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
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
"Duryodhana!" exclaimed 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 death?"
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
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 terrible dance.
"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
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.
"Duryodhana," said Krishna, "vainly do
you accuse others. Greed and pride of
power led you to unnumbered wicked
deeds and you are reaping as you sowed."
"Wretch!" replied 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
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 son.
93. THE PANDAVAS REPROACHED
WHEN the war was nearing its end,
Balarama arrived at Kurukshetra after
completing his tour of holy places. He
came just when Bhima and Duryodhana
were engaged in their last mortal combat.
He saw Bhima aiming the deadly blow
which broke Duryodhana's thighs, and his
anger flamed up at this great breach of the
rules of single combat.
"Fie upon you all! Would any kshatriya
hit below the navel? This Bhima has
offended the law most disgracefully," he
exclaimed and impatiently going up to his
brother Krishna, shouted:
"You can look on and tolerate all this. But
I cannot bear to see such unclean
fighting!" Saying this he advanced
towards the offending Bhima with
upraised plough. The plough was
Balarama's weapon on supreme occasions,
as the discus was Krishna's. Krishna was
alarmed when he saw his elder brother
advancing in a passion towards Bhima.
He rushed forward and, intercepting him,
said: "The Pandavas are our friends and
closest relations. They have been the
victims of insufferable wrongs at the
hands of Duryodhana. When Draupadi
was insulted in the Assembly Hall, Bhima
vowed: 'I will one day in battle break the
two thighs of Duryodhana with this mace
and kill him.' He proclaimed this solemn
oath at that time and everyone has known
it. It is the duty of a kshatriya to fulfil the
vow he has solemnly taken. Do not let
your anger mislead you and do not be
unjust to the innocent Pandavas. You
should, before condemning Bhima, take
into account all the wrongs that the
Kauravas have done to the Pandavas.
Nothing but error can result if one
proceeds to judge conduct without taking
into account the chain of events leading
up to it. You cannot snatch a particular act
out of its context and proceed to give
judgment on it alone without gross
injustice. The era of Kali has arrived,
when the laws of a previous age cannot
apply. It was not wrong for Bhima to
strike below the navel an enemy who had
wickedly contrived against his life on
many occasions. It was because of
Duryodhana's foul instigation that Karna
sent a shaft from behind and broke
Abhimanyu's bowstring when he was
defending himself against heavy odds.
Arjuna's young son was attacked by
numerous warriors who surrounded him,
when he stood all by himself in the field,
deprived of bow and chariot, and in a
most cowardly manner, killed him.
Duryodhana thought evil and practised
deception from the time of his birth and
has brought about the destruction of his
people. There is no sin in Bhima killing
this man. Bhima bore the wrongs done
and kept his wrath within himself for
thirteen long years. Duryodhana knew
well that Bhima had sworn to break his
thighs and kill him. When he challenged
the aggrieved Pandavas to battle, he knew
very well that he invited Bhima to make
good his oath. How can you think that it
was wrong for Bhima to do this?"
Krishna's words did not change
Balarama's opinion, but his anger
subsided. "Duryodhana will attain the
happy regions reserved for the brave.
Bhima's fame has been tarnished for all
time. It will be said among men that the
son of Pandu broke the laws of war in
attacking Duryodhana. It will remain
forever a great blot on his good name. I
hate to stay here any longer." So saying
the indignant Balarama immediately left
"Yudhishthira, why this strange silence?"
"O Madhava, it hurts me to see Bhima
leap on cousin Duryodhana's mortally
wounded body and trample on his head. I
see the end of the glory of our race. We
were wronged by the Kauravas. I know
the full measure of grief and anger in
Vrikodara's heart, and don't wish to blame
him beyond reason. We have killed
Duryodhana, who was afflicted by
uncontained greed and poverty of
understanding. What serves it now to
debate the ethics of it or nicely to weigh
the propriety of a much wronged man's
Yudhishthira was greatly oppressed in
mind. When men transgress the law,
extenuations and excuses are of no avail
in giving mental satisfaction.
Arjuna, of penetrating intellect, was silent.
He did not show approval of Bhima's act.
Nor did he say anything by way of
detraction. The rest of the people, who
were there, were however loud in
condemnation of Duryodhana and were
reminding one another of all his misdeeds
and errors. Krishna turned towards them
"Warriors, it is not proper that we go on
speaking against an enemy who has been
defeated and is lying mortally wounded.
We should not speak ill of a dying man.
