The Royal Tournament

Vaisampayana continued, “One day Drona desirous of testing the comparative excellence of all his pupils in the use of arms, collected them all together after their education had been completed. And before assembling them together, he had caused an artificial bird, as the would be aim, to be placed on the top of a neighbouring tree. And when they were all together, Drona said unto them, ‘Take up your bows quickly and stand here aiming at that bird on the tree, with arrows fixed on your bowstrings; shoot and cut off the bird’s head, as soon as I give the order. I shall give each of you a turn, one by one, my children.” Then Drona addressed Yudhishthira saying, ‘O irrepressible one, aim with thy arrow and shoot as soon as I give the order. Yudhishthira took up the bow as desired by his preceptor, and stood aiming at the bird. But Drona in an instant, addressing the Kuru prince standing with bow in hand, said, ‘Behold, O prince, that bird on top of the tree.’ Yudhishthira replied unto his preceptor, saying, ‘I do.’ But the next instant Drona again asked him, ‘What dost thou see now, O prince? Seest thou the tree, myself or thy brothers?’ Yudhishthira answered, ‘I see the tree, myself, my brothers, and the bird.’ Drona repeated his question, but was answered as often in the same words. Drona then, vexed with Yudhishthira, reproachingly said, ‘Stand thou apart. It is not for thee to strike the aim.’ Then Drona repeated the experiment with Duryodhana and the other sons of Dhritarashtra, one after another, as also with his other pupils, Bhima and the rest, including the princes that had come unto him from other lands. But the answer in every case was the same as Yudhishthira’s viz., ‘We behold the tree, thyself, our fellow-pupils, and the bird.’ And reproached by their preceptor, they were all ordered, one after another, to stand apart.”

“When everyone had failed, Drona smilingly called Arjuna and said unto him, ‘By thee the aim must be shot; therefore, turn thy eyes to it. Thou must let fly the arrow as soon as I give the order. Therefore, O son, stand here with bow and arrow for an instant.’ Thus addressed, Arjuna stood aiming at the bird as desired by his preceptor, with his bow bent. An instant after Drona asked him as in the case of others, ‘Seest thou, O Arjuna, the bird there, the tree, and myself?’ Arjuna replied, ‘I see the bird only, but nor the tree, or thyself.’ Then the irrepressible Drona, well-pleased with Arjuna, the instant after, again said unto that mighty car-warrior amongst the Pandavas, ‘If thou seest the vulture, then describe it to me.’ Arjuna said, I see only the head of the vulture, not its body.’ At these words of Arjuna, the hair (on Drona’s body) stood on end from delight. He then said to Partha, ‘Shoot.’ And the latter instantly let fly (his arrow) and with his sharp shaft speedily struck off the head of the vulture on the tree and brought it down to the ground. No sooner was the deed done than Drona clasped Phalguna to his bosom and thought Drupada with his friends had already been vanquished in fight. Some time after, Drona, accompanied by all of his pupils, went to the bank of the Ganga to bathe in that sacred stream. And when Drona had plunged into the stream, a strong alligator, sent as it were, by Death himself seized him by the thigh. And though himself quite capable, Drona in a seeming hurry asked his pupil to rescue him. And he said, ‘O, kill this monster and rescue me.’ Contemporaneously with this speech, Vibhatsu (Arjuna) struck the monster within the water with five sharp arrows irresistible in their course, while the other pupils stood confounded, each at his place. Beholding Arjuna’s readiness, Drona considered him to be the foremost of all his pupils, and became highly pleased. The monster, in the meantime cut into pieces by the arrows of Arjuna, released the thigh of illustrious Drona and gave up the ghost. The son of Bharadwaja then addressed the illustrious and mighty car-warrior Arjuna and said, ‘Accept, O thou of mighty arms, this very superior and irresistible weapon called Brahmasira with the methods of hurling and recalling it. Thou must not, however, ever use it against any human foe, for if hurled at any foe endued with inferior energy, it might burn the whole universe. It is said, O child, that this weapon hath not a peer in the three worlds. Keep it, therefore, with great care, and listen to what I say. If ever, O hero, any foe, not human, contendeth against thee thou mayst then employ it against him for compassing his death in battle.’ Pledging himself to do what he was bid, Vibhatsu then, with joined hands, received that great weapon. The preceptor then, addressing him again, said, ‘None else in this world will ever become a superior bowman to thee. Vanquished thou shall never be by any foe, and thy achievements will be great.'”

