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Chapter 59

Mahabharata English - BHISHMA PARVA

Dhritarashtra said, “After that dreadful vow had been made in battle byBhishma enraged by the words of my son, what, O Sanjaya, did Bhishma dounto the sons of Pandu or what did the Panchalas do unto the grandsire?Tell it all unto me, O Sanjaya.”

Sanjaya said, “After the forenoon of that day, O Bharata, had passedaway, and the sun in his westward course had passed a portion of hispath, and after the high-souled Pandavas had won the victory, thy sireDevavrata, conversant with the distinction of all codes of morality,rushed carried by the fleetest steeds, towards the army of the Pandavas,protected by a large force and by all thy sons. Then, O Bharata, inconsequence of thy sinful policy, commenced a dreadful battle, making thehair stand on end, between ourselves and the Pandavas. And the twang ofbows, the flapping of bowstrings against the leathern fences (casing thehands of the bowman), mingling together, made a loud uproar resemblingthat of splitting hills. Stay–Here I stand,–Know this one,–Turnback,–Stand,–I wait for thee–Strike,–these were the words heardeverywhere. And the sound of falling coats of mail made of gold, ofcrowns and diadems, and of standards resembled the sound of fallingstones on a stony ground. And heads, and arms decked with ornaments,falling by hundreds and thousands upon the ground moved in convulsions.And some brave combatants, with heads severed from their trunks,continued to stand weapons in grasp or armed with drawn bow. And adreadful river of blood began to flow there, of impetuous current, mirywith flesh and blood, and with the bodies of (dead) elephants for its(sub-aqueous) rocks. Flowing from the bodies of steeds, men, andelephants, and delightful to vultures and jackals, it ran towards theocean represented by the next world. A battle such as that, O king, which(then) took place between thy sons, O Bharata, and the Pandavas, wasnever seen or heard before. And in consequence of the bodies ofcombatants slain in that conflict, cars could not make their way. And thefield of battle in consequence of the bodies of slain elephants seemed tobe strewn over with blue crests of hills. And the field of battle, strewnwith variegated coats of mail and turbans, O sire, looked beautiful likethe firmament autumn. And some combatants were seen who, though severelywounded, yet rushed cheerfully and proudly upon the foe in battle. Andmany, fallen on the field of battle, cried aloud, saying–‘O father, Obrother, O friend, O kinsman, O companion, O maternal uncle, do notabandon me.’–And others cried aloud, saying,–‘Come! Come thou here! Whyart thou frightened? Where dost thou go? I stand in battle, do not beafraid.’ And in that combat Bhishma, the son of Santanu, with bowincessantly drawn to a circle, shot shafts of blazing points, resemblingsnakes of virulent poison. And shooting continuous line of arrows in alldirections, that hero of rigid vows smote the Pandava car-warriors namingeach beforehand, O Bharata. And displaying his extreme lightness ofhands, and dancing (as it were) along the track of his car, he seemed, Oking, to be present everywhere like a circle of fire. And in consequenceof the lightness of his movements, the Pandavas in that battle, alongwith the Srinjayas, beheld that hero, though really alone, as multiplieda thousand-fold. And every one there regarded Bhishma as havingmultiplied his self by illusion. Having seen him now on the east, thenext moment they saw him on the west. And so having seen him on thenorth, the next moment they saw him on the south. And the son of Gangawas thus seen fighting in that battle. And there was no one amongst thePandavas capable of even looking at him. What they all saw were only theinnumerable shafts shot from his bow. And heroic warriors, beholding himachieve such feats in battle, and (thus) slaughtering their ranks,uttered many lamentations. And, kings in thousands came in contact withthy sire, thus coursing over the field in a superhuman way, and fell uponthat fire represented by the enraged Bhishma like flights of senselessinsects (upon a blazing fire) for their own destruction. Not a singleshaft of that light-handed warrior was futile, falling upon the bodies ofmen, elephants, and steeds, in consequence of the numbers (opposed tohim). With a single straight shaft shot in that battle, he despatched asingle elephant like hill riven by the thunderbolt. Two or threeelephant-riders at a time, cased in mail and standing together, thy sirepierced with one shaft of sharp point. Whoever approached Bhishma, thattiger among men, in battle, seen for a moment was, next beheld to falldown on the ground. And that vast host of king Yudhishthira the just,thus slaughtered by Bhishma of incomparable prowess, gave way in athousand directions. And afflicted with that arrowy shower, the vast armybegan to tremble in the very presence of Vasudeva and the high-souledPartha. And although the