The Great War - Day 18

The dawn of the Eighteenth day arrives.

On the Kaurava side, 11,000 chariots, 10,700 elephants, 200,000 horsemen and 3,000,000 foot soldiers remained.

On the Pandava side, 6,000 chariots, 6,000 elephants, 10,000 horsemen and 1,000,000 foot soldiers remained.

The Kauravas are eager to fight under the King of Madrakas. The Pandavas are eager for a quick victory. The conches sound. The madness begins.

Partha and Bheema begin the grim massacre. It appeared as if the war would be over by afternoon. Yudhihstra rushes at Shalya. Dhristadyumna and Shikandi protect him. Bheema fights with Kritavarman, who manages to kill Bheema's horses. Enraged, Bheema smashes the horses, driver and chariot of the King of Bhojas.

Shalya was engaged by not only Yudhishtra, but also by the Panchalas, the Somakas and the Shrinjayas. Bheema, in awe of Shalya's dexterity, quickly kills Shalya's sarathy, seeing which Shalya is enraged. He picks up a mace and comes to fight with his nephew. The begin whirling at each other looking at an opportunity to strike each other. After intense fighting, both of them fall on the ground, tired. It is then, when Kripacharya whisks away Shalya from the battlefield.

Duryodhana, filled with rage, due to the death of Karna, quickly sends Chekitana, from the House of Vrishni's to Yama's abode.

Once Shalya regained strength, he comes back to the battlefield. He fights with Bheema, He fights with Satyaki, with Nakula, with Sahadeva and defeats them all. Yudhishtra then comes forward to fight with Shalya. Shalya cuts Yudhishtra's bow into two. Dharma counters by killing Shalya's horses. Ashwathama comes to Shalya's rescue and takes him away in another chariot, but Yudhihstra does not leave Shalya,and follows him in pursuit. Shalya then, in anger wounds Bheema and Satyaki with many arrows. He then kills Yudhistra's horses, and then proceeds to run towards Dharma with his shield and sword with intent to kill.

Seeing this the second son of Kunti, The Vayuputra quickly destroys the shield and sword and leaves Shalya nirayudhapaani. At this juncture, Yudhishtra takes up a golden dart which he had received as a blessing from Shiva and releases it at Shalya with all his strength. The Golden Dart takes a lifetime to reach Shalya. It pierces his hands and chest and enters into the earth taking with it, the life force of the king. Shalya dies on the battlefield and attains the heavens, by virtue of death on battlefield and also due to virtue of the battlefield being Kurukshetra.

Seeing their Senapati die, the Kaurava army is now in chaos. Bheema and Arjuna make the best use of this opportunity. Shalya's younger borther tries to assault Yudhishtra, but he too is quickly dispatched to heaven with a broad headed shaft from Dharma.

Duryodhana rallies his fleeing troops and urges them to fight. He unleases 3000 elephants upon the Pandavas. Arjuna is furious. So is Bheema, who takes up his mace and starts hitting the Pachyderms. The elephants soon have their heads split open. Bheema ensures that not one of the three thousand elephants actually survived. Seeing this destructive form of Bheema, the Kaurava army shrinks in fear.

At another point in the battlefield Ashwathama is looking for Duryodhana. Nobody knows where he has gone. The Kaurava army was at the point of annihilation. Some of Duryodhana's brothers were still alive. They try to corner Bheema, in an attempt to kill him, but it was futile. Bheema, eager to fulfill his vow and to finish the battle, quickly kills then just like fireflies entering fire. With the death of these brothers, only two of the 100 sons of Dhritarashtra remained. Duryodhana and Sudarshana.

The remaining army of the Kauravas, rushed towards the Pandava army. Shakuni and Susharman challenge Arjuna yet again. Sudarshana attacks Bheema while Duryodhana manages to send Sahadeva out of the battlefield with a deadly lance. Bheema makes quick work of Sudarshana and kills him with a razor sharp arrow. Only one man remained. Duryodhana.

Arjuna meets the remaining of the Trigarta army. Every time he sees the Trigartas regrouping, Arjuna's anger knows no bounds. He is reminded of the day when his son was killed. Arjuna decides to end it once and for all. He takes a single arrow, fixes it at Susharman's heart and unleashes it. The arrow finds it mark, and the king of the Trigartas is dead. After this, Arjuna kills the 35 sons of Susharman and completely annihilates the Trigarta army.

