Copyright
Donald Alexander Mackenzie.

Indian myth and legend online

. (page 25 of 38)
Online LibraryDonald Alexander MackenzieIndian myth and legend → online text (page 25 of 38)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


combat, saying: "Thou art as a father unto me. . . .
Let me find the slayer of my son. . . ." He passed on.
Then Duryodhana came up and engaged him. Kama
fought with Bhima, and Bhurisrava attacked Satyaki.
Long waged the bitter conflicts, and at length Krishna
perceived that his kinsman was about to be slain. He
called to Arjuna, who cast a celestial weapon at Bhurisrava,
which cut ofF both his arms; then Satyaki slew him.
Many warriors confronted Arjuna thereafter, and many
fell. But the day wore on and evening drew nigh, and
he could not find Jayadratha. At length Arjuna bade
Krishna to drive furiously onward, and to pause not
until he found the slayer of his son. The chariot sped
like to a whirlwind, until at length Arjuna beheld the
evil-hearted Jayadratha; he was guarded by Kama and
five great warriors, and at that time the sun had begun
to set.

Kama leapt forward and engaged Arjuna; but Krishna,
by reason of his divine power, caused a dark cloud to
obscure the sun, whereupon all men believed that night
had fallen. Kama at once withdrew; but Arjuna drove
on, and as the sun shot forth its last ray of dazzling light,
he dashed upon Jayadratha as a falcon swoops down upon
its prey. Brief was the struggle, for ere daylight faded
utterly, Arjuna overthrew the slayer of his son and cut
ofF his head. Bhima uttered a roar of triumph when he
saw the head of Jayadratha held aloft, and the Kauravas
sorrowed greatly because that their wicked design had
been thwarted.

Night fell, but the fighting was renewed. In the
darkness and confusion men slew their kinsmen, fathers
cut down their sons, and brothers fought against brothers.
Yudhishthira sent men with torches to light up the blood-



THE BATTLE OF EIGHTEEN DAYS 301

red plain, and the battle was waged for many hours.
Swords were splintered and spears were lost, and warriors
threw great boulders and chariot wheels against one
another. All men were maddened with the thirst for
blood, and the night was filled with horrors.

At length Arjuna called for a truce, and it was agreed
that the warriors should sleep on the battlefield. So all
lay down, the charioteer in his chariot, the horseman on
his steed, and the driver of the elephant on his elephant's
back. . . .

Duryodhana reproached Drona because that he did
not slay the Pandavas in their sleep. . . . "Let Kama,"
he said, " lead the hosts to victory."

Said Drona: "Thou art reaping the red harvest of
thy sins. . . . But know now that on the morrow either
Arjuna will fall or I will be slain by him."

When the bright moon rose in the heavens the
conflict was renewed. Many fell on that awful night.
Ghatotkacha, the Rakshasa son of Bhima, was foremost in
the fray, and he slaughtered numerous Kaurava warriors.
At length Kama went against him, and then the air was
filled with blazing arrows. Each smote the other with
powerful weapons, and for a time the issue hung in the
balance. Ghatotkacha created illusions, but Kama kept
his senses in that great fight, even after his steeds had
been slain; he leapt to the ground, then flung a celestial
dart, the gift of Indra, and Ghatotkacha, uttering terrible
cries, fell down and breathed his last breath. The Kau-
ravas shouted with gladness, and the Pandavas shed tears
of sorrow.

Ere the night was ended, Drona slew his ancient
enemy Drupada, Rajah of Southern Panchala, and he
cut down also the Rajah of Virata.

Ere dawn broke, Dhrishta-dyumna, son of Drupada,



302 INDIAN MYTH AND LEGEND

went forth to search for Drona, the slayer of his beloved
sire.

Said Bhima: "Thou art too young to strike down
so great a warrior as Drona. I will fight with him until
he is wearied, then thou canst approach and be avenged."

Bhima struggled with the sage, his preceptor, for
many hours; then Dhrishta-dyumna engaged him, but
neither could prevail over the slayer of Drupada.

At length the Pandava warriors shouted falsely:
" Aswatthaman, son of Drona, is slain."

