The Mahabharata Home
Vaishampayana said, "Having said these words, Gandhari, though staying on that spot which was distant from the field of battle, beheld, with her spiritual eye, the slaughter of the Kurus. Devoted to her lord, that highly blessed lady had always practised high vows. Undergoing the severest penances, she was always truthful in her speech. In consequence of the gift of the boon by the great rishi Vyasa of sanctified deeds, she became possessed of spiritual knowledge and power. Piteous were the lamentations in which that dame then indulged. Endued with great intelligence, the Kuru dame saw, from a distance, but as if from a near point, that field of battle, terrible to behold and full of wonderful sights, of those foremost of fighters. Scattered all over with bones and hair, and covered with streams of blood, that field was strewn with thousands upon thousands of dead bodies on every side. Covered with the blood of elephants and horses and car-warriors and combatants of other kinds, it teemed with headless trunks and trunkless heads. And it resounded with the cries of elephants and steeds and men and women and abounded with jackals and cranes and ravens and kankas and crows. And it was the sporting ground of rakshasas subsisting on human flesh. And it swarmed with ospreys and vultures and resounded with the inauspicious howls of jackals. Then king Dhritarashtra, at the command of Vyasa, and all the sons of Pandu with Yudhishthira at their head, with Vasudeva and all the Kuru ladies, proceeded to the field of battle. Those ladies, bereaved of their lords, having reached Kurukshetra, beheld their slain brothers and sons and sires and husbands lying on the ground, and in course of being devoured by beasts of prey and wolves and ravens and crows and ghosts and pishacas and rakshasas and diverse other wanderers of the night. Beholding that carnage which resembled the sights seen on the sporting ground of Rudra, the ladies uttered loud shrieks and quickly alighted from their costly vehicles. Witnessing sights the like of which they had never before witnessed, the Bharata ladies felt their limbs to be deprived of strength and fell down on the ground. Others became so stupefied that they lost all their senses. Indeed, the Pancala and the Kuru ladies were plunged into unutterable distress. Beholding that dreadful field of battle resounding on every direction with the cries of those grief-stricken ladies, the daughter of Subala, acquainted with every duty, addressed the lotus-eyed Keshava, that foremost of all men. Witnessing that universal slaughter of the Kurus and filled with grief at the sight, she said these words: Behold, O lotus-eyed Madhava, these daughters-in-law of mine! Deprived of their lords, they are uttering, with dishevelled hair, piteous cries of woe like a flight of she-ospreys. Meeting with those dead bodies, they are calling back to their memories the great Bharata chiefs. They are running hither and thither in large bands towards their sons and brothers and sires and husbands. Behold, O mighty-armed one, the field is covered with mothers of heroes, all of whom, however, have been bereaved of children. There, those portions again are covered with spouses of heroes, who have, however, been bereaved of their spouses! Behold, the field of battle is adorned with those tigers among men, Bhishma and Karna and Abhimanyu and Drona and Drupada and Shalya, as if with blazing fires. Behold, it is adorned also with the golden coats of mail, and with the costly gems, of high-souled warriors, and with their angadas, and keyuras and garlands. Behold, it is strewn with darts and spiked clubs hurled by heroic hands, and swords and diverse kinds of keen shafts and bows. Beasts of prey, assembled together, are standing or sporting or lying down as it likes them! Behold, O puissant hero, the field of battle is even such. At this sight, O Janardana, I am burning with grief. In the destruction of the Pancalas and the Kurus, O slayer of Madhu, I think, the five elements (of which everything is made) have been destroyed. Fierce vultures and other birds, in thousands, are dragging those blood-dyed bodies, and seizing them by their armour, are devouring them. Who is there that could think of the death of such heroes as Jayadratha and Karna and Drona and Bhishma and Abhimanyu? Alas, though incapable of being slain, they have yet been slain, O destroyer of Madhu! Behold, vultures and kankas and ravens and hawks and dogs and jackals are feasting upon them. There, those tigers among men, that fought on Duryodhanas side, and took the field in wrath, are now