The Mahabharata Home
"Dhritarashtra said, 'Describe to me the battle of Arjuna with the samsaptakas, and of the other kings with the Pandavas. Narrate to me also, O Sanjaya, the battle of Arjuna with Ashvatthama, and of the other lords of the Earth with Partha.'
"Sanjaya said, 'Listen, O king, as I speak to thee as to how occurred the battle of the heroic warriors (on our side) with the foe--the battle which was destructive of bodies, sins, and lives. That slayer of foes, viz, Partha, penetrating into the Samsaptaka force that resembled the ocean, agitated it exceedingly, like a tempest agitating the vast deep. Cutting off with broad-headed arrows of keen edges the heads of brave warriors that were decked with faces possessed of the splendour of the full moon and with beautiful eyes and eyebrows and teeth, Dhananjaya speedily caused the Earth to be strewn there as if with lotuses, plucked off their stalks. And in that battle Arjuna with his razor-headed shafts, cut off the arms of his foes, that were all well rounded, large and massive, and smeared with sandal-paste and other perfumes, with weapons in grasp, with leathern gloves casing their fingers, and looking like five-headed snakes. And the son of Pandu repeatedly cut off with his broad-headed shafts, steeds, riders, drivers, and flags, and bows and arrows, and arms decked with gems. And Arjuna in that battle, O king, with many thousands of arrows, despatched to Yama's abode, car-warriors and elephants and horses and horsemen. Many foremost of warriors, filled with rage and roaring like bulls mad (like them) with excitement for a cow in season, rushed towards Arjuna, with loud cries. All of them then began to strike Arjuna with their arrows as the latter was employed in slaying them, like infuriate bulls striking one of their species with their horns. The battle that took place between him and them made the hair to stand on end, even like the battle between the Daityas and the wielder of the thunderbolt on the occasion of the conquest of the three worlds. Resisting with his own weapons the weapons of his foes on all sides. Arjuna, piercing them fast with innumerable arrows, took their lives. Like the wind destroying vast masses of clouds, Arjuna, otherwise called Jaya, that enhancer of the fears of his foes, cutting off into minute fragments large throngs of cars,--cars, that is, whose poles, wheels, and axles had previously been shattered by him, and whose warriors and steeds and drivers had been slain before, and whose weapons and quivers had been displaced, and standards crushed, and traces and reins sundered, and wooden fences and shafts broken already, and filling every body with wonder, achieved feats magnificent to behold and rivalling those of a 1,000 great car-warriors fighting together. Crowds of Siddhas and celestial Rishis and Charanas all applauded him. And celestial kettle-drums sounded, and floral showers fell upon the heads of Keshava and Arjuna. And an incorporeal voice said, "These viz., Keshava and Arjuna, are those two heroes that always possess the beauty of the moon, the splendour of fire, the force of the wind and the radiance of the sun. Stationed on the same car these two heroes are invincible even like Brahman and Isana. These two heroes the foremost of all creatures are Nara and Narayana." Hearing and beholding these wonderful things, O Bharata, Ashvatthama, with great care and resolution, rushed against Krishna and Arjuna in that battle. With his arm that held an arrow in its grasp, the son of Drona hailed the Pandava, shooting shafts equipped with foe-slaying heads, and smilingly told him these words, "If, O hero, thou regardest me a worthy guest arrived (before thee), then give me today, with the whole heart, the hospitality of battle." Thus summoned by the preceptor's son from desire of battle, Arjuna regarded himself highly honoured, and addressing Janardana said, "The samsaptakas should be slain by me, but Drona's son again is summoning me. Tell me, O Madhava, to which of these duties should I first turn? First let the services of hospitality be offered, if thou thinkest that to be proper." Thus addressed, Krishna bore Partha who had been summoned according to the rules of triumphant challenge to the vicinity of Drona's son, like Vayu bearing Indra to the sacrifice. Saluting Drona's son whose mind was fixed upon one thing, Keshava, said unto him, "O Ashvatthama, be cool, and without losing a moment strike and bear. The time has come for those that are dependent on others to repay their obligation to their masters. The disputes between brahmanas are subtle. The consequences, however, of the disputes of kshatriyas are palpable, being either victory or defeat. For obtaining those excellent rites of hospitality that from folly thou solicitest at the hands of Partha, fight coolly now with the son of Pandu." Thus addressed by Vasudeva, that foremost of regenerate ones, replied saying, "So be it!" pierced Keshava with sixty shafts and Arjuna with three. Arjuna then, filled with rage, cut off Ashvatthama's bow with three shafts. Drona's son took up another bow that was still more formidable. Stringing it within the twinkling of an eye, he pierced Arjuna and Keshava, the latter with three hundred arrows, and the former with a 1,000. And then Drona's son, with good care, stupefying Arjuna in that battle, shot thousands and tens of thousands and millions of arrows. From the quivers, the bow, the bow-string, the fingers, the arms, the hands, the chest, the face, the nose, the eyes, the ears, the heads, the limbs, the pores of the body, the armour on his person, the car, and the standard, O sire, of that utterer of Brahma, arrows began to issue. Piercing Madhava and the son of Pandu with the thick arrowy shower, Drona's son filled with joy, roared aloud like a vast mass of congregated clouds. Hearing that roar of his, the son of Pandu said unto Keshava of unfading glory these words "Behold, O Madhava, this wickedness towards me of the preceptor's son. He regardeth us to be slain, having shrouded us with his dense arrowy shower. I will presently, however, by my training and might, baffle his purpose." Cutting off every one of those arrows shot by Ashvatthama into three fragments, that foremost one of Bharata's race destroyed them all like the Sun destroying a thick fog. After this the son of Pandu once more pierced with his fierce shafts, the samsaptakas with their steeds, drivers, cars, elephants, standards and foot-soldiers. Every one of those that stood there as spectators, every one of those that were stationed there on foot or car or steed or elephant, regarded himself as shrouded by the arrows of Arjuna. Shot from Gandiva, those winged arrows of diverse forms slew in that battle elephants and steeds and men whether stationed in his immediate front or at the distance of two miles. The trunks, cut off with broad-headed shafts, of elephants, down whose cheeks and other limbs flowed the juice indicative of excitement, fell down like tall trees in the forest struck down with the axe. A little after down fell elephants, huge as hillocks, with their riders, like mountains crushed by Indra with his thunder. With his shafts cutting into minute portions well-equipped cars that looked like dissolving edifices of vapour in the evening sky and unto which were yoked well-trained steeds of great speed and which were ridden by warriors invincible in battle, the son of Pandu continued to shower his arrows on his enemies. And Dhananjaya continued to slay well-decked horsemen and foot-soldiers of the foe. Indeed, Dhananjaya, resembling the very Sun as he rises at the end of the Yuga, dried up the samsaptaka ocean incapable of being dried up easily, by means of keen arrows constituting his rays. Without losing a moment, the son of Pandu once more pierced Drona's son resembling a huge hill, with shafts of great impetuosity and the splendour of the Sun, like the wielder of the thunderbolt piercing a mountain with the thunder. Desirous of battle, the preceptor's son then, filled with rage, approached Arjuna for piercing him and his steeds and drivers by means of his swiftly coursing shafts. Arjuna, however, quickly cut off the shafts shot at him by Ashvatthama. The son of Pandu then filled with great wrath, proffered unto Ashvatthama, that desirable guest, quivers upon quivers of arrows, like a charitable person offering everything in his house unto a guest. Leaving the samsaptakas then the son of Pandu rushed towards Drona's son like a donor abandoning unworthy guests, for proceeding towards one that is worthy."
Next: Section 17