Mahabharata (abridged)

258,337 words | ISBN-10: 8121505933

The English translation of the Mahabharata: one of the two major Sanskrit epics of India. Besides its epic narrative of the Kurukshetra War and the fates of the Kaurava and the Pandava princes, the Mahabharata contains philosophical and devotional material, such as a discussion of the four "goals of life". NOTE: this is a Summary Study (...

Chapter 1 - The Death of Salya

Dhritarastra said: O Sanjaya, my limbs are burning upon hearing of Karna's death. Who will give my son protection? Now that Bhishma and Drona have been slain, and Karna lies prostrate on the field of battle, who was made the commander in chief of our great army? I desire, O Suta, to hear everything that happened on the eighteenth day of the great battle.

Sanjaya replied: O descendent of Bharata, hear with attention the great carnage of both the Kurus and the Pandavas. After the death of Karna, there was no warrior capable of rallying the Kaurava troops. When their protector had been slain by the mighty armed Arjuna, the troops became like ship wrecked boats on the stormy ocean. Indeed after the demise of Karna, the Kaurava soldiers were like deer hunted by a lion. Mangled by Arjuna's arrows, the troops fled here and there. It was with great effort that King Duryodhana was able to gather his valiant soldiers and calm them. They then retired to their tents for the night. After they had rested for some time and refreshed themselves, whatever generals were left in Duryodhana's army gathered together and advised the king as follows, "Now that the invincible Karna has fallen on the field of battle, we should pick another amongst us to be the commander in chief of this heroic army." Duryodhana then approached Drona's son and questioned him, "O Ashvatthama, you are a brahmana and are highest refuge. Therefore, please tell us who should be the commander in chief of our army?"

Ashvatthama replied, "Let Salya become the commander of the army. In fame, descent, prowess and in achievements, he is superior to all of us. He will lead our army, and take us to victory."

Hearing this opinion, Duryodhana went to Salya and requested, "O ruler of Madras, you are devoted to your friends and always seek our welfare. We request you to lead this army of brave soldiers and conquer the Pandavas. There are many generals here whose prowess has lasted these eighteen days. Supporting you on all sides, we will either gain victory or enter the spiritual regions. Please protect us as Kartikeya protects the demigods."

To this request, Salya replied, "I will, O King of the Kurus, accomplish all that you have asked. Everyone regards the two Krishnas to be unconquerable. They are not, however, equal to me in the use of weapons. When angry, I can destroy the demons and devas united. Without doubt, I will become the leader of your troops, and I will form an array that our enemies will not be able to penetrate."

Thus encouraged by King Salya, Duryodhana appointed the ruler of Madras as the commander in chief of the army. All the troops became joyous and beat on their drums and sounded their conchshells. They regarded the Pandavas to be already slain in battle. They then rested for the night.

When the dawn of the eighteenth day arrived, all the troops assembled eager for battle. They were determined either to gain victory or ascend to the heavenly realm. There numbers were greater than the Pandavas, and thus they felt confident of victory.

Dhritarastra inquired: O Sanjaya, after seventeen days had passed at Kurukshetra, how many Kuru warriors remained fit for battle, and also, how many men were left to support the Pandavas?

Sanjaya said: O descendent of Kuru, I will now tell you how many brave soldiers were left to fight for the Pandava's and the Kaurava's cause. O monarch, on the side of your son, there still remained eleven thousands chariots, ten thousand seven hundred elephants, two hundred thousand horsemen and three million foot soldiers. On the side of the Pandavas, O King, there were left six thousand chariots, six thousand elephants, ten thousand horses and one million foot soldiers. Those two armies arrayed before each other at the dawn of the eighteenth day were all eager for combat.

Sanjaya continued: When the two armies met, there was a great dust cloud that appeared due to the clashing of men. The sound of steel and the sounds of the horses and elephants was uproarious. Krishna and Arjuna blew on their transcendental conchshells encouraging the troops in this last day of engagement. Partha and Bhima began a massacre of troops that was so great that before the day had finished, there would be none left to fight for the Kaurava's cause. Yudhisthira rushed at Salya protected by Dhristadyumna and Shikhandi. Nakula encountered Susena and Satyasena, the sons of Karna. In that duel, the mighty Nakula severed the heads of both those heroes. Bhima fought with Kritavarman, and the Bhoja King managed to kill Bhima's horses. Bhima jumped from his chariot taking up his death dealing mace. He smashed the horses, driver and chariot of the King of the Bhojas. Kritavarman jumped down from the chariot and fled for his life.