Vaisampayana said, “Drona addressed king Dhritarashtra, in the presence of Kripa, Somadatta, Valhika, the wise son of Ganga (Bhishma), Vyasa, and Vidura, and said, ‘O best of Kuru kings, thy children have completed their education. With thy permission, O king, let them now show their proficiency.’ Hearing him, the king said with a gladdened heart, ‘O best of Brahmanas, thou hast, indeed, accomplished a great deed. Command me thyself as to the place and the time where and when and the manner also in which the trial may be held. Grief arising from my own blindness maketh me envy those who, blessed with sight, will behold my children’s prowess in arm. O Kshatri (Vidura), do all that Drona sayeth. O thou devoted to virtue, I think there is nothing that can be more agreeable to me.’ Then Vidura, giving the necessary assurance to the king, went out to do what he was bid. And Drona endued with great wisdom, then measured out a piece of land that was void of trees and thickets and furnished with wells and springs. And upon the spot of land so measured out, Drona, that first of eloquent men, selecting a lunar day when the star ascendant was auspicious, offered up sacrifice unto the gods in the presence of the citizens assembled by proclamation to witness the same. And then the artificers of the king built thereon a large and elegant stage according to the rules laid down in the scriptures, and it was furnished with all kinds of weapons. They also built another elegant hall for the lady-spectators. And the citizens constructed many platforms while the wealthier of them pitched many spacious and high tents all around. When the day fixed for the Tournament came, the king accompanied by his ministers, with Bhishma and Kripa, the foremost of preceptors, walking ahead, came unto that theatre of almost celestial beauty constructed of pure gold, and decked with strings of pearls and stones of lapis lazuli. And, O first of victorious men, Gandhari blessed with great good fortune and Kunti, and the other ladies of the royal household, in gorgeous attire and accompanied by their waiting women, joyfully ascended the platforms, like celestial ladies ascending the Sumeru mountain. And the four orders including the Brahmanas and Kshatriyas, desirous of beholding the princes’ skill in arms, left the city and came running to the spot. And so impatient was every one to behold the spectacle, that the vast crowd assembled there in almost an instant. And with the sounds of trumpets and drums and the noise of many voices, that vast concourse appeared like an agitated ocean.”

“At last, Drona accompanied by his son, dressed in white (attire), with a white sacred thread, white locks, white beard, white garlands, and white sandal-paste rubbed over his body, entered the lists. It seemed as if the Moon himself accompanied by the planet Mars appeared in an unclouded sky. On entering Bharadwaja performed timely worship and caused Brahmanas versed in mantras to celebrate the auspicious rites. And after auspicious and sweet-sounding musical instruments had been struck up as a propitiatory ceremony, some persons entered, equipped with various arms. And then having girded up their loins, those mighty warriors, those foremost ones of Bharata’s race (the princes) entered, furnished with finger-protectors (gauntlet), and bows, and quivers. And with Yudhishthira at their head, the valiant princes entered in order of age and began to show wonderful skill with their weapons. Some of the spectators lowered their heads, apprehending fall of arrows while others fearlessly gazed on with wonder. And riding swiftly on horses and managing them ‘dexterously’ the princes began to hit marks with shafts engraved with their respective names. And seeing the prowess of the princes armed with bows and arrows, the spectators thought that they were beholding the city of the Gandharvas, became filled with amazement. And all on a sudden, some hundreds and thousands, with eyes wide open in wonder, exclaimed, ‘Well done! Well done!’ And having repeatedly displayed their skill and dexterity in the use of bows and arrows and in the management of cars, the mighty warriors took up their swords and bucklers, and began to range the lists, playing their weapons. The spectators saw (with wonder) their agility, the symmetry of their bodies, their grace, their calmness, the firmness of their grasp and their deftness in the use of sword and buckler. Then Vrikodara and Suyodhana, internally delighted (at the prospect of fight), entered the arena, mace in hand, like two single-peaked mountains. And those mighty-armed warriors braced their loins, and summoning all their energy, roared like two infuriate elephants contending for a cow-elephant; and like two infuriated elephants those mighty heroes faultlessly (in consonance with the dictates of the science of arm) careered right and left, circling the lists. And Vidura described to Dhritarashtra and the mother of the Pandavas (Kunti) and Gandhari, all the feats of the princes.'”

