The Mahabharata 10
2:33 h Hindu
The Mahābhārata is one of the two major Sanskrit epics of ancient India, the other being the Rāmāyaṇa. It narrates the struggle between two groups of cousins in the Kurukshetra War and the fates of the Kaurava and the Pāṇḍava princes and their succession. Along with the Rāmāyaṇa, it forms the Hindu Itihasa.

The Mahabharata

Book 10: Sauptika Parva

Kisari Mohan Ganguli, tr.


Section 1

Om! Having bowed down unto Narayana, and Nara the most exalted of male beings, and unto the goddess Sarasvati, must the word Jaya be uttered!

Sanjaya said, “Those heroes then together proceeded towards the south. At the hour of sunset they reached a spot near the (Kuru) encampment. Letting their animals loose they became very much frightened. Reaching then a forest, they secretly entered it. They took up their quarters there at no great distance from the encampment. Cut and mangled with many keen weapons, they breathed long and hot sighs, thinking of the Pandavas. Hearing the loud noise made by the victorious Pandavas, they feared a pursuit and therefore fled towards the east. Having proceeded for sometime, their animals became tired and they themselves became thirsty. Overpowered by wrath and vindictiveness, those great bowmen could not put up with what had occurred, burning as they did with (grief at) the slaughter of the king. They however, took rest for a while.”

Dhritarashtra said, “The feat, O Sanjaya, that Bhima achieved seems to be incredible, since my son who was struck down possessed the strength of 10,000 elephants. In manhood’s prime and possessed of an adamantine frame, he was not capable of being slain by any creature! Alas, even that son of mine was struck down by the Pandavas in battle! Without doubt, O Sanjaya, my heart is made of adamant, since it breaks not into a 1,000 fragments even after hearing of the slaughter of my hundred sons! Alas, what will be the plight of myself and my spouse, an old couple destitute of children! I dare not dwell in the dominions of Pandu’s son! Having been the sire of a king and a king myself, O Sanjaya, how shall I pass my days as a slave obedient to the commands of Pandu’s son! Having laid my commands over the whole Earth and having stayed over the heads of all, O Sanjaya, how shall I live now as a slave in wretchedness? How shall I be able, O Sanjaya, to endure the words of Bhima who hath single-handed slain a full hundred sons of mine? The words of the high-souled Vidura have come to be realised! Alas, my son, O Sanjaya, did not listen to those words! What, however, did Kritavarma and Kripa and Drona’s son do after my son Duryodhana had been unfairly stuck down?”

Sanjaya said, “They had not proceeded far, O king, when they stopped, for they beheld a dense forest abounding with trees and creepers. Having rested for a little while, they entered that great forest, proceeding on their cars drawn by their excellent steeds whose thirst had been assuaged. That forest abounded with diverse kinds of animals, and it teemed with various species of birds. And it was covered with many trees and creepers and was infested by numerous carnivorous creatures. Covered with many pieces of water and adorned with various kinds of flowers, it had many lakes overgrown with blue lotuses.

Having entered that dense forest, they cast their eyes about and saw a gigantic banyan tree with thousands of branches. Repairing to the shade of 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 said their evening prayers. The Sun then reached the Asta mountains, and Night, the mother of the universe, came. The firmament, bespangled with planets and stars, shone like an ornamented piece of brocade and presented a highly agreeable spectacle. Those creatures that walk the night began to howl and utter their cries at will, while they that walk the day owned the influence of sleep. Awful became the noise of the night-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 and Drona’s son all sat down together. Seated under that banyan, they began to give expression to their sorrow in respect of that very matter: the destruction that had taken place of both the Kurus and the Pandavas. Heavy with sleep, they laid themselves down on the bare earth. They had been exceedingly tired and greatly mangled with shafts. The two great car-warriors, Kripa and Kritavarma, succumbed to sleep. However deserving of happiness and undeserving of misery, they then lay stretched on the bare ground. Indeed, O monarch, those two who had always slept on costly beds now slept, like helpless persons, on the bare ground, afflicted with toil and grief.

Drona’s son, however, O Bharata, yielding to the influence of wrath and reverence, could not sleep, but continued to breathe like a snake. Burning with rage, he could not get a wink of slumber. That hero of mighty arms cast his eyes on every side of that terrible forest. As he surveyed that forest peopled with diverse kinds of creatures, the great warrior beheld a large banyan covered with crows. On that banyan thousands of crows roosted in the night. Each perching separately from its neighbour, those crows slept at ease, O Kauravya! As, however, those birds were sleeping securely on every side, Ashvatthama beheld an owl of terrible aspect suddenly make its appearance there. Of frightful cries and gigantic body, with green eyes and tawny plumage, its nose was very large and its talons were long. And the speed with which it came resembled that of Garuda. Uttering soft cries that winged creature, O Bharata, secretly approached the branches of that banyan. That ranger of the sky, that slayer of crows, alighting on one of the branches of the banyan, slew a large number of his sleeping enemies. He tore the wings of some and cut off the heads of others with his sharp talons and broke the legs of many. Endued with great strength, he slew many that fell down before his eyes. With the limbs and bodies, O monarch, of the slain crows, the ground covered by the spreading branches of the banyan became thickly strewn on every side. Having slain those crows, the owl became filled with delight like a slayer of foes after having behaved towards his foes according to his pleasure.

