The Mahabharata (English)

by Kisari Mohan Ganguli | 1,309,022 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 XVII

Sanjaya said,—

"Just as the holy Krishna-Dvaipayana Vyasa had said, in that very manner the kings of the Earth, mustered together, came to the encounter. On that day on which the battle commenced Soma approached the region of Pitris.[1] The seven large planets, as they appeared in the firmament, all looked blazing like fire.[2] The Sun, when he rose, seemed to be divided in twain. Besides, that luminary, as it appeared in the firmament, seemed to blaze forth in flames.[3] Carnivorous jackals and crows, expecting dead bodies to feast upon, began to utter fierce cries from all directions that seemed to be ablaze. Every day the old grandsire of the Kurus, and the son of Bharadvaja, rising from bed in the morning, with concentrated mind, said,—'Victory to the sons of Pandu'—while those chastisers of foes used (at the same time) yet to fight for your sake according to the pledge they had given

Your father Devavrata, fully conversant with every duty, summoning all the kings, said these words (unto them).

'You Kshatriyas, this broad door is open to you for entering heaven. Go you through it to the region of Sakra and Brahman. The Rishis of olden times have showed you this eternal path.[4] Honour you yourselves by engaging in battle with attentive minds. Nabhaga, and Yayati, and Mandhatri, and Nahusa, and Nriga, were crowned with success and obtained the highest region of bliss by feats like these. To die of disease at home is sin for a Kshatriya. The death he meets with in battle is his eternal duty.'

—Thus addressed, O bull of Bharata’s race, by Bhishma, the kings, looking beautiful in their excellent cars, proceeded to the heads of their respective divisions. Only Vikartana’s son Karna, with his friends and relatives, O bull of Bharata’s race, laid aside his weapons in battle for the sake of Bhishma. Without Karna then, your sons and all the kings on your side proceeded, making the ten points of the horizon resound with their leonine roars. And their divisions shone brightly, O king, with white umbrellas, banners, standards, elephants, steeds, cars, and foot-soldiers. And the Earth was agitated with the sounds of drums and tabors and cymbals, and the clatter of car-wheels. And the mighty car-warriors, decked with their bracelets and armlets of gold and with their bows (variegated with gold), looked resplendent like hills of fire. And with his large palmyra-standard decked with five stars, Bhishma, the generalissimo of the Kuru army,[5] looked like the resplendent Sun himself.

Those mighty bowmen of royal birth, O bull of Bharata’s race, that were on your side, all took up their positions, O king, as Santanu’s son ordered. (King) Saivya of the country of the Govasanas, accompanied by all the monarchs, went out on a princely elephant worthy of royal use and graced with a banner on its back. And Asvatthaman, of the complexion of the lotus, went out ready for every emergency, stationing himself at the very head of all the divisions, with his standard bearing the device of the lion’s tail. And Srutayudha and Citrasena and Purumitra and Vivinsati, and Salya and Bhurisravas, and that mighty car-warrior Vikarna,—these seven mighty bowmen on their carts and cased in excellent mail, followed Drona’s son behind but in advance of Bhishma. The tall standards of these warriors, made of gold, beautifully set up for adorning their excellent cars, looked highly resplendent.

The standard of Drona, the foremost of preceptors, bore the device of a golden altar decked with a water-pot and the figure of a bow. The standard of Duryodhana guiding many hundreds and thousands of divisions bore the device of an elephant worked in gems. Paurava and the ruler of the Kalingas, and Salya, these Rathas took up their position in Duryodhana’s van. On a costly car with his standard bearing the device of a bull, and guiding the very van (of his division), the ruler of the Magadhas marched against the foe.[6]

That large force of the Easterners looking like the fleecy clouds of autumn[7] was (besides) protected by the chief of the Angas (Karna’s son Vrishaketu) and Kripa endued with great energy. Stationing himself in the van of his division with his beautiful standard of silver bearing the device of the boar, the famous Jayadratha looked highly resplendent. A hundred thousand cars, eight thousand elephants, and sixty thousand cavalry were under his command.[8]

