Bheeshma Parva

Bheeshma Parva

The war during Bheeshma’s commandership

 Author - Deepak MR

Conches were blown, and drums sounded to signify the start of the war. Krishna and Arjuna blew their conches Panchajanya and Devadatta. Hearing the sound, the Kaurava soldiers panicked. The horses excreted in fear. A cloud of dust arose and stones were flung around as soldiers and animals nervously moved to their positions.

Prior to the start of the war, the two sides had an agreement on the rules to be followed. It was decided that a person who withdrew from battle would not be killed. A ratha should fight with a ratha, elephant with elephant, horse with horse, and soldier with soldier. One without weapon or armour should not be killed. Charioteers should not be killed and anyone distracted or fighting with another should not be attacked.

Vyasa came to Hastinapura and offered to give divine vision to Dhritarashtra to be able to view the war. When Dhritarashtra declined it, his aide Sanjaya was given the vision to be able to see what was happening on the battlefield. Vyasa pointed out how bad omens and astrological signs didn’t auger well for the Kurus. Advising Dhritarashtra again to try for peace, he left.

Sanjaya then started describing the battle. He first described the geographical location of the entire Jambudweepa talking about the mountains, rivers, lands, and the people dwelling on this land. He then described the oceans and the kingdoms near the oceans.

Sanjaya then informed that the great Bheeshma, who was undefeated by Parashurama was dead and now was lying on a bed of arrows. Dhritarashtra then asked Sanjaya to describe all that had happened and wanted to know how Bheeshma was killed. Sanjaya then narrated all that had happened.

At the start of the battle, Duryodhana asked Dushasana to ensure Bheeshma was properly protected. Eleven akshauhinis commanded by Shakuni, Soubala, Shalya, Jayadratha, Vinda and Anuvinda, Sudakshina, Shrutayudha, Jayatsena, Brihadbala, Kritavarma, and Duryodhana stood under the leadership of Bheeshma who stood in his silver chariot with a standard bearing the palmyra flag.

Arjuna, on the instructions of Yudhishtira arranged the Vajra vyuha with Bheema at the forefront. When Yudhishtira wondered how they could defeat an army headed by Bheeshma, Krishna reminded him of Narada’s words that where there is Krishna, there is victory.

Arjuna then asked Krishna, who was his charioteer, to take him closer to the Kaurava forces, as he wanted to see whom he should fight. When he saw his family members assembled, Arjuna told Krishna that he felt his Gandiva was slipping. He told Krishna that he couldn’t kill his uncles, cousins, and relatives even if they killed him. He threw down his bow and sat dejected and depressed.

Krishna then asked him to give up his weakness and do his duty. When Arjuna asked how he could kill Bheeshma and Drona, Krishna revealed the truth of life to him. He told him not to grieve for those who don’t deserve it. Krishna told Arjuna that he would be considered someone who fled from the battlefield.

Krishna revealed to Arjuna that no can die as the soul is eternal. The soul leaves the body once its work is complete and takes on a new body, just as a person throws away old clothes and wears new ones. The soul has neither birth nor death and cannot be cut by weapons, burnt by fire, drowned by water, and is eternal.

Arjuna being a Kshatriya, should be happy to fight the war since war was his dharma. If you die, you will go to heaven;, if you win, the earth is yours. So fight and do your duty said Krishna. Don’t worry about the fruit of your action, do your duty and leave the results to me was Krishna’s advice.

Krishna told Arjuna that a person whose intellect was focused on Samadhi would attain yoga. When a person withdrew from his senses, he shunned desire and anger. This helped to establish control. One who gives up desire, has no longing, no ego, and no ownership and will become one with brahman.

Krishna then said that both he and Arjuna have been through many births. When dharma is on the decline and evil on the rise, then he would take birth in every yuga to protect the good, destroy evil, and uphold righteousness.

There is nothing as pure as knowledge. One who controlled his senses would achieve knowledge. When Arjuna asked whether he should give up action or practice yoga, Krishna explaining that both action and renunciation would lead to the liberation of the soul. Yogis give up attachment and perform actions through their bodies and minds.