When Drona heard the dread tidings, he fainted in
his chariot, and vengeful Dhrishta-dyumna rushed forward
and cut off his head. Then the son of Drupada threw
the head of Drona towards Duryodhana, saying: "Here
is the head of thy mighty warrior; I will cut off the
heads of each Kaurava prince in like manner."

The fall of Drona was like the sinking of heaven's
sun; it was like the drying up of the ocean; the Kauravas
fled away in fear.

Terrible was the grief of Aswatthaman when he
approached at eventide and found that his sire had been
slain. Night fell while he sorrowed, and he vowed to
slay Dhrishta-dyumna and all his kindred.

Kama was then chosen to be the leader of the Kaurava
army, and Duryodhana hailed him with joy and said:
" Thou alone canst stem the tide of our disasters. Arjuna
hath been spared by Bhishma and by Drona because that
they loved him. But the arm of Kama is strengthened
by hatred of the proud Pandava archer."

When morning broke over the plain of Kuru-kshetra,
the first battle of Kama began, and it continued all day
long. Countless warriors were slain ; blood ran in streams,
and the dead and mangled bodies of men and elephants
and horses were strewn in confusion. The air was



THE BATTLE OF EIGHTEEN DAYS 303

darkened with arrows and darts, and it rang with the
shouts of the fighters and the moans of the wounded, the
bellowing of trumpets, and the clamour of drums.

At length evening came on and the carnage ended.
. . . Duryodhana summoned a council of war and said:
" This is the sixteenth day of the war, and many of our
strongest heroes have fallen. Bhishma and Drona have
fallen, and many of my brethren are now dead."

Said Kama: "To-morrow will be the great day of the
war. I have vowed to slay Arjuna or fall by his hand."

Duryodhana was cheered by Kama's words, and all the
Kauravas were once more hopeful of victory.

In the morning Kama went forth in his chariot. He
chose for his driver Salya, Rajah of Madra, whose skill
was so great that even Krishna was not his superior.

Arjuna was again engaged in combat with Susarman
when Kama attacked the Pandava army. So the son of
Surya went against Yudhishthira and cast him on the
ground, saying : "If thou wert Arjuna I would slay
thee."

Bhima then attacked Kama, and they fought fiercely
for a time, until Arjuna, having overcome Susarman, re-
turned again to combat with Kama.

Duhsasana, who put Draupadi to shame, came up to
help Kama, and Bhima sprang upon him. Now Bhima
had long desired to meet this evil-hearted son of the blind
maharajah, so that he might fulfil his vow. He swung
his mace and struck so mighty a blow that the advancing
chariot was shattered. Duhsasana fell heavily upon the
ground and broke his back. Then Bhima seized him
and, whirling his body aloft, cried out : " O Kauravas,
come ye who dare and rescue the helper of Kama."

No one ventured to approach, and Bhima cast down
Duhsasana's body, cut off his head, and drank his blood



3 o 4 INDIAN MYTH AND LEGEND

as he had vowed to do. " Ho ! ho ! ' he cried, " never
have I tasted a sweeter draught. . . ."

Many Kaurava warriors fled, and they cried out: " This
is not a man, for he drinketh human blood."

All men watched the deadly combat which was waged
between the mighty heroes Arjuna and Kama. They
began by shooting arrows one at another, while Krishna
and Salya guided the chariots with prowess and care.
The arrows of Arjuna fell upon Kama like to summer
rain ; Kama's arrows were like stinging snakes, and they
drank blood. At length Arjuna's celestial bow Gandiva
was struck and the bow-string severed. . . .

Arjuna said : " Pause, O Kama. According to the
rules of battle, thou canst not attack a disabled foe-



man.'



But Kama heeded not. He showered countless
arrows, until his proud rival was wounded grievously
on the breast.

When Arjuna had restrung his bow, he rose up like
to a stricken and angry tiger held at bay, and cast a screen
of arrows against his foe. But Kama feared him not, nor
could Arjuna bear him down. The issue hung in the
balance. . . .