He was stupid and brought about his own
end. He fell into the company of bad men
and was ruined. Let us go."
Duryodhana, who was stretched on the
ground in intense, agony, when he heard
Krishna say this, went into a paroxysm of
rage. He half raised himself on his arms in
spite of the excruciating pain, and
"Wretch! Son of a slave! Was not your
father Vasudeva Kamsa's slave? You have
no business to sit or move with princes.
You speak like a shameless wretch. I saw
you instigate Bhima to aim his blow at my
thigh! Do you think I did not see you,
making as though casually talking to
Arjuna, pointing to your thigh, but really
indicating to Bhima that he should strike
me on the thighs, disregarding the laws of
single combat? Till then it had been equal
battle. You have neither pity nor shame.
Did you not contrive the death of the
grandsire Bhishma through stratagem?
You advised Sikhandin to be placed in
front when attacking Bhishma, knowing
that the grandsire would scorn to fight a
woman, and would let himself be mortally
wounded without resistance. You brought
about the end of Dronacharya through
making Dharmaputra utter a falsehood.
You were the father of that deadly lie that
issued from Yudhishthira's mouth, and
made Dronacharya throw his bow away.
Did you not look on without protest, and
Dhrishtadyumna attacked and killed the
acharya who had stopped fighting,
throwing away his weapons, and settled
down in yoga posture for meditation on
the Supreme? Was it not you who
wickedly contrived to make Karna hurl
the fatal spear at Ghatotkacha instead of
reserving it for Arjuna as he had all along
resolved to do? O great sinner, surely it
was you who instigated Satyaki to butcher
Bhurisravas when his right arm had been
foully cut off and he stopped fighting and
spread his arrows for a seat for holy
meditation. It was you who brought about
the death of Karna by inducing Arjuna to
attack him in a cowardly manner when he
was engaged in lifting his chariot wheel
which had sunk and stuck in the mud in
the field of battle. Oh worthless man, sole
cause of our destruction, the whole world
has condemned your act when by sorcery
you made it appear as if the sun had set.
You made Jayadratha, the Sindhu king,
believe that the day was over and he was
past danger, and thus he was slain when
he was off his guard."
Thus did Duryodhana pour his
denunciation against Krishna and then,
exhausted by the pain of his wounds and
the violence of his rage, he fell prostrate
"Son of Gandhari," said Krishna, "why do
you let your anger add to the pain of your
last moments? It is your own misdeeds
that have brought about your end. Do not
attribute it to me. Bhishma and Drona had
to die on account of your sins. So also
were you the cause of the death of Karna
and others. Need I recount all the wrongs
that you were guilty of against the sons of
Pandu? What punishment can be too
severe for the great outrage, which you
inflicted on Draupadi? The animosities
and passions that resulted from your
misdeeds cannot be made ground for
condemning others. All the deceptions
and lapses you charge us with were forced
on us by reason of your wicked conduct.
You have paid off on the battlefield the
debt incurred by your greed. But you are
dying the death of a brave man. You will
go to the happy regions reserved for
kshatriyas who lay down their lives on the
field of battle."
"Krishna, I go to swarga with my friends
and relatives. But you and your friends
will live on earth to suffer," said the
stubborn Duryodhana. "I studied the
Vedas. I have given gifts ordained by law
and I have reigned supreme over all the
sea-girt earth. While I lived, I stood upon
the humbled heads of foes. All human
joys, such joys as even the Gods cannot
despise and kings sigh for in vain, the
very pinnacle of power, were mine. Dying
now, such death as warriors deem the
crown of kshatriya life, I go to meet in
heaven my friends and brothers gone
before, eager to welcome me. Who is
more blest, I, or you who, doomed to
linger here, mourning for slaughtered
friends in desolate homes, find the long
sought triumph but ashes in your mouth?"
said Duryodhana. And the gods showered
flowers down on the dying warrior and the
gandharvas played music and the sky was
illuminated. Vasudeva and the Pandavas
"There is truth," said Krishna, "in what
Duryodhana said. You could not have
defeated him by fair means. This wicked
man was invincible in battle."
Duryodhana lay mortally injured, and
learnt the details of the combat, his
righteous anger swelled like the sea. The
deception, practised by the Pandavas in
order to bring about his father's end, had
been rankling in his mind.
Now, when he learnt how Duryodhana
had been stricken down mortally against
all rules of chivalry, he went to the spot
where Duryodhana was lying and there
took an oath that he would that night send
the Pandavas to the abode of Yama.
