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Maha-bharata - The Epic of Ancient India Condensed into English Verse
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Ceaseless 'gainst the proud preceptor sent his darts like summer rain, Baffled by the skill of Drona, Dhrista-dyumna strove in vain!

But the fiercer darts of Drona pierced the prince's shattered mail, Hurtling on his battle chariot like an angry shower of hail,

And they rent in twain his bowstring, and they cut his pond'rous mace, Slew his steeds and chariot-driver, streaked with blood his godlike face!

Dauntless still, Panchala's hero, springing from his shattered car, Like a hungry desert lion with his sabre rushed to war,

Dashed aside the darts of Drona with his broad and ample shield, With his sabre brightly flaming fearless trod the reddened field!

In his fury and his rashness he had fallen on that day, But the ever-watchful Bhima stopped the proud preceptor's way!

Proud Duryodhan marked with anger Bhima rushing in his car, And he sent Kalinga's forces to the thickening ranks of war,

Onward came Kalinga warriors with the dark tornado's might, Dusky chiefs, Nishada warriors, gloomy as the sable night!

Rose the shout of warring nations surging to the battle's fore, Like the angry voice of tempest and the ocean's troubled roar!

And like darkly rolling breakers ranks of serried warriors flew, Scarcely in the thickening darkness friends and kin from foemen knew!

Fell the young prince of Kalinga by the wrathful Bhima slain, But against Kalinga's monarch baffled Bhima fought in vain,

Safely sat the eastern monarch on his howda's lofty seat, Till upon the giant tusker Bhima sprang with agile feet,

Then he struck with fatal fury, brave Kalinga fell in twain, Scattered fled his countless forces, when they saw their leader slain!

Darkly rolled the tide of battle where Duryodhan's valiant son Strove against the son of Arjun famed for deeds of valour done,

Proud Duryodhan marked the contest with a father's anxious heart, Came to save his gallant Lakshman from brave Abhimanyu's dart,

And the helmet-wearing Arjun marked his son among his foes, Wheeled from far his battle-chariot and in wrath terrific rose!

"Arjun!" "Arjun!" cried the Kurus, and in panic broke and fled, Steed and tusker turned from battle, soldiers fell among the dead!

Godlike Krishna drove the coursers of resistless Arjun's car, And the sound of Arjun's sankha rose above the cry of war!

And the voice of his gandiva spread a terror far and near, Crushed and broken, faint and frightened, fled the Kurus in their fear!

Onward still through scattered foemen conquering Arjun held his way, Till the evening's gathering darkness closed the action of the day!

III

Bhishma and Arjun meet

Anxious was the proud Duryodhan when the golden morning came, For before the car of Arjun fled each Kuru chief of fame,

Brave Duryodhan shook in anger and a tremor moved his frame, As he spake to ancient Bhishma words of wrath in bitter shame:

"Bhishma! dost thou lead the Kurus in this battle's crimson field? Warlike Drona, doth he guard us like a broad and ample shield?

Wherefore then before yon Arjun do the valiant Kurus fly? Wherefore doth our leader linger when he hears the battle cry?

Doth a secret love for Pandavs quell our leader's matchless might? With a halting zeal for Kurus doth the noble Bhishma fight?

Pardon, chief! if for the Pandavs doth thy partial heart incline, Yield thy place! let faithful Karna lead my gallant Kuru line!"

Anger flamed on Bhishma's forehead and the tear was in his eye, And in accents few and trembling thus the warrior made reply:

"Vain our toil, unwise Duryodhan! Nor can Bhishma warrior old, Nor can Drona skilled in weapons, Karna archer proud and bold,

Wash the stain of deeds unholy and of wrongs and outraged laws, Conquer with a load of cunning 'gainst a right and righteous cause!

Deaf to wisdom's voice, Duryodhan! deaf to parents and to kin, Thou shalt perish in thy folly, in thy unrepented sin!

For the wrongs and insults offered unto good Yudhishthir's wife, For the kingdom from him stolen, for the plots against his life,

For the dreadful oath of Bhima, for the holy counsel given, Vainly given by saintly Krishna, thou art doomed by righteous Heaven!

Meanwhile since he leads thy forces, Bhishma still shall meet his foe, Or to conquer, or to perish, to the battle's front I go."

Speaking thus, unto the battle ancient Bhishma held his way, Sweeping all before his chariot as upon a previous day,

And the army of Yudhishthir shook from end to farthest end, Arjun nor the valiant Krishna could against the tide contend!

Cars were shattered, fled the coursers, elephants were pierced and slain, Shafts of chariots, broken standards, lifeless soldiers strewed the plain!

Coats of mail were left by warriors as they ran with streaming hair, Soldiers fled like herds of cattle stricken by a sudden fear!

Krishna, Arjun's chariot-driver, and a chief of righteous fame, Marked the broken Pandav forces, spake in grief and bitter shame:

"Arjun! not in hour of battle hath it been they wont to fly, Forward lay thy path of glory, or to conquer or to die!

If to-day with angry Bhishma Arjun shuns the dubious fight, Shame on Krishna! if he joins thee in this sad inglorious flight!

Be it mine alone, O Arjun! warrior's wonted work to know, Krishna with his fiery discus smites the all-resistless foe!"

Then he flung the reins to Arjun, left the steeds and sounding car, Leaped upon the field of battle, rushed into the dreadful war!

"Shame!" cried Arjun in his anger, "Krishna shall not wage the fight, Nor shall Arjun like a recreant seek for safety in his flight!"

And he dashed behind the warrior, and on foot the chief pursued, Caught him as the angry Krishna still his distant foeman viewed,

Stalwart Arjun lifted Krishna, as the storm lifts up a tree, Placed him on his battle-chariot, and he bent to him his knee:

"Pardon, Krishna, this compulsion! pardon this transgression bold, But while Arjun lives, O chieftain! weapon of thy wrath withhold!

By my warlike Abhimanyu, fair Subhadra's darling boy, By my brothers, dearer, truer, than in hours of pride and joy,

By my troth I pledge thee, Krishna,—let thy angry discus sleep,— Archer Arjun meets his foeman, and his plighted word will keep."

Forthwith rushed the fiery Arjun in his sounding battle-car, And like waves before him parted serried ranks of hostile war,

Vainly hurled his lance Duryodhan 'gainst the valiant warrior's face, Vainly Salya, king of Madra, threw with skill his pond'rous mace,

With disdain the godlike Arjun dashed the feeble darts aside, Hold aloft his famed gandiva as he stood with haughty pride,

Beat of drum and blare of sankha and the thunder of his car, And his weapon's fearful accents rose terrific near and far!

Came resistless Pandav forces, sweeping onward wave on wave, Chedis, Matsyas, and Panchalas, chieftains true and warriors brave!

Onward too came forth the Kurus, by the matchless Bhishma led, Shouts arose and cry of anguish midst the dying and the dead!

But the evening closed in darkness, and the night-fires fitful flared, Fainting troops and bleeding chieftains to their various tents repaired!

IV

Duryodhan's Brothers slain

Dawned another day of battle; Kurus knew that day too well, Widowed queens of fair Hastina wept before the evening fell!

For as whirlwind of destruction Bhima swept in mighty wrath, Broke the serried line of tuskers vainly sent to cross his path,

Smote Duryodhan with his arrows, three terrific darts and five, Smote proud Salya; from the battle scarce they bore the chiefs alive!

Then Duryodhan's fourteen brothers rushed into the dreadful fray, Fatal was the luckless moment, inauspicious was the day!

Licked his mouth the vengeful Bhima, and he shook his bow and lance, As the lion lolls his red tongue when he see his prey advance,

Short and fierce the furious combat; six pale princes turned and fled, Eight of proud Duryodhan's brothers fell and slumbered with the dead!

V

Satyaki's Sons slain

Morning with her fiery radiance oped the portals of the day, Shone once more on Kuru warriors, Pandav chiefs in dread array!

Bhima and the gallant Arjun led once more the van of war, But the proud preceptor Drona faced them in his sounding car!

Still with gallant son of Arjun, Lakshman strove with bow and shield, Vainly strove; his faithful henchman bore him bleeding from the field!

Lakshman, son of proud Duryodhan! Abhimanyu, Arjun's son, Doomed to die in youth and glory 'neath the same revolving sun!

Sad the day for Vrishni warriors! Brave Satyaki's sons of might, 'Gainst the cruel Bhuri-sravas strove in unrelenting fight,

Ten brave brothers, pride of Vrishni, fell upon that fatal day, Slain by mighty Bhuri-sravas, and upon the red field lay!

VI

Bhima's Danger and Rescue

Dawned another day of slaughter; heedless Bhima forced his way, Through Duryodhan's serried legions, where dark death and danger lay,

And a hundred foemen gathered, and unequal was the strife, Bhima strove with furious valour, for his forfeit was his life!

Fair Panchala's watchful monarch saw the danger from afar, Forced his way where bleeding Bhima fought beside his shattered car,

And he helped the fainting warrior, placed him on his chariot-seat, But the Kurus darkly gathered, surging round as waters meet!

Arjun's son and twelve brave chieftains dashed into the dubious fray, Rescued Bhima and proud Drupad from the Kurus' grim array,

Surging still the Kuru forces onward came with ceaseless might, Drona smote the scattered Pandavs till the darksome hours of night!

VII

Pandavs routed by Bhishma

Morning came and angry Arjun rushed into the dreadful war, Krishna drove his milk-white coursers, onward flew his sounding car,

And before his monkey banner quailed the faint and frightened foes, Till like star on billowy ocean Bhishma's palm-tree banner rose!

Vainly then the good Yudhishthir, stalwart Bhima, Arjun brave, Strove with useless toil and valour shattered ranks of war to save,

Vainly too the Pandav brothers on the peerless Bhishma fell, Gods in sky nor earthly warriors Bhishma's matchless might could quell!

Fell Yudhishthir's lofty standard, shook his chariot battle-tost, Fell his proud and fiery coursers, and the dreadful day was lost!

Sahadeva and Nakula vainly strove with all their might, Till their broken scattered forces rested in the shades of night!

VIII

Iravat slain: Duryodhan's Brothers slain

Morning saw the turn of battle; Bhishma's charioteer was slain, And his coursers uncontrolled flew across the reddened plain,

Ill it fared with Kuru forces when their leader went astray, And their foremost chiefs and warriors with the dead and dying lay.

But Gandhara's mounted princes rode across the battle-ground,— For its steeds and matchless chargers is Gandhara's realm renowned,

And to smite the young Iravat fierce Gandhara's princes swore,— Brave Iravat, son of Arjun, whom a Naga princess bore!

Mounted on their milk-white chargers proudly did the princes sweep, Like the sea-birds skimming gaily o'er the bosom of the deep,

Five of stout Gandhara's princes in that fatal combat fell, And a sixth in fear and faintness fled the woeful tale to tell!

Short, alas, Iravat's triumph, transient was the victor's joy, Alumbusha dark and dreadful came against the gallant boy,

Fierce and fateful was the combat, mournful is the tale to tell, Like a lotus rudely severed, gallant son of Arjun fell!

