Sanjaya said, "The high-souled Bhishma, deeply pierced with wordy daggers by thy son, became filled with great grief. But he said not a single disagreeable word in reply. Indeed, mangled by those wordy daggers and filled with grief and rage, he sighed like a snake and reflected (in silence) for a long while. Raising his eyes then, and as if consuming, from wrath, the world with the celestials, the Asuras, and the Gandharvas, that foremost of persons conversant with the world, then addressed thy son and said unto him these tranquil words, 'Why, O Duryodhana, dost thou pierce me thus with thy wordy daggers? I always endeavour to the utmost of my might to achieve, and do achieve, what is for thy good. Indeed, from desire of doing what is agreeable to thee, I am prepared to cast away my life in battle. The Pandavas are
really invincible. When the brave son of Pandu gratified Agni in the forest of Khandava, having vanquished Sakra himself in battle, even that is a sufficient indication. 1 When, O mighty-armed one, the same son of Pandu rescued thee while thou wert being led away a captive by the Gandharvas, even that is a sufficient indication. On that occasion, O lord, thy brave uterine brothers had all fled, as also Radha's son of the Suta caste. That (rescue, therefore, by Arjuna) is a sufficient indication. In Virata's city, alone he fell upon all of us united together. That is a sufficient indication. Vanquishing in battle both Drona and myself excited with rage, he took away our robes. That is a sufficient indication. On that occasion, of old, of the seizure of kine, he vanquished that mighty bowman the son of Drona, and Saradwat also. That is a sufficient indication. Having vanquished Karna also who is very boastful of his manliness, he gave the latter's robes unto Uttara. That is a sufficient indication. The son of Pritha defeated in battle the Nivatakavachas who were incapable of defeat by Vasava himself. That is a sufficient indication. Who, indeed, is capable of vanquishing in battle the son of Pandu by force, him, viz., that hath for his protector the Protector of the Universe armed with conch, discus, and mace? Vasudeva is possessed of infinite power, and is the Destroyer of the Universe. He is the highest Lord of all, the God of gods, the Supreme Soul and eternal. He hath been variously described, O king, by Narada and other great Rishis. In consequence of thy folly, however, O Suyodhana, thou knowest not what should be said and what should not. The man on the point of death beholdeth all trees to be made of gold. So thou also, O son of Gandhari, seest everything inverted. Having provoked fierce hostilities with the Pandavas and the Srinjayas, fight now (thyself) with them in battle. Let us see thee act like a man. As regards myself, I will, O tiger among men, slay all the Somakas and the Panchalas assembled together, avoiding Sikhandin alone. Slain by them in battle, I will go to Yama's abode, or slaying them in battle, I will give thee joy. Sikhandin was born in Drupada's palace as female at first. She became a male in consequence of the grant of a boon. After all, however, she is Sikhandini. Him I will not slay even if I have to lose my life, O Bharata. She is the same Sikhandini that the Creator had first made her. Pass the night in happy sleep, O son of Gandhari. Tomorrow I will fight a fierce battle about which men will speak as long as the world lasts.' Thus addressed by him, thy son, O monarch, came away. And saluting his signior with a bow of the head, he came back to his own tent. Coming back, the king dismissed his attendants. And soon then that destroyer of foes entered his abode. And having entered (his tent) the monarch passed the night (in. sleep). And when the night dawned, rising up, the king, ordered all the royal warriors, saying, Draw up the forces. Today Bhishma, excited with wrath, will slay all the Somakas.'
Hearing those copious lamentations of Duryodhana in the night,
[paragraph continues] Bhishma regarded them, O king, as commands to himself. Filled with great grief and deprecating the status of servitude, Santanu's son reflected for a long time, thinking of an encounter with Arjuna in battle. Understanding from signs that Ganga's son had been thinking of that, Duryodhana, O king, commanding Dussasana, saying, 'O Dussasana, let cars be quickly appointed for protecting Bhishma. Let all the two and twenty divisions (of our army) be urged on. That hath now come about which we had been thinking for a series of years, viz., the slaughter of the Pandavas with all their troops and the acquisition (by ourselves) of the kingdom. In this matter, I think, the protection of Bhishma is our foremost duty. Protected by us, he will protect us and slay the Parthas in battle. Of cleansed soul, he said unto me,--I will not slay Sikhandini. He was a female before, O king, and, therefore, should be avoided by me in battle. The world knoweth, O thou of mighty arms, that from desire of doing good to my father, I formerly gave up a swelling kingdom. I will not, therefore, slay in battle, O foremost of men, any female or anybody that was a female before. This that I tell thee is true. This Sikhandin, O king, was first born a female. Thou hast heard that story. She was born as Sikhandini after the manner I told thee before the battle began. Taking her birth as a daughter she hath become a man. Indeed, she will fight with me, but I will never shoot my arrows at her. As regards all other Kshatriyas desirous of victory to the Pandavas, O sire, whom I may get within my reach on the field of battle, I will slay them.--These were the words that Ganga's son acquainted with the scriptures, that chief of Bharata's race, said unto me. Therefore, with my whole soul I think that protecting the son of Ganga is our foremost duty. The very wolf may slay the lion left unprotected in the great forest. Let not Ganga's son be slain by Sikhandin like the lion slain by the wolf. Let our maternal uncle Sakuni, and Salya, and Kripa, and Drona, and Vivingsati, carefully protect the son of Ganga. If he is protected, (our) victory is certain.'
"Hearing these words of Duryodhana, all surrounded Ganga's son with a large division of cars. And thy sons also, taking up their position around Bhishma, proceeded to battle. And they all went, shaking the earth and the welkin, and causing fear in the hearts of the Pandavas. The mighty car-warriors (of the Kaurava army), supported by those cars and elephants, and clad in mail, stood in battle, surrounding Bhishma. And all of them took up their positions for protecting that mighty car-warrior like the celestials in the battle between themselves and the Asuras for protecting the wielder of the thunder-bolt. Then king Duryodhana once more addressing his brother, said, 'Yudhamanyu protects the left wheel of Arjuna's car, and Uttamaujas his right wheel. And (thus protected) Arjuna protects Sikhandin. O Dussasana, adopt such steps that, protected by Partha, Sikhandin may not be able to slay Bhishma left unprotected by us.' Hearing these words of his brother, thy son Dussasana, accompanied by the troops, advanced for battle, placing Bhishma in the van. Beholding Bhishma (thus surrounded by a large number of cars), Arjuna, that foremost of car-warriors,
addressed Dhrishtadyumna and said, 'O prince, place that tiger among men, Sikhandin, today in front of Bhishma, I myself will be his protector, O prince of Panchala."
247:1 Some of the Bengal texts, in the first line of the 6th, incorrectly read sa-run for Sakram.