Mahabharata Virata Parva - Translation by KM Ganguly

Mahabharata Adiparva


'Vaisampayana said, 'Having issued forth from the city, the dauntless son of Virata addressed his charioteer, saying, 'Proceed whither the Kurus are. Defeating the assembled Kurus who have come hither from desire of victory, and quickly rescuing my kine from them. I will return to the capital.' At these words of the prince, the son of Pandu urged those excellent steeds. And endued with the speed of the wind and decked with necklaces of gold, those steeds, urged by that lion among men, seemed to fly through the air. And they had not proceeded far when those smiters of foes, Dhananjaya and the son of Matsya, sighted the army of the powerful Kurus. And proceeding towards the cemetary, they came upon the Kurus and beheld their army arrayed in order of battle.  And that large army of theirs looked like the vast sea or a forest of innumerable trees moving through the sky. And then was seen, O best among the Kurus, the dust raised by that moving army which reached the sky and obstructed the sight of all creatures. And beholding that mighty host abounding in elephants, horses and chariots, and protected by Karna and Duryodhana and Kripa and Santanu's son, and that intelligent and great bowman Drona, with his son (Aswatthaman), the son of Virata, agitated with fear and the bristles on his body standing on their ends, thus spake unto Partha, 'I dare not fight with the Kurus. See, the bristles on my body have stood on their ends. I am incapable of battling with this countless host of the Kurus, abounding in the heroic warriors, that are extremely fierce and difficult of being vanquished even by the celestials. I do not venture to penetrate into the army of the Bharatas consisting of terrible bowmen and abounding in horses and elephants and cars and footsoldiers and banners. My mind is too much perturbed by the very sight of the foe on the field of battle on which stand Drona and Bhishma, and Kripa, and Karna, and Vivingsati, and Aswatthaman and Vikarna, and Saumadatti, and Vahlika, and the heroic king Duryodhana also--that

foremost of car-warriors, and many other splendid bowmen, all skilled in battle. My hairs have stood on their ends, and I am fainting with fear at the very sight of these smiters, the Kurus arrayed in order of battle.'

"Vaisampayana continued, 'And the low-minded and foolish Uttara out of folly alone, began to bewail (his fate) in the presence of the high-spirited (Arjuna) disguised (as his charioteer) in these words, 'My father hath gone out to meet the Trigartas taking with him his whole army, leaving me in the empty city. There are no troops to assist me. Alone and a mere boy who has not undergone much exercise in arms, I am unable to encounter these innumerable warriors and all skilled in weapons. Do thou, therefore, O Vrihannala, cease to advance!'

"Vrihannala said, 'Why dost thou look so pale through fear and enhance the joy of thy foes? As yet thou hast done nothing on the field of battle with the enemy. It was thou that hadst ordered me, saying, Take me towards the Kauravas. I will, therefore, take thee, thither where those innumerable flags are. I will certainly take thee, O mighty-armed one, into the midst of the hostile Kurus, prepared to fight as they are for the kine like hawks for meat. I would do this, even if I regarded them to have come hither for battling for a much higher stake such as the sovereignty of the earth. Having, at the time of setting out, talked before both men and women so highly of thy manliness, why wouldst thou desist from the fight? If thou shouldst return home without recapturing the kine, brave men and even women, when they meet together, will laugh at thee (in derision). As regards myself, I cannot return to the city without having rescued the kine, applauded as I have been so highly by the Sairindhri in respect of my skill in driving cars. It is for those praises by the Sairindhri and for those words of thine also (that I have come). Why should I not, therefore, give battle to the Kurus? (As regards thyself), be thou still.'

"Uttara said, 'Let the Kurus rob the Matsyas off all their wealth. Let men and women, O Vrihannala, laugh at me. Let my kine perish, let the city be a desert. Let me stand exposed before my father. Still there is no need of battle.'

"Vaisampayana continued, 'Saying this, that much affrighted prince decked in ear-ring jumped down from his car, and throwing down his bow and arrows began to flee, sacrificing honour and pride. Vrihannala, however, exclaimed, 'This is not the practice of the brave, this flight of a Kshatriya from the field of battle. Even death in battle is better than flight from fear.' Having said this, Dhananjaya, the son of Kunti, coming down from that excellent car ran after that prince thus running away, his own long braid and pure red garments fluttering in the air. And some soldiers, not knowing that it was Arjuna who was thus running with his braid fluttering in the air, burst out into laughter at the sight. And beholding him thus running, the Kurus began to argue, 'Who is this person, thus disguised like fire concealed in ashes? He is partly a man and partly a woman. Although bearing a neuter form, he yet resembleth Arjuna. His are the same head and neck, and his the same arms like unto a couple of maces. And this one's gait also is like unto his. He can be none else than Dhananjaya. As Indra is among the celestials, so Dhananjaya is among men. Who else in this world than Dhananjaya, would alone come against us? Virata left a single son of his in the empty city. He hath come out from childishness and not from true heroism. It is Uttara who must have come out of the city, having, without doubt, made as a charioteer Arjuna, the son of Pritha, now living in disguise. It seems that he is now flying away in panic at sight of our army. And without doubt Dhananjaya runneth after him to bring him back.'

"Vaisampayana continued, 'Beholding the disguised son of Pandu, the Kauravas, O Bharata, began to indulge in these surmises, but they could not come to any definite conclusion. Meanwhile, Dhananjaya, hastily pursuing the retreating Uttara, seized him by the hair within a hundred steps. And seized by Arjuna, the son of Virata began to lament most woefully like one in great affliction, and said, 'Listen, O good Vrihannala, O thou of handsome waist. Turn thou quickly the course of the car. He that liveth meeteth with prosperity. I will give thee a hundred coins of pure gold and eight lapis lazuli of great brightness set with gold, and one chariot furnished with a golden flag-staff and drawn by excellent steeds, and also ten elephants of infuriate prowess. Do thou, O Vrihannala, set me free.'

"Vaisampayana continued, 'Thus addressed, that tiger among men laughingly dragged Uttara who was almost deprived of his senses and who was uttering these words of lamentation towards the car. And the son of Pritha then addressed the affrighted prince who had nearly lost his senses, saying, 'If, O chastiser of foes, thou dost not venture to fight with enemy, come thou and hold the reins of the steeds as I fight with the foe. Protected by the might of my arms, penetrate thou yon formidable and invincible array of cars guarded by heroic and mighty warriors. Fear not, O chastiser of foes, thou art a Kshatriya and the foremost of royal princess. Why dost thou, O tiger among men, succumb in the midst of the foe? I shall surely fight with the Kurus and recover the kine, penetrating into this formidable and inaccessible array of cars. Be thou my charioteer, O best of men, I will fight with the Kurus.' Thus speaking unto Uttara, the son of Virata, Vibhatsu, heretofore unconquered in battle, for a while comforted him. And then the son of Pritha, that foremost of smiters, raised on the car that fainting and reluctant prince stricken with fear!'"