Salya, the King of Madras, was engaged in fighting with Yudhisthira and at the same time killing large numbers of the Panchalas, the Somakas and the Shrinjayas. To stop his progress, Bhima took up his mace and killed the four horses that were guiding Salya's chariot. Not tolerating that victorious feat, Salya released a lance that pierced Bhima's chest. Becoming enraged, Bhima pulled out that lance and pierced Salya's chariot driver in the chest, depriving him of life. Upon seeing this feat, Salya took up his own mace and rushed at Bhima eager for combat. They began whirling in circles looking for the opportunity to strike each other. They sometimes jumped high or moved to the left or to the right. When the maces of those two heroes collided, sparks and fire shot in all directions. They struck each others limbs and soon their bodies were covered in blood. Although struck repeatedly by Bhima's mace, Salya did not waver like mount Meru when struck by a thunderbolt. They fought each other fiercely and in the end, they both fell to the ground overcome with fatigue. At that time Kripacharya appeared on the scene, and placing the ruler of Madras on his chariot, took him away from the battlefield. Bhima suddenly rose up, reeling like a drunken man and again challenged Salya to combat. However, Salya had already been taken away from the scene.

Duryodhana came forward supported many Kaurava warriors and attacked the Pandavas. The heroic Duryodhana came upon the Vrishni prince Chekitana and challenged him to battle. Red hot with anger after Karna's death, Duryodhana released a powerful javelin that pierced the chest of Chekitana, and that great descendent of the Vrishni house fell to the ground dead.

After Salya had regained strength, he reentered the field of battle. He came to the front line thirsting for victory or death. He fought with Bhima, Satyaki, Nakula and Sahadeva and defeated them all. Yudhisthira then came forward to fight with Salya. Salya cut Yudhisthira's bow in two and wounded him with many arrows. Yudhisthira countered and cut off Salya's bow and pierced him with ten broad headed shafts. The first son of Kunti then killed his four horses and the two protectors of his wheels. When this happened Ashvatthama took Salya onto his chariot and sped away. However, Yudhisthira followed challenging Salya to battle. Salya then ascended another chariot and proceeded against Yudhisthira. He pierced Bhima with three arrows and Satyaki with ten. He then afflicted both Nakula and Sahadeva with many arrows. Not tolerating the enemy's prowess, Salya killed the King's horses and charioteer. Having accomplished this act, King Salya began to afflict the supporting forces of Yudhisthira. Suddenly Bhimasena appeared on the scene and stopped the King of Madras by killing his four horses. He also killed Salya's chariot driver. Salya then took up a sword and shield and quickly ran against Yudhisthira to kill him. In great rage, Salya cut off the shaft of Nakula's chariot and continued toward Yudhisthira. Bhima then shattered the shield and sword with a number of arrows. With this action the Pandava army roared in joy. With no weapons to fight with, Salya ran at Yudhisthira, whose horses had already been killed. While sitting in his chariot, Yudhisthira took up a golden dart that he had received from Lord Shiva. Aiming it at Salya heart, he released it with all his strength. When Salya saw that dart coming toward him, he endeavored to catch it, but the golden dart pierced his hands and chest and entered into the earth taking with it the life force of the King. Stretching his arms to full length, the King of Madras fell to the earth like a tree that was struck by a thunderbolt.

After Salya had been slain, his younger brother assaulted Yudhisthira with a desire to revenge Salya's death. He covered Yudhisthira with many arrows, but in the end Yudhisthira severed his head with a broad headed shaft. With this action all the Kaurava troops broke and fled the battlefield.

Duryodhana quickly rallied the fleeing troops and urged them on toward victory or the heavenly realm. Duryodhana attacked Dhristadyumna and pierced him with many arrows. The son of Drupada then killed the King's horses and chariot driver. Duryodhana then ascended a horse and went to another part of the battlefield.

At this time three thousand elephants surrounded the five Pandava brothers and tried to trample them. Arjuna was furious and rushed against the elephant army. He began to slay the large elephant division causing those huge beasts to fall to ground. Descending from his chariot, mace in hand, the angered Bhima rushed at the elephant army whirling his club which was like a revolving discus. Huge elephants had their heads split open, gushing forth flesh and blood. So fearful were those elephants at the sight of Bhima that they passed stool and urine. Out of great fear, they tried to flee from the battlefield. Bhima, however, was so quick that not one elephant escaped, and soon three thousand elephants had fallen on the Kurukshetra field, lying there like small mountains. Having been encircled by so many thousands of dead elephants, the Pandavas could not come out. To free themselves, Bhimasena picked up many elephants and threw them out of the way, thus making a path for his brothers to escape.