Then suddenly a wheel of Kama's chariot sank in
the soft ground, nor could Salya urge the horses to
advance.

Kama cried out: "Pause now, O Arjuna, nor
wage unequal war. It is not manly to attack a helpless
enemy."

Arjuna paused; but Krishna spake quickly, saying:
"O Kama, thou speakest truly; but was it manly to
shoot arrows at Arjuna whilst he engaged himself re-
stringing his bow? Was it manly to scoff at Draupadi
when she was put to shame before elders and princes in



THE BATTLE OF EIGHTEEN DAYS 305

the gambling hall? Was it manly of thee and six warriors
to surround Abhimanyu so as to murder him without
compassion ?'

When Arjuna heard his son's name, his heart burned
with consuming wrath. Snatching from his quiver a
crescent-bladed arrow, he drew his bow and shot it at
Kama, whose head was immediately struck off.

So fell in that dread combat a brother by a brother's
hand.

The Kauravas fled in terror when Kama was slain,
and Kripa said unto Duryodhana: "Now that our greatest
warriors are dead, it would be well to sue for peace."

Said Duryodhana : " After the wrongs I have done
the Pandavas, how can I ask or expect mercy at their
hands ? Let the war go on till the end comes."

Salya was then chosen as the leader of the Kaurava
army, which had greatly shrunken in numbers, and on the
morning of the eighteenth day of the war the battle was
waged with fury. But the Pandavas were irresistible,
and when Duryodhana perceived that they were sweeping
all before them, he fled away secretly, carrying his mace.
He had power to hide under water as long as he desired,
by reason of a mighty charm which had been conferred
upon him by the demons; so he plunged into a lake and
lay concealed below the waters.

Salya was slain by Yudhishthira, and he fell like to a
thunder-splintered rock. Sahadeva overthrew false Sha-
kuni, the gambler, who had played against Yudhishthira
with loaded dice, and Bhima cut down all Duryodhana's
brethren who had survived until that last fateful day. Of
all the Kaurava heroes there then remained alive only
Aswa-thaman, son of Drona, Kripa, and Kritavarman, and
the hidden Duryodhana.

At length Bhima discovered where Duryodhana was

( c 569 ) 23



3 o6 INDIAN MYTH AND LEGEND

concealed. Yudhishthira went to the lake side and urged
him to come forth and fight.

Said Duryodhana: " Take my kingdom now and have
pleasure in it. Depart and leave me, for I must retire to
the jungle and engage in meditation."

Yudhishthira said: "I cannot accept aught from thee
except what is won in battle."

Said Duryodhana: " If you promise to fight one by
one, 1 will come out of the water and slay you all."

Yudhishthira said: "Come forth, and the battle will
be fought as thou dost desire. Now thou hast spoken as
becomes a Kshatriya."

Still Duryodhana tarried, and Bhima shouted : " If
thou dost not come out of the lake at once, I will plunge
in and drag thee to the shore."

Then Duryodhana came forth, and the Pandavas
laughed to see him, for he was covered with mire, and
water streamed down from his raiment.

Said Duryodhana : " Soon will your merriment be
turned to grief."

Now, all during the time of the Pandava exile,
Duryodhana had practised with the mace, so that he
became the equal of Bhima. But he had no one to
support him there. The other survivors remained in
hiding. Then Balarama appeared, and he caused the
combat to be waged in the middle of the blood-red plain;
he was Duryodhana's supporter.

The warriors fought like two fierce bulls, and smote
one another heavy blows, until their faces were reddened
with blood. Once Duryodhana almost achieved victory,
for he struck Bhima on the head so that all present thought
that the Pandava hero had received his deathblow. Bhima
staggered but recovered himself, and soon afterwards he
struck Duryodhana a foul blow upon the knee, which



THE BATTLE OF EIGHTEEN DAYS 307

smashed the bone so that he fell prostrate. Thus was
the vow of Bhima fulfilled. . . .

He danced round Duryodhana a time, then, kicking
his enemy's head, cried out at length : " Draupadi is
avenged."

Yudhishthira was wroth; he smote Bhima on the face
and said: " O accursed villain, thou wilt cause all men
to speak ill of us."

