The Mahabharata 9
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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 9: Shalya Parva
Kisari Mohan Ganguli, tr.

Section 1

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

Janamejaya said, “After Karna had thus been slain in battle by Savyasaci, what did the small (unslaughtered) remnant of the Kauravas do, O regenerate one? Beholding the army of the Pandavas swelling with might and energy, what behaviour did the Kuru prince Suyodhana adopt towards the Pandavas, thinking it suitable to the hour? I desire to hear all this. Tell me, O foremost of regenerate ones, I am never satiated with listening to the grand feats of my ancestors.”

Vaishampayana said, “After the fall of Karna, O king, Dhritarashtra’s son Suyodhana was plunged deep into an ocean of grief and saw despair on every side. Indulging in incessant lamentations, saying, ‘Alas, oh Karna! Alas, oh Karna!’ he proceeded with great difficulty to his camp, accompanied by the unslaughtered remnant of the kings on his side. Thinking of the slaughter of the Suta’s son, he could not obtain peace of mind, though comforted by those kings with excellent reasons inculcated by the scriptures. Regarding destiny and necessity to be all-powerful, the Kuru king firmly resolved on battle. Having duly made Shalya the generalissimo of his forces, that bull among kings, O monarch, proceeded for battle, accompanied by that unslaughtered remnant of his forces. Then, O chief of Bharata’s race, a terrible battle took place between the troops of the Kurus and those of the Pandavas, resembling that between the gods and the Asuras. Then Shalya, O monarch, having made a great carnage in battle at last lost a large number of his troops and was slain by Yudhishthira at midday. Then king Duryodhana, having lost all his friends and kinsmen, fled away from the field of battle and penetrated into the depths of a terrible lake from fear of his enemies. On the afternoon of that day, Bhimasena, causing the lake to be encompassed by many mighty car-warriors, summoned Duryodhana and having obliged him to come out, slew him speedily, putting forth his strength. After Duryodhana’s slaughter, the three car-warriors (of the Kuru side) that were still unslain (Ashvatthama and Kripa and Kritavarma), filled with rage, O monarch, slaughtered the Pancala troops in the night. On the next morning Sanjaya, having set out from the camp, entered the city (the Kuru capital), cheerless and filled with grief and sorrow. Having entered the city, the Suta Sanjaya, raising his arms in grief, and with limbs trembling, entered the palace of the king. Filled with grief, O tiger among men, he wept aloud, saying, ‘Alas, O king! Alas, all of us are ruined by the slaughter of that high-souled monarch. Alas, Time is all-powerful, and crooked in his course, since all our allies, endued with might equal to that of Shakra himself, have been slain by the Pandavas.’ Seeing Sanjaya come back to the city, O king, in that distressful plight, all the people, O best of kings, filled with great anxiety, wept loudly, saying, ‘Alas, O king! The whole city, O tiger among men, including the very children, hearing of Duryodhana’s death, sent forth notes of lamentation from every side. We then beheld all the men and women running about, deeply afflicted with grief, their senses gone, and resembling people that are demented.’ The Suta Sanjaya then, deeply agitated, entered the abode of the king and beheld that foremost of monarchs, that lord of men, having wisdom for his eyes. Beholding the sinless monarch, that chief of Bharata’s race, seated, surrounded by his daughters-in-law and Gandhari and Vidura and by other friends and kinsmen that were always his well-wishers, and engaged in thinking on that very subject--the death of Karna--the Suta Sanjaya, with heart filled with grief, O Janamejaya, weepingly and in a voice choked with tears, said unto him, ‘I am Sanjaya, O tiger among men. I bow to thee, O bull of Bharata’s race. The ruler of the Madras, Shalya, hath been slain. Similarly, Subala’s son Shakuni, and Uluka, O tiger among men, that valiant son of the gamester (Shakuni), have been slain. All the Samsaptakas, the Kambojas together with the Sakas, the Mlecchas, the Mountaineers, and the Yavanas, have also been slain. The Easterners have been slain, O monarch, and all the Southerners. The Northerners have all been slain, as also the Westerners, O ruler of men. All the kings and all the princes have been slain, O monarch. King Duryodhana also has been slain by the son of Pandu after the manner he had vowed. With his thighs broken, O monarch, he lieth now on the dust, covered with blood. Dhrishtadyumna also hath been slain, O king, as also the vanquished Shikhandi. Uttamauja and Yudhamanyu, O king, and the Prabhadrakas, and those tiger among men, the Pancalas, and the Cedis, have been destroyed. The sons have all been slain as also the (five) sons of Draupadi, O Bharata. The heroic and mighty son of Karna, Vrishasena, hath been slain. All the men that had been assembled have been slain. All the elephants have been destroyed. All the car-warriors, O tiger among men, and all the steeds, have fallen in battle. Very few are alive on thy side, O lord. In consequence of the Pandavas and the Kauravas having encountered each other, the world, stupefied by Time, now consists of only women. On the side of the Pandavas seven are alive, they are the five Pandava brothers, and Vasudeva, and Satyaki and amongst the Dhartarashtras three are so, Kripa, Kritavarma, and Drona’s son, that foremost of victors. These three car-warriors, O monarch, are all that survive, O best of kings, of all the akshauhinis mustered on thy side, O ruler of men. These are the survivors, O monarch, the rest have perished. Making Duryodhana and his hostility (towards the Pandavas) the cause, the world, it seems, hath been destroyed, O bull of Bharata’s race, by Time.’”