Arjun heard the tale of sorrow, and his heart was filled with grief, Thus he spake a father's anguish, faint his accents, few and brief:

"Wherefore, Krishna, for a kingdom mingle in this fatal fray, Kinsmen killed and comrades slaughtered,—dear, alas! the price we pay!

Woe unto Hastina's empire built upon our children's grave! Dearer than the throne of monarchs was Iravat young and brave!

Young in years and rich in beauty, with thy mother's winsome eye! Art thou slain, my gallant warrior, and thy father was not nigh?

But thy young blood calls for vengeance! noble Krishna, drive the car, Let them feel the father's prowess, those who slew the son in war!"

And he dashed the glistening tear-drop, and his words were few and brief, Broken ranks and slaughtered chieftains spoke an angry father's grief!

Bhima too revenged Iravat, and as onward still he flew, Brothers of the proud Duryodhan in that fatal combat slew!

Still advanced the fatal carnage till the darksome close of day, When the wounded and the weary with the dead and lying lay!

IX

Pandavs routed by Bhishma

Fell the thickening shades of darkness on the red and ghastly plain, Torches by the white tents flickered, red fires showed the countless slain,

With a bosom sorrow-laden proud Duryodhan drew his breath, Wept the issue of the battle and his warlike brother's death.

Spent with grief and silent sorrow slow the Kuru monarch went Where arose in dewy starlight Bhishma's proud and snowy tent,

And with tears and hands conjoined thus the sad Duryodhan spoke, And his mournful bitter accents oft by heaving sighs were broke:

"Bhishma! on thy matchless prowess Kuru's hopes and fates depend, Gods nor men with warlike Bhishma can in field of war contend!

Brave in war are sons of Pandu, but they face not Bhishma's might, In their fierce and deathless hatred slay my brothers in the fight!

Mind thy pledge, O chief of Kurus, save Hastina's royal race, On the ancient king my father grant thy never-failing grace!

If within thy noble bosom,—pardon cruel words I say,— Secret love for sons of Pandu holds a soft and partial sway,

If thy inner heart's affection unto Pandu's sons incline, Grant that Karna lead my forces 'gainst the foeman's hostile line!"

Bhishma's heart was full of sadness and his eyelids dropped a tear, Soft and mournful were his accents and his vision true and clear:

"Vain, Duryodhan, is this contest, and thy mighty host is vain, Why with blood of friendly nations drench this red and reeking plain?

They must win who, strong in virtue, fight for virtue's stainless laws, Doubly armed the stalwart warrior who is armed in righteous cause!

Think, Duryodhan, when gandharvas took thee captive and a slave, Did not Arjun rend thy fetters, Arjun righteous chief and brave?

When in Matsya's fields of pasture captured we Virata's kine, Did not Arjun in his valour beat thy countless force and mine?

Krishna now hath come to Arjun, Krishna drives his battle-car, Gods nor men can face these heroes in the field of righteous war!

Ruin frowns on thee, Duryodhan, and upon thy impious State, In thy pride and in thy folly thou hast courted cruel fate!

Bhishma still will do his duty, and his end it is not far, Then may other chieftains follow,—fatal is this Kuru war!"

Dawned a day of mighty slaughter and of dread and deathful war, Ancient Bhishma, in his anger drove once more his sounding car!

Morn to noon and noon to evening none could face the victor's wrath, Broke and shattered, faint and frightened, Pandavs fled before his path!

Still amidst the dead and dying moved his proud resistless car, Till the gathering night and darkness closed the horrors of the war!

X

Fall of Bhishma

Good Yudhishthir gazed with sorrow on the dark and ghastly plain, Shed his tears on chiefs and warriors by the matchless Bhishma slain!

"Vain this unavailing battle, vain this woeful loss of life, 'Gainst the death-compelling Bhishma hopeless in this arduous strife!

As a lordly tusker tramples on a marsh of feeble reeds, As a forest conflagration on the parched woodland feeds,

Bhishma rides upon my warriors in his mighty battle-car, God nor mortal chief can face him in the gory field of war!

Vain our toil, and vain the valour of our kinsmen loved and lost, Vainly fight my faithful brothers by a luckless fortune crost,

Nations pour their life-blood vainly, ceaseless wakes the sound of woe, Krishna, stop this cruel carnage, unto woods once more we go!"

Sad they hold a midnight council and the chiefs in silence meet, And they went to ancient Bhishma, love and mercy to entreat,

Bhishma loved the sons of Pandu with a father's loving heart, But from troth unto Duryodhan righteous Bhishma would not part!

"Sons of Pandu!" said the chieftain, "Prince Duryodhan is my lord, Bhishma is no faithless servant nor will break his plighted word,

Valiant are ye, noble princes, but the chief is yet unborn, While I lead the course of battle, who the tide of war can turn!

Listen more. With vanquished foeman, or who falls or takes to fight, Casts his weapons, craves for mercy, ancient Bhishma doth not fight,

Bhishma doth not fight a rival who submits, fatigued and worn, Bhishma doth not fight the wounded, doth not fight a woman born!"

Back unto their tents the Pandavs turn with Krishna deep and wise, He unto the anxious Arjun thus in solemn whisper cries:

"Arjun, there is hope of triumph! Hath not truthful Bhishma sworn, He will fight no wounded warrior, he will fight no woman born?

Female child was brave Sikhandin, Drupad's youngest son of pride, Gods have turned him to a warrior, placed him by Yudhishthir's side!

Place him in the van of battle, mighty Bhishma leaves the strife, Then with ease we fight and conquer, and the forfeit is his life!"

"Shame!" exclaimed the angry Arjun, "not in secret heroes fight, Not behind a child or woman screen their valour and their might!

Krishna, loth is archer Arjun to pursue this hateful strife, Trick against the sinless Bhishma, fraud upon his spotless life!

Knowest thou good and noble Krishna; as a child I climbed his knee, As a boy I called him father, hung upon him lovingly?

Perish conquest! dearly purchased by a mean deceitful strife! Perish crown and jewelled sceptre! won with Bhishma's saintly life!"

Gravely answered noble Krishna: "Bhishma falls by close of day, Victim to the cause of virtue, he himself hath showed the way!

Dear or hated be the foeman, Arjun, thou shalt fight and slay, Wherefore else the blood of nations hast thou poured from day to day?"

Morning dawned, and mighty Arjun, Abhimanyu young and bold, Drupad monarch of Panchala, and Virata stern and old,

Brave Yudhishthir and his brothers clad in arms and shining mail, Rushed to war where Bhishma's standard gleamed and glittered in the gale!

Proud Duryodhan marked their onset, and its fatal purpose knew, And his bravest men and chieftains 'gainst the fiery Pandavs threw,

With Kamboja's stalwart monarch and with Drona's mighty son, With the valiant bowman Kripa stemmed the battle still unwon!

And his younger, fierce Duhsasan, thirsting for the deathful war, 'Gainst the helmet-wearing Arjun drew his mighty battle-car,

As the high and rugged mountain meets the angry ocean's sway, Proud Duhsasan warred with Arjun in his wild and onward way,

And as myriad white-winged sea-birds swoop upon the darksome wave, Clouds of darts and glistening lances drank the red blood of the brave!

Other warlike Kuru chieftains came, the bravest and the best, Drona's self and Bhagadatta, monarch of the farthest East,

Car-borne Salya, mighty warrior, king of Madra's distant land, Princes from Avanti's regions, chiefs from Malav's rocky strand,

Jayadratha, matchless fighter, king of Sindhu's sounding shore, Chetrasena and Vikarna, countless chiefs and warriors more!

And they faced the fiery Pandavs, peerless in their warlike might, Long and dreadful raged the combat, darkly closed the dubious fight,

Dust arose like clouds of summer, glistening darts like lightning played, Darksome grew the sky with arrows, thicker grew the gloomy shade,

Cars went down and mailed horsemen, soldiers fell in dread array, Elephants with white tusks broken and with mangled bodies lay!

Arjun and the stalwart Bhima, piercing through their countless foes, Side by side impelled their chariots, where the palm-tree standard rose!

Where the peerless ancient Bhishma on that dark and fatal day, Warring with the banded nations, still resistless held his way!

On he came, his palm-tree standard still the front of battle knew, And like sun from dark clouds parting Bhishma burst on Arjun's view!

And his eyes brave Arjun shaded at the awe-inspiring sight, Half he wished to turn for shelter from that chief of godlike might!

But bold Krishna drove his chariot, whispered unto him his plan, Arjun placed the young Sikhandin in the deathful battle's van!

Bhishma viewed the Pandav forces with a calm unmoving face, Saw not Arjun's fair gandiva, saw not Bhima's mighty mace,

Smiled to see the young Sikhandin rushing to the battle's fore, Like the foam upon the billow when the mighty storm-winds roar!

Bhishma thought of word he plighted and of oath that he had sworn, Dropped his arms before the warrior who was but a female born!

And the standard which no warrior ever saw in base retreat, Idly stood upon the chariot, threw its shade on Bhishma's seat!

And the flagstaff fell dissevered on the crushed and broken car, As from azure sky of midnight falls the meteor's flaming star!

Not by young Sikhandin's arrows Bhishma's palm-tree standard fell, Not Sikhandin's feeble lances did the peerless Bhishma quell,

True to oath the bleeding chieftan turned his darkening face away, Turned and fell; the sun declining marked the closing of the day.

Ended thus the fatal battle, truce came with the close of day, Kurus and the silent Pandavs went where Bhishma dying lay,

Arjun wept as for a father weeps a sad and sorrowing son, Good Yudhishthir cursed the morning Kuru-kshetra's war begun,

Stood Duryodhan and his brothers mantled in the gloom of grief, Foes like loving brothers sorrowed round the great the dying chief!

Arjun's keen and pointed arrows made the hero's dying bed, And in soft and gentle accents to Duryodhan thus he said:

"List unto my words, Duryodhan, uttered with my latest breath, List to Bhishma's dying counsel and revere the voice of death!

End this dread and deathful battle if thy stony heart can grieve, Save the chieftains doomed to slaughter, bid the fated nations live!

Grant his kingdom to Yudhishthir, righteous man beloved of Heaven, Keep thy own Hastina's regions, be the hapless past forgiven!"

Vain, alas! the voice of Bhishma like the voice of angel spoke, Hatred dearer than his life-blood in the proud Duryodhan woke!

Darker grew the gloomy midnight, and the princes went their way, On his bed of pointed arrows Bhishma lone and dying lay,

Karna, though he loved not Bhishma whilst the chieftain lived in fame, Gently to the dying Bhishma in the midnight darkness came!

Bhishma heard the tread of Karna, and he oped his glazing eye, Spake in love and spake in sadness, and his bosom heaved a sigh:

"Pride and envy, noble Karna, filled our warlike hearts with strife, Discord ends with breath departing, envy sinks with fleeting life!

More I have to tell thee, Karna, but my parting breath may fail, Feeble are my dying accents, and my parched lips are pale!

