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Chapter 102

Mahabharata English - ADI PARVA

“Vaisampayana said, ‘O thou of Kuru’s race, after Chitrangada was slain,his successor Vichitravirya being a minor, Bhishma ruled the kingdom,placing himself under the command of Satyavati. When he saw that hisbrother, who was the foremost of intelligent men, attained to majority, Bhishma set his heart upon marrying Vichitravirya.

At this time he heardthat the three daughters of the king of Kasi, all equal in beauty to theApsaras themselves, would be married on the same occasion, selectingtheir husbands at a self-choice ceremony. Then that foremost ofcar-warriors, that vanquisher of all foes, at the command of his mother,went to the city of Varanasi in a single chariot. There Bhishma, the sonof Santanu, saw that innumerable monarchs had come from all directions;and there he also saw those three maidens that would select their ownhusbands. And when the (assembled) kings were each being mentioned byname, Bhishma chose those maidens (on behalf of his brother). And takingthem upon his chariot, Bhishma, that first of smiters in battle,addressed the kings, O monarch, and said in a voice deep as the roar ofthe clouds, ‘The wise have directed that when an accomplished person hasbeen invited, a maiden may be bestowed on him, decked with ornaments andalong with many valuable presents. Others again may bestow theirdaughters by accepting a couple of kine. Some again bestow theirdaughters by taking a fixed sum, and some take away maidens by force.Some wed with the consent of the maidens, some by drugging them intoconsent, and some by going unto the maidens’ parents and obtaining theirsanction. Some again obtain wives as presents for assisting atsacrifices. Of these, the learned always applaud the eighth form ofmarriage. Kings, however, speak highly of the Swyamvara (the fifth formas above) and themselves wed according to it. But the sages have saidthat, that wife is dearly to be prized who is taken away by force, afterthe slaughter of opponents, from amidst the concourse of princes andkings invited to a self-choice ceremony. Therefore, ye monarchs, I bearaway these maidens hence by force. Strive ye, to the best of your might,to vanquish me or to be vanquished. Ye monarchs, I stand here resolved tofight!’ Kuru prince, endued with great energy, thus addressing theassembled monarchs and the king of Kasi, took upon his car those maidens.And having taken them up, he sped his chariot away, challenging theinvited kings to a fight.

“The challenged monarchs then all stood up, slapping their arms andbiting their nether lips in wrath. And loud was the din produced, as, ina great hurry, they began to cast off their ornaments and put on theirarmour. And the motion of their ornaments and armour, O Janamejaya,brilliant as these were, resembled meteoric flashes in the sky. And withbrows contracted and eyes red with rage, the monarchs moved inimpatience, their armour and ornaments dazzling or waving with theiragitated steps. The charioteers soon brought handsome cars with finehorses harnessed thereto. Those splendid warriors then, equipped with allkinds of weapons, rode on those cars, and with uplifted weapons pursuedthe retreating chief of the Kurus. Then, O Bharata, occurred the terribleencounter between those innumerable monarchs on one side and the Kuruwarrior alone on the other. And the assembled monarchs threw at their foeten thousand arrows at the same time. Bhishma, however speedily checkedthose numberless arrows before they could come at him by means of ashower of his own arrows as innumerable as the down on the body. Thenthose kings surrounded him from all sides and rained arrows on him likemasses of clouds showering on the mountain-breast. But Bhishma, arrestingwith his shafts the course of that arrowy downpour, pierced each of themonarchs with three shafts. The latter, in their turn pierced Bhishma,each with five shafts. But, O king, Bhishma checked those by his prowessand pierced each of the contending kings with two shafts. The combatbecame so fierce with that dense shower of arrows and other missiles thatit looked very much like the encounter between the celestials and theAsuras of old, and men of courage who took no part in it were struck withfear even to look at the scene. Bhishma cut off, with his arrows, on thefield of battle, bows, and flagstaffs, and coats of mail, and human headsby hundreds and thousands. And such was his terrible prowess andextraordinary lightness of hand, and such the skill with which heprotected himself, that the contending car-warriors, though his enemies,began to applaud him loudly. Then that foremost of all wielders ofweapons having vanquished in battle all those monarchs, pursued his waytowards the capital of the Bharatas, taking those maidens with him.

