the battlefield.
And then he fulfilled the terrible oath he had taken thirteen years before. He sucked and drank the blood from his enemy's body like a beast of prey and danced on the bloody field, mad with passion. "I have done it!" he roared. "The oath I swore against this great sinner has been redeemed. It only remains to redeem my oath as regards Duryodhana. The sacrificial fire is ready. Let that victim also prepare."
The scene made everyone shudder. Even great Karna was shaken as he saw Bhima in this ecstasy of wrath. "Do not flinch," said Salya to Karna. "It does not befit you to show any sign that may be mistaken for fear. When Duryodhana stands quivering in despair; it is not right that you also should lose heart. After the great Duhsasana's death, the army's hope rests solely on you. You must now bear the full burden. Like the gallant warrior you are, seek single combat with Arjuna, and win eternal glory on earth or the soldier's heaven!" At these words, Karna recovered his courageous spirit. With eyes red with wrath and unshed tears, he bade Salya drive the chariot towards Arjuna.
"Enough of fighting," said Aswatthama addressing Duryodhana earnestly. "Let us terminate this disastrous enmity. Beloved friend, make peace with the Pandavas. Stop the battle."
"What? Did you not hear the words that the stubborn Bhima uttered when like a ravening beast, he drank human blood and danced over my brother's mangled body? What talk can there be now of peace? Why do you speak vain words!" said Duryodhana. Saying thus, he ordered a fresh disposition of the forces, and gave the command for attack.
Then followed a great battle. The son of Surya sent a dazzling arrow, which spat fire and made for Arjuna, like a serpent with its flaming double-tongue out. Then Krishna, Arjuna's charioteer, at the nick of time, pressed the vehicle down five fingers deep in the mud, so that the serpent shaft just missed Partha's head but struck off his helmet! Arjuna was red with shame and anger and he fixed a dart on his bow to make an end of Karna.
And Karna's fated hour was come, and as had been foretold, the left wheel of his chariot suddenly sank in the bloody mire. He jumped down on the ground to lift the wheel up from the mud.
"Wait a minute!" he cried. "My chariot has sunk in the ground. Great warrior as you are, and knowing dharma as you do, you would certainly not take unfair advantage of this accident. I shall presently set my car right and give you all the battle you want."
Arjuna hesitated. Karna was now somewhat perturbed on account of the mishap. He remembered the curse that had been pronounced on him, and again appealed to Arjuna's sense of honor.
Krishna intervened. "Ha, Karna!" be exclaimed, "it is well that you too remember that there are things like fairplay and chivalry! Now that you are in difficulty, you remember them indeed. But when you and Duryodhana and Duhsasana and Sakuni dragged Draupadi to the Hall of Assembly and insulted her, how was it you forgot them utterly? You helped to inveigle Dharmaputra, who was fond of play but was unskilled at it, to gamble, and you cheated him. Where had your fairplay hidden itself then? Was it fairplay to refuse to give to Yudhishthira his kingdom when according to the pledge the twelve years of forest life and the thirteenth year incognito were duly completed? What had happened to the dharma you appeal for now? You conspired with the wicked men who sought to poison and kill Bhima. You acquiesced in the plot to burn the Pandavas alive when sleeping in the palace of wax into which they had been lured. What had happened to dharma all that time? What did dharma tell you when violent hands were laid on Draupadi and you were looking on enjoying the sight? Did you not then mock at her saying: 'Your husbands have left you unprotected, go and marry another husband'? The tongue that was not ashamed to utter those words now talks of chivalry. Chivalry indeed! When a mob of you surrounded the young Abhimanyu and shamelessly slew him, was that chivalry? Wicked man, do not talk now of chivalry and fairplay, for you have never honored them!"
When Krishna was denouncing him in this manner in order to urge Arjuna to prompt action, Karna bent his head in shame and uttered not a word. Karna silently ascended the chariot leaving the wheel still stuck in the mud and took his bow and sent an arrow at Arjuna with unerring aim and such power that it stunned him for a moment.
Karna utilised the respite won, to jump down again and hurriedly tried to lift the chariot wheel up. But the curse was too strong for him and fortune had deserted the great warrior.
The wheel would not budge, though he strove with all his great strength. Then he tried to recall the mantras of mighty astras he had learnt from Parasurama, but his memory failed in the hour of his need, even as Parasurama had foretold.
"Waste no more time, Arjuna," cried Madhava. "Send your shaft and slay your wicked enemy."
Arjuna's mind was wavering. His hand hesitated to do what was not chivalrous. But when Krishna said this, the poet says: "Arjuna accepted this command of the Lord and sent an arrow which cut and severed the head of the Radheya."
The poet had not the heart to impute this act to Arjuna who was the embodiment of nobility. It was the Lord Krishna that incited Arjuna to kill Karna when he was vainly trying to raise his chariot out of the mud in which it had stuck. According to the code of honor and laws of war prevailing then, it was wholly wrong. Who could bear the responsibility for breaches of dharma except the Lord Himself? The lesson is that it is vanity to hope, through physical violence and war, to put down wrong. The battle for right, conducted through physical force leads to numerous wrongs and, in the net result, adharma increases.
WHEN Duryodhana beheld Karna's death, his grief knew no bounds. Kripacharya was deeply moved by Duryodhana's anguish of heart and said: "Moved by ambition and greed we placed too great a burden on friends. They have uncomplainingly borne it and laid down their lives on the battlefield and attained the happy regions above. There is but one course left to you to make peace with the Pandavas. Do not, O King, any longer continue this ruinous fight."
