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Chapter 108

Mahabharata English - BHISHMA PARVA

Sanjaya said, “While they were battling, the Sun set, O Bharata, aidthere came the dreadful hour of twilight and the battle could no longerbe seen. Then king Yudhishthira, seeing that twilight had come and thathis own troops, slaughtered by Bhishma, had thrown aside their weapons,and that stricken with fear, and turned off the field, they were seekingto flee away, and beholding Bhishma also, that mighty car-warrior,excited with wrath and afflicting everybody in fight, and noticing thatthe mighty car-warriors of the Somakas, having been vanquished, had allbecome cheerless, reflected a little, and then ordered the troops to bewithdrawn. Then king Yudhishthira withdrew his forces. And similarly, thewithdrawal of thy forces also took place at the same time. Then thosemighty car-warriors, O chief of the Kurus, having withdrawn their forces,entered their tents, themselves mangled in battle. Afflicted by theshafts of Bhishma and reflecting upon that hero’s feats in battle, thePandavas obtained no peace of mind. Bhishma also, having vanquished thePandavas and the Srinjayas in battle, was worshipped by thy sons andglorified by them, O Bharata. Accompanied by the rejoicing Kurus, he thenentered his tent. Night then set in, that deprives all creatures of theirsenses. Then in that fierce hour of night, the Pandavas, the Vrishnis andthe invincible Srinjayas sat down for a consultation. All those mightypersons, skilled in arriving at conclusions in council, coollydeliberated about that which was beneficial for them in view of theirimmediate circumstances. Then king Yudhishthira, having reflected for along while, said these words, casting his eyes on Vasudeva, ‘Behold, OKrishna, the high-souled Bhishma of fierce prowess. He crusheth my troopslike an elephant crushing a forest of reeds. We dare not even look atthat high-souled warrior. Like a raging conflagration he licketh up mytroops. The valiant Bhishma of keen weapons, when excited with wrath inbattle and bow in hand shooting his shafts, becometh as fierce as themighty Naga Takshaka of virulent poison. Indeed, the angry Yama iscapable of being vanquished, or even the chief of the celestials armedwith the thunder, or Varuna himself, noose in hand, or the Lord of theYakshas armed with mace. But Bhishma, excited with wrath, is incapable ofbeing vanquished in battle. When this is the case, O Krishna, I am,through the weakness of my understanding, plunged in an ocean of griefhaving got Bhishma (as a foe) in battle. I will retire into the woods, Oinvincible one. My exile there would be for my benefit. Battle, OKrishna, I no longer desire. Bhishma slayeth us always. As an insect, byrushing into a blazing fire meeteth only with death, even so do I rushupon Bhishma. In putting forth prowess, O thou of Vrishni’s race, for thesake of my kingdom, I am, alas, led to destruction. My brave brothershave all been exceedingly afflicted with arrows. In consequence of theaffection they bear to myself their (eldest) brother they had to go intothe woods, deprived of kingdom. For myself alone, O slayer of Madhu, hathKrishna been sunk into such distress. I regard life to be of high value.Indeed, even life now seemeth to be difficult of being saved. (If I cansave that life), its latter remnant will I pass in the practice ofexcellent virtue. If, with my brothers, O Kesava, I am worthy of thyfavour, tell me, O Krishna, what is for my benefit, without contraveningthe duties of my order. Hearing these words of his, and (describing thesituation) in detail, Krishna, from compassion, said these words in replyfor comforting Yudhishthira, ‘O son of Dharma, O thou that art firm intruth, do thou not indulge in sorrow, thou that hast these invincibleheroes, these slayers of foes, for thy brothers. Arjuna and Bhimasena areeach endued with the energy of the Wind and the Fire. The twin sons ofMadri also are each as valiant as the Chief of the celestials himself.From the good understanding that exists between us, do thou set me alsoto this task. Even I, O son of Pandu, will fight with Bhishma. Directedby thee, O great king, what is there that I may not do in great battle.Challenging that bull among men, viz., Bhishma, I will slay him inbattle, in the very sight of the Dhartarashtras, if Phalguni doth notwish to slay him. If, O son of Pandu, thou seest victory to be certain onthe slaughter of the heroic Bhishma, even, I, on a single car, will slaythat aged grandsire of the Kurus. Behold, O king, my prowess, equal tothat of the great Indra in battle. I will overthrow from his car thatwarrior who always shooteth mighty weapons. He that is an enemy of thesons of Pandu, without doubt, is my enemy also. They, that are yours, aremine, and so they, that are mine, are yours. Thy brother (Arjuna) is myfriend, relative, and disciple. I will, O king, cut off my own flesh andgive it away for the sake of Arjuna. And this tiger among men also canlay down his life for my sake. O sire, even this is our understanding,viz., that we will protect each other. Therefore, command me, O king, inwhat way I am to fight. Formerly, at Upaplavya, Partha had, in thepresence of many persons, vowed, saying, ‘I will slay the son of Ganga.’These words of the intelligent Partha should be observed (in practice).Indeed, if Partha requests me without doubt I will fulfill that vow. Or,let it be the task of Phalguni himself in battle. It is not heavy forhim. He will slay Bhishma, that subjugator of hostile cities. If excitedin battle, Partha can achieve feats that are incapable of being achievedby others. Arjuna can slay in battle the very gods exerting themselvesactively, along with the Daityas and the Danavas. What need be said ofBhishma, therefore, O king? Endued with great energy, Bhishma, the son ofSantanu, is now of perverted judgment, of intelligence decayed, and oflittle sense, without doubt, he knoweth not what he should do.’