“It was then, O king, that mighty car-warrior, king Salya of immeasurableprowess, from behind summoned Bhishma, the son of Santanu, to anencounter. And desirous of obtaining the maidens, he came upon Bhishmalike a mighty leader of a herd of elephants rushing upon another of hiskind, and tearing with his tusks the latter’s hips at the sight of afemale elephant in heat. And Salya of mighty arms, moved by wrathaddressed Bhishma and said, ‘Stay, Stay.’ Then Bhishma, that tiger amongmen, that grinder of hostile armies, provoked by these words, flamed upin wrath like a blazing fire. Bow in hand, and brow furrowed intowrinkles, he stayed on his car, in obedience to Kshatriya usage havingchecked its course in expectation of the enemy. All the monarchs seeinghim stop, stood there to become spectators of the coming encounterbetween him and Salya. The two then began to exhibit their prowess (uponeach other) like roaring bulls of great strength at the sight of a cow inrut. Then that foremost of men, king Salya covered Bhishma, the son ofSantanu with hundreds and thousands of swift-winged shafts. And thosemonarchs seeing Salya thus covering Bhishma at the outset withinnumerable shafts, wondered much and uttered shouts of applause.Beholding his lightness of hand in combat, the crowd of regal spectatorsbecame very glad and applauded Salya greatly. That subjugator of hostiletowns, Bhishma, then, on hearing those shouts of the Kshatriyas, becamevery angry and said, ‘Stay, Stay’. In wrath, he commanded his charioteer,saying, ‘Lead thou my car to where Salya is, so that I may slay himinstantly as Garuda slays a serpent.’ Then the Kuru chief fixed theVaruna weapon on his bow-string, and with it afflicted the four steeds ofking Salya. And, O tiger among kings, the Kuru chief, then, warding offwith his weapons those of his foe, slew Salya’s charioteer. Then thatfirst of men, Bhishma, the son of Santanu, fighting for the sake of thosedamsels, slew with the Aindra weapon the noble steeds of his adversary.He then vanquished that best of monarchs but left him with his life. Obull of Bharata’s race, Salya, after his defeat, returned to his kingdomand continued to rule it virtuously. And O conqueror of hostile towns,the other kings also, who had come to witness, the self-choice ceremonyreturned to their own kingdoms.

“That foremost of smiters, viz., Bhishma, after defeating those monarchs,set out with those damsels, for Hastinapura whence the virtuous Kuruprince Vichitravirya ruled the earth like that best of monarchs, viz.,his father Santanu. And, O king, passing through many forests, rivers,hills, and woods abounding with trees, he arrived (at the capital) in notime. Of immeasurable prowess in battle, the son of the ocean-goingGanga, having slain numberless foes in battle without a scratch on hisown person, brought the daughters of the king of Kasi unto the Kurus astenderly if they were his daughters-in-law, or younger sisters, ordaughters. And Bhishma of mighty arms, impelled by the desire ofbenefiting his brother, having by his prowess brought them thus, thenoffered those maidens possessing every accomplishment unto Vichitravirya.Conversant with the dictates of virtue, the son of Santanu, havingachieved such an extraordinary feat according to (kingly) custom, thenbegan to make preparations for his brother’s wedding. And when everythingabout the wedding had been settled by Bhishma in consultation withSatyavati, the eldest daughter of the king of Kasi, with a soft smile,told him these words, ‘At heart I had chosen the king of Saubha for myhusband. He had, in his heart, accepted me for his wife. This was alsoapproved by my father. At the self-choice ceremony also I would havechosen him as my lord. Thou art conversant with all the dictates ofvirtue, knowing all this, do as thou likest.’ Thus addressed by thatmaiden in the presence of the Brahmanas, the heroic Bhishma began toreflect as to what should be done. As he was conversant with the rules ofvirtue, he consulted with the Brahmanas who had mastered the Vedas, andpermitted Amba, the eldest daughter of the ruler of Kasi to do as sheliked. But he bestowed with due rites the two other daughters, Ambika andAmbalika on his younger brother Vichitravirya. And though Vichitraviryawas virtuous and abstemious, yet, proud of youth and beauty, he soonbecame lustful after his marriage. And both Ambika and Ambalika were oftall stature, and of the complexion of molten gold. And their heads werecovered with black curly hair, and their finger-nails were high and red;their hips were fat and round, and their breasts full and deep. Andendued with every auspicious mark, the amiable young ladies consideredthemselves to be wedded to a husband who was every way worthy ofthemselves, and extremely loved and respected Vichitravirya. AndVichitravirya also, endued with the prowess of the celestials and thebeauty of the twin Aswins, could steal the heart of any beautiful woman.And the prince passed seven years uninterruptedly in the company of hiswives. He was attacked while yet in the prime of youth, with phthisis.Friends and relatives in consultation with one another tried to effect acure. But in spite of all efforts, the Kuru prince died, setting like theevening sun. The virtuous Bhishma then became plunged into anxiety andgrief, and in consultation with Satyavati caused the obsequial rites ofthe deceased to be performed by learned priests and the several of theKuru race.'”

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Chapter 103
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