The Mahabharata Home
Dhritarashtra said, "After that dreadful vow had been made in battle by Bhishma enraged by the words of my son, what, O Sanjaya, did Bhishma do unto the sons of Pandu or what did the Panchalas do unto the grandsire? Tell it all unto me, O Sanjaya."
Sanjaya said, "After the forenoon of that day, O Bharata, had passed away, and the sun in his westward course had passed a portion of his path, and after the high-souled Pandavas had won the victory, thy sire Devavrata, conversant with the distinction of all codes of morality, rushed carried by the fleetest steeds, towards the army of the Pandavas, protected by a large force and by all thy sons. Then, O Bharata, in consequence of thy sinful policy, commenced a dreadful battle, making the hair stand on end, between ourselves and the Pandavas. And the twang of bows, the flapping of bowstrings against the leathern fences (casing the hands of the bowman), mingling together, made a loud uproar resembling that of splitting hills. Stay--Here I stand,--Know this one,--Turn back,--Stand,--I wait for thee--Strike,--these were the words heard everywhere. And the sound of falling coats of mail made of gold, of crowns and diadems, and of standards resembled the sound of falling stones on a stony ground. And heads, and arms decked with ornaments, falling by hundreds and thousands upon the ground moved in convulsions. And some brave combatants, with heads severed from their trunks, continued to stand weapons in grasp or armed with drawn bow. And a dreadful river of blood began to flow there, of impetuous current, miry with flesh and blood, and with the bodies of (dead) elephants for its (sub-aqueous) rocks. Flowing from the bodies of steeds, men, and elephants, and delightful to vultures and jackals, it ran towards the ocean represented by the next world. A battle such as that, O king,
which (then) took place between thy sons, O Bharata, and the Pandavas, was never seen or heard before. And in consequence of the bodies of combatants slain in that conflict, cars could not make their way. And the field of battle in consequence of the bodies of slain elephants seemed to be strewn over with blue crests of hills. And the field of battle, strewn with variegated coats of mail and turbans, O sire, looked beautiful like the firmament autumn. And some combatants were seen who, though severely wounded, yet rushed cheerfully and proudly upon the foe in battle. And many, fallen on the field of battle, cried aloud, saying--'O father, O brother, O friend, O kinsman, O companion, O maternal uncle, do not abandon me.'--And others cried aloud, saying,--'Come! Come thou here! Why art thou frightened? Where dost thou go? I stand in battle, do not be afraid.' And in that combat Bhishma, the son of Santanu, with bow incessantly drawn to a circle, shot shafts of blazing points, resembling snakes of virulent poison. And shooting continuous line of arrows in all directions, that hero of rigid vows smote the Pandava car-warriors naming each beforehand, O Bharata. And displaying his extreme lightness of hands, and dancing (as it were) along the track of his car, he seemed, O king, to be present everywhere like a circle of fire. And in consequence of the lightness of his movements, the Pandavas in that battle, along with the Srinjayas, beheld that hero, though really alone, as multiplied a thousand-fold. And every one there regarded Bhishma as having multiplied his self by illusion. Having seen him now on the east, the next moment they saw him on the west. And so having seen him on the north, the next moment they saw him on the south. And the son of Ganga was thus seen fighting in that battle. And there was no one amongst the Pandavas capable of even looking at him. What they all saw were only the innumerable shafts shot from his bow. And heroic warriors, beholding him achieve such feats in battle, and (thus) slaughtering their ranks, uttered many lamentations. And, kings in thousands came in contact with thy sire, thus coursing over the field in a superhuman way, and fell upon that fire represented by the enraged Bhishma like flights of senseless insects (upon a blazing fire) for their own destruction. Not a single shaft of that light-handed warrior was futile, falling upon the bodies of men, elephants, and steeds, in consequence of the numbers (opposed to him). With a single straight shaft shot in that battle, he despatched a single elephant like hill riven by the thunderbolt. Two or three elephant-riders at a time, cased in mail and standing together, thy sire pierced with one shaft of sharp point. Whoever approached Bhishma, that tiger among men, in battle, seen for a moment was, next beheld to fall down on the ground. And that vast host of king Yudhishthira the just, thus slaughtered by Bhishma of incomparable prowess, gave way in a thousand directions. And afflicted with that arrowy shower, the vast army began to tremble in the very presence of Vasudeva and the high-souled Partha. And although the heroic leaders of the Pandava army made great efforts, yet they could not check the flight of (even) the great car-warriors of their side afflicted with the shafts of Bhishma. The prowess,
