The Mahabharata Home
"Sanjaya said, 'On that table land at the foot of Himavat, those warriors, O monarch, delighting at the prospect of battle and assembled together, passed the night. Indeed, Shalya and Chitrasena and the mighty car-warrior Shakuni and Ashvatthama and Kripa and Kritavarma of the Satwata race, and Sushena and Arishtasena and Dhritasena of great energy and Jayatsena and all these kings passed the night there. After the heroic Karna had been slain in battle, thy sons, inspired with fright by the Pandavas desirous of victory, failed to obtain peace anywhere else than on the mountains of Himavat. All of them then, O king, who were resolved on battle, duly worshipped the king and said unto him, in the presence of Shalya, these words, "It behoveth thee to fight with the enemy, after having made some one the generalissimo of thy army, protected by whom in battle we will vanquish our foes." Then Duryodhana, without alighting from his car (proceeded towards) that foremost of car-warriors, that hero conversant with all the rules of battle (Ashvatthama), who resembled the Destroyer himself in battle. Possessed of beautiful limbs, of head well covered, of a neck adorned with three lines like those in a conch shell, of sweet speech, of eyes resembling the petals of a full blown lotus, and of a face like that of the dignity of Meru, resembling the bull of Mahadeva as regards neck, eyes, tread, and voice, endued with arms that were large, massive, and well-joined, having a chest that was broad and well-formed, equal unto Garuda or the wind in speed and might, gifted with a splendour like that of the rays of the Sun, rivalling Usanas himself in intelligence and the Moon in beauty and form and charms of face, with a body that seemed to be made of a number of golden lotuses, with well-made joints, of well-formed thighs and waist and hips, of beautiful fingers, and beautiful nails, he seemed to have been made by the Creator with care after collecting one after another all the beautiful and good attributes of creation. Possessed of every auspicious mark, and clever in every act, he was an ocean of learning. Ever vanquishing his foes with great speed, he was incapable of being forcibly vanquished by foes. He knew, in all its details, the science of weapons consisting of four padas and ten angas. He knew also the four Vedas with all their branches, and the Akhyanas as the fifth. Possessed of great ascetic merit, Drona, himself not born of woman, having worshipped the Three-eyed deity with great attention and austere vows, begat him upon a wife not born of woman. Approaching that personage of unrivalled feats, that one who is unrivalled in beauty on Earth, that one who has mastered all branches of learning, that ocean of accomplishments, that faultless Ashvatthama, thy son told him these words, "Thou, O preceptor's son, art today our highest refuge. Tell us, therefore, who is to be the generalissimo of my forces now, placing whom at our head, all of us, united together, may vanquish the Pandavas?"
"'(Thus addressed), the son of Drona answered, "Let Shalya become the leader of our army. In descent, in prowess, in energy, in fame, in beauty of person, and in every other accomplishment, he is superior. Mindful of the services rendered to him, he has taken up our side, having abandoned the sons of his own sister. Owning a large force of his own, that mighty-armed one is like a second (Kartikeya, the) celestial generalissimo. Making that king the commander of our forces, O best of monarchs, we will be able to gain victory, like the gods, after making the unvanquished Skanda their commander." After Drona's son had said these words, all the kings stood, surrounding Shalya, and cried victory to him. Having made up their minds for battle, they felt great joy. Then Duryodhana, alighting from his car, joined his hands and addressing Shalya, that rival of Drona and Bhishma in battle, who was on his car, said these words, "O thou that art devoted to friends, that time has now come for thy friends when intelligent men examine persons in the guise of friends as to whether they are true friends or otherwise. Brave as thou art, be thou our generalissimo at the van of our army. When thou wilt proceed to battle, the Pandavas, with their friends, will become cheerless, and the Pancalas will be depressed."
"'Shalya answered, "I will, O king of the Kurus, accomplish that which thou askest me to accomplish. Everything I have--my life breath, my kingdom, my wealth--is at thy service."
"'Duryodhana said, "I solicit thee with offer of the leadership of my army, O maternal uncle. O foremost of warriors, protect us incomparably, even as Skanda protected the gods in battle. O foremost of kings, thyself cause thy own self to be installed in the command as Pavaka's son Kartikeya in the command of (the forces of) the celestials. O hero, slay our foes in battle like Indra slaying the Danavas."'"
Next: Section 7