89. Jayadratha Slain
"THE decisive hour has come,
Karna," said Duryodhana, "If before nightfall this day Jayadratha is
not slain, Arjuna will be disgraced and he will kill himself, for not having
redeemed his oath. With Arjuna's death, the destruction of the Pandavas is
certain and this kingdom will be ours in unquestioned and absolute sovereignty.
Dhananjaya swore this impossible oath in a moment of thoughtlessness, because
the gods had willed it that he should be thus destroyed by his own hand. It
seems my stars are now in the ascendant. We should not let this opportunity
slip. We must see somehow that his challenge fails. The whole thing depends on
you. Your great skill in battle is on trial today. Prove yourself this day. See
the sun has sloped down in the west. Within the little time left before
nightfall, I do not think it possible for Partha to reach Jayadratha. You,
Aswatthama, Salya, Kripa, and I must guard Jayadratha and do all we can to see
that he does not fall into Arjuna's hands during the next few hours before
"My king," Karna
replied "I have been wounded all over by Bhimasena, and am so weary that
my limbs have no power in them. Still, I shall put forth all the strength that
is in me. I only live to serve you."
When Karna and Duryodhana were
thus planning, Arjuna was engaged in a great attack on the Kaurava army and
putting forth all his strength, so that before sunset he could break through to
Krishna put his Panchajanya in his
mouth and blew a loud note in the rishabha swara, which was the signal for his
own charioteer Daruka to arrive at once with his chariot.
When it came, Satyaki took his
place in it, and attacked Karna vigorously and skilfully, keeping him fully
engaged. Daruka's mastery of driving and Satyaki's archery were such as brought
down the gods to witness the combat.
Karna's four chariot horses were
disabled and the charioteer was unseated. Then the flagstaff was cut asunder
and the chariot was smashed. The great Karna stood chariotless and the event
produced a great flutter in the Kaurava army.
Karna had to run and climb up
into Duryodhana's chariot. Sanjaya here tells Dhritarashtra to whom he was
relating the incident: "The greatest adepts in archery are Krishna, Partha
and Satyaki. There is not a fourth to match them!"
Arjuna broke through the Kaurava
opposition and reached Jayadratha. Inflamed by the thought of the slaughter of
Abhimanyu, and all the great wrongs inflicted by the Kauravas, Arjuna fought
Savyasachin as he was, he
discharged shafts from the Gandiva bow, now using one hand and now the other.
He struck terror and confusion among his enemies, who felt as if Death had come
to the battlefield with wide-open jaws.
It is only the poet of the
Mahabharata that can describe the combat that raged between Arjuna and
Aswatthama and the other great warriors that protected the king of Sindhu. They
fought fiercely but were all defeated and could not prevent Arjuna from
reaching Jayadratha. The attack on Jayadratha began and the battle raged long.
Both sides were constantly looking westwards, for the day was nearing its end.
The Saindhava was no mean foe, and taxed to the full, Arjuna's strength and
skill were hard put to it.
The sun sank towards the horizon
and reddened, but the battle did not cease. "There is but a very little
time left. It seems Jayadratha has been saved and Arjuna's challenge has
failed. The vow is unfulfilled and Arjuna is going to be disgraced," said
Duryodhana to himself in great glee.
Then, there was darkness and the
cry went round in both armies: "It is sunset and Jayadratha has not been
killed. Arjuna has lost." The Pandavas were depressed and there were
shouts of joy in the Kaurava army.
Jayadratha turned to the western
horizon and thought within himself, "I am saved!" for he did not see
the sun then and thought the time-limit of danger from Arjuna was over.
At that moment, however, Krishna
said to Arjuna: "Dhananjaya, the Sindhu raja is looking at the horizon. I
have caused this darkness. The sun is still up and has not set. Do your work.
This is the moment for it, for Jayadratha is off his guard."
A shaft flew from the Gandiva
bow, and, like a vulture swooping down on a chicken, carried away Jayadratha's
head. "Listen, Arjuna," cried Krishna, "send your shafts in
swift relays, so that the head may be supported from falling to the earth and
borne into Vriddhakshatra's lap."
And Arjuna sent his wonderful
arrows that carried away the head in the air. It was a strange sight. Vriddhakshatra
was in his ashrama sitting in the open absorbed
in his evening meditation with eyes closed, when his son's head with beautiful
black hair and golden earrings gently dropped into his lap.
The old king finished his
meditation and got up, when the head rolled down and fell on the ground. And,
as ordained, Vriddhakshatra's head burst into a hundred fragments. Jayadratha
and his father together reached the abode of the brave.
Kesava, Dhananjaya, Bhima,
Satyaki, Yudhamanyu and Uttamaujas blew their conchs and Dharmaraja who heard
the triumphant noise knew that it meant that Arjuna had redeemed his oath and
that the Saindhava had been slain.
Then, Yudhishthira led his army
fiercely against Drona. It was nightfall, but on the fourteenth day of the battle
the rule of cease-fire at sunset was not observed. As the passions rose from
day to day, one by one the rules and restraints broke down.