Chapter 48

Mahabharata English - BHISHMA PARVA

Dhritarashtra said,–“When that great bowman Sweta proceeded towardsSalya’s car, what did the Kauravas and the Pandavas do, O Sanjaya? Andwhat also did Bhishma the son of Santanu do? Tell me who ask thee, allthis.”

Sanjaya said,–“O king, hundreds and thousands of bulls among Kshatriyas,all brave and mighty car-warriors, placing the generalissimo Sweta in thevan, and displaying their strength. O Bharata, unto thy royal son andwith Sikhandin also at their head, desired to rescue (Sweta). And thosemighty car-warriors rushed towards Bhishma’s car decked with golddesirous of slaying that foremost of warriors. And the battle that ensuedthen was terrible. I shall describe to thee that wonderful and terrificbattle as it occurred between thy troops and those of the enemy. The sonof Santanu made the terraces of many cars empty, (for) that best ofcar-warriors showering (his) arrows, cut off many heads. Endued withenergy equal to that of the Sun himself, he shrouded the very Sun withhis arrows. And he removed his enemies from around him in that combatlike the rising Sun dispelling the darkness around. And in that battle, Oking, arrows were shot by him in hundreds and thousands that werepowerful and possessed of great impetuosity and that took in thatconflict the lives of numberless Kshatriyas. And in that combat he felledheads, by hundreds, of heroic warriors, O king, and elephants cased inthorny mail, like summits of mountains (felled) by heaven’s bolt. Andcars, O king, were seen to mingle with cars. A car might be seen uponanother car, and a steed upon another steed. And impetuous chargers, Oking, bore hither and thither heroic riders in the prime of youth, slainand hanging (from their saddles) with their bows (still in theirgrasp).[339] With swords and quivers attached (to their persons) andcoats of mail loosened (from their bodies), hundreds of warriors,deprived of life, lay on the ground, sleeping on beds (worthy) of heroes.Rushing against one another, falling down and rising up again and rushingagain having risen up, the combatants fought hand to hand. Afflicted byone another, many rolled on the field of battle. Infuriate elephantsrushed hither and thither, and car-warriors by hundreds were slain. Andcar-warriors, along with their cars, were crushed on all sides. And somewarriors fell upon his car, slain by another with arrows. And a mightycar-warrior might be seen to fall down from high, his charioteer (also)having been slain. A thick dust arose, and thereupon unto the warriorstruggling in battle, the twang of the (hostile) bow indicated thestruggling adversary before. From the pressure also on their bodies,combatants guessed their foes. And the warriors, O king, fought on witharrows, guided by the sound of bow-strings and (hostile) division. Thevery hiss of the arrows shot by the combatants at one another could notbe heard. And so loud was the sound of drums, that it seemed to piercethe ears. And in that tumultuous uproar making the hair stand on end, thename of the combatant uttered in the battle, while displaying hisprowess, could not be heard. The sire could not recognise the son of hisloins. One of the wheels being broken, or the yoke being torn off or oneof the steeds being slain, the brave car-warrior was overthrown from hiscar, along with his charioteer, by means of straight arrows. And thusmany heroic warriors, deprived of their cars, were seen to fly away.[340]He who was slain had cut off; he who was not slain, was struck at thevery vitals: but unstruck there was none, when Bhishma attacked the foe.And in that terrific battle, Sweta caused a great slaughter of the Kurus.And he slew many noble princes by hundreds upon hundreds.