"Vyasa said, 'Blessed be thou, O Gandhari, thou shalt behold thy sons and brothers and friends and kinsmen along with thy sires this night like men risen from sleep. Kunti also shall behold Karna, and she of Yadu's race shall behold her son Abhimanyu. Draupadi shall behold her five sons, her sires, and her brothers also. Even before ye had asked me, this was the thought in my mind. I entertained this purpose when I was urged to that effect by the king, by thee, O Gandhari, and by Kunti. Thou shouldst not grieve for those foremost of men. They met with death in consequence of their devotion to the established practices of Kshatriyas. O faultless one, the work of the gods could not but be accomplished. It was for accomplishing that object that those heroes came down on Earth. They were all portions of the deities. Gandharvas and Apsaras, and Pisachas and Guhyakas and Rakshasas, many persons of great sanctity, many individuals crowned with success (of penances), celestial Rishis, deities and Danavas and heavenly Rishis of spotless character, met with death on the battle-field of Kurukshetra. 1 It is heard that he that was the intelligent king of the Gandharvas, and named Dhritarashtra, took birth in the world of men as thy lord Dhritarashtra. Know that Pandu of unfading glory and distinguished above all others, sprung from the Maruts. Kshattri and Yudhishthira are both portions of the deity of Righteousness. Know that Duryodhana was Kali, and Sakuni was Dwapara. O thou of good features, know that Dussasana and others were all Rakshasas. Bhimasena of great might, that chastiser of foes, is from the Maruts. Know that this Dhananjaya, the son of Pritha, is the ancient Rishi Nara. Hrishikesa is Narayana, and the twins are the Aswins. The foremost of heat-giving ones, viz., Surya, having divided his body in twain, continued with one portion to give heat to the worlds and with another to live (on Earth.) as Karna. He that took his birth as the son of Arjuna, that gladdener of all, that heir to the possessions of the Pandavas, who was slain by six great car-warriors (fighting together), was Soma. He was born of Subhadra. Through Yoga-puissance he had divided
himself in twain. Dhrishtadyumna who sprung with Draupadi from the sacrificial fire, was an auspicious portion of the deity of fire. Sikhandin was a Rakshasa. Know that Drona was a portion of Vrihaspati, and that Drona's son is born of a portion of Rudra. Know that Ganga's son Bhishma was one of the Vasus that became born as a human being. Thus, O thou of great wisdom, the deities had taken birth as human beings, and after having accomplished their purposes have gone back to Heaven. That sorrow which is in the hearts of you all, relating to the return of these to the other world, I shall today dispel. Do you all go towards the Bhagirathi.--You will then behold all those that have been slain on the field of battle.'
"Vaisampayana continued, 'All the persons there present, having heard the words of Vyasa, raised a loud leonine shout and then proceeded towards the Bhagirathi. Dhritarashtra with all his ministers and the Pandavas, as also with all those foremost of Rishis and Gandharvas that had come there, set out as directed. Arrived at the banks of Ganga, that sea of men took up their abode as pleased them. The king possessed of great intelligence, with the Pandavas, took up his abode in a desirable spot, along with the ladies and the aged ones of his household. They passed that day as if it were a whole year, waiting for the advent of the night when they would behold the deceased princes. The Sun then reached the sacred mountain in the west and all those persons, having bathed in the sacred stream, finished their evening rites."'
48:1 The sense is that those had been incarnated as human beings and fighting with one another met with death as regards their human existence.