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he still continues to possess ? '

Balarama then spoke and said: "Ye pious rajahs!
ye have heard the words of my brother, who loveth
Yudhishthira. It is true, indeed, that the Kauravas have
wronged the Pandavas. Yet I would counsel peace,
so that this matter may be arranged between kinsmen.
Yudhishthira hath brought his sufferings upon his own
head. He was unwise to play with cunning Shakuni,
and also to continue playing, despite the warnings of the
elders and his friends. He hath suffered for his folly.
Now let a messenger be sent to Duryodhana, entreating
him to restore the throne unto Yudhishthira. I do not
advise war. What hath been gambled away cannot be
restored in battle."

Next arose Satyaki, the kinsman of Krishna. He said:
" O Balarama, thou hast spoken like to a woman. Thou
remindest me that weaklings are sometimes born to war-
riors, like to barren saplings sprung from sturdy trees.
Timid words come from timid hearts. Proud monarchs
heed not counsel so weakly as thine. O Balarama! canst
thou justify Duryodhana and blame the pious-hearted and
gracious Yudhishthira ? If it had chanced that Yudhish-
thira while playing with his brethren had been visited by
Duryodhana, who, having thrown the dice, achieved suc-
cess, then the contest would have been fair in the eyes
of all men. But Duryodhana plotted to ruin his kins-


man, and invited him to Hastinapur to play with the
evil-hearted Shakuni, who threw loaded dice. But that
is ended. Yudhishthira hath fulfilled his obligation; his
exile is past, and he is entitled to his kingdom. Why,
therefore, should he beg for that which is his own ? A
Kshatriya begs of no man; what is refused him he seizeth
in battle at all times. . . . Duryodhana still clings to
Yudhishthira's kingdom, despite the wise counsel of
Bhishma and Drona. Remember, O Balarama, it is not
sinful to slay one's enemies, but it is shameful to beg
from them. I now declare my advice to be that we
should give the Kauravas an opportunity to restore
the throne of Yudhishthira ; if they hesitate to do
so, then let the Pandavas secure justice on the battle-

Drupada, Rajah of Panchala, then arose and said :
" Ye monarchs, I fear that Satyaki hath spoken truly.
The Kauravas are a stubborn people. Methinks it is
useless to entreat Duryodhana, whose heart is consumed
with greed. It is vain to plead with Dhritarashtra, who is
but as clay in the hands of his proud son. Bhishma and
Drona have already counselled in vain. Kama thirsts for
war, and Duryodhana intrigues with him and also with
false and cunning Shakuni. Methinks it were idle to
follow the advice of Balarama. Duryodhana will never
yield up what he now possesseth, nor doth he desire
peace. If we should send to him an ambassador who
will speak mild words, he will think that we are weak,
and become more boastful and arrogant than heretofore.
My advice is that we should gather together a great army
without delay: the rajahs will side with him who asketh
first. Meanwhile let us offer peace and friendship unto
Duryodhana : my family priest will carry our message.
If Duryodhana is willing to give up the kingdom of


Yudhishthira, there will be peace; if he scorns our friend-
ship, he will find us ready for war."

Krishna again addressed the assembly and said :
" Drupada hath spoken wisely. The Pandavas would do
well to accept his counsel. If Duryodhana will agree to
restore the raj unto Yudhishthira, there will be no strife
or bloodshed. . . . You all know that the Pandavas and
Kauravas are my kinsmen ; know also that they are
equally dear unto me. ... I will now go hence. When
ye send out messengers of war, let them enter my king-
dom last of all."

After Krishna had returned home, he was visited by
Durycdhana and Arjuna, for both parties desired greatly
his help in the war. He spake to the rival kinsmen and
said: "Behold, I stand before you as in the balance; I
have put myself on one side, and all my army is on the
other. Choose now between you whether you desire me
or my forces. 1 shall not fight, but will give advice in

Then Duryodhana asked for the army, but Arjuna
preferred to have Krishna alone. And Krishna promised
to be Arj una's charioteer.