At another part of the battlefield, Ashvatthama was looking for Duryodhana, but no one could tell him where he had gone. Some of the warriors informed him that Duryodhana had left the battlefield on horse to rest for a while. The Kaurava army was just at the point of annihilation. Bhima was destroying the remnant of the army when he came upon some of Duryodhana's brothers. Their names were Durmarshana, Srutanta, Jaitra, Bhurivala, Ravi, Jayatsena, Sujata, Durvishaha, Durvimochana, Dushpradharsha and the mighty armed Srutavan. Thirsting to fulfill his vow, Bhima killed all of those cousins like a lion kills a flock of deer. Upon the fall of those brothers, the remnant of the Kaurava army rushed at Bhimasena to kill him. They surrounded him and began to cover him with their weapons. The powerful Bhima, who could not tolerate their attack, assaulted the huge force. He quickly destroyed five hundred chariots, seven hundred elephants, eight hundred horsemen and ten thousand foot soldiers. Having routed the huge phalanx, Bhima slapped his armpits and sent up a loud roar striking fear in the enemy's hearts. With only a small amount of warriors left, the leaders of Duryodhana's army once again proceeded against the Pandavas making the next world their goal.

Sanjaya continued: O King, after Bhimasena had killed ninety eight of your sons, only two remained. They were Duryodhana and Sudarshana. At this time there was only five hundred horsemen, two hundred chariots, one hundred chariot warriors and three thousand foot soldiers left in your son's army. All these gathered together and rushed against the Pandavas. Shakuni and the ruler of the Trigartas, Susharman, challenged Arjuna. Your son Sudarshana attacked Bhima, and Duryodhana rushed against Sahadeva. Duryodhana released a lance that pierced Sahadeva in the forehead. Sahadeva fell down to the floor of his chariot senseless. Regaining his consciousness, he covered Duryodhana with many arrows.

Meanwhile Arjuna encountered the remnant of the Trigarta army headed by Susharman. Arjuna covered the Trigarta king with a hundred arrows and then killed his four horses. Remembering his former anger against this King, Arjuna took out a single arrow, and fixing it to his bow released it at Susharman's heart. That arrow found its mark and the ruler of the Trigartas fell to the earth deprived of life. After this Arjuna killed the thirty five sons of Susharman and completely destroyed to the man, the Trigarta army. While this action was going on, Bhima cut off Sudarshana's head with a razor sharp arrow, thus bringing the death toll of cousins up to ninety nine. Now only Duryodhana was left alive.

At this time Bhima, Nakula and Sahadeva assaulted the remnant of Shakuni's division. Shakuni and his son Uluka fought fiercely with the Pandavas. Sahadeva cut Shakuni's bow in two, but Shakuni took up a lance and pierced Sahadeva in the forehead causing blood to cover his body. Shakuni then pierced Nakula and Bhima with many arrows. When Sahadeva regained his consciousness, he was furious. Attaching to his bow a broad headed shaft, he severed Uluka's head, thus gladdening the Pandavas.

Witnessing his son's death, Shakuni shed tears and breathed heavily. He then remembered the wisdom of Vidura who had spoken about the annihilation of the kshatriya race. Knowing that his death was at hand, the Gandhara King assailed Sahadeva releasing his weapons. Sahadeva cut off Shakuni's bow, but Shakuni picked up his mace and threw it at the son of Madri. Sahadeva cut off that weapon and pierced Shakuni with many arrows. All the weapons released by Shakuni were shattered by Sahadeva, and when the Gandhara king had no more weapons, he fled the battlefield.

 Sahadeva followed him quickly and challenged him to fight, "Remembering the duties of a kshatriya, stand and fight like a man. During the gambling match, O fool, you rejoiced greatly. Receive now, O wicked person, the fruit of this act!" Sahadeva then pierced Shakuni with ten arrows and rushed at him to end his life. Sahadeva quickly killed Shakuni's four horses and charioteer, and sent up a loud roar. Shakuni then took up a golden lance and rushed at Sahadeva to kill him. The son of Madri, however, cut off his two arms before the lance could be released. Then with a razor sharp arrow, he severed the head of that sinful person whose crooked dice had sent them into exile for thirteen years.

Seeing their King lying on the ground dead, the Gandhara warriors rushed at the Pandavas eager for battle. Encouraged by King Duryodhana, whatever troops were left in the army rushed at the Pandavas anxious to enter the other world. Within a matter of minutes all the Kaurava soldiers had been slain to the last man. Out of eleven Akshauhini divisions of soldiers, there was only four men left. They were Duryodhana, Ashvatthama, Kritavarman and Kripacharya. When Duryodhana saw that his whole army had been slaughtered, he retreated from the battlefield. The Pandavas were roaring with joy and blowing on their conchshells. Surviving on the Pandava's side were two thousand chariot warriors, seven hundred elephants, five thousand horsemen and ten thousand foot soldiers.

Sanjaya continued: O King, upon seeing that all his forces had been killed and that he alone was to face the Pandava force, Duryodhana abandoned his dead horse and taking up his mace proceeded eastward. He came upon a lake and desired to rest before again engaging the Pandavas in combat. By his mystic power, he entered the lake and solidified it's waters. As he lay in that lake bleeding profusely, he remembered Vidura's prophecy which foretold this annihilation.

Thus Ends the First Chapter of the Salya Parva, Entitled, The Death of Salya.

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