The Mahabharata 6
Vyāsa
Hindu
17:29 h
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. It also contains philosophical and devotional material, such as a discussion of the four “goals of life” or puruṣārtha (12.161). Among the principal works and stories in the Mahābhārata are the Bhagavad Gita, the story of Damayanti, an abbreviated version of the Rāmāyaṇa, and the story of Ṛṣyasringa, often considered as works in their own right.
THE MAHABHARATA
Book 6: Bhishma Parva
Kisari Mohan Ganguli, tr.

Section I

(Jamvu-khanda Nirmana Parva)

OM! HAVING BOWED down to Narayana, and Nara, the most exalted of male beings, and also to the goddess Saraswati, must the word ‘Jaya’ be uttered.

Janamejaya said,—”How did those heroes, the Kurus, the Pandavas, and the Somakas, and the high-souled kings assembled together from various countries, fight?”

Vaisampayana said,—”Listen thou, O lord of the earth, how those heroes,—the Kurus, the Pandavas, and the Somakas,—fought on the sacred plain of the Kurukshetra. Entering Kurukshetra, the Pandavas endued with great might, along with the Somakas, advanced, desirous of victory, against the Kauravas. Accomplished in the study of the Vedas, all (of them) took great delight in battle. Expectant of success in battle, with their troops (they) faced the fight. Approaching the army of Dhritarashtra’s son, those (warriors) invincible in battle stationed themselves with their troops on the western part (of the plain), their faces turned towards the east. Yudhishthira, the son of Kunti, caused tents by thousands to be set up according to rule, beyond the region called Samantapanchaka. The whole earth seemed then to be empty, divested of horses and men, destitute of cars and elephants, and with only the children and the old left (at home). From the whole area of Jamvudwipa over which the sun sheds his rays, was collected that force, O best of kings. Men of all races, assembled together, occupied an area extending for many Yojanas over districts, rivers, hills, and woods. That bull among men, king Yudhishthira, ordered excellent food and other articles of enjoyment for all of them along with their animals. And Yudhishthira fixed diverse watch-words for them; so that one saying this should be known as belonging to the Pandavas. And that descendant of Kuru’s race also settled names and badges for all of them for recognition during time of battle.

“Beholding the standard-top of Pritha’s son, the high-souled son of Dhritarashtra, with a white umbrella held over his head, in the midst of a thousand elephants, and surrounded by his century of brothers, began with all the kings (on his side) to array his troops against the son of Pandu. Seeing Duryodhana, the Panchalas who took delight in battle, were filled with joy and blew their loud-sounding conches and cymbals of sweet sounds. Beholding those troops so delighted, Pandu’s son and Vasudeva of great energy had their hearts filled with joy. And those tigers among men, Vasudeva and Dhananjaya, seated on one car, having felt great joy, both blew their celestial conches. And hearing the blare of Gigantea and the loud blast of Theodotes belonging unto the two, the combatants ejected urine and excreta. As other animals are filled with fear on hearing the voice of the roaring lion, even so became that force upon hearing those blasts. A frightful dust arose and nothing could be seen, for the sun himself, suddenly enveloped by it, seemed to have set. A black cloud poured a shower of flesh and blood over the troops all around. All this seemed extraordinary. A wind rose there, bearing along the earth myriads of stony nodules, and afflicting therewith the combatants by hundreds and thousands.(For all that), O monarch, both armies, filled with joy, stood addrest for battle, on Kurukshetra like two agitated oceans. Indeed, that encounter of the two armies was highly wonderful, like that of two oceans when the end of the Yuga is arrived. The whole earth was empty, having only the children and the old left (at home), in consequence of that large army mustered by the Kauravas. Then the Kurus, the Pandavas, and the Somakas made certain covenants, and settled the rules, O bull of Bharata’s race, regarding the different kinds of combat. Persons equally circumstanced must encounter each other, fighting fairly. And if having fought fairly the combatants withdraw (without fear of molestation), even that would be gratifying to us. Those who engaged in contests of words should be fought against with words. Those that left the ranks should never be slain. A car-warrior should have a car-warrior for his antagonist; he on the neck of an elephant should have a similar combatant for his foe; a horse should be met by a horse, and a foot-soldier, O Bharata; should be met by a foot-soldier. Guided by considerations of fitness, willingness, daring and might, one should strike another, giving notice. No one should strike another that is unprepared or panic-struck. One engaged with another, one seeking quarter, one retreating, one whose weapon is rendered unfit, uncased in mail, should never be struck. Car-drivers, animals (yoked to cars or carrying weapons) men engaged in the transport of weapons, players on drums and blowers of conches should never be struck. Having made these covenants, the Kurus, and the Pandavas, and the Somakas wondered much, gazing at each other. And having stationed (their forces thus), those bulls among men, those high-souled ones, with their troops, became glad at heart, their joy being reflected on their countenances.”