heroic leaders of the Pandava army made greatefforts, yet they could not check the flight of (even) the greatcar-warriors of their side afflicted with the shafts of Bhishma. Theprowess, in consequence of which that vast army was routed, was equal tothat of the chief of the gods himself. And that army was so completelyrouted, O great king, that no two persons could be seen together. Andcars and elephants and steeds were pierced all over, and standards andshafts of cars were strewn over the field. And the army of the sons ofPandu uttered cries of oh and alas, and became deprived of senses. Andthe sire struck the son and the son struck the sire; and friendchallenged the dearest of friends to battle as if under the influence offate. And others amongst the combatants of Pandu’s son were seen, OBharata, to run away, throwing aside their coats of mail, and withdishevelled hair. And the army of the sons of Pandu, indulging in loudwails, including the very leaders of their best of car-warriors, was seento be as confounded as a very herd of kine. The delighter of the Yadavasthen, beholding that army thus routed, said unto Partha, stopping thatbest of cars (which he guided), these words, ‘The hour is now come, OPartha, which was desired by thee. Strike Bhishma, O tiger among men,else, thou wilt lose the senses. O hero, formerly, in the conclave ofkings, thou hadst said,–‘I will slay all the warriors of Dhritarashtra’ssons, headed by Bhishma and Drona–all in fact, who will fight with me inbattle’. O son of Kunti, O chastiser of foes, make those words of thinetrue. Behold, O Vibhatsu, this army of thine is being routed on allsides. Behold, the kings in Yudhishthira’s host are all flying away,seeing Bhishma in battle, who looketh like the Destroyer himself withwide-open mouth. Afflicted with fear, they are making themselves scarcelike the weaker animals at sight of the lion. Thus addressed, Dhananjayareplied unto Vasudeva, saying, ‘Plunging through this sea of the hostilehost, urge on the steeds to where Bhishma is. I will throw down thatinvincible warrior, the reverend Kuru grandsire’. Then Madhava urgedthose steeds of silvery hue to where, O king, the car of Bhishma was,that car which, like the very sun, was incapable of being gazed at. Andbeholding the mighty-armed Partha thus rushing to an encounter withBhishma, the mighty army of Yudhisthira rallied for battle. Then Bhishma,that foremost of warriors amongst the Kurus, repeatedly roaring like alion, quickly covered Dhananjaya’s car with an arrowy shower. In a momentthat car of his, with standard and charioteer, became invisible, shroudedwith that arrowy downpour. Vasudeva, however, endued with great mightfearlessly and summoning all his patience, began to guide those steedsmangled by Bhishma’s shafts. Then Partha, taking up his celestial bowwhose twang resembled the roar of the clouds, caused Bhishma’s bow todrop down, cutting it off with his keen shafts. The Kuru warrior, thysire, seeing his bow cut off, took up another and stringed it within thetwinkling of the eye. And he stretched that bow whose twang resembled theroar of the clouds, with his two hands. But Arjuna, excited with wrath,cut off that bow also of his. Then the son of Santanu applauded thatlightness of hand (displayed by Arjuna), saying–Excellent, O Partha, Othou of mighty arms, excellent, O son of Pandu. O Dhananjaya, such amighty feat is, indeed, worthy of thee. I have been pleased with thee.Fight hard with  me, O son. And having applauded Partha thus, and takingup another large bow, that hero shot his shafts at Partha’s car. AndVasudeva then displayed his great skill in the guiding of chariot, for hebaffled those shafts of his, by guiding the car in quick circles. Then, Osire, Bhishma with great strength pierced both Vasudeva and Dhananjayawith keen shafts all over their bodies. And mangled by those shafts ofBhishma, those two tigers among men looked like two roaring bulls withthe scratches of horns on their bodies. And once again, excited withrage, Bhishma covered the two Krishnas on all sides with shafts inhundreds and thousands. And with those keen shafts of his, the enragedBhishma caused him of Vrishni’s race to shiver. And laughing loudly healso made Krishna to wonder. Then the mighty-armed Krishna, beholding theprowess of Bhishma in battle as also the mildness with which Arjunafought, and seeing that Bhishma was creating incessant showers of arrowsin that conflict and looked like the all-consuming Sun himself in themidst of the two armies, and marking besides, that that hero was slayingthe foremost of combatants in Yudhishthira’s host and causing a havoc inthat army as if the hour of dissolution had come,–the adorable Kesava,that slayer of hosts, endued with immeasurable soul–unable to bear whathe saw, thought that Yudhishthira’s army could not survive thatslaughter.