Even at that moment of deep despair, Duryodhana did not relish this counsel. "Perhaps, there was a time for that, but it is long past. What talk can there be of peace between the Pandavas and us with all this inexpiable blood between us, the blood of our dearest and theirs? If I surrender in order to escape death, how can I escape the contempt of the world? What happiness can I hope to have in a life so ignobly saved? And what joy can I hope to find in sovereignty, secured by a peace after my brothers and relatives have all been slain?"
These words of Duryodhana were lustily cheered by the others. They supported his stand and they chose Salya and gave him the supreme command from then on. Salya was mighty of limb and as brave as any of the warriors who had been killed. The army was arrayed under his leadership and the battle raged fiercely. On the side of the Pandavas, Yudhishthira now led the attack personally against Salya. It astonished everyone to see how the man, who was till then the very incarnation of gentle ness, fought so furiously.
The battle was equal for a long while, when Yudhishthira hurled at Salya, his spear that went straight and struck him. Like the great flagstaff at the end of a festive function, Salya's body lay lifeless on the field, crimson with blood.
When Salya, the last of the great generals, fell dead, the Kaurava army lost all hope. The surviving sons of Dhritarashtra, however, joined together and attacked Bhima from all sides. He slew them all. The son of Vayu had nourished his burning anger for thirteen years from the time Draupadi was insulted in the Hall of Assembly. He said to himself now: "I have not lived in vain, but Duryodhana still lives," and smiled grimly.
Sakuni led the attack on Sahadeva's division. After a while, Sahadeva discharged a sharp-edged sword-arrow saying: "Fool, here is the reward for your great sin." It went straight and cut through Sakuni's neck like a sword. And the head, which was at the root of all the wicked deeds of the Kauravas, rolled on the ground.
Left leaderless, the wreck of the broken army scattered and fled in all directions, pursued and slaughtered to a man by the exulting victors.
"'Thus utterly was destroyed thine army of eleven Akshauhinis, O! Bharata, out of the thousands of kings, who espoused thy cause in their pride and might, only Duryodhana could be seen on that battlefield, fainting and sore wounded," said Sanjaya, describing the debacle to the blind king.
After doing, in vain, all he could to rally his defeated army, Duryodhana, left almost alone, took up his mace and walked towards a pool of water. His whole frame was burning like fire, and water attracted him. "The wise Vidura knew what would happen and he told us," he said to himself, as he entered the water.
Of what avail is wisdom that comes too late? What has been done must produce its result that has to be suffered. That is the law. Yudhishthira and his brothers arrived there in relentless, pursuit of their great enemy.
"Duryodhana!" exclaimed Yudhishthira, "after destroying family and tribe, would you yourself escape death by concealing yourself in this pond? Where is your pride now? Have you no shame? Come up and fight. A kshatriya by birth, do you shrink battle and death?"
Stung to the quick by these words, Duryodhana replied with dignity: "I have not come here, Dharmaputra, a fugitive for my life. It was not fear that brought me here. I stepped into the water to cool the fire that is raging within me. I neither fear death nor wish to live, but why should I fight? The earth has now nothing left that I came to fight for! All those who stood by me have been slain. My desire for kingdom is gone. I leave the world to you without a rival. Enjoy it in undisputed sovereignty."
Yudhishthira replied: "Now, that is really generous, especially after you said you would not allow us even a needle-point of land. When we begged for peace and entreated you to give us a portion, you spurned our proposal. Now, you say we may take it all. It is not for kingdom or land that we fight. Must I recount all your sins? The wrongs you did us, and the outrage you perpetrated on Draupadi, cannot be expiated except with your life."
Sanjaya, who related the events to the blind old king, here said: "When your son Duryodhana heard these harsh and cruel words spoken by Dharmaputra, he at once rose from the water, mace in hand."
Stepping out of the pool, the unfortunate Duryodhana said: "Come, one by one, all of you, for I am single. You five will surely not join together and attack me who am alone and without armor, weary and wounded all over."
Yudhishthira replied sharply: "If indeed it be wrong for many to join together and attack a single person, pray tell us how Abhimanyu was attacked and killed? Did you not consent to many combining and attacking that boy, standing all alone amidst your crowd? Yes, when men face misfortune, they see and preach dharma and chivalry to others. Wear your coat of armor. Choose any of us you like and fight. Die and go to swarga or win and be king."
Accordingly, the combat began between Bhima and Duryodhana. Sparks of fire flew when their maces clashed. Duryodhana and Bhima were equal in strength and skill, and the battle raged long, and the issue hung doubtful. Those, who stood watching, were debating as to whom would win. Krishna said to Arjuna that Bhima would redeem the oath he swore in the Hall of Assembly and smash Duryodhana's thighs. Bhima heard this and, at that moment, the memory of the great outrage came vividly to his mind.
He leaped like a lion and came down with his mace on Duryodhana's thighs and broke them and Duryodhana fell heavily on the ground, wounded to death.
Bhima jumped on the prostrate body of his enemy, stamped on his head with his heavy foot and danced a terrible dance.
"Cease, Bhima," cried Dharmaraja. "You have paid off the debt. Duryodhana is a prince and a cousin. It is not right to put your foot on his head."
Said Krishna:"Soon the wicked man's soul will depart from the body. Sons of Pandu, Duryodhana and his friends have been slain. Why linger here? On to your chariots."