“The spectators were divided into two parties in consequence of the partiality swaying their affections. Some cried, ‘Behold the heroic king of the Kurus!’–some–‘Behold Bhima!’–And on account of these cries, there was, all on a sudden, a loud uproar. And seeing the place become like a troubled ocean, the intelligent Bharadwaja said unto his dear son, Aswatthaman, ‘Restrain both these mighty warriors so proficient in arms. Let not the ire of the assembly be provoked by this combat of Bhima and Duryodhana.’ Then the son of the preceptor of the princes restrained those combatants with their maces uplifted and resembling two swollen oceans agitated by the winds that blow at the universal dissolution. And Drona himself entering the yard of the arena commanded the musicians to stop, and with a voice deep as that of the clouds addressed these words, ‘Behold ye now that Partha who is dearer to me than my own son, the master of all arms, the son of Indra himself, and like unto the younger brother of Indra, (Vishnu)! And having performed the propitiatory rites, the youthful Phalguna, equipped with the finger protector (gauntlet) and his quiver full of shafts and bow in hand, donning his golden mail, appeared in the lists like an evening cloud reflecting the rays of the setting sun and illumined by the hues of the rainbow and flashes of lightning. On seeing Arjuna, the whole assembly were delighted and conchs began to be blown all around with other musical instruments. And there arose a great uproar in consequence of the spectators’ exclaiming,–‘This is the graceful son of Kunti!’–‘This is the middle (third) Pandava!’–‘This is the son of the mighty Indra!’–‘This is the protector of the Kurus’–‘This is the foremost of those versed in arms!’–‘This is the foremost of all cherishers of virtue!’–‘This is the foremost of the persons of correct behaviour, the great repository of the knowledge of manners!’ At those exclamations, the tears of Kunti, mixing with the milk of her breast, wetted her bosom. And his ears being filled with that uproar, that first of men, Dhritarashtra, asked Vidura in delight, ‘O Kshatri, what is this great uproar for, like unto that of the troubled ocean, arising all on a sudden and rending the very heavens?’ Vidura replied, ‘O mighty monarch, the son of Pandu and Pritha, Phalguna, clad in mail hath entered the lists. And hence this uproar!’ Dhritarashtra said, ‘O thou of soul so great, by the three fires sprung from Pritha who is even like the sacred fuel, I have, indeed, been blessed, favoured and protected!'”

Vaisampayana continued, ‘When the spectators, excited with delight, had somewhat regained their equanimity, Vibhatsu began to display his lightness in the use of weapons. By the Agneya weapon, he created fire, and by the Varuna weapon he created water, by the Vayavya weapon, he created air, and by the Parjanya weapon he created clouds. And by the Bhauma weapon, he created land, and by the Parvatya weapon, he brought mountains into being. By the Antardhana weapon all these were made to disappear. Now the beloved one of his preceptor (Arjuna) appeared tall and now short; now he was seen on the yoke of his car, and now on the car itself; and the next moment he was on the ground. And like one shaft, he let fly at a time into the mouth of a moving iron-boar five shafts together from his bow-string. And that hero of mighty energy discharged one and twenty arrows into the hollow of a cow’s horn hung up on a rope swaying to and fro. In this manner, Arjuna showed his profound skill in the use of sword, bow, and mace, walking over the lists in circles. And when the exhibition had well-nigh ended, the excitement of the spectators had cooled, and the sounds of instruments had died out there was heard proceeding from the gate, the slapping of arms, betokening might and strength, and even like unto the roar of the thunder. And as soon as this sound was heard, the assembled multitude instantly thought, ‘Are the mountains splitting or is the earth itself rending asunder, or is the welkin resounding with the roar of gathering clouds? And then all the spectators turned their eyes towards the gate. And Drona stood, surrounded by the five brothers, the sons of Pritha, and looked like the moon in conjunction with the five-starred constellation Hasta. And Duryodhana, that slayer of foes, stood up in haste and was surrounded by his century of haughty brothers with Aswatthaman amongst them. And that prince, mace in hand, thus surrounded by his hundred brothers with uplifted weapons appeared like Purandara in days of yore, encircled by the celestial host on the occasion of the battle with the Danavas.”