[341] And he cutoff, by means of his arrows, the heads of car-warriors by hundreds uponhundreds, and (their) arms decked with Angadas, and (their) bows allaround. And car-warriors and car-wheels and others that were on cars, andthe cars themselves, and standards both small and costly, O king, andlarge bodies of horses, and crowds of cars, and crowds of men, OBharata’s race, were destroyed by Sweta. Ourselves, from fear of Sweta,abandoning (Bhishma) that best of car-warriors, left the battleretreating to the rear and, therefore, do we (now) behold your lordship.And all the Kurus, O son of Kuru’s race, beyond the range of arrows, andabandoning Bhishma the son of Santanu, in that battle, stood (asspectators though) armed for the combat. Cheerful in the hour of(universal) cheerlessness, that tiger among men Bhishma, alone of ourarmy, in that terrible battle stood immovable like the mountain Meru.Taking the lives (of the foe) like the Sun at close of winter, he stoodresplendent with the golden rays (of his car) like the Sun himself withhis rays. And that great bowman shot clouds of arrows and struck down theAsuras.[342] And while being slaughtered by Bhishma in that dreadfulcombat, those warriors breaking away from their ranks, they all fled fromhim, as if from a fire fed by fuel.[343] Encountering the single warrior(Sweta), that slayer of foes, Bhishma, was the only one (amongst us) whowas cheerful and whole. Devoted to the welfare of Duryodhana, he began toconsume the Pandava (warrior). Reckless of his very life which isdifficult of being cast off, and abandoning all fear he slaughtered, Oking, the Pandava army in that fierce conflict.[344] And beholding thegeneralissimo (Sweta) smiting the (Dhartarashtra) divisions, thy fatherBhishma, called also Devavrata, impetuously rushed against him.Thereupon, Sweta covered Bhishma with an extensive net-work of arrows.And Bhishma also covered Sweta with a flight of arrows. And roaring likea couple of bulls, they rushed, like two infuriate elephants of giganticsize or two raging tigers, against each other. Baffling each other’sweapons by means of their weapons, those bulls among men, viz., Bhishmaand Sweta fought with each other, desirous of taking each other’s life.In one single day Bhishma, infuriate with anger, could consume thePandava army with his arrows, if Sweta did not protect it. Beholding thegrandsire then turned off by Sweta, the Pandavas were filled with joy,while thy son became cheerless. Duryodhana then, with wrath excited andsurrounded by many kings, rushed with his troops against the Pandava hostin battle. Then Sweta, abandoning the son of Ganga, slaughtered thy son’shost with great impetuosity like the wind (uprooting) trees withviolence. And the son of Virata, senseless with wrath, having routed thyarmy, advanced (once more), O king, to the place where Bhishma wasstationed. And those two high-souled and mighty warriors then, bothblazing with their arrows, battled with each other like Vritra and Vasava(of old), desirous, O king, of slaying each other. Drawing (his) bow tothe fullest stretch, Sweta pierced Bhishma with seven arrows. Thevalourous (Bhishma) then, putting forth his prowess, quickly checked hisfoe’s valour, like an infuriate elephant checking an infuriate compeer.And Sweta then, that delighter of Kshatriyas struck Bhishma, and Bhishmathe son of Santanu also pierced him in return with ten arrows. And thoughpierced by him (thus), that mighty warrior stood still like a mountain.And Sweta again pierced Santanu’s son with five and twenty straightarrows, at which all wondered. Then smiling and licking with his tonguethe corners of his mouth, Sweta in that combat cut off Bhishma’s bow intoten fragments with ten arrows. Then aiming a plumed arrow made wholly ofiron, (Sweta) crushed the palmyra on the top of the standard of thehigh-souled (Bhishma). And beholding the standard of Bhishma cut down,thy sons thought that Bhishma was slain, having succumbed to Sweta. Andthe Pandavas also filled with delight, blew their conches all around. Andbeholding the palmyra standard of the high-souled Bhishma laid low,Duryodhana, from wrath, urged his own army to the battle. And they allbegan very carefully to protect Bhishma who ‘was in great distress. Untothem, also unto those that stood (idle) spectators, the kingsaid,–Either Sweta will die (today), or Bhishma the son of Santanu. Isay this truly. Hearing the words of the king, the mighty car-warriorsspeedily with four kinds of forces, advanced protecting the son of Ganga.And Valhika and Kritavarman, and Kripa, and Salya also, O Bharata, andthe son of Jarasandha, and Vikarna, and