When Krishna said this, the face of the fallen Duryodhana glowed like a blazing fire with anger and hatred. Turning his eyes towards Krishna be said:
"By base tricks you contrived the death of warriors, who fought bravely according to the laws of war. You could not have dreamt of victory in a fair fight with Karna or Bhishma or Drona. Have you not a spark of shame left?"
Even dying, Duryodhana felt no regret for all that he had done.
"Duryodhana," said Krishna, "vainly do you accuse others. Greed and pride of power led you to unnumbered wicked deeds and you are reaping as you sowed."
"Wretch!" replied Duryodhana. "Living, I was a great prince, generous friend, and a terrible foe. All human joys, such joys as kings wish for in vain, and even Gods do not despise, have been mine, in their fullness. A warrior's death is the fitting crown of such a life. Dying, I go triumphantly to swarga to join my friends and my brothers who have gone there already and are waiting to welcome me. You remain here below, your objects defeated and yourselves the object of contempt of all kshatriyas. I do not mind Bhima putting his foot on my head as I lie helpless on the ground with legs broken. What care I? In a few minutes more will not the feet of crows and vultures settle on my head?"
When Duryodhana said this, flowers were showered down from the heavens by the gods. Inordinate desire took Duryodhana into the wrong path, whence ensued anger and numerous breaches of dharma. But no one could question the unconquerable spirit of Dhritarashtra's son.
The Pandavas Reproached
WHEN the war was nearing its end, Balarama arrived at Kurukshetra after completing his tour of holy places. He came just when Bhima and Duryodhana were engaged in their last mortal combat. He saw Bhima aiming the deadly blow which broke Duryodhana's thighs, and his anger flamed up at this great breach of the rules of single combat.
"Fie upon you all! Would any kshatriya hit below the navel? This Bhima has offended the law most disgracefully," he exclaimed and impatiently going up to his brother Krishna, shouted:
"You can look on and tolerate all this. But I cannot bear to see such unclean fighting!" Saying this he advanced towards the offending Bhima with upraised plough. The plough was Balarama's weapon on supreme occasions, as the discus was Krishna's. Krishna was alarmed when he saw his elder brother advancing in a passion towards Bhima.
He rushed forward and, intercepting him, said: "The Pandavas are our friends and closest relations. They have been the victims of insufferable wrongs at the hands of Duryodhana. When Draupadi was insulted in the Assembly Hall, Bhima vowed: 'I will one day in battle break the two thighs of Duryodhana with this mace and kill him.' He proclaimed this solemn oath at that time and everyone has known it. It is the duty of a kshatriya to fulfil the vow he has solemnly taken. Do not let your anger mislead you and do not be unjust to the innocent Pandavas. You should, before condemning Bhima, take into account all the wrongs that the Kauravas have done to the Pandavas. Nothing but error can result if one proceeds to judge conduct without taking into account the chain of events leading up to it. You cannot snatch a particular act out of its context and proceed to give judgment on it alone without gross injustice. The era of Kali has arrived, when the laws of a previous age cannot apply. It was not wrong for Bhima to strike below the navel an enemy who had wickedly contrived against his life on many occasions. It was because of Duryodhana's foul instigation that Karna sent a shaft from behind and broke Abhimanyu's bowstring when he was defending himself against heavy odds. Arjuna's young son was attacked by numerous warriors who surrounded him, when he stood all by himself in the field, deprived of bow and chariot, and in a most cowardly manner, killed him. Duryodhana thought evil and practised deception from the time of his birth and has brought about the destruction of his people. There is no sin in Bhima killing this man. Bhima bore the wrongs done and kept his wrath within himself for thirteen long years. Duryodhana knew well that Bhima had sworn to break his thighs and kill him. When he challenged the aggrieved Pandavas to battle, he knew very well that he invited Bhima to make good his oath. How can you think that it was wrong for Bhima to do this?"
Krishna's words did not change Balarama's opinion, but his anger subsided. "Duryodhana will attain the happy regions reserved for the brave. Bhima's fame has been tarnished for all time. It will be said among men that the son of Pandu broke the laws of war in attacking Duryodhana. It will remain forever a great blot on his good name. I hate to stay here any longer." So saying the indignant Balarama immediately left for Dwaraka.
"Yudhishthira, why this strange silence?" asked Krishna.
"O Madhava, it hurts me to see Bhima leap on cousin Duryodhana's mortally wounded body and trample on his head. I see the end of the glory of our race. We were wronged by the Kauravas. I know the full measure of grief and anger in Vrikodara's heart, and don't wish to blame him beyond reason. We have killed Duryodhana, who was afflicted by uncontained greed and poverty of understanding. What serves it now to debate the ethics of it or nicely to weigh the propriety of a much wronged man's revenges?"
Yudhishthira was greatly oppressed in mind. When men transgress the law, extenuations and excuses are of no avail in giving mental satisfaction.
Arjuna, of penetrating intellect, was silent. He did not show approval of Bhima's act. Nor did he say anything by way of detraction. The rest of the people, who were there, were however loud in condemnation of Duryodhana and were reminding one another of all his misdeeds and errors. Krishna turned towards them and said:
"Warriors, it is not proper that we go on speaking against an enemy who has been defeated and is lying mortally wounded. We should not speak ill of a dying man. He was stupid and brought about his own end. He fell into the company of bad men and was ruined. Let us go."
