There was no doubt in everybody’s mind that war was inevitable. Many people felt that cousins ought not resort to war, fighting over land. Others were of the opinion that Duryodhana ought not have been so adamant. The fact that Lord Krishna had himself tried to mediate between the hostile cousins and had failed disillusioned many. When Krishna returned from Hastinapur and informed Yudhishtira about the outcome of his trip, he felt very sad. The peace loving Yudhishtira lamented that bloodshed could not be stopped. Krishna returned to Dwaraka.
Drupada and Krishna were the only friends the Pandavas had. Drupada was waiting for an opportunity to avenge his daughter’s humiliation. He was ready to lend his army to Dharmaraja. Krishna’s army consisted of Yadavas. Duryodhana wanted to avail of this army’s services. Moreover he knew that Krishna’s support was of utmost importance. So he went to Dwaraka to meet Krishna. Meanwhile, Arjun also reached Dwaraka to seek Krishna’s help for Yudhishtira. Krishna who knew of these intentions, pretended to be fast asleep as soon as Duryodhana and Arjun reached his doorstep. Duryodhana, befitting the status of a king, preferred to sit on the seat placed near Krishna’s head. He waited for Krishna to wake up. Arjun sat on a stool near Krishna’s feet. As soon as Krishna opened his eyes, he saw Arjun first. Naturally, he could not have noticed Duryodhana first as he was sitting near the head. And naturally, Krishna talked to Arjun first. Duryodhana could not tolerate this and so he emitted a sound to catch Krishna’s attention. Immediately Krishna turned towards him and exclaimed, “Oh Duryodhana! You are also here. This is an honour for me. What can I do for you?
Duryodhana replied, “Yashoda- nandan, I have come to seek your help in the forthcoming war. Undoubtedly, victory will be mine. Hence, please be with us.” Arjun also said, “Krishna, I am also here to ask for your help. We will be honoured to have you with us.”
Krishna was in a dilemma. Both of them were his relatives and hence he ought to extend help to both of them. So he told them, “Dear Duryodhana and dear Arjun, both of you are my relatives. If I come to your help, my army will also assist you. But I will not personally take up arms. Nor will I participate in the actual fighting. So you have an option. One of you can take my entire army and the other could have me. But since I spoke to Arjun first, he will have the first privilege.”
The Pandavas were aware of Krishna’s divinity. So Arjun at once said, “Krishna, I do not want your army. We want only you with us.” Duryodhana was relieved to hear this. After all, Krishna had already said that he himself would not fight. So, what was the use of having him? he cried out in delight, “Krishna, in that case, give me your army.” Krishna agreed to both these requests.
The war fever gripped one and all. The Pandavas and the Kauravas reviewed their respective armies to assess their strength. Duryodhana had a sister by name Dushyale. Her husband was Jayadrata, the Saindhava king. So, Duryodhana had his backing. Shalya, the king of Madra also was with the Kauravas. Susharma, the king of
Trigarth and his children had always extended their help to Duryodhana. The Yadava army sent by Krishna also swelled Duryodhana’s strength. Bhishma, Drona, Kripa and Ashwathama were already with the Kauravas. Thus, the Kaurava’s army numbered eleven Akshohinis.
The Pandavas had the support of Drupada, Dhrishtadyumna, Amba who was born as Shikandi to Drupada in order to settle scores with Bhishma, Virata, Satyaki and others. Bhima and Arjun, themselves were very valiant. Abhimanyu, the fourteen years old, son of Arjun and Subhadra also announced that he was taking part in the war. Bhima’s son Ghatotkacha was also there. The Pandavas in all, had seven
Akshohinis. Yudhishtira divided these into seven divisions and appointed a commander-in-chief for each one of them. Bhima headed one such division. Since Krishna did not wish to wage the war, he told Arjun that he would be his charioteer.