in consequence of which that vast army was routed, was equal to that of the chief of the gods himself. And that army was so completely routed, O great king, that no two persons could be seen together. And cars and elephants and steeds were pierced all over, and standards and shafts of cars were strewn over the field. And the army of the sons of Pandu uttered cries of oh and alas, and became deprived of senses. And the sire struck the son and the son struck the sire; and friend challenged the dearest of friends to battle as if under the influence of fate. And others amongst the combatants of Pandu's son were seen, O Bharata, to run away, throwing aside their coats of mail, and with dishevelled hair. And the army of the sons of Pandu, indulging in loud wails, including the very leaders of their best of car-warriors, was seen to be as confounded as a very herd of kine. The delighter of the Yadavas then, beholding that army thus routed, said unto Partha, stopping that best of cars (which he guided), these words, 'The hour is now come, O Partha, which was desired by thee. Strike Bhishma, O tiger among men, else, thou wilt lose the senses. O hero, formerly, in the conclave of kings, thou hadst said,--'I will slay all the warriors of Dhritarashtra's sons, headed by Bhishma and Drona--all in fact, who will fight with me in battle'. O son of Kunti, O chastiser of foes, make those words of thine true. Behold, O Vibhatsu, this army of thine is being routed on all sides. Behold, the kings in Yudhishthira's host are all flying away, seeing Bhishma in battle, who looketh like the Destroyer himself with wide-open mouth. Afflicted with fear, they are making themselves scarce like the weaker animals at sight of the lion. Thus addressed, Dhananjaya replied unto Vasudeva, saying, 'Plunging through this sea of the hostile host, urge on the steeds to where Bhishma is. I will throw down that invincible warrior, the reverend Kuru grandsire'. Then Madhava urged those steeds of silvery hue to where, O king, the car of Bhishma was, that car which, like the very sun, was incapable of being gazed at. And beholding the mighty-armed Partha thus rushing to an encounter with Bhishma, the mighty army of Yudhisthira rallied for battle. Then Bhishma, that foremost of warriors amongst the Kurus, repeatedly roaring like a lion, quickly covered Dhananjaya's car with an arrowy shower. In a moment that car of his, with standard and charioteer, became invisible, shrouded with that arrowy downpour. Vasudeva, however, endued with great might fearlessly and summoning all his patience, began to guide those steeds mangled by Bhishma's shafts. Then Partha, taking up his celestial bow whose twang resembled the roar of the clouds, caused Bhishma's bow to drop down, cutting it off with his keen shafts. The Kuru warrior, thy sire, seeing his bow cut off, took up another and stringed it within the twinkling of the eye. And he stretched that bow whose twang resembled the roar of the clouds, with his two hands. But Arjuna, excited with wrath, cut off that bow also of his. Then the son of Santanu applauded that lightness of hand (displayed by Arjuna), saying--Excellent, O Partha, O thou of mighty arms, excellent, O son of Pandu. O Dhananjaya, such a mighty feat is, indeed, worthy of thee. I have been pleased with thee. Fight hard with
me, O son. And having applauded Partha thus, and taking up another large bow, that hero shot his shafts at Partha's car. And Vasudeva then displayed his great skill in the guiding of chariot, for he baffled those shafts of his, by guiding the car in quick circles. Then, O sire, Bhishma with great strength pierced both Vasudeva and Dhananjaya with keen shafts all over their bodies. And mangled by those shafts of Bhishma, those two tigers among men looked like two roaring bulls with the scratches of horns on their bodies. And once again, excited with rage, Bhishma covered the two Krishnas on all sides with shafts in hundreds and thousands. And with those keen shafts of his, the enraged Bhishma caused him of Vrishni's race to shiver. And laughing loudly he also made Krishna to wonder. Then the mighty-armed Krishna, beholding the prowess of Bhishma in battle as also the mildness with which Arjuna fought, and seeing that Bhishma was creating incessant showers of arrows in that conflict and looked like the all-consuming Sun himself in the midst of the two armies, and marking besides, that that hero was slaying the foremost of combatants in Yudhishthira's host and causing a havoc in that army as if the hour of dissolution had come,--the adorable Kesava, that slayer of hosts, endued with immeasurable soul--unable to bear what he saw, thought that Yudhishthira's army could not survive that slaughter.