Chitrasena, and Vivinsati, withgreat speed, when speed was so necessary, surrounding him on all sides,poured on Sweta ceaseless showers of arrows. That mighty warrior then, ofimmeasurable soul, quickly checked those angry warriors by means of sharparrows, displaying his own lightness of hand. And checking them all likea lion and a multitude of elephants, Sweta then cut off Bhishma’s bowwith thick shower of arrows. Then Bhishma the son of Santanu, taking upanother bow in that battle, pierced Sweta, O king, with arrows furnishedwith feathers of Kanka bird. Then the commander (of the Pandava army),with wrath excited, pierced Bhishma in that encounter O king, with agreat many shafts in the very sight of all. Beholding Bhishma, thatforemost of heroes in all the world, checked in battle by Sweta, the king(Duryodhana) became greatly troubled, and great also became the distressof thy whole army. And beholding the heroic Bhishma checked and mangledby Sweta with his arrows, all thought that Bhishma, having succumbed toSweta, was slain by him. Then thy sire Devavrata, yielding to anger, andbeholding his (own) standard overthrown and the (Dhartarashtra) armychecked, shot a great many arrows, O king, at Sweta. Sweta, however, thatforemost of car-warriors, baffling all those arrows of Bhishma, once morecut off, with a broad-headed shaft, thy sire’s bow. Throwing aside thatbow, O king, Ganga’s son, senseless with anger, taking up another bowlarger and stronger, and aiming seven large broad-headed arrows whettedon stone, slew with four arrows the four steeds of the generalissimoSweta, cut off his standard with two and with the seventh shaft thatwarrior of great prowess, exceedingly provoked, cut off his charioteer’shead. Thereupon, that mighty car-warrior, jumping down from his car whosesteeds and charioteer had been slain[345], and yielding to the influenceof wrath, became exceedingly troubled. The grandsire, beholding Swetathat foremost of car-warriors, deprived of car, began to smite him on allsides with showers of arrows. And smitten in that combat with arrows shotfrom Bhishma’s bow, Sweta, leaving his bow on his (abandoned) car took upa dart decked with gold and taking up that terrible and fierce dart[346]which resembled the fatal rod of Death and was capable of slaying Death’sself. Sweta then, in great wrath, addressed Bhishma the son of Santanu inthat combat, saying,–Wait a little, and behold me, O best of men,–Andhaving said this unto Bhishma in battle, that great bowman of exceedingprowess and immeasurable soul, hurled the dart resembling a snake,displaying his valour for the sake of the Pandavas and desiring toachieve thy evil. Then loud cries of oh and alas arose among thy sons, Oking, upon beholding that terrible dart resembling the rod of Death insplendour. And hurled from Sweta’s arms, (that dart), resembling a snakethat had just cast off its slough, fell with great force, O king, like alarge meteor from the firmament. Thy sire Devavrata then, O king, withoutthe slightest fear, with eight sharp and winged arrows, cut off into ninefragments, that dart decked with pure gold and which seemed to be coveredwith flames of fire, as it coursed ablaze through the air. All thy troopsthen, O bull of Bharata’s race, set up loud shouts of joy. The son ofVirata, however, beholding his dart cut off into fragments, becamesenseless with anger, and like one whose heart was overcome by (thearrival of) his hour, could not settle what to do. Deprived of his sensesby anger, O king, the son of Virata, then, smiling, joyfully took up amace for Bhishma’s slaughter, with eyes red in wrath, and resembling asecond Yama armed with mace, he rushed against Bhishma like a swollentorrent against the rocks. Regarding his impetuosity as incapable ofcheek, Bhishma endued with great prowess and conversant with the might(of others), suddenly alighted on the ground for warding off that blow.Sweta then, O king, whirling in wrath that heavy mace, hurled it onBhishma’s car like the god Maheswara.