Beholding that highly suggestive deed perpetrated in the night by the owl, Drona’s son began to reflect on it, desirous of framing his own conduct by the light of that example. He said unto himself, “This owl teaches me a lesson in battle. Bent as I am upon the destruction of the foe, the time for the deed has come! The victorious Pandavas are incapable of being slain by me! They are possessed of might, endued with perseverance, sure of aim, and skilled in smiting. In the presence, however, of the king I have vowed to slay them. I have thus pledged myself to a self-destructive act, like an insect essaying to rush into a blazing fire! If I were to fight fairly with them, I shall, without doubt, have to lay down my life! By an act of guile, however, success may yet be mine and a great destruction may overtake my foes! People generally, as also those versed in the scriptures, always applaud those means which are certain over those which are uncertain. Whatever of censure and evil repute this act may provoke ought to be incurred by person that is observant of kshatriya practices. The Pandavas of uncleansed souls have, at every step, perpetrated very ugly and censurable acts that are again fall of guile. As regards this matter, certain ancient verses, full of truth, are heard, sung by truth-seeing and righteousness-observing persons, who sang them after a careful consideration of the demands of justice.

These verses are even these: ‘The enemy’s force, even when fatigued, or wounded with weapons, or employed in eating, or when retiring, or when resting within their camp, should be smitten. They should be dealt with in the same way when afflicted with sleep in the dead of night, or when reft of commanders, or when broken or when under the impression of an error.’”

Having reflected in this way, the valiant son of Drona formed the resolution of slaying during the night the slumbering Pandavas and the Pancalas. Having formed this wicked resolution and pledged himself repeatedly to its execution, he awoke both his maternal uncle and the chief of Bhojas. Awakened from sleep, those two illustrious and mighty persons, Kripa and the Bhoja chief, heard Ashvatthama’s scheme. Filled with 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 were waging hostilities with the Pandavas, hath been slain! Deserted and alone, though he was the lord of eleven akshauhinis of troops, that hero of unstained prowess hath been struck down by Bhimasena and a large number of wretches banded together in battle! Another wicked act hath been perpetrated by the vile Vrikodara, for the latter hath touched with his foot the head of a person whose coronal locks underwent the sacred bath! The Pancalas are uttering loud roars and cries and indulging in loud bursts of laughter. Filled with joy, they are blowing their conchs and beating their drums! The loud peal of their instruments, mingled with the blare of conchs, is frightful to the ear and borne by the winds, is filling all the points of the compass. Loud also is the din made by their neighing steeds and grunting elephants and roaring warriors! That deafening noise made by the rejoicing warriors as they are marching to their quarters, as also the frightful clatter of their car-wheels, comes to us from the east. So great hath been the havoc made by the Pandavas on the Dhartarashtras that we three are the only survivors of that great carnage! Some were endued with the might of a hundred elephants, and some were masters of all weapons. Yet have they been slain by the sons of Pandu! I regard this to be an instance of the reverses brought about by Time! Truly, this is the end to which such an act leads! Truly, although the Pandavas have achieved such difficult feats, even this should be the result of those feats! If your wisdom hath not been driven away by stupefaction, then say what is proper for us to do in view of this calamitous and grave affair.’”


Section 2

Kripa said, “We have heard all that thou hast said, O puissant one! Listen, however, to a few words of mine, O mighty armed one! All men are subjected to and governed by these two forces, Destiny and Exertion. There is nothing higher than these two. Our acts do not become successful in consequence of destiny alone, nor of exertion alone, O best of men! Success springs from the union of the two. All purposes, high and low, are dependent on a union of those two. In the whole world, it is through these two that men are seen to act as also to abstain. What result is produced by the clouds pouring upon a mountain? What results are not produced by them pouring upon a cultivated field? Exertion, where destiny is not auspicious, and absence of exertion where destiny is auspicious, both these are fruitless! What I have said before (about the union of the two) is the truth. If the rains properly moisten a well-tilled soil, the seed produces great results. Human success is of this nature.

