THE FIFTH DAY BATTLE

mahabharata 



"I AM like a shipwrecked man seeking to save himself by swimming in a storm tossed ocean. I shall surely drown, overwhelmed in this sea of sorrow." Again and again, when Sanjaya related the happenings of the great battle, Dhritarashtra would thus lament, unable to bear his grief. "Bhima is going to kill all my sons," he said. "I do not believe there is anyone with prowess enough in our army to protect my sons from death. Did Bhishma, Drona, Kripa and Aswatthama look on unconcerned when our army fled in terror? What indeed is their plan? When and how are they going to help Duryodhana? How are my sons to escape from destruction?" Saying thus, the blind old king burst into tears.

"Calm yourself, King," said Sanjaya. "The Pandavas rest on the strength of a just cause. So, they win. Your sons are brave but their thoughts are wicked. Therefore, luck does not favor them. They have done great injustice to the Pandavas, and they are reaping the harvest of their sins. The Pandavas are not winning by charms or magic incantations. They are fighting according to the practice of kshatriyas. Their cause being just, they have strength. Friends advised you, but you discarded wise counsel. Vidura, Bhishma, Drona and I tried to stop you in your unwise course, but you did not listen and you went on. Like a foolish sick man who refuses to drink bitter medicine, you obstinately refused to follow our advice, which would have saved your people, preferring to do as your foolish son desired. You are in distress now. Last night, Duryodhana asked Bhishma the same question as you put to me now. And Bhishma gave the same answer as I give you." When the fighting was stopped on the evening of the fourth day, Duryodhana went by himself to Bhishma's tent and, bowing reverently, said: "Grandsire, the world knows that you are a warrior who knows not fear. The same is the case with Drona, Kripa, Aswatthama, Kritavarma, Sudakshin, Bhurisravas, Vikarna and Bhagadatta. Death has no terror for these veterans. There is no doubt, the prowess of these great warriors is limitless, even like your own. All the Pandavas combined cannot defeat any one of you. What then is the mystery behind this daily defeat of our army at the hands of the sons of Kunti?"

Bhishma replied: "Prince, listen to me. I have given you advice on every occasion and told you what was good for you. But, you have always refused to follow what your elders counselled you to do. Again, I tell you that it is best for you to make peace with Pandu's sons. For your good as well as for that of the world, that is the only course that should be followed. Belonging to the same royal house, you can all enjoy this vast country as yours. I gave you this advice, but you disregarded it and have grievously wronged the Pandavas, the fruit of which you are now reaping. The Pandavas are protected by Krishna himself. How then can you hope for victory? Even now, it is not loo late for making peace and that is the way to rule your kingdom, making the Pandavas, your powerful brothers, friends instead of enemies. Destruction awaits you if you insult Dhananjaya and Krishna, who are none other than Nara and Narayana." Duryodhana took leave and went to his tent, but he could not sleep that night. The battle was resumed the next morning. Bhishma arrayed the Kaurava forces in a strong formation. So did Dhrishtadyumna for the Pandava army. Bhima stood at the head of the advance lines as usual. And Sikhandin, Dhrishtadyumna and Satyaki stood behind, securely guarding the main body, aided by other generals. Dharmaputra and the twin brothers held the rear. Bhishma bent his bow and discharged his shafts. The Pandava army suffered greatly under the grandsire's attack. Dhananjaya saw this and retaliated by fierce shafts aimed at Bhishma. Duryodhana went to Drona and complained bitterly according to his custom. Drona upbraided him severely: "Obstinate prince, you talk without understanding. You are ignorant of the Pandavas' strength. We are doing our best." Drona's powerful attack on the Pandava army was too much for Satyaki who was meeting it and Bhima therefore turned his attentions to Drona. The battle grew fiercer still. Drona, Bhishma and Salya made a combined attack on Bhima. Sikhandin supported Bhima by pouring a shower of arrows on Bhishma. As soon as Sikhandin stepped in, Bhishma turned away. For Sikhandin was born a girl, and Bhishma's principles did not permit him to attack a woman.

In the end, this same objection proved to be the cause of Bhishma's death. When Drona saw Bhishma turn away, he attacked Sikhandin fiercely and compelled him to withdraw. There was a promiscuous battle the whole of the morning of the fifth day, and the slaughter was terrific. In the after noon, Duryodhana sent a large force to oppose Satyaki. But Satyaki destroyed it completely and advanced to attack Bhurisravas. Bhurisravas, who was a powerful opponent, put Satyaki's men to fight, and pressed Satyaki himself so fiercely that he was in distress.

Satyaki's ten sons saw their father's plight and sought to relieve him by launching an offensive against Bhurisravas, but Bhurisravas undaunted by numbers, opposed the combined attack and was not to be shaken. His well-aimed darts broke their weapons and they were all slain, strewn on the field like so many tall trees struck down by lightning. Satyaki, wild with rage and grief, drove forward at a furious pace to slay Bhurisravas. The chariots of the two warriors dashed against each other and crumbled to pieces. And the warriors stood face to face with sword and shield in desperate single combat.

Then, Bhima came and took away Satyaki by force into his chariot and drove away. For Bhima knew that Bhurisravas was an unrivalled swordsman and he did not want Satyaki to be slain. Arjuna killed thousands of warriors that evening. The soldiers, dispatched against him by Duryodhana, perished like moths in the fire. As the sun went down and Bhishma gave orders to cease fighting, the princes on the Pandava army surrounded Arjuna and greeted him with loud cries of admiration and victory. The armies on both sides retired to camp, along with the tired horses and elephants.



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