“Hearing these words of Krishna, Yudhishthira said, ‘It is even so, Othou of mighty arms, even as thou sayest, O thou of Madhu’s race. Allthese together are not competent to bear thy force. I am sure of alwayshaving whatever I desire, when, O tiger among men, I have thyself stayingon my side. O foremost of victorious persons, I would conquer the verygods with Indra at their head, when, O Govinda, I have thee for myprotector. What need I say, therefore, of Bhishma, though he is a mightycar-warrior? But, O Krishna, I dare not, for my own glorification,falsify thy words. Therefore, O Madhava, as promised before by thee,render me aid without fighting for me. In this battle an agreement wasmade by me with Bhishma. He said,–I will give thee counsel, but fight Ishall never for thee, since I shall have to fight for Duryodhana’s sake.Know this for truth. Therefore, O Lord, Bhishma may give me sovereigntyby giving me good counsel, O Madhava. Therefore, O slayer of Madhu, allof us accompanied by thee, will once more repair unto Devavrata, forasking him about the means of his own death. All of us then, O best ofpersons, together going to Bhishma without delay, will speedily ask himof Kuru’s race his advice. O Janardana, he will truly give us beneficialcounsel; and O Krishna, I will do in battle what he will say. Of austerevows, he will give us counsel, as also victory. We were children andorphans. By him were we reared. O Madhava, him, our aged grandsire, Iwish to day,–him, the sire of our sire. Oh, fie upon the profession of aKshatriyas.’

Sanjaya continued, “Hearing these words, O king, he of Vrishni’s racesaid unto Yudhishthira, ‘O thou of great wisdom, these words of thine, Oking, are to my taste. Bhishma, otherwise called Devavrata, is skilled inweapons. With only his glances he can consume the foe. Repair unto thatson of the Ocean-going (Ganga), for asking him about the means of hisdeath. Asked by thee, in particular, he will certainly say the truth. Wewill, therefore, proceed for questioning the Kuru grandsire. Repairingunto the reverend son of Santanu, we will, O Bharata, ask him his adviceand according to the advice that he will give us we will fight with thefoe.’ Having thus deliberated, O elder brother of Pandu, the heroic sonsof Pandu, and the valiant Vasudeva, all proceeded together towards theabode of Bhishma, casting aside their coats of mail and weapons andentering then his tent, they all bowed to him, bending their heads. Andthe sons of Pandu, O king, worshipping that bull of Bharata’s race, andbowing unto him with their heads, sought his protection. The Kurugrandsire, the mighty-armed Bhishma, then addressed them, saying,’Welcome art thou, O thou of Vrishni’s race. Welcome art thou, ODhananjaya. Welcome to thee, O king Yudhishthira the just, Ad to thee, OBhima. Welcome to you also, ye twins. What am I to do now for enhancingyour joy? Even if it be exceedingly difficult of achievement, I will yetdo it with all my soul. Unto the son of Ganga who thus repeatedly spokeunto them with such affection, king Yudhishthira, with a cheerful heart,lovingly said, these words, ‘O thou that art conversant with everything,how shall we obtain victory, and how shall we acquire sovereignty? Howalso may this destruction of creatures be stopped? Say all these unto me,O lord. Tell us the means of thy own death. How, O hero, shall we be ableto bear thee in battle? O grandsire of the Kurus, thou givest not thyfoes even a minute hole to pick in thee. Thou art seen in battle with thybow ever drawn to a circle. When thou takest thy shafts, when aimestthem, and when drawest the bow (for letting them off), no one is able tomark. O slayer of hostile heroes, constantly smiting (as thou dost) carsand steeds and men and elephants, we behold thee on thy car, Omighty-armed one, to resemble a second Sun. What man is there, O bull ofBharata’s race, who can venture to vanquish thee, scattering showers ofarrows in battle, and causing a great destruction. Tell me, O grandsire,the means by which we may vanquish thee in battle, by which sovereigntymay be ours, and lastly, by which my army may not have to undergo suchdestruction. Hearing these words, Santanu’s son, O elder brother ofPandu, said unto the son of Pandu, ‘As long as I am alive, O son ofKunti, victory cannot be yours in battle, O thou of great wisdom. Trulydo I say this unto thee. After, however, I am vanquished in fight, ye mayhave victory in battle, ye sons of Pandu. If, therefore, ye desirevictory in the battle, smite me down without delay. I give youpermission, ye sons of Pritha, strike me as ye please. I am thus known toyou in what I regard to be a fortunate circumstance.[472] After I amslain, all the rest will be slain. Therefore, do as I bid’.