Duryodhana also made hectic preparations to appoint commanders- in-chief for his army. The elderly Bhishma, a great warrior, was appointed as the Supreme – General in charge over all the other chiefs. Kama, who always felt that Bhishma had a soft corner for the Pandavas, was annoyed by this appointment, He wanted the post for himself. He therefore refused to take up arms till Bhishma was continued as the Supreme General. This infighting saddened Duryodhana. But he could not snatch away the post from a person of Bhishma’s stature.
Bhishma, the father figure of the Kuru clan announced the commencement of the Kurukshetra war.
The Kaurava army and the Pandava army faced each other in the battlefield of Kurukshetra.
Sri Krishna entered the battlefield as Arjun’s charioteer. The Hanumadhwaja (flag showing Hanuman) fluttered atop the chariot. Krishna blew the Panchajanya conch and Arjun blew the Devadatta conch to indicate the war. «
The beating of war-drums, the neighing of the horses and the trumpet- like sound of the elephants filled Arjun with the excitement of war. But as he neared the Kaurava army, he saw the grand old man Bhishma, he saw his Gurus- Drona and Kripa and he saw his cousin brothers and other relatives. All of them were dear to him. All of them were the revered ones.
Arjun hesitatingly asked Krishna. “Should I kill my own kith and kin for my selfishness? Should I kill my own friends just to gain victory over them? I am unable to do it.” So saying he quickly put down his weapons.
To remove this deep agitation in Arjun’s mind, Krishna spoke to him softly, “Arjun, war is inevitable. This
may seem to be a cruel, unjust way to you. But have you forgotten the grave injustice meted out by the Kauravas? Such a conflict arises between human beings upon this world. Who are you to kill? Who are they to be killed. It is God’s will. We are only empowered to carry out our duties assigned to each of us.”
Krishna further explained the various means of attaining God. He preached Arjun about the path of devotion and the path of duty. To fight for justice is duty. “Do your duty without desiring for reward or for fame,” was the gospel of Sri Krishna. This is known as the Bhagavad Gita, hailed as the treasure of knowledge for the entire mankind.
Lord Krishna then exhibited his Vishwarupa and said, “I am the beginning and the end of ah beings upon this world. I am Omnipresent and
Omnipotent. Without my being, nothing lives. I am present in the plant, in the tree, in the atmosphere, in the sky and everything else upon the earth. I protect those who believe in me. 0! Arjun! Hence give up the doubts that haunt you, pick up the weapons and fight.”
Listening to the Gitopadesh (Preaching of Gita), a new light of knowledge dawned upon Arjun. “The Supreme Being is the puppeteer and we are mere puppets in his hands. It is now my duty to fight and this is the path of duty”- thus Arjun readied himself for the war.
The Kurukshetra war waged for eighteen days. During these days, a lot of blood was shed. Each day witnessed the death of thousands of soldiers, horses and elephants. From dawn to dusk, the war went on. It provided ample opportunity to the soldiers and to the commanders to prove their worth. Every evening at sunset, a bugle was blown to indicate the end of the day’s battle. And each night, the losses in terms of men and animals were reviewed and the next day’s plan of action finalised.
Bhishma alone waged the war for ten days. Abhimanyu faced Bhishma the first day of the war but had to concede defeat at the hands of Bhishma. Virata’s children who came to the help of Abhimanyu were killed.
Arjun would make up his mind each day that he would kill Bhishma but did not have the heart to kill the grand old man who was a father-figure to all of them. Bhishma’s attacks were so devastating that it looked as if a ball of fire was engulfing the enemies. Because of Bhishma, the death toll in the Pandava camp was very high. Hence
Krishna often urged Arjun to kill Bhishma but seeing Arjun’s hesitancy in doing so, on the ninth day of the war, Krishna jumped out of the chariot with the intention of fighting with Bhishma. But Arjun reminded him about his decision on not taking part in the war directly. Arjun promised Krishna that Bhishma would be slain the next day.
