Mahabharata Bhishma Parva - Translation by KM Ganguly

Mahabharata Adiparva

Section CXX

Sanjaya said, "Thus all the Pandavas, placing Sikhandin before them pierced Bhishma in that battle repeatedly surrounding him on all sides. And all the Srinjayas, uniting together, struck him with dreadful Sataghnis, and spiked maces, and battle-axes, and mallets, and short thick clubs, and bearded darts, and other missiles, and arrows furnished with golden wing, and darts and lances and kampanas; and with long shafts, and arrows furnished with heads shaped like the calf-tooth, and rockets. Thus afflicted by many, his coat of mail was pierced everywhere. But though pierced in every vital part, Bhishma felt no pain. On the other hand, he then seemed to his enemies to resemble in appearance the (all-destructive) fire that rises at the end of Yuga. His bow and arrows constituted the blazing flames (of that fire). The flight of his weapons constituted its (friendly) breeze. The rattle of his car-wheels constituted its heat and mighty weapons constituted its splendour. His beautiful bow formed its fierce tongue, and the bodies of heroic warriors, its profuse fuel. And Bhishma was seen to roll through the midst of crowds of cars belonging to those kings, or to come out (of the press) at times, or course once more through their midst. Then, disregarding the king of the Panchalas and Dhrishtaketu, he penetrated, O monarch, into the midst of the Pandava army. He then pierced the six Pandava warriors, viz., Satyaki, and Bhima, and Dhananjaya the son of Pandu, and Drupada, and Virata, and Dhrishtadyumna of Prishata's race, with many excellent arrows of great sharpness and dreadful whizz and exceeding impetuosity, and capable of piercing through every kind of armour. Those mighty car-warriors, however, checking those keen shafts, afflicted Bhishma with great force, each of them striking him with ten shafts. Those mighty shafts, whetted on stone and furnished with golden wings, which the great car-warrior Sikhandin shot, quickly penetrated into Bhishma's body. Then the diadem-decked (Arjuna), excited with wrath, and placing Sikhandin ahead rushed at Bhishma and cut off the latter's bow. Thereupon mighty car-warriors, seven in number, viz., Drona and Kritavarman, and Jayadratha the ruler of the Sindhus, and Bhurisravas, and Sala, and Salya, and Bhagadatta could not brook that act of Arjuna. Inflamed with rage, they rushed at him. Indeed, those mighty car-warriors, invoking into existence celestial weapons, fell with great wrath upon that son of Pandu, and covered him with their arrows. And as they rushed towards Phalguni's car, the noise made by them was heard to resemble that made by the ocean itself when it swelleth in rage at the end of the Yuga, Kill, Bring up (our forces), Take, Pierce, Cut off, this was the furious uproar heard about Phalguni's car. Hearing that furious uproar, the mighty car-warriors of the Pandava army rushed forward, O bull of Bharata's race, for protecting Arjuna. They were Satyaki, and Bhimasena, and Dhrishtadyumna of Prishata's race, and both Virata and Drupada, and the Rakshasa Ghatotkacha, and the wrathful Abhimanyu. These seven, inflamed with rage, and armed with excellent bows, rushed with great speed. And the battle that took place between these and the Kaurava warriors was fierce, making the hair stand on end, and resembling O chief of the Bharatas, the battle of the gods with the Danavas. Sikhandin, however, that foremost of car-warriors, protected in the battle by the diadem-decked (Arjuna), pierced Bhishma, in that encounter, with ten shafts after the latter's bow had been cut off. And he struck Bhishma's charioteer with other shafts, and cut off the latter's standard with one shaft. Then the son of Ganga took up another bow that was tougher. That even was cut off by Phalguni with three sharp shafts. Indeed, that chastiser of foes, viz., Arjuna, who was capable of drawing the bow with even his left hand, excited with rage, one after another, cut off all the bows that Bhishma took up. Then Bhishma, whose bows were thus cut off, excited with rage, and licking the corners of his mouth, took up a dart that was capable of riving a hill. In rage he hurled it at Phalguni's car. Beholding its course towards him like the blazing bolt of heaven, the delighter of the Pandavas fixed five sharp broad-headed arrows (on his bow-string). And with those five arrows, O chief of the Bharatas, the angry Arjuna cut off into five fragments that dart hurled from Bhishma's arms. Thus cut off by the angry Arjuna, that dart then fell down like a flash of lightning separated from a mass of clouds. Beholding his dart cut off, Bhishma became filled with rage. That hero, that subjugator of hostile cities, then began to reflect. And he said unto himself, 'With only a single bow I could slay all the Pandavas, if the mighty Vishnu himself had not been their protector. For two reasons, however, I will not fight with the Pandavas, viz., their unslayableness, and the femininity of Sikhandin. Formerly, when my sire wedded Kali, he pleased (with me) gave me two boons, viz., that I should be incapable of being slain in battle, and that my death should depend on my own choice. I should, however, now wish my own death, this being the proper hour.' Ascertaining this to be the resolve of Bhishma of immeasurable energy, the Rishis and the Vasus stationed in the firmament, said, 'That which hath been resolved by thee is approved by us also, O son! Act according to thy resolution, O king. Withdraw thy heart from battle.' On the conclusion, of those words, fragrant and auspicious breeze charged with particles of water, began to blow along a natural direction.  And celestial cymbals of loud sounds began to beat. And a flowery shower fell upon Bhishma, O sire. The words spoken by the Rishis and the Vasus, however, O king, were not heard by any one save Bhishma himself. I also heard them, through the power conferred on me by the Muni. Great was the grief, O monarch, that filled the hearts of the celestials at the thought of Bhishma, that favourite of all the worlds, falling down from his car. Having listened to these words of the celestials, Santanu's son Bhishma of great ascetic merit rushed out at Vibhatsu, even though he was then being pierced with sharp arrows capable of penetrating through every armour. Then Sikhandin, O king, excited with rage, struck the grandsire of the Bharatas in the chest with nine sharp arrows. The Kuru grandsire Bhishma, however, though struck by him in battle, thus, trembled not, O monarch, but remained unmoved like a mountain during an earthquake. Then Vibhatsu, drawing his bow Gandiva with a laugh, pierced the son of Ganga with five and twenty arrows. And once more, Dhananjaya, with great speed and excited with wrath struck him in every vital part with hundreds of arrows. Thus pierced by others, also with thousands of arrows, the mighty car-warrior Bhishma pierced those others in return with great speed. And as regards the arrows shot by those warriors, Bhishma, possessed of prowess in battle that was incapable of being baffled, equally checked them all with his own straight arrows. Those arrows, however, endued with wings of gold and whetted on stone, which the mighty car-warrior Sikhandin shot in that battle, scarcely caused Bhishma any pain. Then the diadem-decked (Arjuna), excited with rage and placing Sikhandin to the fore, approached Bhishma (nearer) and once more cut off his bow. And then piercing Bhishma with ten arrows, he cut off the latter's standard with one. And striking Bhishma's chariot with ten arrows, Arjuna caused him to tremble. The son of Ganga then took up another bow that was stronger. Within, however, the twinkling of an eye, as soon, in fact, as it was taken up, Arjuna cut that bow also into three fragments with three broad-headed shafts. And thus the son of Pandu cut off in that battle even all the bows of Bhishma. After that, Bhishma the son of Santanu, no longer desired to battle with Arjuna. The latter,