Duryodhana sought to prevail upon Balarama to aid
him, but Krishna's brother said: "I have no heart for
this war. I spake to Krishna in thy favour, but he
answered me not. Well, thou knowest that thou hast
wronged Yudhishthira, and that it would well become
thee to act justly in this matter. Do thy duty, and thy
renown will be great."

Duryodhana departed in sullen anger from Balarama.

In time Drupada's priest appeared in the city of
Hastinapur, and the elders and princes sat with Dhrita-
rashtra to hear his message. Said the Brahman: "Thus
speaketh the Pandavas 'Pandu and Dhritarashtra were

(C569) 21


brothers: why, therefore, should Dhritarashtra's sons
possess the whole kingdom, while the sons of Pandu are
denied inheritance ? Duryodhana hath ever worked evil
against his kinsman. He invited them to a gambling
match to play with loaded dice, and they lost their
possessions and had to go into exile like beggars. Now
they have fulfilled the conditions, and are prepared to
forget the past if their raj is restored to them. If their
rightful claim is rejected, then Arjuna will scatter the
Kauravas in battle.'

Bhishma said: "What thou hast said is well justified,
but it is wrong to boast regarding Arjuna. It would be
wise of thee not to speak of him in such manner again."

Angrily rose Kama and said: " If the Pandavas have
suffered, they are themselves to blame. It is but fitting
that they should plead for peace, for they are without
followers. If they can prove their right to possessions,
Duryodhana will yield; but he will not be forced by vain
threatenings, or because the Rajahs of Panchala and
Virata support them. O Brahman ! tell thou the Pan-
davas that they have failed to fulfil their obligations, for
Arjuna was beheld by us before the thirteenth year of
banishment was completed. Let them return to a jungle
for another term, and then come hither and submit to
Duryodhana and beg for his favours."

Said Bhishma: "Thou didst not boast in this manner,
O Kama, when Arjuna opposed thee at the Virata cattle
raid. Remember that Arjuna is still powerful. If war
comes, he will trample thee in the dust."

Dhritarashtra reproved Kama for his hasty speech,
and said unto Bhishma: " He is young and unaccustomed
to debate ; be not angry with him."

Then the blind old monarch sent his minister and
charioteer, Sanjaya, to the Pandavas to speak thus: "If


you desire to have peace, come before me and I will do
justice. Except wicked Duryodhana and hasty Kama
ail who are here are well disposed to you."

When Sanjaya reached the Pandavas, he was as-
tonished to behold that they had assembled together a
mighty army. He greeted the brethren and delivered
his message.

Said Yudhishthira: "We honour Dhritarashtra, but
fear that he has listened to the counsel of his son Dur-
yodhana, who desires to have us in his power. The
maharajah offers us protection, but not the fulfilment
of our claims."

Krishna then spake, saying: "The Pandavas have
assembled a mighty army, and cannot reward these
soldiers unless they receive their raj. It is not yet too
late to make peace. Deliver unto the Kauravas, O
Sanjaya, this message: c If you seek peace, you will have
peace; if you desire war, then let there be war.'

Ere Sanjaya left, Yudhishthira spoke to him and
said: "Tell thou Duryodhana that we will accept that
portion of the raj which we ourselves have conquered
and settled: he can retain the rest. My desire is for

Many days went past, and the Pandavas waited in
vain for an answer to their message. Then Yudhishthira
spake to Krishna, saying: "We have offered to make
peace by accepting but a portion of our kingdom, yet
the Kauravas remain silent."

Said Krishna: " I will now journey unto Hastinapur
and address the maharajah and his counsellors on thy

Yudhishthira said: " Mayst thou secure peace be-
tween kinsmen."

