The Mahabharata, Book 12: Santi Parva[pt 2]




Section 16
Section 17
Section 18
Section 19
Section 20
Section 21
Section 22
Section 23
Section 24
Section 25
Section 26
Section 27



Vaishampayana said, “Having said these words, Gandhari, though staying on that spot which was distant from the field of battle, beheld, with her spiritual eye, the slaughter of the Kurus. Devoted to her lord, that highly blessed lady had always practised high vows. Undergoing the severest penances, she was always truthful in her speech. In consequence of the gift of the boon by the great rishi Vyasa of sanctified deeds, she became possessed of spiritual knowledge and power. Piteous were the lamentations in which that dame then indulged. Endued with great intelligence, the Kuru dame saw, from a distance, but as if from a near point, that field of battle, terrible to behold and full of wonderful sights, of those foremost of fighters. Scattered all over with bones and hair, and covered with streams of blood, that field was strewn with thousands upon thousands of dead bodies on every side. Covered with the blood of elephants and horses and car-warriors and combatants of other kinds, it teemed with headless trunks and trunkless heads. And it resounded with the cries of elephants and steeds and men and women and abounded with jackals and cranes and ravens and kankas and crows. And it was the sporting ground of rakshasas subsisting on human flesh. And it swarmed with ospreys and vultures and resounded with the inauspicious howls of jackals. Then king Dhritarashtra, at the command of Vyasa, and all the sons of Pandu with Yudhishthira at their head, with Vasudeva and all the Kuru ladies, proceeded to the field of battle. Those ladies, bereaved of their lords, having reached Kurukshetra, beheld their slain brothers and sons and sires and husbands lying on the ground, and in course of being devoured by beasts of prey and wolves and ravens and crows and ghosts and pishacas and rakshasas and diverse other wanderers of the night. Beholding that carnage which resembled the sights seen on the sporting ground of Rudra, the ladies uttered loud shrieks and quickly alighted from their costly vehicles. Witnessing sights the like of which they had never before witnessed, the Bharata ladies felt their limbs to be deprived of strength and fell down on the ground. Others became so stupefied that they lost all their senses. Indeed, the Pancala and the Kuru ladies were plunged into unutterable distress. Beholding that dreadful field of battle resounding on every direction with the cries of those grief-stricken ladies, the daughter of Subala, acquainted with every duty, addressed the lotus-eyed Keshava, that foremost of all men. Witnessing that universal slaughter of the Kurus and filled with grief at the sight, she said these words: ‘Behold, O lotus-eyed Madhava, these daughters-in-law of mine! Deprived of their lords, they are uttering, with dishevelled hair, piteous cries of woe like a flight of she-ospreys. Meeting with those dead bodies, they are calling back to their memories the great Bharata chiefs. They are running hither and thither in large bands towards their sons and brothers and sires and husbands. Behold, O mighty-armed one, the field is covered with mothers of heroes, all of whom, however, have been bereaved of children. There, those portions again are covered with spouses of heroes, who have, however, been bereaved of their spouses! Behold, the field of battle is adorned with those tigers among men, Bhishma and Karna and Abhimanyu and Drona and Drupada and Shalya, as if with blazing fires. Behold, it is adorned also with the golden coats of mail, and with the costly gems, of high-souled warriors, and with their angadas, and keyuras and garlands. Behold, it is strewn with darts and spiked clubs hurled by heroic hands, and swords and diverse kinds of keen shafts and bows. Beasts of prey, assembled together, are standing or sporting or lying down as it likes them! Behold, O puissant hero, the field of battle is even such. At this sight, O Janardana, I am burning with grief. In the destruction of the Pancalas and the Kurus, O slayer of Madhu, I think, the five elements (of which everything is made) have been destroyed. Fierce vultures and other birds, in thousands, are dragging those blood-dyed bodies, and seizing them by their armour, are devouring them. Who is there that could think of the death of such heroes as Jayadratha and Karna and Drona and Bhishma and Abhimanyu? Alas, though incapable of being slain, they have yet been slain, O destroyer of Madhu! Behold, vultures and kankas and ravens and hawks and dogs and jackals are feasting upon them. There, those tigers among men, that fought on Duryodhana’s side, and took the field in wrath, are now lying like extinguished fires. All of them are worthy of sleeping on soft and clean beds. But, alas, plunged into distress, they are sleeping today on the bare ground. Bards reciting their praises used to delight them before at proper times. They are now listening to the fierce and inauspicious cries of jackals. Those illustrious heroes who used formerly to sleep on costly beds with their limbs smeared with sandal paste and powdered aloe, alas, now sleep on the dust! These vultures and wolves and ravens have now become their ornaments. Repeatedly uttering inauspicious and fierce cries those creatures are now dragging their bodies. Delighting in battle, those heroes, looking cheerful, have still beside them their keen shafts, well-tempered swords, and bright maces, as if life has not yet departed from them. Many foremost of heroes, possessed of beauty and fair complexions and adorned with garlands of gold, are sleeping on the ground. Behold, beasts of prey are dragging and tearing them. Others, with massive arms, are sleeping with maces in their embrace, as if those were beloved wives. Others, still cased in armour, are holding in their hands their bright weapons. Beasts of prey are not mangling them, O Janardana, regarding them to be still alive. The beautiful garlands of pure gold on the necks of other illustrious heroes, as the latter are being dragged by carnivorous creatures, are scattered about on every side. There, those fierce wolves, numbering in thousands, are dragging the golden chains round the necks of many illustrious heroes stilled by death. Many, whom bards well-trained to their work formerly used, with their hymns and eulogies of grave import, to delight every morning, are now surrounded by fair ladies stricken with grief and weeping and crying around them in woe, O tiger of Vrishni’s race! The faces of those beautiful ladies, O Keshava, though pale, look resplendent still, like an assemblage of red lotuses! Those Kuru ladies have ceased to weep, with their respective followers and companions. They are all filled with anxiety. Overwhelmed with sorrow, they are running hither and thither. The faces of those fair ones have, with weeping and anger, become resplendent as the morning sun or gold or burnished copper. Hearing each other’s lamentations of incomplete sense, those ladies, in consequence of the loud wails of woe bursting from every side, are unable to catch each other’s meaning. Some amongst them, drawing long sighs and indulging in repeated lamentations, are stupefied by grief and are abondoning their life-breaths. Many of them, beholding the bodies (of their sons, husbands, or sires), are weeping and setting up loud wails. Others are striking their heads with their own soft hands. The earth, strewn with severed heads and hands and other limbs mingled together and gathered in large heaps, looks resplendent with these signs of havoc! Beholding many headless trunks of great beauty, and many heads without trunks, those fair ones have been lying senseless on the ground for a long while. Uniting particular heads with particular trunks, those ladies, senseless with grief, are again discovering their mistakes and saying, “This is not this one’s,” and are weeping more bitterly! Others, uniting arms and thighs and feet, cut off with shafts, are giving way to grief and losing their senses repeatedly (at the sight of the restored forms). Some amongst the Bharata ladies, beholding the bodies of their lords,–bodies that have been mangled by animals and birds and severed of their heads,–are not succeeding in recognising them. Others, beholding their brothers, sires, sons, and husbands slain by foes, are, O destroyer of Madhu, striking their heads with their own hands. Miry with flesh and blood, the Earth has become impassable with arms still holding swords in their grasp, and with heads adorned with earrings. Beholding the field strewn with their brothers and sires, and sons, those faultless ladies, who had never before suffered the least distress, are now plunged into unutterable woe. Behold, O Janardana, those numerous bevies of Dhritarashtra’s daughters-in-law, resembling successive multitudes of handsome fillies adorned with excellent manes! What, O Keshava, can be a sadder spectacle for me to behold than that presented by those ladies of fair forms who have assumed such an aspect? Without doubt, I must have perpetrated great sins in my former lives, since I am beholding, O Keshava, my sons and grandsons and brothers all slain by foes.’ While indulging in such lamentations in grief, Gandhari’s eyes fell upon her son (Duryodhana).”


