The Great War - Day 12

Drona forms his legions in the Garuda Vyuha and across the field, the fire-born prince choses the Chandrakala. Battle begins and the two forces fall at each other. Arjuna sees Susharma and his brothers with their men, at the southern wing tip of the Kaurava eagle, whereas he would usually find them come from the rear as the day's battle grew. He sees all their burning gazes fixed only on him, and also sees Duryodhana staring intently at the Trigartas. Instantly he guesses the plan. He says to Yudhishtra that the Trigartas have come to challenge him and that he cannot refuse to fight them. He leaves Satyajit, Drupada's brother to take care of Dharma and goes after the Trigartas.

An army into themselves, the Trigartas have formed a crescent of their own of beyond the southern wing. Arjuna rides alone, like a lion at a vast herd of deer. Susharma has brought his legion to the south, a fair way beyond the main Kaurava army. From here, even if he wishes, Arjuna will not be able to ride back to his brother. As Partha and his Sarathy ride near the Trigartas, Arjuna says to Krishna, 'Do you see the smile on their savage faces ? Are they so glad that I will send them to hell, that they smile.'

Arjuna lifts his Devadutta and blows a deep note on it. For a moment, the Trigartas stand paralyzed. It looks as if Death itself had sounded upon them. A thousand conches answer his call, and a thousand arrows flash at his chariot, obscuring the face of the the sun. Arjuna replies with an Astra that falls on the enemy as a hundred burning shafts. Every arrow claims a life. The Trigartas true to their promise, shoot bank upon bank of arrows at Krishna and Arjuna. Krishna's chariotry and Arjuna's nimbness make them a hard target. One of Trigartas bravest warriors, Subahu, rides out to face Arjuna alone. He wounds both Krishna and Arjuna. Roaring, Arjuna not only breaks the bow in Subahu's hand, but also severs the hand from its wrist. Screaming in horror, Subahu flees. Susharma himself dashes forward with ten of his best archers. As in a nightmare, Susharma sees Sudhanva's head cut from his neck by the Pandava's golden winged arrow. Turning he sees the other nine around him, having met the same fate in the blink of an eye.

Arjuna fights as if he is fighting from another dimension. He seems to defy nature, his one to their thousand is more than they can subdue. He burns them at will. Susharma roars at his soldiers and goads them to fight. The Trigartas now shoot in waves. Waves and Waves of arrows now fly at Arjuna from the Trigarta legion. The sky is now covered in arrows. There is an impenetrable darkness. Arjuna can hardly see his hands. In fury, he summons his first greater astra. The weapon of Tvashtar.

Tvashtar's astra is a weapon of hallucinations. Every Trigarta soldier sees the Pandava beside him. They fall on each toher, thinking they are attaching Arjuna. Thousands die in the surreal confusion. The darkness persists, as the Trigarta brothers are themselves masters of maya and they are not deluded by the astra. The heavy darkness afflicts Krishna. He is exhausted. His body is drenched in sweat and blindness films his eyes. Krishna cries out to Arjuna. A roar of anger answers the Avatar. Krishna hears the Kshyatriya behind him, invoke the Vayavyastra, the wind's weapon. Next moment, a golden arrow flashes out in the unnatural light and hurricane sweep Kurukshetra. Like the sun, it dissolves the darkness of the Trigarta cloud. The gale of the astra, blows the Trigartas across the plain of war. His enemy hopelessly scattered for the moment, Arjuna cries to Krishna that he must ride back to Yudhishtra.

Meanwhile, as soon as Drona saw Arjuna ride against Susharma, he runs straight towards Yudhishtra. He knows the Trigartas will not be able to hold him for long. Dhrishtadyumna is beside Dharmaputra. Drona arrives at the outer ring of warriors who guard Yudhishtra. He sees Dhristadyumna, his nemesis guarding the first ring and quickly swerves away. Durmukha, fiercest of the Kauravas fights as if it is for his life today, and manages to stun the Fire Born Prince for a couple of moments. Drona uses these moments to flit past the first ring. Drona is dangerously close to Yudhishtra when Satyajit sees him. He attacks the Brahmana, who is roused. In a flash, Drona cuts Satyajit's bow and plunges on Yudhishtra. Drupada's other brother, Vrika flies at Drona. Drona kils him with a wooden arrow. Satyajit now sets on Drona. He breaks Drona's bow and kills the Acharya's sarathy that nails him to the chariot head. Drona's time is short. With a crescent tipped arrow he severs Satyajit's head. Panic take the Pandava army. Virata's brother Satanika sets his chariot between Drona and Dharma. Drona kills him in an instant. Drona has killed three warriors in a few moments. Shikhandi, Vasudhana and Satyaki challenge the Acharya. He beats them back easily. Yet the few moments that the three hold up Drona, Yudhishtra jumps from his chariot and flees the battle in the swiftest horse that he can find. Drona realises that his quarry has escaped. It is too late for him to give chase. He turns his attention to the Pandava army and they feel his wrath. Drona fights as if to prove, that he is more than Bheeshma's equal.

