The Great War - Day 11

The eleventh morning of the war dawns. Cold and clear. Depair grips the Kaurava army. As long as Bheeshma had led them, all of them believed that they could win the war. But now that was not the case with the patriach waiting on the strange deathbed, for the sun to return to his northern path.

On that morning of eleventh day, the army of Hastinapura resounds not with blasting conches or drumrolls, but a single name cried out by a million throats.

' K A R N A !!!'

Karna hears them with a grim smile. Duryodhana arrives, with his brothers at Karna's tent and begins to cry again, but Karna comforts them like an older brother. He says to them, that nothing is certain in this world. Bheeshma fell when the best of the Kauravas, Drona, Ashwathama, Duryodhana, Kripa, Shalya and a thousand others were watching him. His time had come and no power could save him.

Duryodhana asks his friend, what should he be doing next. He needed a senapati for the army. Karna tells him that there was a warrior among them, who towered over the rest of them in both age and experience. Only he coul command respect from us all. Drona was the Karna's choice to become Senapati.

Duryodhana goes over to Drona and begs him to assume command of the army. Drona the Brahmana is pleased to no end. The Acharya is consecrated as the Senapati of the Kaurava army. When Karna stood next to him, the soldiers felt a surge of hope.

Drona deploys his soldiers in the Shakata Vyuha of the Phalanx of the Card, while Dhrishtadyumna arranges the Krauncha Vyuha. The Pandavas look across the Kurukshetra at the excitement at the Kaurava camps. They see Karna, bright as his father, take the field for the first time. Before Drona rides to the head of the army, he says to Duryodhana, 'I will fight all the Pandavas, but there is one man, I will not face, one Kshyatriya you must shield me from. He has been born to kill me.'
'Dhrishtadyumna my Lord ?'
'Yes. Drupada's fire born prince. If you can keep him away from me, I can help you win this war.'
Duryodhana reflects on thsi for just a moment, before he says what he has on his mind. He suggests to Drona that if he can bring Yudhishtra captive and alive, it would be great. Drona looks at him in suspicion. The Kaurava quickly clarifies that it was only for ending the war quickly. If Dharma is captured, he will be offered another game of dice, and if he loses, they will have to go to the jungle again. Drona in fact, does not like it at all. But he must keep his word. He says to Duryodhana, 'If you can lure Arjuna away, I will bring Dharma-putra to you.'
The news travels quickly to the Pandava side. Arjuna cries in fury,' How will they take my brother, when I won't even leave his side for a moment.'

The conches boom again. The Kaurava army whirls into battle; a great wheel of men. The Kraunch swoops to stop its spinning advance. Sahadeva, who has sworn to kill Shakuni, meets him in a duel. Dhristadyumna confronts Drona before any Kaurava warrior can interfere. Duryodhana's brother Vivimsati rides straights at Bheema. Bheehsma kills his horses and shatters his chariot, making the Kaurava to flee on foot.

Ghatotkacha and Alambusa are locked in a battle of sorcery. They fight with maya. Crying at each other in the tongue of wild rakshasas, dark curses that no one else can understand.

Virata is the first Pandava warrior to face Karna in battle. Kaurava soldiers watch with baited breath to see if their new here is indeed the archer they have heard he is. He exceeds all their expectations. His hands are light, his aim unerring and he is more fluent than Arjuna. It seems he only looks at an enemy and arrows flare from his bow by themselves. Yet, another Kshayatriya eclipses even Karna: Abhimanyu. He hunts like a gandharva on Kurukshetra and no one can stand before him. He easily breaks through the rim of Shakata Vyuha, and kills a hundred Kaurava soldiers. The king Paurava surprises Abhimanyu from a flank, smashing his bow. Abhimanyu draws his sword and seizing Paurava by his hair, flings him down to the ground.