--In a single day Bhishma can slaughter all the Daityas and the Danavas. With how much ease then can he slay in battle the sons of Pandu with all their troops and followers. The vast army of the illustrious son of Pandu is again flying away. And the Kauravas also beholding the Somakas routed, are rushing to battle cheerfully, gladdening the grandsire. Accoutred in mail, even I will stay Bhishma to-day for the sake of the Pandavas. This burthen of the high-souled Pandavas even I will lighten. As regards Arjuna, though struck in battle with keen shafts, he knoweth not what he should do, from respect for Bhishma,--And while Krishna was reflecting thus the grandsire, excited with wrath, once again shot his shafts at Partha's car. And in consequence of very great number of those arrows all the points of the compass became entirely shrouded. And neither the welkin nor the quarters nor the earth nor the sun himself of brilliant rays, could be seen. And the winds that blew seemed to be mixed with smoke, and all the points of the compass seemed to be agitated. And Drona, and Vikarna, and Jayadratha, and Bhurisrava, and Kritavarman, and Kripa, and Srutayush and the ruler of the Amvashtas and Vinda and Anuvinda, Sudakshina and the westerners, and the diverse tribes of the Sauviras, the Vasatis, and the Kshudrakas, and the Malavas, all these, at the command of the royal son of Santanu, quickly approached Kiritin for battle. And the grandson of Sini saw that Kiritin was surrounded by many hundreds of horse, and infantry, and cars, and mighty elephants. And beholding both Vasudeva and Arjuna thus encompassed by infantry and elephants and horses and cars, on all sides, that foremost of all bearers of arms, viz., the chief of the Sinis, quickly proceeded to that spot. And that foremost of bowmen, the chief of the Sinis, quickly rushing at those troops, came to Arjuna's side like Vishnu
coming to the aid of the slayer of Vritra. And that foremost warrior of Sini's race cheerfully said unto Yudhishthira's host all the combatants of which had been frightened by Bhishma and whose elephants, steeds, cars, and numberless standards had been mangled and broken into pieces, and which was flying away from the field, these words, 'Ye Kshatriyas, where do ye go? This is not the duty of the righteous as hath been declared by the ancients. Ye foremost of heroes, do not violate your pledges. Observe your own duties as heroes'. Beholding that those foremost of kings were flying together from the field of battle, and marking the mildness with which Partha fought, and beholding also that Bhishma was exerting himself very powerfully in battle, and that the Kurus were rushing from all sides, the younger brother of Vasava, the high-souled protector of all the Dasarhas, unable to bear it all, addressed the renowned grandson of Sini, and applauding him, said,--'O hero of Sini's race, they that are retreating, are, indeed, retreating. They that are yet staying, O thou of the Satwata race, let them also go away. Behold, I will soon throw Bhishma down from his car, and Drona also in battle, with all their followers. There is none in the Kuru host, O thou of the Satwata race, who is able to escape my angry self. Therefore, taking up my fierce discus, I will slay Bhishma of high vows. And slaying in battle those two foremost of car-warriors, viz., Bhishma along with his followers and Drona also, O grandson of Sini, I will gladden Dhananjaya, and the king, and Bhima, and the twin Aswins. And slaying all the sons of Dhritarashtra and all those foremost of kings who have embraced their side, I will joyfully furnish king Ajatasatru with a kingdom today.' Saying this, Vasudeva's son, abandoning (the reins of) the steeds, jumped down from the car, whirling with his (right) arm his discus of beautiful nave with edge sharp as a razor, effulgent as the sun and possessed of force equal to that of a thousand bolts of heaven. And making the earth tremble under his tread, the high-souled Krishna rushed impetuously towards Bhishma. And that grinder of foes, the younger brother of the chief of the gods, excited with wrath, rushed towards Bhishma staying in the midst of his troops, like a lion from desire of slaying upon a prince of elephants blinded with fury and staying proudly for the attack. And the end of his yellow garments waving in the air looked like a cloud charged with lightning in the sky. And that lotus of a discus called Sudarsana, having for its stalk the beautiful arm of Saurin, looked as beautiful as the primeval lotus, bright as the morning sun, which sprung from the navel of Narayana. And Krishna's wrath was the morning sun that caused that lotus to blow. And the beautiful leaves of that lotus were as sharp as the edge of a razor. And Krishna's body was the beautiful lake, and his (right) arm the stalk springing therefrom, upon which that lotus shone. And beholding the younger brother of Mahendra, excited with wrath and roaring loudly and armed with that discus, all creatures set out a loud wail, thinking that the destruction of the Kurus was at hand. And armed with his discus Vasudeva looked like the Samvarta fire that appears at the end of the Yuga for consuming the world. And the preceptor
