Mahabharata (English)

by Kisari Mohan Ganguli | 2,566,952 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 XLVIII

Dhritarashtra said,—

"When that great bowman Sveta proceeded towards Salya’s car, what did the Kauravas and the Pandavas do, O Sanjaya? And what also did Bhishma the son of Santanu do? Tell me who ask you, all this."

Sanjaya said,—

"O king, hundreds and thousands of bulls among Kshatriyas, all brave and mighty car-warriors, placing the generalissimo Sveta in the van, and displaying their strength. O Bharata, unto your royal son and with Sikhandin also at their head, desired to rescue (Sveta). And those mighty car-warriors rushed towards Bhishma’s car decked with gold desirous of slaying that foremost of warriors. And the battle that ensued then was terrible. I shall describe to you that wonderful and terrific battle as it occurred between your troops and those of the enemy. The son of Santanu made the terraces of many cars empty, (for) that best of car-warriors showering (his) arrows, cut off many heads. Endued with energy equal to that of the Sun himself, he shrouded the very Sun with his arrows. And he removed his enemies from around him in that combat like the rising Sun dispelling the darkness around. And in that battle, O king, arrows were shot by him in hundreds and thousands that were powerful and possessed of great impetuosity and that took in that conflict the lives of numberless Kshatriyas.

And in that combat he felled heads, by hundreds, of heroic warriors, O king, and elephants cased in thorny mail, like summits of mountains (felled) by heaven’s bolt. And cars, O king, were seen to mingle with cars. A car might be seen upon another car, and a steed upon another steed. And impetuous chargers, O king, bore hither and thither heroic riders in the prime of youth, slain and hanging (from their saddles) with their bows (still in their grasp).[1] With swords and quivers attached (to their persons) and coats of mail loosened (from their bodies), hundreds of warriors, deprived of life, lay on the ground, sleeping on beds (worthy) of heroes. Rushing against one another, falling down and rising up again and rushing again having risen up, the combatants fought hand to hand. Afflicted by one another, many rolled on the field of battle. Infuriate elephants rushed hither and thither, and car-warriors by hundreds were slain.

And car-warriors, along with their cars, were crushed on all sides. And some warriors fell upon his car, slain by another with arrows. And a mighty car-warrior might be seen to fall down from high, his charioteer (also) having been slain. A thick dust arose, and thereupon unto the warrior struggling in battle, the twang of the (hostile) bow indicated the struggling adversary before. From the pressure also on their bodies, combatants guessed their foes. And the warriors, O king, fought on with arrows, guided by the sound of bow-strings and (hostile) division. The very hiss of the arrows shot by the combatants at one another could not be heard. And so loud was the sound of drums, that it seemed to pierce the ears.

And in that tumultuous uproar making the hair stand on end, the name of the combatant uttered in the battle, while displaying his prowess, could not be heard. The sire could not recognise the son of his loins. One of the wheels being broken, or the yoke being torn off or one of the steeds being slain, the brave car-warrior was overthrown from his car, along with his charioteer, by means of straight arrows. And thus many heroic warriors, deprived of their cars, were seen to fly away.[2] He who was slain had cut off; he who was not slain, was struck at the very vitals: but unstruck there was none, when Bhishma attacked the foe. And in that terrific battle, Sveta caused a great slaughter of the Kurus. And he slew many noble princes by hundreds upon hundreds.[3] And he cut off, by means of his arrows, the heads of car-warriors by hundreds upon hundreds, and (their) arms decked with Angadas, and (their) bows all around. And car-warriors and car-wheels and others that were on cars, and the cars themselves, and standards both small and costly, O king, and large bodies of horses, and crowds of cars, and crowds of men, O Bharata’s race, were destroyed by Sveta.