however, then pierced him with five and twenty arrows. That great bowman, thus pierced greatly, then addressed Dussasana, and skid, 'Behold, Partha, that great car-warrior of the Pandavas, excited with wrath in battle, pierceth me alone with many thousands of arrows. He is incapable of being vanquished in battle by the wielder of the thunder-bolt himself. As regards myself also, O hero, the very gods, Danavas and Rakshasas united together, are incapable of vanquishing me. What I shall say then of mighty car-warriors among men?' While Bhishma was thus speaking to Dussasana, Phalguni with sharp shafts, and placing Sikhandin to the fore, pierced Bhishma in that battle. Then Bhishma, deeply and excessively pierced by the wielder of Gandiva with keen-pointed shafts, once more addressed Dussasana with a smile and said, 'These arrows coursing towards me in one continuous line, whose touch resembleth that of heaven's bolt, have been shot by Arjuna. These are not Sikhandin's. Cutting me to the quick, piercing through even my hard coat of mail, and striking me with the force of mushalas, these arrows are not Sikhandin's. Of touch as hard as that of the Brahmana's rod (of chastisement),  and of impetus unbearable as that of the thunder-bolt, these arrows are afflicting my vital forces. These are not Sikhandin's. Of the touch of maces and spiked bludgeons, those arrows are destroying my vital forces like messengers of Death commissioned (by the grim king himself). These are not Sikhandin's. Like angry snakes of virulent poison, projecting their tongues out, these are penetrating into my vitals. These are not Sikhandin's--these that cut me to the quick like the cold of winter cutting kine to the quick. Save the heroic wielder of Gandiva, viz., the ape-bannered Jishnu, even all other kings united together cannot cause me pain. Saying these words, Bhishma, the valiant son of Santanu, as if for the object of consuming the Pandavas, hurled a dart at Partha. Partha, however, caused that dart to drop down, cutting it into three fragments with three shafts, in the very sight, O Bharata, of all the Kuru heroes of thy army. Desirous of obtaining either death or victory, the son of Ganga then took up a sword and a shield decked with gold. Before, however, he could come down from his car, Arjuna cut off by means of his arrows, that shield into a hundred fragments. And that feat of his seemed exceedingly wonderful. Then the king Yudhishthira urged his own troops, saying, 'Rush ye at Ganga's son. Do not entertain the slightest fear'. Then, armed with bearded darts, and lances, and arrows, from all sides, with axes, and excellent scimitars, and long shafts of great sharpness, with calf-toothed arrows, and broad-headed shafts, they all rushed at that single warrior. Then arose from among the Pandava host a loud shout. Then thy sons also, O king,