Then Arjuna led Bhima away, and Yudhishthira knelt
beside Duryodhana and said: "Thou art still our ruler,
and if thou wilt order me to slay Bhima, thy command
will be obeyed. Thou art now very nigh unto death,
and I sorrow for the Kaurava wives and children, who
will curse us because that thou hast been laid low."

Said Balarama : " Bhima hath broken the laws of
combat, for he smote Duryodhana below the waist."

Krishna said : " My brother, did not Duryodhana
wrong the Pandavas with foul play at dice ? And did
not Bhima, when he beheld Draupadi put to shame, vow
to break the knee of Duryodhana ? '

Said Balarama: "So thou dost approve of this? . . .
Can I forget that Bhima kicked the head of our wounded
kinsman, the rajah?'

Krishna stayed the vengeful hand of Balarama, and
prevailed upon him to take vows not to fight against the
Pandavas.

When night fell, the dying Duryodhana was visited
on the battlefield by Aswatthaman, son of Drona, and
Kripa, and Kritavarman. Unto Aswatthaman he gave
permission to attack the Pandavas while yet they
slumbered. . . . Then Drona's son went forth in the
darkness to glut his hunger for vengeance because that
his sire had been slain. . . . The pale stars looked down
on the dead and the dying as Aswatthaman crossed the



3 o8 INDIAN MYTH AND LEGEND

battleplain and went stealthily towards the tents of his
foemen, with Kripa and Kritavarman.

At the gate of the Pandava camp an awful figure rose
up against the conspirators. Aswatthaman was not afraid,
and he fought with his adversary until he perceived that
he was the god Shiva, the Blue-throated Destroyer.
Then Drona's son drew back, and on an altar he kindled
a fire to worship the all-powerful deity. Then, having
naught else to sacrifice, he cast his own body upon the
flames. By this supremely pious act Shiva was propitiated;
he accepted Drona's son and entered his body, saying:
" Hitherto, for the sake of Krishna, have I protected the
sons of Draupadi, but now their hour of doom hath



come.'



Then Aswatthaman rushed into the camp and
slaughtered with the cruel arm of vengeance. Rudely
he awakened Dhrihsta-dyumna, who cried out: "Coward!
wouldst thou attack a naked man?'

Aswatthaman answered not his father's slayer, but
took his life with a single blow. . . . Through the camp
he went, striking down each one he met, and shrieks and
moans arose on every side.

Draupadi was awakened by the clamour, and her five
young sons sprang up to protect her. Aswatthaman slew
each one without pity. . . . Then he lit a great fire to
discover those who had concealed themselves, and with
reeking hands he completed his ghastly work of slaughter.
Meanwhile Kripa and Kritavarman, with weapons in
their hands, kept watch at the gate, and cut down all who
endeavoured to escape.

Now the Pandava princes slept safely on that night of
horror in the camp of the Kauravas, so that they escaped
the sword of Drona's son.

When his fell work was accomplished, the blood-



THE BATTLE OF EIGHTEEN DAYS 309

thirsty Aswatthaman cut off the heads of Draupadi's five
sons and carried them to Duryodhana, who rejoiced
greatly, believing that they were the heads of Yudhish-
thira and his brethren. But when he perceived that the
avenger of night had slain the children of Draupadi
instead, he cried out : " Alas ! what horror hast thou
committed ? Thou hast slain innocent children, who,
had they lived, would have perpetuated our name and
our fame. My heart burns with anger against the sires
and not their harmless sons."

Duryodhana groaned heavily : his heart was op-
pressed with grief, and, bowing down his head, he died
sorrowing.

Then Aswatthaman and Kripa and Kritavarman fled
away, fearing the wrath of the Pandavas.