Vaishampayana said, “Beholding Duryodhana, Gandhari, deprived of her senses by grief, suddenly fell down on the earth like an uprooted plantain tree. Having regained her senses soon, she began to weep, repeatedly uttering loud wails at the sight of her son lying on the bare ground, covered with blood. Embracing her son, Gandhari indulged in piteous lamentations for him. Stricken with grief, and with senses exceedingly agitated, the Kuru queen exclaimed, ‘Alas, O son! Alas, O son!’ Burning with sorrow, the queen drenched with her tears the body of her son, possessed of massive and broad shoulders, and adorned with garlands and collar. Addressing Hrishikesha who stood near, she said, ‘On the eve of this battle, O puissant one, that has exterminated this race, this foremost of kings, O thou of Vrishni’s race, said unto me, “In this internecine battle, O mother, wish me victory!” When he had said these words, I myself, knowing that a great calamity had come upon us, told him even this, tiger among men, “Thither is victory where righteousness is. And since, son, thy heart is set on battle, thou wilt, without doubt, obtain those regions that are attainable by (the use of) weapons (and sport there) like a celestial.” Even these were the words that I then said unto him. I did not then grieve for my son. I grieve, however, for the helpless Dhritarashtra bereaved of friends and kinsmen. Behold, O Madhava, my son, that foremost of warriors, wrathful, skilled in weapons, and irresistible in battle, sleeping on the bed of heroes. Behold the reverses brought about by Time. This scorcher of foes that used of old to walk at the head of all crowned persons now sleepeth on the dust. Without doubt, the heroic Duryodhana, when he sleeps on that bed which is the hero’s hath obtained the most unattainable end. Inauspicious jackals are now delighting that prince asleep on the hero’s bed, who was formerly delighted by the fairest of ladies sitting round him. He who was formerly encircled by kings vying with one another to give him pleasure, alas, he, slain and lying on the ground, is now encircled by vultures! He who was formerly fanned with beautiful fans by fair ladies is now fanned by (carnivorous) birds with flaps of their wings! Possessed of great strength and true prowess, this mighty-armed prince, slain by Bhimasena in battle, sleeps like an elephant slain by a lion! Behold Duryodhana, O Krishna, lying on the bare ground, covered with blood, slain by Bhimasena with his mace. That mighty-armed one who had in battle assembled together eleven akshauhinis of troops, O Keshava, hath, in consequence of his own evil policy, been now slain. Alas, there that great bowman and mighty car-warrior sleeps, slain by Bhimasena, like a tiger slain by a lion! Having disregarded Vidura, as also his own sire, this reckless, foolish, and wicked prince hath succumbed to death, in consequence of his disregard of the old. He who had ruled the earth, without a rival, for thirteen years, alas, that prince, that son of mine, sleepeth to-day on the bare ground, slain by his foes. Not long before, O Krishna, I beheld the Earth, full of elephants and kine and horses, ruled by Duryodhana! Today, O thou of mighty arms, I see her ruled by another, and destitute of elephants and kine and horses! What need have I, O Madhava, of life? Behold, again, this sight that is more painful than the death of my son, the sight of these fair ladies weeping by the side of the slain heroes! Behold, O Krishna, the mother of Lakshmana, that lady of large hips, with her tresses dishevelled, that dear spouse of Duryodhana, resembling a sacrificial altar of gold. Without doubt, this damsel of great intelligence, while her mighty-armed lord was formerly alive, used to sport within the embrace of her lord’s handsome arms! Why, indeed, does not this heart of mine break into a hundred fragments at the sight of my son and grandson slain in battle? Alas, that faultless lady now smells (the head of) her son covered with blood. Now, again, that lady of fair thighs is gently rubbing Duryodhana’s body with her fair hand. At one time she is sorrowing for her lord and at another for her son. At one time she looketh on her lord, at another on her son. Behold, O Madhava, striking her head with her hands, she falls upon the breast of her heroic spouse, the king of the Kurus. Possessed of complexion like that of the filaments of the lotus, she still looketh beautiful like a lotus. The unfortunate princess now rubbeth the face of her son and now that of her lord. If the scriptures and the shrutis be true, without doubt, this king has obtained those regions (of blessedness) that one may win by the use of weapons!’”