Bheema, Nakula and Sahadeva assault Shakuni's army. Shakuni and his son Uluka fight fiercely. Shakuni pierces Sahadeva with a lance and makes him unconscious. He then pierces Bheema and Nakula with many sharp arrows. Sahadeva, on regaining consciousness, decides to teach Shakuni a lesson. With a broad arrow, he severs Uluka's head.

Shakuni, witnessing the death of his son, is overwhelmed by sorrow and tries to run away from battlefield. But Sahadeva, who had sworn to kill Shakuni is not the one to let him go past so easily. Sahadeva ridicules Shakuni asking him to remember that day in Hastinapura when he gambled. He could show some skill in archery today. Sahadeva quickly kills the horses of Shakuni and in a rage, Shakuni unleashes a golden lance at Sahadeva. Before the lance could be released, Duryodhana's uncle has his hands cut, and within the next few moments, the man who sent the Pandavas to thirteen years of exile is dead, with his head rolling on the ground.

The Gandhara warriors, on seeing their king dead, are furious and rush at the Pandavas. Within a matter of minutes, all Kaurava soldiers had been slain, unto the last man.

Out of eleven akshauhinis only 4 warriors were left on Kaurava side, Duryodhana, Ashwathama, Kritavarman and Kripacharya.
On the Pandava side, there were 200 chariot warriors, 700 elephants, 5000 horsemen and 10,000 foot soldiers.

Thus when Duryodhana saw that his army had been routed he retreated from the battlefield. He takes up his mace and comes to a lake, the Dwaipayana, in the middle of the forest. He wants to rest before he can engage the Pandavas in combat again. He enters the lake, and by his mystic powers the waters of the lake freeze.

Ashwathama, Kripacharya and Kritavarman come in search of Duryodhana. They see his dead horse and conclude that Duryodhana is hiding somewhere in the forest. In the meanwhile the Pandava soldiers realise that Duryodhana is nowhere to be found. They conclude that he has run away. Tired of searching for him, the forces return to camp to let their leader know the fact.

Ashwathama, Kripa and Kritavarman come to know from Sanjaya that Duryodhana is hiding in the Dwaipayana lake. At night, they approach the lake, and ask Duryodhana to come out of it. Ashwathama tells him, that as long as he is alive, the Pandavas can be defeated. The Pandava army was depleted and with three maharathikas, it could easily be routed. Duryodhana speaks softly to them from the lake. 'I am glad that you are alive. We will fight the Pandavas, no doubt. But not today. The Darkness has fallen and my body is on fire with the wounds. I am tired, and so are you. I shall be revived in the morning and fight the Pandavas again and destroy them. Tomorrows we shall face the enemy.'

Ashwathama is impatient. He wants to fight the Pandavas today. They do not observe the horde of Vetalas who are carrying loads of fresh meat from their hunt. They listen to Ashwathama, Kripa and Kritavarman. Then they hear Duryodhana's voice. Eager to please Yudhishtra, they quickly disappear into the forest to inform the Pandavas. On hearing this news, the Pandavas, along with, Krishna, Dhrishtadyumna, Satyaki, Draupadi and Shikhandi run towards the point where the Vetalas had located the trio. Hearing the rustling of leaves and the noise the trio leave the lake and run in the opposite direction into the forest. They stop at a banyan tree and drop down exhausted. All the while wondering, what fate had written for Duryodhana.

Yudhishtra approaches the lake and then standing on the bank of the lake, challenges Dhritarashtra's son. 'Duryodhana,why do you now hide in this lake, like a coward ? Weren't you the one who wanted battle ? You are known as Prince of Princes and a great hero. You are born of a noble Kshyatriya race. Rise and fight. Fight us or die. Either way, you will be attain fame.'

Duryodhana replies from the bottom on the lake that he was not afraid to fight the Pandavas. He was merely tired and that he wanted to take some time to rest. He tells Yudhishtra that even the greatest warrior needs rest and that they can go and rest. Tomorrow Duryodhana shall fight the sons of Pandu. Yudhishtra smiles at Duryodhana's strategy. He tells Duryodhana that they had already rested and were infact searching for him all the while. Now that his army had been annihilated, it was time for the king to engage them in battle.