CHAPTER XIX
Atonement and the Ascent to Heaven

Draupadi's Sorrow The Vengeful Maharajah Bhima is Forgiven -
Dead Burned on Battlefield Atonement for Sin The Horse Sacrifice
Arjuna's Wanderings A Woman turned to Stone The Amazons Fathei
and Son Conflict The Wonderful Serpent Jewel Return of the Horse The
Sacrifice Performed Maharajah Retires to the Forest Meeting of Mournful
Relatives The Vision of the Dead Widows Drown Themselves A Forest
Tragedy Dwaraka Horrors End of Krishna and Balarama City Destroyed
by the Sea Farewell of the Pandavas The Journey to Heaven Yudhish-
thira Tested by Deities Vision of Hell The Holy Life.

WHEN it was told to the Pandava brethren that their
camp had been raided in darkness by the bloodthirsty
Aswatthaman, Yudhishthira exclaimed : " Alas ! sorrow
upon sorrow crowds upon us, and now the greatest
sorrow of all hath fallen. Draupadi mourns the death
of her brother and her five sons, and I rear she will
perish with grief."

Draupadi came before her husbands and, weeping
bitterly, said: "For thirteen cruel years you have endured
shame and exile so that your children might prosper. But
now that they are all slain, can you desire to have power
and kingdom ?'

Said Krishna : " O daughter of a rajah, is thy grief
so great as is Pritha's and Gandhari's, and as great as
those who lament the loss or their husbands on the battle-
field? Thou hast less cause than others to wail now."

Draupadi was soothed somewhat, but she turned to



ATONEMENT AND THE ASCENT 311

Bhima and said: "If thou wilt not bring to me the head
of Aswatthaman, I will never again look upon thy face."

Said Yudhishthira: "Aswatthaman is a Brahman, and
Vishnu, the greatest of the gods, will punish him if he
hath done wrong. If we should slay him now, O Drau-
padi, thy sons and thy brother and thy sire would not
be restored unto thee."

Draupadi said: "So be it. But Aswatthaman hath
a great jewel which gleams in darkness. Let it be taken
from him, for it is as dear unto him as his life."

Then Ariuna went in pursuit of Aswatthaman and
found him, and returned with the jewel.

To the battlefield came blind old Dhritarashtra,
mourning the death of his hundred sons. And with
the weeping maharajah were Queen Gandhari and the
wives of the Kaurava princes, who sorrowed aloud.
Wives wept for their husbands, their children wailed
beside them, and mothers moaned for their sons. Bitter
was the anguish of tender-hearted women, and the air
was filled with wailing on that blood-red plain of Kuru-
kshetra.

When Queen Gandhari beheld the Pandavas she
cried out: "The smell of Duryodhana is upon you
all."

Now Dhritarashtra plotted in his weak mind to
crush the head of Bhima, the slayer of Duryodhana.
When he embraced Yudhishthira he said: "Where is
Bhima?" and they placed before him an image of the
strong Pandava. Dhritarashtra put forth his arms, and
he crushed the image in his embrace and fell back faint-
ing. Then he wailed: "Alas ! Bhima was as a son unto
me. Although I have slain him, the dead cannot return."

Well pleased was the maharajah when it was told to
him that Bhima still lived; and he embraced his son's



3 12 INDIAN MYTH AND LEGEND

slayer tenderly and with forgiveness, saying : " I have
no children now save the sons of Pandu, my brother."

Pritha rejoiced to meet her five sons, and she em-
braced them one by one. Then she went towards the
sorrowing Draupadi, who fainted in her arms. There-
after they wept together for the dead.

The bodies of the slain rajahs and princes were
collected together, and wrapped in perfumed linen and
laid each upon a funeral pyre and burned, and the firs. f
pyre which was kindled was that of Duryodhana. The
Pandavas mourned for their kinsmen. Then they bathed
in the holy Ganges, and took up water and sprinkled it
in the name of each dead hero. Yudhishthira poured out
the oblation for Kama, his brother, and he gave great gifts
to his widows and his children. Thereafter all the re-
maining bodies of the slain were burned on the battle-
field. 1

Yudhishthira was proclaimed rajah in the city of
Hastinapur, and he wore the great jewel in his crown.
A great sacrifice was offered up, and Dhaumya, the family
priest of the Pandavas, poured the Homa offering to the
gods on the sacred fire. Yudhishthira and Draupadi were
anointed with holy water.