All around, Pandava soldiers cry, 'Kill Drona, else the war is lost.' But who can kill the Acharya. Duryodhana stands with Karna at the heart of the Kaurava legions and watches with glee as the Brahamana decimated the Pandava army. But with a strange look in his eyes, Karna warns Duryodhana not to belittle his enemies. He insists that they must ride to the Acharya.

Drona is quickly surrounded by the Pandava warriors. Nakula and Sahadeva are twin incarnations of death. Draupadi's sons are implacable. Abhimanyu is the most terrible of all. Farther away, Bheema is in his element. Tormenting Duryodhana's elephants, he smashes them down with his mace. Then comes a white beast. A titan among elephants, Supritika with Bhagadutta on it. Narakasura's son and Airavata's son smash down Bheema's chariot. The Pandava army parts like the sky for a Deva. The ratha is smashed. The sarathy Visoka is pulp and Bheema himself is nowhere to be seen. Supritika trumpets his triumph. The sound rings across Kurukshetra, together with the cry of anguish from the Pandava soldiers - 'Supritika has killed the Vayuputra'.

The Pandava is actually under the mastodon, dazed but unhurt. Bheema begins to rub the belly of the elephant. For a moment, the elephant loses his rage and Bheema escapes between his legs. Hearing the cry that Bheema was dead, Yudhishtra flies back into the battle with Drupada's army. He comes like the God of wrath, his bow singing. Bhagadutta now lets loose an endless torrent of missiles, some common, some sorcerous. Coluns of men burn up in an eyeflash. Satyaki now rides against the Lord of Pragjyotishpura. The Yadava covers the rider and his elephant in a hum of arrows. Supritika charges at Satyaki's chariot and smashes it, with the Yadava escaping death by a whisker. Supritka sees Abhimanyu's chariot and charges towards it, and succeeds in crushing the chariot, with Abhimanyu jumping out of the chariot in the nick of time.

It was an unusual battle being fought on the Kurukshetra. The Pandava Army against the Supritika. Panic stricken Pandava soldiers are now getting scattered across the Kurukshetra.

Arjuna's vayavyastra has just swept away the Trigarta army, when he hears the alarm of the Pandava forces being savaged by Bhagadutta and Supritika. As soon as his sarathy turns his horses around Susharma taunts him saying 'Pandava, why do you run away from us at every chance ?'
Krishna tells Arjuna, 'Enough of these Trigartas. Burn them with the Vajra, there are more important battles to be fought.'
Arjuna invokes the Vajra and charges it at the Trigartas. Nine of every ten men Susharma has bought to war are pillars of ash. Susharma himself survives and taunts Arjuna,'Fight me to the end, Pandava. Let me see your valor too.'
Without a word, Krishna turns his chariot back to the Trigartas. Arjuna is already in anger.

The Trigartas have not yet seen such battle from Arjuna. They wilt under his arrows. He takes Satyaratha's head off with a crescent tipped shaft, and attacks Susharma with such violence that the rest of his men, take to their heels. Krishna tells Arjuna, 'At last you fight as you can, One man has wiped out the dreaded Trigarta legion. Today I am proud of my Kshyatriya.' Arjuna's heart is full with his sarathy's rare praise. They turn back toward the main Kaurava army. Seeing the Gandharva horses, a cheer goes up from his soldiers. The Kaurava roars quickly turns to cries of fear.

Krisha steers the chariot to confront Bhagadatta. The Pandava and the Asura fight. The Pandava does not have the heart to shoot the magnificent beast. Swirling his mount around, with astonishing speed, Bhagadatta covers Arjuna with arrows. Arjuna fights back powerfully. Arjuna cuts the demon's bow into pieces. At once fourteen strange lances appear one after another in Bhagadutta's hands. He casts them at Krishna, but Paartha smashes them in the air, with some ethereal archery.

Arjuna aims at Supritika's armor and cuts it away piece by piece. Bhagadutta casts a shakti at Krishna. Arjuna snuffs its fires in flight itself. Bhagadutta casts another Shakti at Arjuna, which knocks down his crown, but the Pandava smiles and rights the kirita with his hand, while the Gandeeva still streams arrows ! Once more he breaks Bhagadutta's bow.

The Lord of Pragjyotishpura, mad at the fact that a mere mortal shames him, chants a deep mantra and hurls it at the Pandava. The goad turns into an occult ayudha and lights up the earth and the skies as it travels. Arjuna tries to shoot it down, but it flies on. At the last instant, Krishna stands up and receives the weapon on his chest.