It was neither easy nor possible to kill Bhishma. The tenth-day of the Kurukshetra war dawned. At the instance of Krishna, Arjun made Shikandi, the daughter of Drupada stand in front of him. He then attacked Bhishma. Upon which, Bhishma did not wish to fight against a woman and decided to lay down his weapons. As he could command his own death, he also decided to welcome death. So he purposely did not retaliate against Arjun’s arrows. With arrows sticking all over his body. Bhishma pitamah fell down. But his body could not touch the ground because of the numerous arrows sticking out. It was thus a bed of arrows for Bhishma.
The battlefield suddenly was quiet. A ceasefire was announced. The Pandavas and the Kauravas rushed to the side of Bhishma. Duryodhana tried to place a pillow under Bhishma’s head but the great man refused. He wanted a pillow befitting a warrior. Arjun understood what he meant and created a support for Bhishma’s head by striking three arrows on the ground under the head. Even at that moment, Bhishma advised Duryodhana to make peace with the Pandavas. But Duryodhana refused yet again.
Bhishma felt very thirsty. At once Arjun shot an arrow into the earth. Pure water gushed out from the hole and like a fountain, reached Bhishma’s lips gently. It looked as if Bhishma’s mother Ganga had surfaced from the ground to bid farewell to her noble son. Bhishma then said, “I will lie here till the sun travels northwards. My soul will then depart.” His body thus lay in the battlefield. The day’s fighting was over. Duryodhana returned to his camp to decide upon the new Supreme- Commander in the place of Bhishma. The loss of Bhishma was a great setback to Duryodhana.
Kama was appointed as the Supreme – Commander for the eleventh day of the war. But Karna, out of respect for Drona, gave up the position in his favour. The eleventh day of the war dawned. Bugles were sounded and conches were blown. Duryodhana had instructed Drona that he should imprison Yudhishtira as the day’s
trophy. He intended to banish the Pandavas to the forest forever. Drona reluctantly agreed to this task as he felt obligated to the Kauravas.
When Drona launched a direct attack on Yudhishtira, Arjun tried to move closer to his brother but was stopped by Susharma’s children who also fought bravely. Like a ray of lightning, Arjun was at the side of Yudhishtira one moment and the next moment was fighting against Susharma’s children, the Samsaptakas. On the twelfth day, Drona planned to capture Yudhishtira by engaging Arjun in a fight with the Samsaptakas but in a swift move, Arjun rescued his elder brother. That night, Duryodhana admonished the elderly Drona for his failure to prevent Arjun from rescuing his brother.
Dronacharya was very much hurt by
these words. This made him all the more determined to seize Dharmaraya and to gain victory for the Kauravas. He therefore re-arranged his army around Yudhishtira so that he could be easily captured while Arjun would be busy fighting against the Samsaptakas. This formation was called Chakravyuh, an extremely difficult maze and only Krishna, Arjun and his young son Abhimanyu knew how to break the maze. But Abhimanyu only knew how to get in.
Since Arjun and Krishna were away from the spot, the responsibility of penetrating the maze fell upon the young but valiant shoulders of Abhimanyu. He therefore told his uncle that they were to follow him. Yu ihishtira at first hesitated but since there was no other option, he agreed.
With the blessings of his uncle, Abhimanyu drove his chariot and penetrated the maze. But the Pandavas were prevented from following Abhimanyu by Jayadrat, the king of Saindav. As a result, Abhimanyu was surrounded by enemies. He fought alone but could not withstand the attack for very long. Duhshyasana cut Abhimanyu’s limbs one by one. Kama pierced the boy’s body with his arrows. Jayadrat drove his spear through the inert body and finally killed him. The entire ground was covered with Abhimanyu’s blood and the Sun also set, as if unable to witness the scene.
