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Chapter 14

Mahabharata English - BHISHMA PARVA

“Dhritarashtra said,–‘How hath Bhishma, that bull among the Kurus, beenslain by Sikhandin? How did my father, who resembled Vasava himself, falldown from his car? What became of my sons, O Sanjaya, when they weredeprived of the mighty Bhishma who was like unto a celestial, and who ledlife of Brahmacharyya for the sake of his father?[79] Upon the fall ofthat tiger among men who was endued with great wisdom, great capacity forexertion, great might and great energy, how did our warriors feel?Hearing that bull amongst the Kurus, that foremost of men, thatunwavering hero is slain, great is the grief that pierceth my heart.While advancing (against the foe), who followed him and who proceededahead? Who stayed by his side? Who proceeded with him? What bravecombatants followed behind (protecting his rear) that tiger amongcar-warriors, that wonderful archer, that bull among Kshatriyas, while hepenetrated into the divisions of the foe?[80] While seizing the hostileranks, what warriors opposed that slayer of foes resembling the luminaryof thousand rays, who spreading terror among the foe destroyed theirranks like the Sun destroying darkness, and who achieved in battleamongst the ranks of Pandu’s sons feats exceedingly difficult ofaccomplishment? How, indeed, O Sanjaya, did the Pandavas oppose in battlethe son of Santanu, that accomplished and invincible warrior when heapproached them smiting? Slaughtering the (hostile) ranks, having arrowsfor his teeth, and full of energy, with the bow for his wide-open mouth,and with the terrible sword for his tongue, and invincible, a very tigeramong men, endued with modesty, and never before vanquished, alas, howdid Kunti’s son overthrow in battle that unconquered one, undeserving ashe was of such a fate,[81]–that fierce bowman shooting fierce shafts,stationed on his excellent car, and plucking off the heads of foes (fromtheir bodies)–that warrior, irresistible as the Yuga-fire, beholdingwhom addrest for battle the great army of the Pandavas always used towaver? Mangling the hostile troops for ten nights, alas, that slayer ofranks hath set like the Sun, having achieved feats difficult ofachievement. He who, scattering like Sakra himself and inexhaustibleshower of arrows, slew in battle a hundred millions of warriors in tendays, that scion of Bharata’s race, now lieth, although he deserveth itnot, on the bare ground, in the field of battle, deprived of life, amighty tree uprooted by the winds, as a result of my evil counsels!Beholding Santanu’s son Bhishma of terrible prowess, how indeed, couldthe army of the Pandavas[82] succeed in smiting him there? How did thesons of Pandu battle with Bhishma? How is it, O Sanjaya, that Bhishmacould not conquer when Drona liveth? When Kripa, again, was near him, andDrona’s son (Aswatthaman) also, how could Bhishma, that foremost ofsmiters be slain? How could Bhishma who was reckoned as an Atiratha andwho could not be resisted by the very gods, be slain in battle bySikhandin, the prince of Panchala? He, who always regarded himself as theequal of the mighty son of Jamadagni in battle, he whom Jamadagni’s sonhimself could not vanquish, he who resembled Indra himself inprowess,–alas, O Sanjaya, tell me how that hero, Bhishma, born in therace of Maharathas, was slain in battle, for without knowing all theparticulars I cannot regain my equanimity. What great bowmen of my army,O Sanjaya, did not desert that hero of unfading glory? What heroicwarriors, again, at Duryodhana’s command, stood around that hero (forprotecting him)? When all the Pandavas placing Sikhandin in their vanadvanced against Bhishma, did not all the Kurus,[83] O Sanjaya, stay bythe side of that hero of unfading prowess? Hard as my heart is, surely itmust be made of adamant, for it breaketh not on hearing the death of thattiger among men, viz., Bhishma! In that irresistible bull of Bharata’srace, were truth, and intelligence, and policy, to an immeasurableextent. Alas, how was he slain in battle? Like unto a mighty cloud ofhigh altitude, having the twang of his bowstring for its roar, his arrowsfor its rain-drops, and the sound of his bow for its thunder, that heroshowering his shafts on Kunti’s sons with the Panchalas and the Srinjayason their side, smote hostile car-warriors like the slayer of Vala smitingthe Danavas. Who were the heroes that resisted, like the bank resistingthe surging sea, that chastiser of foes, who was a terrible ocean ofarrows and weapons, an ocean in which shafts were the irresistiblecrocodiles and bows were the waves, an ocean that was inexhaustible,without an island, agitated and without a raft to cross it, in whichmaces and swords were like sharks and steeds and elephants like eddies,and foot-soldiers like fishes in abundance, and the sound of conches anddrums like its roar, and ocean that swallowed horses and elephants andfoot-soldiers quickly, an ocean that devoured hostile heroes and thatseethed with wrath and energy which constituted its Yadava-fire?