“Gandhari said, ‘There, O Madhava, my son Vikarna, applauded by the wise, lieth on the bare ground, slain by Bhima and mangled horribly! Deprived of life, O slayer of Madhu, Vikarna lieth in the midst of (slain) elephants like the moon in the autumnal sky surrounded by blue clouds. His broad palm, cased in leathern fence, and scarred by constant wielding of the bow, is pierced with difficulty by vultures desirous of feeding upon it. His helpless young wife, O Madhava, is continually endeavouring, without success, to drive away those vultures desirous of feeding on carrion. The youthful and brave and handsome Vikarna, O bull among men, brought up in luxury and deserving of every kind of weal, now sleepeth amid the dust, O Madhava! Though all his vital parts have been pierced with clothyard shafts and bearded arrows and nalikas, yet that beauty of person which was his hath not forsaken this best of the Bharatas. There, my son Durmukha, that slayer of large band of foes, sleepeth, with face towards the enemy, slain by the heroic Bhimasena in observance of his vow. His face, O Krishna, half-eaten away by beasts of prey, looketh more handsome, O child, even like the moon on the seventh day of the lighted fortnight. Behold, O Krishna, the face of that heroic son of mine, which is even such. How could that son of mine be slain by foes and thus made to eat the dust? O amiable one, how could that Durmukha, before whom no foe could stand, be slain by foes, O subjugator of celestial regions! Behold, O slayer of Madhu, that other son of Dhritarashtra, Citrasena, slain and lying on the ground, that hero who was the model of all bowmen? Those young ladies, afflicted with grief and uttering piteous cries, are now sitting, with beasts of prey, around his fair form adorned with wreaths and garlands. These loud wails of woe, uttered by women, and these cries and roars of beasts of prey, seem exceedingly wonderful to me, O Krishna! Youthful and handsome, and always waited upon and served by the most beautiful ladies, my son Vivinsati, O Madhava, sleepeth there, stained with dust. His armour hath been pierced with arrows. Slain in the midst of the carnage, alas, the heroic Vivimshati is now surrounded and waited upon by vultures! Having in battle penetrated the ranks of the Pandava army, that hero now lieth on the bed of a hero,–on the bed, that is, of an exalted Kshatriya! Behold, O Krishna, his very beautiful face, with a smile playing on it, adorned with excellent nose and fair eyebrows, and resembling the resplendent Moon himself! Formerly a large number of the most beautiful ladies used to wait upon him, like thousands of celestial girls upon a sporting gandharva. Who again could endure my son Duhsaha, that slayer of heroic foes, that hero, that ornament of assemblies, that irresistible warrior, that resister of foes? The body of Duhsaha, covered with arrows, looks resplendent like a mountain overgrown with flowering karnikaras. With his garland of gold and his bright armour, Duhsaha, though deprived of life, looks resplendent yet, like a white mountain of fire!’”


“Gandhari said, ‘He whose might and courage were regarded, O Keshava, as a one and half times superior to those of his sire and thee, he who resembled a fierce and proud lion, he who, without a follower, alone pierced the impenetrable array of my son, he who proved to be the death of many, alas, he now sleepeth there, having himself succumbed to death! I see, O Krishna, the splendour of that son of Arjuna, of that hero of immeasurable energy, Abhimanyu, hath not been dimmed even in death. There, the daughter of Virata, the daughter-in-law of the wielder of gandiva, that girl of faultless beauty overwhelmed with grief at sight of her heroic husband, is indulging in lamentations! That young wife, the daughter of Virata, approaching her lord, is gently rubbing him, O Krishna, with her hand. Formerly, that highly intelligent and exceedingly beautiful girl, inebriated with honeyed wines, used bashfully to embrace her lord, and kiss the face of Subhadra’s son, that face which resembled a full-blown lotus and which was supported on a neck adorned with three lines like those of a conch-shell. Taking of her lord’s golden coat of mail, O hero, that damsel is gazing now on the blood-dyed body of her spouse. Beholding her lord, O Krishna, that girl addresses thee and says, “O lotus-eyed one, this hero whose eyes resembled thine, hath been slain. In might and energy, and prowess also, he was thy equal, O sinless one! He resembled thee very much in beauty. Yet he sleeps on the ground, slain by the enemy!” Addressing her own lord, the damsel says again, “Thou wert brought up in every luxury. Thou usedst to sleep on soft skins of the ranku deer. Alas, does not thy body feel pain today by lying thus on the bare ground? Stretching thy massive arms adorned with golden angadas, resembling a couple of elephant’s trunks and covered with skin hardened by frequent use of the bow, thou sleepest, O lord, in peace, as if exhausted with the toil of too much exercise in the gymnasium. Alas, why dost thou not address me that am weeping so? I do not remember to have ever offended thee. Why dost thou not speak to me then? Formerly, thou usedst to address me even when thou wouldst see me at a distance. O reverend sir, whither wilt thou go, leaving behind thee the much-respected Subhadra, these thy sires that resemble the very celestials, and my own wretched self distracted with woe?” Behold, O Krishna, gathering with her hands the blood-dyed locks of her lord and placing his head on her lap, the beautiful damsel is speaking to him as if he were alive, “How couldst those great car-warriors slay thee in the midst of battle,–thee that art the sister’s son of Vasudeva and the son of the wielder of gandiva? Alas, fie on those warriors of wicked deeds, Kripa and Karna and Jayadratha and Drona and Drona’s son, by whom thou wert deprived of life. What was the state of mind of those great car-warriors at that time when they surrounded thee, a warrior of tender years, and slew thee to my grief? How couldst thou, O hero, who had so many protectors, be slain so helplessly in the very sight of the Pandavas and the Pancalas? Beholding thee, O hero, slain in battle by many persons united together, how is that tiger among men, that son of Pandu, thy sire, able to bear the burden of life? Neither the acquisition of a vast kingdom nor the defeat of their foes conduces to the joy of the Parthas bereft of thee, O lotus-eyed one! By the practice of virtue and self-restraint, I shall very soon repair to those regions of bliss which thou hast acquired by the use of weapons. Protect me, O hero, when I repair to those regions. When one’s hour does not come, one cannot die, since, wretched that I am, I still draw breath after seeing thee slain in battle. Having repaired to the region of the pitris, whom else, like me, dost thou address now, O tiger among men, in sweet words mingled with smiles? Without doubt, thou wilt agitate the hearts of the apsaras in heaven, with thy great beauty and thy soft words mingled with smiles! Having obtained the regions reserved for persons of righteous deeds, thou art now united, O son of Subhadra, with the apsaras! While sporting with them, recollect at times my good acts towards thee. Thy union with me in this world had, it seems, been ordained for only six months, for in the seventh, O hero, thou hast been bereft of life!” O Krishna, the ladies of the royal house of Matsya are dragging away the afflicted Uttara, baffled of all her purposes, while lamenting in this strain. Those ladies, dragging away the afflicted Uttara, themselves still more afflicted than that girl, are weeping and uttering loud wails at sight of the slain Virata. Mangled with the weapons and shafts of Drona, prostrate on the ground, and covered with blood, Virata is encompassed by screaming vultures and howling jackals and crowing ravens. Those black-eyed ladies, approaching the prostrate form of the Matsya king over which carnivorous birds are uttering cries of joy, are endeavouring to turn the body. Weakened by grief and exceedingly afflicted, they are unable to do what they intend. Scorched by the Sun, and worn out with exertion and toil, their faces have become colourless and pale. Behold also, O Madhava, those other children besides Abhimanyu–Uttara, Sudakshina the prince of the Kambhojas, and the handsome Lakshmana–all lying on the field of battle!’”