of the universe blazed up like a fierce comet risen for consuming all creatures. And beholding that foremost of bipeds, that divine personage, advancing armed with the discus, Santanu's son stationed on his car, bow and arrow in hand, fearlessly said, 'Come, Come, O Lord of the gods, O thou that hast the universe for thy abode. I bow to thee, O thou that art armed with mace, sword and Saranga. O lord of the universe, forcibly throw me down from this excellent car, O thou that art the refuge of all creatures in this battle. Slain here by thee, O Krishna, great will be my good fortune both in this world and the next. Great is the respect thou payest me, O Lord of the Vrishnis and the Andhakas. My dignity will be celebrated in the three worlds.' Hearing these words of Santanu's son, Krishna rushing impetuously towards him said, 'Thou art the root of this great slaughter on earth. Thou wilt behold Duryodhana slain to-day. A wise minister who treadeth in the path of righteousness should restrain a king that is addicted to the evil of gambling. That wretch again of his race who transgresseth duty should be abandoned as one whose intelligence hath been misdirected by destiny.--The royal Bhishma, hearing these words, replied unto the chief of the Yadus, saying,--Destiny is all powerful. The Yadus, for their benefit, had abandoned Kansa. I said this to the king (Dhritarashtra) but he minded it not. The listener that hath no benefit to receive becometh, for (his own) misery, of perverted understanding through (the influence of destiny).' Meanwhile, jumping down from his car, Partha, himself of massive and long arms, quickly ran on foot after that chief of Yadu's race possessed of massive and long arms, and seized him by his two hands. That first of all gods devoted in self, Krishna, was excited with rage. And therefore, though thus seized, Vishnu forcibly dragged Jishnu after him, like a tempest bearing away a single tree. The high-souled Partha, however, seizing them with great force his legs as he was proceeding at a quick pace towards Bhishma, succeeded, O king, in stopping him with difficulty at the tenth step. And when Krishna stopped, decked as he was with a beautiful garland of gold, cheerfully bowed down to him and said, 'Quell this wrath of thine. Thou art the refuge of the Pandavas, O Kesava. I swear, O Kesava, by my sons and uterine brothers that I will not withdraw from the acts to which I have pledged myself. O younger brother of Indra, at thy command I will certainly annihilate the Kurus.' Hearing that promise and oath of his, Janardana became gratified. And ever engaged as he was in doing what was agreeable to Arjuna--that best of the Kurus.--he once more, discus on arm, mounted on his car. And that slayer of foes once more took up those reins (that he had abandoned), and taking up his conch called Panchajanya, Saurin filled all the points of the compass and the welkin with its blare. And thereupon beholding Krishna decked with necklace and Angada and ear-rings, with curved eye-lashes smeared with dust, and with teeth of perfect whiteness, once more take up his conch the Kuru heroes uttered a loud cry. And the sound of cymbals and drums and kettle-drums, and the rattle of car-wheels and the noise of smaller drums, mingling with those leonine shouts, set forth from all the ranks of the Kurus, became a
fierce uproar. And the twang of Partha's Gandiva, resembling the roll of the thunder, filled the welkin and all the quarters. And shot from the bow of Pandu's son, bright and blazing shafts proceeded in all directions. Then the Kuru king, with a large force, and with Bhishma and Bhurisravas also, arrow in hand, and resembling a comet risen for consuming a constellation, rushed against him. And Bhurisravas hurled at Arjuna seven javelins furnished with wings of gold, and Duryodhana a lance of fierce impetuosity, and Salya a mace, and Santanu's son a dart. Thereupon, Arjuna, baffling with seven shafts the seven javelins, fleet as arrows, shot by Bhurisravas, cut off with another keen-edged shaft the lance hurled from Duryodhana's arm. And the blazing dart coming towards him--effulgent as lightning--hurled by Santanu's son, and the mace hurled from the arm of the ruler of the Madras, that hero cut off with two (other) shafts. Then drawing with his two hands and with great force his beautiful bow Gandiva of immeasurable energy, he invoked with proper mantras the highly wonderful and terrible Mahendra weapon and caused it to appear in the welkin. And with that mighty weapon producing profuse showers of arrows endued with the effulgence of the blazing fire, that high-souled and mighty bowman, decked with diadem and garland of gold, checked the entire Kaurava host. And those shafts from Partha's bow, cutting off the arms, bows, standard-tops, and cars, penetrated into the bodies of the kings and of the huge elephants and steeds of the foe. And filling the cardinal and the subsidiary directions with those sharp and terrible shafts of his, Pritha's son decked with diadem and garland of gold, agitated the hearts of his foes by means of the twang of Gandiva. And in that awful passage at arms, the blare of conches and beat of drums and the deep rattle of cars were all silenced by the twang of Gandiva. And