Duryodhana, who was stretched on the ground in intense, agony, when he heard Krishna say this, went into a paroxysm of rage. He half raised himself on his arms in spite of the excruciating pain, and exclaimed:
"Wretch! Son of a slave! Was not your father Vasudeva Kamsa's slave? You have no business to sit or move with princes. You speak like a shameless wretch. I saw you instigate Bhima to aim his blow at my thigh! Do you think I did not see you, making as though casually talking to Arjuna, pointing to your thigh, but really indicating to Bhima that he should strike me on the thighs, disregarding the laws of single combat? Till then it had been equal battle. You have neither pity nor shame. Did you not contrive the death of the grandsire Bhishma through stratagem? You advised Sikhandin to be placed in front when attacking Bhishma, knowing that the grandsire would scorn to fight a woman, and would let himself be mortally wounded without resistance. You brought about the end of Dronacharya through making Dharmaputra utter a falsehood. You were the father of that deadly lie that issued from Yudhishthira's mouth, and made Dronacharya throw his bow away. Did you not look on without protest, and rejoice, when that, wretch Dhrishtadyumna attacked and killed the acharya who had stopped fighting, throwing away his weapons, and settled down in yoga posture for meditation on the Supreme? Was it not you who wickedly contrived to make Karna hurl the fatal spear at Ghatotkacha instead of reserving it for Arjuna as he had all along resolved to do? O great sinner, surely it was you who instigated Satyaki to butcher Bhurisravas when his right arm had been foully cut off and he stopped fighting and spread his arrows for a seat for holy meditation. It was you who brought about the death of Karna by inducing Arjuna to attack him in a cowardly manner when he was engaged in lifting his chariot wheel which had sunk and stuck in the mud in the field of battle. Oh worthless man, sole cause of our destruction, the whole world has condemned your act when by sorcery you made it appear as if the sun had set. You made Jayadratha, the Sindhu king, believe that the day was over and he was past danger, and thus he was slain when he was off his guard."
Thus did Duryodhana pour his denunciation against Krishna and then, exhausted by the pain of his wounds and the violence of his rage, he fell prostrate again.
"Son of Gandhari," said Krishna, "why do you let your anger add to the pain of your last moments? It is your own misdeeds that have brought about your end. Do not attribute it to me. Bhishma and Drona had to die on account of your sins. So also were you the cause of the death of Karna and others. Need I recount all the wrongs that you were guilty of against the sons of Pandu? What punishment can be too severe for the great outrage, which you inflicted on Draupadi? The animosities and passions that resulted from your misdeeds cannot be made ground for condemning others. All the deceptions and lapses you charge us with were forced on us by reason of your wicked conduct. You have paid off on the battlefield the debt incurred by your greed. But you are dying the death of a brave man. You will go to the happy regions reserved for kshatriyas who lay down their lives on the field of battle."
"Krishna, I go to swarga with my friends and relatives. But you and your friends will live on earth to suffer," said the stubborn Duryodhana. "I studied the Vedas. I have given gifts ordained by law and I have reigned supreme over all the sea-girt earth. While I lived, I stood upon the humbled heads of foes. All human joys, such joys as even the Gods cannot despise and kings sigh for in vain, the very pinnacle of power, were mine. Dying now, such death as warriors deem the crown of kshatriya life, I go to meet in heaven my friends and brothers gone before, eager to welcome me. Who is more blest, I, or you who, doomed to linger here, mourning for slaughtered friends in desolate homes, find the long sought triumph but ashes in your mouth?" said Duryodhana. And the gods showered flowers down on the dying warrior and the gandharvas played music and the sky was illuminated. Vasudeva and the Pandavas felt small.
"There is truth," said Krishna, "in what Duryodhana said. You could not have defeated him by fair means. This wicked man was invincible in battle."
WHEN Aswatthama heard how Duryodhana lay mortally injured, and learnt the details of the combat, his righteous anger swelled like the sea. The deception, practised by the Pandavas in order to bring about his father's end, had been rankling in his mind.
Now, when he learnt how Duryodhana had been stricken down mortally against all rules of chivalry, he went to the spot where Duryodhana was lying and there took an oath that he would that night send the Pandavas to the abode of Yama.
Duryodhana, who was in the last physical agony of departing life, was transported with joy when he heard Aswatthama take this oath. He immediately ordered those who stood nearby to install Aswatthama as Supreme Commander of the Army with due ceremony and, when that was over, said to Him: "All my hopes are in you."
It was sunset and the forest was in utter darkness when under a big banian tree Kripacharya, Kritavarma and Aswatthama halted for rest. They were so greatly fatigued that Kripacharya and Kritavarma fell fast asleep as soon as they lay down.
But Aswatthama did not get sleep, for sorrow, indignation and hatred burnt within him. He was listening to the noises that the nocturnal birds and prowling beasts began to make as the night advanced. He was turning over in his mind how to execute his promise to Duryodhana.
On the branches of the banian tree, under which the three warriors were resting, hundreds of crows roosted. They were all quiet and asleep until a big owl came and began to attack the birds one after another and kill them. When Aswatthama saw the nocturnal bird of prey tear the helpless crows, he got an idea. The crows that could not see at night flew round and round helplessly and fell victims to the owl that attacked them violently.
"These wicked Pandavas and the Panchala that killed my father and all their supporters can easily be killed by us, if we surprise them when they are sleeping in their tents at night even as this owl is attacking these blind crows. Thus can I avenge the deeds of foul play they have practised on us. I am deeply indebted to this bird of prey from whom I have received the teaching. There is no offence in adopting plans to suit one's altered circumstances. If we can lawfully attack an enemy, when his army is tired or when his forces are scattered, why then should not we, who have lost our armies, attack our enemies when they are asleep? There can be nothing wrong in it. Indeed it is only thus that we can punish and defeat these Pandavas who have achieved successes through foul play. We have no other course open."