In the days that followed, Yudhishthira lamented over
the carnage of the great war, nor could he be comforted,
At length Vyasa, the sage, appeared before him and ad-
vised that he should perform the horse sacrifice to atone
for his sins.

Then search was made for a moon-white horse with
yellow tail and one black ear, and when it was found a
plate of gold, inscribed with the name of Yudhishthira,
was tied upon its forehead. Thereafter the horse was

1 No widows were burned with their husbands, for the Sati (or Suttee) ceremony
had not yet become general in India ; nor did the Brahmans officiate at the pyres.



ATONEMENT AND THE ASCENT 313

let loose, and was allowed to wander wheresoever it de-
sired. A great army, which was led by Arjuna, followed
the horse.

Now it was the custom in those days that when the
sacred horse entered a raj 1 , that raj was proclaimed to be
subject to the king who performed the ceremony. And
if any ruler detained the horse, he was compelled to fight
with the army which followed the wandering animal.
Should he be overcome in battle, the opposing rajah
immediately joined forces with those of the conqueror,
and followed the horse from kingdom to kingdom. For
a whole year the animal was allowed to wander thus.

The horse was let loose on the night of full moon in
the month of Choitro. 2

Arjuna met with many adventures. He fought
against a rajah and the son of a rajah, who had a thou-
sand wives in the country of Malwa, and defeated them.
But Agni, who had married a daughter of the rajah, came
to rescue his kin. He fought against Arjuna with fire,
but Arjuna shot celestial arrows which produced water.
Then the god made peace, and the rajah who had de-
tained the horse went away with Arjuna. Thereafter
the horse came to a rock which was the girl-wife of a
Rishi who had been thus transformed because of her
wickedness. " So will you remain," her husband had
said, "until Yudhishthira performs the Aswa-medha
ceremony." The horse was unable to leave the rock.
Then Arjuna touched the rock, which immediately be-
came a woman, and the horse was set free.

In time the horse entered the land of Amazons, and
the queen detained it, and came forth with her women
warriors to fight against Arjuna, who, however, made
peace with them and went upon his way. Thereafter

1 Royal territory. 2 The Easter full moon.



3 1 4 INDIAN MYTH AND LEGEND

the holy steed reached a strange country where men
and women and horses and cows and goats grew upon
mighty trees like to fruit, and came to maturity and died
each day. The rajah came against Arjuna, but was
defeated. Then all the army fled to the islands of the
sea, for they were Daityas, and Arjuna plundered their
dwellings and obtained much treasure.

Once the horse entered a pond, and was cursed by
the goddess Parvati, and it became a mare ; it entered
another pond and became a lion, owing to a Brahman's
spell.

In the kingdom of Manipura the horse was seized,
and soldiers armed with fire weapons were ready to fight
against the Pandavas and their allies. But when the
rajah, whose name was Babhru-vahana, discovered that
the horse bore the name of Yudhishthira, he said: "Ar-
juna is my sire;" and he went forth and made obeisance,
and put his head under the foot of the Pandava hero.
But Arjuna spurned him, saying: "If I were thy sire,
thou wouldst have no fear of me."

Then the rajah challenged Arjuna to battle, and was
victorious on that day. 1 He took all the great men
prisoners, and he severed Arjuna's head from his body
with a crescent-bladed arrow. The rajah's mother, Chit-
rangada, was stricken with sorrow, as was also Ulupi,
the daughter of Vasuka, the king of serpents, who had
borne a son to Arjuna. But Ulupi remembered that her
sire possessed a magic jewel which had power to restore
a dead man to life, and she sent the rajah of Manipura
to obtain it from the underworld. But the Nagas re-
fused to give up the jewel, whereupon Arjuna's mighty

1 Here we meet with the familiar father-and-son-combat theme of which the stories
of the Persian Sohrab and Rustem, the Germanic Hildebrand and Hadubrand, and the
Celtic Cuchullin and Conlaoch are representative variants. Arjuna had effected a



Online LibraryDonald Alexander MackenzieIndian myth and legend → online text (page 25 of 38)