[84] Whenfor Duryodhana’s good, that slayer of foes, Bhishma, achieved (terrible)feats in battle, who were then in his van? Who were they that protectedthe right wheel of that warrior of immeasurable energy? Who were theythat, mustering patience and energy, resisted hostile heroes from hisrear? Who stationed themselves in his near front for protecting him? Whowere those heroes that protected the fore-wheel of that brave warriorwhile he battled (with the foe)? Who were they that stationing themselvesby his left wheel smote the Srinjayas? Who were they that protected theirresistible advance ranks of his van? Who protected the wings of thatwarrior who hath made the last painful journey? And who, O Sanjaya,fought with hostile heroes in the general engagement? If he was protectedby (our) heroes, and if they were protected by. him, why could he notthen speedily vanquish in battle the army of the Pandavas, invinciblethough it be? Indeed, O Sanjaya, how could the Pandavas succeed even instriking Bhishma who was like Parameshti himself, that Lord and creatorof all creatures?[85] Thou tellest me, O Sanjaya, if the disappearance ofthat Bhishma, that tiger among men, who was our refuge and relying uponwhom the Kurus were fighting with their foes, that warrior of mightystrength relying on whose energy my son had never reckoned the Pandavas,alas, how hath he been slain by the enemy?[86] In days of yore, all thegods while engaged in slaying the Danavas, sought the aid of thatinvincible warrior, viz., my father of high vows. That foremost of sonsendued with great energy, on whose birth the world-renowned Santanuabandoned all grief, melancholy, and sorrows, how canst thou tell me, OSanjaya, that that celebrated hero, that great refuge of all, that wiseand holy personage who was devoted to the duties of his order andconversant with the truths of the Vedas and their branches, hath beenslain? Accomplished in every weapon and endued with humility, gentle andwith passions under full control, and possessed of great energy as hewas, alas, hearing that son of Santanu slain I regard the rest of my armyas already slain. In my judgment, unrighteousness hath now becomestronger than righteousness, for the sons of Pandu desire sovereigntyeven by killing their venerable superior! In days of yore, Jamadagni’sson Rama, who was acquainted with every weapon and whom none excelled,when addrest for battle on behalf of Amvya, was vanquished by Bhishma incombat. Thou tellest me that that Bhishma, who was the foremost of allwarriors and who resembled Indra himself in the feats he achieved, hathbeen slain. What can be a greater grief to me than this? Endued withgreat intelligence, he that was not slain even by that slayer of hostileheroes, that Rama, the son of Jamadagni, who defeated in battle crowds ofKshatriyas repeatedly, he hath now been slain by Sikhandin. Withoutdoubt, Drupada’s son Sikhandin, therefore who hath slain in battle thatbull of Bharata’s race, that hero acquainted with the highest weapons,that brave and accomplished warrior conversant with every weapon, issuperior in energy, prowess, and might to the invincible Vargava enduedwith the highest energy. In that encounter of arms who were the heroesthat followed that slayer of foes? Tell me how the battle was foughtbetween Bhishma and the Pandavas. The army of my son, O Sanjaya, reft ofits hero, is like an unprotected woman. Indeed, that army of mine is likea panic-struck herd of kine reft of its herdsman. He in whom residedprowess superior to that of every one, when he was laid low on the fieldof battle, what was the state of mind of my army? What power is there, OSanjaya, in our life, when we have caused our father of mighty energy,that foremost of righteous men in the world, to be slain? Like a persondesirous of crossing the sea when he beholds the boat sunk in fathomlesswaters, alas, my sons, I ween, are bitterly weeping from grief onBhishma’s death. My heart, O Sanjaya, is surely made of adamant, for itrendeth not even after hearing the death of Bhishma, that tiger amongmen. That bull among men in whom were weapons, intelligence, and policy,to an immeasurable extent, how, alas, hath that invincible warrior beenslain in battle? Neither in consequence of weapons nor of courage, nor ofascetic merit, nor of intelligence, nor of firmness, nor of gift, can aman free himself from death. Indeed, time, endued with great energy, isincapable of being transgressed by anything in the world, when thoutellest me, O Sanjaya, that Santanu’s son Bhishma is dead. Burning withgrief on account of my sons, in fact, overwhelmed with great sorrow, Ihad hoped for relief from Bhishma, the son of Santanu. When he beheldSantanu’s son, O Sanjaya, lying on earth like the Sun (dropped from thefirmament), what else was made by Duryodhana as his refuge? O Sanjaya,reflecting with the aid of my understanding, I do not see what the endwill be of the kings belonging to my side and that of the enemy and nowmustered in the opposing ranks of battle. Alas, cruel are the duties ofthe Kshatriya order as laid down by the Rishis, since the Pandavas aredesirous of sovereignty by even compassing the death of Santanu’s son,and we also are desirous of sovereignty by offering up that hero of highvows as a sacrifice.[87] The sons of Pritha, as also my sons, are all inthe observance of Kshatriya duties. They, therefore, incur no sin (bydoing) this. Even a righteous person should do this, O Sanjaya, whendireful calamities come. The display of prowess and the exhibition of theutmost might have been laid down among the duties of the Kshatriyas.