Sometimes, Destiny, having settled a course of events, acts of itself (without waiting for exertion). For all that, the wise, aided by skill have recourse to exertion. All the purposes of human acts, O bull among men, are accomplished by the aid of those two together. Influenced by these two, men are seen to strive or abstain. Recourse may be had to exertion. But exertion succeeds through destiny. It is in consequence also of destiny that one who sets himself to work, depending on exertion, attains to success. The exertion, however, of even a competent man, even when well directed, is without the concurrence of destiny, seen in the world to be unproductive of fruit. Those, therefore, among men, that are idle and without intelligence, disapprove of exertion. This however, is not the opinion of the wise.

Generally, an act performed is not seen to be unproductive of fruit in the world. The absent of action, again, is seen to be productive of grave misery. A person obtaining something of itself without having made any efforts, as also one not obtaining anything even after exertion, is not to be seen. One who is busy in action is capable of supporting life. He, on the other hand, that is idle, never obtains happiness. In this world of men it is generally seen that they that are addicted to action are always inspired by the desire of earning good. If one devoted to action succeeds in gaining his object or fails to obtain the fruit of his acts, he does not become censurable in any respect. If anyone in the world is seen to luxuriously enjoy the fruits of action without doing any action, he is generally seen to incur ridicule and become an object of hatred. He who, disregarding this rule about action, liveth otherwise, is said to do an injury to himself. This is the opinion of those that are endued with intelligence.

Efforts become unproductive of fruits in consequence of these two reasons: destiny without exertion and exertion without destiny. Without exertion, no act in this world becomes successful. Devoted to action and endued with skill, that person, however, who, having bowed down to the gods, seeks, the accomplishment of his objects, is never lost. The same is the case with one who, desirous of success, properly waits upon the aged, asks of them what is for his good, and obeys their beneficial counsels. Men approved by the old should always be solicited for counsel while one has recourse to exertion. These men are the infallible root of means, and success is dependent on means. He who applies his efforts after listening to the words of the old, soon reaps abundant fruits from those efforts. That man who, without reverence and respect for others (capable of giving him good counsel), seeks the accomplishment of his purposes, moved by passion, anger, fear, and avarice, soon loses his prosperity.

This Duryodhana, stained by covetousness and bereft of foresight, had without taking counsel, foolishly commenced to seek the accomplishment of an undigested project. Disregarding all his well-wishers and taking counsel with only the wicked, he had, though dissuaded, waged hostilities with the Pandavas who are his superiors in all good qualities. He had, from the beginning, been very wicked. He could not restrain himself. He did not do the bidding of friends. For all that, he is now burning in grief and amid calamity. As regards ourselves since we have followed that sinful wretch, this great calamity hath, therefore, overtaken us! This great calamity has scorched my understanding. Plunged in reflection, I fail to see what is for our good!

A man that is stupefied himself should ask counsel of his friends. In such friends he hath his understanding, his humility, and his prosperity. One’s actions should have their root in them. That should be done which intelligent friends, having settled by their understanding, should counsel. Let us, therefore, repair to Dhritarashtra and Gandhari and the high-souled Vidura and ask them as what we should do. Asked by us, they will say what, after all this, is for our good. We should do what they say. Even this is my certain resolution. Those men whose acts do not succeed even after the application of exertion, should, without doubt, be regarded as afflicted by destiny.”


Section 3

Sanjaya said, “Hearing these words of Kripa that were auspicious and fraught with morality and profit, Ashvatthama, O monarch, became overwhelmed with sorrow and grief. Burning with grief as if with a blazing fire, he formed a wicked resolution and then addressed them both saying, “The faculty of understanding is different in different men. Each man, however, is pleased with own understanding. Every man regards himself more intelligent than others. Everyone respects his own understanding and accords it great praise. Everyone’s own wisdom is with every one a subject of praise. Everyone speaks ill of the wisdom of others, and well of his own, in all instances. Men whose judgements agree with respect to any unattained object, even though there be a variety of considerations, become gratified with and applaud one another. The judgements, again, of the same men, overwhelmed with reverses through the influence of time, become opposed to one another. More particularly, in consequence of the diversity of human intellects, judgements necessarily differ when intellects are clouded.

As a skilful physician, having duly diagnosed a disease, prescribes a medicine by the application of his intelligence for effecting a cure, even so men, for the accomplishment of their acts, use their intelligence, aided by their own wisdom. What they do is again disapproved by others. A man, in youth, is affected by one kind of understanding. In middle age, the same does not prevail with him, and in the period of decay, a different kind of understanding becomes agreeable to him. When fallen into terrible distress or when visited by great prosperity, the understanding of a person, O chief of the Bhojas, is seen to be much afflicted. In one and the same person, through want of wisdom, the understanding becomes different at different times. That understanding which at one time is acceptable becomes the reverse of that at another time.