–In a single day Bhishma can slaughter all the Daityas and theDanavas. With how much ease then can he slay in battle the sons of Panduwith all their troops and followers. The vast army of the illustrious sonof Pandu is again flying away. And the Kauravas also beholding theSomakas routed, are rushing to battle cheerfully, gladdening thegrandsire. Accoutred in mail, even I will stay Bhishma to-day for thesake of the Pandavas. This burthen of the high-souled Pandavas even Iwill lighten. As regards Arjuna, though struck in battle with keenshafts, he knoweth not what he should do, from respect for Bhishma,–Andwhile Krishna was reflecting thus the grandsire, excited with wrath, onceagain shot his shafts at Partha’s car. And in consequence of very greatnumber of those arrows all the points of the compass became entirelyshrouded. And neither the welkin nor the quarters nor the earth nor thesun himself of brilliant rays, could be seen. And the winds that blewseemed to be mixed with smoke, and all the points of the compass seemedto be agitated. And Drona, and Vikarna, and Jayadratha, and Bhurisrava,and Kritavarman, and Kripa, and Srutayush and the ruler of the Amvashtasand Vinda and Anuvinda, Sudakshina and the westerners, and the diversetribes of the Sauviras, the Vasatis, and the Kshudrakas, and the Malavas,all these, at the command of the royal son of Santanu, quickly approachedKiritin for battle. And the grandson of Sini saw that Kiritin wassurrounded by many hundreds of horse, and infantry, and cars, and mightyelephants. And beholding both Vasudeva and Arjuna thus encompassed byinfantry and elephants and horses and cars, on all sides, that foremostof all bearers of arms, viz., the chief of the Sinis, quickly proceededto that spot. And that foremost of bowmen, the chief of the Sinis,quickly rushing at those troops, came to Arjuna’s side like Vishnu comingto the aid of the slayer of Vritra. And that foremost warrior of Sini’srace cheerfully said unto Yudhishthira’s host all the combatants of whichhad been frightened by Bhishma and whose elephants, steeds, cars, andnumberless standards had been mangled and broken into pieces, and whichwas flying away from the field, these words, ‘Ye Kshatriyas, where do yego? This is not the duty of the righteous as hath been declared by theancients. Ye foremost of heroes, do not violate your pledges. Observeyour own duties as heroes’. Beholding that those foremost of kings wereflying together from the field of battle, and marking the mildness withwhich Partha fought, and beholding also that Bhishma was exerting himselfvery powerfully in battle, and that the Kurus were rushing from allsides, the younger brother of Vasava, the high-souled protector of allthe Dasarhas, unable to bear it all, addressed the renowned grandson ofSini, and applauding him, said,–‘O hero of Sini’s race, they that areretreating, are, indeed, retreating. They that are yet staying, O thou ofthe Satwata race, let them also go away. Behold, I will soon throwBhishma down from his car, and Drona also in battle, with all theirfollowers. There is none in the Kuru host, O thou of the Satwata race,who is able to escape my angry self. Therefore, taking up my fiercediscus, I will slay Bhishma of high vows. And slaying in battle those twoforemost of car-warriors, viz., Bhishma along with his followers andDrona also, O grandson of Sini, I will gladden Dhananjaya, and the king,and Bhima, and the twin Aswins. And slaying all the sons of Dhritarashtraand all those foremost of kings who have embraced their side, I willjoyfully furnish king Ajatasatru with a kingdom today.’ Saying this,Vasudeva’s son, abandoning (the reins of) the steeds, jumped down fromthe car, whirling with his (right) arm his discus of beautiful nave withedge sharp as a razor, effulgent as the sun and possessed of force equalto that of a thousand bolts of heaven. And making the earth tremble underhis tread, the high-souled Krishna rushed impetuously towards Bhishma.And that grinder of foes, the younger brother of the chief of the gods,excited with wrath, rushed towards Bhishma staying in the midst of histroops, like a lion from desire of slaying upon a prince of elephantsblinded with fury and staying proudly for the attack. And the end of hisyellow garments waving in the air looked like a cloud charged withlightning in the sky. And that lotus of a discus called Sudarsana, havingfor its stalk the beautiful arm of Saurin, looked as beautiful as theprimeval lotus, bright as the morning sun, which sprung from the navel ofNarayana. And Krishna’s wrath was the morning sun that caused that lotusto blow. And the beautiful leaves of that lotus were as sharp as the edgeof a razor. And Krishna’s body was the beautiful lake, and his (right)arm the stalk springing therefrom, upon which that lotus shone. Andbeholding the younger brother of Mahendra, excited with wrath and roaringloudly and armed with that discus, all creatures set out a loud wail,thinking that the destruction of the Kurus was at hand. And armed withhis discus Vasudeva looked like the Samvarta fire that appears at the endof the Yuga for consuming the world. And the preceptor of the universeblazed up like a fierce comet risen for consuming all creatures. Andbeholding that foremost of bipeds, that divine personage, advancing armedwith the discus, Santanu’s son stationed on his car, bow and arrow inhand, fearlessly said, ‘Come, Come, O Lord of the gods, O thou that hastthe universe for thy abode. I bow to thee, O thou that art armed withmace, sword and Saranga. O lord of the universe, forcibly throw me downfrom this excellent car, O thou that art the refuge of all creatures inthis battle. Slain here by thee, O Krishna, great will be my good fortuneboth in this world and the next. Great is the respect thou payest me, OLord of the Vrishnis and the Andhakas. My dignity will be celebrated inthe three worlds.’ Hearing these words of Santanu’s son, Krishna rushingimpetuously towards him said, ‘Thou art the root of this great slaughteron earth. Thou wilt behold Duryodhana slain to-day. A wise minister whotreadeth in the path of righteousness should restrain a king that isaddicted to the evil of gambling. That wretch again of his race whotransgresseth duty should be abandoned as one whose intelligence hathbeen misdirected by destiny.–The royal Bhishma, hearing these words,replied unto the chief of the Yadus, saying,–Destiny is all powerful.The Yadus, for their benefit, had abandoned Kansa. I said this to theking (Dhritarashtra) but he minded it not. The listener that hath nobenefit to receive becometh, for (his own) misery, of pervertedunderstanding through (the influence of destiny).’ Meanwhile, jumpingdown from his car, Partha, himself of massive and long arms, quickly ranon foot after that chief of Yadu’s race possessed of massive and longarms, and seized him by his two hands. That first of all gods devoted inself, Krishna, was excited with rage. And therefore, though thus seized,Vishnu forcibly dragged Jishnu after him, like a tempest bearing away asingle tree. The high-souled Partha, however, seizing them with greatforce his legs as he was proceeding at a quick pace towards Bhishma,succeeded, O king, in stopping him with difficulty at the tenth step. Andwhen Krishna stopped, decked as he was with a beautiful garland of gold,cheerfully bowed down to him and said, ‘Quell this wrath of thine. Thouart the refuge of the Pandavas, O Kesava. I swear, O Kesava, by my sonsand uterine brothers that I will not withdraw from the acts to which Ihave pledged myself. O younger brother of Indra, at thy command I willcertainly annihilate the Kurus.’ Hearing that promise and oath of his,Janardana became gratified. And ever engaged as he was in doing what wasagreeable to Arjuna–that best of the Kurus.–he once more, discus onarm, mounted on his car. And that slayer of foes once more took up thosereins (that he had abandoned), and taking up his conch calledPanchajanya, Saurin filled all the points of the compass and the welkinwith its blare. And thereupon beholding Krishna decked with necklace andAngada and ear-rings, with curved eye-lashes smeared with dust, and withteeth of perfect whiteness, once more take up his conch the Kuru heroesuttered a loud cry. And the sound of cymbals and drums and kettle-drums,and the rattle of car-wheels and the noise of smaller drums, minglingwith those leonine shouts, set forth from all the ranks of the Kurus,became a fierce uproar. And the twang of Partha’s Gandiva, resembling theroll of the thunder, filled the welkin and all the quarters. And shotfrom the bow of Pandu’s son, bright and blazing shafts proceeded in alldirections. Then the Kuru king, with a large force, and with Bhishma andBhurisravas also, arrow in hand, and resembling a comet risen forconsuming a constellation, rushed against him. And Bhurisravas hurled atArjuna seven javelins furnished with wings of gold, and Duryodhana alance of fierce impetuosity, and Salya a mace, and Santanu’s son a dart.Thereupon, Arjuna, baffling with seven shafts the seven javelins, fleetas arrows, shot by Bhurisravas, cut off with another keen-edged shaft thelance hurled from Duryodhana’s arm. And the blazing dart coming towardshim–effulgent as lightning–hurled by Santanu’s son, and the mace hurledfrom the arm of the ruler of the Madras, that hero cut off with two(other) shafts. Then drawing with his two hands and with great force hisbeautiful bow Gandiva of immeasurable energy, he invoked with propermantras the highly wonderful and terrible Mahendra weapon and caused itto appear in the welkin. And with that mighty weapon producing profuseshowers of arrows endued with the effulgence of the blazing fire, thathigh-souled and mighty bowman, decked with diadem and garland of gold,checked the entire Kaurava host. And those shafts from Partha’s bow,cutting off the arms, bows, standard-tops, and cars, penetrated into thebodies of the kings and of the huge elephants and steeds of the foe. Andfilling the cardinal and the subsidiary directions with those sharp andterrible shafts of his, Pritha’s son decked with diadem and garland ofgold, agitated the hearts