“Gandhari said, ‘Then the mighty Karna, that great bowman, lieth on the ground! In battle he was like a blazing fire! That fire, however, hath now been extinguished by the energy of Partha. Behold, Vikartana’s son Karna, after having slain many atirathas, has been prostrated on the bare ground, and is drenched with blood. Wrathful and possessed of great energy, he was a great bowman and a mighty car-warrior. Slain in battle by the wielder of gandiva, that hero now sleepeth on the ground. My sons, those mighty car-warriors, from fear of the Pandavas, fought, placing Karna at their head, like a herd of elephants with its leader to the fore. Alas, like a tiger slain by a lion, or an elephant by an infuriated elephant, that warrior hath been slain in battle by Savyasaci. Assembled together, O tiger among men, the wives of that warrior, with dishevelled tresses and loud wails of grief, are sitting around that fallen hero! Filled with anxiety caused by the thoughts of that warrior, king Yudhishthira the just could not, for thirteen years, obtain a wink of sleep! Incapable of being checked by foes in battle like Maghavat himself who is invincible by enemies, Karna was like the all-destroying fire of fierce flames at the end of the yuga, and immovable like Himavat himself! That hero became the protector of Dhritarashtra’s son, O Madhava! Alas, deprived of life, he now lieth on the bare ground, like a tree prostrated by the wind! Behold, the wife of Karna and mother of Vrishasena, is indulging in piteous lamentations and crying and weeping and falling upon the ground! Even now she exclaims, “Without doubt, thy preceptor’s curse hath pursued thee! When the wheel of thy car was swallowed up by the Earth, the cruel Dhananjaya cut off thy head with an arrow! Alas, fie (on the heroism and skill)!” That lady, the mother of Sushena, exceedingly afflicted and uttering cries of woe, is falling down, deprived of her senses, at the sight of the mighty-armed and brave Karna prostrated on the earth, with his waist still encircled with a belt of gold. Carnivorous creatures, feeding on the body of that illustrious hero, have reduced it to very small dimensions. The sight is not gladdening, like that of the moon on the fourteenth night of the dark fortnight. Falling down on the earth, the cheerless dame is rising up again. Burning with grief on account of the death of her son also, she cometh and smelleth the face of her lord!’”


“Gandhari said, ‘Slain by Bhimasena, behold, the lord of Avanti lies there! Vultures and jackals and crows are feeding upon that hero! Though possessed of many friends, he lies now perfectly friendless! Behold, O slayer of Madhu, having made a great slaughter of foes, that warrior is now lying on the bed of a hero, covered with blood. Jackals, and kankas, and other carnivorous creatures of diverse kinds, are dragging him now. Behold the reverses brought about by Time. His wives, assembled together, and crying in grief, are sitting around that hero who in life was a terrible slayer of foes but who now lies on the bed of a hero. Behold, Pratipa’s son Bahlika, that mighty bowman possessed of great energy, slain with a broad-headed shaft, is now lying on the ground like a sleeping tiger. Though deprived of life, the colour of his face is still exceedingly bright, like that of the moon at full, risen on the fifteenth day of the lighted fortnight! Burning with grief on account of the death of his son, and desirous of accomplishing his vow, Indra’s son (Arjuna) hath slain there that son of Vriddhakshatra! Behold that Jayadratha, who was protected by the illustrious Drona, slain by Partha bent on accomplishing his vow, after penetrating through eleven Akshauhinis of troops. Inauspicious vultures, O Janardana, are feeding upon Jayadratha, the lord of the Sindhu-Sauviras, full of pride and energy! Though sought to be protected by his devoted wives, see, O Acyuta, carnivorous creatures are dragging his body away to a jungle in the vicinity. The Kamboja and Yavana wives of that mighty-armed lord of the Sindhus and the Sauviras are waiting upon him for protecting him (from the wild beasts). At that time, O Janardana, when Jayadratha, assisted by the Kekayas, endeavoured to ravish Draupadi, he deserved to be slain by the Pandavas! From regard, however, for Duhshala, they set him free on that occasion. Why, O Krishna, did they not show some regard for that Duhshala once more? That daughter of mine, of tender years, is now crying in grief. She is striking her body with her own hands and censuring the Pandavas. What, O Krishna, can be a greater grief to me than that my daughter of tender years should be a widow and all my daughters-in-law should become lordless. Alas, alas, behold, my daughter Duhshala, having cast off her grief and fears, is running hither and thither in search of the head of her husband. He who had checked all the Pandavas desirous of rescuing their son, after causing the slaughter of a vast force, at last himself succumbed to death. Alas, those wives of his, with faces as beautiful as the moon, are crying, sitting around that irresistible hero who resembled an infuriated elephant!’”


