The Great War - Day 8

On the morning of the eight day, Bheeshma draws up his army in the Oormi vyuha - the ocean Phalanx. Yudhishtra tells Arjuna and Dhristadyumna that the most potent vyuha against the Oormi is the Sringataka, the horned Phalanx. Arjuna is the master of this vyuha and he quickly gets his army in the formation.

Bheehsma meets Bheema, who is in his element and soon Bheema covers the Pitamah's chariot with arrows and kills his sarathy. Duryodhana rushes to Grandsire's help. Bheema welcomes his cousins with joy and before they know how, eight of his Kaurava cousins are dead. Duryodhana cries to Bheesma to fight the Pandavas like a warrior, to which Pitamah gives a scorching reply and turns away in disgust. He vents his grief on the Pandava legions. Bheema is all frustrated but is able to do nothing in front of the great warrior.

On the eve of the war, an unusual young warrior presented himself before Arjuna and said that his mother had sent him to fight for Arjuna. He was the son of the Naga Queen Ulupi. Iravan had proved himself to be as worthy as Abhimanyu and had wreaked havoc in the past seven days. He had brought with himself, a small legion of potent naga warriors who fought with eerie weapons and serpentine sorceries.

Today, Iravan disgusted with Shakuni's tactics to kill Pandava soldiers, moves to take him down. His legion literally annihilates the Shakuni army. Duryodhana sends Alambusa to his uncle's help. Alambusa uses Maya and hovers above Iravan invisible. He then suddenly hacks off Iravan's head. Bheeshma, Drona and Ashwathama wreak havoc in the ranks of the Pandavas. The Pandava Army cannot stand one of these maharathis, forget three, and that too together. Ghatotkacha jumps into the battle. Duryodhana is startled by this beast. Bheeshma sends Drona, Jayadratha, Ashwathama and many others to the rescue of the Kaurava King. Bheema comes to his son's rescue, and both fight the Kaurava army back to back. Bheeshma advises Duryodhana to let Bhagdutta fight Bheema's monstrous son.

Bhagdutta comes riding his Supritika. But the king of Dasarna's brave pachyderm confronts the Supritika and gores its sides. Neither of the elephants give way. The trumpeting of the animals is heard across the Kurukshetra. Arjuna joins Bheema, Ghatotkacha and others. Duryodhana calls up another five thousand of his soldiers to fight. Bhagdutta is killing thousands of soldiers from elephant back. Arjuna is direst of them all. He has heard the news of Iravan's death. Tears are stinging his eyes. He lets a cataract of blood, human fat is its froth. He cries to his sarathy, 'Now I know, why Yudhisthra would take just five towns to prevent his war. Its more horrible than I ever imagined. What will I tell Ulupi ? That I lost her son in battle, that my brothers and I precipitated ? All this killing for what ? For some land ?" All this while, arrows continue to flow from his bow continuously, as if Arjuna was someone else.

He then roars, "Krishna they have killed my boy !! Ride at them, I will make a sea of their blood." As Krishna rides at the enemy, Arjuna continues to mow down the army. On the other side of the field, Bheema is strewing the field with Kaurava corpses. He suddenly hews his way through into the Kaurava ranks and sees eight of his Kaurava cousins huddled together. He makes short brutal work of all eight. It appears as if all eight are grateful he delivered them from the long fear of him that darkened their lives.

Duryodhana sees the slaughter of his brothers from a way off and his howls rock Kurukshetra. Bheeshma sees the Kaurava army shrinking from the enemy. He gives the signal for the conches to sound. Numb with the killing they have seen and done, the soldiers leave the field, heads bent, neither victor nor vanquished speaking. The field is a bizarre spectacle. There are more dead than living on the Kurukshetra. Both the armies have waned. Today, not all the dead are gathered for burning. There are too many corpses and the living are too exhausted. Finally the wait of the jackals, hyenas, wolves, kites, vultures and wild dogs is rewarded. They feast without favor for Pandavas or Kauravas. Pisachas drink from the sea of blood, which resembles, Vaitarani. The day obviously belongs belongs to the Pandavas, but they are mouring Iravan.

Duryodhana finds Karna waiting for him in his tent, and breaks down sobbing. He cries to his friend that, In the past three days, he had seen Bheema kill twenty four of his brothers, but Bheeshma has killed not one Pandava. He was not able to take it anymore. What Duryodhana does not know is the dark secret that Karna carries. The past eight days had been a miraculous respite to the Suta-Putra. Duryodhana still believes that his friend longed to take the field against Arjuna, though inside his heart, Karna prays that Bheesma does not let that happen and survives the battle, though deep inside he knows that it is inevitable.

Duryodhana says to Karna, that Drona, Bheeshma, Kripa, Shalya all fight not to kill the sons of Pandu, but only to raze the enemy army. But that was not enough for the Kaurava. He wanted the Pandavas dead. That was the only way, he could win the war. Karna tells Duryodhana that he must request Bheeshma to step off the field for a couple of days and let Karna fight the battle. He could vanquish Arjuna and the Bheeshma and Duryodhana could finish the war.

Bheeshma is waiting for his grandson, as if he knew instinctively that Duryodhana would come. He says to Bheeshma, that when he took charge it was as if he knew that victory would be his, and that the war would be over in a day or two. But Eight days had passed, their army was getting diminished and all the five Pandavas were still alive. He begs the Pitamah to relinquish his command and hand over the reigns to Karna.

Bheeshma pauses and then says in his slow sad way, "Why are you so cruel to me everyday Duryodhana." He then explains to Duryodhana who he was fighting against. "You think of Krishna as Pandavas cousin, or as the Prince of Dwaraka. It is God you are fighting my child. He is the master of all tihngs, the lord of galaxies, king of time, creator sustainer and destroyer."

Duryodhana sits still. Bheeshma promises to him, that he will burn the Pandava army tomorrow, and the earth shall not forget how Bheeshma fights. Duryodhana goes back to his tent.

Karna rolls about in his bed. How can he tell Duryodhana that now he loves Arjuna more than Bheeshma. His heart forces him to run to the other side. But No.. he will stay. He knows that life will not spare him that pleasure. Karna does not cry for himself. He knows that his end his near. He cries for Duryodhana, who will lose this war, and perhaps his life with it.

Thursday, September 2, 2010 by Hari
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