Chapter 8

Mahabharata English - SAUPTIKA PARVA

Dhritarashtra said, “While Drona’s son, that mighty car-warrior, thusproceeded towards the hostile camp, did Kripa and Bhoja stop from fear? Ihope those two car-warriors checked by vulgar guards, did not fly awaysecretly, thinking their opponents irresistible? Or, have they, aftergrinding the camp, the Somakas, and the Pandavas, followed, while stillengaged in battle, the highly glorious path in which Duryodhana has gone?Are those heroes, slain by the Pancalas, sleeping on the bare Earth? Didthey achieve any feat? Tell me all this, O Sanjaya!”

Sanjaya said, “When the high-souled son of Drona proceeded towards thecamp, Kripa and Kritavarma waited at the gate. Beholding them ready toexert themselves, Ashvatthama became filled with joy, and addressing themwhisperingly, O king, said, “If you two exert, you are competent toexterminate all the kshatriyas! What need I say, therefore, of thisremnant of the (Pandava) army, particularly when it is buried in sleep? Ishall enter the camp and career like Yama. I am sure that you two willact in such way that no man may escape you with life.”

Having said these words, the son of Drona entered the vast camp of theParthas; casting off all fear, he penetrated into it by a spot wherethere was no door. The mighty-armed hero, having entered the camp,proceeded, guided by signs, very softly, towards the quarters ofDhrishtadyumna. The Pancalas, having achieved great feats, had been muchtired in battle. They were sleeping in confidence, assembled together,and by the side of one another. Entering into Dhrishtadyumna’s chamber, OBharata, Drona’s son beheld the prince of the Pancalas sleeping beforehim on his bed. He lay on a beautiful sheet of silk upon a costly andexcellent bed. Excellent wreaths of flowers were strewn upon that bed andit was perfumed with powdered dhupa. Ashvatthama, O king, awoke with akick the high-souled prince sleeping trustfully and fearlessly on hisbed. Feeling that kick, the prince, irresistible in battle and ofimmeasurable soul, awaked from sleep and recognised Drona’s son standingbefore him. As he was rising from his bed, the mighty Ashvatthama seizedhim by the hair of his head and began to press him down on the earth withhis hands. Thus pressed by Ashvatthama with great strength, the prince,from fear as also from sleepiness, was not able to put forth his strengthat that time. Striking him with his foot, O king, on both his throat andbreast while his victim writhed and roared, Drona’s son endeavoured tokill him as if he were an animal. The Pancala prince tore Ashvatthamawith his nails and at last softly said, “O preceptor’s son, slay me witha weapon, do not tarry! O best of men, let me, through thy act, repair tothe regions of the righteous!”

Having said this much, that slayer of foes, the son of the Pancala king,assailed with strength by that mighty hero, became silent. Hearing thoseindistinct sounds of his, Drona’s son said, “O wretch of thy race, thereis no region for those that slay their preceptors. For this, O thou ofwicked understanding, thou deservest not to be slain with any weapon!”While saying so, Ashvatthama, filled with rage, began to strike the vitalparts of his victim with violent kicks of his heels, and slew his foelike a lion slaying an infuriated elephant. At the cries of that herowhile he was being slain, his wives and guards that were in his tent allawake, O king! Beholding somebody crushing the prince with superhumanforce, they regarded the assailant to be some preternatural being and,therefore, uttered no cries from fear. Having despatched him to Yama’sabode by such means, Ashvatthama of great energy went out and gettingupon his beautiful car stayed on it. Indeed, coming out ofDhrishtadyumna’s abode, O king, Ashvatthama caused all the points of thecompass to resound with his roars, and then proceeded on his car to otherparts of the camp for slaying his foes.