Ourselves, from fear of Sveta, abandoning (Bhishma) that best of car-warriors, left the battle retreating to the rear and, therefore, do we (now) behold your lordship. And all the Kurus, O son of Kuru’s race, beyond the range of arrows, and abandoning Bhishma the son of Santanu, in that battle, stood (as spectators though) armed for the combat. Cheerful in the hour of (universal) cheerlessness, that tiger among men Bhishma, alone of our army, in that terrible battle stood immovable like the mountain Meru. Taking the lives (of the foe) like the Sun at close of winter, he stood resplendent with the golden rays (of his car) like the Sun himself with his rays. And that great bowman shot clouds of arrows and struck down the Asuras.[4]

And while being slaughtered by Bhishma in that dreadful combat, those warriors breaking away from their ranks, they all fled from him, as if from a fire fed by fuel.[5] Encountering the single warrior (Sveta), that slayer of foes, Bhishma, was the only one (amongst us) who was cheerful and whole. Devoted to the welfare of Duryodhana, he began to consume the Pandava (warrior). Reckless of his very life which is difficult of being cast off, and abandoning all fear he slaughtered, O king, the Pandava army in that fierce conflict.[6] And beholding the generalissimo (Sveta) smiting the (Dhartarashtra) divisions, your father Bhishma, called also Devavrata, impetuously rushed against him.

Thereupon, Sveta covered Bhishma with an extensive net-work of arrows. And Bhishma also covered Sveta with a flight of arrows. And roaring like a couple of bulls, they rushed, like two infuriate elephants of gigantic size or two raging tigers, against each other. Baffling each other’s weapons by means of their weapons, those bulls among men, viz., Bhishma and Sveta fought with each other, desirous of taking each other’s life. In one single day Bhishma, infuriate with anger, could consume the Pandava army with his arrows, if Sveta did not protect it. Beholding the grandsire then turned off by Sveta, the Pandavas were filled with joy, while your son became cheerless. Duryodhana then, with wrath excited and surrounded by many kings, rushed with his troops against the Pandava host in battle.

Then Sveta, abandoning the son of Ganga, slaughtered your son’s host with great impetuosity like the wind (uprooting) trees with violence. And the son of Virata, senseless with wrath, having routed your army, advanced (once more), O king, to the place where Bhishma was stationed. And those two high-souled and mighty warriors then, both blazing with their arrows, battled with each other like Vritra and Vasava (of old), desirous, O king, of slaying each other. Drawing (his) bow to the fullest stretch, Sveta pierced Bhishma with seven arrows. The valourous (Bhishma) then, putting forth his prowess, quickly checked his foe’s valour, like an infuriate elephant checking an infuriate compeer.

And Sveta then, that delighter of Kshatriyas struck Bhishma, and Bhishma the son of Santanu also pierced him in return with ten arrows. And though pierced by him (thus), that mighty warrior stood still like a mountain. And Sveta again pierced Santanu’s son with five and twenty straight arrows, at which all wondered. Then smiling and licking with his tongue the corners of his mouth, Sveta in that combat cut off Bhishma’s bow into ten fragments with ten arrows. Then aiming a plumed arrow made wholly of iron, (Sveta) crushed the palmyra on the top of the standard of the high-souled (Bhishma). And beholding the standard of Bhishma cut down, your sons thought that Bhishma was slain, having succumbed to Sveta. And the Pandavas also filled with delight, blew their conches all around.

And beholding the palmyra standard of the high-souled Bhishma laid low, Duryodhana, from wrath, urged his own army to the battle. And they all began very carefully to protect Bhishma who 'was in great distress. Unto them, also unto those that stood (idle) spectators, the king said,—Either Sveta will die (today), or Bhishma the son of Santanu. I say this truly. Hearing the words of the king, the mighty car-warriors speedily with four kinds of forces, advanced protecting the son of Ganga. And Valhika and Kritavarman, and Kripa, and Salya also, O Bharata, and the son of Jarasandha, and Vikarna, and Citrasena, and Vivinsati, with great speed, when speed was so necessary, surrounding him on all sides, poured on Sveta ceaseless showers of arrows. That mighty warrior then, of immeasurable soul, quickly checked those angry warriors by means of sharp arrows, displaying his own lightness of hand. And checking them all like a lion and a multitude of elephants, Sveta then cut off Bhishma’s bow with thick shower of arrows. Then Bhishma the son of Santanu, taking up another bow in that battle, pierced Sveta, O king, with arrows furnished with feathers of Kanka bird.

