THE battle was very much the same every day and the narrative is one of monotonous fighting and killing. Still, the great battle is the central event in the Mahabharata and, if we skip over it, we cannot fully understand the epic heroes of that crowded stage.
At break of day, Bhishma arrayed the Kaurava forces again. Surrounded by Drona, Duryodhana and others, the grandsire looked verily like great Indra, holding his thunder bolt, surrounded by the devas.
The Kaurava army, with its chariots, elephants and horses all arrayed in battle order and ready for the fight, presented the appearance of the sky in a great thunderstorm.
The grandsire gave orders for advance. Arjuna watched the hostile movements from his chariot, whereon the Hanuman flag was waving, and he too got ready.
The battle commenced. Aswatthama, Bhurisravas, Salya, Chitrasena and the son of Chala surrounded Abhimanyu and attacked him. The warrior fought like a lion opposing five elephants.
Arjuna saw this combined attack on his son and, with a wrathful lion roar joined his son whereat the tempo of fighting flared up. Dhrishtadyumna also arrived with a large force. The son of Chala was killed.
Chala himself now joined and he with Salya, made a strong attack on Dhrishtadyumna. The latter's bow was severed into two by a sharp missile discharged by Salya.
Abhimanyu saw this and sent a shower of arrows on Salya and put him in such danger that Duryodhana and his brothers rushed to Salya's help. Bhimasena also appeared on the scene at this juncture.
When Bhima raised his mace aloft, Duryodhana's brothers lost courage. Duryodhana, who saw this, was exceedingly angry and immediately charged against Bhima with a large force of elephants.
As soon as Bhima saw the elephants coming up, he descended from his chariot, iron mace in hand, attacked them so fiercely that they scattered in a wild stampede, throwing the Kaurava ranks into disorder.
It will be seen that even in our Puranic stories elephants fared as badly in battle as they did in the wars of the Greeks and the Romans. Bhima's attack on the elephants was like Indra's devastating onslaught on the winged mountains.
The slaughtered elephants lay dead on the field like great hills. Those that escaped fled in panic and caused great havoc in the Kaurava army, trampling numerous soldiers in their wild race. Duryodhana, thereupon, ordered a wholesale attack on Bhima.
But he stood firm as a rock and presently, the Pandava warriors came up and joined him. A number of Duryodhana's arrows struck Bhima's chest and he climbed up his chariot again.
"Visoka, now is the glad hour," said Bhima to his charioteer. "I see a number of Dhritarashtra's sons before me, ready to be shaken down like ripe fruits on a tree. Keep your hold well on the reins and drive on. I am going to dispatch these wretches to Yama's abode." Bhima's arrows would have killed Duryodhana then and there, had it not been for his armor.
Eight of Duryodhana's brothers were slain in that day's battle by Bhima. Duryodhana fought fiercely. Bhima's bow was smashed by one of Duryodhana's arrows. Taking up a fresh bow, Bhima sent an arrow with a knife-edge at Duryodhana that cut the latter's bow into two.
Not baffled by this, Duryodhana took up a fresh bow and discharged a well-aimed shaft which struck Bhima on his chest with such force that he reeled and sat down.
The Pandava warriors now poured a great shower of arrows on Duryodhana. Ghatotkacha, who saw his father sit dazed with the force of the blow, got exceedingly angry and fell on the Kaurava army, which was unable to stand against his onslaught.
"We cannot fight this Rakshasa today." said Bhishma to Drona. "Our men are weary. It is nearing sunset and at night of the Rakshasas grows stronger with the darkness. Let us deal with Ghatotkacha tomorrow."
The grandsire ordered his army to retire for the night. Duryodhana sat musing in his tent, his eyes filled with tears. He had lost many of his brothers in that day's battle.
"Sanjaya," exclaimed Dhritarashtra. "Every day, you give me nothing but bad news. Your tale has ever been one of sorrow, of defeat and loss of dear ones! I cannot stand this any more. What stratagem can save my people? How are we going to win in this fight? Indeed, I am full of fear. It seems fate is more powerful than human effort."
"King " said Sanjaya in reply, "is this not all the result of your own folly? Of what avail is grief? How can I manufacture good news for you? You should hear the truth with fortitude."
"Ah! Vidura's words are coming true," said the blind old king, plunged in great grief.