Then Draupadi entered and, addressing Krishna, said:


" Yudhishthira is too generous towards the Kauravas in
offering to give up part of his kingdom unto them.
He entreateth them overmuch, as well, to grant him that
which belongs not unto them. If the Kauravas wage
war, my sire and many other rajahs will assist the
Pandavas. . . . Oh! can it be forgotten how Duhsasana
dragged me by the hair to the Gambling Pavilion,
and how I was put to shame before the elders and the
princes?' . . .

She wept bitterly, and Krishna pitied her. " Why
do you sorrow thus ?' he asked with gentle voice. " The
time is drawing nigh when all the Kauravas will be laid
low, and their wives will shed tears more bitter than
thine that fall now, O fair one."

Messengers who arrived at Hastinapur announced
the coming of Krishna. Wise Vidura counselled that
he should be welcomed in state, whereupon Duryodhana
proclaimed a public holiday, and all the people re-
joiced, and decorated the streets with streamers and

Vidura was well pleased, and he said to Duryodhana:
u Thou hast done well. But these preparations are in
vain if thou art unwilling to do justice unto the Pan-

Duryodhana was wroth, and said: "I will give naught
except what they can win in battle. If the success of
the Pandavas depends upon Krishna, then let us seize
Krishna and put him in prison."

Dhritarashtra was horror-stricken, and cried out:
" Thou canst not thus treat an ambassador, and especially
an ambassador like unto Krishna."

Bhishma rose up and said: "O maharajah, thy son
desireth to work evil and bring ruin and shame upon
us all. Methinks disaster is not now afar off."


So saying, he departed unto his own house, and Vidura
did likewise.

All the Kauravas went forth to meet the royal am-
bassador save Duryodhana, who scarcely looked upon
Krishna when he arrived at the palace.

Krishna went to the house of Vidura, and there he
saw Pritha, who wept and said: "How fares it with my
sons, whom I have not beheld for fourteen years? How
fares it with Draupadi ? In sorrow have I heard of their
sufferings in desolate places. Ah! who can understand
mine own misery, for every day is full of weariness and
grief unto me ?'

Said Krishna: "Be comforted, O widow of Pandu !
Thy sons have many allies, and ere long they will return
in triumph to their own land."

Thereafter Krishna went to the house of Duryodhana,
who sat haughtily in the feasting chamber. At length
Dhritarashtra's son spake unto his kinsman, who ate
naught. He said: "Why art thou unfriendly towards

Said Krishna: "I cannot be thy friend until thou
dost act justly towards thy kinsmen, the Pandavas."

When Krishna went again to the house of Vidura,
the aged counsellor said to him: " 'Twere better if thou
hadst not come hither. Duryodhana will take no man's
advice. When he speaketh he doth expect all men to
agree with him."

Said Krishna: "It is my desire to prevent bloodshed.
1 came to Hastinapur to save the Kauravas from destruc-
tion, and I will warn them in the council chamber on
the morrow. If they will heed me, all will be well;
if they scorn my advice, then let their blood be upon
their own heads."

When the princes and the elders sat with Dhrita-


rashtra in the council chamber, Narada and other great
Rishis appeared in the heavens and were invited to come
down and share in the deliberations, and they came

Krishna arose, and in a voice like thunder spake forth,
saying: "I have come hither not to seek war, but to
utter words of peace and love. O maharajah, let not
your heart be stained with sin. Thy sons have wronged
their kinsmen, and a danger threatens all: it approacheth
now like an angry comet, and I can behold kinsmen
slaying kinsmen, and many noble lords laid in the dust.
All of you here gathered together are already in the
clutch of death. O Dhritarashtra, man of peace, stretch
forth thine hand and avert the dread calamity which is
about to fall upon thy house. Grant unto the Pan-
davas their rightful claim, and thy reign will close in glory
unsurpassed and in blessed peace. . . . What if all the
Pandavas were slain in battle! Would their fall bring
thee joy? Are they not thine own brother's children?
. . . But, know thou, the Pandavas are as ready for war
as they are eager for peace ; and if war comes, it will be
polluted with the blood of these thy sons. O gracious
maharajah, let the last years of thy life be peaceful and
pleasant, so that thou mayst be blessed indeed."