[347] And in consequence of thatmace intended for Bhishma’s destruction, that car was reduced to ashes,with standard, and charioteer, and steeds and shaft. Beholding Bhishma,that foremost of car-warriors, become a combatant on foot, manycar-warriors, viz., Salya and others, speedily rushed (to his rescue).Mounting then upon another car, and cheerlessly stretching his bow,Bhishma slowly advanced towards Sweta, seeing that foremost ofcar-warriors. Meanwhile, Bhishma heard a loud voice uttered in the skies,that was celestial and fraught with his own good. (And the voicesaid).–‘O, Bhishma, O thou of mighty arms, strive without losing amoment. Even this is the hour fixed by the Creator of the Universe forsuccess over this one’. Hearing those words uttered by the celestialmessenger, Bhishma, filled with joy, set his heart upon Sweta’sdestruction. And beholding that foremost of car-warriors, Sweta become acombatant on foot, many mighty car-warriors (of the Pandava side) rushedunitedly (to his rescue). (They were) Satyaki, and Bhimasena, andDhrishtadyumna of Prishata’s race; and the (five) Kekaya brothers, andDhrishtaketu and Abhimanyu of great energy. And beholding them rushing(to the rescue), with Drona and Salya and Kripa that hero of immeasurablesoul (Bhishma) checked them all like the mountain resisting the force ofthe wind. And when all the high-souled warriors of the Pandava side were(thus) held in check, Sweta, taking up a sword cut off Bhishma’s bow.Casting aside that bow, the grandsire, quickly made up his mind forSweta’s destruction, having heard the words of the celestial messenger.Though baffled (by Sweta), thy sire Devavrata then that mightycar-warrior quickly taking up another bow that resembled the bow of Sakrahimself in splendour, stringed it in a moment. Then thy sire, O chief ofthe Bharatas, beholding that mighty car-warrior Sweta, though the latterwas then surrounded by those tigers among men with Bhimasena at theirhead,–(thy sire) the son of Ganga-advanced steadily for the sake of thegeneralissimo Sweta alone. Beholding Bhishma advance, Bhimasena of greatprowess pierced him with sixty shafts. But that mighty car-warrior, thysire Devavrata, checking both Bhimasena and Abhimanyu and othercar-warriors with terrible shafts, struck him with three straight arrows.And the grandsire of the Bharatas also struck Satyaki, in that combat,with a hundred arrows, and Dhrishtadyumna with twenty and the Kekayabrothers with five. And checking all those great bowmen with terriblearrows, thy sire Devavrata advanced towards Sweta alone. Then taking outan arrow resembling Death’s self and capable of bearing a great strainand incapable of being resisted, the powerful Bhishma placed it on hisbowstring. And that shaft, furnished with wings and duly endued with theforce of the Brahma weapon, was seen by the gods and Gandharvas andPisachas and Uragas, and Rakshasas. And that shaft, of splendour likethat of a blazing fire, piercing through his coat of mail (passed throughhis body and) struck into the earth, with a flash like that of heaven’sbolt. Like the Sun when speedily retiring to his western chambers takingalong with him the rays of light, even thus that shaft passed out ofSweta’s body, bearing away with itself his life. Thus slain in battle byBhishma, we beheld that tiger among men fall down like the loosened crestof a mountain. And all the mighty car-warriors of the Kshatriya racebelonging to the Pandava side indulged in lamentations. Thy sons,however, and all the Kurus, were filled with delight. Then, O king,beholding Sweta overthrown, Dussasana danced in joy over the field inaccompaniment With the loud music of conches and drums. And when thatgreat bowman was slain by Bhishma, that ornament of battle, the mightybowmen (of the Pandava side) with Sikhandin at their head, trembled infear. Then when their commander was slain, Dhananjaya, O king, and he ofVrishni’s race, slowly withdrew the troops (for their nightly rest). Andthen, O Bharata, the withdrawal took place of both theirs and thine,while thine and theirs were frequently setting up loud roars. And themighty car-warriors of the Parthas entered (their quarters) cheerlessly,thinking, O chastiser of foes, of that awful slaughter in single combat(of their commander).”

Chapter 49
Chapter 47
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