72. The Ninth Day
ON the morning of the ninth day, before the battle began, Duryodhana was closeted with the grandsire. He gave vent to his bitter feelings of disappointment over the way the battle was going. He uttered words that were like the sharp spears and pained the grandsire greatly but the latter was patient and said sadly:
"Like ghee on the sacrificial fire I am pouring my life out for you. Why do you seek to mortify me, who have been doing my very utmost for you? You speak like a man of no understanding, not knowing what is right and what is wrong. They say that, when a man is nearing his death, the tree appears to him to be made of gold. You see things now, not as they are. Your vision is clouded. You are now reaping the harvest of the hatred you deliberately sowed. The best course for you are to go on fighting, as well as you can. This is also the plain path of duty. It is not possible for me to fight Sikhandin, for I can never raise my hand against a woman. Nor can I with my hands kill the Pandavas, for my mind revolts against it. I will do everything barring these two and fight all the warriors opposed to you. Nothing is gained by losing heart. Fight as a kshatriya should and honor will be yours whatever the events."
Saying thus to Duryodhana and cheering him up with wise and affectionate words, Bhishma proceeded to issue instructions for arraying the forces for the day's battle.
Duryodhana was heartened. He sent for Duhsasana and said to him: "Brother, put forth all our strength in today's battle. I am convinced, the grandsire is fighting on our side with his whole heart. It is only against Sikhandin, he says, he cannot use his weapons. We should see that he is not exposed to Sikhandin's attacks, for you know, even a wild dog can kill a lion if the latter scorns to fight back."
There was a great fight between Abhimanyu and Alambasa. Abhimanyu demonstrated that his valor was no less than his illustrious father's. Alambasa had to flee on foot to save himself.
There were fierce combats between Satyaki and Aswatthama and between Drona and Arjuna. Thereafter, all the Pandavas attacked the grandsire and Duryodhana sent Duhsasana to support the old warrior. Bhishma fought furiously and beat the Pandavas back.
The Pandava forces were thoroughly demoralised and were flying hither and thither, like cattle that had lost their way in the forest.
Krishna halted the chariot and said to Arjuna: "Partha, you and your brothers were looking forward to this day, after thirteen years. Do not hesitate to kill the grandsire. Remember the duty of a soldier."
Arjuna bent his head down and, without looking up, replied: "I would much rather have continued to be an exile in the forest than kill the grandsire and the teachers whom I love, but I shall obey you. Drive on."
Arjuna's heart was not in the fight. Unwillingly and in great distress of mind, he proceeded to the combat. Bhishma, on the other hand, burnt fiercely like the noonday sun.
When the army saw Arjuna's chariot proceed towards Bhishma, it regained courage and order once again prevailed. Bhishma's arrows came thick and fast and covered the advancing chariot so completely that neither horses nor vehicles could be seen.
Krishna was unperturbed and drove on with circumspection and skill. Arjuna's shafts hit Bhishma's bow and shattered it many times. But the grandsire went on renewing his weapon.
"You are not fighting, Arjuna, as you should!" exclaimed Krishna, and jumped down in a rage from the chariot and, taking up his discus, he advanced towards the grandsire.
Bhishma saw Vasudeva approaching.
"Hail, O Lotus-eyed One!" he cried. "Blessed am I to be separated from the body by you! Come, come!"
Arjuna jumped down from the chariot and, rushing forward overtook and held Krishna, casting both his arms around him. "Stop, Krishna," he cried. "Do not break your pledge. You have promised not to use weapons in this battle. This is my work. I shall not fail. I shall send my arrows and kill the beloved grandsire myself. Pray, mount the car and take the reins."
Arjuna took Krishna back and the battle was resumed. The Pandava forces had been handled roughly, but now the sun was down in the west and the fighting ended for the day.