Aswatthama made up his mind and he immediately woke up Kripacharya and informed him of his plan. Kripacharya, who heard it, was astonished.
"This can never be," said he. "It is wholly wrong. To attack men who have retired to sleep, has never been done before. It would be an unprecedented crime against the laws of kshatriya conduct. Aswatthama, for whom are we fighting? The man for whose sake we joined in this war has been fatally wounded and his end has arrived. We have discharged our obligations most loyally. We fought our best for the greedy and wrongheaded Duryodhana but we failed irretrievably. There is no purpose now in our continuing the fight and it is folly to do so. Let us go to Dhritarashtra and the faultless Gandhari, and place ourselves at their disposal. Let us take counsel of wise Vidura also. They will tell us what lies before us to do."
When Kripacharya spoke thus, Aswatthama's grief and indignation increased and he spoke bitterly:
"Everyone feels sure that what he thinks is the only right and proper thing to do. One's understanding naturally limits one's vision. These Pandavas have been guilty of the foulest conduct. They killed my noble and trustful father through a lie. They have killed Duryodhana against the laws of chivalry. I have no doubt in my mind that what I propose to do is quite proper vengeance for all these foul deeds. It is only if I carry out this plan that I can possibly repay my debt to my king and to my father. I have decided on it and I do not propose to alter my plan. I am going tonight to the tents where they are sleeping having cast off their armor and there I will kill the Pandavas and Dhrishtadyumna while they are asleep."
Kripacharya was deeply grieved to hear Aswatthama speak thus: "You have attained a great name among men," he pleaded, "Your spotless character will by this be blemished, even like a milk-white cloth bespattered with blood. Never could it be right to kill sleeping men. Desist from this."
"Sir, what are you talking? These Pandavas butchered my father when he had thrown away all his weapons and had sat down in prayer. These men have breached the embankment of dharma and released the flood, and not a, drop of dharma is now left! Karna, who was on the ground putting right the wheel of his chariot, was murdered by these lawless rascals. Bhima has killed Duryodhana with a blow below the navel. What dharma has been left for us to follow? The Pandavas have, once for all, destroyed the wall of dharma. Why should we make research into law and chivalry when dealing with these ruffians who have attained successes by destroying both? If by killing the sleeping Panchalas, who butchered my great father, I may be doomed to rebirth in the body of a foul bird or of a wriggling worm, I do not care. I seek such a birth!"
Saying this and, without waiting for an answer, Aswatthama proceeded to harness his horses and get his chariot ready to start. When he was about to leave Kripacharya and Kritavarma cried: "Stop. What are you resolved upon doing, Aswatthama? We cannot approve of it, but neither can we desert you in your desperate enterprise. The path you are bent on treading, we shall also follow. The sin you are resolved upon, let us share also." So, they went along with him. Thus does evil grow! One transgression begets the next and thus evil grows from evil submerging righteousness. Evil flourishes on retaliation.
They reached the Pandava camp. Dhrishtadyumna had doffed his armor and was plunged in deep slumber in his tent. Aswatthama leapt on the sleeping warrior and, before he could put himself into a posture of defence, cruelly kicked him to death.
The same process was relentlessly repeated until all the Panchalas and all the sons of Draupadi were killed one by one when they were plunged in sleep in their tents.
After having done this deed, the like of which had never before been considered possible among kshatriyas, Kripacharya, Kritavarma and Aswatthama came out of the tents and set fire to the camp. When the fire spread, the sleeping soldiers were awakened and fled hither and thither in confusion, even like the crows on the banian tree under which they had rested in the forest, and they were mercilessly slaughtered by Aswatthama.
"We have done our duty," said Dronacharya's son. "Let us go and give the glad news to Duryodhana, if we can reach him, before he expires. Let him die pleased."
The three of them accordingly hurried to Duryodhana.
"O, DURYODHANA, you are yet alive, hear the news and rejoice! All the Panchalas have been slaughtered. The sons of the Pandavas have also been all done to death. The entire army of theirs has been destroyed. We made a night attack on them when they were asleep. There are only seven survivors now on the Pandava side. On our side, Kripacharya, Kritavarma and I remain."
Thus said Aswatthama to the dying Duryodhana who, on hearing this, slowly opened his eyes and, with struggling breath, gasped out these words:
"Aswatthama, you have indeed done for me what neither the great Bhishma nor the valiant Karna could achieve! You have gladdened my heart and I die happy." Saying this, Duryodhana expired.
When he saw the unexpected destruction of his army as a result of the attack during sleep, Yudhishthira gave way to grief and broke down:
"At the very moment of victory, we have been totally defeated. The vanquished have indeed triumphed. Draupadi's children, who survived the onslaught of the formidable Karna, have, by our unwariness, been crushed and destroyed like vermin. We have allowed ourselves to be destroyed like a merchant ship which, having successfully crossed the big seas, returns home but capsizes in a ditch and is lost."
Draupadi was overwhelmed by inconsolable grief. She came to Dharmaputra's side and wept. "Is there no one to avenge my children's slaughter, by destroying this great sinner Aswatthama?" she cried.
When she said this, the Pandavas immediately went out in search of the murderer. They looked for him in all sorts of places and found him, at last, on the bank of the Ganga, hiding himself behind Vyasa.
