The Mahabharata Home
"Yudhishthira said. 'What are the well-known indications, O bull of Bharata's race, of the (future) success of an army? I desire to know them.'
"Bhishma said, 'I shall tell thee, O bull of Bharata's race, all the well-known indications of the (future) success of an army. When the gods become angry and inert are urged by fate, persons of learning, beholding everything with the eye of heavenly knowledge, perform diverse auspicious acts and expiatory rites including homa and the silent recitation of mantras, and thus allay all evils. 1 That army in which the troops and the animals are all undepressed and cheerful. O Bharata, is sure to win a decided victory. The wind blows favourably from behind such troops. Rainbows appear in the sky. The clouds cast their shadows upon them and at times the sun shines upon them. The jackals become auspicious to them, and ravens and vultures as well. When these show such regard to the army, high success is sure to be won by it. Their (sacrificial) fires blaze up with a pure splendour, the light going upwards and the smokeless flames slightly bending towards the south. The libations poured thereon emit an agreeable fragrance. These have been said to be the indications of future success. The conchs and drums, blown and beat, send forth loud and deep peals. The combatants become filled with alacrity. These have been said to be the indications of future success. If deer and other quadrupeds be seen behind or to the left of those that have already set out for battle or of those that are about to set out, they are regarded auspicious. If they appear to the right of the warriors while about to engage in slaughter, that is regarded as an indication of success. If, however, they make their appearance in the van of such persons, they indicate disaster and defeat. If these birds, viz., swans and cranes and Satapatras and Chashas utter auspicious cries, and all the able-bodied combatants become cheerful, these are regarded as indications of future success. They whose array blazes forth with splendour and becomes terrible to look at in consequence of the sheen of their weapons, machines, armour, and standards as also of the radiant complexion of the faces of the vigorous men that stand within it, always succeed in vanquishing their foes. If the combatants of a host be of pure behaviour and modest deportment and attend to one another in loving-kindness, that is regarded as an indication of future
success. If agreeable sounds and orders and sensations of touch prevail, and if the combatants become inspired with gratitude and patience, that is regarded as the root of success. The crow on the left of a person engaged in battle and on the right of him who is about to engage in it, is regarded auspicious. Appearing at the back, it indicates non-fulfilment of the objects in view, while its appearance in the front forebodes danger. Even after enlisting a large army consisting of the four kinds of forces, thou shouldst, O Yudhishthira, first behave peacefully. If thy endeavours after peace fail, then mayst thou engage in battle. The victory, O Bharata, that one acquired by battle is very inferior. Victory in battle, it seems, is dependent on caprice or destiny. When a large army breaks and the troops begin to fly away, it is exceedingly difficult to check their flight. The impetuosity of the flight resembles that of a mighty current of water or of a frightened herd of deer. Some have broken. For this, without adequate cause, others break, even they that are brave and skilled in fight. A large army, consisting of even brave soldiers, is like a large herd of Ruru deer. 1 Sometimes again it may be seen that even fifty men, resolute and relying upon one another, cheerful and prepared to lay down their lives, succeed in grinding enemies numerically much superior. Sometimes even five, or six, or seven men, resolute and standing close together, of high descent and enjoying the esteem of those that know them, vanquish foes much superior to them in number. The collision of battle is not desirable as long as it can be avoided. The policy of conciliation, or producing disunion, and making gifts should first be tried, the battle, it is said, should come after these. At the very sight of a (hostile) force, fear paralyses the timid, even as at the sight of the blazing bolt of heaven they ask, 'Oh, upon what would it fall?' 2 Having ascertained that a battle is raging, the limbs of those that go to join it, as also of him that is conquering, perspire profusely. 3 The entire country. O king, (that is the seat of war), becomes agitated and afflicted with all its mobile and immobile population. The very marrow of embodied creatures scorched with the heat of weapons, languishes with pain. A king should, therefore, on all occasions, apply the arts of conciliation, mixing them with measures of severity. When people are afflicted by foes, they always show a disposition to come to terms. 4 Secret agents should be sent for producing disunion amongst the allies of the foe. Having produced disunion, it is very desirable that peace should then be
made with that king who happens to be more powerful than the foe (sought to be crushed). If the invader does not proceed in the way, he can never succeed in completely crushing his foe. In dealing with the foe, care should be taken for hemming him in from all sides. Forgiveness always comes to those that are good. It never comes to those that are bad. Listen now, O Partha, to the uses of forgiveness and of severity. The fame of a king who displays forgiveness after conquest spreads more widely. The very foes of a person that is of a forgiving disposition trust him even when he becomes guilty of a grave transgression. Samvara has said that having afflicted a foe first, forgiveness should be shown afterwards, for a wooden pole, if made straight without the application of heat in the first instance, very soon assumes its former state. Persons skilled in the scriptures do not, however, applaud this. Nor do they regard this as an indication of a good king. On the other hand, they say that a foe should be subdued and checked, like a sire subduing and checking a son, without anger and without destroying him. If, O Yudhishthira, a king becomes severe, he becomes an object of hatred with all creatures. If, on the other hand, he becomes mild, he becomes disregarded by all. Do thou, therefore, practise both severity and mildness. Before smiting, O Bharata, and while smiting, utter sweet words; and having smitten, show them compassion and let them understand that thou art grieving and weeping for them. Having vanquished an army, the kind should address the survivors saying, 'I am not at all glad that so many have been slain by my troops. Alas, the latter, though repeatedly dissuaded by me, have not obeyed my direction. I wish they .(that are slain) were all alive. They do not deserve such death. They were all good men and true, and unretreating from battle. Such men, indeed, are rare. He that has slain such a hero in battle, has surely done that which is not agreeable to me.' Having uttered such speeches before the survivors of the vanquished foe, the king should in secret honour those amongst his own troops that have bravely slain the foe. For soothing the wounded slayers for their sufferings at the hand of the foe, the king, desirous of attaching them to himself, should even weep, seizing their hands affectionately. The king should thus, under all circumstances, behave with conciliation. A king that is fearless and virtuous, becomes the beloved of all creatures. All creatures, also, O Bharata, trust such a ruler. Winning their trust, he succeeds in enjoying the earth as he pleases. The king should, therefore, by abandoning deceitfulness, seek to obtain the trust of all creatures. He should also seek to protect his subjects from all fears if he seek to enjoy the earth.'"
220:1 The object of these two verses is to indicate that a learned astrologer and a learned priest are certain means for procuring victories by warding off all calamities caused by unpropitious fate and the wrath of the gods.
221:1 If a single deer takes fright and runs in a particular direction, the whole herd follows it without knowing the cause. The simile is peculiarly appropriate in the case of large armies, Particularly of Asiatic hosts, if a single division takes to flight, the rest follows it. Fear is very contagious. The Bengal reading jangha is evidently incorrect. The Bombay reading is sangha. The Burdwan translators have attempted the impossible feat of finding sense by adhering to the incorrect reading. The fact is, they did not suspect the viciousness of the text.
221:2 I have endeavoured to give the very construction of the original. It is curious to see how the Burdwan Pundits have misunderstood the simple verse.
221:3 Samiti is explained by Nilakantha to mean battle, and vijasyasya as vijigishamanasya. Unless it be an instance of a cruce, vijasyasya can scarcely be understood in such a sense.
221:4 i.e., the king should try conciliation, sending at the same time an invading force, or making an armed demonstration. Such politic measures succeed in bringing about peace.
Next: Section CIII