Duryodhana, who was in the last physical
agony of departing life, was transported
with joy when he heard Aswatthama take
this oath. He immediately ordered those
who stood nearby to install Aswatthama
as Supreme Commander of the Army with
due ceremony and, when that was over,
said to Him: "All my hopes are in you."
It was sunset and the forest was in utter
darkness when under a big banian tree
Kripacharya, Kritavarma and Aswatthama
halted for rest. They were so greatly
fatigued that Kripacharya and Kritavarma
fell fast asleep as soon as they lay down.
But Aswatthama did not get sleep, for
sorrow, indignation and hatred burnt
within him. He was listening to the noises
that the nocturnal birds and prowling
beasts began to make as the night
advanced. He was turning over in his
mind how to execute his promise to
On the branches of the banian tree, under
which the three warriors were resting,
hundreds of crows roosted. They were all
quiet and asleep until a big owl came and
began to attack the birds one after another
and kill them. When Aswatthama saw the
nocturnal bird of prey tear the helpless
crows, he got an idea. The crows that
could not see at night flew round and
round helplessly and fell victims to the
owl that attacked them violently.
"These wicked Pandavas and the Panchala
that killed my father and all their
supporters can easily be killed by us, if we
surprise them when they are sleeping in
their tents at night even as this owl is
attacking these blind crows. Thus can I
avenge the deeds of foul play they have
practised on us. I am deeply indebted to
this bird of prey from whom I have
received the teaching. There is no offence
in adopting plans to suit one's altered
circumstances. If we can lawfully attack
an enemy, when his army is tired or when
his forces are scattered, why then should
not we, who have lost our armies, attack
our enemies when they are asleep? There
can be nothing wrong in it. Indeed it is
only thus that we can punish and defeat
these Pandavas who have achieved
successes through foul play. We have no
other course open."
Aswatthama made up his mind and he
immediately woke up Kripacharya and
informed him of his plan. Kripacharya,
who heard it, was astonished.
"This can never be," said he. "It is wholly
wrong. To attack men who have retired to
sleep, has never been done before. It
would be an unprecedented crime against
the laws of kshatriya conduct.
Aswatthama, for whom are we fighting?
The man for whose sake we joined in this
war has been fatally wounded and his end
has arrived. We have discharged our
obligations most loyally. We fought our
best for the greedy and wrongheaded
Duryodhana but we failed irretrievably.
There is no purpose now in our continuing
the fight and it is folly to do so. Let us go
to Dhritarashtra and the faultless
Gandhari, and place ourselves at their
disposal. Let us take counsel of wise
Vidura also. They will tell us what lies
before us to do."
Aswatthama's grief and indignation
increased and he spoke bitterly:
"Everyone feels sure that what he thinks is
the only right and proper thing to do.
One's understanding naturally limits one's
vision. These Pandavas have been guilty
of the foulest conduct. They killed my
noble and trustful father through a lie.
They have killed Duryodhana against the
laws of chivalry. I have no doubt in my
mind that what I propose to do is quite
proper vengeance for all these foul deeds.
It is only if I carry out this plan that I can
possibly repay my debt to my king and to
my father. I have decided on it and I do
not propose to alter my plan. I am going
tonight to the tents where they are
sleeping having cast off their armor and
there I will kill the Pandavas and
Dhrishtadyumna while they are asleep."
Kripacharya was deeply grieved to hear
Aswatthama speak thus: "You have
attained a great name among men," he
pleaded, "Your spotless character will by
this be blemished, even like a milk-white
cloth bespattered with blood. Never could
it be right to kill sleeping men. Desist
"Sir, what are you talking? These
Pandavas butchered my father when he
had thrown away all his weapons and had
sat down in prayer. These men have
breached the embankment of dharma and
released the flood, and not a, drop of
dharma is now left! Karna, who was on
the ground putting right the wheel of his
chariot, was murdered by these lawless
rascals. Bhima has killed Duryodhana
with a blow below the navel. What
dharma has been left for us to follow? The
Pandavas have, once for all, destroyed the
wall of dharma. Why should we make
research into law and chivalry when
dealing with these ruffians who have
attained successes by destroying both? If
by killing the sleeping Panchalas, who
butchered my great father, I may be
doomed to rebirth in the body of a foul
bird or of a wriggling worm, I do not care.
I seek such a birth!"
Saying this and, without waiting for an
answer, Aswatthama proceeded to harness
his horses and get his chariot ready to
start. When he was about to leave
Kripacharya and Kritavarma cried: "Stop.