Section II

Vaisampayana said,—”Seeing then the two armies (standing) on the east and the west for the fierce battle that was impending, the holy Rishi Vyasa, the son of Satyavati, that foremost of all persons acquainted with the Vedas, that grandsire of the Bharatas, conversant with the past, the present, and the future, and beholding everything as if it were present before his eyes, said these words in private unto the royal son of Vichitravirya who was then distressed and giving way to sorrow, reflecting on the evil policy of his sons.

“Vyasa said,—’O king, thy sons and the other monarchs have their hour arrived. Mustered in battle they will kill one another. O Bharata, their hour having come, they will all perish. Bearing in mind the changes brought on by time, do not yield thy heart to grief. O king, if thou wish to see them (fighting) in battle, I will, O son, grant thee vision. Behold the battle.”

“Dhritarashtra said,—’O best of regenerate Rishi, I like not to behold the slaughter of kinsmen. I shall, however, through thy potency hear of this battle minutely.”

Vaisampayana continued.—”Upon his not wishing to see the battle but wishing to hear of it, Vyasa, that lord of boons, gave a boon to Sanjaya.(And addressing Dhritarashtra he said),—’This Sanjaya, O king, will describe the battle to thee. Nothing in the whole battle will be beyond this one’s eyes.’ Endued, O king with celestial vision, Sanjaya will narrate the battle to thee. He will have knowledge of everything. Manifest or concealed,(happening) by day or by night, even that which is thought of in the mind, Sanjaya shall know everything. Weapons will not cut him and exertion will not fatigue him. This son of Gavalgani will come out of the battle with life. As regards myself, O bull of Bharata’s race, the fame of these Kurus, as also of all the Pandavas, I will spread. Do not grieve. This is destiny, O tiger among men. It behoveth thee not to give way to grief. It is not capable of being prevented. As regards victory, it is there where righteousness is.’”

