The Mahabharata Home
"Vaisampayana said, 'After the son of Radha had fled from the field, other warriors headed by Duryodhana, one after another, fell upon the son of Pandu with their respective divisions. And like the shore withstanding the fury of the surging sea, that warrior withstood the rage of that countless host rushing towards him, arrayed in order of battle and showering clouds of arrows. And that foremost of car-warriors, Kunti's son Vibhatsu of white steeds, rushed towards the foe, discharging celestial weapons all the while. Partha soon covered all the points of the horizon with countless arrows shot from the Gandiva, like the sun covering the whole earth with his rays. And amongst those that fought on cars and horses and elephants, and amongst the mail-clad foot-soldiers, there was none that had on his body a space of even two finger's breadth unwounded with sharp arrows. And for his dexterity in applying celestial weapons, and for the training of the steeds and the skill of Uttara, and for the coursing of his weapons, and his prowess and light-handedness, people began to regard Arjuna as the fire that blazeth forth during the time of the universal dissolution for consuming all created things. And none amongst the foe could cast his eyes on Arjuna who shone like a blazing fire of great effulgence. And mangled by the arrows of Arjuna, the hostile ranks looked like newly-risen clouds on the breast of a hill reflecting the solar rays, or like groves of Asoka trees resplendent with clusters of flowers. Indeed, afflicted by the arrows of Partha, the soldiers looked like these, or like a beautiful garland whose flowers gradually wither and drop away: And the all-pervading wind bore on its wings in the sky the torn flags and umbrellas of the hostile host. And affrighted at the havoc amongst their own ranks, the steeds fled in all directions, freed from their yokes by means of Partha's arrows and dragging after them broken portions of cars and elephants, struck on their ears and ribs and tusks and nether lips and other delicate parts of the body, began to drop down on the battle-field. And the earth, bestrewn in a short time with the corpses of elephants belonging to the Kauravas, looked like the sky overcast with masses of black clouds. And as that fire of blazing flames at the end of the yuga consumeth all perishable things of the world, both mobile and immobile, so did Partha,
[paragraph continues] O king, consumeth all foes in battle. And by the energy of his weapons and the twang of his bow, and the preter-natural yells of the creatures stationed on his flagstaff, and the terrible roar of the monkey, and by the blast of his conch, that mighty grinder of foes, Vibhatsu, struck terror into the hearts of all the troops of Duryodhana. And the strength of every hostile warrior seemed, as it were, to be levelled to the dust at the very sight of Arjuna. And unwilling to commit the daring act of sin of slaying them that were defenceless, Arjuna suddenly fell back and attacked the army from behind by means of clouds of keen-edged arrows proceeding towards their aims like hawks let off by fowlers. And he soon covered the entire welkin with clusters of blood-drinking arrows. And as the (infinite) rays of the powerful sun, entering a small vessel, are contracted within it for want of space, so the countless shafts of Arjuna could not find space for their expansion even within the vast welkin. Foes were able to behold Arjuna's car, when near, only once, for immediately after, they were with their horses, sent to the other world. And as his arrows unobstructed by the bodies of foes always passed through them, so his car, unimpeded by hostile ranks, always passed through the latter. And, indeed, he began to toss about and agitate the hostile troops with great violence like the thousand-headed Vasuki sporting in the great ocean. And as Kiritin incessantly shot his shafts, the noise of the bow-string, transcending every sound, was so loud that the like of it had never been heard before by created beings. And the elephants crowding the field, their bodies pierced with (blazing) arrows with small intervals between looked like black clouds coruscated with solar rays. And ranging in all directions and shooting (arrows) right and left, Arjuna's bow was always to be seen drawn to a perfect circle. And the arrows of the wielder of the Gandiva never fell upon anything except the aim, even as the eye never dwelleth on anything that is not beautiful. And as the track of a herd of elephants marching through the forest is made of itself, so was the track was made of itself for the car of Kiritin. And struck and mangled by Partha, the hostile warriors thought that,--Verily, Indra himself, desirous of Partha's victory, accompanied by all the immortals is slaying us! And they also regarded