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The Mahabharata of Krishna-Dwaipayana Vyasa

“Bhishma said, ‘The wheel of time revolves with its divisions, viz., with Kalas and Kasthas and Muhurtas and days and fortnights and months and constellations and planets and seasons and years. In consequence of their fractional excesses and the deviations of also of the heavenly bodies, there is an increase of two months in every five years. It seems to me that calculating this wise, there would be an excess of five months and twelve nights in thirteen years. Everything, therefore, that the sons of Pandu had promised, hath been exactly fulfilled by them. Knowing this to be certain, Vibhatsu hath made his appearance. All of them are high-souled and fully conversant with the meanings of the scriptures. How would they deviate from virtue that have Yudhishthira for their guide? The sons of Kunti do not yield to temptation. They have achieved a difficult feat. If they had coveted the possession of their kingdom by unfair means, then those descendants of the Kuru race would have sought to display their prowess at the time of the match at dice.

Bound in bonds of virtue, they did not deviate from the duties of the Kshatriya order. He that will regard them to have behaved falsely will surely meet with defeat. The sons of Pritha would prefer death to falsehood. When the time, however, comes, those bulls among men–the Pandava’s–endued with energy like that of Sikra, would not give up what is theirs even if it is defended by the wielder himself of the thunderbolt. We shall have to oppose in battle the foremost of all wielders of weapons. Therefore, let such advantageous arrangements as have the sanction of the good and the honest be now made without loss of time so that our possessions may not be appropriated by the foe. O king of kings, O Kaurava, I have never seen a battle in which one of the parties could say,–we are sure to win. When a battle occurs, there must be victory or defeat, prosperity or adversity. Without doubt, a party to a battle must have either of the two. Therefore, O king of kings, whether a battle be now proper or not consistent with virtue or not, make thy arrangements soon, for Dhananjaya is at hand.’

“Duryodhana said, ‘I will not, O grandsire, give back the Pandavas their kingdom. Let every preparation, therefore, for battle be made without delay.’

“Bhishma said, ‘Listen to what I regard as proper, if it pleases thee. I should always say what is for thy good, O Kaurava. Proceed thou towards the capital, without loss of time, taking with thee a fourth part of the army. And let another fourth march, escorting the kine. With half the troops we will fight the Pandava. Myself and Drona, and Karna and Aswatthaman and Kripa will resolutely withstand Vibhatsu, or the king of the Matsyas, or Indra himself, if he approaches. Indeed, we will withstand any of these like the bank withstanding the surging sea.’

“Vaisampayana continued, ‘These words spoken by the high-souled Bhishma were acceptable to them, and the king of the Kauravas acted accordingly without delay. And having sent away the king and then the kine, Bhishma began to array the soldiers in order of battle. And addressing the preceptor, he said, ‘O preceptor, stand thou in the centre, and let Aswatthaman stand on the left, and let the wise Kripa, son of Saradwata, defend the right wing, and let Karna of the Suta caste, clad in mail, stand in the van. I will stand in the rear of the whole army, protecting it from that point.'”

“Vaisampayana said, ‘After the Kauravas, O Bharata, had taken their stand in this order, Arjuna, filling the air with the rattle and din of his car, advanced quickly towards them. And the Kurus beheld his banner-top and heard the rattle and din of his car as also the twang of the Gandiva stretched repeatedly by him. And noting all this, and seeing that great car-warrior–the wielder of the Gandiva–come, Drona spoke thus, ‘That is the banner-top of Partha which shineth at a distance, and this is the noise of his car, and that is the ape that roareth frightfully. Indeed, the ape striketh terror in the troops. And there stationed on that excellent car, the foremost of car-warriors draweth that best of bows, the Gandiva, whose twang is as loud as the thunder. Behold, these two shafts coming together fall at my feet, and two others pass off barely touching my ears. Completing the period of exile and having achieved many wonderful feats, Partha saluteth me and whispereth in my ears. Endued with wisdom and beloved of his relatives, this Dhananjaya, the son of Pandu, is, indeed, beheld by us after a long time, blazing with beauty and grace. Possessed of car and arrows, furnished with handsome fences and quiver and conch and banner and coat of mail, decked with diadem and scimitar and bow, the son of Pritha shineth like the blazing (Homa) fire surrounded with sacrificial ladles and fed with sacrificial butter.’

“Vaisampayana continued, ‘Beholding the Kurus ready for battle, Arjuna addressing Matsya’s son in words suitable to the occasion, said, ‘O charioteer, restrain thou the steeds at such a point whence my arrows may reach the enemy. Meanwhile, let me see, where, in the midst of this army, is that vile wretch of the Kuru race. Disregarding all these, and singling out that vainest of princes I will fall upon his head, for upon the defeat of that wretch the others will regard themselves as defeated. There standeth Drona, and thereafter him his son. And there are those great bowmen–Bhishma and Kripa and Kama. I do not see, however, the king there. I suspect that anxious to save his life, he retreateth by the southern road, taking away with him the kine. Leaving this array of car-warriors, proceed to the spot where Suyodhana is. There will I fight, O son of Virata, for there the battle will not be fruitless, Defeating him I will come back, taking away the kine.’

“Vaisampayana continued, ‘Thus addressed, the son of Virata restrained the steeds with an effort and turned them by a pull at the bridle from the spot where those bulls of the Kuru race were, and urged them on towards the place where Duryodhana was. And as Arjuna went away leaving that thick array of cars, Kripa, guessing his intention, addressed his own comrades, saying, ‘This Vibhatsu desireth not to take up his stand at a spot remote from the king. Let us quickly fall upon the flanks of the advancing hero. When inflamed with wrath, none else, unassisted, can encounter him in battle save the deity of a thousand eyes, or Krishna the son of Devaki. Of what use to us would the kine be or this vast wealth also, if Duryodhana were to sink, like a boat, in the ocean of Partha?’ Meanwhile, Vibhatsu, having proceeded towards that division of the army, announced himself speedily by name, and covered the troops with his arrows thick as locusts. And covered with those countless shafts shot by Partha, the hostile warriors could not see anything, the earth itself and the sky becoming overwhelmed therewith. And the soldiers who had been ready for the fight were so confounded that none could even the flee from the field. And beholding the light-handedness of Partha they all applauded it mentally. And Arjuna then blew his conch which always made the bristles of the foe stand erect. And twanging his best of bows, he urged the creatures on his flagstaff to roar more frightfully. And at the blare of his conch and the rattle of his car-wheels, and the twang of the Gandiva, and the roar of the superhuman creatures stationed on his flagstaff, the earth itself began to tremble. And shaking their upraised tails and lowing together, the kine turned back, proceeding along the southern road.'”

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