Sacred Texts  Hinduism  Mahabharata  Index  Previous  Next 


Sanjaya said, "While they were battling, the Sun set, O Bharata, aid there came the dreadful hour of twilight and the battle could no longer be seen. Then king Yudhishthira, seeing that twilight had come and that his own troops, slaughtered by Bhishma, had thrown aside their weapons, and that stricken with fear, and turned off the field, they were seeking to flee away, and beholding Bhishma also, that mighty car-warrior, excited with wrath and afflicting everybody in fight, and noticing that the mighty car-warriors of the Somakas, having been vanquished, had all become cheerless,

p. 268

reflected a little, and then ordered the troops to be withdrawn. Then king Yudhishthira withdrew his forces. And similarly, the withdrawal of thy forces also took place at the same time. Then those mighty car-warriors, O chief of the Kurus, having withdrawn their forces, entered their tents, themselves mangled in battle. Afflicted by the shafts of Bhishma and reflecting upon that hero's feats in battle, the Pandavas obtained no peace of mind. Bhishma also, having vanquished the Pandavas and the Srinjayas in battle, was worshipped by thy sons and glorified by them, O Bharata. Accompanied by the rejoicing Kurus, he then entered his tent. Night then set in, that deprives all creatures of their senses. Then in that fierce hour of night, the Pandavas, the Vrishnis and the invincible Srinjayas sat down for a consultation. All those mighty persons, skilled in arriving at conclusions in council, coolly deliberated about that which was beneficial for them in view of their immediate circumstances. Then king Yudhishthira, having reflected for a long while, said these words, casting his eyes on Vasudeva, 'Behold, O Krishna, the high-souled Bhishma of fierce prowess. He crusheth my troops like an elephant crushing a forest of reeds. We dare not even look at that high-souled warrior. Like a raging conflagration he licketh up my troops. The valiant Bhishma of keen weapons, when excited with wrath in battle and bow in hand shooting his shafts, becometh as fierce as the mighty Naga Takshaka of virulent poison. Indeed, the angry Yama is capable of being vanquished, or even the chief of the celestials armed with the thunder, or Varuna himself, noose in hand, or the Lord of the Yakshas armed with mace. But Bhishma, excited with wrath, is incapable of being vanquished in battle. When this is the case, O Krishna, I am, through the weakness of my understanding, plunged in an ocean of grief having got Bhishma (as a foe) in battle. I will retire into the woods, O invincible one. My exile there would be for my benefit. Battle, O Krishna, I no longer desire. Bhishma slayeth us always. As an insect, by rushing into a blazing fire meeteth only with death, even so do I rush upon Bhishma. In putting forth prowess, O thou of Vrishni's race, for the sake of my kingdom, I am, alas, led to destruction. My brave brothers have all been exceedingly afflicted with arrows. In consequence of the affection they bear to myself their (eldest) brother they had to go into the woods, deprived of kingdom. For myself alone, O slayer of Madhu, hath Krishna been sunk into such distress. I regard life to be of high value. Indeed, even life now seemeth to be difficult of being saved. (If I can save that life), its latter remnant will I pass in the practice of excellent virtue. If, with my brothers, O Kesava, I am worthy of thy favour, tell me, O Krishna, what is for my benefit, without contravening the duties of my order. Hearing these words of his, and (describing the situation) in detail, Krishna, from compassion, said these words in reply for comforting Yudhishthira, 'O son of Dharma, O thou that art firm in truth, do thou not indulge in sorrow, thou that hast these invincible heroes, these slayers of foes, for thy brothers. Arjuna and Bhimasena are each endued with the energy of the Wind and the Fire. The twin sons of Madri also are each as valiant as the Chief of the celestials

p. 269

himself. From the good understanding that exists between us, do thou set me also to this task. Even I, O son of Pandu, will fight with Bhishma. Directed by thee, O great king, what is there that I may not do in great battle. Challenging that bull among men, viz., Bhishma, I will slay him in battle, in the very sight of the Dhartarashtras, if Phalguni doth not wish to slay him. If, O son of Pandu, thou seest victory to be certain on the slaughter of the heroic Bhishma, even, I, on a single car, will slay that aged grandsire of the Kurus. Behold, O king, my prowess, equal to that of the great Indra in battle. I will overthrow from his car that warrior who always shooteth mighty weapons. He that is an enemy of the sons of Pandu, without doubt, is my enemy also. They, that are yours, are mine, and so they, that are mine, are yours. Thy brother (Arjuna) is my friend, relative, and disciple. I will, O king, cut off my own flesh and give it away for the sake of Arjuna. And this tiger among men also can lay down his life for my sake. O sire, even this is our understanding, viz., that we will protect each other. Therefore, command me, O king, in what way I am to fight. Formerly, at Upaplavya, Partha had, in the presence of many persons, vowed, saying, 'I will slay the son of Ganga.' These words of the intelligent Partha should be observed (in practice). Indeed, if Partha requests me without doubt I will fulfill that vow. Or, let it be the task of Phalguni himself in battle. It is not heavy for him. He will slay Bhishma, that subjugator of hostile cities. If excited in battle, Partha can achieve feats that are incapable of being achieved by others. Arjuna can slay in battle the very gods exerting themselves actively, along with the Daityas and the Danavas. What need be said of Bhishma, therefore, O king? Endued with great energy, Bhishma, the son of Santanu, is now of perverted judgment, of intelligence decayed, and of little sense, without doubt, he knoweth not what he should do.'