Duryodhana, on hearing Dharma's words, speaks. 'All those, for whom I desired soverignity are now dead on the battlefield of Kurukshetra. Even if I were to defeat you, O Sons of Pandu, of what use would it mean to me. There is no need for this kingdom, when Drona, Bheeshma and Karna have left this world. What would I do ruling a kingdom, that does not have any of my kith or kin. I do not want this kingdom, after so much bloodshed. I give it away as a gift to you. I will renounce life and live as an ascetic.'

Listening to such words, Yudhishtra smiles to himself. Even in defeat, his cousin was being condescending. He immediately rebukes Duryodhana by reminding him, that he cannot gift away a kingdom that was never his, and definitely not now, when he had lost if fair and square to the Pandavas. He tells Duryodhana, that his thought should have come to him, when Madhusoodhana came to him asking for five villages in exchange of the kingdom of Hastinapura. Dharma reminds him, that in the past, he had tried to poison them during Jala-Kreeda, Burn them in Vaaranavrata, insulted Draupadi at the Great Hall, tried to outmaneuver them at Viraata, and kill Abhimanyu unethically. He tells Duryodhana that Kaal is upon him and that he deserves to die.

Duryodhana then proceeds to give excuses. He says that you have warriors who are well armed and posses chariot and horses, and that he does not have sufficient weapons. He requests Dharma to fight with him one at a time. He is not afraid of any of the warriors, but rather, he shall fight with all of them, and free himself of all the debt that he owe his relatives and friends.

Yudhishtra then offers Duryodhana the choice of his opponent and the choice of weapon. He also gives Duryodhana that option of reclaiming the kingdom if any of the Pandavas was killed in the duel. Duryodhana is delighted to hear the offer. He chooses mace as his weapon. He also instructs that he does not want chariots and that the duel will be on the ground with the mace. Yudhishtra agrees to this requests and then Duryodhana steps out of the water.

On seeing Yudhishtra succumb to all of Duryodhana's conditions, The Avatara has a quick word with Dharma. He tells Yudhishtra, that this was exactly what Duryodhana had been waiting for all these years. The son of blind Dhritarashtra had been practising on an iron statue of Bheema for all these years. Bheema may possess the strength of 4000 elephants, but Duryodhana had the skill. And in mace fighting the one with skill always had the upper hand. Avtara rebukes Yudhishtra by saying that perhaps the sons of Kunti are not destined to enjoy sovereignty. He tells Yudhishtra that he is annoyed with the extent to which Yudhishtra goes to uphold Dharma. Dharma was not meant to be carried upto such insane lenghts. After so many years and after so many millions of men have died and when the world was at his feet, Yudhishtra was about to give it all back on a platter to Duryodhana.

On hearing Krishna's words, Vayuputra assures him of the outcome of the battle. Bheema had been waiting for such a one-on-one battle for thirteen years. It was now time for some real action with somebody atleast his equal. He roars in anger and tells Duryodhana that today, he shall pound his head with the mace and avenge the insult to his queen.

Bheema reminds Duryodhana that he is the cause of his own miseries. He asks Duryodhana to remember the day when he poisoned him. The day when Draupadi was insulted. The day when Yudhishtra was unfairly defeated. It was because of Duryodhana's mistake that Drona was slain. Karna slain. Shalya slain, and Shakuni and all his brothers.

Just as the battle was about to begin, Balarama comes that way. Seeing his two best pupils ready for combat unnerves him. Duryodhana was his favorite pupil. Balarama addresses both parties and tells them that both are great fighters and that this fight would go on forever without anybody getting defeated. But the two warriors were now beyond their guru. They were both madmen now, remembering their enemity. Looking at them Balarama understands the destiny which awaited them and thus without advising them further, proceeds to return to the city of Dwaraka after blessing them.

Krishna heaves a sigh of relief after Balarama leaves. Balarama would never have allowed this battle, if only he knew what was going to happen.

The sun has already become dim, but the Pandavas light torches. Both the warriors now begin swinging their maces. They fight honorably. With Dharma, With grace,Doing full justice to their master. A couple of times, Duryodhana strikes Bheema so hard that Bheema's mace falls out of his hands, but he does not attack when Bheema is unarmed. He waits for Bheema to pick up his weapon. And everytime that happens the forest of Samantapanchaka echoes with Bheema's roars. He now strikes his cousin's mace from his hands. They fight with dexterity. Each one strong in his own aspect.