Arjun beats not noble Karna in the deeds of valour done, Nor excels in birth and lineage, Karna, thou art Pritha's son!

Pritha bore thee, still unwedded, and the Sun inspired thy birth, God-born man! No mightier archer treads this broad and spacious earth!

Pritha cast thee in her sorrow, hid thee with a maiden's shame, And a driver, not thy father, nursed thee, chief of warlike fame!

Arjun is thy brother, Karna, end this sad fraternal war, Seek not life-blood of thy brother, nor against him drive thy car!"

Vain, alas! the voice of Bhishma like a heavenly warning spoke, Hatred dearer than his life-blood in the vengeful Karna woke!



BOOK IX

DRONA-BADHA

(Fall of Drona)

On the fall of Bhishma the Brahman chief Drona, preceptor of the Kuru and Pandav princes, was appointed the leader of the Kuru forces. For five days Drona held his own against the Pandavs, and some of the incidents of these days, like the fall of Abhimanyu and the vengeance of Arjun, are among the most stirring passages in the Epic. The description of the different standards of the Pandav and the Kuru warriors is also interesting. At last Drona slew his ancient foe the king of the Panchalas, and was then slain by his son the prince of the Panchalas.

The Book is an abridgment of Book vii. of the original text.

I

Single Combat between Bhima and Salya

Morning ushered in the battle; Pandav warriors heard with dread Drona priest and proud preceptor now the Kuru forces led,

And the foe-compelling Drona pledged his troth and solemn word, He would take Yudhishthir captive to Hastina's haughty lord!

But the ever faithful Arjun to his virtuous elder bowed, And in clear and manful accents spake his warlike thoughts aloud:

"Sacred is our great preceptor, sacred is acharya's life, Arjun may not slay his teacher even in this mortal strife!

Saving this, command, O monarch, Arjun's bow and warlike sword, For thy safety, honoured elder, Arjun stakes his plighted word!

Matchless in the art of battle is our teacher fierce and dread, But he comes not to Yudhishthir save o'er blood of Arjun shed!"

Morning witnessed doughty Drona foremost in the battle's tide, But Yudhishthir's warlike chieftains compassed him on every side,

Foremost of the youthful chieftains came resistless Arjun's son,— Father's blood and milk of mother fired his deeds of valour done,

As the lion of the jungle drags the ox into his lair, Abhimanyu from his chariot dragged Paurava by the hair!

Jayadratha king of Sindhu marked the faint and bleeding chief, Leaping from his car of battle, wrathful came to his relief,

Abhimanyu left his captive, turned upon the mightier foe, And with sword and hardened buckler gave and parried many a blow,

Rank to rank from both the forces cry of admiration rose, Streaming men poured forth in wonder, watched the combat fierce and close!

Piercing Abhimanyu's buckler Jayadratha sent his stroke, But the turned and twisted sword-blade snapping in the midway broke,

Weaponless the king of Sindhu ran into his sheltering car, Salya came unto his rescue from a battle-field afar,

Dauntless, on the new assailant, Arjun's son his weapon drew, Interposing 'twixt the fighters Bhima's self on Salya flew!

Stoutest wrestlers in the armies, peerless fighters with the mace, Bhima and the stalwart Salya stood opposed face to face!

Hempen fastening bound their maces and the wire of twisted gold, Whirling bright in circling flashes, shook their staff the warriors bold!

Oft they struck, and sparks of red fire issued from the seasoned wood, And like horned bulls infuriate Madra's king and Bhima stood!

Closer still they came like tigers closing with their reddened paws, Or like tuskers with their red tusks, eagles with their rending claws!

Loud as INDRA'S peals of thunder still their blows were echoed round Rank to rank the startled soldiers heard the oft-repeated sound!

But as strikes in vain the lightning on the solid mountain-rock, Bhima nor the fearless Salya fell or moved beneath the shock!

Closer drew the watchful heroes, and their clubs were wielded well, Till by many blows belaboured both the fainting fighters fell!

Like a drunkard dazed and reeling Bhima rose his staff to wield, Senseless Salya, heavy-breathing, henchman carried from the field,

Writhing like a wounded serpent, lifted from the field of war, He was carried by his soldiers to the shelter of his car!

Drona still with matchless prowess would redeem his plighted word, Sought to take Yudhishthir captive to Duryodhan, Kuru's lord,

Vainly then the twin-born brothers came to cross the conqueror's path, Matsya's lord, Panchala's monarch, vainly faced him in his wrath,

Rank to rank the cry resounded circling o'er the battle-field, "Drona takes Yudhishthir captive with his weapons, sword and shield!"

Arjun heard the dreadful message and in haste and fury came, Strove to save his king and elder and redeem his loyal fame,

Speeding with his milk-white coursers dashed into the thick of war, Blew his shrill and dreaded sankha, drove his sounding battle-car,

Fiercer, darker grew the battle, when above the reddened plain, Evening drew her peaceful mantle o'er the living and the slain!

II

Standards of the Pandavs

Morning came; still round Yudhishthir Drona led the gathering war, Arjun fought the Sam-saptakas in the battle-field afar,

But the prince of fair Panchala marked his father's ancient foe, And against the doughty Drona, Dhrishta-dyumna bent his bow!

But as darksome cloudy masses angry gusts of storm divide, Through the scattered fainting foemen Drona drove his car in pride,

Steeds went down and riven chariots, young Panchala turned and fled, Onward drove resistless Drona o'er the dying and the dead!

One more prince of fair Panchala 'gainst the mighty Drona came,— Ancient feud ran in the red blood of Panchala's chiefs of fame,—

Fated youth! with reckless valour still he fought his father's foe, Fought and fell; relentless Drona laid the brave Satyajit low!

Surging still like ocean's billows other Pandav warriors came, To protect their virtuous monarch and redeem their ancient fame,

Came in various battle-chariots drawn by steeds of every hue, Various were the chieftains' standards which the warring nations knew!

Bhima drove his stalwart horses tinted like the dappled deer, Grey and pigeon-coloured coursers bore Panchala's prince and peer,

Horses bred in famed Kamboja, fiery, parrot-green in hue, Brave Nakula's sumptuous chariot in the deathful battle drew,

Piebald horses trained to battle did young Sahadeva rein, Ivory-white Yudhishthir's coursers with their flowing ebon mane,

And by him with gold umbrella valiant monarch Drupad came, Horses of a bright-bay colour carried Matsya's king of fame.

Varied as their various coursers gallantly their standards rose, With their wondrous strange devices, terror of their armed foes!

Water-jar on tawny deerskin, such was Drona's sign of war,— Drona as a tender infant rested in a water-jar,

Golden moon with stars surrounding was Yudhishthir's sign of yore, Silver lion was the standard tiger-waisted Bhima bore,

Brave Nakula's sign was red deer with its back of burnished gold, Silver swan with bells resounding Sahadeva's onset told,

Golden peacock rich-emblazoned was young Abhimanyu's joy, Vulture shone on Ghatotkacha, Bhima's proud and gallant boy.

Now Duryodhan marked the foemen heaving like the rising tide, And he faced the wrathful Bhima towering in his tameless pride,

Short the war, for proud Duryodhan wounded from the battle fled, And his warriors from fair Anga rested with the countless dead!

Wild with anger Bhagadatta, monarch of the farthest East, With his still unconquered forces on the valiant Bhima pressed,

Came from far the wrathful Arjun and the battle's front he sought, Where by eastern foes surrounded still the stalwart Bhima fought!

Fated monarch from the far-east Brahma-putra's sounding shore, Land of rising sun will hail him and his noble peers no more,

For his tusker pierced by arrows trumpeted his dying wail, Like a red and flaming meteor gallant Bhagadatta fell!

Then with rising wrath and anguish Karna's noble bosom bled,— Karna, who had stayed from battle while his rival Bhishma led,

Ancient hate and jealous anger clouded Karna's warlike heart, And while Bhishma led, all idly slumbered Karna's bow and dart!

Now he marked with warrior's anguish all his comrades fled afar, And his foeman Arjun sweeping o'er the red field of the war!

Hatred like a tongue of red fire shot from Karna's flaming eye, And he sprang to meet his foeman or to conquer or to die!

Fierce and dubious was the battle, answering clouds gave back the din, Karna met his dearest foeman and, alas! his nearest kin!

Bhima and Panchala's warriors unto Arjun's rescue came, Proud Duryodhan came to Karna, and fair Sindhu's king of fame!

Fiercely raged the gory combat, when the night its shadows threw, Wounded men and blood-stained chieftains to their nightly tents withdrew!

III

Abhimanyu's Death

Fatal was the blood-red morning purpling o'er the angry east, Fatal day for Abhimanyu, bravest warrior and the best,

Countless were the gallant chieftains like the sands beside the sea, None with braver bosom battled, none with hands more stout and free!

Brief, alas! thy radiant summers, fair Subhadra's gallant boy, Loved of Matsya's soft-eyed princess and her young heart's pride and joy!

Brief, alas! thy sunlit winters, light of war too early quenched, Peerless son of peerless Arjun, in the blood of foemen drenched!

Drona on that fatal morning ranged his dreadful battle-line In a circle darkly spreading where the chiefs with chiefs combine,

And the Pandavs looked despairing on the battle's dread array, Vainly strove to force a passage, vainly sought their onward way!

Abhimanyu, young and fiery, dashed alone into the war, Reckless through the shattered forces all resistless drove his car,

Elephants and crashing standards, neighing steeds and warriors slain Fell before the furious hero as he made a ghastly lane!

Proud Duryodhan rushed to battle, strove to stop the turning tide, And his stoutest truest warriors fought by proud Duryodhan's side,

Onward still went Abhimanyu, Kurus strove and fought in vain, Backward reeled and fell Duryodhan and his bravest chiefs were slain!

Next came Salya car-borne monarch 'gainst the young resistless foe, Urged his fiery battle-coursers, stretched his dread unerring bow,

Onward still went Abhimanyu, Salya strove and fought in vain, And his warriors took him bleeding from the reddened battle-plain!

Next Duhsasan darkly lowering thundered with his bended bow, Abhimanyu smiled to see him, kinsman and the dearest foe,

"Art thou he," said Abhimanyu, "known for cruel word and deed, Impious in thy heart and purpose, base and ruthless in thy greed?

Didst thou with the false Sakuni win a realm by low device, Win his kingdom from Yudhishthir by ignoble trick of dice?

Didst thou in the council chamber with your insults foul and keen By her flowing raven tresses drag Yudhishthir's stainless queen?

Didst thou speak to warlike Bhima as thy serf and bounden slave, Wrong my father, righteous Arjun, peerless prince and warrior brave?

Welcome! I have sought thee often, wished to cross thy tainted path, Welcome! Dearest of all victims to my nursed and cherished wrath!

Reap the meed of sin and insult, draw on earth thy latest breath, For I owe to Queen Draupadi, impious prince, thy speedy death!"