Vaisampayana continued, “When the spectators, with eyes expanded with wonder, made way for that subjugator of hostile cities, Karna, that hero with his natural mail and face brightened with ear-rings, took up his bow and girded on his sword, and then entered the spacious lists, like a walking cliff. That far-famed destroyer of hostile hosts, the large-eyed Karna, was born of Pritha in her maidenhood. He was a portion of the hot-beamed Sun and his energy and prowess were like unto those of the lion, or the bull, or the leader of a herd of elephants. In splendour he resembled the Sun, in loveliness the Moon, and in energy the fire. Begotten by the Sun himself, he was tall in stature like a golden palm tree, and, endued with the vigour of youth, he was capable of slaying a lion. Handsome in features, he was possessed of countless accomplishments. The mighty-armed warrior, eyeing all around the arena, bowed indifferently to Drona and Kripa. And the entire assembly, motionless and with steadfast gaze, thought, ‘Who is he?’ And they became agitated in their curiosity to know the warrior. And that foremost of eloquent men, the offspring of the Sun, in a voice deep as that of the clouds, addressed his unknown brother, the son of the subduer of the Asura, Paka (Indra), saying, ‘O Partha, I shall perform feats before this gazing multitude; excelling all thou hast performed! Beholding them, thou shall be amazed.’ And Duryodhana was filled with delight, while Vibhatsu was instantly all abashment and anger. Then with the permission of Drona, the mighty Karna, delighting in battle, there did all that Partha had done before. And Duryodhana with his brothers thereupon embraced Karna in joy and then addressed him saying, ‘Welcome O mighty-armed warrior! I have obtained thee by good fortune, O polite one! Live thou as thou pleasest, and command me, and the kingdom of the Kurus.’ Kama replied, ‘When thou hast said it, I regard it as already accomplished. I only long for thy friendship. And, O lord, my wish is even for a single combat with Arjuna.’ Duryodhana said, ‘Do thou with me enjoy the good things of life! Be thou the benefactor of thy friend, and, O represser of enemies, place thou thy feet on the heads of all foes.'”

“Arjuna, after this, deeming himself disgraced, said unto Karna stationed amidst the brothers like unto a cliff, ‘That path which the unwelcome intruder and the uninvited talker cometh to, shall be thine, O Karna, for thou shall be slain by me.’ Karna replied, ‘This arena is meant for all, not for thee alone, O Phalguna! They are kings who are superior in energy; and verily the Kshatriya regardeth might and might alone. What need of altercation which is the exercise of the weak? O Bharata, speak then in arrows until with arrows I strike off thy head today before the preceptor himself!’ Hastily embraced by his brothers, Partha that subduer of hostile cities, with the permission of Drona, advanced for the combat. On the other side, Karna, having been embraced by Duryodhana with his brothers, taking up his bow and arrows, stood ready for the fight. Then the firmament became enveloped in clouds emitting flashes of lightning, and the coloured bow of Indra appeared shedding its effulgent rays. And the clouds seemed to laugh on account of the rows of white cranes that were then on the wing. And seeing Indra thus viewing the arena from affection (for his son), the sun too dispersed the clouds from over his own offspring. And Phalguna remained deep hid under cover of the clouds, while Karna remained visible, being surrounded by the rays of the Sun. And the son of Dhritarashtra stood by Karna, and Bharadwaja and Kripa and Bhishma remained with Partha. And the assembly was divided, as also the female spectators. And knowing the state of things, Kunti the daughter of Bhoja, swooned away. And by the help of female attendants, Vidura, versed in the lore of all duties, revived the insensible Kunti by sprinkling sandal-paste and water on her person. On being restored to consciousness, Kunti, seeing her two sons clad in mail, was seized with fear, but she could do nothing (to protect them). And beholding both the warriors with bows strung in their hands the son of Saradwat, viz., Kripa, knowing all duties and cognisant of the rules regulating duels, addressed Karna, saying ‘This Pandava, who is the youngest son of Kunti, belongeth to the Kaurava race: he will engage in combat with thee. But, O mighty-armed one, thou too must tell us thy lineage and the names of thy father and mother and the royal line of which thou art the ornament. Learning all this, Partha will fight with thee or not (as he will think fit). Sons of kings never fight with men of inglorious lineage.'”

