The Mahabharata (English)

by Kisari Mohan Ganguli | 1,056,585 words | ISBN-10: 8121505933

The English translation of the Mahabharata is a large text describing ancient India. It is authored by Krishna-Dwaipayana Vyasa and contains the records of ancient humans. Also, it documents the fate of the Kauravas and the Pandavas family. Another part of the large contents, deal with many philosophical dialogues such as the goals of life. Book...

Section CLXXXI

[Sanjaya continues his narration started at section CLXVI]

"Bhishma said,

'After he had quartered there, on third day, O king, Jamadagni’s son of high vows, sent a message to me, saying,

'I have come here, do what is agreeable to me.'

Hearing that Rama, of great might, had come to the confines of our kingdom, I speedily went with a joyous heart to that master who was an ocean of energy. And I went to him, O king, with a cow placed in the van of my train, and accompanied by many Brahmanas, and (ordinary) priests (of our family), and by others, resembling the very gods in splendour, employed by us on special occasions. And beholding me arrived at his presence, Jamadagni’s son, of great prowess, accepted the worship I offered unto him and said these words unto me.'

"Rama said,

'Thyself, divested of desire, with what mood of mind, O Bhishma, didst you abduct, on the occasion of her self-choice, his daughter of the king of Kasi and again dismiss her subsequently? By you has this famous lady been dissociated from virtue! Contaminated by the touch of your hands before, who can marry her now? Rejected she has been by Salva, because you, O Bharata, hadst abducted her. Take her therefore, to thyself, O Bharata, at my command. Let this daughter of a king, O tiger among men, be charged with the duties of her sex! O king, O sinless one, it is not proper that this humiliation should be hers!

’seeing him plunged into sorrow (on account of the maiden) I said unto him,—

O Brahmana, I cannot, by any means, bestow this girl on my brother. O you of Bhrigu’s race, it was to myself that she said, I am Salva’s! And it was by me that she was permitted to go to Salva’s city. As regards myself, even this is my firm vow that I cannot abandon Kshatriya practices from fear or pity, or avarice of wealth, or lust!

—Hearing these words of mine, Rama addressed me, with eyes rolling in anger, saying,

'If, O bull among, men, you dost not act according to my words, I will slay you this very day along with all your counsellors!'

Indeed, with eyes rolling in anger, Rama in great wrath told me these words repeatedly. I, however, O chastiser of foes, then beseeched him in sweet words. But though beseeched by me, he did not cool down. Bowing down with my head unto that best of Brahmanas I then enquired of him the reason for which he sought battle with me. I also said,—O you of mighty arms, while I was a child it was you who instructed me in the four kinds of arms.[1] I am, therefore, O you of Bhrigu’s race, your disciple!

Then Rama answered me with eyes red in anger,

'You knowest me, O Bhishma, to be your preceptor, and yet, O Kauravya, you acceptest not, for pleasing me, this daughter of the ruler of Kasi! O delighter of the Kurus, I cannot be gratified unless you actest in this way! O mighty-armed one, take this maiden and preserve your race! Having been abducted by you, she obtaines not a husband.

Unto Rama that subjugator of hostile cities, I replied, saying.—

This cannot be, O regenerate Rishi! All your labour is vain, O son of Jamadagni, remembering your old preceptorship, I am striving, O holy one, to gratify you! As regards this maiden, she has been refused by me before knowing what the faults, productive of great evils, of the female sex are, who is there that would admit into his abode a woman whose heart is another’s and who (on that account) is even like a snake of virulent poison? O you of high vows, I would not, even from fear of Vasava, forsake duty! Be gracious unto me, or do me without delay that which you have thought proper. This sloka also, O you of pure soul, is heard in the Puranas, O lord, sung by the high-souled Marutta, O you of great intelligence! The renunciation is sanctioned by the ordinance of a preceptor who is filled with vanity, who is destitute of the knowledge of right and wrong, and who is treading in a devious path.—You are my preceptor and it is for this that I have from love reverenced you greatly.

You, however, knowest not the duty of a preceptor, and it is for this that I will fight with you. I would not slay any preceptor in battle, especially again a Brahmana, and more specially one endued with ascetic merit. It was for this that I forgive you. It is well-known truth, gatherable from the scriptures, that he is not guilty of slaying a Brahmana who kills in battle a person of that order that takes up weapons like Kshatriya and fights wrathfully without seeking to fly. I am a Kshatriya stationed in the practice of Kshatriya duties. One does not incur sin, nor does one incur any harm by behaving towards a person exactly as that person deserves. When a person acquainted with the proprieties of time and place and well-versed in matters affecting both profit and virtue, feels doubtful, as regards anything, he should without scruples of any kind, devote himself to the acquisition of virtue which would confer the highest benefit on him.

And since you, O Rama, in a matter connected with profit of doubtful propriety, actest unrighteously, I would certainly fight with you in a great battle. Behold the strength of my arms and my prowess that is superhuman! In view of such circumstances, I shall certainly do, O son of Bhrigu, what I can. I shall fight with you, O regenerate one, on the field of Kurukshetra!

O Rama of great effulgence, equip thyself as you listest for single combat! Come and station thyself on the field of Kurukshetra where, afflicted with my shafts in great battle, and sanctified by my weapons, you mayest obtain those regions that have been won by you (thought for your austerities). O you of mighty arms and wealth of asceticism, there I will approach you for battle,—you that art so fond of battle!

There, O Rama, where in days of yore you had propitiated your (deceased) fathers (with oblations of Kshatriya blood), slaying you there, O son of Bhrigu, I will propitiate the Kshatriya slain by you! Come there, O Rama, without delay! There, O you that art difficult of being vanquished, I will curb your old pride about which the Brahmanas speak!

