88. Somadatta's End
"THERE comes the valorous
Satyaki," said Krishna, the charioteer, to Dhananjaya. "Your disciple
and friend is marching up, triumphantly breaking through enemy ranks."
"I do not like it,
Madhava," replied Arjuna. "It was not right for him to have left
Dharmaputra and come here to join me. Drona is there ever seeking an
opportunity to seize Dharmaputra. Satyaki should have stuck to his post there
to guard him. Instead, he has come here. Old Bhurisravas has intercepted
Satyaki. It was a great mistake for Yudhishthira to have sent Satyaki away
There was a family feud between
Bhurisravas and Satyaki that made them inveterate foes.
It had come about this way. When Devaki,
who was to be the blessed mother of Sri Krishna, was a maiden, many princes
competed for her hand and there was a great battle between Somadatta and Sini
Sini won, and on behalf of
Vasudeva he placed Devaki in his chariot and took her away. Since that incident
there was feud between the two clans, the Sini family and that of Somadatta.
Satyaki was Sini's grandson.
Bhurisravas was Somadatta's son.
When they found themselves on opposite sides in the Kurukshetra battle, it was
natural that, as soon as Bhurisravas saw Satyaki, the old warrior challenged
Satyaki to battle.
"Oh Satyaki," cried
Bhurisravas, "I know you strut about thinking yourself a man of great
prowess. Here now I have you in my power and will presently finish you. Long
have I sought for this meeting. Like Indrajit destroyed Dasaratha's son
Lakshmana, you will die today and go to the abode of Yama, gladdening the
hearts of many a bereaved widow."
Satyaki laughed. "Have done
with your vaunting," he interrupted. "Words are not deeds and do not
frighten fighting men. Demonstrate your valor in action and do not indulge in
dry thunder like autumn clouds."
After this exchange of words, the
battle began, and the combat was as between two fierce lions. Their horses were
killed, their bows were broken, and both were rendered chariotless.
They were now standing on the
ground fighting with swords and shields, till their shields were hacked to bits
and their swords broken. Then they were locked in a deadly embrace without
They rolled together on the
ground. They leaped up and they sprang on each other. They fell down again and
so the combat went on for a long while.
Partha's mind was at the time
concentrated on Jayadratha's movements and he did not watch this combat between
Satyaki and the son of Somadatta.
But his charioteer Krishna was
deeply concerned about Satyaki's fate. For Krishna knew about their family
"Dhananjaya," said Krishna,
"Satyaki is exhausted. Bhurisravas is going to kill him now."
Still Arjuna was following only
"Satyaki who came after an
exhausting battle with the Kaurava forces has been forced to accept
Bhurisravas' challenge," said Krishna again. "It is a most unequal
battle. Unless we help him, beloved Yuyudhana will be slain."
Even as Krishna was saying this,
Bhurisravas lifted Satyaki up and brought him crashing to the ground and all
the men around in the Kaurava army exclaimed: "Yuyudhana is dead!"
Again Krishna importuned:
"Satyaki is lying almost dead on the field, the best among the Vrishni
clan. One who came to help you, is being killed before your eyes. You are
looking on, doing nothing."
Bhurisravas caught hold of the
prostrate Satyaki and dragged him on the ground as a lion drags its elephant
Arjuna was in a great conflict of
mind. "Bhurisravas has not been called to battle by me, nor has he
challenged me to fight. How can I send my shaft at Bhurisravas when he is engaged
with another? My mind recoils from such an act, although it is true a friend
who came to help me is being slaughtered before my eyes."
Just as Arjuna finished saying
this to Krishna, the sky was darkened by a cloud of arrows sent by Jayadratha.
Arjuna replied with a shower of arrows, but he constantly turned with pain to
where Satyaki was in the mortal grip of Bhurisravas.
Krishna again pressed Arjuna to
consider Satyaki's condition. "O Partha, Satyaki has lost all his weapons
and he is now in Bhurisravas' power, helpless."
When Arjuna turned, he saw
Bhurisravas with his foot on the prostrate body of Satyaki and sword upraised
to slay him.