Vaishampayana continued, “Hearing these cruel words, Dhritarashtra, that ruler of men, fell down, O monarch, on the earth, deprived of his senses. As soon as the king fell down, Vidura also, of great fame, O monarch, afflicted with sorrow on account of the king’s distress, fell down on the earth. Gandhari also, O best of kings, and all the Kuru ladies, suddenly fell down on the ground, hearing those cruel words. That entire conclave of royal persons remained lying on the ground, deprived of their senses and raving deliriously, like figures painted on a large piece of canvas. Then king Dhritarashtra, that lord of earth, afflicted with the calamity represented by the death of his sons, slowly and with difficulty regained his life-breaths. Having recovered his senses, the king, with trembling limbs and sorrowful heart, turned his face on every side, and said these words unto Kshattri (Vidura). ‘O learned Kshattri, O thou of great wisdom, thou, O bull of Bharata’s race, art now my refuge. I am lordless and destitute of all my sons.’ Having said this, he once more fell down, deprived of his senses. Beholding him fallen, all his kinsmen that were present there sprinkled cold water over him and fanned him with fans. Comforted after a long while, that lord of earth, afflicted with sorrow on account of the death of his sons, remained silent, sighing heavily, O monarch, like a snake put into a jar. Sanjaya also wept aloud, beholding the king so afflicted. All the ladies too, with Gandhari of great celebrity, did the same. After a long while, O best of men, Dhritarashtra, having repeatedly swooned, addressed Vidura, saying, ‘Let all the ladies retire, as also Gandhari of great fame, and all these friends. My mind hath become greatly unsettled.’ Thus addressed, Vidura, repeatedly trembling, slowly dismissed the ladies, O bull of Bharata’s race. All those ladies retired, O chief of the Bharatas, as also all those friends, beholding the king deeply afflicted. Then Sanjaya cheerlessly looked at the king, O scorcher of foes, who, having recovered his senses, was weeping in great affliction. With joined hands, Vidura then, in sweet words, comforted that ruler of men who was sighing incessantly.’”

Section 2

Vaishampayana said, “After the ladies had been dismissed, Dhritarashtra, the son of Ambika, plunged into grief greater than that which had afflicted him before, began, O monarch, to indulge in lamentations, exhaling breaths that resembled smoke, and repeatedly waving his arms, and reflecting a little, O monarch, he said these words.

