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Chapter 16

Mahabharata English - STRI PARVA

Vaishampayana said, “Having said these words, Gandhari, though staying onthat spot which was distant from the field of battle, beheld, with herspiritual eye, the slaughter of the Kurus. Devoted to her lord, thathighly blessed lady had always practised high vows. Undergoing theseverest penances, she was always truthful in her speech. In consequenceof the gift of the boon by the great rishi Vyasa of sanctified deeds, shebecame possessed of spiritual knowledge and power. Piteous were thelamentations in which that dame then indulged. Endued with greatintelligence, the Kuru dame saw, from a distance, but as if from a nearpoint, that field of battle, terrible to behold and full of wonderfulsights, of those foremost of fighters. Scattered all over with bones andhair, and covered with streams of blood, that field was strewn withthousands upon thousands of dead bodies on every side. Covered with theblood of elephants and horses and car-warriors and combatants of otherkinds, it teemed with headless trunks and trunkless heads. And itresounded with the cries of elephants and steeds and men and women andabounded with jackals and cranes and ravens and kankas and crows. And itwas the sporting ground of rakshasas subsisting on human flesh. And itswarmed with ospreys and vultures and resounded with the inauspicioushowls of jackals. Then king Dhritarashtra, at the command of Vyasa, andall the sons of Pandu with Yudhishthira at their head, with Vasudeva andall the Kuru ladies, proceeded to the field of battle. Those ladies,bereaved of their lords, having reached Kurukshetra, beheld their slainbrothers and sons and sires and husbands lying on the ground, and incourse of being devoured by beasts of prey and wolves and ravens andcrows and ghosts and pishacas and rakshasas and diverse other wanderersof the night. Beholding that carnage which resembled the sights seen onthe sporting ground of Rudra, the ladies uttered loud shrieks and quicklyalighted from their costly vehicles. Witnessing sights the like of whichthey had never before witnessed, the Bharata ladies felt their limbs tobe deprived of strength and fell down on the ground. Others became sostupefied that they lost all their senses. Indeed, the Pancala and theKuru ladies were plunged into unutterable distress. Beholding thatdreadful field of battle resounding on every direction with the cries ofthose grief-stricken ladies, the daughter of Subala, acquainted withevery duty, addressed the lotus-eyed Keshava, that foremost of all men.Witnessing that universal slaughter of the Kurus and filled with grief atthe sight, she said these words: Behold, O lotus-eyed Madhava, thesedaughters-in-law of mine! Deprived of their lords, they are uttering,with dishevelled hair, piteous cries of woe like a flight of she-ospreys.Meeting with those dead bodies, they are calling back to their memoriesthe great Bharata chiefs. They are running hither and thither in largebands towards their sons and brothers and sires and husbands. Behold, Omighty-armed one, the field is covered with mothers of heroes, all ofwhom, however, have been bereaved of children. There, those portionsagain are covered with spouses of heroes, who have, however, beenbereaved of their spouses! Behold, the field of battle is adorned withthose tigers among men, Bhishma and Karna and Abhimanyu and Drona andDrupada and Shalya, as if with blazing fires. Behold, it is adorned alsowith the golden coats of mail, and with the costly gems, of high-souledwarriors, and with their angadas, and keyuras and garlands. Behold, it isstrewn with darts and spiked clubs hurled by heroic hands, and swords anddiverse kinds of keen shafts and bows. Beasts of prey, assembledtogether, are standing or sporting or lying down as it likes them!Behold, O puissant hero, the field of battle is even such. At this sight,O Janardana, I am burning with grief. In the destruction of the Pancalasand the Kurus, O slayer of Madhu, I think, the five elements (of whicheverything is made) have been destroyed. Fierce vultures and other birds,in thousands, are dragging those blood-dyed bodies, and seizing them bytheir armour, are devouring them. Who is there that could think of thedeath of such heroes as Jayadratha and Karna and Drona and Bhishma andAbhimanyu? Alas, though incapable of being slain, they have yet beenslain, O destroyer of Madhu! Behold, vultures and kankas and ravens andhawks and dogs and jackals are feasting upon them. There, those tigersamong men, that fought on Duryodhanas side, and took the