Like a snake upon an ant-hill, on Duhsasan's wicked heart, Fell with hissing wrath and fury Abhimanyu's fiery dart!

From the loss of blood Duhsasan fainted on his battle-car, Kuru chieftains bore him senseless from the blood-stained scene of war!

Next in gleaming arms accoutred came Duryodhan's gallant son, Proud and warlike as his father, famed for deeds of valour done,

Young in years and rich in valour, for alas! he fought too well, And before his weeping father proud and gallant Lakshman fell!

Onward still went Abhimanyu midst the dying and the dead, Shook from rank to rank the Kurus and their shattered army fled!

Then the impious Jayadratha, king of Sindhu's sounding shore, Came forth in unrighteous concert with six car-borne warriors more,

Darkly closed the fatal circle with the gulfing surge's moan, Dauntless, with the seven brave chieftains Abhimanyu fought alone!

Fell, alas! his peacock standard and his car was broke in twain, Bow and sabre rent and shattered and his faithful driver slain,

Heedless yet of death and danger, misty with the loss of blood, Abhimanyu wiped his forehead, gazed where dark his foemen stood!

Then with wild despairing valour, flickering flame and closing life, Mace in hand the heedless warrior rushed to end the mortal strife,

Rushed upon his startled foemen, Abhimanyu fought and fell, And his deeds to distant ages bards and wand'ring minstrels tell!

Like a tusker of the forest by surrounding hunters slain, Like a wood-consuming wildfire quenched upon the distant plain,

Like a mountain-shaking tempest, spent in force and hushed and still, Like the red resplendent day-god setting on the western hill,

Like the moon serene and beauteous quenched in eclipse, dark and pale, Lifeless slumbered Abhimanyu when the softened starlight fell!

Done the day of death and slaughter, darkening shadows close around, Wearied warriors seek for shelter on the vast and tented ground,

Soldiers' camp-fires brightly blazing, tent-lights shining from afar, Cast their fitful gleam and radiance on the carnage of the war!

Arjun from a field at distance, where upon that day he fought, With the ever faithful Krishna now his nightly shelter sought,

"Wherefore, Krishna," uttered Arjun, "evil omens strike my eye, Thoughts of sadness fill my bosom, wake the long-forgotten sigh?

Wherefore voice of evening bugle speaks not on the battle-field, Merry conch nor sounding trumpet music to the warriors yield?

Harp is hushed within the dark tents and the voice of warlike song, Bards beside the evening camp-fire tales of war do not prolong!

Good Yudhishthir's tent is voiceless, and my brothers look so pale, Abhimanyu comes not joyous Krishna and his sire to hail!

Abhimanyu's love and greeting bless like blessings from above, Fair Subhadra's joy and treasure, Arjun's pride and hope and love!"

Softly and with many tear-drops did the sad Yudhishthir tell, How in dreadful field of battle gallant Abhimanyu fell!

How the impious Jayadratha fell on Arjun's youthful son,— He with six proud Kuru chieftains,—Abhimanyu all alone!

How the young prince, reft of weapon and deprived of steed and car, Fell as falls a Kshatra warrior fighting on the field of war!

Arjun heard; the father's bosom felt the cruel cureless wound, "Brave and gallant boy!" said Arjun;—and he sank upon the ground!

Moments passed of voiceless sorrow and of speechless bitter tear, Sobs within his mailed bosom smote the weeping listener's ear!

Moments passed; with rising anger quivered Arjun's iron frame, Abhimanyu's cruel murder smote the father's heart to flame!

"Didst thou say that Sindhu's monarch on my Abhimanyu bore,— He alone,—and Jayadratha leagued with six marauders more?

Didst thou say the impious Kurus stooped unto this deed of shame, Outrage on the laws of honour, stain upon a warrior's fame?

Father's curse and warrior's hatred sting them to their dying breath, For they feared my boy in battle, hunted him to cruel death,

Hear my vow, benign Yudhishthir, hear me, Krishna righteous lord, Arjun's hand shall slay the slayer, Arjun plights his solemn word!

May I never reach the bright sky where the righteous fathers dwell, May I with the darkest sinners live within the deepest hell,—

With the men who slay their fathers, shed their loving mothers' blood, Stain the sacred bed of gurus, steal their gold and holy food,

Cherish envy, cheat their kinsmen, speak the low and dastard lie,— If, ere comes to-morrow's sunset, Jayadratha doth not die!

Jayadratha dies to-morrow, victim to my vengeful ire, Arjun else shall yield his weapons, perish on the flaming pyre!"

Softer tear-drops wept the mother, joyless was Subhadra's life,— Krishna's fair and honoured sister, Arjun's dear and loved wife:

"Dost thou lie on field of battle smeared with dust and foeman's gore, Child of light and love and sweetness whom thy hapless mother bore?

Soft thine eye as budding lotus, sweet and gentle was thy face, Are those soft eyes closed in slumber, faded in that peerless grace?

And thy limbs so young and tender, on the bare earth do they lie, Where the hungry jackal prowleth and the vulture flutters nigh?

Gold and jewels graced thy bosom, gems bedecked thy lofty crest, Doth the crimson mark of sabre decorate that manly breast?

Rend Subhadra's stony bosom with a mother's cureless grief, Let her follow Abhimanyu and in death obtain relief!

Earth to me is void and cheerless, joyless in my hearth and home, Dreary without Abhimanyu is this weary world to roam!

And oh! cheerless is that young heart, Abhimanyu's princess-wife, What can sad Subhadra offer to her joyless sunless life?

Close our life in equal darkness, for our day on earth is done, For our love and light and treasure, Abhimanyu, dead and gone!"

Long bewailed the anguished mother, fair Draupadi tore her hair, Matsya's princess, early widowed, shed her young heart's blood in tear!

IV

Standards of the Kurus: Arjun's Revenge

Morning from the face of battle night's depending curtain drew, Long and shrill his sounding sankha then the wrathful Arjun blew,

Kurus knew the vow of Arjun, heard the sankha's deathful blare, As it rose above the red field, thrilled the startled morning air!

"Speed, my Krishna," out spake Arjun, as he held aloft his bow, "For to-day my task is dreadful, cruel is my mighty vow!"

Fiery coursers urged by Krishna flew with lightning's rapid course, Dashing through the hostile warriors and the serried Kuru force!

Brave Durmarsan faced the hero, but he strove and fought in vain, Onward thundered Arjun's chariot o'er the dying and the slain!

Fierce Duhsasan with his tuskers rushed into the fine of war, But the tuskers broke in panic, onward still went Arjun's car!

Drona then, the proud preceptor, Arjun's furious progress stayed, Tear-drops filled the eye of Arjun as these gentle words he said:

"Pardon, father! if thy pupil shuns to-day thy offered war, 'Gainst his Abhimanyu's slayer Arjun speeds his battle-car!

Not against my great acharya is my wrathful bow-string drawn, Not against a loved father fights a loving duteous son!

Heavy on this bleeding bosom sits the darkening load of woe, And an injured father's vengeance seeks the slaughtered hero's foe!

Pardon then if sorrowing Arjun seeks a far and distant way, Mighty is the vow of Arjun, cruel is his task to-day!"

Passing by the doughty Drona onward sped the fiery car, Through the broken line of warriors, through the shattered ranks of war,

Angas and the brave Kalingas vainly crossed his wrathful way, Proud Avantis from the regions where fair Chambal's waters stray!

Famed Avanti's fated princes vainly led their highland force, Fell beneath the wrath of Arjun, stayed nor stopped his onward course,

Onward still with speed of lightning thundered Arjun's battle-car, To the spot where Jayadratha stood behind the ranks of war!

Now the sun from highest zenith red and fiery radiance lent, Long and weary was the passage, Arjun's foaming steeds were spent,

"Arjun!" said the faithful Krishna, "arduous is thy cruel quest, But thy foaming coursers falter and they need a moment's rest,"

"Be it so," brave Arjun answered, "from our chariot we alight, Rest awhile the weary horses, Krishna, I will watch the fight!"

Speaking thus the armed Arjun lightly leaped upon the lea, Stood on guard with bow and arrow by the green and shady tree,

Krishna groomed the jaded horses, faint and feeble, red with gore, With a healing hand he tended wounds the bleeding coursers bore,

Watered them beside a river by the zephyrs soft caressed, Gave unto them welcome fodder, gave unto them needful rest,

Thus refreshed, the noble coursers Krishna harnessed to the car, And the gleaming helmed Arjun rushed once more into the war!

Came on him the Kuru warriors, darksome wave succeeding wave, Standards decked with strange devices, streaming banners rich and brave,

Foremost was the glorious standard of preceptor Drona's son, Lion's tail in golden brilliance on his battle-chariot shone,

Elephant's rope was Karna's ensign made of rich and burnished gold, And a bull bedecked the standard of the bowman Kripa bold,

Peacock made of precious metal, decked with jewels rich and rare, Vrishasena's noble standard shone aloft serene and fair,

Ploughshare of a golden lustre shining like the radiant flame, Spoke the car of mighty Salya, Madra's king of warlike fame,

Far, and guarded well by chieftains, shone the dazzling silver-boar, Ensign proud of Jayadratha, brought from Sindhu's sounding shore,

On the car of Somadatta shone a stake of sacrifice, Silver-boar and golden parrots, these were Salwa's proud device,

Last and brightest of the standards, on the prince Duryodhan's car, Lordly elephant in jewels proudly shone above the war!

Nine heroic Kuru chieftains, bravest warriors and the best, Leagued they came to grapple Arjun and on faithful Krishna pressed!

Arjun swept like sweeping whirlwind, all resistless in his force, Sought no foe and waged no combat, held his ever onward course!

For he sighted Jayadratha midst the circling chiefs of war, 'Gainst that warrior, grim and silent, Arjun drove his furious car!

Now the day-god rolled his chariot on the western clouds aflame, Karna's self and five great chieftains round brave Jayadratha came,

Vainly strove the valiant Arjun struggling 'gainst the Kuru line, Charged upon the peerless Karna as he marked the day's decline,

Krishna then a prayer whispered; came a friendly sable cloud, Veiled the red sun's dazzling brilliance in a dark and inky shroud!

Karna deemed the evening darkness now proclaimed the close of strife, Failing in his plighted promise Arjun must surrender life,

And his comrade chiefs rejoicing slackened in their furious fight, Jayadratha hailed with gladness thickening shades of welcome night!

In that sad and fatal error did the Kuru chiefs combine, Arjun quick as bolt of lightning broke their all unguarded line,

Like an onward sweeping wildfire shooting forth its lolling tongue, On the startled Jayadratha Arjun in his fury flung!

Short the strife; as angry falcon swoops upon its helpless prey, Arjun sped his vengeful arrow and his foeman lifeless lay!

Friendly winds removed the dark cloud from the reddening western hill, And the sun in crimson lustre cast its fiery radiance still!

Ere the evening's mantling darkness fell o'er distant hill and plain, Proud Duryodhan's many brothers were by vengeful Bhima slain,

And Duryodhan, stung by sorrow, waged the still unceasing fight, In the thick and gathering darkness torches lit the gloom of night!