Sword in hand, Jayadratha comes to challenge him. On the ground, between their two chariots they hew at each other. Though Jayadratha is a fine swordsman and has twice Abhimanyu's bulk, the slender prince beats him back with dazzling speed. He breaks Jayadratha's blade and makes him run back to his chariot. Word spreads of Abhimanyu's havoc. Back in his chariot, Arjuna's son once again starts his decimation. One Kaurava warrior matches Abhimanyu shaft for shaft: Shalya. Shalya invokes an astra; burning with secret fires. Partha's son, catches it in his hands, fits it in his bowstring and shoots is back atshalya. It explodes killing Shalya's sarathy, consuming his chariot and flinging him out. Shalya, unhurt but dazed and furious, he seizes up a mace and runs at Abhimanyu. As Abhimanyu lifts his own gada, another Kshyatriya arrives between him and Shalya, roaring a challenge - Bheema.

Like a tiger and an elephant, they circle each other. Their maces clash like earthquakes and storms of blue sparks fly around them. Bheema crashes a blow on Shalya's mace that the king's weapon ignites in his hands. Bheema's next blow takes Shalya on the head, whose knees buckle. Out of nowhere, Kritavarman appears and whisks away Shalya into his chariot.

Lusty cheering breakes in the Pandava ranks. The moral victory has been theirs. Karna's son, Vrishasena, takes the field with his father, and he is like a comet on the Kurukshetra. Nakula's son, Satanika faces Vrishsena. He can hardly match Karna's boy, but Draupadi's sons come to his rescue.

On the Eleventh day, the Kauravas have lost more men than the Pandavas. No Bheeshma holds up Pandu's sons today. Abhimanyu, Satyaki, Dhristadyumna and Arjuna devastate the army. Drona knows that he must take Yudhishtra captive. He sees the eldest Pandava fighting on his own, with Arjuna nowhere near him. They fly at Dharma Putra. No Pandava soldier stands before him. Yudhishtra tries to fight, but he is hardly a match for Drona, throw in the surprise at his side. The Acharya breaks his bow. Dhristadyumna who misses nothing, flashes between them. Arrows fly like locusts between the chariots. With wonderful skill and fear as well, The Fire Born Prince contains the Acharya.

As Drona's chariot comes nearer and nearer, Yudhishtra waits helplessly to be killed or to be taken by master. The rumble of a great chariot drowns every other noise. Arjuna falls on Drona like an army. In Arjuna's mind, strange images appear. First, of a day, when a stranger fetched a ring out of an old well, for some young princes, then of Bheeshma fallen yesterday; and finally another day, fourteen years ago, when he and his brothers lost everything. After all that had happened, how could he now stoop to something as low as this. Drona had been bought with position. Arjuna loses a reverence he has nurtured over a lifetime. Blinded with anger and more with grief, Arjuna flies at the Acharya. Drona cannot face him. The Acharya's opportunity to take Yudhishtra is lost; worse, he knows that he has lost Arjuna's respect.

The sun sets in sorrow over the field of death. Conches sound to call the armies back to their camps. Though Drona has fought as never before, the eleventh day also belongs to the Pandavas, if narrowly.

Duryodhana is frantic. In front of other kings and his brothers, he says to Drona, 'You had every chance to take him today, but you didn't keep your word.' Drona bristles at the censure. He says to Duryodhana,'I would have if you had kept Arjuna at bay. If Arjuna had not descended on me, Yudhishtra would be hre now, bound hand and foot.'

Susharma then speaks. The trigartas have old enemity with Arjuna. They have tried to kill Arjuna, but have been unsuccessful, because of the Dark Hued one. He promises that they will challenge Arjuna as soon as battle begins and lure him away to the south of the field. Duryodhana is pleased with the plan, but to ensure that Susharma sticks to the plan, he makes the Trigartas swear an oath by Agni. The Trigarta brothers, Susharma, Satyaratha, Satyavarma, Satyasu, Subahu, Sudhanva and Satyadharma, swear a solemn oath that they would not leave the field of war, unless either Arjuna was dead or they were. With this oath, they are called the Samsaptakas. After the ceremony, Duryodhana tells Drona, that this should ensure that The Acharya is able to take on the Dharmaputra the next day on the battlefield.

Thursday, September 2, 2010 by Hari
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