Through practice and detachment, one can achieve yoga. The yogi is superior to those who perform penances and austerities. Krishna said he who was devoted to the Lord and immersed his self in the Lord was a true Yogi who will get liberation.

Krishna then told Arjuna that he was the radiance in the sun, the Om in the Vedas, the intellect in the intelligent, and energy in the energetic. He explained that Brahman was the supreme spirit. He advises Arjuna to carry out his action to attain Brahman.

Krishna then revealed he was Yama, he was Rama, he was Ananta, he was Arjuna, he was Vyasa, and he was the origin of every being. On Arjuna’s request, he revealed his Vishwaroopa or supreme form, with hundreds of heads that had the faces of all the sages and Gods. The infinite hands had weapons of all types in them.

Krishna then told Arjuna to achieve victory over the enemies and fight in the battle to kill them. He told him to give up attachment to the fruits of action. He who worships Krishna with unwavering devotion and a single-minded focus will achieve brahman because Krishna is brahman.

Krishna ended his discourse by asking Arjuna to seek refuge in him. Arjuna was then ready to fight, and Krishna took the chariot toward the Pandavas.

Yudhishtira then went to Bheeshma after keeping his weapons down. He was joined by his brothers and Krishna. He sought permission from Bheeshma to start the war and asked for his blessings. Bheeshma blessed him with victory and asked him to seek a boon. Yudhishtira asked him how they could defeat him. Bheeshma said no one could defeat him and the time for his death had not yet come.

Similarly, Yudhishtira took the blessings of Drona, Kripa, and Shalya. Drona told him that where there is Krishna, there is Dharma and where there is Dharma, there is victory. Krishna went to Karna and asked him to join the Pandavas, since he promised not to fight under Bheeshma. Karna denied saying he had given his life for Duryodhana’s welfare.

Yudhishtira then loudly announced that whoever chooses the Pandavas will be considered an ally. Yuyutsu, the son of Dhritarashtra born through a maid, changed sides and joined the Pandavas.

The conches and drums were sounded and the two sides clashed, causing the earth to shake and creating a huge cloud of dust. Bheeshma fought with Arjuna, Satyaki with Kritavarma, Abhimanyu with Vrihadvala, and Bheema with Duryodhana. The two demons who knew the art of illusion, Ghatotkacha and Alamvusha fought with each other.

Protected by warriors, Bheeshma slaughtered thousands of Pandava soldiers. Abhimanyu then cut off Bheeshma’s standard and fought with the grandsire bravely and was joined by Bheema. Uttara attacked Shalya but was brutally killed by the Madra king with a spear that tore into his heart. Shanka the son of Virat, then attacked the Kauravas.

Bheeshma released thousands of arrows that caused chaos in the Pandava ranks leading to thousands of deaths. The first day ended with the Pandavas being dispirited but were comforted by Krishna.

On the advice of Arjuna, Dhrishtadyumna set up the Krauncha (crane) formation the next day with Arjuna at the head. Arjuna then fought with Bheeshma. Drona, Kripa and others came to Bheeshma’s aid. Satyaki, Dhrishtadyumna and Abhimanyu came to Arjuna’s help. Bheema launched a terrible attack on the Kalinga army and killed the crown prince.

Bheema massacred thousands of Kalinga soldiers and then killed Bheeshma’s charioteer, forcing Bheeshma out of the battle. Abhimanyu fought fiercely with Lakshmana who was forced to get help from his father Duryodhana. Arjuna then launched a fierce attack, killing the Kaurava soldiers by the thousands. The day ended with the Pandavas seizing the advantage.

On the third day, the Kauravas arranged their formation in the Garuda Vyuha. Dhrishtadyumna and Arjuna created the Ardha Chandra or half-moon formation, to counter the Kauravas. Arjuna charged at the Kaurava army, shooting thousands of arrows. He killed many of the Kauravas, making them run in fear.

In a fierce battle with Duryodhana, Bheema struck him with an arrow in his chest, causing him to faint. Many Kaurava soldiers ran from the battlefield fearing the attack of Bheema and Arjuna. Duryodhana questioned Bheeshma for not stopping the attack. Bheeshma told Duryodhana that with Krishna on their side, none could defeat them, but he would try.