Karna, furious in his anger for his Jayadratha slain, And for brothers of Duryodhan sleeping lifeless on the plain,

'Gainst the gallant son of Bhima drove his deep resounding car, And in gloom and midnight darkness waked the echoes of the war!

Bhima's son brave Ghatotkacha twice proud Karna's horses slew, Twice the humbled steedless Karna from the dubious battle flew,

Came again the fiery Karna, vengeance flamed within his heart, Like the midnight's lurid lightning sped his fell and fatal dart,

Woeful was the hour of darkness, luckless was the starry sway, Bhima's son in youth and valour lifeless on the red field lay!

Then was closed the midnight battle, silent shone the starry light, Bhima knew nor rest nor slumber through the long and woeful night!

V

Fall of Drona

Ere the crimson morning glittered proud Duryodhan sad at heart, To the leader of the Kurus did his sorrows thus impart:

"Sadly speeds the contest, Drona, on the battle's gory plain, Kuru chiefs are thinned and fallen and my brothers mostly slain!

Can it be, O beat of Brahmans! peerless in the art of war, Can it be that we shall falter while thou speed'st the battle-car?

Pandu's sons are but thy pupils, Arjun meets thee not in fight, None can face the great acharya in his wrath and warlike might!

Wherefore then in every battle are the Kuru chieftains slain, Wherefore lie my warlike brothers lifeless on the ghastly plain?

Is it that the fates of battle 'gainst the Kuru house combine, Is it that thy heart's affection unto Panda's sons incline?

If thy secret love and mercy still the sons of Pandu claim, Yield thy place to gallant Karna, Anga's prince of warlike fame!"

Answered Drona brief and wrathful: "Fair Gandhari's royal son, Reapest thou the gory harvest of thy sinful actions done!

Cast no blame in youth's presumption on a warrior's fleecy hair, Faithful unto death is Drona, to his promise plighted fair!

Ask thyself, O prince Duryodhan! bound by battle's sacred laws, Wherefore fightest not with Arjun for thy house and for thy cause?

Ask the dark and deep Sakuni, where is now his low device, Wherefore wields he not his weapon as he wields the loaded dice?

Ask the chief who proudly boasted, archer Arjun he would slay, Helmed Arjun sways the battle, whither now doth Karna stay?

Know the truth; the gallant Arjun hath no peer on earth below, And no warrior breathes, Duryodhan, who can face thy helmed foe!

Drona knows his sacred duty; and 'tis willed by Heaven on high, Arjun or preceptor Drona shall in this day's battle die!"

Now the Sun in crimson splendour rolled his car of glistening gold, Sent his shafts of purple radiance on the plain and mountain bold,

And from elephant and charger, from each bravely bannered car, Lighted mailed kings and chieftains and the leaders of the war,

Faced the sun with hands conjoined and the sacred mantra told,— Hymns by ancient rishis chanted, sanctified by bards of old!

Worship done, each silent warrior mounts the car or battle-steed, Onward to the deathful contest did his gallant forces lead,

Ill it fared with Pandav forces, doughty Drona took the field, Peer was none midst living warriors of the Brahman trained and skilled!

Arjun, faithful to his promise, his preceptor would not fight, King nor chief nor other archer dared to face his peerless might,

But old feud like potent poison fires the warrior's heart with strife, Sire to son still unforgotten leaps the hate from death to life!

Wrathful princes of Panchala by their deathless hatred stung, Saw their ancient foe in Drona and on him for vengeance sprung!

Darkly thought the ancient warrior of the old relentless feud, Fiercely like a jungle-tiger fell upon the hostile brood,

Royal Drupad's valiant grandsons in their youth untimely slain, Victims of a deathless discord, pressed the gory battle-plain!

Drupad pale with grief and anger marked his gallant grandsons dead And his army broken, routed, and his bravest chieftains fled,

Filled with unforgotten hatred and with father's grief and pride, Rushed the king, and bold Virata charged by doughty Drupad's side!

Rose a cry of nameless terror o'er the red and ghastly plain, Noble Drupad, brave Virata, lay among the countless slain!

Burning tears the proud Draupadi wept for noble father killed, Maid and matron with their wailing fair Panchala's empire filled!

Matsya's joyless, widowed princess, for her fate was early crost, Wept with added tears and anguish for her father loved and lost!

Waged the war with fearful slaughter, Drona onward urged his way, Fate alone and battle's chances changed the fortunes of the day,

Aswa-thaman, son of Drona, was a chief of peerless fame, And an elephant of battle bore that chieftain's warlike name,

And that proud and lordly tusker, Bhima in his prowess slew, Rank to rank, from friend to foeman, then a garbled message flew:

"Aswa-thaman son of Drona is by mighty Bhima slain!" Drona heard that fatal message, bent his anguished head in pain!

"Speak Yudhishthir, soul of virtue!" thus the proud preceptor cried, "Thou in truth hast never faltered, and thy lips have never lied,

Speak of valiant Aswa-thaman, Drona's hope and pride and joy, Hath he fallen in this battle, is he slain, my gallant boy?

Feeble are the hands of Drona and his prowess quenched and gone, Fleecy are his ancient tresses and his earthly task is done!"

Said Yudhishthir: "Lordly tusker, Aswa-thaman named, is dead," Drona heard but half the accents, feebly drooped his sinking head!

Then the prince of fair Panchala swiftly drove across the plain, Marked his father's cruel slayer, marked his noble father slain!

Dhrista-dyumna bent his weapon and his shaft was pointed well, And the priest and proud preceptor, peerless Drona lifeless fell!

And the fatal day was ended, Kurus fled in abject fear, Arjun for his ancient teacher dropped a silent filial tear!



BOOK X

KARNA-BADHA

(Fall of Karna)

Karna was chosen as the leader of the Kuru forces after the death of Drona, and held his own for two days. The great contest between Karna and Arjun, long expected and long deferred, came on at last. It is the crowning incident of the Indian Epic, as the contest between Hector and Achilles is the crowning incident of the Iliad. With a truer artistic skill than that of Homer, the Indian poet represents Karna as equal to Arjun in strength and skill, and his defeat is only due to an accident.

After the death of Karna, Salya led the Kuru troops on the eighteenth and last day of the war, and fell. A midnight slaughter in the Pandav camp, perpetrated by the vengeful son of Drona, concludes the war. Duryodhan, left wounded by Bhima, heard of the slaughter and died happy.

Books viii., ix., and x. of the original have been abridged in this Book.

I

Karna and Arjun meet

Sights of red and ghastly carnage day disclosed upon the plain, Mighty chiefs and countless warriors round the warlike Drona slain!

Sad Duryodhan gazed in sorrow and the tear was in his eye, Till his glances fell on Karna and his warlike heart beat high!

"Karna!" so exclaimed Duryodhan, "hero of resistless might, Thou alone canst serve the Kuru in this dread and dubious fight,

Step forth, Kuru's chief and leader, mount thy sounding battle-car, Lead the still unconquered Kurus to the trophies of the war!

Matchless was the ancient Bhishma in this famed and warlike land, But a weakness for Yudhishthir palsied Bhishma's slaying hand,

Matchless too was doughty Drona in the warrior's skill and art, Kindness for his pupil Arjun lurked within the teacher's heart!

Greater than the ancient grandsire, greater than the Brahman old, Fiercer in thy deathless hatred, stronger in thy prowess bold,

Peerless Karna! lead us onward to a brighter, happier fate, For thy arm is nerved to action by an unforgotten hate!

Lead us as the martial SKANDA led the conquering gods of old, Smite the foe as angry INDRA smote the Danavs fierce and bold,

As before the light of morning flies the baleful gloom of night, Pandavs and the proud Panchalas fly before thy conquering might!"

Priests with hymns and chanted mantra and with every sacred rite Hailed him Leader of the Kurus, chieftain of unconquered might,

Earthen jars they placed around him with the sacred water full, Elephant's tusk they laid beside him and the horn of mighty bull,

Gem and jewel, corn and produce, by the armed hero laid, Silken cloth of finest lustre o'er his crested head they spread,

Brahmans poured the holy water, bards his lofty praises sung, Kshatras, Vaisyas, purer Sudras hailed him Leader bold and strong!

"Vanquish warlike sons of Pritha!" thus the holy Brahmans blessed, Gold and garments, food and cattle, joyous Karna on them pressed!

Thus the holy rite concluded, Karna ranged his men in war, To the dreaded front of battle drove his swift and conquering car!

Morn to noon and noon to evening raged the battle on the plain, Countless warriors fought and perished, car-borne chiefs were pierced and slain!

Helmed Arjun, crested Karna, met at last by will of fate, Life-long was their mutual anger, deathless was their mutual hate!

And the firm earth shook and trembled 'neath the furious rush of war, And the echoing welkin answered shouts that nations heard from far,

And the thickening cloud of arrows filled the firmament on high, Darker, deeper, dread and deadlier, grew the angry face of sky,

Till the evening's sable garment mantled o'er the battle-field, And the angry rivals parted, neither chief could win or yield!

II

Fall of Karna

At the break of morning Karna unto Prince Duryodhan went, Thus in slow and measured accents to his inner thoughts gave vent:

"Morning dawns, O Kuru's monarch! mighty Arjun shall be slain, Or fulfilling warrior's duty Karna dyes the gory plain!

Long through life within our bosoms ever burnt the mutual hate, Oft we met and often parted, rescued by the will of fate!

But yon sun with crimson lustre sees us meet to part no more, Gallant Arjun's course this evening or proud Karna's shall be o'er!

Room is none for Arjun's glory and for archer Karna's fame, One must sink and one must sparkle with a brighter, richer flame!

List yet more; in wealth of arrows and in wondrous strength of bow, Arjun scarcely me surpasseth, scarcely I excel my foe!

In the light skill of the archer and in sight and truth of aim, Arjun beats not, scarcely rivals, Karna's proud and peerless fame!

If his wondrous bow gandiva is the gift of gods in heaven, Karna's bow the famed vijaya is by Par'su-Rama given!

Ay, the son of Jamadagni, kings of earth who proudly slayed, On the youthful arms of Karna his destructive weapon laid!

Yet I own, O king of Kuru! Arjun doth his foe excel,— Matchless are his fiery coursers, peerless Krishna leads them well!

Krishna holds the reins for Arjun, Krishna speeds his battle-car, Drives the lightning-winged coursers o'er the startled field of war!

Sweeps in pride his sounding chariot till it almost seems to fly, Arjun lords it o'er the battle like the comet in the sky!

Grant me, monarch, mighty Salya drive my swift and warlike steed, And against the car-borne Arjun, Karna's fiery chariot lead!

Salya too is skilled, like Krishna, with the steed and battle-car, Equal thus I meet my foeman in this last and fatal war!"

Spake Duryodhan; warlike Salya mounted Karna's sounding car, Karna sought for mighty Arjun in the serried ranks of war:

"Hundred milch-kine Karna offers, costly garment, yellow gold, Unto him who in this battle points to me my foeman bold!