The sun has fully set. The warriors are tired. Yudhishtra instructs them to stop fighting and rest. At dawn they resume fighting. This time, both the warriors and renewed and it appears to be an equal battle once again. Their weapons glow. Bheema is surprised that the blows that felled elephants on Kurukshetra are of no use here. Duryodhana was agile. He could easily evade most of Bheema's blows. In fact, Bheema realised Duryodhana's strategy only late in the fight. He was actually tiring him out. Duryodhana then suddenly raises the level of his fighting. Duryodhana is suddenly everywhere. Bheema begins to panic.

Duryodhana's blows begin to fall on him like Lightning and Thunder. Arjuna looks at Hrishikesha and asks his opinion on who will win the duel. The Avatar looks at Phalguna and says, that if this duel was fought justly then Duryodhana would win and Bheema would die. Duryodhana was far more skilled then Bheema. He had thirteen years of more practice than Bheema. Bheema's strength does not matter anymore. If only the kingdom was not at stake, then Madhusoodhana would have watched this duel forever. He tells Arjuna that there was no way this duel could be won fair and square.

Both of them look at Bheema who has just gotten up after another heavy blow from Duryodhana. He finds his confidence shaken. Never before had Vayuputra felt this way. He can hardly turn around. Duryodhana now prowls around Bheema looking for a chance, and Yudhishtra quickly calls for a break. For Duryodhana, it was the chance of a lifetime. If only he could kill Bheema, then the 11 akshauhinis would be worth this duel.

Duryodhana knows that he now has the advantage of agility. Afterall he had practised it for years. He taunts Bheema with his mace. Bheema looks at the Avatara with sullen eyes. The Avatara thumps his thighs. In a flash, Bheema remembers the scene vividly. It was this man, isn't it, who had shown his naked thigh to his wife and then asked her to sit on it. Hadn't he sworn to break his thighs ?

Duryodhana moves to make a maneuver called Avasthana, that required him to fly high up in the air, to avoid the lateral movement of the mace. As Duryodhana jumps up in the air, Bheema quickly changes his move and then with super human strength, smashes that mace given to him by Maya, right into the thighs of Durydhana. The mace not only breaks his thighs but also smashes his manhood.

Duryodhana's screams rent the air. He falls and wriggles on the ground like a snake with a broken back. Once the king of the world, is now, crawling on earth. The magnificent Duryodhana, lord of eleven Akshauhinis, is now struggling for his life. This may have been a dharma yuddha, but Bheema hitting his opponent below the navel was adharma. Meteors streak across the sky. Rakshasas and Pishachas howl in the forest. Bheema does not care for these omens. His rushes to the fallen Kaurava, who is like a god, and then kicks away his golden crown.

He plants a foot on his Duryodhana's head and then roars, 'Thirteen years I waited for this moment, Duryodhana. Your brothers called me a cow. They are not alive to see this moment. I swore, One day, your head would like under my legs and that some day is today. Feel my foot, Kaurava. Let the blind son of Dhritarashtra know, that the Second son of Pandu has kept his promise.'

The Kaurava whimpers in agony. Bheema raises his foot and stamps Duryodhana's face into the ground. He raises his foot to do again, but Yudhishtra stops him. He tells him, that by keeping his oath, the enmity ends. Bheema was only demeaning himself by setting foot on a king's head.

Yudhishtra then kneels down on the ground, beside Duryodhana. He says to Duryodhana 'All of this was your fault Duryodhana. If only you had upheld Dharma. But today, I am envious of you. For you shall soon reach a realm where you will meet all your brothers. This earth, that I have won from you, is so empty. What shall I rule ? The Kali Yuga is upon us and the earth has lost her glory. It was fate Duryodhana. It was fate.'

Duryodhana's chest heaves in mortal agony. There is a light in his eyes and a mild smile on his lips, as if to indicate that he is grateful to the compassionate Yudhishtra.

