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Chapter 23

Mahabharata English - SHALYA PARVA

“Sanjaya said, ‘During the progress of that terrible and awful battle,the army of thy son was broken by the Pandavas. Rallying their greatcar-warriors, however, with vigorous efforts, thy sons continued to fightwith the Pandava army. The (Kuru) warriors, desirous of thy son’swelfare, suddenly returned. Upon their return, the battle once morebecame exceedingly fierce between thy warriors and those of the foe,resembling that between the gods and the Asuras in days of old. Neitheramongst the enemies nor amongst thine was there a single combatant thatturned away from that battle. The warriors fought, aided by guess and bythe names they uttered. Great was the destruction that occurred as theythus fought with one another. Then king Yudhishthira, filled with greatwrath and becoming desirous of vanquishing the Dhartarashtras and theirking in that battle, pierced the son of Saradwat with three arrows wingedwith gold and whetted on stone, and next slew with four others the foursteeds of Kritavarma. Then Ashvatthama bore away the celebrated son ofHridika. Saradwat’s son pierced Yudhishthira in return with eight arrows.Then king Duryodhana despatched seven hundred cars to the spot where kingYudhishthira was battling. Those cars ridden by excellent warriors andendued with speed of the wind or thought, rushed in that battle againstthe car of Kunti’s son. Encompassing Yudhishthira on every side, theymade him invisible with their shafts like clouds hiding the sun from theview. Then the Pandava heroes headed by Shikhandi, beholding kingYudhishthira the just assailed in that way by the Kauravas, became filledwith rage and were unable to put up with it. Desirous of rescuingYudhishthira, the son of Kunti, they came to that spot upon their carspossessed of great speed and adorned with rows of bells. Then commencedan awful battle, in which blood flowed as water, between the Pandavas andthe Kurus, that increased the population of Yama’s domains. Slaying thoseseven hundred hostile car-warriors of the Kuru army, the Pandavas and thePancalas once more resisted (the whole Kuru army). There a fierce battlewas fought between thy son and the Pandavas. We had never before seen orheard of its like. During the progress of that battle in which noconsideration was showed by anybody for anybody, and while the warriorsof thy army and those of the foe were falling fast, and the combatantswere all shouting and blowing their conchs, and the bowmen were roaringand uttering loud noises of diverse kinds, while, indeed, the battle wasraging fiercely and the very vitals of the combatants were being struck,and the troops, O sire, desirous of victory, were rushing with speed,while, verily, everything on Earth seemed to be undergoing a woefuldestruction, during that time when innumerable ladies of birth and beautywere being made widows, during, indeed, the progress of that fierceengagement in which the warriors behaved without any consideration forfriends and foes, awful portents appeared, presaging the destruction ofeverything. The Earth, with her mountains and forests, trembled, making aloud noise. Meteors like blazing brands equipped with handles droppedfrom the sky, O king, on every side on the Earth as if from the solardisc. A hurricane arose, blowing on all sides, and bearing away hardpebbles along its lower course. The elephants shed copious tears andtrembled exceedingly. Disregarding all these fierce and awful portents,the Kshatriyas, taking counsel with one another, cheerfully stood on thefield for battle again, on the beautiful and sacred field called afterKuru, desirous of obtaining heaven. Then Shakuni, the son of the Gandharaking, said, “Fight all of ye in front! I, however, will slay the Pandavasfrom behind.” Then the Madraka warriors, endued with great activity,amongst those on our side that were advancing, became filled with joy anduttered diverse sounds of delight. Others too did the same. Theinvincible Pandavas, however, possessed of sureness of aim, once morecoming against us, shook their bows and covered us with showers ofarrows. The forces of the Madrakas then were slain by the foe. Beholdingthis, the troops of Duryodhana once more turned away from the battle. Themighty king of the Gandharvas, however, once more said these words,”Stop, ye sinful ones! Fight (with