Before Bhurisravas could deliver
the fatal thrust, Arjuna shot an arrow which went with the speed of lightning
and the next moment the uplifted arm fell chopped off to the ground still
holding the sword. Bhurisravas, all amazed, turned and saw who had done it.
"Son of Kunti," he
exclaimed, "I had not expected this of you! It befits not a warrior to
shoot from behind in this manner. I was engaged in combat with someone else and
you have attacked me without notice. Indeed, then, no man can resist the evil
influence of the company he keeps, as your unchivalrous conduct proves.
Dhananjaya, when you go back to your brother Dharmaputra, what account are you
going to give him of this valorous deed. Ah! Who taught you this low trick,
Arjuna? Did you learn this from your father Indra or from your teachers Drona
and Kripa? What code of conduct was it that permitted you to shoot your arrow
at a man who was engaged in combat with another and could not so much as turn
his eyes on you? You have done the deed of a low-bred fellow and foully
besmirched your honor. You must have been instigated into it by the son of
Vasudeva. It was not in your own nature to do it. No one with princely blood in
his veins would think of such a dastardly deed. I know you have been incited to
it by that contemptible Krishna."
Thus did Bhurisravas with his
right arm cut off, bitterly denounce Krishna and Arjuna in the Kurukshetra
Said Partha: "Bhurisravas, you are old and age seems
to have affected your judgment. You accuse Hrishikesa and me without cause. How
could I look on doing nothing, when, before my eyes, you were in the act of
killing my friend, who came and risked his life in battle on my behalf, one who
was like a right hand to me, and whom you were going to stab when he was lying
helpless on the ground? I would have deserved to go to hell if I had failed to
intervene. You say, I have been ruined by keeping company with Madhava. Who in
the wide world would not wish to be so ruined? You have spoken out of confused
understanding. Satyaki who was weary and exhausted when he came here and who
was inadequately armed, was challenged by you to give battle. You overcame him.
Having been defeated, he lay on the ground, powerless. What code of honor
enabled you to raise your sword to thrust it into the body of the fallen
warrior and slay him? Do I not remember how you cheered the man who killed my
boy Abhimanyu when he stood staggering, exhausted and weaponless, his coat of
armor torn off?"
Bhurisravas who heard this did
not answer but spread his arrows on the ground with his left hand and made a
seat for meditation.
The old warrior sat in yoga and
the sight deeply moved all the Kaurava soldiers. They cheered Bhurisravas and
uttered reproaches against Krishna and Arjuna.
Arjuna spoke: "Brave men, I
am sworn to protect every friend within bow-shot of me and I cannot let an
enemy kill him. It is my sacred pledge. Why do you blame me? It is not right to
hurl reproaches without due thought."
After saying this to the warriors
in the field who reproached him, he turned to Bhurisravas and said: "O
excellent among brave men, you have protected many who have gone to you for
help. You know that what has happened is due to your own error. There is no
justice in blaming me. If you like, let us all blame the violence which governs
Bhurisravas, who heard this,
lowered his head in salutation.
Satyaki now recovered
consciousness and rose. Carried away by the impetuosity of his passion, he
picked up a sword and, advancing to Bhurisravas, sitting in yoga on his seat of
arrows, even when all around were shouting in horror and before Krishna and
Arjuna, who rushed to the spot, could prevent him, with one swift and powerful
cut, he struck off the old warrior's head which rolled down, while the body was
still in the posture of meditation.
The gods and the siddhas, who
looked on from above the battlefield, uttered blessings on Bhurisravas.
Everyone in the field condemned Satyaki's act.
Satyaki maintained he was right,
saying: "After I fell down senseless, this enemy of my family placed his
foot on my prostrate figure and attempted to kill me. I may slay him in whatever
posture he might choose to be." But none approved of his conduct.
The slaying of Bhurisravas is one
of the many situations of moral conflict woven into the story of the
Mahabharata to demonstrate that, when hatred and anger have been roused, codes
of honor and dharma are powerless to control them.