WHEN Duryodhana beheld Karna's
death, his grief knew no bounds. Kripacharya was deeply moved by Duryodhana's
anguish of heart and said: "Moved by ambition and greed we placed too
great a burden on friends. They have uncomplainingly borne it and laid down their lives on the battlefield and attained the
happy regions above. There is but one course left to you to make peace with the
Pandavas. Do not, O King, any longer continue this ruinous fight."
Even at that moment of deep despair,
Duryodhana did not relish this counsel. "Perhaps, there was a time for
that, but it is long past. What talk can there be of peace between the Pandavas
and us with all this inexpiable blood between us, the blood of our dearest and
theirs? If I surrender in order to escape death, how can I escape the contempt
of the world? What happiness can I hope to have in a life so ignobly saved? And
what joy can I hope to find in sovereignty, secured by a peace after my
brothers and relatives have all been slain?"
These words of Duryodhana were
lustily cheered by the others. They supported his stand and they chose Salya
and gave him the supreme command from then on. Salya was mighty of limb and as
brave as any of the warriors who had been killed. The army was arrayed under
his leadership and the battle raged fiercely. On the side of the Pandavas, Yudhishthira
now led the attack personally against Salya. It astonished everyone to see how
the man, who was till then the very incarnation of gentle ness, fought so
The battle was equal for a long
while, when Yudhishthira hurled at Salya, his spear that went straight and
struck him. Like the great flagstaff at the end of a festive function, Salya's
body lay lifeless on the field, crimson with blood.
When Salya, the last of the great
generals, fell dead, the Kaurava army lost all hope. The surviving sons of
Dhritarashtra, however, joined together and attacked Bhima from all sides. He
slew them all. The son of Vayu had nourished his burning anger for thirteen
years from the time Draupadi was insulted in the Hall of Assembly. He said to
himself now: "I have not lived in vain, but Duryodhana still lives,"
and smiled grimly.
Sakuni led the attack on
Sahadeva's division. After a while, Sahadeva discharged a sharp-edged
sword-arrow saying: "Fool, here is the reward for your great sin." It
went straight and cut through Sakuni's neck like a sword. And the head, which
was at the root of all the wicked deeds of the Kauravas, rolled on the ground.
Left leaderless, the wreck of the
broken army scattered and fled in all directions, pursued and slaughtered to a
man by the exulting victors.
"'Thus utterly was destroyed
thine army of eleven Akshauhinis, O! Bharata, out of the thousands of kings,
who espoused thy cause in their pride and might, only Duryodhana could be seen
on that battlefield, fainting and sore wounded," said Sanjaya, describing
the debacle to the blind king.
After doing, in vain, all he
could to rally his defeated army, Duryodhana, left almost alone, took up his
mace and walked towards a pool of water. His whole frame was burning like fire,
and water attracted him. "The wise Vidura knew what would happen and he
told us," he said to himself, as he entered the water.
Of what avail is wisdom that
comes too late? What has been done must produce its result that has to be
suffered. That is the law. Yudhishthira and his brothers arrived there in
relentless, pursuit of their great enemy.
Yudhishthira, "after destroying family and tribe, would you yourself
escape death by concealing yourself in this pond? Where is your pride now? Have
you no shame? Come up and fight. A kshatriya by birth, do you shrink battle and
Stung to the quick by these
words, Duryodhana replied with dignity: "I have not come here,
Dharmaputra, a fugitive for my life. It was not fear that brought me here. I
stepped into the water to cool the fire that is raging within me. I neither
fear death nor wish to live, but why should I fight? The earth has now nothing
left that I came to fight for! All those who stood by me have been slain. My
desire for kingdom is gone. I leave the world to you without a rival. Enjoy it
in undisputed sovereignty."
Yudhishthira replied: "Now,
that is really generous, especially after you said you would not allow us even
a needle-point of land. When we begged for peace and entreated you to give us a
portion, you spurned our proposal. Now, you say we may take it all. It is not
for kingdom or land that we fight. Must I recount all your sins? The wrongs you
did us, and the outrage you perpetrated on Draupadi, cannot be expiated except
with your life."
Sanjaya, who related the events
to the blind old king, here said: "When your son Duryodhana heard these
harsh and cruel words spoken by Dharmaputra, he at once rose from the water,
mace in hand."
Stepping out of the pool, the
unfortunate Duryodhana said: "Come, one by one, all of you, for I am
single. You five will surely not join together and attack me who am alone and
without armor, weary and wounded all over."
Yudhishthira replied sharply:
"If indeed it be wrong for many to join together and attack a single
person, pray tell us how Abhimanyu
was attacked and killed? Did you not consent to many combining and attacking
that boy, standing all alone amidst your crowd? Yes, when men face misfortune,
they see and preach dharma and chivalry to others. Wear your coat of armor.
Choose any of us you like and fight. Die and go to swarga or win and be
Accordingly, the combat began
between Bhima and Duryodhana. Sparks of fire flew when their maces clashed.
Duryodhana and Bhima were equal in strength and skill, and the battle raged
long, and the issue hung doubtful. Those, who stood watching, were debating as
to whom would win. Krishna said to Arjuna that Bhima would redeem the oath he
swore in the Hall of Assembly and smash Duryodhana's thighs. Bhima heard this
and, at that moment, the memory of the great outrage came vividly to his mind.
He leaped like a lion and came
down with his mace on Duryodhana's thighs and broke them and Duryodhana fell
heavily on the ground, wounded to death.
Bhima jumped on the prostrate
body of his enemy, stamped on his head with his heavy foot and danced a
"Cease, Bhima," cried
Dharmaraja. "You have paid off the debt. Duryodhana is a prince and a
cousin. It is not right to put your foot on his head."
Said Krishna:"Soon the
wicked man's soul will depart from the body. Sons of Pandu, Duryodhana and his
friends have been slain. Why linger here? On to your chariots."
When Krishna said this, the face
of the fallen Duryodhana glowed like a blazing fire with anger and hatred.
Turning his eyes towards Krishna be said:
"By base tricks you
contrived the death of warriors, who fought bravely according to the laws of
war. You could not have dreamt of victory in a fair fight with Karna or Bhishma
or Drona. Have you not a spark of shame left?"
Even dying, Duryodhana felt no
regret for all that he had done.
Krishna, "vainly do you accuse others. Greed and pride of power led you to
unnumbered wicked deeds and you are reaping as you sowed."
Duryodhana. "Living, I was a great prince, generous friend, and a terrible
foe. All human joys, such joys as kings wish for in vain, and even Gods do not
despise, have been mine, in their fullness. A warrior's death is the fitting
crown of such a life. Dying, I go triumphantly to swarga to join my friends and
my brothers who have gone there already and are waiting to welcome me. You
remain here below, your objects defeated and yourselves the object of contempt
of all kshatriyas. I do not mind Bhima putting his foot on my head as I lie
helpless on the ground with legs broken. What care I? In a few minutes more
will not the feet of crows and vultures settle on my head?"
When Duryodhana said this,
flowers were showered down from the heavens by the gods. Inordinate desire took
Duryodhana into the wrong path, whence ensued anger and numerous breaches of
dharma. But no one could question the unconquerable spirit of Dhritarashtra's