Having resolved, however, according to one’s wisdom, that resolution which is excellent should be endeavoured to be accomplished. Such resolution, therefore, should force him to put forth exertion. All persons, O chief of the Bhojas, joyfully begin to act, even in respect of enterprises that lead to death, in the belief that those enterprises are achievable by them. All men, relying on their own judgements and wisdom, endeavour to accomplish diverse purposes, knowing them to be beneficial. The resolution that has possessed my mind today in consequence of our great calamity, as something that is capable of dispelling my grief, I will now disclose unto both of you.

The Creator, having formed his creatures, assigned unto each his occupation. As regards the different orders, he gave unto each a portion of excellence. Unto brahmanas he assigned that foremost of all things, the Veda. Unto the kshatriya he assigned superior energy. Unto the vaishya he gave skill, and unto the shudra he gave the duty of serving the three other classes. Hence, a brahmana without self-restraint is censurable. A kshatriya without energy is base. A vaishya without skill is worthy of dispraise, as also a shudra who is bereft of humility (to the other orders).

I am born in an adorable and high family of brahmanas. Through ill-luck, however, I am wedded to kshatriya practices. If, conversant as I am with kshatriya duties, I adopt now the duties of a brahmana and achieve a high object (the purification of self under such injuries), that course would not be consistent with nobleness. I hold an excellent bow and excellent weapons in battle. If I do not avenge the slaughter of my sire, how shall I open my mouth in the midst of men? Paying regard to kshatriya duties, therefore, without hesitation, I shall today walk in the steps of my high-souled sire and the king.

The Pancalas, elated with victory, will trustfully sleep tonight, having put off their armour and in great glee, and filled with happiness at the thought of the victory they have won, and spent with toil and exertion. While sleeping at their ease during the night within their own camp, I shall make a great and terrible assault upon their camp. Like Maghavat slaying the danavas, I shall, attacking them while senseless and dead in sleep in their camp, slay them all, putting forth my prowess. Like a blazing fire consuming a heap of dry grass, I shall slay all of them assembled in one place with their leader Dhrishtadyumna! Having slain the Pancalas, I shall obtain peace of mind, O best of men! While engaged in the act of slaughter, I shall career in their midst like the wielder of Pinaka, Rudra himself, in rage among living creatures. Having cut off and slain all the Pancalas today, I shall then, in joy, afflict the sons of Pandu in battle. Taking their lives one after another and causing the earth to be strewn with the bodies of all the Pancalas, I shall pay off the debt I owe to my sire. I shall today make the Pancalas follow in the wake, hard to tread, of Duryodhana and Karna and Bhishma, and the ruler of the Sindhus. Putting forth my might, I shall tonight grind the head, like that of any animal, of Dhrishtadyumna, the king of the Pancalas! I shall tonight, O son of Gautama, cut off with my sharp sword, in battle, the sleeping sons of the Pancalas and the Pandavas. Having exterminated the Pancalas army tonight while sunk in sleep, I shall, O thou of great intelligence, obtain great happiness and regard myself to have done my duty!”


Section 4

Kripa said, “By good luck, O thou of unfading glory, thy heart is set today on vengeance. The wielder of the thunder himself will not succeed in dissuading thee today. Both of us, however, shall accompany thee in the morning. Putting off thy armour and taking down thy standard, take rest for this night. I shall accompany thee, as also Kritavarma of the Satvata race, clad in mail and riding on our cars, while thou shalt proceed against the foe. United with ourselves, thou shalt slay the foes, the Pancalas with all their followers, tomorrow in press of battle, putting forth thy prowess, O foremost of car-warriors! If thou puttest forth thy prowess, thou art quite competent to achieve that fear! Take rest, therefore, for this night. Thou hast kept thyself awake for many a night. Having rested and slept, and having become quite refreshed, O giver of honours, encounter the foe in battle! Thou shalt then slay the enemy, without doubt. No one, not even Vasava amongst the gods, would venture to vanquish thee armed with foremost of weapons, O first of car-warriors! Who is there that would, even if he be the chief of the gods himself, fight Drona’s son, when the latter proceeds, accompanied by Kripa and protected by Kritavarma? Therefore, having rested and slept this night and shaken off fatigue, we shall slay the foe tomorrow morning! Thou art a master of celestial weapons. I also am so, without doubt. This hero of Satvata’s race is a mighty bowman, always skilled in battle. All of us, uniting together, O son, shall succeed in slaying our assembled foes in battle by putting forth our might. Great shall be our happiness then! Dispelling thy anxieties, rest for this night and sleep happily! Myself and Kritavarma, both armed with bows and capable of scorching our enemies, will, clad in mail, follow thee, O best of men, while thou shalt proceed on thy car against the enemy. Proceeding to their camp and proclaiming thy name in battle, thou shalt then make a great slaughter of the foe. Tomorrow morning, in broad daylight, having caused a great slaughter among them thou shalt sport like Shakra after the slaughter of great asuras. Thou art quite competent to vanquish the army of the Pancalas in battle like the slayer of the danavas in vanquishing in rage the danava host. United with myself in battle and protected by Kritavarma, thou art incapable of being withstood by the wielder of the thunderbolt himself.

