AS SOON AS Drona assumed command of the Kaurava forces Duryodhana, Karna and Duhsasana sat in council and decided on a plan. And Duryodhana went to Dronacharya to put it in operation.
"Acharya, we desire that you should capture Yudhishthira alive and give him over to us. We desire nothing more, not even a total victory. If you achieve this for us, we shall all be exceedingly satisfied with your conduct of the war."
When Drona heard Duryodhana address him thus, great was his joy, for he hated the very idea of slaying the Pandava brothers. Even though, to fulfil his obligation, the acharya loyally joined the Kaurava side against the Pandavas, he loved the sons of Kunti and especially the pure-minded Yudhishthira.
So, when he heard Duryodhana request that Yudhishthira should be captured alive, he felt greatly relieved.
"Duryodhana, may you be blessed!" the acharya said. "Do you too wish to abstain from killing Yudhishthira? How it gladdens my heart! Truly, Yudhishthira is one without an enemy and the name Ajatasatru, which the people have given to Kunti's eldest son, has been justified by your great decision. When even you have made up your mind that he should not be killed but should be captured alive, his unrivalled glory has become ten times enhanced."
"I see, dear Duryodhana, what you intend," Drona continued. "You wish to defeat the Pandavas in battle and then give them their share in the kingdom and live in peace and amity with them. I see this clearly from your desire to capture Yudhishthira alive."
Drona was exceedingly glad and he said again: "Indeed Yudhishthira is the most fortunate man on earth. The gods are showering their favors on Kunti's good son. So has he won the hearts of even enemies."
But Duryodhana's motives in wishing to take Yudhishthira alive were far different. And as soon as Drona acceded to his proposal and gave his pledge that he would do his best to capture Yudhishthira, he began to reveal his real intentions.
If Yudhishthira were slain, nothing would be gained by it, and the anger of the Pandavas would be all the greater. The battle would rage more fiercely than before. And Duryodhana knew that it would only mean the utter defeat of his army.
Even if the fight were to be continued relentlessly until both armies were destroyed, Krishna would still remain alive and he would put either Draupadi or Kunti in sovereign possession of the kingdom.
What then was the point in killing Yudhishthira? On the other hand, if Yudhishthira was captured alive, Duryodhana thought, the war would end more speedily and victoriously for the Kauravas.
Thereafter, he could surely play on Yudhishthira's goodness and his loyalty to the traditional code of kshatriya conduct. It was pretty certain he could be drawn into the battle of dice again and sent to the forests once more.
Ten days of fighting had demonstrated to Duryodhana that further fighting would only result in the destruction of the race, not the fulfilment of the desires.
When Duryodhana made his motives clear to Drona, the acharya was greatly disappointed and he cursed Duryodhana in his heart. But whatever the reason for it, he was glad that Yudhishthira was not to be killed.
The news that Drona had given a solemn assurance to Duryodhana that he would take Yudhishthir a prisoner, was carried by their spies to the Pandava army.
The Pandavas knew that, when the acharya was determined on something and gave his pledged word for executing it, his unrivalled eminence in the art of war and his valor made it a most serious affair.
So, they soon got busy and so arrayed the forces that Yudhishthira was never left unsupported. Whatever movements might take place, they always took care to leave sufficient protection against any surprise attack on Yudhishthira.
In the first day's battle under the leadership of Drona, the acharya amply demonstrated his great skill and energy. He moved about destroying the Pandava forces like a fire burning up dry logs. His rapid movements made the Pandava army feel as if Drona was everywhere at the same time showering arrows like rain and converting the battlefield into a stage for the dance of the God of Death. He cut the Pandava army in twain where Dhrishtadyumna stood.
Many were the single combats among renowned warriors. There was a fierce battle between Sahadeva and Sakuni skilled in illusion warfare. When their chariots broke, they alighted on the ground. And, like two hills sprung to life and motion, they struck each other with maces and closed with one another in single combat. Between Bhima and Vivimsati there was a great battle in which chariots were broken on both sides. Salya fought his nephew Nakula and harassed him exceedingly, smiling most provokingly all the time. But, in the end, Salya had his car smashed and his flag brought down, and he withdrew admitting defeat. Between Kripacharya and Dhrishtaketu there was a battle in which the latter was worsted.
So also was there fierce fighting between Satyaki and Kritavarma and between Virata and Karna. Abhimanyu's valor was also demonstrated as he fought Paurava, Kritavarma, Jayadratha and Salya single-handed and made them withdraw.
Then there was a great combat between Salya and Bhimasena in which Salya was defeated and made to retire. The Kaurava forces began to lose courage and the Pandava army, who saw this, attacked the Kaurava army with renewed energy and broke its ranks.
When Drona saw this, he decided to restore lost morale by leading a straight attack on Yudhishthira. His golden chariot went forward, drawn by four noble Sindhu horses, in the direction of Yudhishthira. Yudhishthira answered with barbed arrows, feathered with eagle-feathers. But Drona did not mind, and advanced at great speed. Yudhishthira's bow was cut down and Drona was coming very near.
Dhrishtadyumna tried to intercept Drona but in vain. The whole army shouted: "Yudhishthira has been taken!" So near came Drona.
Suddenly, then, Arjuna appeared on the battlefield, the earth rumbling under the wheels of his chariot, as it coursed swiftly over the bloody field, over bones and bodies lying in heaps. Drona held back, for Arjuna had come on the scene. From his Gandiva bow issued a continuous stream of arrows. No one could see the shafts taken out of the quiver or placed in position. It seemed as if, from out of the great bow, an unending flood of arrows issued without intermission. The battlefield was darkened by flying missiles.
Drona retreated. Yudhishthira was not taken. The battle was stopped for the day and the Kaurava forces went to their camp in chastened mood.
The Pandava army marched proudly to camp and behind them walked Kesava (Krishna) and Arjuna conversing. Thus closed the eleventh day of the battle.