Then the commander (of the Pandava army), with wrath excited, pierced Bhishma in that encounter O king, with a great many shafts in the very sight of all. Beholding Bhishma, that foremost of heroes in all the world, checked in battle by Sveta, the king (Duryodhana) became greatly troubled, and great also became the distress of your whole army. And beholding the heroic Bhishma checked and mangled by Sveta with his arrows, all thought that Bhishma, having succumbed to Sveta, was slain by him. Then your sire Devavrata, yielding to anger, and beholding his (own) standard overthrown and the (Dhartarashtra) army checked, shot a great many arrows, O king, at Sveta. Sveta, however, that foremost of car-warriors, baffling all those arrows of Bhishma, once more cut off, with a broad-headed shaft, your sire’s bow. Throwing aside that bow, O king, Ganga’s son, senseless with anger, taking up another bow larger and stronger, and aiming seven large broad-headed arrows whetted on stone, slew with four arrows the four steeds of the generalissimo Sveta, cut off his standard with two and with the seventh shaft that warrior of great prowess, exceedingly provoked, cut off his charioteer’s head. Thereupon, that mighty car-warrior, jumping down from his car whose steeds and charioteer had been slain[7], and yielding to the influence of wrath, became exceedingly troubled. The grandsire, beholding Sveta that foremost of car-warriors, deprived of car, began to smite him on all sides with showers of arrows.

And smitten in that combat with arrows shot from Bhishma’s bow, Sveta, leaving his bow on his (abandoned) car took up a dart decked with gold and taking up that terrible and fierce dart[8] which resembled the fatal rod of Death and was capable of slaying Death’s self. Sveta then, in great wrath, addressed Bhishma the son of Santanu in that combat, saying,—Wait a little, and behold me, O best of men,—And having said this unto Bhishma in battle, that great bowman of exceeding prowess and immeasurable soul, hurled the dart resembling a snake, displaying his valour for the sake of the Pandavas and desiring to achieve your evil. Then loud cries of oh and alas arose among your sons, O king, upon beholding that terrible dart resembling the rod of Death in splendour. And hurled from Sveta’s arms, (that dart), resembling a snake that had just cast off its slough, fell with great force, O king, like a large meteor from the firmament. Your sire Devavrata then, O king, without the slightest fear, with eight sharp and winged arrows, cut off into nine fragments, that dart decked with pure gold and which seemed to be covered with flames of fire, as it coursed ablaze through the air.

All your troops then, O bull of Bharata’s race, set up loud shouts of joy. The son of Virata, however, beholding his dart cut off into fragments, became senseless with anger, and like one whose heart was overcome by (the arrival of) his hour, could not settle what to do. Deprived of his senses by anger, O king, the son of Virata, then, smiling, joyfully took up a mace for Bhishma’s slaughter, with eyes red in wrath, and resembling a second Yama armed with mace, he rushed against Bhishma like a swollen torrent against the rocks. Regarding his impetuosity as incapable of cheek, Bhishma endued with great prowess and conversant with the might (of others), suddenly alighted on the ground for warding off that blow. Sveta then, O king, whirling in wrath that heavy mace, hurled it on Bhishma’s car like the god Mahesvara.[9]

And in consequence of that mace intended for Bhishma’s destruction, that car was reduced to ashes, with standard, and charioteer, and steeds and shaft. Beholding Bhishma, that foremost of car-warriors, become a combatant on foot, many car-warriors, viz., Salya and others, speedily rushed (to his rescue). Mounting then upon another car, and cheerlessly stretching his bow, Bhishma slowly advanced towards Sveta, seeing that foremost of car-warriors. Meanwhile, Bhishma heard a loud voice uttered in the skies, that was celestial and fraught with his own good. (And the voice said).—'O, Bhishma, O you of mighty arms, strive without losing a moment. Even this is the hour fixed by the Creator of the Universe for success over this one'. Hearing those words uttered by the celestial messenger, Bhishma, filled with joy, set his heart upon Sveta’s destruction.

And beholding that foremost of car-warriors, Sveta become a combatant on foot, many mighty car-warriors (of the Pandava side) rushed unitedly (to his rescue). (They were) Satyaki, and Bhimasena, and Dhrishtadyumna of Prishata’s race; and the (five) Kekaya brothers, and Dhrishtaketu and Abhimanyu of great energy. And beholding them rushing (to the rescue), with Drona and Salya and Kripa that hero of immeasurable soul (Bhishma) checked them all like the mountain resisting the force of the wind. And when all the high-souled warriors of the Pandava side were (thus) held in check, Sveta, taking up a sword cut off Bhishma’s bow. Casting aside that bow, the grandsire, quickly made up his mind for Sveta’s destruction, having heard the words of the celestial messenger.