Commanded by the royal chief of the Sindhus, that large division occupying the very van (of the army) and abounding with untold cars, elephants, and steeds, looked magnificent. With sixty thousand cars and ten thousand elephants, the ruler of the Kalingas, accompanied by Ketumat, went out. His huge elephants, looking like hills, and adorned with Yantras,[9] lances, quivers and standards, looked exceedingly beautiful. And the ruler of the Kalingas, with his tall standard effulgent as fire, with his white umbrella, and golden curass, and Chamaras (wherewith he was fanned), shone brilliantly. And Ketumat also, riding on an elephant with a highly excellent and beautiful hook, was stationed in battle, O King, like the Sun in the midst of (black) clouds. And king Bhagadatta, blazing with energy and riding on that elephant of his, went out like the wielder of the thunder. And the two princes of Avanti named Vinda and Anuvinda, who were regarded as equal to Bhagadatta, followed Ketumat, riding on the necks of their elephants. And, O king, arrayed by Drona and the royal son of Santanu, and Drona’s son, and Valhika, and Kripa, the (Kaurava) Vyuha[10] consisting of many divisions of cars was such that the elephants formed its body; the kings, its head; and the steeds, its wings. With face towards all sides, that fierce Vyuha seemed to smile and ready to spring (upon the foe)."

Footnotes and references:


Nilakantha in a long note explains that Magha Vishayagas Somas cannot mean that Soma or the Moon entered the constellation called Magha. He quotes numerous slokas scattered throughout the Mahabharata that throw light, directly or indirectly, on the question of the opening day of the battle, and shows that all these lead to a different conclusion. What is meant by the Moon approaching the region of the Pitris is that those who fall in battle immediately ascend to heaven; of course, they have first to go to the region of Pitris. Thence they have to go to the lunar region for obtaining celestial bodies. All this implies a little delay. Here, however, in the case of those that would fall on the field of Kurukshetra, they would not have to incur even such a little delay. Candramas or Soma approached the region of Pitris so that the fallen warriors might have celestial bodies very soon, without, in fact, any necessity, on their part, to incur the delay of a journey to the lunar region prior to their ascension to heaven with resplendent bodies.


There are nine planets in all the Pauranic astronomy. Of these Rahu and Ketu are regarded Upagrahas, and hence, of grahas there are only seven. Thus Nilakantha, and the Burdwan pundits have made a mess of this line.


The Bengal texts read Bhanumanudito divi. The Bombay reading is Bhanumanudito Ravis. If the latter be adopted, Bhanuman would be an adjective of Ravis.


Purvais Purvatarais is literally—"They of old and still older times"; for Sanatanas some editions read Srutijas (qualifying panthas). Srutija means arising from the Srutis or as laid down in the Srutis.


Chamupatis is the Bengal reading. The Bombay text reads Chamupari. If the latter reading be adopted, the meaning would be, "at the head of the (Kuru) army."


The Bengal editions read 'Magadhascha ripum yayau.' The Bombay text reads 'Magadhasya Kripo-yayau.' If the latter reading be adopted, the meaning would be "and guiding the very van of the Magadha troops Kripa went."


The Bengal reading is Saradabhraghana-prakshyam. The Bombay reading is 'Sharadamvudhara-prakshyam.'


Vasavartinas is nominative, masculine, plural, referring to cars, &c.; the Burdwan Pundits take it as a genitive singular qualifying tasya, and they render it, therefore, as "of that subordinate of Duryodhana." This is evidently incorrect.


Machines, perhaps catapults.


'Vyuha' is an array of troops in a certain form. Many such will be spoken of in this and the other 'parvas' devoted to the battle.


This concludes Section XVII of Book 6 (Bhishma Parva) of the Mahabharata, of which an English translation is presented on this page. This book is famous as one of the Itihasa, similair in content to the eighteen Puranas. Book 6 is one of the eighteen books comprising roughly 100,000 Sanskrit metrical verses.

FAQ (frequently asked questions):

Which keywords occur in Section XVII of Book 6 of the Mahabharata?

The most relevant definitions are: Bhishma, Drona, Karna, Ketumat, Kalingas, Bharata; since these occur the most in Book 6, Section XVII. There are a total of 56 unique keywords found in this section mentioned 78 times.

What is the name of the Parva containing Section XVII of Book 6?

Section XVII is part of the Bhagavat-Gita Parva which itself is a sub-section of Book 6 (Bhishma Parva). The Bhagavat-Gita Parva contains a total of 112 sections while Book 6 contains a total of 3 such Parvas.

Can I buy a print edition of Section XVII as contained in Book 6?

Yes! The print edition of the Mahabharata contains the English translation of Section XVII of Book 6 and can be bought on the main page. The author is Kisari Mohan Ganguli and the latest edition (including Section XVII) is from 2012.

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