The Mahabharata Home
Sanjaya said, "Then Bhishma the son of Santanu fought fiercely, 1 desirous of protecting the sons from the fear of Bhimasena. And the battle that then took place between the kings of the Kaurava and the Pandava armies was awful in the extreme and destructive of great heroes. And in that general engagement, so fierce and terrible, tremendous was the din that arose, touching the very heavens. And in consequence of the shrieks of huge elephants and the neigh of steeds and the blare of conches and beat of drums, the uproar was deafening. Fighting for the sake of victory, the mighty combatants endued with great prowess roared at one another like bulls in a cow-pen. And heads cut off in that battle with keen-edged shafts, incessantly falling, created, O bull of Bharata's race, the appearance of a stony shower in the welkin. Indeed, O bull of Bharata's race, innumerable were the heads lying on the field of battle, decked with ear-rings and turbans and resplendent with ornaments of gold. And the earth was covered with limbs cut off with broad-headed shafts, with heads decked with ear-rings, and with arms adorned with ornaments. And in a moment the whole field was strewn over with bodies cased in mail, with arms decked with ornaments, with faces beautiful as the moon and having eyes with reddish corners, and with every limb, O king, of elephants, steeds and men. And the dust (raised by the warriors) looked like a thick cloud, and the bright implements of destruction, like flashes of lightning. And the noise made by the weapons resembled the roar of thunder. And that fierce and awful passage-at-arms, O Bharata, between the Kurus and the Pandavas caused a very river of blood to flow there. And in that terrible, fierce, and awful battle causing the hair stand on end, Kshatriya warriors incapable of defeat incessantly poured their arrowy showers. And the elephants of both thy army and the enemy's, afflicted with those arrowy showers, shrieked aloud and ran hither and thither in fury. And in consequence of (the twang of) bows, endued with great energy, of fierce and heroic warriors excited with fury, and of flapping of their bow-strings against their leathern
fences, nothing could be distinguished. 1 And all over the field which looked like a lake of blood, headless trunks stood up, and the kings bent upon slaying their foes, rushed to battle. And brave warriors of immeasurable energy and possessed of arms resembling stout bludgeons, slew one another with arrows and darts and maces and scimitars. And elephants, pierced with arrows and deprived of riders to guide them with hooks, and steeds destitute of riders, wildly ran in all directions. And many warriors, O best of the Bharatas, belonging to both thy army and that of the foe, deeply pierced with shafts jumped up and fell down. And in that encounter between Bhima and Bhishma, heaps of arms and heads, as also of bows and maces and spiked clubs and hands and thighs, of legs and ornaments and bracelets, were seen lying over the field. And here and there over the field, O king, were seen large bodies of unretreating elephants and steeds and cars. And the Kshatriya warriors, urged on by fate, slew one another with maces, swords, lances, and straight shafts. And others endued with great heroism and accomplished in fight, encountered one another with their bare arms that resembled spiked clubs made of iron. And other heroic warriors of thy army, engaged with the combatants of the Pandava host, fought on slaying one another with clenched fists and knees, and slaps and blows, O king. And with the fallen and falling warriors and those weltering in agony on the ground, the field of battle everywhere became, O king, terrible to behold, and car-warriors, deprived of the cars and grasping excellent swords, rushed at one another, desirous of slaughter. Then king Duryodhana, surrounded by a large division of Kalingas, and placing Bhishma ahead, rushed towards the Pandavas. And so the Pandava combatants also, supporting Vrikodara, and owning fleet animals, rushed, excited with rage, against Bhishma."
178:1 Literally, "made a fierce battle."
179:1 The Bengal reading Gooranamatitejasa is what I adopt. The Bombay reading, Ghoranamapnitaujasam involves a useless hyperbole. Of course, atitejasa qualifies dhanusha in the next line.
Next: Section LXXI