A flash of light and utter darkness for another moment. When darkness clears, The Vaishnavastra that Bhagadutta cast has turned into a garland of blue lotuses around the Avatara's neck. Arjuna asks Krishna, that he shouldn't have taken the astra at himself. Krishna replies that he took back only what was his. The Vaishnavastra was a weapon that Bhoomi Devi had begged from Vishnu for her son Narakasura. Naraka was invincible for it, until Krishna killed him. Before he died, he gave the astra to his son. It was not just an astra of fire, but also protects anybody who has it, against any other weapons. This was Bhagadutta and his elephant's strength. Now that the astra was back with his maker, Bhagadutta was conquerable.

Arjuna raises his Gandeeva again, he shoots a shaft at the elephant's brow. The creature sinks to its knees. Bhagadutta is shocked. Before he can react, Another shaft from Arjuna crashes into this chest and kills him.

Both army quickly stop fighting and gather thickly around the fallen warrior. Bhagadutta, though an enemy was a friend to both of Arjuna's fathers, Pandu and Indra, and he was one of the last kshatrias of a bygone age. Arjuna walks around Bhagadutta in a reverent Pradakshina.

It is high noon when Bhagadutta dies. The fighting resumes fiercer than ever, but now Arjuna leads the Pandava army, inspired by the victory over Trigartas and Bhagadutta.Shakuni's brothers ride to challenge him. From two sides they attack him at once, but Arjuna is Ambidextrous. He switches the Gandiva from hand to hand, and kils both in a moment. A moment so fleeting that one cannot tell which one died first. Shakuni flies towards Arjuna and casts a spell on the battleground that makes an illusion of lions, but Arjuna's Gandiva prevails over the maya. Arjuna covers Shakuni's chariot with flames from the Gandiva, and the Pandava soldiers watch with glee, Shakuni bolting away from the battlefield.

Bheema, Satyaki, Dhristadyumna, Abhimanyu, Nakula, Sahadeva, Shikandi and Draupadi's sons are next to Arjuna at the head of the army. Drona is now riding agaist his invincible Shishya. Dhrishtadyumna rallies to meet him, unnerving Drona. Seeing his father unsure of himself before the 'fire-born' prince, Ashwathama rushes forward. Drona's son now fights like another Arjuna, nay 10 Arjunas.

Neela, the prince of Mahishmati, a splendid archer has killed more than 500 Kaurava soldiers. Ashwathama rounds him. Neela is no match for the Acharya's son. Ashwathama cracks his bow, and without waiting for Neela to pick up another weapon, he cuts his head off with a scythe tipped shaft.

Mace in hand, Bheema leaps out of his chariot, and starts decimating Kaurava forces. Drona turns towards Bheema and Karna goes with him. Seeing this, Krishna turns his chariot towards him. At once fighting stops everywhere. All eyes are on the two sworn enemies. Their rivalry has been a legend for so long. For so long, millions of men have waited for the moment when Arjuna and Karna would meet on Kurukshetra.

Karna wastes no time. He greets Arjuna with an Agneyastra. Arjuna extinguishes it with a Varunastra. Some other warriors come into the picture and then the battle become diffuse again. It looks as if the time for these two heroes to fight has not yet arrived. Arjuna kills Shatrunjana in a flash. Dhrishtadyumna now fights as if he is in contention with Arjuna, to see which one of them can kill more of the enemy. They now fight in knots. Dhrishtadyumna, Satyaki, Arjuna and Abhimanyu against Drona, Karna, Ashwathama and Duryodhana.

The sun sinks and conches boom to call the end to the twelfth day of war. There is no doubt as to whom the day belongs to. Arjuna has destroyed the Trigarta army and a thousand other Kaurava soldiers. Drona could not take Yudhishtra.

A red-eyed Duryodhana comes to meet his Acharya, the Senapati. He speaks in a soft voice, but his words are like knives. He says to Drona that Susharma sacrificed his army and his brothers, but Drona could not keep his word. He tells Drona that either he was no more the warrior that he once was or his love for the Pandavas prevents him from killing them. Drona was not used to the Kaurava's sharpness. Drona cries,
'I swear I will kill one of their best warriors tomorrow. I will kill a maharathika for you. There is a vyuha for such hunting. We shall form our legions in such a vyuma and snare a great Kshyatriya. None of the Pandavas, except Arjuna would know how it will be breached. He must be lured away again, and I will kill you an archer who has killed Ten thousand of our men.'
Susharma says, that he will take Arjuna away from the battlefield and that he would not escape from his grips.

Duryodhana is happy to allow Susharma sacrifice himself for the life of one of the Pandava maharathikas. Drona nods curtly and turns and walks away. Being the Senapati of the Karuava army was not a charge that the brahamana could relinquish easily. He swallows his pride and promises himself he will prove worth of his position. Tomorrow, Duryodhana would lavish his praise on him. Drona's vow is going to cost the Pandavas dearly.

Thursday, September 2, 2010 by Hari
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