The Mahabharata Home
"Dhritarashtra said, After Falguni had vowed the slaughter of Bhishma in battle, what did my wicked sons headed by Duryodhana do? Alas, I already behold my father, Ganga's son, slain in battle, by that bowman of firm grasp, viz., Partha, having Vasudeva for his ally! And what also did that mighty bowman, that foremost of smiters, Bhishma, endued with immeasurable wisdom, say on hearing the words of Partha. Having accepted also the command of the Kauravas, what did that foremost of warriors, Ganga's son, of exceeding intelligence and prowess, do?'
"Vaisampayana continued, 'Thus questioned, Sanjaya told him everything about what that eldest one of the Kurus, Bhishma of immeasurable energy, had said.'
"Sanjaya said, 'O monarch, obtaining the command, Bhishma, the son of Santanu said these words unto Duryodhana, gladdening him greatly, 'Worshipping the leader of celestial forces, viz., Kumara, armed with the lance, I shall, without doubt, be the commander of thy army today! I am well-versed in all mighty affairs, as also in various kinds of array. I know also how to make regular soldiers and volunteers act their parts. In the matter of marching the troops and arraying them, in encounters and withdrawing, I am as well-versed, O great king, as Vrihaspati (the preceptor of the celestials), is! I am acquainted with all the methods of military array prevalent amongst the celestials, Gandharvas, and human beings. With these I will confound the Pandavas. Let thy (heart's) fever be dispelled. I will fight (the foe), duly protecting thy army and according to the rules of (military) science! O king, let thy heart's fever be dispelled!'
Hearing these words, Duryodhana said, 'O Ganga's son of mighty arms, I tell thee truly, I have no fear from even all the gods and Asuras united together! How much less, therefore, is my fear when thy invincible self hath become the leader of my forces and when that tiger among men, Drona, also waiteth willingly for battle! When you two foremost of men, are addressed for battle on my side, victory, nay, the sovereignty of even the celestial cannot assuredly be unattainable by me! I desire, however, O Kaurava, to know who amongst all the warriors of the foe and my own are to be counted as Rathas and who Atirathas. Thou, O grandsire, art well-acquainted with the (prowess of the) combatants of the foe, also of ourselves! I desire to hear this, with all these lords of earth!'
"Bhishma said, 'Listen, O son of Gandhari, O king of kings, to the tale of Rathas in thy own army! Hear, O king, as to who are Rathas and who Atirathas! They are in thy army, many thousands, many millions, and many hundreds of millions of Rathas. Listen, however, to me as I name only the principal ones. Firstly, with thy country of brothers including Dussasana and others, thou art of the foremost of Rathas! All of you are skilled in striking, and proficient in cutting chariots and piercing. All of you are accomplished drivers of chariots while seated in the driver's box, and accomplished managers of elephants while seated on the necks of those animals. All of you are clever smiters with maces and bearded darts and swords and bucklers. You are accomplished in weapons and competent in bearing burthens of responsibility. Ye all are disciples of Drona and of Kripa, the son of Saradwat, in arrows and other arms. Wronged by the sons of Pandu, these Dhartarashtras, endued with energy, will assuredly slay in the encounter the Panchalas irresistible in combat. Then, O foremost of the Bharatas, come I, the leader of all thy troops, who will exterminate thy foes, vanquishing the Pandavas! It behoveth me not to speak of my own merits. I am known to thee. The foremost of all wielders of weapons, Bhoja (chief) Kritavarman is Atiratha. Without doubt, he will accomplish thy purpose in battle. Incapable of being humiliated by persons accomplished in arms, shooting or hurling his weapons to a great distance, and a severe smiter, he will destroy the ranks of the foe, as the great Indra destroying the Danavas. The ruler of the Madras, the mighty bowman Salya, is, as I think, an Atiratha. That warrior boasteth himself as Vasudeva's equal, in every battle (that he fighteth). Having abandoned his own sister's sons, that best of kings, Salya, hath become thine. He will encounter in battle the Maharathas of the Pandava party, flooding the enemy with his arrows resembling the very surges of the sea. The mighty bowman Bhurisravas, the son of Somadatta, who is accomplished in arms and is one of thy well-meaning friends, is a leader of leaders of car-divisions. He will, certainly, make a great havoc among the combatants of thy enemies. The king of the Sindhus, O monarch, is in my judgment, equal to two Rathas. That best of car-warriors will fight in battle, displaying great prowess. Humiliated, O king, by the Pandavas on the occasion of his,
abducting Draupadi, and bearing that humiliation in mind, that slayer of hostile heroes will fight (for thee). Having practised after that, O king, the severest austerities, he obtained a boon, highly difficult of acquisition, for encountering the Pandavas in battle. That tiger among car-warriors, therefore, remembering his old hostility, will, O sire, fight with the Pandavas in battle, reckless of his very life which is so difficult to lay down.'"
Next: Section CLXVII