The Mahabharata Home
"Vaisampayana said, 'Then while a great havoc was being made among the Kurus, Santanu's son, Bhishma, and grandsire of the Bharatas rushed at Arjuna, taking up an excellent bow adorned with gold, and many arrows also of keen points and capable of piercing into the very vitals of the foe and afflicting him sorely. And in consequence of a white umbrella being held over his head, that tiger among men looked beautiful like unto a hill at sunrise. And the son of Ganga, blowing his conch cheered the sons of Dhritarashtra, and wheeling along his right came upon Vibhatsu and impeded his course. And that slayer of hostile heroes, the son of Kunti, beholding him approach, received him with a glad heart, like a hill receiving a rain-charged cloud. And Bhishma, endued with great energy, pierced Partha's flag-staff with eight arrows. The arrows reaching the flag-staff of Pandu's son, struck the blazing ape and those creatures also stationed in the banner-top. And then the son of Pandu, with a mighty javelin of sharp-edge cut of Bhishma's umbrella which instantly fell on the ground. And then the light-handed son of Kunti struck his adversary's flag-staff also with many shafts, and then his steeds and then the couple of drivers that protected Bhishma's flanks. And unable to bear this, Bhishma though cognisant of the Pandava's might, covered Dhananjaya with a powerful celestial weapon. And the son of Pandu, of immeasurable soul, hurling in return a celestial weapon at
[paragraph continues] Bhishma, received that from Bhishma like a hill receiving a deep mass of clouds. And the encounter that took place between Partha and Bhishma, was fierce and the Kaurava warriors with their troops stood as lookers on. And in the conflict between Bhishma and the son of Pandu, shafts striking against shafts shone in the air like fireflies in the season of rains. And, O king, in consequence of Partha's shooting arrows with both his right and left hands, the bent Gandiva seemed like a continuous circle of fire. And the son of Kunti then covered Bhishma with hundreds of sharp and keen-edged arrows, like a cloud covering the mountain-breast with its heavy downpour. And Bhishma baffled with the own arrows that arrowy shower, like the bank resisting the swelling sea, and covered the son of Pandu in return. And those warriors, cut into a thousand pieces in battle, fell fast in the vicinity of Falguna's car. And then there was a downpour, from the car of Pandu's son, of arrows furnished with golden wing, and raining through the sky like a flight of locusts. And Bhishma again repelled that arrowy shower with hundreds of whetted shafts shot by him. And then the Kauravas exclaimed.--Excellent! Excellent!--Indeed, Bhishma hath performed an exceedingly difficult feat inasmuch as he hath fought with Arjuna. Dhananjaya is mighty and youthful, and dexterous and swift of hand. Who else, save Bhishma, the son of Santanu, or Krishna, the son of Devaki, or the mighty son of Bharadwaja, the foremost of preceptors, is able to bear the impetus of Partha in battle? And repelling weapons with weapons, those two bulls of the Bharata race, both endued with great might, fought on playfully and infatuated the eyes of all created beings. And those illustrious warriors ranged on the field of battle, using the celestials weapons obtained from Prajapati and Indra, and Agni and the fierce Rudra, and Kuvera, and Varuna, and Yama, and Vayu. And all beings were greatly surprised, upon beholding those warriors engaged in combat. And they all exclaimed,--Bravo Partha of long arms? Bravo Bhishma! Indeed, this application of celestial weapons that is being witnessed in the combat between Bhishma and Partha is rare among human beings."
"Vaisampayana continued, 'Thus raged that conflict with weapons between those warriors conversant with all weapons. And when that conflict of celestial weapons ceased, then commenced a conflict with arrows. And Jishnu approaching his opponent, cut of with an arrow sharp like a razor the gold-decked bow of Bhishma. Within the twinkling of the eye, however, Bhishma, that mighty-armed and great car-warrior, took up another bow and stringed it. And inflamed with wrath, he showered upon Dhananjaya a cloud of arrows. And Arjuna, too, endued with great energy, rained upon Bhishma innumerable sharp-pointed and keen-edged arrows. And Bhishma also shot clouds of arrows upon Pandu's son. And conversant with celestial weapons and engaged in shooting and each other, arrows of keen points, no distinction, O king, could then be perceived between those illustrious warriors. And that mighty car-warrior, Kunti's son, covered with a diadem, and the heroic son of
[paragraph continues] Santanu, obscured the ten directions with their arrows. And the Pandava covered Bhishma, and Bhishma also covered the Pandava, with clouds of shafts. And, O king, wonderful was this combat that took place in this world of men. And the heroic warriors that protected Bhishma's car, slain by the son of Pandu, fell prostrate, O monarch, beside the car of Kunti's son. And the feathery arrows of Svetavahana, shot from the Gandiva, fell in all directions as if with the object of making a wholesale slaughter of the foe. And issuing forth from his car those blazing arrows furnished with golden wings looked like rows of swans in the sky. And all the celestials with Indra, stationed in the firmament, gazed with wonder upon another celestial weapon hurled with great force by that wonderful archer Arjuna. And beholding that wonderful weapon of great beauty, the mighty Gandiva, Chitrasena, highly pleased, addressed the lord of celestials, saying, 'Behold these arrows shot by Partha coursing through the sky in one continuous line. Wonderful is the dexterity of Jishnu in evolving this celestial weapon! Human beings are incapable of shooting such a weapon, for it does not exist among men. How wonderful again is this concourse of mighty weapons existing from days of old! No interval can be perceived between his taking up the arrows, fixing them on the bow-string, and letting them off by stretching the Gandiva. The soldiers are incapable of even looking at the son of Pandu, who is like unto the midday sun blazing in the sky. So also none ventures to look at Bhishma, the son of Ganga. Both are famous for their achievements, and both are of fierce prowess. Both are equal in feats of heroism, and both are difficult of being vanquished in battle.'
'Thus addressed by the Gandharva about that combat between Partha and Bhishma, the lord of the celestials, O Bharata, paid proper respect unto both by a shower of celestial flowers. Meanwhile, Bhishma, the son of Santanu, assailed Arjuna on the left side, while that drawer of the bow with either hands was on the point of piercing him. And at this, Vibhatsu, laughing aloud, cut off with an arrow of keen edge and furnished with vulturine wings, the bow of Bhishma, that hero of solar effulgence. And then Dhananjaya, the son of Kunti, pierced Bhishma in the breast with ten shafts although the latter was contending with all his prowess. And sorely afflicted with pain Ganga's son of mighty arms and irresistible in battle, stood for a long time leaning on the pole of his car. And beholding him deprived of consciousness the driver of his car-steeds, calling to mind the instructions about protecting the warriors when in a swoon, led him away for safety.'"
Next: Section LXIV