War and the End

On the second day Arjuna took command of his army and arranged his men in a special format which gave little scope to Kauravas army to advance and attack the Pandavas. Bhishma had killed Uttar son of king Virata. Shalya had managed to kill Shweta. Pandavas saw great loss of their men. Multitudes of soldiers on both sides were killed.

Sri Krishna Breaks His Vow

Third day

Bhishma arranged his army in Eagle's format and Pandavas opted for semi-lunar style to counter Kauravas offensive. Bhima attacked Duryodhana with an arrow that made him unconscious, but he was quickly shifted to a safer place. Dronacharya and others came to his rescue. Duryodhana was not happy with Bhishma's way of commanding his army and he was seen to insult old grandsire now and then. Bhishma threatened to quit as the chief, but others persuaded him to remain in the lead.

Now, the ferocious Bhishma attacked Pandavas with force unheard of. Pandavas army was torn apart at tens and hundreds places. Soldiers started running here and there. Scores of them died on the battle-field in their futile attempt to attack or escape the mighty Bhishma.

Sri Krishna told Arjuna to protect his men by attacking the leader Bhishma. There was no other way but to remove Bhishma if Pandavas had to win the war. Everyone intently watched this terrifying battle between the old and the young great warrior.

Arjuna was faltering, many a arrow from Bhishma hit Arjuna. He was bleeding profusely. Sri Krishna thought, "If this continues defeat of Pandavas is not far away." Therefore, in a bid to thwart the onslaught of Bhishma, Sri Krishna lifted the nearby wheel of a broken chariot and ran towards Bhishma as if to put and end to his life! The vow that Sri Krishna would not take to arms was thus broken!

Seeing the Lord Himself rushing towards him, Bhishma dropped his weapons. With tears flowing from his eyes Bhishma spoke thus, "O Keshava, O Merciful, how lucky am I that the Lord of Universe Himself has decided to liberate this ordinary Bhishma from the snares of worldliness. O Madhava, come, be quick, let me die at your hands. Who can be happier and lucky than me to get such an wonderful and rare opportunity."

Sri Krishna was reminded of his vow. He threw away the wheel and retreated back to his chariot. For his Bhakta - devotee - the Lord had broken his vow!

Soon the sunset was in sight. The battle for the day ended. The soldiers returned to their camp.

Fourth day

The dawn of the fourth day brought the 'think-tank' together. Bhishma although old, was proving a great hurdle in the victory of Pandavas. Arjuna was not ready to fight with him with full vigour. Therefore, it was suggested to bring Shikhandi in picture. As Bhishma had vowed not fight with that eunuch, Arjuna could hit the old man under the cover. It was so decided.

The Great Bhishma Dies

The battle of fourth day began. Shikhandi was in the front attacking Bhishma. Bhishma however, said, "Get away, O Shikhandi, I do not want to fight with you." Thus the mighty and powerful Bhishma laid down his arms. The arrows from Arjuna's Gandiva penetrated his body. Bhishma fell down. There were so many arrows in his body that when he fell down he was as if lying on the bed of arrows! His head was hanging, which Arjuna supported by three arrows under the head and neck. As is well known Bhishma had the boon to give up his body as and when he decided. The sun was in southern hemisphere, this time. and it was not very auspicious to give up body in this phase of sun movement. Therefore, Bhishma said to Sri Krishna, "O Vallabha, Please take me far off corner of the battle ground after about a fortnight when enters to move in northern hemisphere I would give up the body." Thus was arranged a safe and peaceful shelter for this grand old Kuru.

Sri Krishna suggested Yudhisthira to take lessons on politics, diplomacy, duties of a king, economics, and many other related subjects from dying Bhishma. Accordingly every day after the day's battle was over, Yudhisthira and others would visit Bhishma and take lessons on various topics of art and culture at his holy feet. This is a very thought provoking chapter of Mahabharata.

Then enters the character of mighty and skillful Karna as Bhishma is no more in the lead. Dronacharya next becomes the commander of Kauravas army. The Teacher of Pandavas and Kauravas was equally difficult to dislodge as was Bhishma.

Yudhisthira Tells a Lie!

To defeat Dronacharya Sri Krishna plans a new gimmick. On the side of Pandavas there was an elephant by the name Ashwathama. This was the name of the son of Dronacharya also. Sri Krishna tells Yudhisthira to spread the rumour that Ashwathama is dead! In effect the elephant is killed and everyone shouts, "Ashwathama is dead, Ashwathama is dead!"

Dronacharya also hears these words and suspects his lone son is killed in the battle. Gloomy at the loss of his son he approaches Yudhisthira and asks, "O Yudhisthira, I know you never speak untruth, please tell me what has happened. Is Ashwathama really dead?"

With great effort Yudhisthira says, "Yes, Ashwathama is dead"; but adds in whisper, "I do not know whether he is a man or an elephant." Dronacharya in the din and bustle fails to hear the second half of the sentence and thinking that his loving son has died gives up the fight and is then killed.