When he saw the Pandavas and Janardana approaching, Aswatthama quietly took up a blade of grass and charged it with the mantra of destruction and sent it forward saying: "May this destroy the race of the Pandavas." And it went straight to the womb of Uttara who bore in her the son of Abhimanyu.
The race of the Pandavas would have been destroyed thereby but for the intervention of Sri Krishna who saved the child in the mother's womb. This child was Parikshit who was later crowned by Yudhishthira when the Pandavas retired to the forest.
Aswatthama pried out the shining jewel that was part of his head and gave it to Bhima, acknowledging his defeat, and went away to the forest. Bhima took the great jewel and, going to Draupadi said: "Angel of spotless purity, this is for you. The man, who killed your beloved sons, has been vanquished. Duryodhana has been destroyed. I have drunk the blood of Duhsasana. I have avenged the great outrage and discharged my debts."
Draupadi took the jewel and, going up to Yudhishthira bowed and said: "Faultless king, it befits you to wear this in your crown."
Who Can Give Solace?
WHEN the battle was over, Hastinapura was a city of mourning. All the women and children were weeping and lamenting their slain, nearest and dearest. With many thousands of bereaved women accompanying, Dhritarashtra went to the field of battle. At Kurukshetra, the scene of terrible destruction, the blind king thought of all that had passed, and wept aloud. But, of what avail was weeping?
"O king, words of consolation addressed to a bereaved person do not remove his grief. Thousands of rulers have given up their lives in battle for your sons. It is now time that you should arrange for proper funeral ceremonies for the dead," said Sanjaya to Dhritarashtra.
"It is not right to grieve for those who die in battle. When souls have left their bodies, there is nothing like relationship, nothing like brother or son or relative. Your sons have really no connection with you. Relationship ends with death, being only a bodily connection and a mere minor incident in the soul's eternal life. From the nowhere do lives come, and, with death, they again disappear into nowhere. Why should we weep for them? Those who die in battle after a heroic fight go as guests to receive Indra's hospitality. Grieving for what is past, you cannot gain anything in the nature of dharma, pleasure or wealth." Thus, and in many more ways, did the wise and good Vidura try to assuage the king's grief.
Vyasa also approached Dhritarashtra tenderly and said: "Dear son, there is nothing that you do not know and which you have to learn from me. You know very well that all living beings must die. This great battle came to reduce earth's burden as I have heard from Lord Vishnu Himself. That is why this calamity could not be prevented. Henceforth, Yudhishthira is your son. You should try to love him and in that way bear the burden of life, giving up grief."
Making his way, through the crowd of weeping women Yudhishthira approached Dhritarashtra and bowed before him. Dhritarashtra embraced Yudhishthira, but there was no love in that embrace.
Then Bhimasena was announced to the blind king. "Come," said Dhritarashtra.
But Vasudeva was wise. He gently pushed Bhima aside and placed an iron figure before the blind Dhritarashtra, knowing the old king's exceeding anger. Dhritarashtra hugged the metal statue to his bosom in a firm embrace and then the thought came to him of how this man had killed everyone of his sons. And his wrath increased to such a pitch that the image was crushed to pieces in his embrace.
"Ha! My anger has deceived me," cried Dhritarashtra. "I have killed dear Bhima."
Then Krishna said to the blind king:
"Lord, I knew that it would be thus and I prevented the disaster. You have not killed Bhimasena. You have crushed only an iron image that I placed instead before you. May your anger be appeased with what you have done to this image. Bhima is still alive."
The king was composed somewhat and he blessed Bhima and the other Pandavas who then took leave of him and went to Gandhari.
Vyasa was with Gandhari. "Oh queen,"said the rishi, "be not angry with the Pandavas. Did you not tell them even when the battle began: 'Where there is dharma, there surely will be victory'? And so it has happened. It is not right to let the mind dwell on what is past and nurse one's anger. You must now call to aid your great fortitude."
Gandhari said: "Bhagavan, I do not envy the victory of the Pandavas. It is true that grief for the death of my sons has robbed me of my understanding. These Pandavas also are my sons. I know that Duhsasana and Sakuni brought about this destruction of our people. Arjuna and Bhima are blameless. Pride brought this battle about and my sons deserve the fate they have met. I do not complain about it. But then, in Vasudeva's presence, Bhima called Duryodhana to battle and they fought. And, knowing that Duryodhana was stronger and could not be defeated in single combat, Bhima struck him below the navel and killed him. Vasudeva was looking on. This was wrong and it is this that I find it impossible to forgive."
Bhima, who heard this, came near and said: "Mother, I did this to save myself in battle. Whether it was right or wrong, you should bear with me. Your son was invincible in combat and so I did in self-protection what was undoubtedly wrong. He called Yudhishthira to play and deceived him. We had been wronged by your son in so many ways. He would not give back the kingdom, of which be took unlawful possession. And you know what your son did to blameless Draupadi. If we had killed your son on the spot, when he misbehaved in the Hall of Assembly, surely you would not have blamed us. Bound by Dharmaraja's vow, we restrained ourselves with difficulty then. We have since discharged honor's debt and found satisfaction in battle. Mother, you should forgive me."
"Dear son, if you had left but one out of my hundred sons and killed all the rest and satisfied your anger, I and my old husband would have found solace in that surviving son for the rest of our lives. Where is Dharmaputra? Call him." She said.
