The Mahabharata Home
"Yudhishthira said, 'These lords of earth that lie on the earth's surface amid their respective hosts, these princes endued with great might, are now reft of animation. Every one of these mighty monarchs was possessed of strength equal to that of ten thousand elephants. Alas! these have all been slain by men possessed of equal prowess and might. I do not behold any one else (in the world) that could slay any of these men in battle. 1 All of them were endued with great prowess, great energy, and great strength. Possessed also of great wisdom, they are now lying on the bare ground, deprived of life. With respect to all these men that are deprived of life, the word that is used is that they are dead. Of terrible prowess, all these kings are said to be dead. On this subject a doubt has arisen in my mind. Whence is animation and whence is death? Who is it that dies? (Is it the gross body, the subtile body, or the Soul, that dies)? Whence is death? For what reason also doth death takeaway (living creatures)? O grandsire, tell me this, O thou that resemblest a celestial!'
"Bhishma said, 'In days of old, in the Krita age, O son, there was a king of the name of Anukampaka. His cars and elephants and horses and men having been reduced in number, he was brought under the sway of his foes in battle. His son named Hari, who resembled Narayana himself in strength, was in that battle slain by his foes along with all his followers and troops. Afflicted with grief on account of the death of his son, and himself brought under the sway of foes, the king devoted himself thence to a life of tranquillity. One day, while wandering without a purpose he met the sage Narada on the earth. The monarch told Narada all that had happened, viz., the death of his son in battle and his own capture by his enemies. Having heard his words, Narada, possessed of wealth of penances, then recited to him the following narrative for dispelling his grief on account of the death of his son.'
"Narada said, 'Listen now, O monarch, to the following narrative of rather lengthy details as these had occurred. I myself heard it formerly, O king! Endued with great energy, the Grandsire, at the time of the creation of the universe, created a large number of living beings. These multiplied greatly, and none of them met with death. There was no part of the universe that was not overcrowded with living creatures, O thou of unfading glory! Indeed, O king, the three worlds seemed to swell with living beings, and became as it were breathless. Then, O monarch, the thought arose in the Grandsire's mind as to how he should destroy that overgrown population. Reflecting on the subject, the Self-born, however, could not decide what the means should be by which the destruction of life was to be brought about.
[paragraph continues] Thereupon, O king, Brahman gave way to wrath, and in consequence of his wrath a fire issued out of his body. With that fire born of his wrath, the Grandsire burnt all the quarters of the universe, O monarch. Indeed, that conflagration born of the Divine lord's anger, O king, burnt heaven and earth and the firmament and the whole universe with all its mobile and immobile beings. Truly, when the Grandsire thus gave way to wrath, all mobile and immobile beings began to be consumed by the irresistible energy of that passion. Then the divine and auspicious Sthanu, that slayer of hostile heroes, that lord of the Vedas and the scriptures, filled with compassion, sought to gratify Brahman. When Sthanu came to Brahman from motives of benevolence, the great God burning with energy, addressed him, saying, 'Thou deservest boons at my hands. What desire of thine shall I accomplish? I shall do thee good by accomplishing whatever is in thy breast.'"
220:1 i.e., they could be slain by only their equals who were engaged with them, meaning that all those warriors were very superior men. They could not possibly be slain by others than those with whom they fought.
Next: Section CCLVII