Vaisampayana continued, “When he was thus addressed by Kripa, Karna’s countenance became like unto a lotus pale and torn with the pelting showers in the rainy season. Duryodhana said, ‘O preceptor, verily the scriptures have it that three classes of persons can lay claim to royalty, viz., persons of the blood royal, heroes, and lastly, those that lead armies. If Phalguna is unwilling to fight with one who is not a king, I will install Karna as king of Anga.’ At that very moment, seated on a golden seat, with parched paddy and with flowers and water-pots and much gold, the mighty warrior Karna was installed king by Brahmanas versed in mantras. And the royal umbrella was held over his head, while Yak-tails waved around that redoubtable hero of graceful mien. And the cheers, having ceased, Karna said unto the Kaurava Duryodhana, ‘O tiger among monarchs, what shall I give unto thee that may compare with thy gift of a kingdom? O king, I will do all thou biddest!’ And Suyodhana said unto him, ‘I eagerly wish for thy friendship.’ Thus spoken to, Karna replied, ‘Be it so.’ And they embraced each other in joy, and experienced great happiness.’ After this, Adhiratha entered the lists, perspiring and trembling, and supporting himself on a staff. Seeing him, Karna left his bow and impelled by filial regard bowed down his head still wet with the water of inauguration. And them the charioteer, hurriedly covering his feet with the end of his sheet, addressed Karna crowned with success as his son. And the charioteer embraced Karna and from excess of affection bedewed his head with tears, that head still wet with the water sprinkled over it on account of the coronation as king of Anga. Seeing the charioteer, the Pandava Bhimasena took Karna for a charioteer’s son, and said by way of ridicule, ‘O son of a charioteer, thou dost not deserve death in fight at the hands of Partha. As befits thy race take thou anon the whip. And, O worst of mortals, surely thou art not worthy to sway the kingdom of Anga, even as a dog doth not deserve the butter placed before the sacrificial fire.’ Karna, thus addressed, with slightly quivering lips fetched a deep sigh, looked at the God of the day in the skies. And even as a mad elephant riseth from an assemblage of lotuses, the mighty Duryodhana rose in wrath from among his brothers, and addressed that performer of dreadful deeds, Bhimasena, present there, ‘O Vrikodara, it behoveth thee not to speak such words. Might is the cardinal virtue of a Kshatriya, and even a Kshatriya of inferior birth deserveth to be fought with. The lineage of heroes, like the sources of a lordly river, is ever unknown. The fire that covereth the whole world riseth from the waters. The thunder that slayeth the Danavas was made of a bone of (a mortal named) Dadhichi. The illustrious deity Guha, who combines in his composition the portions of all the other deities is of a lineage unknown. Some call him the offspring of Agni; some, of Krittika, some, of Rudra, and some of Ganga. It hath been heard by us that persons born in the Kashatriya order have become Brahmanas. Viswamitra and others (born Kshatriyas) have obtained the eternal Brahma. The foremost of all wielders of weapons, the preceptor Drona hath been born in a waterpot and Kripa of the race of Gotama hath sprung from a clump of heath. Your own births, ye Pandava princes, are known to me. Can a she-deer bring forth a tiger (like Karna), of the splendour of the Sun, and endued with every auspicious mark, and born also with a natural mail and ear-rings? This prince among men deserveth the sovereignty of the world, not of Anga only, in consequence of the might of his arm and my swearing to obey him in everything. If there be anybody here to whom all that I have done unto Karna hath become intolerable, let him ascend his chariot and bend his bow with the help of his feet.'”

