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Chapter 52

Mahabharata English - BHISHMA PARVA

Dhritarashtra said, “When mine and the hostile hosts were thus formedinto battle array, how did the foremost of smiters begin to strike?”

Sanjaya said, “When all the divisions were thus arrayed, the combatantswaited, each cased in mail, and with their beautiful standards allupraised. And beholding the (Kuru) host that resembled the limitlessocean, thy son Duryodhana, O king, stationed within it, said unto all thecombatants on thy side, ‘Cased in mail (as ye are), begin ye the fight’.The combatants then, entertaining cruel intentions, and abandoning theirvery lives, all rushed against the Pandavas, with standards upraised. Thebattle that took place then was fierce and made the hair stand on end.And the cars and elephants all got mixed together. And shafts withbeautiful feathers, and endued with great energy and sharp points, shotby car-warriors fell upon elephants and horses. And when the battle beganin this way, the venerable Kuru grandsire, the mighty-armed Bhishma ofterrible prowess, cased in mail, taking up his bow, and approaching them,showered an arrowy downpour on the heroic son of Subhadra, and the mightycar-warrior Arjuna, and the ruler of the Kekayas and Virata, andDhrishtadyumna of Prishata’s race, as also upon the Chedi and the Matsyawarriors. And that mighty array (of the Pandavas) wavered at the onset ofthat hero. And terrific was the encounter that took place between all thecombatants. And horse-men and car-warriors and foremost of steeds fellfast. And the car-divisions of the Pandavas began to fly away. Then thattiger among men, Arjuna, beholding that mighty car-warrior Bhishma,angrily said unto him of Vrishni’s race. ‘Proceed to the place where thegrandsire is. O thou of Vrishni’s race, it is evident that this Bhishma,with wrath excited, will annihilate for Duryodhana’s benefit my host. Andthis Drona, and Kripa and Salya and Vikarna, O Janardana, united withDhritarashtra’s sons headed by Duryodhana, and protected by this firmbowman, will slaughter the Panchalas. Even I, therefore, shall stayBhishma for the sake of my troops, O Janardana.’ Unto him Vasudeva thensaid, ‘Be careful, O Dhananjaya, for I will soon take thee, O hero,towards the grandsire’s car.’ Having said this, O king, Saurin took thatcar, which was celebrated over the world, before the car of Bhishma. Withnumerous banners all waving, with steeds looking handsome like a flightof (white) cranes, with standard upraised on which was the ape roaringfiercely, upon his large car of solar effulgence and whose rattleresembled roar of the clouds, slaughtering the Kaurava divisions and theSurasenas also, the son of Pandu, that enhancer of the joys of friendsspeedily came to the encounter. Him (thus) rushing impetuously like aninfuriate elephant and (thus) frightening in a battle brave combatantsand felling them with his shafts, Bhishma the son of Santanu, protectedby the warriors headed by Saindhava and by the combatants of the East andthe Sauviras and the Kekayas, encountered with great impetuosity. Whoelse save the Kuru grandsire and those car-warriors, viz., Drona andVikartana’s son (Karna), are capable of advancing in battle against thebearer of the bow called Gandiva? Then, O great king, Bhishma, thegrandsire of the Kauravas, struck Arjuna with seventy-seven arrows andDrona (struck him) with five and twenty, and Kripa with fifty, andDuryodhana with four and sixty, and Salya with nine arrows; and Drona’sson, that tiger among men, with sixty, and Vikarna with three arrows; andSaindhava with nine and Sakuni with five. And Artayani O king, piercedPandu’s son with three broad-headed arrows. And (though) pierced on allsides by them with sharp arrows, that great bowman,[361] thatmighty-armed (warrior), wavered not like mountain that is pierced (witharrows). Thereupon he, the diadem-decked, of immeasurable soul, O bull ofBharata’s race, in return pierced Bhishma with five and twenty, and Kripawith nine arrows, and Drona with sixty, O tiger among men, and Vikarnawith three arrows; and Artayani with three arrows, and the king(Duryodhana) also with five. And then Satyaki, and Virata andDhrishtadyumna of Prishata’s race, and the sons of Draupadi, andAbhimanyu, all surrounded him, (proceeding to his support). Then theprince of the Panchalas, supported by the Somakas, advanced towards thegreat bowman Drona who was engaged in seeking the welfare of Ganga’s son.Then Bhishma, that foremost of car-warriors, speedily pierced the son ofPandu with eighty sharp arrows, upon which the combatants on thy sidewere much gratified. Hearing the shouts of those lions amongcar-warriors, Dhananjaya, endued with great prowess, then cheerfullyentered into the midst of those lions among car-warriors and sported withhis bow, O king, (successively) aiming those mighty car-warriors. Thenthat ruler of men, king Duryodhana, said unto Bhishma, beholding his owntroops (thus) afflicted in battle by the son of Pritha. ‘This mighty sonof Pandu, O sire, accompanied by Krishna, felling all our troops, cuttethdown our roots, even though thou, O son of