Neither I, O son, nor Kritavarma, will ever retreat from battle without having vanquished the Pandavas! Having slain the angry Pancalas along with the Pandavas, we shall come away, or slain by them, we shall proceed to heaven. By every means in our power, we two shall render thee assistance in battle tomorrow morning. O thou of mighty arms, I tell thee the truth, O sinless one!”

Addressed in these beneficial words by his maternal uncle, the son of Drona, with eyes red in rage, answered his uncle, O king, saying, ‘Where can a person that is afflicted, or one that is under the influence of rage, or one whose heart is always engaged in revolving projects for the acquisition of wealth, or one that is under the power of lust, obtain sleep? Behold, all these four causes are present in my case. Anyone of these, singly would destroy sleep. How great is the grief of that person whose heart is always thinking of the slaughter of his sire! My heart is now burning day and night. I fail to obtain peace. The way in which my sire in particular was slain by those sinful wretches hath been witnessed by you all. The thought of that slaughter is cutting all my vitals. How could a person like me live for even a moment after hearing the Pancalas say that they have slain my father? I cannot bear the thought of supporting life without having slain Dhrishtadyumna in battle. In consequence of the slaughter of my father he hath become slayable by me, as also all with whom he is united. Who is there so hard-hearted that would not burn after having heard the lamentations that I have heard of the king lying with broken thighs? Who is there so destitute of compassion whose eyes would not be filled with tears after hearing such words uttered by the king with broken thighs? They whose side was adopted by me have been vanquished. The thought of this enhances my sorrow as a rush of waters enhances the sea.

Protected as they are by Vasudeva and Arjuna, I regard them, O uncle, to be irresistible by the great Indra himself. I am unable to restrain this rising wrath in my heart. I do not behold the man in this world that can assuage this wrath of mine! The messengers informed me of the defeat of my friends and the victory of the Pandavas. That is burning my heart. Having however, caused a slaughter of my enemies during their sleep, I shall then take rest and shall then sleep without anxiety.”


Section 5

Kripa said, “A person who is bereft of intelligence and who hath not his passions under control, cannot, even if he waits dutifully upon his superiors, understand all the considerations of morality. This is my opinion. Similarly, an intelligent person who does not practise humility fails to understand the settled conclusions of morality. A brave man, if bereft of understanding, by waiting all his life upon a learned person fails to know his duties, like a wooden ladle unable to taste the juicy soup (in which it may lie immersed). The wise man, however, by waiting upon a learned person for even a moment, succeeds in knowing his duties, like the tongue tasting the juicy soup (as soon as it comes into contact with the latter). That person who is endued with intelligence, who waits upon his superiors, and who has his passions under control succeeds in knowing all the rules of morality and never disputes with what is accepted by all. An ungovernable, irreverent, and sinful person of wicked soul perpetrates sin in seeking his well-being by disregarding destiny.

Well-wishers seek to restrain a friend from sin. He who suffers himself to be dissuaded, succeeds in winning prosperity. He that does otherwise reaps misery. As a person of disordered brains is restrained by soothing words, even so should a friend be restrained by well-wishers. He that suffers himself to be so restrained never becomes a prey to misery. When a wise friend is about to perpetrate a wicked act, well-wishers possessed of wisdom repeatedly and according to the extent of their power endeavour to restrain him. Setting thy heart on what is truly beneficial, and restraining thyself by thy own self, do my bidding, O son, so that thou mayst not have to repent afterwards.

In this world, the slaughter of sleeping persons is not applauded, agreeably to the dictates of religion. The same is the case with persons that have laid down their arms and come down from cars and steeds. They also are unslayable who say ‘We are thine!’ and they that surrender themselves, and they whose locks are dishevelled, and they whose animals have been killed under them or whose cars have been broken. All the Pancalas will sleep tonight. O lord, divesting themselves of armour. Trustfully sunk in sleep, they will be like dead men. That crooked-minded man who would wage hostility with them then, it is evident, would sink in deep and limitless hell without a raft save himself. In this world thou art celebrated as the foremost of all persons conversant with weapons. Thou hast not as yet committed even a minute trespass. When the sun rises next morning and light shall discover all things, thyself, like a second sun in effulgence wilt conquer the foe in battle. This censurable deed, so impossible in one like thee, will look like a red spot on a white sheet. Even this is my opinion.”