Though baffled (by Sveta), your sire Devavrata then that mighty car-warrior quickly taking up another bow that resembled the bow of Sakra himself in splendour, stringed it in a moment. Then your sire, O chief of the Bharatas, beholding that mighty car-warrior Sveta, though the latter was then surrounded by those tigers among men with Bhimasena at their head,—(your sire) the son of Ganga-advanced steadily for the sake of the generalissimo Sveta alone. Beholding Bhishma advance, Bhimasena of great prowess pierced him with sixty shafts. But that mighty car-warrior, your sire Devavrata, checking both Bhimasena and Abhimanyu and other car-warriors with terrible shafts, struck him with three straight arrows.

And the grandsire of the Bharatas also struck Satyaki, in that combat, with a hundred arrows, and Dhrishtadyumna with twenty and the Kekaya brothers with five. And checking all those great bowmen with terrible arrows, your sire Devavrata advanced towards Sveta alone. Then taking out an arrow resembling Death’s self and capable of bearing a great strain and incapable of being resisted, the powerful Bhishma placed it on his bowstring. And that shaft, furnished with wings and duly endued with the force of the Brahma weapon, was seen by the gods and Gandharvas and Pisachas and Uragas, and Rakshasas. And that shaft, of splendour like that of a blazing fire, piercing through his coat of mail (passed through his body and) struck into the earth, with a flash like that of heaven’s bolt. Like the Sun when speedily retiring to his western chambers taking along with him the rays of light, even thus that shaft passed out of Sveta’s body, bearing away with itself his life. Thus slain in battle by Bhishma, we beheld that tiger among men fall down like the loosened crest of a mountain.

And all the mighty car-warriors of the Kshatriya race belonging to the Pandava side indulged in lamentations. Your sons, however, and all the Kurus, were filled with delight. Then, O king, beholding Sveta overthrown, Dussasana danced in joy over the field in accompaniment With the loud music of conches and drums. And when that great bowman was slain by Bhishma, that ornament of battle, the mighty bowmen (of the Pandava side) with Sikhandin at their head, trembled in fear. Then when their commander was slain, Dhananjaya, O king, and he of Vrishni’s race, slowly withdrew the troops (for their nightly rest). And then, O Bharata, the withdrawal took place of both theirs and thine, while thine and theirs were frequently setting up loud roars. And the mighty car-warriors of the Parthas entered (their quarters) cheerlessly, thinking, O chastiser of foes, of that awful slaughter in single combat (of their commander)."

Footnotes and references:


The Bombay text reads 'Yavana nihatam,' which is better.


I adopt the Bombay reading of the 22nd verse.


'Swayam' in some of the Bengal texts is a misprint for 'Kshayam'.


Cakrapani is Vishnu armed with the discus.


For 'Yuthan' which gives no meaning, I read 'Yodhas'. The Bengal reading 'muktvagnimiva daruna' is better than the Bombay reading 'muktam ripumishu darunam.'


The Bombay reading 'jivitam dustyajam' is better than the Bengal reading 'jivam taduttham', if it has any meaning.


In the first line of 71st verse, the word is not 'Laghu' but 'alaghu', the initial 'a' being only silent according to the rule of Sandhi. Though omitted in the Bengal texts, it occurs in the Bombay edition.


'Ghoram', 'ugram', 'mahabhayam', are pleonastic.


In the first line of 87 for Mahesvara (meaning Siva) the Bombay text reads Dhanesvara (meaning Kuvera, the lord of treasures). For also 'Bhimainipatitiya' in the second line the Bombay text reads 'Bhishma inipainya'.


This concludes Section XLVIII 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 XLVIII of Book 6 of the Mahabharata?

The most relevant definitions are: Bhishma, Sveta, Pandava, Santanu, Bharata, Devavrata; since these occur the most in Book 6, Section XLVIII. There are a total of 54 unique keywords found in this section mentioned 215 times.

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

Section XLVIII 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 XLVIII as contained in Book 6?

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

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