“Gandhari said, ‘There lies Shalya, the maternal uncle himself of Nakula, slain in battle, O sire, by the pious and virtuous Yudhishthira! He used everywhere, O bull among men, to boast of his equality with thee! That mighty car-warrior, the ruler of the Madras, now lieth, deprived of life. When he accepted the drivership of Karna’s car in battle, he sought to damp the energy of Karna for giving victory to the sons of Pandu! Alas, alas, behold the smooth face of Shalya, beautiful as the moon, and adorned with eyes resembling the petals of the lotus, eaten away by crows! There, the tongue of that king, of the complexion of heated gold, rolling out of his mouth, is, O Krishna, being eaten away by carnivorous birds! The ladies of the royal house of Madra, uttering loud wails of woe, are sitting around the body of that king, that ornament of assemblies, deprived of life by Yudhishthira! Those ladies are sitting around that fallen hero like a herd of she-elephants in their season around their leader sunk in a slough. Behold the brave Shalya, that giver of protection, that foremost of car-warriors, stretched on the bed of heroes, his body mangled with shafts. There, king Bhagadatta of great prowess, the ruler of a mountainous kingdom, the foremost of all wielders of the elephant-hook, lieth on the ground, deprived of life. Behold the garland of gold that he still wears on his head, looketh resplendent. Though the body is being eaten away by beasts of prey, that garland still adorns the fair locks on his head. Fierce was the battle that took place between this king and Partha, making the very hair stand on end, like that between Shakra and the Asura Vritra. This mighty-armed one, having fought Dhananjaya, the son of Pritha, and having reduced him to great straits, was at last slain by his antagonist. He who had no equal on earth in heroism and energy, that achiever of terrible feats in battle, Bhishma, lieth there, deprived of life. Behold the son of Shantanu, O Krishna, that warrior of solar effulgence, stretched on the earth, like the Sun himself fallen from the firmament at the end of the yuga. Having scorched his foes with the fire of his weapons in battle, that valiant warrior, that Sun among men, O Keshava, hath set like the real Sun at evening. Behold that hero, O Krishna, who in knowledge of duty was equal to Devapi himself, now lying on a bed of arrows, so worthy of heroes. Having spread his excellent bed of barbed and unbarbed arrows, that hero lieth on it like the divine Skanda on a clump of heath. Indeed, the son of Ganga lieth, resting his head on that excellent pillow, consisting of three arrows,–becoming complement of his bed–given him by the wielder of gandiva. For obeying the command of his sire, this illustrious one drew up his vital seed. Unrivalled in battle, that son of Shantanu lieth there, O Madhava! Of righteous soul and acquainted with every duty, by the aid of his knowledge relating to both the worlds, that hero, though mortal, is still bearing his life like an immortal. When Shantanu’s son lieth today, struck down with arrows, it seems that no other person is alive on earth that possesseth learning and prowess that is competent to achieve great feats in battle. Truthful in speech, this righteous and virtuous hero, solicited by the Pandavas, told them the means of his own death. Alas, he who had revived the line of Kuru that had become extinct, that illustrious person possessed of great intelligence, hath left the world with all the Kurus in his company. Of whom, O Madhava, will the Kurus enquire of religion and duty after that bull among men, Devavrata, who resembles a god, shall have gone to heaven? Behold Drona, that foremost of brahmanas, that preceptor of Arjuna, of Satyaki, and of the Kurus, lying on the ground! Endued with mighty energy, Drona, O Madhava, was as conversant with the four kinds of arms as the chief of the celestials or Shukra of Bhrigu’s race. Through his grace, Vibhatsu the son of Pandu, hath achieved the most difficult feats. Deprived of life, he now lies on the ground. Weapons refused to come (at last) at his bidding. Placing him at their head, the Kauravas had challenged the Pandavas. That foremost of all wielders of weapons was at last mangled with weapons. As he careered in battle, scorching his foes in every direction, his course resembled that of a blazing conflagration. Alas, deprived of life, he now lieth on the ground, like an extinguished fire. The handle of the bow is yet in his grasp. The leathern fences, O Madhava, still encase his fingers. Though slain, he still looketh as if alive. The four Vedas, and all kinds of weapons, O Keshava, did not abandon that hero even as these do not abandon the Lord Prajapati himself. His auspicious feet, deserving of every adoration and adored as a matter of fact by bards and eulogists and worshipped by disciples, are now being dragged by jackals. Deprived of her senses by grief, Kripi woefully attendeth, O slayer of Madhu, on that Drona who hath been slain Drupada’s son. Behold that afflicted lady, fallen upon the Earth, with dishevelled hair and face hanging down. Alas, she attendeth in sorrow upon her lifeless lord, that foremost of all wielders of weapons, lying on the ground. Many brahmacaris, with matted locks on their head, are attending upon the body of Drona that is cased in armour rent through and through, O Keshava, with the shafts of Dhrishtadyumna. The illustrious and delicate Kripi, cheerless and afflicted, is endeavouring to perform the last rites on the body of her lord slain in battle. There, those reciters of Samas, having placed the body of Drona on the funeral pyre and having ignited the fire with due rites, are singing the three (well-known) Samas. Those brahmacaris, with matted locks on their heads, have piled the funeral pyre of that brahmana with bows and darts and car-boxes, O Madhava! Having collected diverse other kinds of shafts, that hero of great energy is being consumed by them. Indeed, having placed him on the pyre, they are singing and weeping. Others are reciting the three (well-known) Samas that are used on such occasions. Consuming Drona on that fire, like fire in fire, those disciples of his of the regenerate class are proceeding towards the banks of the Ganga, along the left side of the pyre and having placed Kripi at their head!’”


“Gandhari said, ‘Behold the son of Somadatta, who was slain by Yuyudhana, pecked at and torn by a large number of birds! Burning with grief at the death of his son, Somadatta, O Janardana, (as he lies there) seems to censure the great bowman Yuyudhana. There the mother of Bhurishrava, that faultless lady, overcome with grief, is addressing her lord Somadatta, saying, “By good luck, O king, thou seest not this terrible carnage of the Bharatas, this extermination of the Kurus, this sight that resembles the scenes occurring at the end of the yuga. By good luck, thou seest not thy heroic son, who bore the device of the sacrificial stake on his banner and who performed numerous sacrifices with profuse presents to all, slain on the field of battle. By good luck, thou hearest not those frightful wails of woe uttered amidst this carnage by thy daughters-in-law like the screams of a flight of cranes on the bosom of the sea. Thy daughters-in-law, bereaved of both husbands and sons, are running hither and thither, each clad in a single piece of raiment and each with her black tresses all dishevelled. By good luck, thou seest not thy son, that tiger among men, deprived of one of his arms, overthrown by Arjuna, and even now in course of being devoured by beasts of prey. By good luck, thou seest not today thy son slain in battle, and Bhurishrava deprived of life, and thy widowed daughters-in-law plunged into grief. By good luck, thou seest not the golden umbrella of that illustrious warrior who had the sacrificial stake for the device on his banner, torn and broken on the terrace of his car. There the black-eyed wives of Bhurishrava are indulging in piteous lamentations, surrounding their lord slain by Satyaki. Afflicted with grief on account of the slaughter of their lords, those ladies, indulging in copious lamentations, are falling down on the earth with their faces towards the ground, and slowly approaching thee, O Keshava! Alas, why did Arjuna of pure deeds perpetrate such a censurable act, since he struck off the arm of a heedless warrior who was brave and devoted to the performance of sacrifices. Alas, Satyaki did an act that was still more sinful, for he took the life of a person of restrained soul while sitting in the observance of the praya vow. Alas, O righteous one, thou liest on the ground, slain unfairly by two foes.” Even thus, O Madhava, those wives of Bhurishrava are crying aloud in woe. There, those wives of that warrior, all possessed of slender waists, are placing upon their laps the lopped off arm of their lord and weeping bitterly!