Here Ashwathama, son of Dronacharya, learnt about the trick played by Sri Krishna and Yudhisthira in killing his father. He was furious and decided to kill Arjuna. Ashwathama after great austerities and tapas, had procured the most effective "Astra" weapon known as Brahmastra that never failed. When it was aimed at a particular person that person was sure to die. But it was useful only once! Ashwathama decided to use this Astra on Arjuna.

Sri Krishna came to know this plan of Ashwathama to put an end to the life of Arjuna. He thought of a plan and called Bhima for some private talk. Sri Krishna reminded Bhima about his powerful son Ghatotkacha born of demon wife Hidambi! Ghatotkacha had special supernatural powers of getting invisible, small, large, etc. at will. Sri Krishna suggested Pandavas to call this son of Bhima who would wreck havoc in Kauravas army when Ashwathama would be forced to use his Brahmastra on him instead of Arjuna.

Accordingly Bhima wished Ghatotkacha to come to Kurukshetra and indeed, as soon as his father wished, as promised by him, this great and powerful warrior was there in front of Bhima and Sri Krishna. He was told to fight and annihilate the Kauravas army next day to which he gladly agreed.

Next day the battle began. Ashwathama was in search of Arjuna, but Ghatotkacha obstructed his path. Moreover, Ghatotkacha vomited fire and threw large quantity of boulders and sand on Kauravas. There was total chaos in Kauravas camp. Soldiers were running here and there. Scores of their army men were killed.

Duryodhana now requested Karna to kill this demon otherwise he said, "Nobody will be alive." Reluctantly Karna used 'Shakrashakti' (Shakra meaning Indra and Shakti the weapon that was given by Indra to Karna in exchange for his breastplate and earrings) on Ghatotkacha and killed him. Ghatotkacha died but saved the life of Arjuna.

The Great Karna Dies

Now the Karna takes over the charge of the Karna army, and soon declares either he would survive or Arjuna.

The ferocious battle leaves more than half the soldiers dead. The destruction was raging its death-dance every where. Karna with his bow and arrow was sending men after men to the death valley. Pandavas were terrified.

Sri Krishna was also worried and decided to put an end to this mighty eldest son of Kunti. Next day he takes the chariot of Arjuna to combat Karna's onslaught. Arrow after arrow try to find weakness in each other's skill, but no, both Arjuna and Karna were found to be equal. Then a superior arrow hits Arjuna making him lose his poise. Other arrow follows when Sri Krishna shows his might and skill to avoid damage to Arjuna. The arrow misses Arjuna by four fingers because Sri Krishna had pushed it four fingers in the ground!

Now comes the crucial factor of that curse of the Guru Parashurama to Karna. As is told previously, the sage Parashurama was displeased with Karna because he had become his disciple and learnt the archery in a disguise of a Brahmin boy. At that time the Guru had cursed him that at the crucial moment he would face difficulty on the battle field which put his life I jeopardy. That moment comes.

The wheel of Karna's chariot is jammed and his chariot tilts to one side. All the efforts are of no avail. Karna cannot fight the war with ease. Sri Krishna tells Arjuna to take advantage of the situation and kill Karna.

But Arjuna refuses to attack the enemy in distress. He sees Karna pleading to let him remove his jammed wheel. But Sri Krishna reminds Arjuna of the laugher of Karna at the pathetic condition of Draupadi in the royal court. 'Where had Karna's modesty and sense of justice gone then?', asks Sri Krishna. Thus reminded of the insult of Draupadi Arjuna sees no point to show leniency and kills Karna also.

A very great warrior, the greatest archer, and eldest son of Kunti dies thus siding towards Kauravas for the lost love of mother in the childhood. Sri Krishna respectfully performed the last rites on the body of Karna.

Death of Abhimanyu

The death of many stalwarts put Duryodhana in a fix. Next day he arranged his army in an impregnable wheel format known as "Chakra Formation". On the side of Pandavas only Abhimanyu, son of Arjuna, was capable of penetrating this format; but he did not know how to come out of it. This teenage lad, however, pleaded with his father and uncles to allow him to enter the enemy ranks and then all of Pandavas would come to help him inside.

Accordingly, seeking blessings of Sri Krishna, Abhimanyu led small army and entered the Chakra formation. Kauravas allowed him to enter but soon sealed off the entry of Arjuna and company. Duryodhana, Dushasana, Jayadratha, and many more Kauravas warriors attacked the lone but brave Abhimanyu who fought gallantly all alone against them all. Arjuna and others were anxious to reach near him but were obstructed by a large force of Kauravas army men. Sri Krishna was also worried.

Soon inside the circle, Abhimanyu lost his bow, his chariot was broken, and he was without any weapon to defend himself. Standing on the ground without losing his courage, this brave man continued to fight with whatever make-shift weapon he could lay hands on. His whole body was inflicted with wounds from sharp arrows and javelins. Bleeding and dazed at last he fell on the ground.

Kripacharya advised other Kauravas to halt further attacks on the boy as he was helpless and without any weapon. But Jayadratha neglected this sane advice. Without mercy and consideration for the helpless state of Abhimanyu Jayadratha kicked him with his foot and killed him with his sword.