desirous of Bhishma's victory, surrounded him and uttered leonine shouts. Fierce was the battle fought there between thy troops and those of the enemy on that the tenth day, O king, when Bhishma and Arjuna met together. Like unto the vortex that occurs at the spot where the Ganga meets the Ocean, for a short while a vortex occurred there where the troops of both armies met and struck one another down. And the Earth, wet with gore, assumed a fierce form. And the even and the uneven spots on her surface could no longer be distinguished. Although Bhishma was pierced in all his vital limbs, yet on that the tenth day he stayed (calmly) in battle, having slain ten thousand warriors. Then that great bowman, Partha, stationed at the head of his troops, broke the centre of the Kuru army. Ourselves then, afraid of Kunti's son Dhananjaya having white steeds attached to his car, and afflicted by him with polished weapons, fled away from the battle. The Sauviras, the Kitavas, the Easterners, the Westerners, the Northerners, the Malavas, the Abhishahas, the Surasenas, the Sivis, the Vasatis, the Salwas, the Sayas, the Trigartas, the Amvashthas, and the Kaikeyas. --these and many other illustrious warriors,--afflicted with arrows and pained by their wounds, abandoned Bhishma in that battle while he was fighting with the diadem-decked (Arjuna). Then a great many warriors, surrounding that single warrior on all sides, defeated the Kurus (that protected him) and covered him with shower of arrows. Throw down, Seize, Fight, Cut into pieces,--this was the furious uproar, O king, heard in the vicinity of Bhishma's car. Having slain in that battle, O monarch, (his foes) by hundreds and thousands, there was not in Bhishma's body space of even two fingers' breadth that was not pierced with arrows. Thus was thy sire mangled with arrows of keen points by Phalguni in that battle. And then he fell down from his car with his head to the east, a little before sunset, in the very sight of thy sons. And while Bhishma fell, loud cries of alas and oh, O Bharata, were heard in the welkin uttered by the celestials and the kings of the earth. And beholding the high-souled grandsire falling down (from his car), the hearts of all of us fell with him. That foremost of all bowmen, that mighty-armed hero, fell down, like an uprooted standard of Indra, making the earth tremble the while.  Pierced all over with arrows, his body touched not the ground. At that moment, O bull of Bharata's race, a divine nature took possession of that great bowman lying on a bed of arrows. The clouds poured a (cool) shower (over him) and the Earth trembled. While falling he had marked that the Sun was then in the southern solstice. That hero, therefore, permitted not his senses to depart, thinking of that (inauspicious) season (of death). And all around in the welkin he heard celestial voices saying, 'Why, Oh why, should Ganga's son, that foremost of all warriors of weapons,