"Dhritarashtra said, 'Alas, O Suta, the intelligence is fraught with great grief that I hear from thee, that the Pandavas are all safe and have suffered no loss in battle. Without doubt, my hard heart is made of the essence of thunder, since it breaketh not upon hearing of the fall of my sons. Thinking of their ages, O Sanjaya, and of their sports in childhood, and learning today that all of them have perished, my heart seems to break into pieces. Although in consequence of my blindness I never saw their forms, still I cherished a great love for them in consequence of the affection one feels for his children. Hearing that they had passed out of childhood and entered the period of youth and then of early manhood, I became exceedingly glad, O sinless one. Hearing today that have been slain and divested of prosperity and energy, I fail to obtain peace of mind, being overwhelmed with grief on account of the distress that has overtaken them. Come, come, O king of kings (Duryodhana) to me that am without a protector now! Deprived of thee, O mighty-armed one, what will be my plight? Why, O sire, abandoning all the assembled kings dost thou lie on the bare ground, deprived of life, like an ordinary and wretched king? Having been, O monarch, the refuge of kinsmen and friends, where dost thou go now, O hero, abandoning me that am blind and old? Where now, O king, is that compassion of thine, that love, and that respectfulness? Invincible as thou wert in battle, how, alas, hast thou been slain by the Parthas? Who will now, after I will have waked from sleep at the proper hour, repeatedly address me in such endearing and respectful words as, "O father, O father," "O great king," "O Lord of the world" and affectionately clasping my neck with moistened eyes, will seek my orders, saying, "Command me, O thou of Kuru's race." Address me, O son, in that sweet language once more. O dear child, I heard even these words from thy lips, "This wide earth is as much ours as it is of Pritha's son. Bhagadatta and Kripa and Shalya and the two princes of Avanti and Jayadratha and Bhurishrava and Sala and Somadatta and Bahlika and Ashvatthama and the chief of the Bhojas and the mighty prince of Magadha and Vrihadvala and the ruler of the Kasi and Shakuni the son of Subala and many thousands of Mlecchas and Sakas and Yavanas, and Sudakshina the ruler of the Kambojas and the king of the Trigartas and the grandsire Bhishma and Bharadwaja's son and Gotama's son (Kripa) and Srutayush and Ayutayush and Satayush of great energy, and Jalasandha and Rishyasringa's son and the Rakshasa Alayudha, and the mighty-armed Alambusa and the great car-warrior Subala--these and numerous other kings, O best of monarchs, have taken up arms for my sake, prepared to cast away their very lives in great battle, stationed on the field amidst these, and surrounded by my brothers, I will fight against all the Parthas and the Pancalas and the Cedis, O tiger among kings, and the sons of Draupadi and Satyaki and Kunti-Bhoja and the rakshasa Ghatotkaca. Even one amongst these, O king, excited with rage, is able to resist in battle the Pandavas rushing towards him. What need I say then of all these heroes, every one of whom has wrong to avenge on the Pandavas, when united together? All these, O monarch, will fight with the followers of the Pandavas and will slay them in battle. Karna alone, with myself, will slay the Pandavas. All the heroic kings will then live under my sway. He, who is their leader, the mighty Vasudeva, will not, he has told me, put on mail for them, O king." Even in this way, O Suta, did Duryodhana often use to speak to me. Hearing what he said, I believed that the Pandavas would be slain in battle. When, however, my sons stationed in the midst of those heroes and exerting themselves vigorously in battle have all been slain, what can it be but destiny? When that lord of the world, the valiant Bhishma, having encountered Shikhandi, met with his death like a lion meeting with his at the hands of a jackal, what can it be but destiny? When the Brahmana Drona, that master of all weapons offensive and defensive, has been slain by the Pandavas in battle, what can it be but destiny? When Bhurishrava has been slain in battle, as also Somadatta and king Bahlika, what can it be but destiny? When Bhagadatta, skilled in fight from the backs of elephants, has been slain, and when Jayadratha hath been slain, what can it be but destiny? When Sudakshina has been slain, and Jalasandha of Puru's race, as also Srutayush, and Ayutayush, what can it be but destiny? When the mighty Pandya, that foremost of all wielders of weapons, has been slain in battle by the Pandavas, what can it be but destiny? When Vrihadvala has been slain and the mighty king of the Magadhas, and the valiant Ugrayudha, that type of all bowmen; when the two princes of Avanti (Vinda and Anuvinda) have been slain, and the ruler also of the Trigartas, as also numerous Samsaptakas, what can it be but destiny? When king Alambusa, and the Rakshasas Alayudha, and Rishyasringa's son, have been slain, what can it be but destiny? When the Narayanas have been slain, as also the Gopalas, those troops that were invincible in battle, and many thousands of Mlecchas, what can it be but destiny? When Shakuni, the son of Subala, and the mighty Uluka, called the gamester's son, that hero at the head of his forces, have been slain, what can it be but destiny? When innumerable high-souled heroes, accomplished in all kinds of weapons offensive and defensive and endued with prowess equal to that of Shakra himself, have been slain, O Suta, when Kshatriyas hailing from diverse realms, O Sanjaya, have all been slain in battle, what can it be but destiny? Endued with great might, my sons and grandsons have been slain, as also my friends and brethren, what can it be but destiny? Without doubt, man takes his birth, subject to destiny. That man who is possessed of good fortune meets with good. I am bereft of good fortune, and, therefore, am deprived of my children, O Sanjaya. Old as I am, how shall I now submit to the sway of enemies? I do not think anything other than exile into the woods to be good for me, O lord. Deprived of relatives and kinsmen as I am, I will go into the woods. Nothing other than an exile into the woods can be better for me who am fallen into this plight and who am shorn of my wings, O Sanjaya. When Duryodhana had been slain, when Shalya has been slain, when Duhshasana and Vivingsati and the mighty Vikarna have been slain, how shall I be able to bear the roars of that Bhimasena who hath alone slain a hundred sons of mine in battle? He will frequently speak of the slaughter of Duryodhana in my hearing. Burning with grief and sorrow, I shall not be able to bear his cruel words.'"

