The Mahabharata Home
"Yudhishthira said, 'If a Kshatriya desires to subjugate another Kshatriya in battle, how should the former act in the matter of that victory? Questioned by me, do thou answer it.'
"Bhishma said, 'The king, with or without an army at his back, entering the dominions of the king he would subjugate, should say unto all the people, 'I am your king. I shall always protect you. Give me the just tribute or encounter me in battle.' If the people accept him for their king, there need not be any fighting. If, without being Kshatriyas by birth, they show signs of hostility, they should then, observant as they are of practices not laid down for them, be sought to be restrained by every means. People of the other orders do take up arms (for resisting the invader) if they behold the Kshatriya unarmed for fight, incapable of protecting himself, and making too much of the enemy.' 1
"Yudhishthira said 'Tell me, O grandsire, how that Kshatriya king should conduct himself in fight who advances against another Kshatriya king.'
"Bhishma said, 'A Kshatriya must not put on armour for fighting a Kshatriya unclad in mail. One should fight one, and abandon the opponent when the latter becomes disabled. 2 If the enemy comes clad in mail, his
opponent also should put on mail. If the enemy advances backed by an army, one should, backed by an army, challenge him to battle. If the enemy fights aided by deceit, he should be met with the aid of deceit. If, on the other hand, he fights fairly, he should be resisted with fair means. One should not on horseback proceed against a car-warrior. A car-warrior should proceed against a car-warrior. When an antagonist has fallen into distress, he should not be struck; nor should one that has been frightened, nor one that has been vanquished. 1 Neither poisoned nor barbed arrows should be used. These are the weapons of the wicked. One should fight righteously, without yielding to wrath or desiring to slay. A weak or wounded man should not be slain, or one that is sonless; or one whose weapon has been broken; or one that has fallen into distress; or one whose bow-string has been cut; or one that has lost his vehicle. A wounded opponent should either be sent to his own home, or, if brought to the victor's quarters, should have his wounds attended to by skilful surgeons. When in consequence of a quarrel between righteous kings, a righteous warrior falls into distress, (his wounds should be attended to and) when cured he should be set at liberty. This is the eternal duty. Manu himself, the son of the Self-born (Brahman), has said that battles should be fought fairly. The righteous should always act righteously towards those that are righteous. They should adhere to righteousness without destroying it. If a Kshatriya, whose duty it is to fight righteously, wins a victory by unrighteous means, he becomes sinful. Of deceitful conduct, such a person is said to slay his own self. Such is the practice of those that are wicked. Even he that is wicked should be subdued by fair means. It is better to lay down life itself in the observance of righteousness than to win victory by sinful means. Like a cow, O king, perpetrated sin does not immediately produce its fruits. That sin overwhelms the perpetrator after consuming his roots and branches. A sinful person, acquiring wealth by sinful means, rejoices greatly. But the sinner, gaining advancement by sinful ways, becomes wedded to sin. Thinking that virtue has no efficacy, he jeers at men of righteous behaviour. Disbelieving in virtue, he at last meets with destruction. Though enmeshed in the noose of Varuna, he still regards himself immortal. Like unto a large leathern bag puffed up with wind, the sinner dissociates himself entirely from virtue. Soon, however, he disappears like a tree on the riverside washed away with its very roots. Then people, beholding him resemble an earthen pot broken on a stony surface, speak of him as he deserves. The king should, therefore, seek both victory and the enhancement of his resources, by righteous means.'"
206:1 The sense is that although it is laid down that kings should fight with those only that are of the kingly order, yet when the Kshatriyas do not arm themselves for resisting an invader, or other orders may fight for putting down those that so arm themselves against the kings.
206:2 The Bengal reading of this verse, which I adopt, is better than the Bombay reading. The Bengal reading is more consistent with what follows in verse 8. If the Bombay reading be adopted, the translation would run thus:--"One should not fight a Kshatriya in battle unless he has put on armour. One should fight with one, after challenging in those words--'Shoot, for I am shooting at thee." K.P. Singh's rendering is substantially correct. The Burdwan version, as usual, is wrong.
207:1 The distress referred to here is of being unhorsed or deprived of car or of weapons, etc.
Next: Section XCVI