Vaisampayana continued, ‘Then there arose a confused murmur amongst the spectators approving of Duryodhana’s speech. The sun, however, went down, but prince Duryodhana taking Karna’s hand led him out of the arena lighted with countless lamps. And, O king, the Pandavas also, accompanied by Drona and Kripa and Bhishma, returned to their abodes. And the people, too, came away, some naming Arjuna, some Karna, and some Duryodhana (as the victor of the day). And Kunti, recognising her son in Karna by the various auspicious marks on his person and beholding him installed in the sovereignty of Anga, was from motherly affection, very pleased. And Duryodhana, having obtained Karna (in this way), banished his fears arising out of Arjuna’s proficiency in arms. And the heroic Karna, accomplished in arms, began to gratify Duryodhana by sweet speeches, while Yudhishthira was impressed with the belief that there was no warrior on earth like unto Karna. Beholding the Pandavas and the son of Dhritarashtra accomplished in arms, Drona thought the time had come when he could demand the preceptorial fee. And assembling his pupils one day together, the preceptor Drona asked of them the fee, saying, ‘Seize Drupada, the king of Panchala in battle and bring him unto me. That shall be the most acceptable fee.’ Those warriors then answering, ‘So be it’, speedily mounted up on their chariots, and for bestowing upon their preceptor the fee he had demanded, marched out, accompanied by him. Those bulls among men, smiting the Panchalas on their way, laid siege to the capital of the great Drupada. And Duryodhana and Karna and the mighty Yuyutsu, and Duhsasana and Vikarna and Jalasandha and Sulochana,–these and many other foremost of Kshatriya princes of great prowess, vied with one another in becoming the foremost in the attack. And the princes, riding in first class chariots and following the cavalry, entered the hostile capital, and proceeded along the streets. Meanwhile, the king of Panchala, beholding that mighty force and hearing its loud clamour, came out of his palace, accompanied by his brothers. Though king Yajnasena was well-armed, the Kuru army assailed him with a shower of arrows, uttering their war-cry. Yajnasena, however, not easy to be subdued in battle, approaching the Kurus upon his white chariot, began to rain his fierce arrows around.”

“Before the battle commenced, Arjuna, beholding the pride of prowess displayed by the princes, addressed his preceptor, that best of Brahmanas, Drona, and said, ‘We shall exert ourselves after these have displayed their prowess. The king of Panchala can never be taken on the field of the battle by any of these. Having said this, the sinless son of Kunti surrounded by his brothers, waited outside the town at a distance of a mile from it. Meanwhile Drupada beholding the Kuru host, rushed forward and pouring a fierce shower of arrows around, terribly afflicted the Kuru ranks. And such was his lightness of motion on the field of battle that, though he was fighting unsupported on a single chariot, the Kurus from panic supposed that there were many Drupadas opposed to them. And the fierce arrows of that monarch fell fast on all sides, till conchs and trumpets and drums by thousands began to be sounded by the Panchalas from their houses (giving the alarm). Then there arose from the mighty Panchala host a roar terrible as that of the lion, while the twang of their bow-strings seemed to rend the very heavens. Then Duryodhana and Vikarna, Suvahu and Dirghalochana and Duhsasana becoming furious, began to shower their arrows upon the enemy. But the mighty bowman, Prishata’s son, invincible in battle, though very much pierced with the arrows of the enemy, instantly began to afflict the hostile ranks with greater vigour. And careering over the field of battle like a fiery wheel, king Drupada with his arrows smote Duryodhana and Vikarna and even the mighty Karna and many other heroic princes and numberless warriors, and slaked their thirst for battle. Then all the citizens showered upon the Kurus various missiles like clouds showering rain-drops upon the earth. Young and old, they all rushed to battle, assailing the Kurus with vigour. The Kauravas, then, beholding the battle become frightful, broke and fled wailing towards the Pandavas.”