“Here is that arm which used to invade the girdles, grind the deep bosoms, and touch the navel, the thighs, and the hips, of fair women, and loosen the ties of the drawers worn by them! Here is that arm which slew foes and dispelled the fears of friends, which gave thousands of kine and exterminated Kshatriyas in battle! In the presence of Vasudeva himself, Arjuna of unstained deeds, lopped it off thy heedless self while thou wert engaged with another in battle. What, indeed, wilt thou, O Janardana, say of this great feat of Arjuna while speaking of it in the midst of assemblies. What also will the diadem-decked Arjuna himself say of it?” Censuring thee in this way, that foremost of ladies hath stopped at last. The co-wives of that lady are piteously lamenting with her as if she were their daughter-in-law!

“‘There the mighty Shakuni, the chief of gandharvas, of prowess incapable of being baffled, hath been slain by Sahadeva, the maternal uncle by the sister’s son! Formerly, he used to be fanned with a couple of gold-handed fans! Alas, now, his prostrate form is being fanned by birds with their wings! He used to assume hundreds and thousands of forms. All the illusions, however, of that individual possessed of great deceptive powers, have been burnt by the energy of the son of Pandu. An expert in guile, he had vanquished Yudhishthira in the assembly by his powers of deception and won from him his vast kingdom. The son of Pandu, however, hath now won Shakuni’s life-breaths. Behold, O Krishna, a large number of birds is now sitting around Shakuni. An expert in dice, alas, he had acquired that skill for the destruction of my sons. This fire of hostility with the Pandavas had been ignited by Shakuni for the destruction of my children as also of himself and his followers and kinsmen. Like those acquired by my sons, O puissant one, by the use of weapons, this one too, however wicked-souled, has acquired many regions of bliss by the use of weapons. My fear, O slayer of Madhu, is that that crooked person may not succeed in fomenting dissensions even (there, the region attained by them) between my children, all of whom are confiding and possessed of candour!’”


“Gandhari said, ‘Behold that irresistible ruler of the Kambojas, that bull-necked hero, lying amid the dust, O Madhava, though deserving of being stretched at his ease on Kamboja blankets. Stricken with great grief, his wife is weeping bitterly at sight of his blood-stained arms, which, however, formerly used to be smeared with sandal-paste. Indeed, the beauteous one exclaims, “Even now adorned with beautiful palms and graceful fingers, these two arms of thine resemble a couple of spiked maces, getting within whose clasp, joy never left me for a moment! What will be my end, O ruler of men, when I am deprived of thee?” Endued with a melodious voice, the Kamboja queen is weeping helplessly and quivering with emotion. Behold that bevy of fair ladies there. Although tired with exertion and worn out with heat, yet beauty leaves not their forms, like the sightliness of the wreaths worn by the celestials although exposed to the Sun. Behold, O slayer of Madhu, the heroic ruler of the Kalingas lying there on the ground with his mighty arms adorned with a couple of angadas. Behold, O Janardana, those Magadha ladies crying and standing around Jayatsena, the ruler of the Magadhas. The charming and melodious wails of those long-eyed and sweet-voiced girls, O Krishna, are stupefying my heart exceedingly. With all their ornaments displaced, crying, and afflicted with grief, alas, those ladies of Magadha, worthy of resting on costly beds, are now lying down on the bare ground! There, again, those other ladies, surrounding their lord, the ruler of the Kosalas, prince Brihadbala, are indulging in loud wails. Engaged in plucking from his body the shafts with which it was pierced by Abhimanyu with the full might of his arms, those ladies are repeatedly losing their senses. The faces of those beautiful ladies, O Madhava, through toil and the rays of the Sun, are looking like faded lotuses. There, the brave sons of Dhrishtadyumna, of tender years and all adorned with garlands of gold and beautiful angadas, are lying, slain by Drona. Like insects on a blazing fire, they have all been burnt by falling upon Drona, whose car was the chamber of fire, having the bow for its flame and shafts and darts and maces for its fuel. Similarly, the five Kekaya brothers, possessed of great courage, and adorned with beautiful angadas, are lying on the ground, slain by Drona and with their faces turned towards that hero. Their coats of mail, of the splendour of heated gold, and their tall standards and cars and garlands, all made of the same metal, are shedding a bright light on the earth like so many blazing fires. Behold, O Madhava, king Drupada overthrown in battle by Drona, like a mighty elephant in the forest slain by a huge lion. The bright umbrella, white in hue of the king of the Pancalas, shines, O lotus-eyed one, like the moon in the autumnal firmament. The daughters-in-law and the wives of the old king, afflicted with grief, having burnt his body on the funeral pyre, are proceeding, keeping the pyre to their right. There those ladies, deprived of their senses, are removing the brave and great bowman Dhrishtaketu, that bull among the Cedis, slain by Drona. This crusher of foes, O slayer of Madhu, this great bowman, having baffled many weapons of Drona, lieth there, deprived of life, like a tree uprooted by the wind. Alas, that brave ruler of the Cedis, that mighty car-warrior Dhrishtaketu, after having slain thousands of foes, lies himself deprived of life! There, O Hrishikesha, the wives of the ruler of the Cedis are sitting around his body still decked with fair locks and beautiful earrings, though torn by carnivorous birds. Those foremost of ladies placing upon their laps the prostrate form of the heroic Dhrishtaketu born of the Dasharha race, are crying in sorrow. Behold, O Hrishikesha, the son, possessed of fair locks and excellent earrings, of that Dhrishtaketu, hacked in battle by Drona with his shafts. He never deserted his sire while the latter battled with his foes. Mark, O slayer of Madhu, he does not, even in death, desert that heroic parent. Even thus, my son’s son, that slayer of hostile heroes, the mighty-armed Lakshmana, hath followed his sire Duryodhana! Behold, O Keshava, the two brothers of Avanti, Vinda and Anuvinda, lying there on the field, like two blossoming shala trees in the spring overthrown by the tempest. Clad in golden armour and adorned with Angadas of gold, they are still armed with swords and bows. Possessed of eyes like those of a bull, and decked with bright garlands, both of them are stretched on the field. The Pandavas, O Krishna, with thyself, are surely unslayable, since they and thou have escaped from Drona, from Bhishma, from Karna the son of Vikartana, from Kripa, from Duryodhana, from the son of Drona, from the mighty car-warrior Jayadratha, from Somadatta, from Vikarna, and from the brave Kritavarma. Behold the reverses brought about by Time! Those bulls among men that were capable of slaying the very celestials by force of their weapons have themselves been slain. Without doubt, O Madhava, there is nothing difficult for destiny to bring about, since even these bulls among men, these heroes, have been slain by Kshatriya warriors. My sons endued with great activity were (regarded by me as) slain even then, O Krishna, when thou returnedst unsuccessfully to Upaplavya. Shantanu’s son and the wise Vidura told me then, “Cease to bear affection for thy children!” The interviews of those persons could not go for nothing. Soon, O Janardana, have my sons been consumed into ashes!’”