The news of brave Abhimanyu's death spread all over. Kauravas were shouting like victors and Pandavas were angered like cornered lions. Arjuna was deeply grieved and tears rolled down his eyes. His heart however was filled with anger and revenge. He decided to kill Jayadratha in the next chance. The evening halted the battle for the day. Arjuna vowed to kill Jayadratha by evening next day or else give his body up in the burning flames.

End of Jayadratha

Next day the terrified Jayadratha sought protection from Duryodhana pleading, "O Duryodhana, Arjuna and Pandavas would apply all their skills and power to succeed in killing me. How should I protect myself against his sharp lethal arrows? I am afraid I would not live beyond sunset today."

Reassuring him Duryodhana said, "O my brother-in-law, how can you think that we would leave any stone unturned to protect you. We would all see that Arjuna does not succeed in his pledge and would himself as vowed will die in flames. Rest assured, O Jayadratha, nothing bad will come to your fate."

All the warriors on Kaurava side surrounded Jayadratha's chariot and prevented anyone approaching him. Jayadratha was almost invisible! Arjuna and Bhima, Yudhisthira and others tried to reach near him but were obstructed by one and all. Exchange of arrows filled the sky. Many soldiers lost their lives. It was almost impossible to attack Jayadratha.

Morning turned to noon, noon into afternoon. There was a faint pal of gloom in Pandavas heart while Kauravas appeared to rejoice.

And at that time, in the hours of approaching dusk, the sky became dark. Stars were visible on the horizon. Shouts of victory to Duryodhana were heard, while everyone on the side of Pandavas thought that Arjuna would have to keep his vow and die! For everyone thought that sun had set.

Jayadratha dancing with joy lifted himself up to see the darkness of evening sky. He thought he had now no fear from Arjuna.

But the wonder of wonders was in store! The skies were dark because of total eclipse of the sun on that day at that hour and not because it was evening! As Jayadratha was looking in merriment, the eclipse ended and the sun came out. The sun light was bright, and then said Lord Sri Krishna:

"O Arjuna, look there is the sun and here this Jayadratha, What are you waiting for! It is still day time, evening has not yet fallen. Kill Jayadratha."

And the sharp penetrating arrow left the Gandiva of Arjuna to take the head of Jayadratha far off in jungle into the lap of his father!

At last Duryodhana Dies

Thus one after the other all Kauravas were being killed. But Bhima was still not satisfied. He had vowed to kill Dushasana and Duryodhana He had promised Draupadi that he would drink blood from the chest of Dushasana and would dress her hair with the blood from the thigh of Duryodhana. To that end, Bhima took permission of Yudhisthira and Sri Krishna and killed Dushasana in a brief fight.

But with Duryodhana the mace or club fight went on and on. It was fierce and terrifying. Both Bhima and Duryodhana were well built and adept in the skills of fighting. Bhima hit his opponent below the belt! Duryodhana thigh was broken and he was left there to die a slow and undignified death.

As already written, I do not want to justify Bhima's action of hitting on the prohibited area of the body. But I feel the misbehavior of Duryodhana with Draupadi could not have any other outcome.


In all, on Kauravas's side there were 1.1 million soldiers and 0.7 million on the side of Pandavas; total 1.8 million. The war lasted for 18 days. Except for Sri Krishna, five Pandavas, Draupadi and a few others everyone was killed in this Great War of Mahabharata. It was the worst human carnage ever witnessed on the earth. A race was almost totally annihilated. The story can go on, and indeed it goes on. But that I would tell you some other time.

After reigning supreme for many years the five brothers accompanied by Draupadi started for Hialayas renouncing kingdom and all luxuries. A dog also accompanied Yudhisthira. On the way first Draupadi falls down dead. In response to the question of his brothers Yudhisthira said she fell victim to her special preference for Arjuna!

Next Nakul and sahadeva died on the way. Yudhisthira said, "They were very proud of their looks and knowledge."

Next Arjuna fell down. He had succumbed to his pride about his mastery in archery.

Then Bhima also left the mortal body. Yudhisthira said to himself; "Bhima was excessively infatuated with his eating."

But the dog remained with Yudhisthira.

Soon they reached at the doors of Heaven. The lord of Heaven Indra appeared before Yudhisthira and said: "O noble one, welcome to the kingdom of Heavens. You are most righteous person ever lived on the earth, therefore we are pleased to welcome you. But there is one condition. This dog cannot be admitted to this holy place of heavens. You come alone and leave the dog behind."

To this Yudhisthira objected saying: "O Lord, I cannot leave this holy creature who has accompanied me in all trials and tribulations. Either you admit us both or else I do not need the safety and luxury of your Heaven."

On hearing Yudhisthira speak thus, the dog changed himself in the form of Dharma Itself and said: "O Yudhisthira the people in coming generations for time immemorial will praise and remember you as the most righteous person ever born. Come let us enjoy the heavenly bliss."

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More by :  Dr. C.S. Shah

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