"Hearing these words of Krishna, Yudhishthira said, 'It is even so, O thou of mighty arms, even as thou sayest, O thou of Madhu's race. All these together are not competent to bear thy force. I am sure of always having whatever I desire, when, O tiger among men, I have thyself staying on my side. O foremost of victorious persons, I would conquer the very gods with Indra at their head, when, O Govinda, I have thee for my protector. What need I say, therefore, of Bhishma, though he is a mighty car-warrior? But, O Krishna, I dare not, for my own glorification, falsify thy words. Therefore, O Madhava, as promised before by thee, render me aid without fighting for me. In this battle an agreement was made by me with Bhishma. He said,--I will give thee counsel, but fight I shall never for thee, since I shall have to fight for Duryodhana's sake. Know this for truth. Therefore, O Lord, Bhishma may give me sovereignty by giving me good counsel, O Madhava. Therefore, O slayer of Madhu, all of us accompanied by thee, will once more repair unto Devavrata, for asking him about the means of his own death. All of us then, O best of persons, together going to Bhishma without delay, will speedily ask him of Kuru's race his advice. O Janardana, he will truly give us beneficial counsel; and O Krishna, I will do in battle what he will say. Of austere vows, he will give us counsel,

p. 270

as also victory. We were children and orphans. By him were we reared. O Madhava, him, our aged grandsire, I wish to day,--him, the sire of our sire. Oh, fie upon the profession of a Kshatriyas.'

Sanjaya continued, "Hearing these words, O king, he of Vrishni's race said unto Yudhishthira, 'O thou of great wisdom, these words of thine, O king, are to my taste. Bhishma, otherwise called Devavrata, is skilled in weapons. With only his glances he can consume the foe. Repair unto that son of the Ocean-going (Ganga), for asking him about the means of his death. Asked by thee, in particular, he will certainly say the truth. We will, therefore, proceed for questioning the Kuru grandsire. Repairing unto the reverend son of Santanu, we will, O Bharata, ask him his advice and according to the advice that he will give us we will fight with the foe.' Having thus deliberated, O elder brother of Pandu, the heroic sons of Pandu, and the valiant Vasudeva, all proceeded together towards the abode of Bhishma, casting aside their coats of mail and weapons and entering then his tent, they all bowed to him, bending their heads. And the sons of Pandu, O king, worshipping that bull of Bharata's race, and bowing unto him with their heads, sought his protection. The Kuru grandsire, the mighty-armed Bhishma, then addressed them, saying, 'Welcome art thou, O thou of Vrishni's race. Welcome art thou, O Dhananjaya. Welcome to thee, O king Yudhishthira the just, Ad to thee, O Bhima. Welcome to you also, ye twins. What am I to do now for enhancing your joy? Even if it be exceedingly difficult of achievement, I will yet do it with all my soul. Unto the son of Ganga who thus repeatedly spoke unto them with such affection, king Yudhishthira, with a cheerful heart, lovingly said, these words, 'O thou that art conversant with everything, how shall we obtain victory, and how shall we acquire sovereignty? How also may this destruction of creatures be stopped? Say all these unto me, O lord. Tell us the means of thy own death. How, O hero, shall we be able to bear thee in battle? O grandsire of the Kurus, thou givest not thy foes even a minute hole to pick in thee. Thou art seen in battle with thy bow ever drawn to a circle. When thou takest thy shafts, when aimest them, and when drawest the bow (for letting them off), no one is able to mark. O slayer of hostile heroes, constantly smiting (as thou dost) cars and steeds and men and elephants, we behold thee on thy car, O mighty-armed one, to resemble a second Sun. What man is there, O bull of Bharata's race, who can venture to vanquish thee, scattering showers of arrows in battle, and causing a great destruction. Tell me, O grandsire, the means by which we may vanquish thee in battle, by which sovereignty may be ours, and lastly, by which my army may not have to undergo such destruction. Hearing these words, Santanu's son, O elder brother of Pandu, said unto the son of Pandu, 'As long as I am alive, O son of Kunti, victory cannot be yours in battle, O thou of great wisdom. Truly do I say this unto thee. After, however, I am vanquished in fight, ye may have victory in battle, ye sons of Pandu. If, therefore, ye desire victory in the battle, smite me down without delay. I give you permission, ye sons of Pritha, strike me as ye please. I am thus known to

p. 271

you in what I regard to be a fortunate circumstance. 1 After I am slain, all the rest will be slain. Therefore, do as I bid'.