“Yudhishthira said, ‘Tell us the means by which we may vanquish thee inbattle, thee that art, when excited with wrath in the fight, like untothe Destroyer himself armed with mace. The wielder of the thunder-boltmay be vanquished or Varuna, or Yama. Thou, however, art incapable ofbeing defeated in battle by even the gods and Asuras united together,with Indra at their head.’

“Bhishma said, ‘That, O son of Pandu, is true, which thou sayest. O thou,of mighty arms. When with weapons and my large bow in hand I contendcarefully in battle, I am incapable of being defeated by the very godsand the Asuras with Indra at their head. If, however, I lay aside myweapons, even these car-warriors can slay me. One that hath thrown awayhis weapons, one that hath fallen down, one whose armour hath slippedoff, one whose standard is down, one who is flying away, one who isfrightened, one who says–I am thine–one who is a female, one whobeareth the name of a female, one no longer capable of taking care ofone’s self, one who hath only a single son, or one who is a vulgarfellows,–with these I do not like to battle. Hear also, O king, about myresolve formed before. Beholding any inauspicious omen I would neverfight. That mighty car-warrior, the son of Drupada, O king, whom thouhast in thy army, who is known by the name of Sikhandin, who is wrathfulin battle, brave, and ever victorious, was a female before butsubsequently obtained manhood. How all this took place, ye all know ittruly. Brave in battle and clad in mail, let Arjuna, keeping Sikhandinbefore him, attack me with his sharp shafts. When that inauspicious omenwill be there, especially in the form of one that was a female before, Iwill never seek, though armed with bow and arrow, to strike him.Obtaining that opportunity, let Dhananjaya the son of Pandu quicklypierce me on every side with his shafts, O bull of Bharata’s race. Exceptthe highly blessed Krishna, and Dhananjaya the son of Pandu, I do notbehold the person in the three worlds who is able to slay me whileexerting myself in battle. Let Vibhatsu, therefore, armed with weapons,struggling carefully in battle, with his excellent bow in hand, placing(Sikhandin or) something else before, throw, me down (from my car). Thenthe victory will be certain. Do this, O great king, even this that I havesaid unto thee, O thou of excellent vows. Thou wilt then be able to slayall Dhartarashtras assembled together in battle.’

Sanjaya continued, “The Parthas then, having ascertained all this wentback to their tents, saluting the Kuru grandsire, viz., the high-souledBhishma. After Ganga’s son, prepared to go to the other world, had saidthis, Arjuna. burning with grief and his face suffused in shame, saidthese words, ‘How, O Madhava, shall I fight in battle with the grandsirewho is my senior in years, who is possessed of wisdom and intelligence,and who is the oldest member of our race? While sporting in days ofchildhood, O Vasudeva, I used to smear the body of this high-souled andillustrious one with dust by climbing on his lap with my own filthy body.O elder brother of Gada, he is the sire of my sire Pandu. While a child,climbing on the lap of this high-souled one I once called him father, Iam not thy father but thy father’s father, O Bharata!–even this is whathe said to me (in reply) in my childhood. He who said so, Oh, how can hebe slain by me. O, let my army perish. Whether, it is victory or deaththat I obtain I will never fight that high-souled person. (Even this iswhat I think). What dost thou think, O Krishna!’

“Vasudeva said, ‘Having vowed the slaughter of Bhishma before, O Jishnu,how canst thou abstain from slaying him, agreeably to the duties of aKshatriya? Throw down from his car, O Partha, that Kshatriya who isinvincible in battle. Victory can never be yours without slaying Ganga’sson. Even thus shall he go to the abode of Yama. This hath been settledbefore by the gods. That which hath been destined before, O Partha, musthappen. It cannot be otherwise. None save thee, O invincible one, noteven the wielder of the thunder-bolt himself, would be capable offighting with Bhishma, who is like the Destroyer with wide-open mouth.Slay Bhishma, without any anxiety. Listen also to these words of minethat are what Vrihaspati of great intelligence had said unto Sakra indays of old. One should slay even an aged person endued with every meritand worthy of reverence if he cometh as a foe, or, indeed any other whoapproacheth for destroying one’s self–O Dhananjaya, this is the eternalduty sanctioned for the Kshatriya, viz., that they should fight, protectsubjects, and perform sacrifices, all without malice.’

“Arjuna said, ‘Sikhandin, O Krishna, will certainly be the cause ofBhishma’s death, for Bhishma, as soon as he beholds the prince of thePanchalas, abstains from striking. Therefore, keeping Sikhandin beforehim and at our head, we will, by that means, overthrow the son of Ganga.Even this is what I think. I will hold in check other great bowmen withmy shafts. As regards Sikhandin, he will fight with Bhishma alone, thatforemost of all warriors. I have heard from that chief of the Kurus thathe would not strike Sikhandin, for having been born before as a woman hesubsequently became a male person.’

Sanjaya continued, “Having settled this with Bhishma’s permission, thePandavas, along with Madhava, went away with rejoicing hearts. And thenthose bulls among men retired to their respective beds.”

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