field in wrath,are now lying like extinguished fires. All of them are worthy of sleepingon soft and clean beds. But, alas, plunged into distress, they aresleeping today on the bare ground. Bards reciting their praises used todelight them before at proper times. They are now listening to the fierceand inauspicious cries of jackals. Those illustrious heroes who usedformerly to sleep on costly beds with their limbs smeared with sandalpaste and powdered aloe, alas, now sleep on the dust! These vultures andwolves and ravens have now become their ornaments. Repeatedly utteringinauspicious and fierce cries those creatures are now dragging theirbodies. Delighting in battle, those heroes, looking cheerful, have stillbeside them their keen shafts, well-tempered swords, and bright maces, asif life has not yet departed from them. Many foremost of heroes,possessed of beauty and fair complexions and adorned with garlands ofgold, are sleeping on the ground. Behold, beasts of prey are dragging andtearing them. Others, with massive arms, are sleeping with maces in theirembrace, as if those were beloved wives. Others, still cased in armour,are holding in their hands their bright weapons. Beasts of prey are notmangling them, O Janardana, regarding them to be still alive. Thebeautiful garlands of pure gold on the necks of other illustrious heroes,as the latter are being dragged by carnivorous creatures, are scatteredabout on every side. There, those fierce wolves, numbering in thousands,are dragging the golden chains round the necks of many illustrious heroesstilled by death. Many, whom bards well-trained to their work formerlyused, with their hymns and eulogies of grave import, to delight everymorning, are now surrounded by fair ladies stricken with grief andweeping and crying around them in woe, O tiger of Vrishnis race! Thefaces of those beautiful ladies, O Keshava, though pale, look resplendentstill, like an assemblage of red lotuses! Those Kuru ladies have ceasedto weep, with their respective followers and companions. They are allfilled with anxiety. Overwhelmed with sorrow, they are running hither andthither. The faces of those fair ones have, with weeping and anger,become resplendent as the morning sun or gold or burnished copper.Hearing each others lamentations of incomplete sense, those ladies, inconsequence of the loud wails of woe bursting from every side, are unableto catch each others meaning. Some amongst them, drawing long sighs andindulging in repeated lamentations, are stupefied by grief and areabondoning their life-breaths. Many of them, beholding the bodies (oftheir sons, husbands, or sires), are weeping and setting up loud wails.Others are striking their heads with their own soft hands. The earth,strewn with severed heads and hands and other limbs mingled together andgathered in large heaps, looks resplendent with these signs of havoc!Beholding many headless trunks of great beauty, and many heads withouttrunks, those fair ones have been lying senseless on the ground for along while. Uniting particular heads with particular trunks, thoseladies, senseless with grief, are again discovering their mistakes andsaying, “This is not this ones,” and are weeping more bitterly! Others,uniting arms and thighs and feet, cut off with shafts, are giving way togrief and losing their senses repeatedly (at the sight of the restoredforms). Some amongst the Bharata ladies, beholding the bodies of theirlords,–bodies that have been mangled by animals and birds and severed oftheir heads,–are not succeeding in recognising them. Others, beholdingtheir brothers, sires, sons, and husbands slain by foes, are, O destroyerof Madhu, striking their heads with their own hands. Miry with flesh andblood, the Earth has become impassable with arms still holding swords intheir grasp, and with heads adorned with earrings. Beholding the fieldstrewn with their brothers and sires, and sons, those faultless ladies,who had never before suffered the least distress, are now plunged intounutterable woe. Behold, O Janardana, those numerous bevies ofDhritarashtras daughters-in-law, resembling successive multitudes ofhandsome fillies adorned with excellent manes! What, O Keshava, can be asadder spectacle for me to behold than that presented by those ladies offair forms who have assumed such an aspect? Without doubt, I must haveperpetrated great sins in my former lives, since I am beholding, OKeshava, my sons and grandsons and brothers all slain by foes. Whileindulging in such lamentations in grief, Gandharis eyes fell upon her son(Duryodhana).”

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