The Mahabharata Home
Dhritarashtra said, "When mine and the hostile hosts were thus formed into battle array, how did the foremost of smiters begin to strike?"
Sanjaya said, "When all the divisions were thus arrayed, the combatants waited, each cased in mail, and with their beautiful standards all upraised. And beholding the (Kuru) host that resembled the limitless ocean, thy son Duryodhana, O king, stationed within it, said unto all the combatants on thy side, 'Cased in mail (as ye are), begin ye the fight'. The combatants then, entertaining cruel intentions, and abandoning their very lives, all rushed against the Pandavas, with standards upraised. The battle that took place then was fierce and made the hair stand on end. And the cars and elephants all got mixed together. And shafts with beautiful feathers, and endued with great energy and sharp points, shot by car-warriors fell upon elephants and horses. And when the battle began in this way, the venerable Kuru grandsire, the mighty-armed Bhishma of terrible prowess, cased in mail, taking up his bow, and approaching them, showered an arrowy downpour on the heroic son of Subhadra, and the mighty car-warrior Arjuna, and the ruler of the Kekayas and Virata, and Dhrishtadyumna of Prishata's race, as also upon the Chedi and the Matsya warriors. And that mighty array (of the Pandavas) wavered at the onset of that hero. And terrific was the encounter that took place between all the combatants. And horse-men and car-warriors and foremost of steeds fell fast. And the car-divisions of the Pandavas began to fly away. Then that tiger among men, Arjuna, beholding that mighty car-warrior Bhishma, angrily said unto him of Vrishni's race. 'Proceed to the place where the grandsire is. O thou of Vrishni's race, it is evident that this Bhishma, with wrath excited, will annihilate for Duryodhana's benefit my host. And this
[paragraph continues] Drona, and Kripa and Salya and Vikarna, O Janardana, united with Dhritarashtra's sons headed by Duryodhana, and protected by this firm bowman, will slaughter the Panchalas. Even I, therefore, shall stay Bhishma for the sake of my troops, O Janardana.' Unto him Vasudeva then said, 'Be careful, O Dhananjaya, for I will soon take thee, O hero, towards the grandsire's car.' Having said this, O king, Saurin took that car, which was celebrated over the world, before the car of Bhishma. With numerous banners all waving, with steeds looking handsome like a flight of (white) cranes, with standard upraised on which was the ape roaring fiercely, upon his large car of solar effulgence and whose rattle resembled roar of the clouds, slaughtering the Kaurava divisions and the Surasenas also, the son of Pandu, that enhancer of the joys of friends speedily came to the encounter. Him (thus) rushing impetuously like an infuriate elephant and (thus) frightening in a battle brave combatants and felling them with his shafts, Bhishma the son of Santanu, protected by the warriors headed by Saindhava and by the combatants of the East and the Sauviras and the Kekayas, encountered with great impetuosity. Who else save the Kuru grandsire and those car-warriors, viz., Drona and Vikartana's son (Karna), are capable of advancing in battle against the bearer of the bow called Gandiva? Then, O great king, Bhishma, the grandsire of the Kauravas, struck Arjuna with seventy-seven arrows and Drona (struck him) with five and twenty, and Kripa with fifty, and Duryodhana with four and sixty, and Salya with nine arrows; and Drona's son, that tiger among men, with sixty, and Vikarna with three arrows; and Saindhava with nine and Sakuni with five. And Artayani O king, pierced Pandu's son with three broad-headed arrows. And (though) pierced on all sides by them with sharp arrows, that great bowman, 1 that mighty-armed (warrior), wavered not like mountain that is pierced (with arrows). Thereupon he, the diadem-decked, of immeasurable soul, O bull of Bharata's race, in return pierced Bhishma with five and twenty, and Kripa with nine arrows, and Drona with sixty, O tiger among men, and Vikarna with three arrows; and Artayani with three arrows, and the king (Duryodhana) also with five. And then Satyaki, and Virata and Dhrishtadyumna of Prishata's race, and the sons of Draupadi, and Abhimanyu, all surrounded him, (proceeding to his support). Then the prince of the Panchalas, supported by the Somakas, advanced towards the great bowman Drona who was engaged in seeking the welfare of Ganga's son. Then Bhishma, that foremost of car-warriors, speedily pierced the son of Pandu with eighty sharp arrows, upon which the combatants on thy side were much gratified. Hearing the shouts of those lions among car-warriors, Dhananjaya, endued with great prowess, then cheerfully entered into the midst of those lions among car-warriors and sported with his bow, O king, (successively) aiming those mighty car-warriors. Then that ruler of men, king Duryodhana, said unto Bhishma, beholding his own troops (thus)