“‘How, indeed, did the sons of Pandu oppose my father Bhishma, the son ofSantanu, that unvanquished hero endued with modesty, while he was engagedin destroying the hostile ranks? How were the troops arrayed, and how didhe battle with high-souled foes? How, O Sanjaya, was my father Bhishmaslain by the enemy? Duryodhana and Karna and the deceitful Sakuni, theson of Suvala, and Dussasana also,–what did they say when Bhishma wasslain? Thither where the dice-board is constituted by the bodies of men,elephants, and steeds, and, where arrows and javelins and large swordsand bearded darts from the dice, entering that frightful mansion ofdestructive battle’s play, who were those wretched gamblers,–those bullsamong men,–that gambled, making their very lives the frightful stakes?Who won, who were vanquished, who cast the dice successfully, and whohave been slain, besides Bhishma, the son of Santanu? Tell me all, OSanjaya, for peace cannot be mine, hearing that Devavrata hath beenslain,–that father of mine, of terrible deeds, that ornament of battle,viz., Bhishma! Keen anguish had penetrated my heart, born of the thoughtthat all my children would die. Thou makest that grief of mine blazeforth, O Sanjaya, like fire by pouring clarified butter on it. My sons,

I ween, are even now grieving, beholding Bhishma slain,–Bhishmacelebrated in all worlds and who had taken upon himself a heavy burden. Iwill listen to all those sorrows arising from Duryodhana’s act.Therefore, tell me, O Sanjaya, everything that happenedthere,–everything that happened in the battle, born of the folly of mywicked son. Ill-ordered or well-ordered, tell me everything, O Sanjaya.Whatever was achieved with the aid of energy in the battle by Bhishmadesirous of victory,–by that warrior accomplished in arms,–tell me allfully and in detail. How, in fact, the battle took place between thearmies of the Kurus and the manner in which each happened.'”

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