The Kaurava camp was overjoyed with Abhimanyu’s death and on the other hand, the Pandava’s army was plunged into sorrow. Arjun who returned to the camp after defeating the Samsaptakas was met with mourning and immense grief. When he heard about the way in which his dearest son was killed, he swore. “Before the Sun sets tomorrow, I shall kill Jaydrata who was the cause of my son’s death.” In his grief, Arjun also accused Yudhishtira and Bhima of being irresponsible and having sent a youngster like Abhimanyu to penetrate the Chakravyuh. He could not even console his wife Subhadra and Uttara, Abhimanyu’s wife.
News of Arjun’s vow reached the Kauravas. Duryodhana was very eager to protect Jayadrata against Arjun by waging the war himself till the evening. There was a severe fight between the two stalwarts – Arjun and Duryodhana and none could gain an upper hand. The day was drawing to an end. Duryodhana thought that since Arjun could not keep up his vow to kill Jayadrat the same evening, he (Arjun) would, out of shame, commit suicide. And victory would be Duryodhana’s. To meet the situation, Krishna covered the rays of the Sun with his Hand and made it look as if the Sun had set. Jayadrata feeling confident that he had survived the day emerged out of his hiding and on Krishna’s instructions, Arjun hit Jayadrata with his arrow chopping off his head.
The war continued even at night and when Bhima killed seven of Duryodhana’s brothers, in retaliation, Kama used his Shaktya weapon on Ghatotkacha, Bhima’s son and beheaded him. Ghatotkacha was the second son to die for the Pandavas.
When the war raged on for the fifteenth consecutive day, Krishna expressed his opinion that unless and until Drona was killed, the Pandavas would never be victorious. Hence he suggested to Arjun, “Arjun shout loudly in the midst of the fighting that Drona’s son Aswathama has been killed. The grief striken Drona will lose all his enthusiasm to fight and thus it will be easy for us to defeat him.” Arjun did not like this idea of deceiving his Guru. Krishna then put forward this idea to Bhima. Bhima killed an elephant by name Aswathama and cried out aloud that Aswathama died. When Drona heard this, he at once knew that this was Krishna’s trick. He therefore announced that he would believe his son to be dead only if the ever truthful Yudhishtira were to say it. So, at the instance of Krishna, Yudhishtira called out “Aswathama Hatha Kunjah” (Aswathama, the elephant, has been killed). Just as he was saying it, Krishna blew the conch so loud that Drona only
heard that Aswathama had been
killed. Since Yudhishtira had uttered these words, Drona took it to be true, threw down his weapons and sat down on the ground. His beloved son’s death had robbed him of the will to live. Seizing this opportunity, Dhrishta- dyumna, in retaliation against Drona’s humiliation of his father, drew out his sword and severed Drona’s head.
On hearing the news about his father’s death, Aswathama went berserk and brandishing his sword, attacked the enemy and killed many soldiers. He swore that he would wipe out the entire Pandava race to avenge for his father’s death.
Drona’s death doubled Duryodhana’s grief. He then installed Kama as the Supreme-Commander. The war went on relentlessly with a great deal of death and destruction. There was intense fighting between Bhima and Dushyasana. Recalling what
Dushyasana had done to Draupadi, Bhima’s anger exploded like a volcano. He leapt upon Dushyasana, lifted him up and using all his strength, thrashed him down. Bhima then tore Dushyasana’s arm and sucked the blood from his body. Drithrashtra was grief striken when he heard about the gory way in which his son was killed. But it was too late to stop the war.
The sixteenth day of the battle witnessed Kama and Arjun confront each other. Shalya was Kama’s charioteer.
The battle between Kama and Arjun was a clash of epic proportions.
Determined to kill Arjun, Kama used an arrow, which was a deadly weapon spewing serpents. As it was about to strike Arjun, Krishna pushed the chariot down into the earth by a few inches. The arrow could only knock down Arjun’s headgear. The arrow of serpents returned to Kama and wanted to be re-used on Arjun. But Kama recalled the promise made to Kunthi that he would not use the same weapon twice. Arjun was thus saved.
As fate would have it, Kama’s chariot got stuck in the blood soaked mud. His charioteer Shalya refused to get down and lift the chariot up. “Kama, you have
so often boasted about your strength. Prove it now,” He said in ridicule.