Vaishampayana continued, “Having said these words, Gandhari, deprived of her senses by grief, fell down on the earth! Casting off her fortitude, she suffered her senses to be stupefied by grief. Filled with wrath and with sorrow at the death of her sons, Gandhari, with agitated heart, ascribed every fault to Keshava.

“Gandhari said, ‘The Pandavas and the Dhartarashtras, O Krishna, have both been burnt. Whilst they were thus being exterminated, O Janardana, why wert thou indifferent to them? Thou wert competent to prevent the slaughter, for thou hast a large number of followers and a vast force. Thou hadst eloquence, and thou hadst the power (for bringing about peace). Since deliberately, O slayer of Madhu, thou wert indifferent to this universal carnage, therefore, O mighty-armed one, thou shouldst reap the fruit of this act. By the little merit I have acquired through waiting dutifully on my husband, by that merit so difficult to attain, I shall curse thee, O wielder of the discus and the mace! Since thou wert indifferent to the Kurus and the Pandavas whilst they slew each other, therefore, O Govinda, thou shalt be the slayer of thy own kinsmen! In the thirty-sixth year from this, O slayer of Madhu, thou shalt, after causing the slaughter of thy kinsmen and friends and sons, perish by disgusting means in the wilderness. The ladies of thy race, deprived of sons, kinsmen, and friends, shall weep and cry even as these ladies of the Bharata race!’”

Vaishampayana continued, “Hearing these words, the high-souled Vasudeva, addressing the venerable Gandhari, said unto her these words, with a faint smile, ‘There is none in the world, save myself, that is capable of exterminating the Vrishnis. I know this well. I am endeavouring to bring it about. In uttering this curse, O thou of excellent vows, thou hast aided me in the accomplishment of that task. The Vrishnis are incapable of being slain by others, be they human beings or gods or Danavas. The Yadavas, therefore shall fall by one another’s hand.’ After he of Dasharha’s race had said these words, the Pandavas became stupefied. Filled with anxiety all of them became hopeless of life!’”


“The holy one said, ‘Arise, arise, O Gandhari, do not set thy heart on grief! Through thy fault, this vast carnage has taken place! Thy son Duryodhana was wicked-souled, envious, and exceedingly arrogant. Applauding his wicked acts, thou regardest them to be good. Exceedingly cruel, he was the embodiment of hostilities, and disobedient to the injunctions of the old. Why dost thou wish to ascribe thy own faults to me? Dead or lost, the person that grieves for what has already occurred, obtaineth more grief. By indulging in grief, one increases it two-fold. A woman of the regenerate class bears children for the practice of austerities; the cow brings forth offspring for bearing burdens; the mare brings forth her young for acquiring speed of motion; the Shudra woman bears a child for adding to the number of servitors; the Vaishya woman for adding to the number of keepers of cattle. A princess, however, like thee, brings forth sons for being slaughtered!’”

Vaishampayana said, “Hearing these words of Vasudeva that were disagreeable to her, Gandhari, with heart exceedingly agitated by grief, remained silent. The royal sage Dhritarashtra, however, restraining the grief that arises from folly, enquired of Yudhishthira the just, saying, ‘If, O son of Pandu, thou knowest it, tell me the number of those that have fallen in this battle, as also of those that have escaped with life!’

“Yudhishthira answered, ‘One billion 660 million and 20,000 men have fallen in this battle. Of the heroes that have escaped, the number is 240,165.’

“Dhritarashtra said, ‘Tell me, O mighty-armed one, for thou art conversant with everything, what ends have those foremost of men attained.’

“Yudhishthira said, ‘Those warriors of true prowess that have cheerfully cast off their bodies in fierce battle have all attained regions like those of Indra. Knowing death to be inevitable, they that have encountered it cheerlessly have attained the companionship of the gandharvas. Those warriors that have fallen at the edge of weapons, while turning away from the field or begging for quarter, have attained the world of the guhyakas. Those high-souled warriors who, observant of the duties of kshatriya-hood and regarding flight from battle to be shameful, have fallen, mangled with keen weapons, while advancing unarmed against fighting foes, have all assumed bright forms and attained the regions of Brahman. The remaining warriors, that have in anyhow met with death on the precincts of the field of battle, have attained the region of the Uttara-Kurus.’”

“Dhritarashtra said, ‘By the power of what knowledge, O son, thou seest these things like one crowned with ascetic success? Tell me this, O mighty-armed one, if thou thinkest that I can listen to it without impropriety!’