Cars and steeds and fertile acres, peaceful hamlets rich and fair, Dark-eyed damsels lotus-bosomed, crowned with glossy raven hair,

These are his who points to Karna, Arjun hiding from this war, Arjun's snowy steeds and banner and his swift and thund'ring car!"

Karna spake, but long and loudly laughed the king of Madra's land, As he reined the fiery coursers with his strong and skilful hand,

"Of rewards and gifts," he uttered, "little need is there, I ween, Arjun is not wont to tarry from the battle's glorious scene!

Soon will Arjun's snowy coursers shake the battle's startled field, Helmed Arjun like a comet gleam with bow and sword and shield!

As the forest-ranging tiger springs upon his fated prey, As the horned bull, infuriate, doth the weakling cattle slay,

As the fierce and lordly lion smites the timid jungle-deer, Arjun soon shall spring upon thee, for he knows nor dread nor fear,

Save thee then, O mighty archer! while I drive my sounding car, Pandu's son hath met no equal in the valiant art of war!"

Darkly frowned the angry Karna, Salya held the loosened rein, Dashing through the hostile forces then the warrior sped amain,

Through the serried ranks of battle Karna drove in furious mood, Facing him in royal splendour good Yudhishthir fearless stood!

Surging ranks of brave Nishadas closed between and fought in vain, Proud Panchalas, stout and faithful, vainly strove among the slain,

Onward came the fiery Karna like the ocean's heaving swell, With the sweeping wrath of tempest on the good Yudhishthir fell!

Wrathful then the son of Pandu marked his noblest chieftains dead, And in words of scornful anger thus to archer Karna said:

"Hast thou, Karna, vowed the slaughter of my younger Arjun brave? Wilt thou do Duryodhan's mandate, proud Duryodhan's willing slave?

Unfulfilled thy vow remaineth, for the righteous gods ordain, By Yudhishthir's hand thou fallest, go and slumber with the slain!"

Fiercely drew his bow Yudhishthir, fiercely was the arrow driven, Rocky cliff or solid mountain might the shaft have pierced and riven!

Lightning-like it came on Karna, struck and pierced him on the left, And the warrior fell and fainted as of life and sense bereft!

Soon he rose; the cloud of anger darkened o'er his livid face, And he drew his godlike weapon with a more than human grace!

Arrows keen and dark as midnight, gleaming in their lightning flight, Struck Yudhishthir's royal armour with a fierce resistless might!

Clanking fell the shattered armour from his person fair and pale, As from sun's meridian splendour clouds are drifted by the gale!

Armourless but bright and radiant brave Yudhishthir waged the fight, Bright as sky with stars bespangled on a clear and cloudless night!

And he threw his pointed lances like the summer's bursting flood, Once again Yudhishthir's weapons drank his fiery foeman's blood!

Pale with anguish, wrathful Karna fiercely turned the tide of war, Cut Yudhishthir's royal standard, crashed his sumptuous battle-car,

And he urged his gallant coursers till his chariot bounding flew, And with more than godlike prowess then his famed vijaya drew!

Faint Yudhishthir sorely bleeding waged no more the fatal fight, Carless, steedless, void of armour, sought his safety in his flight!

"Speed, thou timid man of penance!" proud insulting Karna said, "Famed for virtue not for valour! blood of thine I will not shed!

Speed and chant thy wonted mantra, do the rites that sages know, Bid the helmed warrior Arjun come and meet his warlike foe!"

To his tent retired Yudhishthir in his wrath and in his shame, Spake to Arjun who from battle to his angry elder came:

"Hast thou yet, O tardy Arjun! base, insulting Karna slain, Karna dealing dire destruction on this battle's reddened plain?

Like his teacher Par'su-Rama dyes in purple blood his course, Like a snake of deathful poison Karna guards the Kuru force!

Karna smote my chariot-driver and my standard rent in twain, Shattered car and lifeless horses strew the red inglorious plain,

Scarce with life in speechless anguish from the battle-field I fled, Scorn of foes and shame of kinsmen! Warrior's fame and honour dead!

Ten long years and three Yudhishthir joy nor peace nor rest hath seen, And while Karna lives and glories, all our insults still are green,

Hast thou, Arjun, slain that chieftain as in swelling pride he stood, Hast thou wiped our wrongs and insults in that chariot-driver's blood?"

"At a distance," Krishna answered, "fiery Arjun fought his way, Now he meets the archer Karna, and he vows his death to-day."

Anger lit Yudhishthir's forehead, and a tremor shook his frame, As he spake to silent Arjun words of insult and of shame:

"Wherefore like a painted warrior doth the helmed Arjun stand, Wherefore useless lies gandiva in his weak and nerveless hand,

Wherefore hangs yon mighty sabre from his belt of silk and gold, Wherefore doth the peerless Krishna drive his coursers fleet and bold,

If afar from war's arena timid Arjun seeks to hide, If he shuns the mighty Karna battling in unconquered pride?

Arjun! yield thy famed gandiva unto worthier hands than thine, On some braver, truer warrior let thy mighty standard shine,

Yield thy helmet and thy armour, yield thy gleaming sword and shield, Hide thee from this deathful battle, matchless Karna rules the field!"

Sparkled Arjun's eye in anger with a red and livid flame, And the tempest of his passion shook his more than mortal frame,

Heedless, on the sword-hilt Arjun placed his swift and trembling hand, Heedless, with a warrior's instinct drew the dark and glistening brand!

Sacred blood of king and elder would have stained his trenchant steel, But the wise and noble Krishna strove the fatal feud to heal:

"Not before thy elder, Arjun, but in yonder purple field, 'Gainst thy rival and thy foeman use thy warlike sword and shield!

Render honour to thy elder, quench thy hasty, impious wrath, Sin not 'gainst holy sastra, leave not virtue's sacred path!

Bow before thy virtuous elder as before the gods in heaven, Sheathe thy sword and quell thy passion, be thy hasty sin forgiven!"

Duteous Arjun silent listened and obeyed the mandate high, Tears of manly sorrow trickled from his soft and altered eye,

Dear in joy and dear in suffering, calm his righteous elder stood, Dear in Indra-prastha's mansions, dearer in the jungle wood!

Arjun sheathed his flashing sabre, joined his hands and hung his head, Fixed his eye on good Yudhishthir and in humble accents said:

"Pardon, great and saintly monarch, vassal's disrespectful word, Pardon, elder, if a younger heedless drew his sinful sword!

But thy hest to yield my weapon stung my soul to bitter strife, Dearer is the bow gandiva unto Arjun than his life!

Pardon if the blood of anger mantled o'er this rugged brow, Pardon if I drew my sabre 'gainst my duty and my vow!

For that hasty act repenting Arjun bows unto thy feet, Grant me, gentle king and elder, brother's love, forgiveness sweet!"

From Yudhishthir's altered eyelids gentle tears of sorrow start, And he lifts his younger brother to his ever-loving heart:

"Arjun, I have wronged thee brother, and no fault or sin is thine, Hasty words of thoughtless anger 'scaped these sinful lips of mine!

Bitter was my shame and anguish when from Karna's car I fled, Redder than my bleeding bosom warrior's fame and honour bled!

Hasty words I uttered, Arjun, by my pain and anguish driven, Wipe them with a brother's kindness, be thy elder's sin forgiven!"

Stronger by his elder's blessing, Arjun mounts the battle-car, Krishna drives the milk-white coursers to the thickening ranks of war!

Onward came the fiery Karna with his chiefs and armed men, Salya urged his flying coursers with the whip and loosened rein,

Often met and often parted, life-long rivals in their fame, Not to part again, the heroes, each unto the other came,

Not to part until a chieftain by the other chief was slain, Arjun dead or lifeless Karna, pressed the Kuru-kshetra plain!

Long they strove, but neither archer could his gallant foeman beat, Though like surging ocean billows did the angry warriors meet,

Arjun's arrows fell on Karna like the summer's angry flood, Karna's shafts like hissing serpents drank the valiant Arjun's blood!

Fierce and quick from his gandiva angry accents Arjun woke, Till the bow-string, strained and heated, was by sudden impulse broke!

"Hold," cried Arjun to his rival, "mind the honoured rules of war, Warriors strike not helpless foemen thus disabled on the car,

Hold, brave Karna, until Arjun mends his over-strained bow, Arjun then will crave for mercy nor from god nor mortal foe!"

Vain he spake, for wild with anger heedless Karna, fiercely lowered, Thick and fast on bowless Arjun countless arrows darkly showered,

Like the cobra, dark and hissing, Karna's gleaming lightning dart, Struck the helpless archer Arjun on his broad and bleeding heart!

Furious like a wounded tiger quivering in the darksome wood, With his mended warlike weapon now the angry Arjun stood,

Blazing with a mighty radiance like a flame in summer night, Fierce he fell on archer Karna with his more than mortal might!

Little recked the dauntless Karna if his foe in anger rose, Karna feared not face of mortal, dreaded not immortal foes,

Nor with all his wrath and valour Arjun conquered him in war, Till within the soft earth sinking stuck the wheel of Karna's car!

Stood unmoved the tilted chariot, vainly wrathful Salya strove, Urging still the struggling coursers Karna's heavy car to move,

Vainly too the gallant Karna leaped upon the humid soil, Sought to lift the sunken axle with a hard unwonted toil,

"Hold," he cried to noble Arjun, "wage no false and impious war On a foeman, helpless, carless,—thou upon thy lofty car."

Loudly laughed the helmed Arjun, answer nor rejoinder gave, Unto Karna pleading virtue Krishna answered calm and grave:

"Didst thou seek the path of virtue, mighty Karna, archer bold, When Sakuni robbed Yudhishthir of his empire and his gold?

Didst thou tread the path of honour on Yudhishthir's fatal fall, Heaping insults on Draupadi in Hastina's council hall?

Didst thou then fulfil thy duty when, Yudhishthir's exile crost, Krishna asked in right and justice for Yudhishthir's empire lost?

Didst thou fight a holy battle when with six marauders skilled, Karna hunted Abhimanyu and the youthful hero killed?

Speak not then of rules of honour, blackened in your sins you die, Death is come in shape of Arjun, Karna's fatal hour is nigh!"

Stung to fury and to madness, faint but frantic Karna fought, Reckless, ruthless, and relentless, valiant Arjun's life he sought,

Sent his last resistless arrow on his foeman's mighty chest, Arjun felt a shock of thunder on his broad and mailed breast!

Fainting fell the bleeding Arjun, darkness dimmed his manly eye, Pale and breathless watched his warriors, anxious watched the gods in sky!

Then it passed, and helmed Arjun rose like newly lighted fire, Abhimanyu's sad remembrance kindled fresh a father's ire!

And he drew his bow gandiva, aimed his dart with stifled breath, Vengeance for his murdered hero winged the fatal dart of death!

Like the fiery bolt of lightning Arjun's lurid arrow sped, Like the red and flaming meteor Karna fell among the dead!