Dhritarashtra wept and said : " Fain would I do as
thou hast counselled so wisely, O Krishna, but Duryod-
hana, my vicious son, will not listen to me or obey, nor
will he give heed unto his mother, nor to Vidura, nor
unto Bhishma."

Next Bhishma spoke, and he addressed Duryodhana,
saying : " 'Twould be well with thee if thou wouldst
follow the advice of Krishna. Thou art evil-hearted and
a wrongdoer ; thou art the curse of our family ; thou
takest pleasure in disobeying thy royal sire and in scorn-


ing to be guided by Krishna and Vidura. Soon thy sire
will be bereft of his kingdom because of thy deeds ; thy
pride will bring death to thy kinsmen. Hear and follow
my advice ; do not bring eternal sorrow to thine aged

Duryodhana heard these words in anger, but was

Then Drona spake to him and said : " I join with
Bhishma and Krishna in making appeal unto thee. Those
who advise thee to make peace are thy friends ; those
who counsel war are thine enemies. Be not too certain
of victory; tempt not the hand of vengeance; leave the
night-black road of evil and seek out the road of light
and welldoing, O Duryodhana."

Next Vidura rose up. He spoke with slow, gentle
voice, and said : ci Thou hast heard words of wisdom,
O Duryodhana. ... I sorrow deeply in this hour. My
grief is not for thee, but for thine aged sire and thine
aged mother, who will fall into the hands of thine
enemies ; my grief is for kinsmen and friends who must
die in battle, and for those who will thereafter be driven
forth as beggars, friendless and without a home. The
few survivors of war will curse the day of thy birth,
O Duryodhana."

Again Bhishma spoke. He praised the valour of the
Pandavas, and said : " It is not yet too late to avoid
calamity. The field of battle is still unstained by the
blood of thousands ; thine army hath not yet met the
arrows of death, O Duryodhana. Ere it is too late,
make thy peace with thy kinsmen, the Pandavas, so that
all men may rejoice. Banish evil from thine heart for
ever ; rule the whole world with the heirs of Pandu."

Dhritarashtra still wept. . . . The Rishis counselled
peace like the elders.


Then angry Duryodhana spoke, while his eyes burned
bright and his brows hung darkly, and said: "Krishna
counsels me to be just, yet he hateth me and loveth the
Pandavas. Bishma scowls upon me, and Vidura and
Drona look coldly on ; my sire weeps for my sins. Yet
what have I done that ye, O elders, should turn my
sire's affection from me ? If Yudhishthira loved gam-
bling and staked and lost his throne and freedom, am
I to blame ? If he played a second time after being set
at liberty, and became an exile, why should he now call
me a robber ? Pallid and inconstant is the star of the
Pandavas' destiny: their friends are few, and feeble is
their army. Shall we, who fear not Indra even, be
threatened and browbeaten by the weak sons of Pandu ?
No warrior lives who can overcome us. A Kshatriya
fears no foeman ; he may fall in battle, but he will never
yield. So have the sages spoken. . . . Hear me, my
kinsmen all ! My sire gifted Indra-prastha to the Pan-
davas in a moment of weakness. Never, so long as I
and my brother live, will they possess it again. Never
again will the kingdom of Maharajah Dhritarashtra be
severed in twain. It has been united, and so will remain
for ever. My words are firm and plain. So tell thou
the Pandavas, O Krishna, that they ask in vain for
territory. Nor town nor village will they again possess
with my consent. I swear by the gods that I will never
humble myself before the Pandavas."

Said Krishna: "How canst thou speak in such a man-
ner, O Duryodhana ? How canst thou pretend that thou
didst never wrong thy kinsmen ? Be mindful of thine
evil thoughts and deeds."