“Yudhishthira said, ‘While at thy command I wandered in the forest, I obtained this boon on the occasion of sojourning to the sacred places. I met with the celestial rishi Lomasa and obtained from him the boon of spiritual vision. Thus on a former occasion I obtained second sight through the power of knowledge!’

“Dhritarashtra said, ‘It is necessary that our people should burn, with due rites, the bodies of both the friendless and the friended slain. What shall we do with those that have none to look after them and that have no sacred fires? The duties that await us are many. Who are those whose (last) rites we should perform? O Yudhishthira, will they obtain regions of blessedness by the merit of their acts, they whose bodies are now being torn and dragged by vultures and other birds?’”

Vaishampayana continued, “Thus addressed, Kunti’s son Yudhishthira of great wisdom commanded Sudharma (the priest of the Kauravas) and Dhaumya, and Sanjaya of the suta order, and Vidura of great wisdom, and Yuyutsu of Kuru’s race, and all his servants headed by Indrasena, and all the other sutas that were with him, saying, ‘Cause the funeral rites of the slain, numbering by thousands, to be duly performed, so that nobody may perish for want of persons to take care of them!’ At this command of king Yudhishthira the just, Vidura and Sanjaya and Sudharma and Dhaumya and Indrasena and others, procuring sandal, aloe and other kinds of wood used on such occasions, as also clarified butter and oil and perfumes and costly silken robes and other kinds of cloth, and large heaps of dry wood, and broken cars and diverse kinds of weapons, caused funeral pyres to be duly made and lighted and then without haste burnt, with due rites the slain kings in proper order. They properly burned upon those fires that blazed forth with libations of clarified butter in torrents over them, the bodies of Duryodhana and his hundred brothers, of Shalya, and king Bhurishrava; of king Jayadratha and Abhimanyu, O Bharata; of Duhshasana’s son and Lakshmana and king Dhrishtaketu; of Vrihanta and Somadatta and the hundreds of Srinjayas; of king Kshemadhanva and Virata and Drupada; of Shikhandi the prince of Pancalas, and Dhrishtadyumna of Prishata’s race; of the valiant Yudhamanyu and Uttamauja; of the ruler of the Kosalas, the sons of Draupadi, and Shakuni the son of Subala; of Acala and Vrishaka, and king Bhagadatta; of Karna and his son of great wrath; of those great bowmen, the Kekaya princes, and those mighty car-warriors, the Trigartas; of Ghatotkaca the prince of rakshasas, and the brother of Vaka, of Alambusha, the foremost of rakshasas, and king Jalasandha; and of hundreds and thousands of other kings. The pitri-medha rites in honour of some of the illustrious dead were performed there, while some sang Samas, and some uttered lamentations for the dead. With the loud noise of Samas and Riks, and the lamentations of the women, all creatures became stupefied that night. The funeral fires, smokeless and blazing brightly (amid the surrounding darkness), looked like luminous planets in the firmament enveloped by clouds. Those among the dead that had come from diverse realms and were utterly friendless were piled together in thousands of heaps and, at the command of Yudhishthira, were caused to be burnt by Vidura through a large number of persons acting coolly and influenced by good-will and affection, on pyres made of dry wood. Having caused their last rites to be performed, the Kuru king Yudhishthira, placing Dhritarashtra at his head, proceeded towards the river Ganga.”


Vaishampayana said, “Arrived at the auspicious Ganga full of sacred water, containing many lakes, adorned with high banks and broad shores, and having a vast bed, they cast off their ornaments, upper garments, and belts and girdles. The Kuru ladies, crying and afflicted with great grief, offered oblations of water unto their sires and grandsons and brothers and kinsmen and sons and reverend seniors and husbands. Conversant with duties, they also performed the water-rite in honour of their friends. While those wives of heroes were performing this rite in honour of their heroic lords, the access to the stream became easy, although the paths (made by the tread of many feet) disappeared afterwards. The shores of the stream, though crowded with those spouses of heroes, looked as broad as the ocean and presented a spectacle of sorrow and cheerlessness. Then Kunti, O king, in a sudden paroxysm of grief, weepingly addressed her sons in these soft words, ‘That hero and great bowman, that leader of leaders of car-divisions, that warrior distinguished by every mark of heroism, who hath been slain by Arjuna in battle, that warrior whom, ye sons of Pandu, ye took forth, Suta’s child born of Radha, that hero who shone in the midst of his forces like the lord Surya himself, who battled with all of you and your followers, who looked resplendent as he commanded the vast force of the Duryodhana, who had no equal on earth for energy, that hero who preferred glory to life, that unretiring warrior firm in truth and never fatigued with exertion, was your eldest brother. Offer oblations of water unto that eldest brother of yours who was born of me by the god of day. That hero was born with a pair of earrings and clad in armour, and resembled Surya himself in splendour!’ Hearing these painful words of their mother, the Pandavas began to express their grief for Karna. Indeed, they became more afflicted than ever. Then that tiger among men, the heroic Yudhishthira, sighing like a snake, asked his mother, ‘That Karna who was like an ocean having shafts for his billows, his tall standard for his vortex, his own mighty arms for a couple of huge alligators, his large car for his deep lake, and the sound of his palms for his tempestuous roar, and whose impetuosity none could withstand save Dhananjaya, O mother, wert thou the authoress of that heroic being? How was that son, resembling a very celestial, born of thee in former days? The energy of his arms scorched all of us. How, mother, couldst thou conceal him like a person concealing a fire within the folds of his cloth? His might of arms was always worshipped by the Dhartarashtras even as we always worship the might of the wielder of gandiva! How was that foremost of mighty men, that first of car-warriors, who endured the united force of all lords of earth in battle, how was he a son of thine? Was that foremost of all wielders of weapons our eldest brother? How didst thou bring forth that child of wonderful prowess? Alas, in consequence of the concealment of this affair by thee, we have been undone! By the death of Karna, ourselves with all our friends have been exceedingly afflicted. The grief I feel at Karna’s death is a hundred times greater than that which was caused by the death of Abhimanyu and the sons of Draupadi, and the destruction of the Pancalas and the Kurus. Thinking of Karna, I am burning with grief, like a person thrown into a blazing fire. Nothing could have been unattainable by us, not excepting things belonging to heaven. Alas, this terrible carnage, so destructive of the Kurus, would not have occurred.’ Copiously indulging in lamentations like these, king Yudhishthira the just ut


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