III

Fall of Salya

Darkly closed the shades of midnight, Karna still and lifeless lay, Ghast and pale o'er slaughtered thousands fell the morrow's sickly ray,

Bowman brave and proud preceptor, Kripa to Duryodhan said, Tear bedimmed the warrior's eyelids and his manly bosom bled:

"Leaderless the Kuru's forces, by a dire misfortune crost, Like the moonless shades of midnight in their utter darkness lost!

Like a summer-dried river, weary waste of arid sand, Lost its pride of fresh'ning waters sweeping o'er the grateful land!

As a spark of fire consumeth summer's parched and sapless wood, Kuru's lordless, lifeless forces shall be angry Arjun's food!

Bhima too will seek fulfilment of the dreadful vow he made, Brave Satyaki wreak his vengeance for his sons untimely slayed!

Bid this battle cease, Duryodhan, pale and fitful is thy star, Blood enough of friendly nations soaks this crimson field of war!

Bid them live,—the few survivors of a vast and countless host, Let thy few remaining brothers live,—for many are the lost!

Kindly heart hath good Yudhishthir, still he seeks for rightful peace, Render back his ancient kingdom, bid this war of kinsmen cease!"

"Kripa," so Duryodhan answered, "in this sad and fatal strife, Ever foremost of our warriors, ever careless of thy life,

Ever in the council chamber thou hast words of wisdom said, Needless war and dire destruction by thy peaceful counsel stayed,

Every word that 'scapes thee, Kripa, is a word of truth and weight, Nathless thy advice for concord, wise preceptor, comes too late!

Hope not that the good Yudhishthir will again our friendship own, Cheated once by deep Sakuni of his kingdom and his throne,

Rugged Bhima will not palter, fatal is the vow he made, Vengeful Arjun will not pardon gallant Abhimanyu dead!

Fair Draupadi doth her penance, so our ancient matrons say, In our blood to wash her insult and her proud insulters slay,

Fair Subhadra morn and evening weeps her dear departed son, Feeds Draupadi's deathless anger for the hero dead and gone,

Deeply in their bosoms rankle wrongs and insults we have given, Blood alone can wash it, Kripa, such the cruel will of Heaven!

And the hour for peace is over, for our best sleep on the plain, Brothers, kinsmen, friends, and elders slumber with the countless slain,

Shall Duryodhan like a recreant now avoid the deathful strife, After all his bravest warriors have in war surrendered life?

Shall he, sending them to slaughter, now survive and learn to flee, Shall he, ruler over monarchs, learn to bend the servile knee?

Proud Duryodhan sues no favour even with his dying breath, Unsubdued and still unconquered, changeless even unto death!

Salya, valiant king of Madra, leads our armed hosts to-day, Or to perish or to conquer, gallant Kripa, lead the way!"

Meanwhile round the brave Yudhishthir calmly stood the Pandav force, As the final day of battle now began its fatal course,

"Brothers, kinsmen, hero-warriors," so the good Yudhishthir said, "Ye have done your share in battle, witness countless foemen dead,

Sad Yudhishthir is your eldest, let him end this fatal strife, Slay the last of Kuru chieftains or surrender throne and life!

Bold Satyaki, ever faithful, with his arms protects my right, Drupad's son with watchful valour guards my left with wonted might,

In the front doth Bhima battle, careful Arjun guards the rear, I will lead the battle's centre which shall know nor flight nor fear!"

Truly on that fatal morning brave Yudhishthir kept his word, Long and fiercely waged the combat with fair Madra's valiant lord,

Thick and fast the arrows whistled and the lances pointed well, Crashing with the sound of thunder Salya's mighty standard fell!

Rescued by the son of Drona, Salya rushed again to war, Slew the noble milk-white coursers of Yudhishthir's royal car,

And as springs the hungry lion on the spotted jungle-deer, Salya rushed upon Yudhishthir reckless and unknown to fear!

Brave Yudhishthir marked him coming and he hurled his fatal dart, Like the fatal curse of Brahman sank the weapon in his heart,

Blood suffused his eye and nostril, quivered still his feeble hand, Like a cliff by thunder riven Salya fell and shook the land!

Ended was the fatal battle, for the mlechcha king was slain, Pierced by angry Sahadeva false Sakuni pressed the plain,

All the brothers of Duryodhan tiger-waisted Bhima slew, Proud Duryodhan pale and panting from the field of battle flew!

IV

Night of Slaughter

Far from battle's toil and slaughter, by a dark and limpid lake, Sad and slow and faint Duryodhan did his humble shelter take,

But the valiant sons of Pandu, with the hunter's watchful care, Thither tracked their fallen foeman like a wild beast in its lair!

"Gods be witness," said Duryodhan, flaming in his shame and wrath, "Boy to manhood ever hating we have crossed each other's path,

Now we meet to part no longer, proud Duryodhan fights you all, Perish he, or sons of Pandu, may this evening see your fall!"

Bhima answered: "For the insults long endured but not forgiven, Me alone you fight, Duryodhan, witness righteous gods in heaven!

Call to mind the dark destruction planned of old in fiendish ire, In the halls of Varnavata to consume us in the fire!

Call to mind the scheme deceitful, deep Sakuni's dark device, Cheating us of fame and empire by the trick of loaded dice!

Call to mind that coward insult and the outrage foul and keen, Flung on Drupad's saintly daughter and our noble spotless queen!

Call to mind the stainless Bhishma for thy sins and folly slain, Lifeless proud preceptor Drona, Karna lifeless on the plain!

Perish in thy sins, Duryodhan, perish too thy hated name, And thy dark life crime-polluted ends, Duryodhan, in thy shame!"

Like two bulls that fight in fury, blind with wounds and oozing blood, Like two wild and warring tuskers shaking all the echoing wood,

Like the thunder-wielding INDRA, mighty YAMA dark and dread, Dauntless Bhima and Duryodhan fiercely strove and fought and bled!

Sparks of fire shot from their maces and their faces ran with blood, Neither won and neither yielded, matched in strength the rivals stood,

Then his vow remembered Bhima, and he raised his weapon high, With a foul attack but fatal Bhima broke Duryodhan's thigh!

Through the sky a voice resounded as the great Duryodhan fell, And the earth the voice re-echoed o'er her distant hill and dale.

Beasts and birds in consternation flew o'er land and azure sky, Men below and heavenly Siddhas trembled at the fatal cry!

Darkness fell upon the battle, proud Duryodhan dying lay, But the slaughter of the combat closed not with the closing day,

Ancient feud and hatred linger after battle's sweeping flood, And the father's deathless anger courseth in the children's blood,

Drona slept and gallant Drupad, for their earthly task was done, Vengeance fired the son of Drona 'gainst the royal Drupad's son!

Sable shadows of the midnight fell o'er battle's silent plain, Faintly shone the fitful planets on the dying and the slain,

And the vengeful son of Drona, fired by omens dark and dread, Stole into the tents of foemen with a soft and noiseless tread!

Dhrista-dyumna and Sikhandin, princes of Panchala's land, Fell beneath the proud avenger Aswa-thaman's reeking hand,

Ay! where Drupad's sleeping grandsons, fair Draupadi's children lay, Stole the cruel arm of vengeance, smothered them ere dawn of day!

Done the ghastly work of slaughter, Aswa-thaman bent his way Where beside the limpid waters lone Duryodhan dying lay,

And Duryodhan blessed the hero with his feeble fleeting breath, Joy of vengeance cheered his bosom and he died a happy death!



BOOK XI

SRADDHA

(Funeral Rites)

The death of Duryodhan concludes the war, and it is followed by the lament of women and the funerals of the deceased warriors. The passages translated in this Book form Section x., portions of Sections xvi., xvii., and xxvi., and the whole of Section xxvii. of Book xi. of the original text.

I

Kuru Women visit the Battle-field

Spake the ancient Dhrita-rashtra, father of a hundred sons, Sonless now and sorrow-stricken, dark his ebbing life-tide runs!

"Gods fulfil my life's last wishes! Henchmen, yoke my royal car, Dhrita-rashtra meets his princes in the silent field of war,

Speed unto the Queen Gandhari, to the dames of Kuru's house, To each dear departed warrior wends his fair and faithful spouse!"

Queen Gandhari sorrow-laden with the ancient Pritha came, And each weeping widowed princess and each wailing childless dame,

And they saw the hoary monarch, father of a perished race, Fresh and loud awoke their sorrow, welling tears suffused their face,

Good Vidura ever gentle whispered comfort unto all, Placed the dames within their chariots, left Hastina's palace hall!

Loud the wail of woe and sorrow rose from every Kuru house, Children wept beside their mothers for each widowed royal spouse,

Veiled dwellers of the palace, scarce the gods their face had seen, Heedless now through mart and city sped each widowed childless queen,

From their royal brow and bosom gem and jewel cast aside, Loose their robes and loose their tresses, quenched their haughty queenly pride!

So when falls the antlered monarch, struck by woe and sudden fear Issuing from their snowy mountains listless stray the dappled deer,

So upon the broad arena milk-white fillies brave the sun, Wildly toss their flowing tresses and in sad disorder run!

Clinging to her weeping sister wept each dame in cureless pain, For the lord, the son or father in the deathful battle slain,

Wept and smote her throbbing bosom and in bitter anguish wailed, Till her senses reeled in sorrow, till her woman's reason failed!

Veiled queens and bashful maidens, erst they shunned the public eye, Blush nor shame suffused their faces as they passed the city by,

Gentle-bosomed, kindly hearted, erst they wiped each other's eye, Now by common sorrow laden none for sister heaved a sigh!

With this troop of wailing women, deep in woe, disconsolate, Slow the monarch of the Kurus passed Hastina's outer gate,

Men from stall and loom and anvil, men of every guild and trade, Left the city with the monarch, through the open country strayed,

And a universal sorrow filled the air and answering sky, As when ends the mortal's Yuga and the end of world is nigh!

II

Gandhari's Lament for the Slain

Stainless Queen and stainless woman, ever righteous ever good, Stately in her mighty sorrow on the field Gandhari stood!

Strewn with skulls and clotted tresses, darkened by the stream of gore, With the limbs of countless warriors was the red field covered o'er,

Elephants and steeds of battle, car-borne chiefs untimely slain, Headless trunks and heads dissevered fill the red and ghastly plain!

And the long-drawn howl of jackals o'er the scene of carnage rings, And the vulture and the raven flap their dark and loathsome wings,

Feasting on the blood of warriors foul pisachas fill the air, Viewless forms of hungry rakshas limb from limb the corpses tear!

Through this scene of death and carnage was the ancient monarch led, Kuru dames with faltering footsteps stepped amidst the countless dead,

And a piercing wail of anguish burst upon the echoing plain, As they saw their sons or fathers, brothers, lords, amidst the slain,

As they saw the wolves of jungle feed upon the destined prey, Darksome wanderers of the midnight prowling in the light of day!

Shriek of pain and wail of anguish o'er the ghastly field resound, And their feeble footsteps falter and they sink upon the ground,

Sense and life desert the mourners as they faint in common grief, Death-like swoon succeeding sorrow yields a moment's short relief!

