Om! Having bowed down unto Narayana, and Nara the most exalted of malebeings, and unto the goddess Sarasvati, must the word Jaya be uttered!
Sanjaya said, “Those heroes then together proceeded towards the south. Atthe hour of sunset they reached a spot near the (Kuru) encampment.Letting their animals loose they became very much frightened. Reachingthen a forest, they secretly entered it. They took up their quartersthere at no great distance from the encampment. Cut and mangled with manykeen weapons, they breathed long and hot sighs, thinking of the Pandavas.Hearing the loud noise made by the victorious Pandavas, they feared apursuit and therefore fled towards the east. Having proceeded forsometime, their animals became tired and they themselves became thirsty.Overpowered by wrath and vindictiveness, those great bowmen could not putup with what had occurred, burning as they did with (grief at) theslaughter of the king. They however, took rest for a while.”
Dhritarashtra said, “The feat, O Sanjaya, that Bhima achieved seems to beincredible, since my son who was struck down possessed the strength of10,000 elephants. In manhood’s prime and possessed of an adamantineframe, he was not capable of being slain by any creature! Alas, even thatson of mine was struck down by the Pandavas in battle! Without doubt, OSanjaya, my heart is made of adamant, since it breaks not into a 1,000fragments even after hearing of the slaughter of my hundred sons! Alas,what will be the plight of myself and my spouse, an old couple destituteof children! I dare not dwell in the dominions of Pandu’s son! Havingbeen the sire of a king and a king myself, O Sanjaya, how shall I pass mydays as a slave obedient to the commands of Pandu’s son! Having laid mycommands over the whole Earth and having stayed over the heads of all, OSanjaya, how shall I live now as a slave in wretchedness? How shall I beable, O Sanjaya, to endure the words of Bhima who hath single-handedslain a full hundred sons of mine? The words of the high-souled Vidurahave come to be realised! Alas, my son, O Sanjaya, did not listen tothose words! What, however, did Kritavarma and Kripa and Drona’s son doafter my son Duryodhana had been unfairly stuck down?”
Sanjaya said, “They had not proceeded far, O king, when they stopped, forthey beheld a dense forest abounding with trees and creepers. Havingrested for a little while, they entered that great forest, proceeding ontheir cars drawn by their excellent steeds whose thirst had beenassuaged. That forest abounded with diverse kinds of animals, and itteemed with various species of birds. And it was covered with many treesand creepers and was infested by numerous carnivorous creatures. Coveredwith many pieces of water and adorned with various kinds of flowers, ithad many lakes overgrown with blue lotuses.
Having entered that dense forest, they cast their eyes about and saw agigantic banyan tree with thousands of branches. Repairing to the shadeof that tree, those great car-warriors, O king, those foremost of men,saw that was the biggest tree in that forest. Alighting from their cars,and letting loose their animals, they cleansed themselves duly and saidtheir evening prayers. The Sun then reached the Asta mountains, andNight, the mother of the universe, came. The firmament, bespangled withplanets and stars, shone like an ornamented piece of brocade andpresented a highly agreeable spectacle. Those creatures that walk thenight began to howl and utter their cries at will, while they that walkthe day owned the influence of sleep. Awful became the noise of thenight-wandering animals. The carnivorous creatures became full of glee,and the night, as it deepened, became dreadful.
At that hour, filled with grief and sorrow, Kritavarma and Kripa andDrona’s son all sat down together. Seated under that banyan, they beganto give expression to their sorrow in respect of that very matter: thedestruction that had taken place of both the Kurus and the Pandavas.Heavy with sleep, they laid themselves down on the bare earth. They hadbeen exceedingly tired and greatly mangled with shafts. The two greatcar-warriors, Kripa and Kritavarma, succumbed to sleep. However deservingof happiness and undeserving of misery, they then lay stretched on thebare ground. Indeed, O monarch, those two who had always slept on costlybeds now slept, like helpless persons, on the bare ground, afflicted withtoil and grief.