After Drona’s son, that mighty car-warrior, had gone away, the women andall the guards set up a loud wail of woe. Seeing their king slain, allthe wives of Dhrishtadyumna, filled with great sorrow, cried. At thatwail of theirs many mighty kshatriyas, awaking, put on their armour andcame there for enquiring after the cause of those cries. Those ladies,terrified at the sight of Ashvatthama, in piteous tones asked the men topursue him without delay. They said, “Whether he is a rakshasa or a humanbeing, we know not what he is! Having slain the Pancala king, he stayeththere!” At these words, those foremost of warriors suddenly surroundedDrona’s son. The latter slew them all by means of the rudrastra. Havingslain Dhrishtadyumna and all those followers of his, he beheld Uttamaujasleeping on his bed. Attacking him with his foot on the throat and chest,Drona’s son slew that great hero also while the latter writhed in agony.Yudhamanyu, coming up and believing his comrade to have been slain by arakshasa, speedily struck Drona’s son in the chest with a mace. Rushingtowards him, Ashvatthama seized him and brought him down to the groundand slew him like an animal while the latter uttered loud shrieks.

Having slain Yudhamanyu thus, that hero proceeded against the othercar-warriors of the king, who were all asleep. He slew all thosetrembling and shrieking warriors like animals in a sacrifice. Taking uphis sword then, he slew many others. Proceeding along the diverse pathsof the camp, one after another, Ashvatthama, accomplished in the use ofthe sword, beheld diverse gulmas and slew in a trice the unarmed andtired warriors sleeping within them. With that excellent sword he cut offcombatants and steeds and elephants. Covered all over with blood, heseemed then to be Death himself commissioned by time. Causing his foes totremble by the repeated blows of his sword that were of three kinds,Ashvatthama became bathed in blood. Covered as he was with blood, andwielding as he did a blazing sword, his form, as he careered in battle,became exceedingly terrible and superhuman. Those who awaked from sleep,O Kaurava, became stupefied with the loud noise (they heard around).Beholding Drona’s son, they looked at each other’s faces and trembled(with fear). Those kshatriyas, beholding the form of that crusher offoes, believed him to be a rakshasa and closed their eyes.

Of terrible form, he careered in the camp like Yama himself, and at lastsaw the sons of Draupadi and the remnant of the Somakas. Alarmed by thenoise, and learning that Dhrishtadyumna had been slain, those mightycar-warriors, the sons of Draupadi, armed with bows, fearlessly pouredtheir shafts on Drona’s son. Awakened by their noise, the Prabhadrakaswith Shikhandi at their head, began to grind the son of Drona with theirarrows. Drona’s son, beholding them shower their arrows on him, uttered aloud roar and became desirous of slaying those mighty car-warriors.Recollecting the death of his sire, Ashvatthama became filled with rage.Alighting from the terrace of his car, he rushed furiously (against hisenemies). Taking up his bright shield with a 1,000 moons and his massiveand celestial sword decked with gold, the mighty Ashvatthama rushedagainst the sons of Draupadi and began to lay about him with his weapon.Then that tiger among men, in that dreadful battle, struck Prativindhyain the abdomen, at which the latter, O king, deprived of life, fell downon the Earth. The valiant Sutasoma, having pierced the son of Drona witha lance, rushed at him with his uplifted sword. Ashvatthama, however cutoff Sutasoma’s arm with the sword in grasp, and once more struck him inthe flank. At this, Sutasoma fell down, bereft of life. The valiantShatanika, the son of Nakula, taking up a car-wheel with his two hands,violently struck Ashvatthama at the chest. The regenerate Ashvatthamaviolently assailed Shatanika after he had hurled that car-wheel.Exceedingly agitated, Nakula’s son fell down upon the Earth, upon whichDrona’s son cut off his head. Then Shrutakarma, taking up a spikedbludgeon, attacked Ashvatthama. Furiously rushing at Drona’s son, heassailed him violently on the left part of his forehead. Ashvatthamastruck Shrutakarma with his excellent sword on the face. Deprived ofsenses and his face disfigured, he fell down lifeless on the Earth. Atthis noise, the heroic Shrutakirti, that great car-warrior, coming up,poured showers of arrows on Ashvatthama. Baffling those arrowy showerswith his shield, Ashvatthama cut off from the enemy’s trunk the latter’sbeautiful head adorned with ear-rings. Then the slayer of Bhishma, themighty Shikhandi, with all the Prabhadrakas, assailed the hero from everyside with diverse kinds of weapons. Shikhandi struck Ashvatthama with anarrow in the midst of his two eyebrows. Filled with rage at this, Drona’sson, possessed of great might, approached Shikhandi and cut him intotwain with his sword. Having slain Shikhandi, Ashvatthama, filled withrage, rushed furiously against the other Prabhadrakas. He proceeded alsoagainst the remnant of Virata’s force.