the foe)! What use is there offlight?” At that time, O bull of Bharata’s race, the king of theGandharas had full 10,000 horse-men capable of fighting with brightlances. During the progress of that great carnage, Shakuni, aided by thatforce, put forth his valour and assailed the Pandava army at the rear,slaughtering it with his keen shafts. The vast force of the Pandus then,O monarch, broke even as a mass of clouds is dispersed on all sides by amighty wind. Then Yudhishthira, beholding from a near point his own armyrouted, coolly urged the mighty Sahadeva, saying, “Yonder the son ofSubala, afflicting our rear, stayeth, clad in mail! He slaughtereth ourforces! Behold that wicked wight, O son of Pandu! Aided by the son ofDraupadi, proceed towards him and slay Shakuni, the son of Subala!Supported by the Pancalas, O sinless one, I will meanwhile destroy thecar force of the enemy! Let all the elephants and all the horse and 3,000foot, proceed with thee! Supported by these, slay Shakuni!” At this, 700elephants ridden by combatants armed with the bow, and 5,000 horses, andthe valiant Sahadeva, and 3,000 foot-soldiers, and the sons of Draupadiall rushed against Shakuni difficult of defeat in battle. Subala’s son,however, of great valour, O king, prevailing over the Pandavas andlonging for victory, began to slay their forces from the rear. Thehorsemen, infuriate with rage, belonging to the Pandavas endued withgreat activity, penetrated the division of Subala’s son, prevailing overthe latter’s car-warriors. Those heroic horsemen, staying in the midst oftheir own elephants, covered the large host of Subala’s son with showersof shafts. In consequence of thy evil counsels, O king, dreadful was thebattle that then ensued in which maces and lances were used and in whichheroes only took part. The twang of bow-string was no longer heard there,for all the car-warriors stood as spectators of that fight. At that timeno difference could be seen between the contending parties. Both theKurus and the Pandavas, O bull of Bharata’s race, beheld the darts hurledfrom heroic arms course like meteors through the welkin. The entirewelkin, O monarch, shrouded with falling swords of great brightness,seemed to become exceedingly beautiful. The aspect presented, O chief ofthe Bharatas, by the lances hurled all around, became like that of swarmsof locusts in the welkin. Steeds, with limbs bathed in blood inconsequence of wounds inflicted by horsemen themselves wounded witharrows, dropped down on all sides in hundreds and thousands. Encounteringone another and huddled together, many of them were seen to be mangledand many to vomit blood from their mouths. A thick darkness came therewhen the troops were covered with a dusty cloud. When that darknessshrouded everything, O king, we beheld those brave combatants, steeds andmen, move away from that spot. Others were seen to fall down on theEarth, vomiting blood in profusion. Many combatants, entangled with oneanother by their locks, could not stir. Many, endued with great strength,dragged one another from the backs of their horses, and encountering oneanother thus, slew one another like combatants in a wrestling match. Manydeprived of life, were borne away on the backs of the steeds. Many men,proud of their valour and inspired with desire of victory, were seen tofall down on the Earth. The Earth became strewn over with hundreds andthousands of combatants bathed in blood, deprived of limbs, and divestedof hair. In consequence of the surface of the Earth being covered withelephant-riders and horsemen and slain steeds and combatants withblood-stained armour and others armed with weapons and others who hadsought to slay one another with diverse kinds of terrible weapons, alllying closely huddled together in that battle fraught with fearfulcarnage, no warrior could proceed far on his horse. Having fought for alittle while, Shakuni, the son of Subala, O monarch, went away from thatspot with the remnant of his cavalry numbering 6,000. Similarly, thePandava force, covered with blood, and its animals fatigued, moved awayfrom that spot with its remnant consisting of 6,000 horses. Theblood-stained horsemen of the Pandava army then, with hearts intent onbattle and prepared to lay down their lives, said, “It is no longerpossible to fight here on cars; how much more difficult then to fighthere on elephants! Let cars proceed against cars, and