Krishna rushes to hug Bheema. Only the rarest of men live up to their oaths and the Vayuputra had lived upto his. Krishna then looks at Duryodhana and speaks. 'We need not kill this man. He is as good as dead. How much Vidura begged him ? Duryodhana listened only to his uncle Shakuni and look where he is right now. He is now just a dry log of wood. Not worth bothering.'

Duryodhana is aghast at this statement from Krishna. There is untold hatred in Duryodhana's voice. 'Son of Kamsa's slave, You caused this war by poisoning my cousin's hearts. Who brought Shikhadi before Bheeshma to fight ? Who told Yudhishtra to utter a half lie ? Who turned Day into Night and murdered the unsuspecting Jayadratha ? Who sacrificed his nephew Ghatotkacha, so that his cousin would live ? Who told Arjuna to shoot Karna when he was fixing his chariot wheel ? You may deceive the world Krishna, but you, of us all, are the greatest sinner!'

Krishna laughs. 'So now you blame it on me, Duryodhana ? Bheeshma, Drona, Karna all died because they fought for you. Bheeshma should never have agreed to fight. Drona could have easily given up his post. Karna knew you were wrong, but could never bring himself to abandon you. Have your forgotten the day, when I begged you to make peace. Don't you remember my request for five villages and you said, that you would not give even a needle point. I feel no pity for you, son of Gandhari, you have got what you deserved.'

Duryodhana sneers. 'I have lived a full life. I have studies the Vedas. Been generous to the poor. I have been the king of the earth. Trodden on my enemies heads. I have lived a joyful life and I am looking forward to a joyful afterlife. I will find my brothers and my dearest Karna waiting for me. I have died like a Kshatriya and I will find Swarga for myself.'

At this, a shower of petals fall upon dying Duryodhana. The gods themselves bless the Kaurava for his indomitable courage. Krishna now vents his anger. 'Years ago in the Kamyaka vana, I swore to Draupadi that I will unleash death upon those who had tormented her. Yudhishtra, you allowed those beasts to drag her into that court, You did not allow Bheema to kill them. You spoke of Dharma. For you, there were other things that were more important, but to me, Yudhishtra , there was nothing more momentous than her tears. Bheeshma and Drona never raised a hand, and that is why they died. As for the sin of deciet we used to kill our enemies, let it fall on my head. I do not care. I will bear those crimes gladly for my Draupadi and the sons of Pandu.'

Thus spoken, the Pandavas feel happy at heart and start to leave the Sampantapanchaka forest. Duryodhana, once the lord of the earth, lies alone. He lies dying.

As the Pandavas ride towards their camps, Krishna tells Arjuna to take down his Gandeeva and his two inexhautible quivers and to step down from the chariot. Puzzled by this statement, Arjuna does what the Avatara tells him to do. After Arjuna gets down from the chariot, Krishna jumps off it, and immediately the chariot bursts into flames. The whole chariot is reduced to ashes in moments. Arjuna is totally puzzled. Krishna explains to him. 'The chariot pf yours was struck by the Brahmastras of Drona and Karna, by the Agneyastra of Ashwathama and by innumerable other missiles. Both the horses and the chariot were consumed long ago, but since I sat at your chariot head and drove, they did not perish. Now that we have no further use of them, they are ashes. So it is with men Arjuna. We all come into the world to achieve a purpose and once it is done, we will have to leave. You and your brothers have won the war, and I am very proud of you. I suggest you spend the night on the banks of the river Oghavati'. Yudhishtra and his brothers agree and leave for the bank.

Word of Duryodhana's fall reaches the people of Hastinapura and so it reaches the ears of Kripa, Kritavarmana and Ashwathama. The three navigate through the forest and come to the bank of the lake, where they find Duryodhana on the ground. Ashwathama is enraged to find his King, lying on the ground, like a reptile. He grieves for him. Duryodhana tells him not to worry about him and that he had lived his life. But Ashwathama is rage personified. He talks about taking revenge. He swears on all his acts of piety, his gifts, his religion and the religious merits that he had won, that he will kill all the soldiers left in the Pandava army.

Duryodhana asks Kripa to bring a pot of water and annoints Ashwathama as his commander in chief. Yet another Senapati at midnight. He tells Ashwathama to conquer those that are left amongst the Pandavas. With that Duryodhana faints once again.