afflicted in battle by the son of Pritha. 'This mighty son of Pandu, O sire, accompanied by Krishna, felling all our troops, cutteth down our roots, even though thou, O son of Ganga, and that foremost of car-warriors, Drona, are alive. O monarch, it is for thee only that this Karna, laying aside his weapons, doth not fight with the sons of Pritha in battle (though) he is ever a well-wisher of mine, Do, therefore, that, O son of Ganga by which Phalguni may be slain. 'Thus addressed, O king, thy sire Devavrata, saying, 'Fie to Kshatriya usage', then proceeded towards Partha's car. And all the kings, O monarch, seeing both those warriors with white steeds yoked unto their cars stationed (for battle), set up loud leonine roars, and also blew their conches, O sire. And Drona's son and Duryodhana, and thy son Vikarna, surrounding Bhishma in that combat, stood, O sire, for battle. And so all the Pandavas, surrounding Dhananjaya, stood for fierce conflict. And the battle then commenced. And the son of Ganga pierced Partha in that combat with nine shafts. And Arjuna pierced him in return with ten shafts penetrating into the very vitals. Then, with a thousand arrows, well shot, Pandu's son Arjuna, famed for his skill in battle, shrouded Bhishma on all sides. That arrowy net, however, of Partha, O king, Bhishma the son of Santanu baffled with an arrowy net (of his own). And both well-pleased, and both delighting in battle, fought with each other without each gaining any advantage over the other, and each desirous of counteracting the other's feats. And the successive flights of arrows shot from Bhishma's bow were seen to be dispersed by the shafts of Arjuna. And so the flights of arrows shot by Arjuna, cut off by the arrows of Ganga's son, all fell down on the ground. And Arjuna pierced Bhishma with five and twenty arrows of sharp points. And Bhishma, too, in that combat, pierced Partha in return with nine arrows. And those two mighty warriors, those chastisers of foes, piercing each other's steeds, and also the shafts and the wheels of each other's cars, began to sport. Then, O king, Bhishma, that foremost of smiters, struck Vasudeva between his two breasts with three arrows. And the slayer of Madhu, struck with those shafts shot from Bhishma's bow, shone in that battle, O king, like a flowering Kinsuka. Then Arjuna, indignant at seeing Madhava, pierced in that combat the charioteer of Ganga's son with three arrows. And both heroes, striving with each other against each other's car, succeeded not in taking aim at each other in the combat. And in consequence of the ability and dexterity of the charioteers of both those warriors, both displayed, O king, beautiful circles and advancings and retreatings in respect of their moving cars. And, O monarch, seeing the opportunity to strike, they frequently changed positions, O king, for obtaining what they sought. And both the heroes blew their conches, mingling that blare with their leonine roars. And those mighty car-warriors twang their bows, both in the same manner. And with the blare of their conches and the rattle of their car-wheels, the very Earth was suddenly rent. And it began to tremble and produce subterranean noises. And nobody, O bull of Bharata's race, could detect any latches in either of them. Both of them was possessed
of great might and great courage in battle, each was other's match. And by (the sight of) his standard alone, the Kauravas could approach him (for aid). And so the Pandavas approached Pritha's son (for aid), guided by his standard only. And beholding, O king, prowess thus displayed by those two foremost of men, O Bharata, all creatures (present) in that battle were filled with wonder. And none, O Bharata, observed any difference between the two, just as none finds any transgression in a person observant of morality. And both of them (at times) became perfectly invisible in consequence of clouds of arrows. And soon enough both of them in that battle became visible. And the gods with Gandharvas and the Charanas, and the great Rishis beholding their prowess, said unto one another. These mighty car-warriors when excited with rage, are incapable of ever being vanquished in battle by all the worlds with the gods, the Asuras and the Gandharvas. This highly wonderful battle would be wonderful in all the worlds. Indeed, a battle such as this will never take place again. Bhishma is incapable of being conquered in combat by Pritha's son of great intelligence, showering his arrows in battle, with bow and car and steeds. So also that great bowman, the son of Pandu, incapable of being vanquished in battle by the very gods, Bhishma is not competent to conquer in combat. As long as the world itself will last, so long will this battle continue equally. We heard these words, O king, fraught with the praise of Ganga's son and Arjuna in battle bruited about there. And while those two were engaged in displaying their prowess, other warriors of thy side and of the Pandavas, O Bharata, slew one another in battle, with sharp-edged scimitars, and polished battle-axes, and innumerable arrows, and diverse kinds of weapons. And the brave combatants of both armies cut one another down, while that terrible and murderous conflict lasted. And the encounter also, O king, that took place between Drona and the prince of the Panchalas, was awful."
130:1 The 26th verse in the Bengal texts consists of three lines. In the Bombay texts, the half-sloka about Artayani does not occur.
Next: Section LIII