Bheeshma then launched a ferocious attack, causing panic in the Pandava ranks. Krishna then led Arjuna to Bheeshma, and the two great warriors fought fiercely. Krishna observed that Arjuna was fighting mildly and got angry. With the sudarshana chakra in his arm, he moved fast towards Bheeshma in anger. Arjuna ran behind him and fell at his feet, requesting him to come back.

Hearing Arjuna’s promise to fight to the best of his ability, Krishna returned. Arjuna then charged towards Bheeshma and thousands of Kaurava soldiers attacked him. He then invoked the Aindrastra that caused a shower of fiery arrows from the sky. Thousands of Kauravas lay dead even as a river of blood flowed through the Kurukshetra.

On the fourth day, Bheeshma formed a Vyuha that resembled a great cloud. The Pandavas prepared the Makara vyuha. Arjuna again fought ferociously with Bheeshma, while Abhimanyu fought with Ashwatthama, Shalya, Bhurishravas, and Chitrasena.

When Shalya seemed to be on the verge of defeating Dhristadyumna, Abhimanyu came to his support. The Kaurava brothers came to Shalya’s support, and Bheema came to Abhimanyu’s support. As the battle increased in intensity, Bheema charged towards the Kauravas. Seeing him with his club, many of the Kauravas fled, but Duryodhana attacked Bheema with an elephant brigade.

Bheema smashed the elephant brigade with his club in the same way as Shiva destroyed the rakshasas with his Pinaka bow. Then Duryodhana charged at Bheema and struck him on the chest, making him fall into his chariot. The Pandava archers with Abhimanyu came to defend Bheema. Waking up, Bheema attacked the Kauravas and killed eight of Duryodhana’s brothers.

Duryodhana then sent Bhagadatta of Pragjyotisha to attack the Kauravas. Bhagadatta injured Bheema and a furious Ghatotkacha attacked Bhagadatta. The battle became fierce. Bheeshma then decided that it was difficult to face Ghatotkacha in the dusk when his powers of illusion increased. The Kauravas withdrew for the day.

After the war, Duryodhana met Bheeshma and wanted to know why the Kauravas were losing repeatedly. To this, Bheeshma replied, narrating how Vishnu descended to earth as Krishna to uphold dharma. Bheeshma again asked Duryodhana to sue for peace before retiring for the night.

On the fifth day, Bheeshma formed the Makara Vyuha while Dhrishtadyumna formed the Syena vyuha. As the battle raged, Shikhandi attacked Bheeshma who ignored him and moved on. Again it was the Pandavas who dominated, led by Arjun and Bheema. They created mountains of dead bodies with rivers of blood flowing through them.

Bheeshma and Satyaki fought fiercely and Bheeshma killed Satyaki’s charioteer, after which Bheeshma went on a rampage. There was an extremely intense battle between Ashwatthama and Arjuna, both of them striking each other repeatedly. Arjuna out of respect for Drona’s son withdrew from the battle. Abhimanyu fought with Duryodhana’s brother Chitrasena and defeated him. He then fought with Duryodhana’s son Lakshmana. Abhimanyu killed Lakshmana’s horses and cut down the lance he threw at him. Kripa came quickly and saved Lakshmana.

Bhurishravas fought with Satyaki’s ten sons and killed them all. Satyaki then destroyed Bhurishravas’ chariot, and both fought with swords. As the sun started to go down, Arjuna’s vicious attack caused the death of twenty-five thousand Kaurava soldiers. The day ended with the Kauravas returning disappointment of their faces.

The next day, Yudhishtira asked Dhrishtadyumna to arrange the Makara formation. Bheeshma formed the Krauncha array to take on the Pandavas. Bheema fought against the Kauravas scattering them. He got down from his chariot and went behind them on foot. Seeing Bheema’s empty chariot, a worried Dhrishtadyumna went in search of him.

