66. The Third Day's Battle
ON the morning of the third day
Bhishma arrayed his army in eagle formation and himself led it while Duryodhana
and his forces protected the rear. So great was the care taken over every
detail that the Kauravas were certain that there could be no mishap for them
The Pandavas too arrayed their
forces with skill. Dhananjaya and Dhrishtadyumna decided in favor of a crescent
formation of their army so as more effectually to cope with the eagle formation
of the enemy's forces.
On the right horn of the crescent stood
Bhima and on the left Arjuna, leading the respective divisions. The battle
began. All arms were at once engaged and blood flowed in torrents and the dust
that was raised by chariots, horses and elephants rose to hide the sun.
Dhananjaya's attack was powerful
but the enemy stood firm. A counter-attack was made by the Kauravas
concentrating on Arjuna's position. Javelins and spears and other missiles flew
in the air shining like forked lightning in a thunderstorm.
Like a great cloud of locusts the
shafts covered Arjuna's chariot. But with amazing skill he raised a moving
fortification around his chariot with arrows discharged in an unending stream
from his famous bow.
At another point Sakuni led a large force
against Satyaki and Abhimanyu. Satyaki's chariot was broken to pieces and he
had to scramble up Abhimanyu's chariot and thereafter both fought from the same
They were able to destroy
Sakuni's forces. Drona and Bhishma jointly attacked Dharmaputra's division and
Nakula and Sahadeva joined their brother in opposing Drona's offensive.
Bhima and his son Ghatotkacha
attacked Duryodhana's division and in that day's battle the son appeared to
excel his great father in valor.
Bhima's shafts hit Duryodhana and
he lay in swoon in his chariot. His charioteer quickly drove the chariot away
from the scene. He feared that the Kaurava forces would be completely
demoralised if they saw that the prince had been disabled.
But even this movement created
great confusion. Bhimasena took full advantage of the position and worked havoc
among the fleeing Kaurava forces.
Drona and Bhishma who saw the
discomfiture and confusion of the Kaurava army came up quickly and restored
confidence. The scattered forces were brought together and Duryodhana was again
seen leading them.
"How can you stand
thus," said Duryodhana to the grandsire, "looking on when our forces
are scattered and put to disgraceful flight? I fear you are too kind to the
Pandavas. Why did you not tell me frankly 'I love the Pandavas; Dhrishtadyumna
and Satyaki are my friends and I cannot attack or slay them.' You should have
stated the position explicitly to me. Surely these men are not equal to you.
And if you were so minded, you could deal with them easily. Even now, it would
be best if you and Drona told me frankly your mind in the matter."
The chagrin of defeat, and the
knowledge that the grandsire disapproved of his ways made Duryodhana speak thus
bitterly. But Bhishma merely smiled and said: "Wasn't I quite frank in my
advice to you? That advice you rejected when you decided on war. I tried to
prevent the war but, now that it has come, I am fulfilling my duties by you
with all my might. I am an old man and what I am doing is quite my
Saying thus, the grandsire
resumed his operations. The turn of events in the forenoon had been so much in
their favor that the delighted Pandavas were now somewhat careless.
They did not expect Bhishma to
rally his forces and attack them again. But stung by Duryodhana's reproaches,
the grandsire raged about the field like a destroying fire.
He rallied his men and delivered
the most severe attack yet made on the Pandava army. The latter thought that
the grandsire had multiplied himself into a number of Bhishmas fighting at
several points. So swift were his movements that afternoon.
Those who opposed him were struck
down and perished like months in the fire. The Pandava army was thoroughly
broken and began to scatter. Vasudeva, Partha and Sikhandin tried hard to restore order and confidence, but
Krishna, "now has the critical time come. Be true to your decision not to
flinch from your duty to kill in battle Bhishma, Drona and all the other
friends and relatives and respected elders. You have pledged yourself to it and
you have now to carry it out. Otherwise our army is lost beyond redemption. You
must now attack the grandsire."
"Drive on," said Arjuna.
As Dhananjaya's chariot sped on
towards Bhishma, it met a hot reception from the grandsire, who covered it with
But, Arjuna bent his bow and
discharged three shafts that broke the grandsire's bow. Bhishma picked up
another bow but it too met the same fate. The grandsire's heart was gladdened
when he saw Arjuna's skill in archery.
"Hail, brave warrior!"
applauded the grandsire, even as, taking up another bow; he poured shafts on
Arjuna's chariot with unerring aim.
Krishna was not happy at the way Arjuna
met the attack. The grandsire's bow was working fiercely. But Arjuna's hands
did not do their best, for his heart was not in it.
He had too much regard for his
great grandsire. Krishna thought that, if Arjuna went on like this, the army,
which had been so badly demoralized already, would be utterly destroyed and all
would be lost.
Krishna managed the chariot
skilfully, but in spite of it, both he and Arjuna were hit many times by
Janardana's (Krishna) anger rose.
"I can stand this no longer, Arjuna. I shall kill Bhishma myself if you
will not do it!" he exclaimed, and dropping the reins, he took up his
discus and jumped down from the chariot and dashed forward towards Bhishma.
Bhishma was far from being
perturbed at this. On the contrary, his face expanded with ecstatic joy.
"Come, come, Oh Lotus-eyed One!" he exclaimed.
"I bow to you, Oh Madhava.
Lord of the World, have you indeed come down from the chariot for my sake? I
offer you my life. If I be slain by you, I shall be glorified in the three
worlds. Give me that boon. May your hands take this life away and save me for
Arjuna was distressed to see
this. He jumped down and ran after Krishna. Overtaking him with great
difficulty, he entreated Krishna to turn back.
"Do not lose your patience
with me. Desist and I promise not to flinch," he said, and persuaded
Krishna to return. The chariot reins were again in Krishna's hands. Arjuna
attacked the Kaurava forces furiously and thousands were slain by him.
The Kauravas suffered a severe
defeat on the evening of the third day. As they returned to their camps in
torchlight, they said to one another: "Who can equal Arjuna? There is
nothing strange in his being victorious." So marvelous was Arjuna's
prowess that day.