Ashvatthama said, “Without doubt, it is even so, O maternal uncle, as thou sayest. The Pandavas, however, have before this broken the bridge of righteousness into a hundred fragments. In the very sight of all the kings, before thy eyes also, my sire, after he had laid down his weapons, was slain by Dhrishtadyumna. Karna also, that foremost of car-warriors, after the wheel of his car had sunk and he had been plunged into great distress, was slain by the wielder of gandiva. Similarly, Shantanu’s son Bhishma, after he had laid aside his weapons and become disarmed, was slain by Arjuna with Shikhandi placed in his van. So also, the mighty bowman Bhurishrava, while observant of the praya vow on the field of battle, was slain by Yuyudhana in total disregard of the cries of all the kings! Duryodhana too, having encountered Bhima in battle with the mace, hath been slain unrighteously by the former in the very sight of all the lords of earth. The king was all alone in the midst of a large number of mighty car-warriors standing around him. Under such circumstances was that tiger among men slain by Bhimasena. Those lamentations that I have heard, of the king lying prostrate on the earth with his thighs broken, from the messengers circulating the news, are cutting the very core of my heart. The unrighteous and sinful Pancalas, who have broken down the barrier of virtue, are even such. Why do you not censure them who have transgressed all considerations? Having slain the Pancalas, those slayers of my sire, in the night when they are buried in sleep, I care not if I am born a worm or a winged insect in my next life. That which I have resolved is hurrying me towards its accomplishment. Hurried as I am by it, how can I have sleep and happiness? That man is not yet born in the world, nor will be, who will succeed in baffling this resolution that I have formed for their destruction.”

Sanjaya continued, “Having said these words, O monarch, the valiant son of Drona yoked his steeds to his car at a corner and set out towards the direction of his enemies. Then Bhoja and Sharadvata’s son, those high-souled persons, addressed him, saying, “Why dost thou yoke the steeds to thy car? Upon what business art thou bent? We are determined to accompany thee tomorrow, O bull among men! We sympathise with thee in weal and woe. It behoveth thee not to mistrust us. Remembering the slaughter of his sire, Ashvatthama in rage told them truly about the feat that he had resolved to accomplish. When my sire, having slain hundreds and thousands of warriors with keen shafts, had laid aside his weapons, he was then slain by Dhrishtadyumna. I shall slay that slayer today in a similar condition that is, when he will have laid aside his armour. The sinful son of the king of the Pancalas I shall today slay by a sinful act. It is my resolve to slay like an animal that sinful prince of the Pancalas in such a way that he may not attain to regions earned by persons slain with weapons! Put on your coats of mail without delay and take your bows and swords, and wait for me here, ye foremost of car-warrior and scorchers of foes.”

Having said these words, Ashvatthama got upon his car and set out towards the direction of the enemy. Then Kripa, O king, and Kritavarma of the Satvata race, both followed him. While the three proceeded against the enemy, they shone like three blazing fires in a sacrifice, fed with libations of clarified butter. They proceeded, O lord, towards the camp of the Pancalas within which everybody was asleep. Having approached the gate, Drona’s son, that mighty car-warrior, stopped.”


Section 6

Dhritarashtra said, “Seeing Drona’s son stop at the gate of the encampment, what, O Sanjaya, did those two mighty car-warriors, Kripa and Kritavarma, do? Tell me this!”

Sanjaya said, “Inviting Kritavarma, as also the mighty car-warrior Kripa, Drona’s son, filled with rage, approached the gate of the camp. He there beheld a being of gigantic frame, capable of making the very hair stand on end, and possessed of the effulgence of the Sun or the Moon, guarding the entrance. Round his loins was a tiger-skin dripping with blood, and he had a black deer for his upper garment. He had for his sacred thread a large snake. His arms were long and massive and held many kinds of uplifted weapons. He had for his angadas a large snake wound round his upper arm. His mouth seemed to blaze with flames of fire. His teeth made his face terrible to behold. His mouth was open and dreadful. His face was adorned with thousands of beautiful eyes. His body was incapable of being described, as also his attire. The very mountains, upon beholding him, would split into a 1,000 fragments. Blazing flames of fire seemed to issue from his mouth and nose and ears and all those thousands of eyes. From those blazing flames hundreds and thousands of Hrishikeshas issued, armed with conchs and discs and maces.

Beholding that extraordinary being capable of inspiring the whole world with terror, Drona’s son, without feeling any agitation, covered him with showers of celestial weapons. That being, however, devoured all those shafts shot by Drona’s son. Like the vadava fire devouring the waters of the ocean, that being devoured the shafts sped by the son of Drona. Beholding his arrowy showers prove fruitless, Ashvatthama hurled at him a long dart blazing like a flame of fire. That dart of blazing point, striking against that being, broke into pieces like a huge meteor at the end of the yuga breaking and falling down from the firmament after striking against the Sun. Ashvatthama then, without losing a moment, drew from its sheath an excellent scimitar of the colour of the sky and endued with a golden hilt. The scimitar came out like a blazing snake from its hole. The intelligent son of Drona then hurled that excellent scimitar at that being. The weapon, approaching that being, disappeared within his body like a mongoose disappearing in its hole. Filled with rage, the son of Drona then hurled a blazing mace of the proportions of a pole set up in honour of Indra. The being devoured that mace also.