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

"Bhishma said, 'That, O son of Pandu, is true, which thou sayest. O thou, of mighty arms. When with weapons and my large bow in hand I contend carefully in battle, I am incapable of being defeated by the very gods and the Asuras with Indra at their head. If, however, I lay aside my weapons, even these car-warriors can slay me. One that hath thrown away his weapons, one that hath fallen down, one whose armour hath slipped off, one whose standard is down, one who is flying away, one who is frightened, one who says--I am thine--one who is a female, one who beareth the name of a female, one no longer capable of taking care of one's self, one who hath only a single son, or one who is a vulgar fellows,--with these I do not like to battle. Hear also, O king, about my resolve formed before. Beholding any inauspicious omen I would never fight. That mighty car-warrior, the son of Drupada, O king, whom thou hast in thy army, who is known by the name of Sikhandin, who is wrathful in battle, brave, and ever victorious, was a female before but subsequently obtained manhood. How all this took place, ye all know it truly. Brave in battle and clad in mail, let Arjuna, keeping Sikhandin before him, attack me with his sharp shafts. When that inauspicious omen will be there, especially in the form of one that was a female before, I will never seek, though armed with bow and arrow, to strike him. Obtaining that opportunity, let Dhananjaya the son of Pandu quickly pierce me on every side with his shafts, O bull of Bharata's race. Except the highly blessed Krishna, and Dhananjaya the son of Pandu, I do not behold the person in the three worlds who is able to slay me while exerting myself in battle. Let Vibhatsu, therefore, armed with weapons, struggling carefully in battle, with his excellent bow in hand, placing (Sikhandin or) something else before, throw, me down (from my car). Then the victory will be certain. Do this, O great king, even this that I have said unto thee, O thou of excellent vows. Thou wilt then be able to slay all Dhartarashtras assembled together in battle.'

Sanjaya continued, "The Parthas then, having ascertained all this went back to their tents, saluting the Kuru grandsire, viz., the high-souled Bhishma. After Ganga's son, prepared to go to the other world, had said this, Arjuna. burning with grief and his face suffused in shame, said these

p. 272

words, 'How, O Madhava, shall I fight in battle with the grandsire who is my senior in years, who is possessed of wisdom and intelligence, and who is the oldest member of our race? While sporting in days of childhood, O Vasudeva, I used to smear the body of this high-souled and illustrious one with dust by climbing on his lap with my own filthy body. O elder brother of Gada, he is the sire of my sire Pandu. While a child, climbing on the lap of this high-souled one I once called him father, I am not thy father but thy father's father, O Bharata!--even this is what he said to me (in reply) in my childhood. He who said so, Oh, how can he be slain by me. O, let my army perish. Whether, it is victory or death that I obtain I will never fight that high-souled person. (Even this is what I think). What dost thou think, O Krishna!'

"Vasudeva said, 'Having vowed the slaughter of Bhishma before, O Jishnu, how canst thou abstain from slaying him, agreeably to the duties of a Kshatriya? Throw down from his car, O Partha, that Kshatriya who is invincible in battle. Victory can never be yours without slaying Ganga's son. Even thus shall he go to the abode of Yama. This hath been settled before by the gods. That which hath been destined before, O Partha, must happen. It cannot be otherwise. None save thee, O invincible one, not even the wielder of the thunder-bolt himself, would be capable of fighting with Bhishma, who is like the Destroyer with wide-open mouth. Slay Bhishma, without any anxiety. Listen also to these words of mine that are what Vrihaspati of great intelligence had said unto Sakra in days of old. One should slay even an aged person endued with every merit and worthy of reverence if he cometh as a foe, or, indeed any other who approacheth for destroying one's self--O Dhananjaya, this is the eternal duty sanctioned for the Kshatriya, viz., that they should fight, protect subjects, and perform sacrifices, all without malice.'

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

Sanjaya continued, "Having settled this with Bhishma's permission, the Pandavas, along with Madhava, went away with rejoicing hearts. And then those bulls among men retired to their respective beds."


271:1 That you know me to be invincible is a fortunate circumstance, for if you had not known this, you would have fought on for days together and thus caused a tremendous destruction of creatures. By your coming to know, that destruction may be stopped.

Next: Section CIX