Vijaya, who was making a terrible slaughter around, to be none else than Death himself who having assumed the form of Arjuna, was slaying all creatures. And the troops of the Kurus, struck by Partha, were so mangled and shattered that the scene looked like the achievement of Partha himself and could be compared with nothing else save what was observable in Partha's combats. And he severed the heads of foes, even as reapers cut off the tops of deciduous herbs. And the Kurus all lost their energy owing to the terror begot of Arjuna. And tossed and mangled by the Arjuna-gale, the forest of Arjuna's foes reddened the earth with purple secretions. And the dust mixed with blood, uplifted by the wind, made the very rays of the sun redder still. And soon the sun-decked sky became so red that it looked very much like the evening. Indeed, the sun ceaseth to
shed his rays as soon as he sets, but the son of Pandu ceased not to shoot his shafts. And that hero of inconceivable energy overwhelmed, by means of all celestial weapons, all the great bowmen of the enemy, although they were possessed of great prowess. And Arjuna then shot three and seventy arrows of sharp points at Drona, and ten at Dussaha and eight at Drona's son, and twelve at Dussasana, and three at Kripa, the son of Saradwat. And that slayer of foes pierced Bhishma, the son of Santanu, with arrows, and king Duryodhana with a hundred. And, lastly, he pierced Karna in the ear with a bearded shaft. And when that great bowmen Karna, skilled in all weapons, was thus pierced, and his horses and car and car-driver were all destroyed, the troops that supported him began to break. And beholding those soldiers break and give way the son of Virata desirous of knowing Partha's purpose, addressed him on the field of battle, and said, 'O Partha, standing on this beautiful car, with myself as charioteer, towards which division shall I go? For, commanded by thee, I would soon take thee thither.'
"Arjuna replied, 'O Uttara, yonder auspicious warrior whom thou seest cased in coat of tiger-skin and stationed on his car furnished with a blue-flag and drawn by red steeds, is Kripa. There is to be seen the van of Kripa's division. Take me thither. I shall show that great bowman my swift-handedness in archery. And that warrior whose flag beareth the device of an elegant water-pot worked in gold, is the preceptor Drona--that foremost of all wielders of weapons. He is always an object of regard with me, as also with all bearers of arms. Do thou, therefore, circumambulate that great hero cheerfully. Let us bend our heads there, for that is the eternal virtue. If Drona strikes my body first, then I shall strike him, for then he will not be able to resent it. There, close to Drona, that warrior whose flag beareth the device of a bow, is the preceptor's son, the great car-warrior Aswatthaman, who is always an object of regard with me as also with every bearer of arms. Do thou, therefore, stop again and again, while thou comest by his car. There, that warrior who stayeth on his car, cased in golden mail and surrounded by a third part of the army consisting of the most efficient troops, and whose flag beareth the device of an elephant in a ground of gold, is the illustrious king Duryodhana, the son of Dhritarashtra. O hero, take before him this thy car that is capable of grinding hostile cars. This king is difficult of being vanquished in battle and is capable of grinding all foes. He is regarded as the first of all Drona's disciples in lightness of hand. I shall, in battle, show him my superior swiftness in archery. There, that warrior whose flag beareth the device of a stout chord for binding elephants, is Karna, the son of Vikartana, already known to thee. When thou comest before that wicked son of Radha, be thou very careful, for he always challengeth me to an encounter. And that warrior whose flag is blue and beareth the device of five stars with a sun (in the centre), and who endued with great energy stayeth on his car holding a huge bow in hand and wearing excellent fences, and over whose head is an umbrella of pure
white, who standeth at the head of a multitudinous array of cars with various flags and banners like the sun in advance of masses of black clouds, and whose mail of gold looks bright as the sun or the moon, and who with his helmet of gold striketh terror into my heart, is Bhishma, the son of Santanu and the grandsire of us all. Entertained with regal splendour by Duryodhana, he is very partial and well-affected towards that prince. Let him be approached last of all, for he may, even now, be an obstacle to me. While fighting with me, do thou carefully guide the steeds. Thus addressed by him, Virata's son, O king, guided Savyasachin's car with great alacrity towards the spot where Kripa stood anxious to fight.'"
Next: Section LVI