Vaishampayana continued, “Even thus that king, burning with grief and deprived of relatives and kinsmen, repeatedly swooned, overwhelmed with sorrow on account of the death of his sons. Having wept for a long while, Dhritarashtra, the son of Ambika, breathed heavy and hot sighs at the thought of his defeat. Overwhelmed with sorrow, and burning with grief, that bull of Bharata’s race once more enquired of his charioteer Sanjaya, the son of Gavalgana, the details of what had happened.

“Dhritarashtra said, ‘After Bhishma and Drona had been slain, and the Suta’s son also overthrown, whom did my warriors make their generalissimo? The Pandavas are slaying without any delay everyone whom my warriors are making their generalissimo in battle. Bhishma was slain at the van of battle by the diadem-decked Arjuna in the very sight of all of you. Even thus was Drona slain in the sight of all of you. Even thus was the Suta’s son, that valiant Karna, slain by Arjuna in the sight of all the kings. Long before, the high-souled Vidura had told me that through the fault of Duryodhana the population of the Earth would be exterminated. There are some fools that do not see things even though they cast their eyes on them. Those words of Vidura have been even so unto my foolish self. What Vidura of righteous soul, conversant with attributes of everything, then said, hath turned out exactly, for the words he uttered were nothing but the truth. Afflicted by fate, I did not then act according to those words. The fruits of that evil course have now manifested themselves. Describe them to me, O son of Gavalgana, once more! Who became the head of our army after Karna’s fall? Who was that car-warrior who proceeded against Arjuna and Vasudeva? Who were they that protected the right wheel of the ruler of the Madras in battle? Who protected the left wheel of that hero when he went to battle? Who also guarded his rear? How, when all of you were together, could the mighty king of the Madras, as also my son, be slain, O Sanjaya, by the Pandavas? Tell me the details of the great destruction of the Bharatas. Tell me how my son Duryodhana fell in battle. Tell me how all the Pancalas with their followers, and Dhrishtadyumna and Shikhandi and the five sons of Draupadi, fell. Tell me how the (five) Pandavas and the two Satwatas (Krishna and Satyaki), and Kripa and Kritavarma and Drona’s son, have escaped with life. I desire to hear everything about the manner in which the battle occurred and the kind of battle it was. Thou art skilled, O Sanjaya, in narration. Tell me everything.’”