What are you resolved upon doing,
Aswatthama? We cannot approve of it,
but neither can we desert you in your
desperate enterprise. The path you are
bent on treading, we shall also follow. The
sin you are resolved upon, let us share
also." So, they went along with him. Thus
does evil grow! One transgression begets
the next and thus evil grows from evil
submerging righteousness. Evil flourishes
They reached the Pandava camp.
Dhrishtadyumna had doffed his armor and
was plunged in deep slumber in his tent.
Aswatthama leapt on the sleeping warrior
and, before he could put himself into a
posture of defence, cruelly kicked him to
The same process was relentlessly
repeated until all the Panchalas and all the
sons of Draupadi were killed one by one
when they were plunged in sleep in their
After having done this deed, the like of
which had never before been considered
possible among kshatriyas, Kripacharya,
Kritavarma and Aswatthama came out of
the tents and set fire to the camp. When
the fire spread, the sleeping soldiers were
awakened and fled hither and thither in
confusion, even like the crows on the
banian tree under which they had rested in
the forest, and they were mercilessly
slaughtered by Aswatthama.
"We have done our duty," said
Dronacharya's son. "Let us go and give
the glad news to Duryodhana, if we can
reach him, before he expires. Let him die
The three of them accordingly hurried to
"O, DURYODHANA, you are yet alive,
hear the news and rejoice! All the
Panchalas have been slaughtered. The
sons of the Pandavas have also been all
done to death. The entire army of theirs
has been destroyed. We made a night
attack on them when they were asleep.
There are only seven survivors now on the
Pandava side. On our side, Kripacharya,
Kritavarma and I remain."
Thus said Aswatthama to the dying
Duryodhana who, on hearing this, slowly
opened his eyes and, with struggling
breath, gasped out these words:
"Aswatthama, you have indeed done for
me what neither the great Bhishma nor the
valiant Karna could achieve! You have
gladdened my heart and I die happy."
Saying this, Duryodhana expired.
When he saw the unexpected destruction
of his army as a result of the attack during
sleep, Yudhishthira gave way to grief and
"At the very moment of victory, we have
been totally defeated. The vanquished
have indeed triumphed. Draupadi's
children, who survived the onslaught of
the formidable Karna, have, by our
unwariness, been crushed and destroyed
like vermin. We have allowed ourselves to
be destroyed like a merchant ship which,
having successfully crossed the big seas,
returns home but capsizes in a ditch and is
inconsolable grief. She came to
Dharmaputra's side and wept. "Is there no
one to avenge my children's slaughter, by
destroying this great sinner Aswatthama?"
When she said this, the Pandavas
immediately went out in search of the
murderer. They looked for him in all sorts
of places and found him, at last, on the
bank of the Ganga, hiding himself behind
When he saw the Pandavas and Janardana
approaching, Aswatthama quietly took up
a blade of grass and charged it with the
mantra of destruction and sent it forward
saying: "May this destroy the race of the
Pandavas." And it went straight to the
womb of Uttara who bore in her the son of
The race of the Pandavas would have been
destroyed thereby but for the intervention
of Sri Krishna who saved the child in the
mother's womb. This child was Parikshit
who was later crowned by Yudhishthira
when the Pandavas retired to the forest.
Aswatthama pried out the shining jewel
that was part of his head and gave it to
Bhima, acknowledging his defeat, and
went away to the forest. Bhima took the
great jewel and, going to Draupadi said:
"Angel of spotless purity, this is for you.
The man, who killed your beloved sons,
has been vanquished. Duryodhana has
been destroyed. I have drunk the blood of
Duhsasana. I have avenged the great
outrage and discharged my debts."
Draupadi took the jewel and, going up to
Yudhishthira bowed and said: "Faultless
king, it befits you to wear this in your
96. WHO CAN GIVE SOLACE?
WHEN the battle was over, Hastinapura
was a city of mourning. All the women
and children were weeping and lamenting
their slain, nearest and dearest. With many
accompanying, Dhritarashtra went to the
field of battle. At Kurukshetra, the scene
of terrible destruction, the blind king
thought of all that had passed, and wept
aloud. But, of what avail was weeping?
"O king, words of consolation addressed
to a bereaved person do not remove his
grief. Thousands of rulers have given up
their lives in battle for your sons. It is now
time that you should arrange for proper
funeral ceremonies for the dead," said
Sanjaya to Dhritarashtra.