Endued with great strength, Drona’s son made a heavy carnage amongst thesons, the grandsons, and the followers of Drupada, singling them out oneafter another. Accomplished in the use of the sword, Ashvatthama then,rushing against other combatants, cut them down with his excellent sword.The warriors in the Pandava camp beheld that Death-Night in her embodiedform, a black image, of bloody mouth and bloody eyes, wearing crimsongarlands and smeared with crimson unguents, attired in a single piece ofred cloth, with a noose in hand, and resembling an elderly lady, employedin chanting a dismal note and standing full before their eyes, and aboutto lead away men and steeds and elephants all tied in a stout cord. Sheseemed to take away diverse kinds of spirits, with dishevelled hair andtied together in a cord, as also, O king, many mighty car-warriorsdivested of their weapons. On other days, O sire, the foremost warriorsof the Pandava camp used to see in their dreams that figure leading awaythe sleeping combatants and Drona’s son smiting them behind! The Pandavasoldiers saw that lady and Drona’s son in their dreams every night fromthe day when the battle between the Kurus and the Pandavas firstcommenced. Afflicted before by Destiny, they were now smitten by Drona’sson who terrified them all with the frightful roars uttered by him.Afflicted by Destiny, the brave warriors of the Pandava camp,recollecting the sight they had seen in their dreams, identified it withwhat they now witnessed.

At the noise made, hundreds and thousands of Pandava bowmen in the campawoke from their slumbers. Ashvatthama cut off the legs of some, and thehips of others, and pierced some in their flanks, careering like theDestroyer himself let loose by Time. The Earth, O lord, was soon coveredwith human beings that were crushed into shapelessness or trodden down byelephants and steeds and with others that roared in great affliction.Many of them loudly exclaimed, “What is this?” “Who is this one?” “Whatis this noise?” “Who is doing what?” While uttering such shrieks, Drona’sson became their Destroyer. That foremost of smiters, the son of Drona,despatched to regions of Yama all those Pandus and Srinjayas who werewithout armour and weapons. Terrified at that noise, many awoke fromsleep. Possessed with fear, blinded by sleep, and deprived of theirsenses, those warriors seemed to vanish (before the fury of Ashvatthama).The thighs of many were paralysed and many were so stupefied that theylost all their energy. Shrieking and possessed with fear, they began toslay one another. Drona’s son once more got upon his car of terribleclatter and taking up his bow despatched many with his shafts to Yama’sabode. Others awoke from sleep, brave warriors and foremost of men, asthey came towards Ashvatthama, were slain before they could approach himand were thus offered up as victims unto that Death-Night. Crushing manywith that foremost of cars, he careered through the camp, and covered hisfoes with repeated showers of arrows. Once again with that beautifulshield of his, adorned with hundred moons, and with that sword of hiswhich was of the hue of the welkin, he careered amidst his enemies. Likean elephant agitating a large lake, Drona’s son, irresistible, in battle,agitated the camp of the Pandavas.

Awaked by the noise, O king, many warriors, afflicted still with sleepand fear, and with senses still under a cloud, ran hither and thither.Many shrieked in harsh tones and many uttered incoherent exclamations.Many succeeded not in obtaining their weapons and armour. The locks ofmany were dishevelled, and many failed to recognise one another. Havingrisen from sleep, many fell down, fatigued; some wandered here and therewithout any purpose. Elephants and steeds, breaking their cords, passedexcreta and urine. Many, causing great confusion, huddled together.Amongst these, some through fear laid themselves down on the earth. Theanimals of the camp crushed them there.