Section 3

“Sanjaya said, ‘Hear, O king, with attention, how that great carnage of the Kurus and the Pandavas occurred when they encountered each other. After the Suta’s son had been slain by the illustrious son of Pandu, and after thy troops had been repeatedly rallied and had repeatedly fled away, and after a terrible carnage had taken place, O foremost of men, of human beings in battle subsequent to Karna’s death, Partha began to utter leonine roars. At that time a great fear entered the hearts of thy sons. Indeed, after Karna’s death, there was no warrior in thy army who could set his heart upon rallying the troops or displaying his prowess. They then looked like ship-wrecked merchants on the fathomless ocean without a raft to save themselves. When their protector was slain by the diadem-decked Arjuna, they were like persons on the wide sea desirous of reaching some shore of safety. Indeed, O king, after the slaughter of the Suta’s son, thy troops, struck with panic and mangled with arrows, were like unprotected men desirous of a protector or like a herd of deer afflicted by a lion. Vanquished by Savyasaci, they retired in the evening like bulls with broken horns or snakes shorn of their fangs. Their foremost of heroes slain, themselves thrown into confusion and mangled with keen arrows, thy sons, O king, upon the slaughter of the Suta’s son, fled away in fear. Deprived of weapons and coats of mail, all of them lost their senses and knew not in which direction to fly. Casting their eyes on all sides in fear, many of them began to slaughter one another. Many fell down or became pale, thinking, “It is me whom Vibhatsu is pursuing!” “It is me whom Vrikodara is pursuing!” Some riding on fleet steeds, some on fleet cars, and some on fleet elephants, many great car-warriors fled away from fear, abandoning the foot-soldiers. Cars were broken by elephants, horsemen were crushed by great car-warriors, and bands of foot-soldiers were smashed and slain by bodies of horses as these fled away from the field. After the fall of the Suta’s son, thy troops became like stragglers from a caravan in a forest abounding with robbers and beasts of prey. Some elephants whose riders had been slain, and others whose trunks had been cut off, afflicted with fear, beheld the whole world to be full of Partha. Beholding his troops flying away afflicted with the fear of Bhimasena Duryodhana then, with cries of “Oh!” and “Alas!” addressed his driver, saying, “If I take up my post at the rear of the army, armed with my bow, Partha then will never be able to transgress me. Urge the steeds, therefore, with speed. When I will put forth my valour in battle, Dhananjaya the son of Kunti will not venture to transgress me like the ocean never venturing to transgress its continents. Today, slaying Arjuna with Govinda, and the proud Vrikodara, and the rest of my foes, I will free myself from the debt I owe to Karna.” Hearing these words of the Kuru king, so becoming a hero and an honourable man, his driver slowly urged those steeds adorned with trappings of gold. At that time many brave warriors deprived of elephants and steeds and cars, and 25,000 foot-soldiers, O sire, proceeded slowly (for battle). Then Bhimasena, filled with wrath, and Dhrishtadyumna the son of Prishata, encompassing those troops with the assistance of four kinds of forces, destroyed them with shafts. All of them fought vigorously with Bhima and Prishata’s son. Many amongst them challenged the two Pandava heroes, mentioning their names. Surrounded by them in battle, Bhima became enraged with them. Quickly descending from his car, he began to fight, armed with his mace. Relying on the might of his own arms, Vrikodara the son of Kunti, who was on his car, observant of the rules of fair fight, did not fight with those foes who were on the ground. Armed then with that heavy mace of his that was made entirely of iron and adorned with gold and equipped with a sling, and that resembled the Destroyer himself as he becomes at the end of Yuga, Bhima slew them all like Yama slaughtering creatures with his club. Those foot-soldiers, excited with great rage, having lost their friends and kinsmen, were prepared to throw away their lives, and rushed in that battle towards Bhima like insects towards a blazing fire. Indeed, those warriors, filled with rage and invincible in battle, approaching Bhimasena, suddenly perished like living creatures at the glance of the Destroyer. Armed with sword and mace, Bhima careered like a hawk and slaughtered those 25,000 warriors of thine. Having slain that brave division, the mighty Bhima, of prowess incapable of being baffled, once more stood, with Dhrishtadyumna before