“The Pandavas, hearing the terrible wail of the beaten host, reverentially saluted Drona and ascended their chariots. Then Arjuna hastily bidding Yudhishthira not to engage in the fight, rushed forward, appointing the sons of Madri (Nakula and Sahadeva) the protectors of his chariot-wheels, while Bhimasena ever fighting in the van, mace in hand, ran ahead. The sinless Arjuna, thus accompanied by his brothers, hearing the shouts of the enemy, advanced towards them, filling the whole region with the rattle of his chariot-wheels. And like a Makara entering the sea, the mighty-armed Bhima, resembling a second Yama, mace in hand, entered the Panchala ranks, fiercely roaring like the ocean in a tempest. And Bhima, mace in hand, first rushed towards the array of elephants in the hostile force, while Arjuna, proficient in battle, assailed that force with the prowess of his arms. And Bhima, like the great Destroyer himself, began to slay those elephants with his mace. Those huge animals, like unto mountains, struck with Bhima’s mace, had their heads broken into pieces. Covered with stream of blood, they began to fall upon the ground like cliffs loosened by thunder. And the Pandavas prostrated on the ground elephants and horses and cars by thousands and slew many foot-soldiers and many car-warriors. Indeed, as a herdsman in the woods driveth before him with his staff countless cattle with ease, so did Vrikodara drive before him the chariots and elephants of the hostile force. Meanwhile, Phalguna, impelled by the desire of doing good unto Bharadwaja’s son, assailed the son of Prishata with a shower of arrows and felled him from the elephant on which he was seated. And, O monarch, Arjuna, like unto the terrible fire that consumeth all things at the end of the Yuga, began to prostrate on the ground horses and cars and elephants by thousands. The Panchalas and the Srinjayas, on the other hand, thus assailed by the Pandava, met him with a perfect shower of weapons of various kinds. And they sent up a loud shout and fought desperately with Arjuna. The battle became furious and terrible to behold. Hearing the enemy’s shouts, the son of Indra was filled with wrath and assailing the hostile host with a thick shower of arrows, rushed towards it furiously afflicting it with renewed vigour. They who observed the illustrious Arjuna at that time could not mark any interval between his fixing the arrows on the bowstring and letting them off. Loud were the shouts that rose there, mingled with cheers of approval. Then the king of the Panchalas, accompanied by (the generalissimo of his forces) Satyajit, rushed with speed at Arjuna like the Asura Samvara rushing at the chief of the celestials (in days of yore). Then Arjuna covered the king of Panchala with a shower of arrows. Then there arose a frightful uproar among the Panchala host like unto the roar of a mighty lion springing at the leader of a herd of elephants. And beholding Arjuna rushing at the king of Panchala to seize him, Satyajit of great prowess rushed at him. And the two warriors, like unto Indra and the Asura Virochana’s son (Vali), approaching each other for combat, began to grind each other’s ranks. Then Arjuna with great force pierced Satyajit with ten keen shafts at which feat the spectators were all amazed. But Satyajit, without losing any time, assailed Arjuna with a hundred shafts. Then that mighty car-warrior, Arjuna, endued with remarkable lightness of motion, thus covered by that shower of arrows, rubbed his bow-string to increase the force and velocity of his shafts. Then cutting in twain his antagonist’s bow, Arjuna rushed at the king of the Panchalas, but Satyajit, quickly taking up a tougher bow, pierced with his arrows Partha, his chariot, charioteer, and horses. Arjuna, thus assailed in battle by the Panchala warrior, forgave not his foe. Eager to slay him at once, he pierced with a number of arrows his antagonist’s horses, flags, bow, clenched (left) fist, charioteer, and the attendant at his back. Then Satyajit, finding his bows repeatedly cut in twain and his horses slain, desisted from the fight.”