yield up his life during the southern declension?' Hearing these words, the son of Ganga answered, 'I am alive!' Although fallen upon the earth, the Kuru grandsire Bhishma, expectant of the northern declension, suffered not his life to depart. Ascertaining that to be his resolve, Ganga, the daughter of Himavat, sent unto him the great Rishis in swanlike form. Then those Rishis in the forms of swans inhabiting the Manasa lake, quickly rose up, and came together, for obtaining a sight of the Kuru grandsire Bhishma, to that spot where that foremost of men was lying on his bed of arrows. Then those Rishis in swanlike forms, coming to Bhishma, beheld that perpetuator of Kuru's race lying on his bed of arrows. Beholding that high-souled son of Ganga, that chief of the Bharatas, they walked round him, and the Sun being then in the southern solstice, they said, addressing one another, these words, 'Being a high-souled person, why should Bhishma pass out (of the world) during the southern declension?' Having said these words, those swans went away, proceeding towards the southern direction. Endued with great intelligence, Bhishma, O Bharata. beholding them, reflected for a moment. And the son of Santanu then said unto them. 'I will never pass out (of the world) as long as the Sun is in the southern solstice. Even this is my resolve. I will proceed to my own ancient abode when the Sun reacheth the northern solstice. Ye swans, I tell you this truly. Expectant of the northern declension I will hold my life. Since I have the fullest control over the yielding up of my life, I will, therefore, hold life, expectant of death during the northern declension. The boon that was granted to me by my illustrious sire, to the effect that my death would depend on my own wish O, let that boon become true. I will hold my life, since I have control in the matter of laying it down.' Having said these words to those swans, he continued to lie down on his bed of arrows.

"When that crest of the Kuru race, viz., Bhishma of great energy, fell down, the Pandavas and the Srinjayas uttered leonine shouts. When the grandsire of the Bharatas who was endued with great might was overthrown, thy son, O bull of Bharata's race, knew not what to do. And all the Kurus were entirely deprived of their senses. And the Kurus headed by Kripa, and Duryodhana, sighed and wept. And from grief they remained for a long while deprived of their senses. And they remained perfectly still, O monarch, without setting their hearts on battle. As if seized by thighs, they stood motionless, without proceeding against the Pandavas. When Santanu's son Bhishma of mighty energy, who was (regarded as) unslayable, was slain, all of us thought that the destruction of the Kuru king was at hand.  Vanquished by Savyasachin, with our foremost heroes slain, and ourselves mangled with sharp arrows, we knew not what to do. And the heroic Pandavas possessed of massive arms that looked like spiked maces, having obtained the victory and won a highly blessed state in the other

world,  all blew their great conches. And the Somakas and the Panchalas all rejoiced, O king. Then when thousands of trumpets were blown, the mighty Bhimasena slapped his arm-pits and uttered loud shouts. When the all-powerful son of Ganga was slain, the heroic warriors of both armies, laying down their weapons, began to reflect thoughtfully. And some uttered loud shrieks and some fled away, and some were deprived of their senses. And some censured the practices of the Kshatriya order and some applauded Bhishma. And the Rishis and the Pitris all applauded Bhishma of high vows. And the deceased ancestors of the Bharatas also praised Bhishma. Meanwhile the valiant and intelligent Bhishma, the son of Santanu, having recourse to that Yoga which is taught in the great Upanishads and engaged in mental prayers, remained quiet, expectant of his hour."