While the camp was in this state, rakshasas, O king, uttered loud roarsin joy, O chief of the Bharatas! The loud noise, O king, uttered byghostly beings in joy, filled all the points of the compass and thewelkin. Hearing the wails of woe, elephants, steeds, breaking theircords, rushed hither and thither, crushing the combatants in the camp. Asthose animals rushed hither and thither, the dust raised by them made thenight doubly dark. When that thick gloom set in, the warriors in the campbecame perfectly stupefied; sires recognised not their sons, brothersrecognised not their brothers. Elephants assailing riderless elephants,and steeds assailing riderless steeds, assailed and broke and crushed thepeople that stood in their way. Losing all order, combatants rushed andslew one another, and felling those that stood in their way, crushed theminto pieces. Deprived of their senses and overcome with sleep, andenveloped in gloom, men, impelled by fate, slew their own comrades. Theguards, leaving the gates they watched, and those at duty at the outpostsleaving the posts they guarded, fled away for their lives, deprived oftheir senses and not knowing whither they proceeded. They slew oneanother, the slayers, O lord, not recognising the slain. Afflicted byFate, they cried after their sires and sons. While they fled, abandoningtheir friends and relatives, they called upon one another, mentioningtheir families and names. Other, uttering cries of “Oh!” and “Alas!” felldown on the earth. In the midst of the battle, Drona’s son, recognisingthem, slew them all.

Other kshatriyas, while being slaughtered, lost their senses, andafflicted by fear, sought to fly away from their camps. Those men thatsought to fly away from their camp for saving their lives, were slain byKritavarma and Kripa at the gate. Divested of weapons and instruments andarmour, and with dishevelled hair, they joined their hands. Tremblingwith fear, they were on the ground. The two Kuru warriors, however, (whowere on their cars) gave quarter to none. None amongst those that escapedfrom the camp was let off by those two wicked persons, Kripa andKritavarma. Then again, for doing that which was highly agreeable toDrona’s son, those two set fire to the Pandava camp in three places.

When the camp was lighted, Ashvatthama, that delighter of his sires, Omonarch, careered, sword in hand and smiting his foes with great skill.Some of his brave foes rushed towards him and some ran hither andthither. That foremost of regenerate ones, with his sword, deprived allof them of their lives. The valiant son of Drona, filled with rage,felled some of the warriors, cutting them in twain with his sword as ifthey were sesame stalks. The Earth, O bull of Bharata’s race, becamestrewn with the fallen bodies of the foremost of men and steeds andelephants mingled together and uttering woeful wails and cries. Whenthousands of men had fallen down deprived of life, innumerable headlesstrunks stood up and fell down. Ashvatthama, O Bharata, cut off armsadorned with angadas and holding weapons in grasp, and heads, and thighsresembling trunks of elephants, and hands, and feet. The illustrious sonof Drona mangled the backs of some, cut off the heads of some, and causedsome to turn away from the fight. And he cut off some at the middle, andlopped off the ears of others, and struck others on the shoulders, andpressed down the heads of some into their trunks.

As Ashvatthama careered in this way, slaughtering thousands of men, thedeep night became more terrible in consequence of the darkness that setin. The earth became terrible to behold, strewn with thousands of humanbeings dead and dying and innumerable steeds and elephants. Cut off bythe enraged son of Drona, his foes fell down on the earth that was thencrowded with yakshas and rakshasas, and frightful with (broken) cars andslain steeds and elephants. Some called upon their brothers, some upontheir sires, and some upon their sons. And some said, “The Dhartarashtrasin rage could never accomplish such feats in battle as these whichrakshasas of wicked deeds are achieving (upon us) during the hour ofsleep! It is only in consequence of the absence of the Parthas that thisgreat slaughter is going on. That son of Kunti, who hath Janardana forhis protector, is incapable of being vanquished by gods, asuras,gandharvas, yakshas and rakshasas! Devoted to Brahma, truthful in speech,self-restrained, and compassionate towards all creatures, that son ofPritha, called Dhananjaya, never slaughters one that is asleep, or onethat is heedless, or one that has laid aside his weapons or one that hasjoined his hands in supplication, or one that is retreating, or one whoselocks have been dishevelled. Alas, they are rakshasas of wicked deeds whoare perpetrating such terrible act upon us.” Uttering such words, manylaid themselves down.

The loud din caused by the cries and groans of human beings died awaywithin a short space of time. The earth being drenched with blood, Oking, that thick and frightful dust soon disappeared. Thousands of menmoving in agony, overwhelmed with anxiety and overcome with despair, wereslain by Ashvatthama like Rudra slaying living creatures. Many who laidthemselves down on the ground clasping one another, and many who soughtto fly away, and many who sought to hide themselves, and many whostruggled in battle, were all slain by the son of Drona. Burnt by theraging flames and slaughtered by Ashvatthama, the men, losing theirsenses, slew one another. Before half the night was over, the son ofDrona, O monarch, despatched the large host of the Pandavas unto Yama’sabode.