Hearing this, Yudhishthira trembled as he, with clasped hands, approached Gandhari, whose eyes were bound in a cloth in loyal lifelong penance for her husband's blindness. He bowed low before her and said softly:
"Queen, the cruel Yudhishthira, who killed your sons, stands before you fit to be cursed. Do curse me who have committed great sin. I care not for life or for kingdom." Saying this, he fell on the ground and touched her feet.
Gandhari heaved a deep sigh and stood mute. She turned her head aside knowing that if, through the cloth with which her eyes were bound, her vision fell on the prostrate Yudhishthira he would be reduced to ashes on the spot. But through a little space in the cloth, even as she turned her face away, her eyes fell on the toe of the prostrate Yudhishthira. At once, says the poet, the toe was charred black.
Arjuna knew the power of bereaved Gandhari's wrath, and hid himself behind Vasudeva. The wise and good Gandhari suppressed all her anger and blessed the Pandavas and sent them to Kunti.
Gandhari turned to Draupadi, who was in lamentation, having lost all her sons. "Dear girl," said Gandhari. "Do not grieve. Who can give solace to you and me? It is through my fault that this great tribe has been destroyed altogether."
THE Pandavas performed the til and water ceremonies for the peace of the souls of the dead warriors and camped on the bank of the Ganga for a month.
One day, Narada appeared before Yudhishthira. "Son, through Krishna's grace, the valor of Arjuna and the power of your dharma, you were victorious and you are the sovereign lord of the land. Are you happy?" he asked.
Yudhishthira replied: "Bhagavan, it is true the kingdom has come into my possession. But my kinsmen are all gone. We have lost sons that were dear. This victory appears to me but a great defeat. O Narada, we took our own brother for an enemy and killed him, even Karna who stood rooted like a rock in his honor and at whose valor the world wondered. This terrible act of slaying our own brothers was the result of our sinful attachment to our possessions. Karna, on the other hand, kept the promise he gave to our mother and abstained from killing us. Oh! I am a sinner, a low fellow who murdered his own brother. My mind is troubled greatly at this thought. Karna's feet were so much like our mother's feet. In the large hall, when that great outrage was committed and my anger rose, when I looked at his feet, which were so much like Kunti's feet, my wrath subsided. I remember that now and my grief increases."
So saying, Yudhishthira heaved a deep sigh. Narada told him all about Karna and the curses that had been pronounced on him on various occasions.
Once, when Karna saw that Arjuna was superior to him in archery, he approached Drona and entreated him to teach him how to wield the Brahmastra. Drona declined saying it was not open to him to instruct any but a brahmana of faultless conduct or a kshatriya who had purified himself by much penance. Thereupon, Karna went to the Mahendra hills and deceived Parasurama by saying that he was a brahmana and became his disciple. From him he obtained instruction in archery and the use of many astras.
One day, when Karna was practising with his bow in the forest near Parasurama's asrama, a brahmana's cow was accidentally hit and killed. The brahmana was angry and uttered a curse on Karna: "In battle, your chariot wheels will stick in the mud and you will be done to death, even like this innocent cow which you have killed."
Parasurama was exceedingly fond of Karna and taught him all the archery he knew and instructed him fully in the use and the withdrawing of the Brahmastra.
One day, however, he discovered that the disciple was not a brahmana. It happened tha an an insect bit a hole into Karna's thigh when one afternoon the teacher had fallen asleep on Karna's lap. Karna bore the acute pain quietly and did not stir, lest the master should wake up. The warm blood trickling from the wound woke up Parasurama. When he saw what had happened, he was angry.
"You are a kshatriya; otherwise you could not have borne this physical pain without stirring. Tell me the truth. You are not a brahmana. You have deceived your teacher. Fool! When your hour comes, your knowledge of astras will fail you and what you have learnt from me through deception will not avail you."
Parasurama's wrath against kshatriyas is well known and, when he discovered that Karna was a kshatriya, he cursed him thus in his anger.
Karna was free in making gifts. One day, Indra, who was Arjuna's father, came in the garb of a brahmana and begged of Karna for a gift of the divine earrings and armor with which he had been born. Karna took them out and gave them away accordingly. From that time, Karna's strength was reduced.
"Karna's pledge to his mother Kunti that he would not kill more than one of the five of you, Parasurarna's curse, the anger of the brahmana whose cow was killed by Karna, the way in which his charioteer Salya depressed him by underrating his valor and Vasudeva's stratagems, these combined to bring about Karna's end. Do not grieve believing that you alone caused his death." Thus said Narada, but Yudhishthira was not consoled by these words.
"Do not blame yourself, son, for Karna's, death," said Kunti. "His father, the sun lord himself, pleaded with him. He begged of him to give up the wicked-hearted Duryodhana and join you. I too tried hard. But he would not listen to us. He brought his end on himself."
"You deceived us, mother" said Yudhishthira, "by hiding the secret of his birth from us. You became thus the cause of this great sin. May women never be able to keep a secret henceforth."
This is the poet's story of how Yudhishthira cursed all women in his anguish over having killed his own elder brother. It is a common notion that women cannot keep secrets. And this story is a beautiful conception illustrating that popular belief.
It may be that in worldly affairs, it is an advantage to be able to keep secrets. But it is not great virtue from the point of view of moral character, and women need not grieve over an incapacity of this kind, if indeed Kunti's legacy still persists.
The affectionate temperament natural to women may perhaps incline them to openness. But some women do keep secrets very well indeed, and not a man possess this ability either. It is a fallacy to attribute the differences that arise out of training and occupation on nature itself and imagine some qualities as peculiar to a sex.