“The king of the Panchalas, beholding his general thus discomfited in the encounter, himself began to shower his arrows upon the Pandava prince. Then Arjuna, that foremost of warriors, crowned with success, began to fight furiously, and quickly cutting his enemy’s bow in twain as also his flagstaff which he caused to fall down, pierced his antagonist’s horses, and charioteer also with five arrows. Then throwing aside his bow Arjuna took his quiver, and taking out a scimitar and sending forth a loud shout, leaped from his own chariot upon that of his foe. And standing there with perfect fearlessness he seized Drupada as Garuda seizeth a huge snake after agitating the waters of the ocean. At the sight of this, the Panchala troops ran away in all directions. Then Dhananjaya, having thus exhibited the might of his arm in the presence of both hosts, sent forth a loud shout and came out of the Panchala ranks. And beholding him returning (with his captive), the princes began to lay waste Drupada’s capital. Addressing them Arjuna said, ‘This best of monarchs, Drupada, is a relative of the Kuru heroes. Therefore, O Bhima, slay not his soldiers. Let us only give unto our preceptor his fee.’ Thus prevented by Arjuna, the mighty Bhimasena, though unsatiated with the exercise of battle, refrained from the act of slaughter. And the princes then, taking Drupada with them after having seized him on the field of battle along with his friends and counsellors, offered him unto Drona. And Drona beholding Drupada thus brought under complete control–humiliated and deprived of wealth–remembered that monarch’s former hostility and addressing him said, ‘Thy kingdom and capital have been laid waste by me. But fear not for thy life, though it dependeth now on the will of thy foe. Dost thou now desire to revive thy friendship (with me)?’ Having said this, he smiled a little and again said, ‘Fear not for thy life, brave king! We, Brahmanas, are ever forgiving. And, O bull among Kshatriyas, my affection and love for thee have grown with me in consequence of our having sported together in childhood in the hermitage. Therefore, O king, I ask for thy friendship again. And as a boon (unasked), I give thee half the kingdom (that was thine). Thou toldest me before that none who was not a king could be a king’s friend. Therefore is it, O Yajnasena, that I retain half thy kingdom. Thou art the king of all the territory lying on the southern side of the Bhagirathi, while I become king of all the territory on the north of that river. And, O Panchala, if it pleaseth thee, know me hence for thy friend.'”

“On hearing these words, Drupada answered, ‘Thou art of noble soul and great prowess. Therefore, O Brahmana, I am not surprised at what thou doest. I am very much gratified with thee, and I desire thy eternal friendship.’ After this, Drona released the king of Panchala, and cheerfully performing the usual offices of regard, bestowed upon him half the kingdom. Thenceforth Drupada began to reside sorrowfully in (the city of) Kampilya within (the province of) Makandi on the banks of the Ganga filled with many towns and cities. And after his defeat by Drona, Drupada also ruled the southern Panchalas up to the bank of the Charmanwati river. And Drupada from that day was well-convinced that he could not, by Kshatriya might alone, defeat Drona, being very much his inferior in Brahma (spiritual) power. And he, therefore, began to wander over the whole earth to find out the means of obtaining a son (who would subjugate his Brahmana foe). Meanwhile Drona continued to reside in Ahicchatra. Thus, O king, was the territory of Ahicchatra full of towns and cities, obtained by Arjuna, and bestowed upon Drona.'”

Image Attribution: The image above, sourced from Wikimedia Commons, shows the Pandava prince Arjuna piercing a target in front of an audience. Outstanding feats of archery and other forms of combat figure prominently in the epic of Mahabharata. This painting is taken from a 16th century copy of the Razmanama. The Razmanama (‘Book of War’ in Persian) was a beautifully illustrated Persian translation of the Mahabharata, ordered by the Mughal Emperor Akbar. The Mughals, Muslim by faith and Turko-Mongol by ethnicity were great patrons of art and literature. They inaugurated a new syncretic tradition in North India, infusing it with elements of Persian high culture. The Razmanama is one among the many products of this tradition. This particular illustration was the work of an artist called Daswanth, a miniaturist at the court of Emperor Akbar.

Reference:

  • The Mahabharata (translated by Kisari Mohan Ganguli, 1883-1896)