"It is not right to grieve for those who die
in battle. When souls have left their
bodies, there is nothing like relationship,
nothing like brother or son or relative.
Your sons have really no connection with
you. Relationship ends with death, being
only a bodily connection and a mere
minor incident in the soul's eternal life.
From the nowhere do lives come, and,
with death, they again disappear into
nowhere. Why should we weep for them?
Those who die in battle after a heroic fight
go as guests to receive Indra's hospitality.
Grieving for what is past, you cannot gain
anything in the nature of dharma, pleasure
or wealth." Thus, and in many more ways,
did the wise and good Vidura try to
assuage the king's grief.
Vyasa also approached Dhritarashtra
tenderly and said: "Dear son, there is
nothing that you do not know and which
you have to learn from me. You know
very well that all living beings must die.
This great battle came to reduce earth's
burden as I have heard from Lord Vishnu
Himself. That is why this calamity could
Yudhishthira is your son. You should try
to love him and in that way bear the
burden of life, giving up grief."
Making his way, through the crowd of
weeping women Yudhishthira approached
Dhritarashtra and bowed before him.
Dhritarashtra embraced Yudhishthira, but
there was no love in that embrace.
Then Bhimasena was announced to the
blind king. "Come," said Dhritarashtra.
But Vasudeva was wise. He gently pushed
Bhima aside and placed an iron figure
before the blind Dhritarashtra, knowing
the old king's exceeding anger.
Dhritarashtra hugged the metal statue to
his bosom in a firm embrace and then the
thought came to him of how this man had
killed everyone of his sons. And his wrath
increased to such a pitch that the image
was crushed to pieces in his embrace.
"Ha! My anger has deceived me," cried
Dhritarashtra. "I have killed dear Bhima."
Then Krishna said to the blind king:
"Lord, I knew that it would be thus and I
prevented the disaster. You have not
killed Bhimasena. You have crushed only
an iron image that I placed instead before
you. May your anger be appeased with
what you have done to this image. Bhima
is still alive."
The king was composed somewhat and he
blessed Bhima and the other Pandavas
who then took leave of him and went to
Vyasa was with Gandhari. "Oh
queen,"said the rishi, "be not angry with
the Pandavas. Did you not tell them even
when the battle began: 'Where there is
dharma, there surely will be victory'? And
so it has happened. It is not right to let the
mind dwell on what is past and nurse
one's anger. You must now call to aid
your great fortitude."
Gandhari said: "Bhagavan, I do not envy
the victory of the Pandavas. It is true that
grief for the death of my sons has robbed
me of my understanding. These Pandavas
also are my sons. I know that Duhsasana
and Sakuni brought about this destruction
of our people. Arjuna and Bhima are
blameless. Pride brought this battle about
and my sons deserve the fate they have
met. I do not complain about it. But then,
in Vasudeva's presence, Bhima called
Duryodhana to battle and they fought.
And, knowing that Duryodhana was
stronger and could not be defeated in
single combat, Bhima struck him below
the navel and killed him. Vasudeva was
looking on. This was wrong and it is this
that I find it impossible to forgive."
Bhima, who heard this, came near and
said: "Mother, I did this to save myself in
battle. Whether it was right or wrong, you
should bear with me. Your son was
invincible in combat and so I did in self-
protection what was undoubtedly wrong.
He called Yudhishthira to play and
deceived him. We had been wronged by
your son in so many ways. He would not
give back the kingdom, of which be took
unlawful possession. And you know what
your son did to blameless Draupadi. If we
had killed your son on the spot, when he
misbehaved in the Hall of Assembly,
surely you would not have blamed us.
Bound by Dharmaraja's vow, we
restrained ourselves with difficulty then.
We have since discharged honor's debt
and found satisfaction in battle. Mother,
you should forgive me."
"Dear son, if you had left but one out of
my hundred sons and killed all the rest
and satisfied your anger, I and my old
husband would have found solace in that
surviving son for the rest of our lives.
Where is Dharmaputra? Call him." She
Hearing this, Yudhishthira trembled as he,
with clasped hands, approached Gandhari,
whose eyes were bound in a cloth in loyal
lifelong penance for her husband's
blindness. He bowed low before her and
"Queen, the cruel Yudhishthira, who
killed your sons, stands before you fit to
be cursed. Do curse me who have
committed great sin. I care not for life or
for kingdom." Saying this, he fell on the
ground and touched her feet.