When Dhrishtadyumna was attacked, he used the Pramohana astra to render the Kauravas unconscious. Drona used the Pragna astra to revive them. Yudhishtira then sent Abhimanyu with others to help Dhrishtadyumna. Abhimanyu defeated Vikarna while Bheema and Dhristadyumna fought with Duryodhana and Drona. The day ended with Bheeshma inflicting losses on the Pandavas.

On the seventh day of the war, Bheeshma made the Mandala formation while the Pandavas used the Vajra formation. Abhimanyu once again fought with Chitrasena and Vikarna. Ghatotkacha fought fiercely with Bhagadatta. When Arjuna was surrounded by thousands of Kaurava soldiers, he used the Aindrastra to destroy all of them.

An angry Bheeshma then attacked Arjuna. Drona defeated Virata and killed his son Shanka while Ashwatthama defeated Shikhandi. Satyaki defeated Alambusha, while Bheema defeated Kritavarma. Iravan, the son of Arjuna and Uloopi defeated Vinda and Anuvinda. Ghatotkacha was defeated by Bhagadatta.

Abhimanyu once again fought with Vikarna, Chitrasena, and Durmukha and defeated them. Arjuna crushed the Trigartas. Bheeshma defeated Yudhishtira who got into Nakula’s chariot to continue the fight. Shikhandi attacked Bheeshma, who again ignored him. The battle ended with a fierce fight between Bheeshma and the Pandavas.

On the eighth day, Bheeshma constructed the Oormi or ocean formation while Yudhishtira had the Shringhataka formation to counter it. Bheeshma waged a fearsome battle against the Pandavas slaughtering many soldiers before Bheema confronted him. When the sons of Dhritarashtra came to his aid, Bheema slew eight of them.

There was terrible bloodshed on the battlefield. Iravan began to kill Shakuni’s brothers and a scared Duryodhana sent Alamvusha after him. The demon used the powers of illusion and killed Arjuna’s son. Seeing this, an angry Ghatotkacha slaughtered the Kaurava soldiers. He waged a terrible battle with Duryodhana.

All the Kaurava warriors came to save Duryodhana and Bheema joined his son to take on the Kauravas. The father and son inflicted severe damages on the Kaurava army. Ghatotkacha then created an illusion of all the key Kaurava warriors being killed. The scared Kaurava soldiers ran from the battlefield even as Duryodhana tried to stop them.

Bheeshma then sent Bhagadatta to take on the Pandavas. Mounted on his fearsome elephant, Supratika, the king of Pragjyotisha, created havoc in the Pandava camp. Ghatotkacha then charged at Bhagadatta. The furious king launched a strong counterattack and injured Bheema’s charioteer. Arjuna furious at his son Iravan’s death, fought furiously against Bheeshma until the day ended.

In the evening, Duryodhana spoke with his brothers and Karna worried about the progress of the war. Karna asked him to convince Bheeshma to withdraw from the war. When Duryodhana conveyed this to Bheeshma, he was furious. But he promised to launch a fierce attack against the Pandavas the next day.

The next day,

Duryodhana put his strongest warriors to protect Bheeshma so he could slaughter the Pandavas. The battle was fierce. Abhimanyu killed hundreds of Kaurava warriors, causing panic in the Kaurava ranks. Duryodhana then asked Alambusha to kill Subhadra’s son. The fight that ensured saw thousands of arrows being shot at by both warriors at each other.

Overwhelmed by Abhimanyu’s attack, Alambusha released a dense fog, causing the battlefield to become dark. Abhimanyu used the Bhaskara weapon to dispel the fog. He then showered arrows on the demon son of Rishyshringa, causing him to flee. Meanwhile, Arjuna fought with Drona. The Trigartas also attacked Arjuna, and he used the Vayavya astra to blow them away.

Drona used the Shaila astra to stop the gale of wind. There was then a fierce fight between Bheeshma and Arjuna supported by warriors from both sides. Bheeshma began to massacre the Pandava soldiers. Arjuna then shattered Bheeshma’s bow, but he continued fighting. Arjuna continued to fight mildly. This made Krishna angry.