Drona’s son, however, O Bharata, yielding to the influence of wrath andreverence, could not sleep, but continued to breathe like a snake.Burning with rage, he could not get a wink of slumber. That hero ofmighty arms cast his eyes on every side of that terrible forest. As hesurveyed that forest peopled with diverse kinds of creatures, the greatwarrior beheld a large banyan covered with crows. On that banyanthousands of crows roosted in the night. Each perching separately fromits neighbour, those crows slept at ease, O Kauravya! As, however, thosebirds were sleeping securely on every side, Ashvatthama beheld an owl ofterrible aspect suddenly make its appearance there. Of frightful criesand gigantic body, with green eyes and tawny plumage, its nose was verylarge and its talons were long. And the speed with which it cameresembled that of Garuda. Uttering soft cries that winged creature, OBharata, secretly approached the branches of that banyan. That ranger ofthe sky, that slayer of crows, alighting on one of the branches of thebanyan, slew a large number of his sleeping enemies. He tore the wings ofsome and cut off the heads of others with his sharp talons and broke thelegs of many. Endued with great strength, he slew many that fell downbefore his eyes. With the limbs and bodies, O monarch, of the slaincrows, the ground covered by the spreading branches of the banyan becamethickly strewn on every side. Having slain those crows, the owl becamefilled with delight like a slayer of foes after having behaved towardshis foes according to his pleasure.
Beholding that highly suggestive deed perpetrated in the night by theowl, Drona’s son began to reflect on it, desirous of framing his ownconduct by the light of that example. He said unto himself, “This owlteaches me a lesson in battle. Bent as I am upon the destruction of thefoe, the time for the deed has come! The victorious Pandavas areincapable of being slain by me! They are possessed of might, endued withperseverance, sure of aim, and skilled in smiting. In the presence,however, of the king I have vowed to slay them. I have thus pledgedmyself to a self-destructive act, like an insect essaying to rush into ablazing fire! If I were to fight fairly with them, I shall, withoutdoubt, have to lay down my life! By an act of guile, however, success mayyet be mine and a great destruction may overtake my foes! Peoplegenerally, as also those versed in the scriptures, always applaud thosemeans which are certain over those which are uncertain. Whatever ofcensure and evil repute this act may provoke ought to be incurred byperson that is observant of kshatriya practices. The Pandavas ofuncleansed souls have, at every step, perpetrated very ugly andcensurable acts that are again fall of guile. As regards this matter,certain ancient verses, full of truth, are heard, sung by truth-seeingand righteousness-observing persons, who sang them after a carefulconsideration of the demands of justice.
These verses are even these: The enemy’s force, even when fatigued, orwounded with weapons, or employed in eating, or when retiring, or whenresting within their camp, should be smitten. They should be dealt within the same way when afflicted with sleep in the dead of night, or whenreft of commanders, or when broken or when under the impression of anerror.'”
Having reflected in this way, the valiant son of Drona formed theresolution of slaying during the night the slumbering Pandavas and thePancalas. Having formed this wicked resolution and pledged himselfrepeatedly to its execution, he awoke both his maternal uncle and thechief of Bhojas. Awakened from sleep, those two illustrious and mightypersons, Kripa and the Bhoja chief, heard Ashvatthama’s scheme. Filledwith shame, both of them abstained from giving a suitable reply.
Having reflected for a short while, Ashvatthama said with tearful eyes,”King Duryodhana, that one hero of great might, for whose sake we werewaging hostilities with the Pandavas, hath been slain! Deserted andalone, though he was the lord of eleven akshauhinis of troops, that heroof unstained prowess hath been struck down by Bhimasena and a largenumber of wretches banded together in battle! Another wicked act hathbeen perpetrated by the vile Vrikodara, for the latter hath touched withhis foot the head of a person whose coronal locks underwent the sacredbath! The Pancalas are uttering loud roars and cries and indulging inloud bursts of laughter. Filled with joy, they are blowing their conchsand beating their drums! The loud peal of their instruments, mingled withthe blare of conchs, is frightful to the ear and borne by the winds, isfilling all the points of the compass. Loud also is the din made by theirneighing steeds and grunting elephants and roaring warriors! Thatdeafening noise made by the rejoicing warriors as they are marching totheir quarters, as also the frightful clatter of their car-wheels, comesto us from the east. So great hath been the havoc made by the Pandavas onthe Dhartarashtras that we three are the only survivors of that greatcarnage! Some were endued with the might of a hundred elephants, and somewere masters of all weapons. Yet have they been slain by the sons ofPandu! I regard this to be an instance of the reverses brought about byTime! Truly, this is the end to which such an act leads! Truly, althoughthe Pandavas have achieved such difficult feats, even this should be theresult of those feats! If your wisdom hath not been driven away bystupefaction, then say what is proper for us to do in view of thiscalamitous and grave affair.'”