With no other alternative, Kama jumped out of the chariot and tried to lift the chariot single-handed. Arjun took advantage of the situation and poured a rain of arrows on Kama. “Please do not take undue advantage of me, O Arjun!” cried out Kama. “Have you forgotten the code of conduct that you cannot attack an unarmed man?” Red in face, Arjun hurriedly put down his quiver full of arrows. But Krishna laughed scorningly and said, “Yes, Arjun, have you forgotten that Kama was among those who hacked Abhimanyu to death? What was Kama doing when Draupadi, a defenceless woman was disrobed in front of everybody? Just don’t waste your time. Don’t lose this chance. Use your arrows upon Kama.”
Arjun saw wisdom in Krishna’s advice. He therefore used his arrows, one after the other, on Kama. Kama forgot all the mantras he had to utter before using any arrow.
Parasurama’s curse was upon him. The generous Kama had already donated his armour and earrings to Indra. His strength had subsided. Since he had already used the Shaktya weapon to kill Ghatotkacha, he did not have a suitable weapon against Arjun. To add to his misfortune, the wheel of the chariot just did not budge.
Arjun used his most powerful arrow which instantly severed Kama’s head. A glorious light emitted out of Kama’s body and submerged into the Sun. The Sun God had taken away his valiant son. On witnessing this scene, Arjun realised that Kama was an extra – ordinary person. Instead of feeling happy, Arjun felt bereaved. He returned to his camp in a subdued mood.
Duryodhana grieved over his dearest friend’s death for hours. None of the surviving Kauravas could console him. He felt that a terrible vacuum had been created in his army with the deaths of Drona and Kama. Seeing his anguish, Kripacharya tried to advice him, “Duryodhana, at least now make peace with the Pandavas. Survive this holocaust and enjoy the rest of your life.” Even at that moment, Duryodhana turned a deaf ear to the advice. He appointed Shalya as the General with orders to fight till the very end.
Shalya fell a victim to Yudhishtira’s arrow on the eighteenth day of the battle. On the same day, the wicked Shakuni was killed by Sahadev and the surviving brothers of Duryodhana by Bhima. Only
Kripa, Aswathama and Duryodhana were left.
At this stage, Duryodhana belatedly realised that he could not escape from the enemies. So he hid in a pool of water.
The Pandavas reached the spot shortly, and challenged him to come out of his hiding. When he emerged out of
water, Duryodhana picked up his mace and fought with Bhima. Both of them
were equal in si rength and skill and the combat raged for a long time. Bhima who found it impossible to knock down Duryodhana looked at Krishna who made a sign by slapping the thighs. Bhima recalled the vow he had made when Duryodhana humiliated Draupadi. When the Pandavas had lost the game of dice, Duryodhana had called Draupadi his maid and had taunted her to sit on his lap. The enraged Bhima vowed, “Duryodhana! I will kill you by breaking your thighs.” Though such a method of killing an enemy was contrary to the rules of war, Bhima recalled the grave injustices meted out by Duryodhana and dealing a powerful blow with his mace he thrashed Duryodhana’s thighs into a pulp. Howling with pain, Duryodhana fell down and Bhima kicked him hard on the head.
“Stop, Bhima”, cried his elder
brother, “It is not right on your part to kick a king in the head.” On hearing this, Duryodhana talking with great difficulty told his cousin, “Yudhishtira, you may have scored a victory over me. But don’t forget that this is an unethical victory for you. Arjun hid himself behind a woman to defeat the great Bhishma. You uttered a lie to make Drona give up fighting. Kama was killed when he was unarmed. And now Bhima has broken the rules of the war and thrashed my thighs with a mace. After all these events, you have finally managed to call Bhima’s act of kicking my head as Adharma (unethical). Let him do whatever he wants to. It will only belittle him. I am an emperor. I am not a coward. I shall die a brave death after waging the war. A valiant world is awaiting me. My kingdom is now yours. You have paid a heavy price to gain it. I am doubtful whether it will bring you peace of mind.”