Then a mighty sigh of anguish from Gandhari's bosom broke, Gazing on her anguished daughters unto Krishna thus she spoke:

"Mark my unconsoled daughters, widowed queens of Kuru's house, Wailing for their dear departed, like the osprey for her spouse!

How each cold and fading feature wakes in them a woman's love, How amidst the lifeless warriors still with restless steps they rove,

Mothers hug their slaughtered children all unconscious in their sleep, Widows bend upon their husbands and in ceaseless sorrow weep!

Mighty Bhishma, hath he fallen? quenched is archer Karna's pride? Drupad monarch of Panchala sleeps by foeman Drona's side?

Shining mail and costly jewels, royal bangles strew the plain, Golden garlands rich and burnished deck the chiefs untimely slain,

Lances hurled by stalwart fighters, clubs of mighty wrestlers killed, Swords and bows of ample measure, quivers still with arrows filled!

Mark the unforgotten heroes, jungle prowlers 'mid them stray, On their brow and mailed bosoms heedless perch the birds of prey!

Mark they great unconquered heroes famed on earth from west to east, Kankas perch upon their foreheads, hungry wolves upon them feast!

Mark the kings, on softest cushion scarce the needed rest they found, Now they lie in peaceful slumber on the hard and reddened ground!

Mark the youths who morn and evening listed to the minstrel's song, In their ear the loathsome jackal doth his doleful wail prolong!

See the chieftains with their maces and their swords of trusty steel, Still they grasp their tried weapons,—do they still the life-pulse feel?"

III

Gandhari's Lament for Duryodhan

Thus to Krishna, Queen Gandhari strove her woeful thoughts to tell, When alas! her wandering vision on her son Duryodhan fell,

Sudden anguish smote her bosom and her senses seemed to stray, Like a tree by tempest shaken senseless on the earth she lay!

Once again she waked in sorrow, once again she cast her eye Where her son in blood empurpled slept beneath the open sky,

And she clasped her dear Duryodhan, held him close unto her breast, Sobs convulsive shook her bosom as the lifeless form she prest,

And her tears like rains of summer fell and washed his noble head, Decked with garlands still untarnished, graced with nishkas bright and red!

"'Mother!' said my dear Duryodhan when he went unto the war, 'Wish me joy and wish me triumph as I mount the battle-car!'

'Son!' I said to dear Duryodhan, 'Heaven avert a cruel fate, Yato dharma stato jayah! Triumph doth on Virtue wait!'

But he set his heart on battle, by his valour wiped his sins, Now he dwells in realms celestial which the faithful warrior wins!

And I weep not for Duryodhan, like a prince he fought and fell, But my sorrow-stricken husband, who can his misfortunes tell?

Ay! my son was brave and princely, all resistless in the war, Now he sleeps the sleep of warriors, sunk in gloom his glorious star!

Ay! My son mid crowned monarchs held the first and foremost way, Now he rests upon the red earth, quenched his bright effulgent ray!

Ay! my son the best of heroes, he hath won the warrior's sky, Kshatras nobly conquer, Krishna, when in war they nobly die!

Hark the loathsome cry of jackals, how the wolves their vigils keep, Maidens rich in song and beauty erst were wont to watch his sleep!

Hark the foul and blood-beaked vultures flap their wings upon the dead, Maidens waved their feathery pankhas round Duryodhan's royal bed!

Peerless bowman, mighty monarch! nations still his hests obeyed, As a lion slays a tiger, Bhima hath Duryodhan slayed!

Thirteen years o'er Kuru's empire proud Duryodhan held his sway, Ruled Hastina's ancient city where fair Ganga's waters stray!

I have seen his regal splendour with these ancient eyes of mine, Elephants and battle-chariots, steeds of war and herds of kine!

Kuru owns another master and Duryodhan's day is fled, And I live to be a witness! Krishna, O that I were dead!

Mark Duryodhan's noble widow, mother proud of Lakshman bold, Queenly in her youth and beauty, like an altar of bright gold!

Torn from husband's sweet embraces, from her son's entwining arms, Doomed to life-long woe and anguish in her youth and in her charms!

Rend my hard and stony bosom crushed beneath this cruel pain, Should Gandhari live to witness noble son and grandson slain?

Mark again Duryodhan's widow, how she hugs his gory head, How with gentle hands and tender softly holds him on his bed!

How from dear departed husband turns she to her dearer son, And the tear-drops of the mother choke the widow's bitter groan!

Like the fibre of the lotus tender-golden is her frame, O my lotus! O my daughter! Bharat's pride and Kuru's fame!

If the truth resides in Vedas, brave Duryodhan dwells above, Wherefore linger we in sadness severed from his cherished love?

If the truth resides in Sastra, dwells in sky my hero son, For Gandhari and her daughter now their earthly task is done!"

IV

Funeral Rite

Victor of a deathful battle, sad Yudhishthir viewed the plain, Friends and kinsmen, kings and chieftains, countless troops untimely slain,

And he spake to wise Sudharman, pious priest of Kuru's race, Unto Sanjay, unto Dhaumya, to Vidura full of grace,

Spake unto the brave Yuyutsu, Kuru's last surviving chief, Spake to faithful Indrasena, and to warriors sunk in grief:

"Pious rites are due to foemen and to friends and kinsmen slain, None shall lack a fitting funeral, none shall perish on the plain."

Wise Vidura and his comrades sped on sacred duty bound, Sandalwood and scented aloes, oil and ghee and perfumes found,

Silken robes of costly splendour, fabrics by the artist wove, Dry wood from the thorny jungle, perfume from the scented grove,

Shattered cars and splintered lances, hewed and ready for the fire, Piled and ranged in perfect order into many a funeral pyre.

Kings and princes, noble warriors, were in rank and order laid, And with streams of melted butter were the rich libations made,

Blazed the fire with wondrous radiance by the rich libations fed, Sanctifying and consuming mortal remnants of the dead.

Brave Duryodhan and his brothers, Salya of the mighty car, Bhurisravas king of nations, Jayadratha famed in war,

Abhimanyu son of Arjun, Lakshman proud Duryodhan's son, Somadatta and the Srinjays famed for deeds of valour done,

Matsya's monarch proud Virata, Drupad fair Panchala's king, And his sons, Panchala's princes, whose great deeds the minstrels sing,

Cultured monarch of Kosala and Gandhara's wily lord, Karna, proud and peerless archer, matchless with his flaming sword,

Bhagadatta eastern monarch, all resistless in his car, Ghatotkacha son of Bhima, Alambusha famed in war,

And a hundred other monarchs all received the pious rite, Till the radiance of the fire-light chased the shadows of the night!

Pitri-medha, due to fathers, was performed with pious care, Hymns and wails and lamentations mingled in the midnight air,

Sacred songs of rik and saman rose with women's piercing wail, And the creatures of the wide earth heard the sound subdued and pale!

Smokeless and with radiant lustre shone each red and lighted pyre, Like the planets of the bright sky throbbing with celestial fire!

Countless myriads, nameless, friendless, from each court and camp afar, From the east and west collected, fell in Kuru-Kshetra's war,

Thousand fires for them were lighted, they received the pious rite, Such was good Yudhishthir's mandate, such was wise Vidura's might,

All the dead were burned to ashes and the sacred rite was o'er, Dhrita-rashtra and Yudhishthir slowly walked to Ganga's shore!

V

Oblation to Karna

Sacred Ganga, ample-bosomed, sweeps along in regal pride, Rolling down her limpid waters through high banks on either side,

Kuru dames and weeping widows thither in their anguish came Due and holy rites to render to departed chiefs of fame,

Casting forth their jewelled girdles, gems and scarfs belaced with gold, Gave oblations of the water to each hero true and bold,

Unto fathers, unto husbands, unto sons in battle slayed, Offerings of the sacred water sorrowing wives and mothers made.

And so great the host of mourners wending to perform the rite, That their footsteps made a pathway in the sad and sacred site,

And the shelving banks of Ganga peopled by the sorrowing train, Wide-expanding, vast and sealike, formed a scene of woe and pain!

But a wave of keener sorrow swept o'er Pritha's heaving breast, As unto her weeping children thus her secret she expressed:

"He, my sons, the peerless bowman, mighty in his battle-car, He who bore the stamp of hero, slain by Arjun in the war,

He whom as the son of Radha, chariot-driver, ye have thought, He who shone with SURYA'S lustre as his countless foes he fought,

He who faced your stoutest warriors and in battle never failed, He who led the Kuru forces and in danger never quailed,

He who knew no peer in prowess, owned in war no haughtier name, He who yielded life, not honour, and by death hath conquered fame,

He, in truth who never faltered, never left his vow undone, Offer unto him oblation, Karna was my eldest son!

Karna was your honoured elder, and the Sun inspired his birth, Karna in his rings and armour Sun-like trod the spacious earth!"

Pritha spake, and terror-stricken Pandav brothers groaned in pain, And they wept in woe and anguish for the brother they had slain.

Hissing forth his sigh of sorrow like a trodden, hissing snake, Sad Yudhishthir to his mother thus his inward feelings spake:

"Didst thou, mother, bear the hero fathomless like ocean dread, Whose unfailing glistening arrows like its countless billows sped?

Didst thou bear that peerless archer, all-resistless in his car, Sweeping with the roar of ocean through the shattered ranks of war?

Didst thou bear the mighty hero, mortal man of heavenly birth, Crushing 'neath his arm of valour all his foemen on the earth?

Didst thou hide the birth and lineage of that chief of deathful ire, As a man in folds of garments seeks to hide the flaming fire?

Arjun, wielder of gandiva, was for us no truer stay Than was Karna for the Kurus in the battle's dread array!

Monarchs matched not Karna's glory nor his deeds of valour done, Midst the mighty car-borne warriors mightiest warrior Karna shone!

Was he then our eldest brother we have in the battle slain, And our nearest dearest elder fell upon the gory plain?

Not the death of Abhimanyu from the fair Subhadra torn, Not the slaughter of the princes by the proud Draupadi borne,

Not the fall of Kuru warriors, nor Panchala's mighty host, Like thy death afflicts my bosom, noble Karna! loved and lost!

Monarch's empire, victor's glory, all the treasures earth can yield, Righteous bliss and heavenly gladness, harvest of the swarga's field,

All that wish can shape and utter, all that nourish hope and pride, All were ours, O noble Karna! with thee by thy brother's side,

And this carnage of the Kurus these sad eyes had never seen, Peace had graced our blessed empire, happy would the earth have been!"

Long bewailed the sad Yudhishthir for his elder loved and dead, And oblation of the water to the noble Karna made,

And the royal dames of Kuru viewed the sight with freshening pain, Wept to see the good Yudhishthir offering to his brother slain,

And the widowed queen of Karna with the women of his house Gave oblations to her hero, wept her loved and slaughtered spouse!

Done the rites to the departed, done oblations to the dead, Slowly then the sad survivors on the river's margin spread,

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