Ashwathama, Kritavarman and Kripa aware that the Pandavas were hunting for them, take shelter in a banyan tree. Ashwathama could not sleep. His gaze falls on the trees around and the numerous nests on them. He suddenly hears a hoot and sees an owl on another tree. Ashwathama senses an omen. He has a feeling that this was a scene to be watched. The owl suddenly attacks the sleeping crows. The owl is a blizzard of beak and talons and the crows hardly have time to wake up. The hunting owl brings such terror that they start cawing in the middle of the night. It's meal over, the owl, with its huge eyes glowing like moon-lenses watches the nests with satisfaction. Then suddenly as it had appeared, the owl vanishes. The strange scene fills Ashwathama with adrenaline. He knew what had to be done.

He quickly wakes up the other two, and tells them that they must avenge Duryodhana. He tells them that they must attack the Pandavas at night. Kripa and Kritavarman are aghast. Drona would never have allowed this. Ashwathama tells them, the time of truth was long gone. They had to attack the Pandavas when they were least expected. At night. Kritavarman and Kripa try to talk Ashwathama out of it. But the heat had gone to his head. He had to avenge his king Duryodhana, his father Drona and his friend, Karna. He pushes Kripa and Kritavarman stating that he was now the senapati of the Kaurava king, and that it was his responsibility.

He quickly highlights his plan to the other two. The Pandavas will be tired after the victory and celebrations. They would be asleep. All they had to do was to enter their tents and kill them, to ensure that they would never wake up again. Though Kritavarman and Kripa are reluctant, they finally give in. For they were all that remained of the mighty Duryodhana's army and from one they will have to act together. And so, the last three warriors of Duryodhana's numberless legions, which at one point stretched for 6 Kosas, ride in the pitch dark to avenge their fallen king.

As they entered the region of the Pandava camps, Ashwathama quickly prays to his Ishta Devata, Shiva, by whose grace he was born. Shiva then grants him with a Khadag, a sword and blesses him with victory. Thus empowered, Ashwathama then posts Kripa and Kritavarman on the gates of the camp and orders them to kill anyone who tried to escape. He then enters the tent of Dhristadyumna and on seeing him, becomes enraged and kicks him. Tired by the war and also half asleep, Dhristadyumna is unable to defend himself. When he finds himself at Ashwathama's mercy, he begs Ashwathama to kill him with some weapon so that he may die gloriously, but Ashwathama taunts him that inglorious deaths are fated for those who kill their preceptors and kicks him till he is dead.

Listening to the commotion that was caused by this, the whole camp awakens. Aswathama then quickly enters the Pandava tent. Without thinking twice, he strikes Prativindhya, Sutatsoma, Satanika, Srutakarman and Strutakirti, blindly till they are all dead, thinking them to the be Pandavas. He then cuts off their heads and takes them with him. On the way, he sees Shikhandi and kills him with a single arrow.

In the meanwhile, the Pandava camp is in chaos. Ashwathama is Yama let loose. Like two Yamadutas, Kripa and Kritavarman hunt down every single person who tried to escape from there. Within hours, it is quite evident that the remaining Pandava army has been vanquished. Drunk with the scent of murder, the three warriors ride back into the Samantapanchaka to tell Duryodhana the good news.

Duryodhana is half dead, when the trio reach him. With great effort, they revive him and Ashwathama tells him that they had slaughtered the Pandavas. Duryodhana feels the heads that Ashwathama has brought and feeling proud of his Senapati praises him skyhigh. He then gives up his life and ascends to heaven.

Now all that is left of the Kuru race is Dhritarashtra and his wife Gandhari.

The chariot driver of Dhristadyumna, who was the only one to escape the slaughter, rushes to tell Yudhishtra the bad news, who spent the night on the banks of the river Oghavati, as per the instructions of the Avtara, who had instinctively felt that the Pandavas were unsafe in their camps. Yudhishtra faints on hearing it. Draupadi also faints on hearing that her sons are dead. Her husbands revive her and try to console her. Unable to bear the lamentations of his wife, Bheema, taking Nakula as his driver,rides into the forest to hunt down Ashwathama. Krishna tells to Arjuna that Ashwathama has the Brahmasirisha Astra. Arjuna says that he too is in possession of that Astra. Krishna tells him that though Arjuna has it, if it is used on Bheema then Bheema is as good as dead for the Astra could reduce the very earth to ashes. Climbing into Krishna's Jaitra, they fly to the site where Bheema has already found Ashwathama who is with Vyasa and some other rishis on the banks of Ganga.

