The Mahabharata Home
"Sanjaya said, 'Then occurred that battle between Arjuna and Ashvatthama resembling the planets Shukra and Brihaspati in splendour, like the battle between Shukra and Brihaspati in the firmament for entering the same constellation. Afflicting each other with blazing shafts that constituted their rays, those terrifiers of the world stood like two planets both deviating from their orbits. Then Arjuna deeply pierced Ashvatthama with a shaft in the midst of his eyebrows. With that shaft the son of Drona looked resplendent like the Sun with upward rays. The two Krishnas (Nara and Narayana), also deeply afflicted by Ashvatthama with hundreds of arrows, looked like two Suns at the end of the Yuga, resplendent with their own rays. Then when Vasudeva seemed to be stupefied, Arjuna shot a weapon from which issued torrents of shafts on all sides. And he struck the son of Drona with innumerable shafts, each resembling the thunder or fire or the sceptre of Death. Endued with mighty energy, that achiever of fierce feats, (Ashvatthama) then pierced both Keshava and Arjuna with well-shot shafts which were inspired with great impetuosity and struck with which Death himself would feel pain. Checking the shafts of Drona's son, Arjuna covered him with twice as many arrows equipped with goodly wings, and shrouding that foremost of heroes and his steeds and driver and standard, began to strike the samsaptakas. With his well-shot shafts Partha began to cut off the bows and quivers and bowstrings and hands and arms and tightly grasped weapons and umbrellas and standards and steeds and car shafts and robes and floral garlands and ornaments and coats of mail and handsome shields and beautiful heads, in large numbers, of his unretreating foes. Well-equipped cars and steeds and elephants, ridden by heroes fighting with great care, were destroyed by the hundreds of shafts sped by Partha and fell down along with the heroes that rode on them. Cut off with broad-headed and crescent-shaped and razor-faced arrows, human heads, resembling the lotus, the Sun, or the full Moon in beauty and resplendent with diadems and necklaces and crowns, dropped ceaselessly on the earth. Then the Kalinga, the Vanga, and the Nishada heroes, riding on elephants, that resembled in splendour the elephant of the great foe of the daityas, rushed with speed against the queller of the pride of the danavas, the son of Pandu, from desire of slaying him. Partha cut off the vital limbs, the trunks, the riders, the standards, and the banners of those elephants, upon which those beasts fell down like mountain summits riven with thunder. When that elephant force was broken, the diadem-decked Arjuna shrouded the son of his preceptor with shafts endued with the splendour of the newly risen Sun, like the wind shrouding the risen Sun with masses of congregated clouds. Checking with his own shafts those of Arjuna, Drona's son shrouding both Arjuna and Vasudeva with his arrows, gave a loud roar, like a mass of clouds at the close of summer after shrouding the Sun or the Moon in the firmament. Deeply afflicted with those arrows, Arjuna, aiming his weapons at Ashvatthama and at those followers of his belonging to the army, speedily dispelled that darkness caused by Ashvatthama's arrows, and pierced all of them with shafts equipped with goodly wings. In that battle none could see when Savyasaci took up his shafts, when he aimed them, and when he let them off. All that could be seen was that elephants and steeds and foot-soldiers and car-warriors, struck with his arrows, fell down deprived of life. Then Drona's son without losing a moment, aiming ten foremost of arrows, sped them quickly as if they formed only one arrow. Shot with great force, five of these pierced Arjuna and the other five pierced Vasudeva. Struck with those arrows, those two foremost of men, like Kuvera and Indra, became bathed in blood. Thus afflicted, all the people there regarded those two heroes as slain by Ashvatthama the warrior who had completely mastered the science of arms. Then the chief of the Dasharhas addressed Arjuna and said, "Why errest thou in thus sparing Ashvatthama? Slay this warrior. If treated with indifference, even this one will be the cause of great woe, like a disease not sought to be put down by treatment." Replying unto Keshava of unfading glory with the words "So be it!" Arjuna of unclouded understanding began with good care to mangle the son of Drona with his shafts. Now the son of Pandu, filled with rage, quickly pierced the massive arms, smeared with sandal-paste, and the chest, the head, and the unrivalled thighs of his antagonist with shafts equipped with heads like goats' ears, and shot with great force from gandiva. Then cutting off the traces of Ashvatthama's steeds, Arjuna began to pierce the steeds themselves, whereat the latter bore Ashvatthama away to a great distance from the field. Thus borne away by these steeds endued with the speed of the wind, the intelligent son of Drona, deeply afflicted with the shafts of Partha, reflecting for some time, wished not to go back and renew the fight with Partha. Knowing that victory is ever with the chief of the Vrishnis and with Dhananjaya, that foremost one of Angirasa's race, endued with great activity, entered the army of Karna, deprived of hope and with shafts and weapons almost exhausted. Indeed, Drona's son, restraining his steeds, and having comforted himself a little, O sire, entered the force of Karna, teeming with cars and steeds and men. After Ashvatthama, that enemy of theirs, had been thus removed from the field by his steeds like a disease removed from the body by incantations and medicines and means, Keshava and Arjuna proceeded towards the samsaptakas, on their car whose rattle resembled the roar of the clouds and whose banner waved on the wind.'"
Next: Section 18