Duhsasana whispered to his elder brother : " I fear,
if thou dost not make peace with the Pandavas, the
elders will seize thee and send thee as a prisoner to


Yudhishthira. They desire to make thee and me and
Kama to kneel before the Pandavas."

Angry was Duryodhana, and he rose and left the
council chamber. Duhsasana and Kama and Shakuni
followed him.

Krishna then turned to Dhritarashtra and said : "Thou
shouldst arrest these four rebellious princes and act freely
and justly towards the Pandavas."

The weak old maharajah was stricken with grief, and
he sent Vidura for his elder son. Then came Queen
Gandhari and remonstrated with Duryodhana ; but when
she had spoken he answered not, and went away again.

Shakuni and Kama and Duhsasana waited outside for
Duryodhana, and they plotted to lay hands on Krishna so
that the power of the Pandavas might be weakened. But
to Krishna came knowledge of their thoughts, and he
informed the elders who were there.

Once again the maharajah summoned Duryodhana
before him, and Krishna said : "Ah! thou of little under-
standing, is it thy desire to take me captive ? Know
now that I am not alone here, for all the gods and holy
beings are with me."

Having spoken thus, Krishna suddenly revealed him-
self in divine splendour. His body was transformed into
a tongue of flame; gods and divine beings appeared about
him ; fire issued from his mouth and eyes and ears ;
sparks broke from his skin, which became as radiant as
the sun. . . .

All the rajahs closed their eyes ; they trembled when
an earthquake shook the palace. But Duryodhana re-
mained defiant.

Krishna, having resumed his human form, then bade
farewell to the maharajah, who lamented the doings of
Duryodhana. The divine one spake and said : " O


Dhritarashtra, thee 1 forgive freely; but alas! a father is
often cursed by the people because of the wicked doings
of his own son."

Ere Krishna left the city he met Kama and spake to
him, saying : " Come with me, and the Pandavas will
regard thee as their elder brother, and thou wilt become
the king."

Said Kama: "Although Duryodhana is a rajah, he
rules according to my counsel. ... I know, without
doubt, that a great battle is pending which will cover the
earth with blood. Terrible are the omens. Calamity
awaits the Kauravas. . . . Yet I cannot desert those who
have given me their friendship. Besides, if I went with
thee now, men would regard me as Arjuna's inferior.
Arjuna and I must meet in battle, and fate will decide
who is the greater. 1 know I shall fall in this war, but
I must fight for my friends. . . . O mighty one, may we
meet on earth again. If not, may we meet in heaven."

Then Krishna and Kama embraced one another, and
each went his own way.

Vidura spake to Pritha, mother of the Pandavas, and
said : " O mother of living sons, my desire is ever for
peace, but although I cry myself hoarse, Duryodhana
will not listen to my words. Dhritarashtra is old, yet
he doth not work for peace ; he is intoxicated with pride
for his sons. When Krishna returneth to the Pandavas,
war will certainly break out ; the sin of the Kauravas
will cause much bloodshed. I cannot sleep, thinking of
approaching disaster."

Pritha sighed and wept. "Fie to wealth!' she said,
"that it should cause kinsmen to slaughter one another.
War should be waged between foemen, not friends. If
the Pandavas do not fight, they will suffer poverty ; if
they go to war and win, the destruction of kinsmen will


not bring triumph. My heart is full of sorrow. And
alas! it is Kama who supports Duryodhana in his folly;
he hath again become powerful."

Pritha lamented the folly of her girlhood which
caused Kama to be, and she went forth to look for him.
She found her son bathing in sacred waters, and she
spoke, saying: "Thou art mine own son, and thy sire
is Surya. I hid thee at birth, and Radha, who found
thee, is not thy mother. It is not seemly that thou
shouldst in ignorance plot with Duryodhana against thine
own brethren. Let the Kauravas this day behold the
friendship of thee and Arjuna. If you two were side
by side you would conquer the world. My eldest son,
it is meet that thou shouldst be with thy brethren now.
Be no longer known as one of lowly birth."