Vaisampayana continued,—”That highly-blessed and holy grandsire of the Kurus, having said so, once more addressed Dhritarashtra and said,—’Great will the slaughter be, O monarch, in this battle. I see here also (numerous) omens indicative of terror. Hawks and vultures, and crows and herons, together with cranes, are alighting on the tops of trees and gathering in flocks. These birds, delighted at the prospect of battle, are looking down (on the field) before them. Carnivorous beasts will feed on the flesh of elephants and steeds. Fierce herons, foreboding terror, and uttering merciless cries, are wheeling across the centre towards the southern region. In both the twilights, prior and posterior, I daily behold, O Bharata, the sun during his rising and setting to be covered by headless trunks. Tri-coloured clouds with their extremities white and red and necks black, charged with lightning, and resembling maces (in figure) envelope the sun in both twilights. I have seen the sun, the moon, and the stars to be all blazing. No difference in their aspect is to be noted in the evening. I have seen this all day and all night. All this forbodes fear. On even the fifteenth night of the lighted-fortnight in (the month of) Kartika, the moon, divested of splendour, became invisible, or of the hue of fire, the firmament being of the hue of the lotus. Many heroic lords of earth, kings and princes, endued with great bravery and possessed of arms resembling maces, will be slain and sleep lying down on the earth. Daily I notice in the sky during night time the fierce cries of battling boars and cats. The images of gods and goddesses sometimes laugh, sometimes tremble, and sometimes again these vomit blood through their mouths and sometimes they sweat and sometimes fall down. O monarch! drums, without being beaten, give sounds, and the great cars of Kshatriyas move without (being drawn by) animals yoked to them. Kokilas, wood-peckers, jaws, water-cocks, parrots, crows, and peacocks, utter terrible cries. Here and there, cavalry soldiers, cased in mail, armed with weapons, send forth fierce shouts. At sun-rise flights of insects, by hundreds are seen. In both twilights, the cardinal quarters seem to be ablaze, and the clouds, O Bharata, shower dust and flesh. She, O king, who is celebrated over the three worlds and is applauded by the righteous, even that (constellation) Arundhati keepeth (her lord) Vasistha on her back. The planet Sani also, O king, appeareth afflicting (the constellation) Rohini. The sign of the deer in the Moon hath deviated from its usual position. A great terror is indicated. Even though the sky is cloudless, a terrible roar is heard there. The animals are all weeping and their tears are falling fast.’”