YUDHISHTHIRA'S pain of mind increased everyday as he thought of all the kinsmen that had been killed. He was stricken with intense remorse and decided he must give up the world go to the forest and do penance to expiate his sin.
"I see no joy or good," he said to his brothers, in taking up the office of king or in worldly enjoyment. Do rule the land yourselves leaving me free to go to the forest."
Arjuna talked of the nobility of family life and the entire good one may do without taking sanyasa. Bhimasena also spoke and harshly.
"You talk, alas"' he said, "like a dull-witted person who has committed to memory the texts of the sastras without understanding their sense. Sanyasa is not the dharma of kshatriyas. The duty of a kshatriya, is to live an active life and perform his proper task, not to go to the forest renouncing activity."
Nakula also contested the propriety of Dharmaputra's proposal and insisted that the path of work was the right one to follow and the way of sanyasa was beset with difficulties.
Sahadeva also argued likewise and entreated: "You are my father, my mother, my teacher, as well as brother. Do not leave us, bear with us."
Draupadi also spoke. "It was right we killed Duryodhana and his men. Why should we regret it? Among the duties of a king is included the inflicting of just punishment. It cannot be avoided and is an essential part of the ruler's duty. You have meted just punishment too evildoers. There is no cause whatsoever for contrition. It is now your sacred duty to take up the burden of governing the land according to dharma. Cease grieving."
Then Vyasa spoke to Yudhishthira at length and explained where his duty lay, pointing out precedents, and persuaded him to go to the city and take up the burden of ruling the land.
Yudhishthira was duly crowned at Hastinapura. Before taking up the duties of the State, Yudhishthira went to where Bhishma lay on his bed of arrows awaiting his death, and took his blessing and instruction in dharma. This instruction of Bhishmacharya to king Yudhishthira is the famous Santiparva of the Mahabharata. After the discourse was over, Bhishma's soul passed out. The king went to the Ganga and offered libations, in accordance with ancient custom, for the peace of the departed soul.
After the ceremony was over, Yudhishthira went up the bank. There, as he stood for a while, all the tragic events came back to his mind, and overcome by intense grief, he fell senseless on the ground, like an elephant struck down by the hunter.
Bhima went up to his big brother and caressed him tenderly and spoke to him soothing words. Dhritarashtra also came up and said to Yudhishthira:
"You should not grieve like this. Arise and, assisted by your brothers and friends, reign over the kingdom that awaits your rule. Your duty now is to do what appertains to the office of king. Leave grief to Gandhari and me. You achieved victory in battle in accordance with the dharma of warriors. The duties appertaining to that victory await your attention now. Fool that I was, I did not pay heed to the words of Vidura and committed a great error. I listened to the ignorant words of Duryodhana and deceived myself. Like gold seen in a dream the glory has vanished. My hundred sons have disappeared into the world of nowhere. But I have you as my son now. Do not grieve."
END OF WAR—BUT THE EPIC CONTINUES
Throughout the past thousand years of the history of Hinduism, the popularity and authority of the Bhagavad Gita, the Song of the Lord, has been, and still is, unrivaled. Whoever reads it for the first time will be struck by the beauty and depth; countless Hindus know it by heart and quote it at many occasions as an expression of their faith and their own insights.
The tangled intertwined nature of issues is clear from the fact that in the Mahabharata nobody wants this war and yet nobody could avoid it. It came with all the bloody killings and disaster. But the Mahabharata is much more than a mere description of the blood-bath which was the battle of Kurukshetra.
The finest flower of chivalry and heroism perished in the flames of war in a matter of eighteen days.
The Mahabharat answers these vital questions of life, which grows in complexity as it evolves as if driven by an inner, inevitable logic of its own. The Mahabharat is a great and glorious epic poetry, but even more than its liquid and lyrical quality is the force of its logic, and this is why it overpowers the heart as well as the mind.
Throughout the past thousand years of the history of Hinduism, the popularity and authority of the Bhagavad Gita, the Song of the Lord, has been, and still is, unrivaled. Whoever reads it for the first time will be struck by the beauty and depth; countless Hindus know it by heart and quote it at many occasions as an expression of their faith and their own insights.
The theology of the Bhagavad Gita is attractive because it does not favor of any of the path.
Whatever works for you is the truth, a pragmatic attitude which is Hinduism's great and old strength.
The Gita is thus a product of mature Hinduism. The Gita boldly asserts that dharma is possible without renunciation, and many reformers have seized upon that to try and awaken Indians from a too comfortable 'spiritual' torpor-- catalysed by the earlier Ramayana war.The finale of Mahabharat are impressive. Rishi Vyasa concludes: "Dharma is eternal; life, its joys and sorrow are not. Do not give away the eternal for the temporal values of life."
Do not to others what ye do not wish
Done to yourself; and wish for others too
What ye desire and long for, for yourself — This is the whole of dharma — heed —it well.
Done to yourself; and wish for others too
What ye desire and long for, for yourself — This is the whole of dharma — heed —it well.
— Veda Vyasa, The Mahabharata.
Note: The Institute for Scientific Research on Vedas (I-SERVE), planetarium software has ascertained the birth of Lord Rama as 10th January 5114 BC in Ayodhya. As per the Indian calendar the time of the birth is in-between 12 noon and 1pm, Shukla Paksha in Chaitra month.
CAPT AJIT VADAKAYIL