At last, when all his weapons were exhausted Ashvatthama, casting his eyes around, beheld the whole firmament densely crowded with images of Janardana. Drona’s son, divested of weapons, beholding that wonderful sight, recollected the words of Kripa, and turning pale with grief, said, “He that listens not to the beneficial words of advising friends is obliged to repent, being overwhelmed with calamity, even as my foolish self for having disregarded my two well-wishers. That fool who, disregarding the way pointed out by the scriptures, seeketh to slay his enemies, falleth off from the path of righteousness and is lost in the trackless wilderness of sin. One should not cast weapons upon kine, brahmanas, kings, women, friends, one’s own mother, one’s own preceptor, a weak man, an idiot, a blind man, a sleeping man, a terrified man, one just arisen from sleep, an intoxicated person, a lunatic and one that is heedless. The preceptors of old always inculcated this truth upon men. I have, however, by disregarding the eternal way pointed out by the scriptures, and by essaying to tread in a wrong path, fallen into terrible distress. The wise have called that to be a terrible calamity when one falls back, through fear, from a great feat after having essayed to achieve it. I am unable, by putting forth only my skill and might, to achieve that which I have vowed.

Human exertion is never regarded more efficacious than destiny. If any human action that is commenced does not succeed through destiny, the actor becomes like one who falling off from the path of righteousness, is lost in the wilderness of sin. The sages speak of defeat as foolishness when one having commenced an act swerves from it through fear. In consequence of the wickedness of my essay, this great calamity has come upon me, otherwise Drona’s son would never had been forced to hold back from battle. This being, again whom I see before me, is most wonderful! He stands there like the uplifted rod of divine chastisement. Reflecting even deeply, I cannot recognise who this being is. Without doubt, that being is the terrible fruit of this sinful determination of mine that I had essayed to achieve unrighteously. He standeth there for baffling that determination. It seems, therefore, that in my case this falling off from fight had been ordained by destiny. It is not for me to exert for the accomplishment of this my purpose unless destiny becomes favourable. I shall, therefore, at this hour, seek the protection of the puissant Mahadeva! He will dispel this dreadful rod of divine chastisement uplifted before me. I will take the shelter of that god, that source of everything beneficial, the lord of Uma, otherwise called Kapardin, decked with a garland of human skulls, that plucker of Bhaga’s eyes called also Rudra and Hara. In ascetic austerities and prowess, he far surpasses all the gods. I shall, therefore, seek the protection of Girisha armed with the trident.”


Section 7

Sanjaya said, “The son of Drona, O monarch, having reflected thus, descended from the terrace of his car and stood, bending his head unto that supreme god. And he said, “I seek the protection of Him called Ugra, Sthanu, Shiva, Rudra, Sharva, Ishana, Ishvara, Girisha; and of that boon-giving god who is the Creator and Lord of the universe; of Him whose throat is blue, who is without birth, who is called Shakra, who destroyed the sacrifice of Daksha, and who is called Hara; of Him whose form is the universe, who hath three eyes, who is possessed of multifarious forms, and who is the lord of Uma; of Him who resides in crematoriums, who swells with energy, who is the lord of diverse tribes of ghostly beings, and who is the possessor of undecaying prosperity and power; of Him who wields the skull-topped club, who is called Rudra, who bears matted locks on his head, and who is a brahmacari. Purifying my soul that is so difficult to purify, and possessed as I am of small energy, I adore the Destroyer of the triple city, and offer myself as the victim. Hymned thou hast been, deserving art thou of hymns, and I hymn to thy glory!

Thy purposes are never baffled. Thou art robed in skins; thou hast red hair on thy head; thou art blue-throated; thou art unbearable; thou art irresistible! Thou art pure; thou art the Creator of Brahman; thou art Brahma; thou art a brahmacari; thou art an observer of vows; thou art devoted to ascetic austerities; thou art infinite; thou art the refuge of all ascetics; thou art multiform; thou art the leader of diverse tribes of ghostly beings; thou art three-eyed; thou art fond of those beings called companions; thou art always seen by the Lord of treasures; thou art dear to Gauri’s heart; thou art the sire of Kumara; thou art tawny; thou hast for thy excellent bearer a bovine bull; thou art robed in a subtle attire; thou art most fierce; thou art eager to adorn Uma; thou art higher than all that is high; thou art higher than everything; there is nothing higher than thou; thou art the wielder of weapons; thou art immeasurable, and thou art the protector of all quarters; thou art cased in golden armour; thou art divine; thou hast the moon as an ornament on thy brow! With concentrated attention, I seek thy protection, O god! For success in getting over this dreadful distress that is so difficult to get over, I sacrifice unto thee, the purest of the pure, offering for thy acceptance the (five) elements of which my body is composed!”