Yudhishtira was filled with sorrow at the thought that his cousin was to die shortly. Krishna was nonchalant. The Pandavas returned from the battlefield in a state of melancholy.
Duryodhana battled for his life. This was a tragic story created due to his own greed. Aswathama who could not tolerate Duryodhana’s condition vowed before him, “O Emperor! Do not think that you are the only one to hate the Pandavas. For, I cannot forgive them for their deception in killing my father, I shall avenge by beheading the Pandavas one by one.” Duryodhana, even when he was in his deathbed, was delighted to hear this, “Go, Guruputra! I am appointing you as the General. Show me the dead bodies of the Pandavas before I die.”
It was a dark and terrible night. Aswathama came to know that the Pandavas were fast asleep in their camp. Actually instead of the Pandavas and Krishna, the Panchalas, that is, Draupadi’s five sons and Dhristadyumna had chosen to sleep in the tent. Without even bothering to look at their faces, Aswathama butchered all of them and hastened to Duryodhana’s side. But by that time Duryodhana had already died.
In the morning Draupadi was inconsolable when she heard about the killing of her five sons. She went to Yudhishtira and told him that if Aswathama was not killed, she would commit suicide on the funeral pyre of her children. The Pandavas went in search of him and found him hiding in a place near the river. When he saw them approaching, Aswathama charged a blade of grass with a deadly mantra and threw*- it towards them. They avoided the blade of grass but in order to wipe out their race, it tried to hit the womb of Uttara wKo was pregnant with Abhimanyu’s son. Lord Krishna at once stopped the grass blade with his hand and thus protected Uttara’s womb. Frustrated by this, Aswathama escaped to the forest. He was never to be seen again.
The battle of Kurukshetra w^as over but Yudhishtira did not find peace of mind in any way. While the entire Hastinapur mourned over the loss of their kith and kin killed in the war, Dhrithrashtra and Gandhari w^ept over the loss of their sons and Kunthi over Kama’s death. The blind Dhri th rashtra had the misfortune of cremating his own children. But still he hated the Pandavas and especially Bhima. So, when the
Pandavas came to him to pay their respects, Dhrithrashtra embraced them one by one, without there being any love or affection in those embraces. When he was about to embrace Bhima, the wise Krishna pushed Bhima aside and placed a metal statue before the blind king. The blind but very strong king hugged the statue so tightly that it was reduced to pieces. He thought Bhima was dead but when he learnt the truth, he suppressed his anger and blessed the Pandavas.
When Kunthi told her sons that Kama was her eldest born, the grief striken Yudhishtira performed the funeral ceremony for Kama. The Pandavas also performed the last rites for all the other departed souls and bathed in the Ganga to atone for their sins. Subsequently Krishna took Yudhishtira to Bhishma who was still alive. The grand old man gave his blessings for the coronation of Yudhishtira as the emperor of Hastinapur. He also advised the new emperor about the path of Dharma. Shortly afterwards, when the Sun was in the northernly direction, Bhishma invited death and breathed his last.
Yudhishtira ruled over Hastinapur well and his reign brought peace and prosperity to the citizens. The Pandavas looked after Dhrithrashtra and Gandhari with love, affection and respect. Yudhishtira even performed their last rites when they died. Krishna ruled over Dwaraka for thirty six years after the battle of Kurukshetra before he completed his avatar (incarnation).
These events created a detachment towards life among the Pandavas and Draupadi. They therefore crowned Parikshit, son of Abhimanyu as the emperor of Hastinapur and proceeded towards heaven. A dog followed them and kept them company all along. When they reached the gates of heaven, the dog was not allowed entry. So, Yudhishtira and the others did not want to get into heaven and preferred to go to Naraka, the hell.
The Devas were pleased with the Pandavas for their love towards the animal and let all of them into heaven.

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