elephants againstelephants! Having retreated, Shakuni is now within his own division. Theroyal son of Subala will not again come to battle.” Then the sons ofDraupadi and those infuriate elephants proceeded to the place where thePancala prince Dhrishtadyumna, that great car-warrior, was. Sahadevaalso, when that dusty cloud arose, proceeded alone to where kingYudhishthira was. After all those had gone away, Shakuni, the son ofSubala, excited with wrath, once more fell upon Dhrishtadyumna’s divisionand began to strike it. Once more a dreadful battle took place, in whichthe combatants were all regardless of their lives, between thy soldiersand those of the foe, all of whom were desirous of slaying one another.In that encounter of heroes, the combatants first eyed one anothersteadfastly, and then rushed, O king, and fell upon one another inhundreds and thousands. In that destructive carnage, heads severed withswords fell down with a noise like that of falling palmyra fruits. Loudalso became the noise, making the very hair to stand on end, of bodiesfalling down on the ground, divested of armour and mangled with weaponsand of falling weapons also, O king, and of arms and thighs severed fromthe trunk. Striking brothers and sons and even sires with keen weapons,the combatants were seen to fight like birds, for pieces of meat. Excitedwith rage, thousands of warriors, falling upon one another, impatientlystruck one another in that battle. Hundreds and thousands of combatants,killed by the weight of slain horsemen while falling down from theirsteeds, fell down on the field. Loud became the noise of neighing steedsof great fleetness, and of shouting men clad in mail, and of the fallingdarts and swords, O king, of combatants desirous of piercing the vitalsof one another in consequence, O monarch, of thy evil policy. At thattime, thy soldiers, overcome with toil, spent with rage, their animalsfatigued, themselves parched with thirst mangled with keen weapons, beganto turn away from the battle. Maddened with the scent of blood, manybecame so insensate that they slew friends and foes alike, in fact, everyone they got at. Large numbers of Kshatriyas, inspired with desire ofvictory, were struck down with arrows, O king, and fell prostrate on theEarth. Wolves and vultures and jackals began to howl and scream in gleeand make a loud noise. In the very sight of thy son, thy army suffered agreat loss. The Earth, O monarch, became strewn with the bodies of menand steeds, and covered with streams of blood that inspired the timidwith terror. Struck and mangled repeatedly with swords and battle axesand lances, thy warriors, as also the Pandavas, O Bharata, ceased toapproach one another. Striking one another according to the measure oftheir strength, and fighting to the last drop of their blood, thecombatants fell down vomiting blood from their wounds. Headless formswere seen, seizing the hair of their heads (with one hand) and withuplifted swords dyed with blood (in the other). When many headless forms,O king, had thus risen up, when the scent of blood had made thecombatants nearly senseless, and when the loud noise had somewhatsubsided, Subala’s son (once more) approached the large host of thePandavas, with the small remnant of his horse. At this, the Pandavas,inspired with desires of victory and endued with foot-soldiers andelephants and cavalry, all with uplifted weapons, desirous of reachingthe end of the hostilities, the Pandavas, forming a wall, encompassedShakuni on all sides, and began to strike him with diverse kinds ofweapons. Beholding those troops of thine assailed from every side, theKauravas, with horsemen, foot-soldiers, elephants, and cars, rushedtowards the Pandavas. Some foot-soldiers of great courage, destitute ofweapons, attacked their foes in that battle, with feet and fists, andbrought them down. Car-warriors fell down from cars, and elephant-menfrom elephants, like meritorious persons falling down from theircelestial vehicles upon the exhaustion of their merits. Thus thecombatants, engaged with one another in that great battle, slew sires andfriends and sons. Thus occurred that battle, O best of the Bharatas, inwhich no consideration was shown by anybody for anyone, and in whichlances and swords and arrows fell fast, on every side and made the sceneexceedingly terrible to behold.'”

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