For many long years, O Rama, you have boasted, saying,—I have, single-handed, vanquished all the Kshatriyas of the Earth!—Listen now to what enabled you to indulge in that boast! In those days no Bhishma was born, or no Kshatriyas like unto Bhishma! Kshatriyas really endued with valour have taken their births later on! As regards thyself, you have consumed only heaps of straw! The person that would easily quell your pride of battle has since been born! He, O mighty-armed one, is no other than myself, even Bhishma, that subjugator of hostile cities!

Without doubt, O Rama, I shall just quell your pride of battle!'

"Bhishma continued,

'Hearing these words of mine. Rama addressed me, laughingly saying,

'By good luck it is, O Bhishma, that you desirest to fight with me in battle! O you of Kuru’s race, even now I go with you to Kurukshetra! I will do what you have said! Come thither, O chastiser of foes! Let your mother, Jahnavi, O Bhishma, behold you dead on that plain, pierced with my shafts, and become the food of vultures, crows, and other carnivorous birds! Let that goddess worshipped by Siddhas and Charanas, that blessed daughter of Bhagiratha, in the form of a river, who begat your wicked self, weep today, O king, beholding you slain by me and lying miserable on that plain, however undeserving she may be of seeing such a sight! Come, O Bhishma, and follow me, O proud wight, always longing for battle! O you of Kuru’s race, take with you, O bull of Bharatas' line, your cars and all other equipments of battle!'

Hearing these words of Rama that subjugator of hostile towns, I worshipped him with a bend of my head and answered him, saying,—So be it! Having said all this, Rama then went to Kurukshetra from desire of combat, and I also, entering our city, represented everything unto Satyavati. Then causing propitiatory ceremonies to be performed (for my victory), and being blessed also by my mother, and making the Brahmanas utter benedictions on me, I mounted on a handsome car made of silver and unto which, O you of great glory, were yoked steeds white in hue. And every part of that car was well-built, and it was exceedingly commodious and covered on all sides with tiger-skin. And it was equipped with many great weapons and furnished with all necessaries. And it was ridden by charioteer who was well-born and brave, who was versed in horse-lore, careful in battle, and well-trained in his art, and who had seen many encounters. And I was accoutred in a coat of mail, white in hue, and had my bow in hand. And the bow I took was also white in hue.

And thus equipped, I set out, O best of Bharata’s race! And an umbrella, white in hue, was held over my head. And, O king, I was fanned with fans that also were white in colour. And clad in white, with also a white head-gear, all my adornments were white. And eulogised (with laudatory hymns) by Brahmanas wishing me victory. I issued out of the city named after the elephant, and proceeded to Kurukshetra, which, O bull of Bharata’s race, was to be the field of battle! And those steeds, fleet as the mind or the wind, urged by my charioteer, soon bore me, O king, to that great encounter.

And arrived in the field of Kurukshetra, both myself and Rama, eager for battle, became desirous of showing each other our prowess. And arrived within view of the great ascetic Rama, I took up my excellent conch and blew a loud blast. And many Brahmanas, O king, and many ascetics having their abodes in the forest, as also the gods with Indra at their head, were stationed there for beholding the great encounter. And many celestial garlands and diverse kinds of celestial music and many cloudy canopies could be noticed there. And all those ascetics who had come with Rama, desiring to become spectators of the fight, stood all around the field.

Just at this juncture, O king, my divine mother devoted to the good of all creatures, appeared before me in her own form and said,

'What is this that you seeks to do? Repairing to Jamadagni’s son, O son of Kuru’s race, I will repeatedly solicit him saying,—Do not fight Bhishma who is your disciple!—O son, being a Kshatriya do not obstinately set your heart on an encounter in battle with Jamadagni’s son who is a Brahmana!'

Indeed, it was thus that she reproved me. And she also said,

'O son, Rama, equal in prowess unto Mahadeva himself, is the exterminator of the Kshatriya order! It is not known to you, that you desirest an encounter with him.'

Thus addressed by her, I saluted the goddess reverentially and replied unto her with joined hands, giving her, O chief of the Bharatas, an account of all that had transpired in that self-choice (of the daughter of Kasi). I also told her every thing, O king of kings, about how I had urged Rama (to desist from the combat). I also gave her a history of all the past acts of the (eldest) daughter of Kasi. My mother then, the great River, wending to Rama, began, for my sake, to beseech the Rishi of Bhrigu’s race.

And she said unto him these words, viz.,—Do not fight Bhishma who is your disciple!—

Rama, however, said unto her while she was beseeching him thus,

'Go and make Bhishma desist! He does not execute out my wish! It is for this that I have challenged him!'

"Vaisampayana continued, 'Thus addressed by Rama, Ganga, from affection for her son, came back to Bhishma. But Bhishma, with eyes rolling in anger, refused to do her bidding. Just at this time, the mighty ascetic Rama, that foremost one of Bhrigu’s race, appeared in Bhishma’s sight. An then that best of the twice-born ones challenged him to the encounter.'"

Footnotes and references:


The science of arms (Dhanurved) classes arms under four heads, viz., Mukta, Amukta, Muktamukta, and Yantramukta. A Mukta weapon is one that is hurled from the hand, as a discus. An Amukta is not hurled from the hand, as a sword. A Muktamukta is one that is sometimes hurled and sometimes not, as a mace. A Yantramukta is one shot from a machine, as an arrow or a ball. All Mukta weapons are Astras, while all Amukta ones are called sastras.

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