him. Meanwhile, Dhananjaya of great energy proceeded towards the car-division (of the Kurus). The twin sons of Madri and the mighty car-warrior Satyaki, all endued with great strength, cheerfully rushed against Shakuni with great speed from desire of slaying him. Having slain with keen shafts the numerous cavalry of Shakuni, those Pandava heroes quickly rushed against Shakuni himself, whereupon a fierce battle was fought there. Then Dhananjaya, O king, penetrated into the midst of the car-division of the Kauravas, stretching his bow Gandiva celebrated over the three worlds. Beholding that car having white steeds yoked unto it and owning Krishna for its driver coming towards them, with Arjuna as the warrior on it, thy troops fled away in fear. Deprived of cars and steeds and pierced with shafts from every side, 25,000 foot-soldiers proceeded towards Partha and surrounded him. Then that mighty car-warrior amongst the Pancalas (Dhrishtadyumna) with Bhimasena at his head, speedily slew that brave division and stood triumphant. The son of the Pancala king, the celebrated Dhrishtadyumna, was a mighty bowman possessed of great beauty and a crusher of large bands of foes. At sight of Dhrishtadyumna unto whose car were yoked steeds white as pigeons and whose standard was made of a lofty Kovidara, the troops fled away in fear. The celebrated sons of Madri, with Satyaki among them, engaged in the pursuit of the Gandhara king who was quick in the use of weapons, speedily appeared to our view. Chekitana and the (five) sons of Draupadi, O sire, having slain a large number of thy troops, blew their conchs. Beholding all the troops flying away with their faces from the field, those (Pandava) heroes pursued and smote them like bulls pursuing vanquished bulls. Then the mighty Savyasaci, the son of Pandu, beholding a remnant of thy army still keeping their ground, became filled with rage, O king. Suddenly, O monarch, he shrouded that remnant of thy forces with arrows. The dust, however, that was then raised enveloped the scene, in consequence of which we could not see anything. Darkness also spread over the scene, and the field of battle was covered with arrows. Thy troops, O monarch, then fled away in fear on all sides. When his army was thus broken, the Kuru king, O monarch, rushed against both friends and foes. Then Duryodhana challenged all the Pandavas to battle, O chief of Bharata’s race, like the Asura Vali in days of yore challenging all the celestials. The Pandavas then, uniting together and filled with rage, upbraiding him repeatedly and shooting diverse weapons, rushed against the roaring Duryodhana. The latter, however, fearlessly smote his foes with shafts. The prowess that we then saw of thy son was exceedingly wonderful, since all the Pandavas together were unable to transgress him. At this time Duryodhana beheld, staying at a little distance from him, his troops, exceedingly mangled with shafts, and prepared to fly away. Rallying them then, O monarch, thy son, resolved on battle and desirous of gladdening them, addressed those warriors, saying, “I do not see that spot on plain or mountain whither, if you fly, the Pandavas will not slay you. What is the use then in flight? The Pandava army hath now been reduced to a small remnant. The two Krishnas have been exceedingly mangled. If all of us make a stand here, we are certain to have victory. If, however, you fly away, breaking your array, the Pandavas, pursuing your sinful selves, will slay all of you. Death in battle, therefore, is for our good. Death in the field of battle while engaged in fight according to Kshatriya practices is pleasant. Such death produces no kind of grief. By encountering such a death, a person enjoys eternal happiness in the other world. Let all the Kshatriyas assembled here listen to me. It were better that they should even submit to the power of the angry Bhimasena than that they should abandon the duties practised by them from the days of their ancestors. There is no act more sinful for a Kshatriya than flight from battle. You Kauravas, there is not a better path to heaven than the duty of battle. The warrior acquires in a day regions of bliss (in the other world) that take many long years for others to acquire.” Fulfilling those words of the king, the great Kshatriya car-warriors once more rushed against the Pandavas, unable to endure their defeat and firmly resolved to put forth their prowess. Then commenced a battle once more, that was exceedingly fierce, between thy troops and the enemy, and that resembled the one between the gods and the Asuras. Thy son Duryodhana then, O monarch, with all his troops, rushed against the Pandavas headed by Yudhishthira.’”

Section 4