Getting down from his chariot, he charged towards Bheeshma with a whip in his hand. While Bheeshma welcomed him asking him to kill him, Arjuna fell at his feet and requested him to return. Arjuna promised to bring down Bheeshma. Hearing this, Krishna returned to his chariot. The battle continued, but Bheeshma was unstoppable and kept killing Pandavas until the end of the day.

Worried about their inability to stop Bheeshma, the Pandavas took the advice of Krishna. They then went to meet Bheeshma at night. They asked Bheeshma how to defeat him and end the war. Bheeshma then told Yudhishtira to use Shikhandi to attack him standing in front of Arjuna. They took the blessings of Bheeshma and left.

Arjuna was upset that he had to kill his own grandfather. Krishna then counselled him to do his duty by killing Bheeshma as per his advice.

On the next day, the Kauravas use the Sarvatobhadra vyuha to protect Bheeshma. The Pandavas launched a powerful attack with all their warriors massacring Kauravas. Seeing this, Bheeshma went on the warpath slaying Pandava warriors and soldiers.

Shikhandi then attacked him, but Bheeshma smiled at him, saying he would never fight with him. Arjuna whose chariot was stationed behind Shikhandi then attacked Bheeshma. The entire assemblage of Kaurava warriors came to Bheeshma’s defence while the Pandava warriors took them on. The battle went on long and hard, with both sides fighting fiercely, knowing something big would happen by the end of the day.

Shikhandi then launched a fierce attack on Bheeshma that he ignored. Arjuna then shot a volley of arrows that broke Bheeshma’s bow. Bheeshma took up bows one after the other, but Arjuna broke them all. As the arrows kept striking Bheeshma, he told Dusshasana that these were not Shikhandi’s arrows, but were the powerful darts of Arjuna.

On the next day, the Kauravas use the Sarvatobhadra vyuha to protect Bheeshma. The Pandavas launched a powerful attack with all their warriors massacring Kauravas. Seeing this, Bheeshma went on the warpath slaying Pandava warriors and soldiers.

Shikhandi then attacked him, but Bheeshma smiled at him, saying he would never fight with him. Arjuna then stood behind Shikhandi and attacked Bheeshma. The entire assemblage of Kaurava warriors came to Bheeshma’s defence while the Pandava braves took them on. The battle went on long and hard, with both sides fighting fiercely, knowing something big would happen by the end of the day.

Shikhandi then launched a fierce attack on Bheeshma that he ignored. Arjuna standing behind him broke Bheeshma’s bow. Bheeshma took up bows one after the other, but Arjuna broke them all. As the arrows kept striking Bheeshma, he told Dushasana that these were not Shikhandi’s arrows, but were the powerful darts of Arjuna.

The arrows of Arjuna came fast and furious. Bheeshma hurled lances at Arjuna, but he broke them all. Finally, severely injured by Arjuna’s arrows, Bheeshma fell to the ground. As he fell to the ground, the arrows in his body formed a bed. His mother Ganga appeared before him and advised him not to give up his body when the sun was still in the dakshinayana.

The Kauravas lamented while the Pandavas celebrated the fall of the mighty Bheeshma. Hearing the terrible news, Drona fell unconscious. When he got up, he stopped the battle and went to take the blessings of Bheeshma.

Bheeshma asked for a pillow and when kings brought many soft pillows, he refused them asking for one that befits a warrior. Arjuna then created a pillow out of arrows to support the fallen grandsire’s head.

The next day, everyone again came to seek Bheeshma’s blessings before commencing the battle. Bheeshma then asked Arjuna for water. Arjuna then used the Parjanya weapon to pierce the earth such that a stream of water poured into Bheeshma’s parched throat, quenching his thirst. Bheeshma praised Arjuna and again told Duryodhana that he could never defeat the Pandavas.

Bheeshma asked Duryodhana to stop the war and bring peace, but Duryodhana was obstinate and refused. Then Karna came to Bheeshma with tears in his eyes and took his blessings. Bheeshma advised Karna to join the Pandavas, but he refused. He then blessed him, saying victory will be there where there is Dharma.

Karna then returned to the camp after seeking Bheeshma’s blessings.

End of Bheeshma Parva


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