Ganga, and that foremost ofcar-warriors, Drona, are alive. O monarch, it is for thee only that thisKarna, laying aside his weapons, doth not fight with the sons of Prithain battle (though) he is ever a well-wisher of mine, Do, therefore, that,O son of Ganga by which Phalguni may be slain. ‘Thus addressed, O king,thy sire Devavrata, saying, ‘Fie to Kshatriya usage’, then proceededtowards Partha’s car. And all the kings, O monarch, seeing both thosewarriors with white steeds yoked unto their cars stationed (for battle),set up loud leonine roars, and also blew their conches, O sire. AndDrona’s son and Duryodhana, and thy son Vikarna, surrounding Bhishma inthat combat, stood, O sire, for battle. And so all the Pandavas,surrounding Dhananjaya, stood for fierce conflict. And the battle thencommenced. And the son of Ganga pierced Partha in that combat with nineshafts. And Arjuna pierced him in return with ten shafts penetrating intothe very vitals. Then, with a thousand arrows, well shot, Pandu’s sonArjuna, famed for his skill in battle, shrouded Bhishma on all sides.That arrowy net, however, of Partha, O king, Bhishma the son of Santanubaffled with an arrowy net (of his own). And both well-pleased, and bothdelighting in battle, fought with each other without each gaining anyadvantage over the other, and each desirous of counteracting the other’sfeats. And the successive flights of arrows shot from Bhishma’s bow wereseen to be dispersed by the shafts of Arjuna. And so the flights ofarrows shot by Arjuna, cut off by the arrows of Ganga’s son, all felldown on the ground. And Arjuna pierced Bhishma with five and twentyarrows of sharp points. And Bhishma, too, in that combat, pierced Parthain return with nine arrows. And those two mighty warriors, thosechastisers of foes, piercing each other’s steeds, and also the shafts andthe wheels of each other’s cars, began to sport. Then, O king, Bhishma,that foremost of smiters, struck Vasudeva between his two breasts withthree arrows. And the slayer of Madhu, struck with those shafts shot fromBhishma’s bow, shone in that battle, O king, like a flowering Kinsuka.Then Arjuna, indignant at seeing Madhava, pierced in that combat thecharioteer of Ganga’s son with three arrows. And both heroes, strivingwith each other against each other’s car, succeeded not in taking aim ateach other in the combat. And in consequence of the ability and dexterityof the charioteers of both those warriors, both displayed, O king,beautiful circles and advancings and retreatings in respect of theirmoving cars. And, O monarch, seeing the opportunity to strike, theyfrequently changed positions, O king, for obtaining what they sought. Andboth the heroes blew their conches, mingling that blare with theirleonine roars. And those mighty car-warriors twang their bows, both inthe same manner. And with the blare of their conches and the rattle oftheir car-wheels, the very Earth was suddenly rent. And it began totremble and produce subterranean noises. And nobody, O bull of Bharata’srace, could detect any latches in either of them. Both of them waspossessed of great might and great courage in battle, each was other’smatch. And by (the sight of) his standard alone, the Kauravas couldapproach him (for aid). And so the Pandavas approached Pritha’s son (foraid), guided by his standard only. And beholding, O king, prowess thusdisplayed by those two foremost of men, O Bharata, all creatures(present) in that battle were filled with wonder. And none, O Bharata,observed any difference between the two, just as none finds anytransgression in a person observant of morality. And both of them (attimes) became perfectly invisible in consequence of clouds of arrows. Andsoon enough both of them in that battle became visible. And the gods withGandharvas and the Charanas, and the great Rishis beholding theirprowess, said unto one another. These mighty car-warriors when excitedwith rage, are incapable of ever being vanquished in battle by all theworlds with the gods, the Asuras and the Gandharvas. This highlywonderful battle would be wonderful in all the worlds. Indeed, a battlesuch as this will never take place again. Bhishma is incapable of beingconquered in combat by Pritha’s son of great intelligence, showering hisarrows in battle, with bow and car and steeds. So also that great bowman,the son of Pandu, incapable of being vanquished in battle by the verygods, Bhishma is not competent to conquer in combat. As long as the worlditself will last, so long will this battle continue equally. We heardthese words, O king, fraught with the praise of Ganga’s son and Arjuna inbattle bruited about there. And while those two were engaged indisplaying their prowess, other warriors of thy side and of the Pandavas,O Bharata, slew one another in battle, with sharp-edged scimitars, andpolished battle-axes, and innumerable arrows, and diverse kinds ofweapons. And the brave combatants of both armies cut one another down,while that terrible and murderous conflict lasted. And the encounteralso, O king, that took place between Drona and the prince of thePanchalas, was awful.”

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