Knowing this to be his resolution in consequence of his desire to accomplish his object, a golden altar appeared before the high-souled son of Drona. Upon the altar, O king, appeared a blazing fire, filling all the points of the compass, cardinal and subsidiary, with its splendour. Many mighty beings also, of blazing mouths and eyes, of many feet, heads, and arms, adorned with angadas set with gems, and with uplifted arms, and looking like elephants and mountains, appeared there. Their faces resembled those of hares and boars and camels and horses and jackals and cows and bears and cats and tigers and pards and crows and apes and parrots. And the faces of some were like those of mighty snakes, and others had faces like those of ducks. And all of them were endued with great effulgence. And the faces of some were like those of woodpeckers and jays, O Bharata, and of tortoises and alligators and porpoises and huge sharks and whales, and of lions and cranes and pigeons and elephants and stags. Some had faces like those of ravens and hawks, some had ears on their hands; some had a 1,000 eyes, some had very large stomachs, and some had no flesh, O Bharata! And some, O king, had no heads, and some, O Bharata, had faces like those of bears. The eyes of some were like fire, and some had fiery complexions. The hair on the heads and bodies of some were blazing and some had four arms, and some, O king, had faces like those of sheep and goats. The colour of some was like that of conchs, and some had faces that resembled conchs, and the ears of some were like conchs, some wore garlands made of conchs, and the voices of some resembled the blare of conchs. Some had matted locks on their heads, and some had five tufts of hair, and some had heads that were bald. Some had lean stomachs; some had four teeth, some had four tongues, some had ears straight as arrows and some had diadems on their brows. Some had strings of grass on their bodies, O monarch, and some had curly hair. Some had head-gears made of cloth, some had coronets, some had beautiful faces, and some were adorned with ornaments. Some had ornaments made of lotuses, and some were decked with flowers. They numbered in hundreds and thousands.

Some were armed with shataghnis, some with thunder, and some had mushalas in their hands. Some had bhushundis, some had nooses, and some had maces in their hands, O Bharata! On the backs of some were slung quivers containing excellent shafts, and all were fierce in battle. Some had standards with banners and bells, and some were armed with battle-axes. Some had large nooses in their uplifted arms, and some had clubs and bludgeons. Some had stout posts in their hands, some had scimitars, and some had snakes with erect heads for their diadems. Some had large snakes (wound round their upper arms) for angadas, and some had beautiful ornaments on their persons. Some were begrimed with dust, some smutted with mire, and all were attired in white robes and white garments. The limbs of some were blue, while others had limbs that were tawny. And some there were that were beardless. Those beings, called companions, possessed of golden complexions, and filled with joy, played upon drums and horns and cymbals and jharjharas and anakas and gomukhas. And some sang and some danced about uttering loud sounds, and some leapt forward and cut capers and jumped sideways. Endued with great fleetness, they ran about most fiercely, the hair on their heads waving in the air, like huge elephants infuriated with passion and frequently uttering loud roars. Terrible, and of frightful mien and armed with lances and battle-axes, they were attired in robes of diverse hues and decked with beautiful garlands and unguents. Adorned with angadas decked with gems, and with uplifted arms, they were endued with great courage. Capable of forcibly slaying all foes, they were irresistible in prowess. Drinkers of blood and fat and other animal matter, they subsisted on the flesh and entrails of animals. Some had their locks tied in tall tufts above their heads. Some had single tufts on their heads; some had rings on their ears; and some had stomachs resembling earthen vessels used for cooking. Some were of very short statures, and some were very high in stature. Some were tall and very fierce. Some had grim features, some had long lips, and the genital limbs of some were very long. Some had costly and diverse kinds of crowns upon their heads; and some had bald heads, and the heads of others were covered with matted locks.

They were capable of bringing down the firmament with the sun, moon, and stars, on earth, and exterminating the four orders of created things. They know not what it is to fear, and are capable of enduring the frowns of Hara. They always act as they like, and are the lords of the lords of the three worlds. Always engaged in merry sports, they are thorough masters of speech and are perfectly free from pride. Having obtained the eight kinds of divine attributes, they are never elated with pride. The divine Hara is always filled with wonder at their feats. They are devout worshippers of Mahadeva. Adored by them in thought, word, and deed, the great god protects those worshippers of his, looking upon them, in thought, word, and deed as children of his own loins. Filled with rage, they always drink the blood and fat of all haters of Brahma. They always drink also the soma juice endued with four kinds of taste. Having adored the trident-bearing god with Vedic recitations, with brahmacarya, with austerities, and with self-restraint, they have obtained the companionship of Bhava. The divine Maheshvara, that lord of the past, the present, and the future as also Parvati, eat with those diverse tribes of mighty beings that partake of their own nature.

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