Gandhari heaved a deep sigh and stood
mute. She turned her head aside knowing
that if, through the cloth with which her
eyes were bound, her vision fell on the
prostrate Yudhishthira he would be
reduced to ashes on the spot. But through
a little space in the cloth, even as she
turned her face away, her eyes fell on the
toe of the prostrate Yudhishthira. At once,
says the poet, the toe was charred black.
Arjuna knew the power of bereaved
Gandhari's wrath, and hid himself behind
Vasudeva. The wise and good Gandhari
suppressed all her anger and blessed the
Pandavas and sent them to Kunti.
Gandhari turned to Draupadi, who was in
lamentation, having lost all her sons.
"Dear girl," said Gandhari. "Do not
grieve. Who can give solace to you and
me? It is through my fault that this great
tribe has been destroyed altogether."
97. YUDHISHTHIRA'S ANGUISH
THE Pandavas performed the til and
water ceremonies for the peace of the
souls of the dead warriors and camped on
the bank of the Ganga for a month.
One day, Narada appeared before
Yudhishthira. "Son, through Krishna's
grace, the valor of Arjuna and the power
of your dharma, you were victorious and
you are the sovereign lord of the land. Are
you happy?" he asked.
Yudhishthira replied: "Bhagavan, it is true
the kingdom has come into my
possession. But my kinsmen are all gone.
We have lost sons that were dear. This
victory appears to me but a great defeat. O
Narada, we took our own brother for an
enemy and killed him, even Karna who
stood rooted like a rock in his honor and
at whose valor the world wondered. This
terrible act of slaying our own brothers
was the result of our sinful attachment to
our possessions. Karna, on the other hand,
kept the promise he gave to our mother
and abstained from killing us. Oh! I am a
sinner, a low fellow who murdered his
own brother. My mind is troubled greatly
at this thought. Karna's feet were so much
like our mother's feet. In the large hall,
when that great outrage was committed
and my anger rose, when I looked at his
feet, which were so much like Kunti's feet,
my wrath subsided. I remember that now
and my grief increases."
So saying, Yudhishthira heaved a deep
sigh. Narada told him all about Karna and
the curses that had been pronounced on
him on various occasions.
Once, when Karna saw that Arjuna was
superior to him in archery, he approached
Drona and entreated him to teach him how
to wield the Brahmastra. Drona declined
saying it was not open to him to instruct
any but a brahmana of faultless conduct or
a kshatriya who had purified himself by
much penance. Thereupon, Karna went to
the Mahendra hills and deceived
Parasurama by saying that he was a
brahmana and became his disciple. From
him he obtained instruction in archery and
the use of many astras.
One day, when Karna was practising with
his bow in the forest near Parasurama's
asrama, a brahmana's cow was
accidentally hit and killed. The brahmana
was angry and uttered a curse on Karna:
"In battle, your chariot wheels will stick in
the mud and you will be done to death,
even like this innocent cow which you
Parasurama was exceedingly fond of
Karna and taught him all the archery he
knew and instructed him fully in the use
and the withdrawing of the Brahmastra.
One day, however, he discovered that the
disciple was not a brahmana. It happened
tha an an insect bit a hole into Karna's
thigh when one afternoon the teacher had
fallen asleep on Karna's lap. Karna bore
the acute pain quietly and did not stir, lest
the master should wake up. The warm
blood trickling from the wound woke up
Parasurama. When he saw what had
happened, he was angry.
"You are a kshatriya; otherwise you could
not have borne this physical pain without
stirring. Tell me the truth. You are not a
brahmana. You have deceived your
teacher. Fool! When your hour comes,
your knowledge of astras will fail you and
what you have learnt from me through
deception will not avail you."
Parasurama's wrath against kshatriyas is
well known and, when he discovered that
Karna was a kshatriya, he cursed him thus
in his anger.
Karna was free in making gifts. One day,
Indra, who was Arjuna's father, came in
the garb of a brahmana and begged of
Karna for a gift of the divine earrings and
armor with which he had been born.
Karna took them out and gave them away
accordingly. From that time, Karna's
strength was reduced.
"Karna's pledge to his mother Kunti that
he would not kill more than one of the
five of you, Parasurarna's curse, the anger
of the brahmana whose cow was killed by
Karna, the way in which his charioteer
Salya depressed him by underrating his
valor and Vasudeva's stratagems, these
combined to bring about Karna's end. Do
not grieve believing that you alone caused
his death." Thus said Narada, but
Yudhishthira was not consoled by these
"Do not blame yourself, son, for Karna's,
death," said Kunti. "His father, the sun
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