Section III

“Vyasa said,—’Asses are taking births in kine. Some are having sexual pleasure with mothers. The trees in the forests are exhibiting unseasonable flowers and fruits. Women quick with child, and even those that are not so, are giving birth to monsters. Carnivorous beasts, mingling with (carnivorous) birds, are feeding together. Ill-omened beasts, some having three horns, some with four eyes, some with five legs, some with two sexual organs, some with two heads, some with two tails, some having fierce teeth, are being born, and with mouths wide open are uttering unholy cries. Horses with three legs, furnished with crests, having four teeth, and endued with horns, are also being born. O king! in thy city is also seen that the wives of many utterers of Brahma are bringing forth Garudas and peacocks. The mare is bringing forth the cow-calf and the bitch is bringing forth, O king, jackals and cocks, and antelopes and parrots are all uttering inauspicious cries. Certain women are bringing forth four or five daughters (at a time), and these as soon as they are born, dance and sing and laugh. The members of the lowest orders are laughing and dancing and singing, and thus indicating direful consequences. Infants, as if urged by death, are drawing armed images, and are running against one another, armed with clubs, and desirous of battle are also breaking down the towns (they erect in sport). Lotuses of different kinds and lilies are growing on trees. Strong winds are blowing fiercely and the dust ceaseth not. The earth is frequently trembling, and Rahu approacheth towards the sun. The white planet (Ketu) stayeth, having passed beyond the constellation Chitra. All this particularly bodeth the destruction of the Kurus. A fierce comet riseth, afflicting the constellation Pusya. This great planet will cause frightful mischief to both the armies. Mars wheeleth towards Magha and Vrihaspati (Jupiter) towards Sravana. The Sun’s offspring (Sani) approaching towards the constellation Bhaga, afflicteth it. The planet Sukra, ascending towards Purva Bhadra, shineth brilliantly, and wheeling towards the Uttara Bhadra, looketh towards it, having effected a junction (with a smaller planet). The white planet (Ketu), blazing up like fire mixed with smoke, stayeth, having attacked the bright constellation Jeshtha that is sacred to Indra. The constellation Dhruva, blazing fiercely, wheeleth towards the right. Both the Moon and the Sun are afflicting Rohini. The fierce planet (Rahu) hath taken up its position between the constellations Chitra and Swati. The red-bodied (Mars) possessed of the effulgence of fire, wheeling circuitously, stayeth in a line with the constellation Sravana over-ridden by Vrihaspati. The earth that produceth particular crops at particular seasons is now covered with the crops of every season. Every barley-stalk is graced with five ears, and every paddy-stalk with a hundred. They that are the best of creatures in the worlds and upon whom depends the universe, viz., kine, when milked after the calves have their suck, yield only blood. Radiant rays of light emanate from bows, and swords blaze forth brilliantly. It is evident that the weapons behold (before them) the battle, as if it were already arrived. The hue of weapons and the water, as also of coats of mail and standards, is like that of fire. A great slaughter will take place. In this battle, O Bharata, of the Kurus with the Pandavas, the earth, O monarch, will be a river of blood with the standards (of warriors) as its rafts. Animals and birds on all sides, with mouths blazing like fire, uttering fierce cries, and displaying these evil omens, are foreboding terrible consequences. A (fierce) bird with but one wing, one eye, and one leg, hovering over the sky in the night, screameth frightfully in wrath, as if for making the hearers vomit blood? It seemeth, O great king, that all weapons are now blazing with radiance. The effulgence of the constellation known by the name of the seven high-souled Rishis, hath been dimmed. Those two blazing planets, viz., Vrihaspati and Sani, having approached the constellation called Visakha, have become stationary there for a whole year. Three lunations twice meeting together in course of the same lunar fortnight, the duration of the latter is shortened by two days. On the thirteenth day therefore, from the first lunation, according as it is the day of the full moon or the new moon, the moon and the sun are afflicted by Rahu. Such strange eclipses, both lunar and solar, forebode a great slaughter. All the quarters of the earth, being overwhelmed by showers of dust, look inauspicious. Fierce clouds, portentous of danger, drop bloody showers during the night. Rahu of fierce deeds is also, O monarch, afflicting the constellation Kirtika. Rough winds, portending fierce danger, are constantly blowing. All these beget a war characterised by many sad incidents. The constellations are divided into three classes. Upon one or another of each class, a planet of evil omen has shed its influence, foreboding terrible dangers. A lunar fortnight had hitherto consisted of fourteen days, or fifteen days (as usual), or sixteen days. This, however, I never knew that the day of new-moon would be on the thirteenth day from the first lunation, or the day of full-moon on the thirteenth day from the same. And yet in course of the same month both the Moon and the Sun have undergone eclipses on the thirteenth days from the day of the first lunation. The Sun and the Moon therefore, by undergoing eclipses on unusual days, will cause a great slaughter of the creatures of the earth. Indeed, Rakshasas, though drinking blood by mouthful, will yet not be satiated. The great rivers are flowing in opposite directions. The waters of rivers have become bloody. The wells, foaming up, are bellowing like bulls. Meteors, effulgent like Indra’s thunder-bolt, fall with loud hisses. When this night passeth away, evil consequences will overtake you. People, for meeting together, coming out of their houses with lighted brands, have still to encounter a thick gloom all round. Great Rishis have said that in view of such circumstances the earth drinks the blood of thousands of kings. From the mountains of Kailasa and Mandara and Himavat thousands of explosions are heard and thousands of summits are tumbling down. In consequence of the Earth’s trembling, each of the four oceans having swelled greatly, seems ready to transgress its continents for afflicting the Earth. Fierce winds charged with pointed pebbles are blowing, crushing mighty trees. In villages and towns trees, ordinary and sacred, are falling down, crushed by mighty winds and struck by lightning. The (sacrificial) fire, when Brahmanas pour libations on it, becomes blue, or red, or yellow. Its flames bend towards the left, yielding a bad scent, accompanied by loud reports. Touch, smell, and taste have, O monarch, become what they were not. The standards (of warriors), repeatedly trembling are emitting smoke. Drums and cymbals are throwing off showers of coal-dust. And from the tops of tall trees all around, crows, wheeling in circles from the left, are uttering fierce cries. All of them again are uttering frightful cries of pakka, pakka and are perching upon the tops of standards for the destruction of the kings. Vicious elephants, trembling all over, are running hither and thither, urinating and ejecting excreta. The horses are all melancholy, while the elephants are resorting to the water. Hearing all this, let that be done which is suitable, so that, O Bharata, the world may not be depopulated.’”