Seeing Ashwathama, Bheema roars like a tiger. But he sees Ashwathama from behind. When he looks at Ashwathama's face, Bheema gasps. The brahmana's face has lost all its sheen. He now looks like a nishada with a twisted face. Ashwathama is equally appalled to see Bheema. He had already killed the Pandavas last night. Then he sees the Jaitra descend and then he sees Arjuna in it. In a flash he realises that he had killed the Pandavas' sons. What a mistake he had committed and now the Pandavas were going to avenge him for it.

Before Bheema gets ready to dispatch Aswathama to the abode of Yama, Drona's son draws a stalk of grass from the ground and utters a mantra over the green blade. The blade bursts into flames and then becomes an astra by itself. He then utters 'Let the world be without the Pandavas.' The four headed Brahmasirisha hisses towards Vayuputra. Without a second's delay, Arjuna intones the same arcane mantra and the astra is ready. Arjuna launches it at the astra already in air.

Brahma's heads collide. The earth shudders. Vyasa is alarmed and so is Narada. They stop the astras mid air. 'What have you done Ashwathama ? Why did you have to invoke the Brahmasirisha ? Don't you know that if the two astras collide, the earth will reduce into ashes ?'
Vyasa instructs Arjuna to take back the Astra. But to call back the Astra one needs the will of a tapaswin. For some moments Arjuna stands in intense dhyana. The astra flies back into Arjuna's hands. A common wooden arrow. Cool as ice to touch upon.

Both Narada and Vyaasa look at Ashwathama sternly. 'Recall your Astra, Drona's son.' Ashwathama shuts his eyes and tries recall the astra. A sweat breaks out. He is unable to recall the Astra. The astra mocks him. He realises the enormity of his sin. The astra if not met with resistance will destroy the one who invoked it. Vyasa tells him that a Brahmastra would be enough to subdue this astra but then there will be a drought for years together. He instructs Ashwathama to think kindly of the Pandavas and recall the astra. But crime has ruined Ashwathama's heart from within. He cannot raise a spark of mercy in it. Vyaasa glowers at Ashwathama. Ashwathama then utters that the Astra if unable to kill the Pandavas can kill their unborn children. 'One day the world must be without any Pandavas.' Vyaasa is delirious with rage, and so is Arjuna.

Arjuna had promised Draupadi that he would behead the man who had killed her sons. He binds Ashwathama with ropes and takes him to Draupadi, who is lamenting the loss of her sons. On seeing Ashwathama in that state, she immediately understands the situation. She tells Arjuna that though Drona was no longer with them physically, he lived through his son, and moreover Kripi had not committed sati because she had a son. She tells Arjuna that she did not want Kripi, who was like a mother to her, to mourn for her son, like she was doing for hers. Bheema is still not satisfied, and wants to kill Ashwathama. Vyaasa and Krishna interfere. They suggest that Ashwathama hand over the mani in his forehead that was the cause of all his valor and tejas. Ashwathama is reluctant, but on Vyaasa's instance, he relents. When he hands over the mani, Ashwathama's appearance becomes similar to a chandala. The mani's energy was what had kept him in high spirits.

Krishna curses him that he must bear the fruits of his sins. He curses Ashwathama that since had killed sleeping children and warriors, he will roam for three thousand years on earth, without a companion. He will have no place among men and that the stench of pus and blood shall emanate from his body. He shall suffer from various diseases. 'The son of Abhimanyu, who was in Uttara's womb and was burnt by the usage of the astra will be named Parikshit, and will rule the world before your very eyes. If I have lived by truth all my life, then these words will come true.' With these words, Ashwathama was unbound and driven out of the camp.

The Pandavas then along with Draupadi performed the funeral rituals for their children.

Thursday, September 2, 2010 by Hari
Categories: , | 3 comments

Comments (3)

  1. Loved your post!!

    Good details.

  2. Thanks Abhishek. Really appreciate the effort to write a comment here.

  3. Thanks for the detailed article for each day of the Kurukshetra war. Can you provide a source too for the same?

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