lying like extinguished fires. All of them are worthy of sleeping on soft and clean beds. But, alas, plunged into distress, they are sleeping today on the bare ground. Bards reciting their praises used to delight them before at proper times. They are now listening to the fierce and inauspicious cries of jackals. Those illustrious heroes who used formerly to sleep on costly beds with their limbs smeared with sandal paste and powdered aloe, alas, now sleep on the dust! These vultures and wolves and ravens have now become their ornaments. Repeatedly uttering inauspicious and fierce cries those creatures are now dragging their bodies. Delighting in battle, those heroes, looking cheerful, have still beside them their keen shafts, well-tempered swords, and bright maces, as if life has not yet departed from them. Many foremost of heroes, possessed of beauty and fair complexions and adorned with garlands of gold, are sleeping on the ground. Behold, beasts of prey are dragging and tearing them. Others, with massive arms, are sleeping with maces in their embrace, as if those were beloved wives. Others, still cased in armour, are holding in their hands their bright weapons. Beasts of prey are not mangling them, O Janardana, regarding them to be still alive. The beautiful garlands of pure gold on the necks of other illustrious heroes, as the latter are being dragged by carnivorous creatures, are scattered about on every side. There, those fierce wolves, numbering in thousands, are dragging the golden chains round the necks of many illustrious heroes stilled by death. Many, whom bards well-trained to their work formerly used, with their hymns and eulogies of grave import, to delight every morning, are now surrounded by fair ladies stricken with grief and weeping and crying around them in woe, O tiger of Vrishnis race! The faces of those beautiful ladies, O Keshava, though pale, look resplendent still, like an assemblage of red lotuses! Those Kuru ladies have ceased to weep, with their respective followers and companions. They are all filled with anxiety. Overwhelmed with sorrow, they are running hither and thither. The faces of those fair ones have, with weeping and anger, become resplendent as the morning sun or gold or burnished copper. Hearing each others lamentations of incomplete sense, those ladies, in consequence of the loud wails of woe bursting from every side, are unable to catch each others meaning. Some amongst them, drawing long sighs and indulging in repeated lamentations, are stupefied by grief and are abondoning their life-breaths. Many of them, beholding the bodies (of their sons, husbands, or sires), are weeping and setting up loud wails. Others are striking their heads with their own soft hands. The earth, strewn with severed heads and hands and other limbs mingled together and gathered in large heaps, looks resplendent with these signs of havoc! Beholding many headless trunks of great beauty, and many heads without trunks, those fair ones have been lying senseless on the ground for a long while. Uniting particular heads with particular trunks, those ladies, senseless with grief, are again discovering their mistakes and saying, "This is not this ones," and are weeping more bitterly! Others, uniting arms and thighs and feet, cut off with shafts, are giving way to grief and losing their senses repeatedly (at the sight of the restored forms). Some amongst the Bharata ladies, beholding the bodies of their lords,--bodies that have been mangled by animals and birds and severed of their heads,--are not succeeding in recognising them. Others, beholding their brothers, sires, sons, and husbands slain by foes, are, O destroyer of Madhu, striking their heads with their own hands. Miry with flesh and blood, the Earth has become impassable with arms still holding swords in their grasp, and with heads adorned with earrings. Beholding the field strewn with their brothers and sires, and sons, those faultless ladies, who had never before suffered the least distress, are now plunged into unutterable woe. Behold, O Janardana, those numerous bevies of Dhritarashtras daughters-in-law, resembling successive multitudes of handsome fillies adorned with excellent manes! What, O Keshava, can be a sadder spectacle for me to behold than that presented by those ladies of fair forms who have assumed such an aspect? Without doubt, I must have perpetrated great sins in my former lives, since I am beholding, O Keshava, my sons and grandsons and brothers all slain by foes. While indulging in such lamentations in grief, Gandharis eyes fell upon her son (Duryodhana)."
Next: Section 17