The Mahabharata Home
Sanjaya said, "When the combatants of both armies, strong in number, were thus disposed in battle array, all those unretreating heroes, O Bharata, set their heart upon the region of Brahma. 1 In course of the general engagement that followed, the same class of combatants did not fight with the same class of combatants. Car-warriors fought not with car-warriors, or foot-soldiers with foot-soldiers, or horsemen with horsemen, or elephant-warriors with elephant-warriors. On the other hand, O monarch, the combatants fought with one another like mad men. Great and dreadful was the calamity that overtook both the armies. In that fierce slaughter when elephants and men spread themselves on the field, all distinctions between them ceased, for they fought indiscriminately.
"Then Salya and Kripa, and Chitrasena, O Bharata, and Dussasana, and Vikarna, those heroes mounted on their bright cars, caused the Pandava host to tremble. Slaughtered in battle by those high-souled warriors, the Pandava army began to reel in diverse ways, O king, like a boat on the waters tossed by the wind. As the wintry cold cuts kine to the quick, so did Bhishma cut the sons of Pandu to the quick. As regards thy army also, many elephants, looking like newly-risen clouds, were felled by the illustrious Partha. And many foremost of warriors too were seen to be crushed by that hero. And struck with arrows and long shafts in thousands, many huge elephants fell down, uttering frightful shrieks of pain. And the field of battle looked beautiful, strewn with the bodies, still decked with ornaments of high-souled warriors deprived of life and with heads still decked with ear-rings. And in that battle, O king, which was destructive of great heroes, when Bhishma and Dhananjaya the son of Pandu put forth their prowess, thy sons, O monarch, beholding the grandsire exert himself vigorously, approached him, with all their troops placed ahead. Desirous of laying down their lives in battle and making heaven itself their goal, they approached the Pandavas in that battle, which was fraught with great carnage. The brave Pandavas also, O king, bearing in mind the many injuries of diverse kinds inflicted upon them before by thee and thy son, O monarch, and casting off all fear, and eager to win the highest heavens, cheerfully fought with thy son and the other warriors of thy army.
"Then the generalissimo of the Pandava army, viz., the mighty car-warrior Dhrishtadyumna, addressing his soldiers, said, 'Ye Somakas, accompanied by the Srinjayas, rush ye at Ganga's son.' Hearing those words of their commander the Somakas and the Srinjayas, though afflicted with showers of arrows, rushed at the son of Ganga. Thus attacked, O king, thy sire Bhishma, influenced by wrath, began to fight with the Srinjayas.
[paragraph continues] In days of old, O sire, the intelligent Rama had imparted to Bhishma of glorious achievements that instruction in weapons which was so destructive of hostile ranks. Relying on that instruction and causing a great havoc among the troops of the foe, that slayer of hostile heroes, viz., the old Kuru grandsire Bhishma, day after day, slew ten thousand warriors of the Ratha. On the tenth day, however, O bull of Bharata's race, Bhishma, single-handed, slew ten thousand elephants. And then he slew seven great car-warriors among the Matsyas and the Panchalas. In addition to all this, in that dreadful battle five thousand foot-soldiers, and one thousand tuskers, and ten thousand steeds, were also slain by thy sire, O king, through skill acquired by education. Then having thinned the ranks of all the kings, he slew Satanika, the dear brother of Virata. And the valiant Bhishma, having slain Satanika in battle, felled, O king, full one thousand Kshatriyas with his broad-headed shafts. Besides these, all the Kshatriyas of the Pandava army who followed Dhananjaya, as soon as they approached Bhishma, had to go to Yama's abode. Covering the Pandava host from every side with showers of arrows, Bhishma stayed in battle at the head of the Kaurava army. Achieving the most glorious feats on the tenth day, as he stayed between the two armies, bow in hand, none of the kings, O monarch, could even look at him, for he then resembled the hot mid-day Sun in the summer sky. As Sakra scorched the Daitya host in battle, even so, O Bharata, did Bhishma scorch the Pandava host. Beholding him thus put forth his prowess, the slayer of Madhu, viz., the son of Devaki, cheerfully addressing Dhananjaya, said, 'There, Bhishma, the son of Santanu, stayeth between the two armies. Slaying him by putting forth thy might, thou mayst win victory. There, at that spot, whence he breaketh our ranks, check him, putting forth thy strength. O lord, none else, save thee, ventureth to bear the arrows of Bhishma. Thus urged, the ape-bannered Arjuna at that moment made Bhishma with his car, steeds, and standard, invisible by means of his arrows. That bull, however, among the foremost of Kurus, by means of his own arrowy showers, pierced those showers of shafts shot by the son of Pandu. Then the king of the Panchalas the valiant Dhrishtaketu, Bhimasena the son of Pandu, Dhrishtadyumna of Prishata's race, the twins (Nakula and Sahadeva), Chekitana, and the five Kaikaya brothers, and the mighty-armed Satyaki and Subhadra's son, and Ghatotkacha, and the (five) sons of Draupadi, and Sikhandin, and the valiant Kuntibhoja, and Susarman, and Virata, these and many other powerful warriors of the Pandava army, afflicted by the shafts of Bhishma, seemed to sink in an ocean of grief, Phalguni, however, rescued them all. Then Sikhandin, taking up a mighty weapon and protected by Kiritin, rushed impetuously towards Bhishma alone. The unvanquished Vibhatsu then, knowing what should be done after what, slew all those that followed Bhishma, and then himself rushed at him. And Satyaki, and Chekitana, and Dhristadyumna of Prishata's race, and Virata, and Drupada, and the twin sons of Madri by Pandu, all protected by that firm bowman (viz., Arjuna) rushed against Bhishma alone in that battle. And Abhimanyu, and the five sons of Draupadi also,
with mighty weapons upraised, rushed against Bhishma in battle. All those firm bowmen, unretreating from battle, pierced Bhishma in diverse parts of his body with well-aimed shafts. Disregarding all those shafts, large in number, shot by those foremost of princes belonging to the Pandava host, Bhishma of undepressed soul penetrated into the Pandava ranks. And the grandsire baffled all those arrows, as if sporting the while. Frequently looking at Sikhandin the prince of the Panchalas with a laugh, he aimed not a single arrow at him, recollecting his femininity. On the other hand, he slew seven great car-warriors belonging to Drupada's division. Then confused cries of woe soon arose amongst the Matsyas, the Panchalas, and the Chedis, who were together rushing at that single hero. With large numbers of foot-soldiers and steeds and cars, and with showers of arrows, O scorcher of foes, they overwhelmed that single warrior, viz., Bhishma the son of Bhagirathi, that scorcher of foes, like the clouds overwhelming the maker of day. Then in that battle between him and them, which resembled the battle between the gods and the Asuras in days of old, the diadem-decked (Arjuna), placing Sikhandin before him, pierced Bhishma (repeatedly).'
298:1 The Bengal texts read Evam etc.; the Bombay reading is samam, I adopt the former reading. "Set their hearts upon the region of Brahma," i.e., fought on, resolved to win the highest heaven by bravery or death in battle.
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