ascertaining that twang to be of Gandiva, king Virata and other heroes among men, and the brave Drupada, the king of the Panchalas, all proceeded to that spot with undepressed hearts. And all thy combatants stood, struck with fear, each at the spot where he heard that twang of Gandiva. And none amongst them ventured to proceed to that place whence that sound was heard. And in that awful slaughter of kings, heroic combatants were slain and car-warriors with those that guided their cars. And elephants with resplendent housings of gold and gorgeous standards (on their backs), afflicted with broad-headed shafts failing upon them, suddenly fell down, deprived of life and their bodies mangled by Kiritin. And forcibly struck by Partha with his winged arrows of great impetuosity and broad-headed shafts of keen-edge and points, the standards of innumerable kings stationed at the heads of their yantras and Indrajalas were cut off. 1 And bands of infantry and car-warriors, in that battle, and steeds and elephants, fell fast on the field, their limbs paralysed, or themselves speedily deprived of life, affected by Dhananjaya with those shafts. And, O king, many were the
warriors who in that terrible conflict had their coats of mail and bodies cut through by that mighty weapon called after the name of Indra. And with those terrible and sharp shafts of his, Kiritin caused an awful river to run on the field of battle, having for its waters the blood flowing from the mangled bodies of the combatants and having for its froth their fat. And its current was broad and ran fiercely. And the bodies of elephants and steeds despatched to the other world formed its banks. And its mire consisted of the entrails, the marrow, and the flesh of human beings, and prodigious Rakshasas formed the (tall) trees (standing on its banks). And the crowns of human heads in profusion, covered with hair, formed its (floating) mess, and heaps of human bodies, forming its sandbanks, caused the current to flow in a thousand directions. And the coats of mail strewn all over formed its hard pebbles. And its banks were infested by large number of jackals and wolves and cranes and vultures and crowds of Rakshasas, and packs of hyenas. And they that were alive beheld that terrible river of current consisting of fat, marrow, and blood, caused by the arrowy showers of Arjuna--that embodiment of (man's) cruelty--to look like the great Vaitarani. 1 And beholding the foremost warriors of that army of the Kurus thus slain by Phalguni, the Chedis, the Panchalas, the Kurushas, the Matsyas, and all the combatants of the Pandava side, those foremost of men, elated with victory, together set up a loud shout for frightening the Kaurava warriors. And they uttered that cry indicative of victory, beholding the foremost combatants of the (Kuru) army, the very troops protected by mighty leaders of divisions, thus slain by Kiritin, that terror of foes, who frightened them like a lion frightening herds of smaller animals. And then the bearer of Gandiva himself, and Janardana both filled with delight, uttered loud roars. And the Kurus, with Bhishma, and Drona and Duryodhana and Valhika, exceedingly mangled by the weapons (of Arjuna), beholding the sun withdraw his rays, and seeing also that awful and irresistible weapon called after the name of Indra spread out and causing (as it were) the end of the Yuga to appear, withdraw their forces for the nightly rest. And that foremost of men, Dhananjaya also, having achieved a great feat and won great renown by crushing his foes, and beholding the sun assume a red hue and the evening twilight to set in, and having completed his work, retired with his uterine brothers to the camp for nightly rest. Then when darkness was about to set in, there arose among the Kuru troops a great and terrible uproar. And all said, 'In today's battle Arjuna hath slain ten thousand car-warriors, and full seven hundred elephants. And all the westerners, and the diverse tribes of the Sauviras, and the Kshudrakas and the Malavas, have all been slain. The feat achieved by Dhananjaya is a mighty one. None else is competent to achieve it. Srutayush, the ruler of the Amvashtas, and Durmarshana, and Chitrasena, and Drona, and Kripa, and the ruler of the Sindhus, and Valhika, and Bhurisravas, and Salya, and Sala, O king, and other warriors by hundreds
united together, along with Bhishma himself, have on battle, by the prowess of his own arms, been vanquished today by the angry son of Pritha, viz., Kiritin, that one mighty car-warrior in the world.' Talking thus, O Bharata, all the warriors of thy side went to their tents from the field of battle. And all the combatants of the Kuru army frightened by Kiritin, then entered their tents illumined by thousands of torches, and beautified by innumerable lamps.
153:1 What these were it is difficult to determine. The Bombay reading is different. For Indrajala they read Indrakila which is as unknown as the other.
154:1 The Vaitarani is the fabulous river that separate this world from the next.
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