The Mahabharata Home
Vaishampayana said, "Dhritarashtra had not proceeded for more than two miles when he met with those three great car-warriors, Sharadvatas son Kripa, Dronas son (Ashvatthama), and Kritavarma. As soon as the latter obtained a sight of the blind monarch possessed of great power, the three heroes sighed in grief and with voices choked in tears weepingly addressed him, saying, Thy royal son, O king, having achieved the most difficult feats, has, with all his followers, gone to the region of Indra. We are the only three car-warriors of Duryodhanas army that have escaped with life. All the others, O bull of Bharatas race, have perished. Having said these words unto the king, Sharadvatas son Kripa, addressing the grief-afflicted Gandhari, said these words unto her, Thy sons have fallen while engaged in achieving feats worthy of heroes, while fearlessly fighting in battle and striking down large numbers of foes. Without doubt, having obtained those bright worlds that are attainable only by the use of weapons, they are sporting there like celestials, having assumed resplendent forms. Amongst those heroes there was no one that turned back from battle. Every one of them has fallen at the end or edge of weapons. None of them joined his hands, begging for quarter. Death in battle at the end or edge of weapons has been said by the ancients to be the highest end that a Kshatriya can obtain. It behoveth thee not, therefore, to grieve for any of them. Their foes, O queen, the Pandavas, too, have not been more fortunate. Listen, what we, headed by Ashvatthama, have done unto them. Learning that thy son had been slain unrighteously by Bhima, we slaughtered the Pandavas after entering their camp buried in sleep. All the Pancalas have been slain. Indeed, all the sons of Drupada, as also all the sons of Draupadi, have been slaughtered. Having caused this carnage of the sons of our foes, we are flying away since we three are incapable of standing in battle with them. Our foes, the Pandavas, are all heroes and mighty bowmen. They will soon come up with us, filled with rage, for taking vengeance on us. Hearing the slaughter of their sons, those bulls among men, infuriated with rage, those heroes, O illustrious lady, will speedily pursue our track. Having caused a carnage (in their sleeping camp) we dare not stay. Grant us permission, O queen! It behoveth thee not to set thy heart on sorrow. Grant us thy permission also, O king! Summon all thy fortitude. Do thou also observe the duties of a Kshatriya in their highest form. Having said these words unto the king, and circumambulating him, Kripa and Kritavarma and Dronas son, O Bharata, without being able to withdraw their eyes from king Dhritarashtra possessed of great wisdom, urged their steeds towards the banks of the Ganga. Moving away from that spot, O king, those great car-warriors, with hearts plunged in anxiety, took one anothers leave and separated from one another. Sharadvatas son, Kripa, went to Hastinapura; Hridikas son repaired to his own kingdom; while the son of Drona set for the asylum of Vyasa. Even thus those heroes, who had offended the high-souled sons of Pandu, respectively proceeded to the places they selected, afflicted with fear and casting their eyes on one another. Having met the king thus, those brave chastisers of foes, before the sun rose, went away, O monarch, to the places they chose. It was after this, O king, that the sons of Pandu, those great car-warriors, encountered the son of Drona, and putting forth their prowess, vanquished him, O monarch, (in the way already related)."
Next: Section 12