A voice spoke from the sun, saying: " What Pritha
hath said is truth. tiger among men, great good will be
accomplished if thou wilt obey her command."

Kama remained steadfast, for his heart was full of
honour. He said unto Pritha, his mother : " O lady,
it is now too late to command my obedience. Why
didst thou abandon me at birth ? If I am a Kshatriya,
I have been deprived of my rank. No foeman could
have done me a greater injury than thou hast done.
Thou hast never been a mother to me, nor do thy sons
know I am their brother. How can I now desert the
Kauravas, who trust in me in waging this war. I am
their boat on which to cross a stormy sea. ... I will
speak without deceit unto thee. For the sake of
Duryodhana I will combat against thy sons. I cannot
forget his kindness ; I cannot forget mine own honour.
Thy command cannot now be obeyed by me. Yet thy
solicitation to me will not be fruitless. I have power
to slay Yudhishthira, and Bhima, and Nakula, and Saha-


deva, but I promise they shall not fall by my hand. I
will fight with Arjuna alone. If I slay Arjuna, I will
achieve great fame ; if I am slain by him, I will be
covered with glory."

Said Pritha: "Thou hast pledged the lives of four
of thy brethren. Be that remembered to thee in the
perils of battle. Blessed be thou, and let health be
given thee."

Kama said : " So be it," and then they parted, the
mother going one way and the son another.

After this the Pandavas and Kauravas gathered to-
gether their mighty armies and marched to the field of

The Battle of Eighteen Days

Armies on the Battlefield Bhishma leads the Kauravas Kama refrains
from fighting Bhishma's Triumphant Charge Arjuna's Success Slaughter
of Princes Bhima in Peril Iravat is slain The Rakshasa Warrior Duryod-
hana desires Kama as Leader The Fall of Bhishma Drona as Leader How
Abhimanyu perished Arjuna's Revenge The Night Battle Drupada and
Drona are slain Kama's Vow Bhima drinks Duhsasana's Blood Kama's
Combat with Arjuna The Fall of Kama The Last Day of Battle Duryod-
hana in Hiding Discovered by Pandavas Bhima overcomes Duryodhana
Wrath of Balarama Krishna intervenes Drona's Son in Pandava Camp
A Night of Slaughter.

SOON after Krishna had returned from Hastinapur,
Duryodhana sent a challenge to the Pandavas. His
messenger spake, saying : " You have vowed to wage
war against us. The time has come for you to fulfil
your vow. Your kingdom was seized by me, your wife
Draupadi was put to shame, and you were all made
exiles. Why do you not now seek to be avenged in
battle ? Where is drowsy Bhima, who boasted that he
would drink the blood of Duhsasana ? Duhsasana is
weary with waiting for him. Where is arrogant Arjuna,
who hath Drona to meet ? When mountains are blown
about like dust, and men hold back the wind with their
hands, Arjuna will take captive the mighty Drona. . . .
Of what account was the mace of Bhima and the bow
of Arjuna on the day when your kingdom was taken
from you, and you were banished like vagabonds ? . . .



Vain will be the help of Krishna when you meet us in

Krishna answered the messenger, saying : " Vainly
dost thou boast of prowess, but ere long thy fate will
be made known unto thee. I will consume thine army
like to fire which consumeth withered grass. Thou wilt
not escape me, for I will drive the chariot of Arjuna.
And let Duhsasana know that the vow of Bhima will
ere long be fulfilled."

Said Arjuna: "Tell thou Duryodhana, c It is un-
seemly for warriors to boast like women. ... It is well

Online LibraryDonald Alexander MackenzieIndian myth and legend → online text (page 23 of 38)