of his foes by means of the twang of Gandiva.And in that awful passage at arms, the blare of conches and beat of drumsand the deep rattle of cars were all silenced by the twang of Gandiva.And ascertaining that twang to be of Gandiva, king Virata and otherheroes among men, and the brave Drupada, the king of the Panchalas, allproceeded to that spot with undepressed hearts. And all thy combatantsstood, struck with fear, each at the spot where he heard that twang ofGandiva. And none amongst them ventured to proceed to that place whencethat sound was heard. And in that awful slaughter of kings, heroiccombatants were slain and car-warriors with those that guided their cars.And elephants with resplendent housings of gold and gorgeous standards(on their backs), afflicted with broad-headed shafts failing upon them,suddenly fell down, deprived of life and their bodies mangled by Kiritin.And forcibly struck by Partha with his winged arrows of great impetuosityand broad-headed shafts of keen-edge and points, the standards ofinnumerable kings stationed at the heads of their yantras and Indrajalaswere cut off.[372] And bands of infantry and car-warriors, in thatbattle, and steeds and elephants, fell fast on the field, their limbsparalysed, or themselves speedily deprived of life, affected byDhananjaya with those shafts. And, O king, many were the warriors who inthat terrible conflict had their coats of mail and bodies cut through bythat mighty weapon called after the name of Indra. And with thoseterrible and sharp shafts of his, Kiritin caused an awful river to run onthe field of battle, having for its waters the blood flowing from themangled bodies of the combatants and having for its froth their fat. Andits current was broad and ran fiercely. And the bodies of elephants andsteeds despatched to the other world formed its banks. And its mireconsisted of the entrails, the marrow, and the flesh of human beings, andprodigious Rakshasas formed the (tall) trees (standing on its banks). Andthe crowns of human heads in profusion, covered with hair, formed its(floating) mess, and heaps of human bodies, forming its sandbanks, causedthe current to flow in a thousand directions. And the coats of mailstrewn all over formed its hard pebbles. And its banks were infested bylarge number of jackals and wolves and cranes and vultures and crowds ofRakshasas, and packs of hyenas. And they that were alive beheld thatterrible river of current consisting of fat, marrow, and blood, caused bythe arrowy showers of Arjuna–that embodiment of (man’s) cruelty–to looklike the great Vaitarani.[373] And beholding the foremost warriors ofthat army of the Kurus thus slain by Phalguni, the Chedis, the Panchalas,the Kurushas, the Matsyas, and all the combatants of the Pandava side,those foremost of men, elated with victory, together set up a loud shoutfor frightening the Kaurava warriors. And they uttered that cryindicative of victory, beholding the foremost combatants of the (Kuru)army, the very troops protected by mighty leaders of divisions, thusslain by Kiritin, that terror of foes, who frightened them like a lionfrightening herds of smaller animals. And then the bearer of Gandivahimself, and Janardana both filled with delight, uttered loud roars. Andthe Kurus, with Bhishma, and Drona and Duryodhana and Valhika,exceedingly mangled by the weapons (of Arjuna), beholding the sunwithdraw his rays, and seeing also that awful and irresistible weaponcalled after the name of Indra spread out and causing (as it were) theend of the Yuga to appear, withdraw their forces for the nightly rest.And that foremost of men, Dhananjaya also, having achieved a great featand won great renown by crushing his foes, and beholding the sun assume ared hue and the evening twilight to set in, and having completed hiswork, retired with his uterine brothers to the camp for nightly rest.Then when darkness was about to set in, there arose among the Kuru troopsa great and terrible uproar. And all said, ‘In today’s battle Arjuna hathslain ten thousand car-warriors, and full seven hundred elephants. Andall the westerners, and the diverse tribes of the Sauviras, and theKshudrakas and the Malavas, have all been slain. The feat achieved byDhananjaya is a mighty one. None else is competent to achieve it.Srutayush, the ruler of the Amvashtas, and Durmarshana, and Chitrasena,and Drona, and Kripa, and the ruler of the Sindhus, and Valhika, andBhurisravas, and Salya, and Sala, O king, and other warriors by hundredsunited together, along with Bhishma himself, have on battle, by theprowess of his own arms, been vanquished today by the angry son ofPritha, viz., Kiritin, that one mighty car-warrior in the world.’ Talkingthus, O Bharata, all the warriors of thy side went to their tents fromthe field of battle. And all the combatants of the Kuru army frightenedby Kiritin, then entered their tents illumined by thousands of torches,and beautified by innumerable lamps.

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