That night, so terrible and destructive unto human beings and elephantsand steeds filled with joy all creatures that wander in the dark. Manyrakshasas and pishacas of various tribes were seen there, gorging uponhuman flesh and quaffing the blood that lay on the ground. They werefierce, tawny in hue, terrible, of adamantine teeth, and dyed with blood.With matted locks on their heads, their thighs were long and massive;endued with five feet, their stomachs were large. Their fingers were setbackwards. Of harsh temper and ugly features, their voice was loud andterrible. They had rows of tinkling bells tied to their bodies. Possessedof blue throats, they looked very frightful. Exceedingly cruel andincapable of being looked at without fear, and without abhorrence foranything, they came there with their children and wives. Indeed, diversewere the forms seen there of the rakshasas that came. Quaffing the bloodthat ran in streams, they became filled with joy and began to dance inseparate bands. “This is excellent!” “This is pure!” “This is verysweet!” these were the words they uttered.

Other carnivorous creatures, subsisting upon animal food, having gorgedupon fat and marrow and bones and blood, began to eat the delicate partsof corpses. Others, drinking the fat that flowed in streams, ran nakedover the field. Possessed of diverse kinds of faces, other carnivorousbeings of great ferocity, and living upon dead flesh, came there in tensof thousands and millions. Grim and gigantic rakshasas also, of wickeddeeds, came there in bands as numerous. Other ghostly beings, filled withjoy and gorged to satiety, O king, also came there and were seen in themidst of that dreadful carnage.

When morning dawned, Ashvatthama desired to leave the camp. He was thenbathed in human blood and the hilt of his sword so firmly adhered in hisgrasp that his hand and sword, O king, became one! Having walked in thatpath that is never trod (by good warriors), Ashvatthama, after thatslaughter, looked like the blazing fire at the end of the yuga after ithas consumed all creatures into ashes. Having perpetrated that featagreeably to his vow, and having trod in that untrodden way, Drona’s son,O lord, forgot his grief for the slaughter of his sire. The Pandava camp,in consequence of the sleep in which all within it were buried, wasperfectly still when Drona’s son had entered it in the night.

After the nocturnal slaughter, when all became once more quiet,Ashvatthama issued from it. Having issued from the camp, the valiantAshvatthama met his two companions and, filled with joy, told them of hisfeat, gladdening them, O king, by the intelligence. Those two, in return,devoted as they were to his good, gave him the agreeable intelligence ofhow they also had slaughtered thousands of Pancalas and Srinjayas (at thegates). Even thus did that night prove terribly destructive to theSomakas who had been heedless and buried in sleep. The course of time,without doubt, is irresistible. Those who had exterminated us werethemselves exterminated now.”

Dhritarashtra said, “Why is it that that mighty car-warrior, the son ofDrona, did not achieve such a feat before although he had resolutelyexerted himself for bestowing victory upon Duryodhana? For what reasondid that great bowman do this after the slaughter of the wretchedDuryodhana? It behoveth thee to tell me this!”

Sanjaya said, “Through fear of the Parthas, O son of Kuru’s race,Ashvatthama could not achieve such a feat then. It was owing to theabsence of the Parthas and the intelligent Keshava as also of Satyaki,that Drona’s son could accomplish it. Who is there, the lord Indraunexcepted, that is competent to slay them in the presence of theseheroes? Besides, O king, Ashvatthama succeeded in accomplishing the featonly because the men were all asleep. Having caused that vast slaughterof the Pandava forces, those three great car-warriors (Ashvatthama, Kripaand Kritavarma), meeting together, exclaimed, “Good luck!” His twocompanions congratulated Ashvatthama, and the latter was also embraced bythem. In great joy the latter uttered these words: “All the Pancalas havebeen slain, as also all the sons of Draupadi! All the Somakas also, aswell as all that remained of the Matsyas, have been slaughtered by me!Crowned with success, let us without delay go there where the king is! Ifthe king be still alive, we will give him this joyful intelligence!”

Chapter 7
Chapter 9
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