Mahabharata

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DRONA made many attempts to take Yudhishthira prisoner, but failed. Duryodhana led a large elephant division against Bhima. Bhima defended himself from his chariot with well-aimed arrows.

He sent crescent-headed shafts and tore down Duryodhana's flag and cut down his bow even as he held it in his hand. Seeing the king harassed in this manner, the Mlechchha king Anga marched against Bhimasena seated on a huge elephant.

But Bhima sent shafts that laid the elephant low and killed the Mlechchha king, which resulted in scattering that section of the Kaurava forces in fear and confusion. When the elephants stampeded, the horses also took fright and thousands of footmen were trampled under the feet of the elephants and the horses, flying in wild panic.

Seeing this great confusion and the scattering of the Kaurava forces in all directions, the king of Pragjyotisha, the brave Bhagadatta grew indignant.

He got up on his renowned elephant Supratika and charged against Bhimasena. The gigantic beast rushed forward with widespread ears and twirling trunk, crashed into Bhimasena's chariot. And in an instant, horses and vehicle were an unrecognizable mass. But Bhima escaped by jumping off the car in the nick of time.

He knew all about elephants. He got below the great and fierce elephant and showered blows on its vital points. The great beast got mad and whirled round like a potter's wheel, trying to throw off Bhimasena, who was sticking to its legs and attcking it from below.

It bent down and caught Bhima by its trunk and was about to crush him under its knees, when Vrikodara somehow released himself from its hold and again got below, in between its limbs and sticking to the elephant's under-regions, caused exceeding pain to the beast.

Bhima was thus gaining time in the hope that some elephant on the Pandava side would be led to attack Bhagadatta's elephant and enable him to get away.

But, when Bhima disappeared from view, being hidden in between the beast's legs, the soldiers thought Bhima was slain. They exclaimed: "Bhima is dead! Bhagadatta's elephant has crushed Bhimasena!" and the cry was repeated all over Kurukshetra.

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Yudhishthira heard the cry and, thinking Bhima was slain, urged the forces to destroy Bhagadatta. The king of Dasarna charged against Bhagadatta. Dasarna's elephant was also a fierce beast and there was great battle between Supratika and Dasarna's elephant.

But Supratika's tusk pierced Dasarna's beast in the side and it crashed down dead. At that moment, Bhima emerged from below Supratika and ran out safe. And the Pandava army cheered when they saw Bhima alive.

Bhagadatta was now attacked on all sides, but he did not lose heart. Resplendent on his elephant, he shone like a forest fire on a hill. Ignoring the enemies around him, he drove his beast on Satyaki's chariot.

The elephant seized the chariot with its great trunk and lifting it high dashed it upside down. Satyaki jumped out of the chariot in time to save himself.

His charioteer displayed great agility and skill and saved the vehicle as well as the horses, and righting the chariot, drove it to where Satyaki stood.

Bhagadatta's elephant wrought great havoc in the Pandava army, hurling warriors about and killing them in great number, striking terror wherever it went. Bhagadatta stood on its back, like Indra on Airavata when he fought the asuras.

With ears spread out rigid in anger and trunk extended in front, the great beast trampled upon numerous horses, chariots and soldiers and wrought destruction all over the Pandava army. The shafts hurled at it seemed only to incense it more.

Like a herdsman in the forest driving the cattle where he would, Bhagadatta drove the soldiers of the Pandava army before him. Bhimasena, equipping himself once again with a chariot, renewed his attack on Bhagadatta.

The elephant stretched out its trunk and blew out a violent spray of mucus that scared the horses of Bhima's chariot and they bolted in wild flight and the charioteer could not check them.

A great cloud of dust rose from the field where this great elephant battle raged. Arjuna saw this from where he was fighting the samsaptakas and he also heard the tumult created by Bhagadatta's elephant.

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He feared things had gone wrong and said to Krishna: "Madhusudana, this is the cry of Supratika, Bhagadatta's elephant. This king of Pragjyotisha is terrible with his elephant, and has no equal in that kind of warfare. He is sure to defeat and confound our men. We must proceed at once and save the situation. We have punished these samsaptakas enough. Drive to where Drona is engaging Yudhishthira." Krishna drove the chariot accordingly towards the main battlefront.

Susarma and his brothers came up behind the chariot and shouted "Stop, stop." At the same time, they discharged shafts at Arjuna's chariot.

"Here is Susarma challenging me to battle and I hated declining this kind of invitation, but there, to the north of us, our formation seems broken and our men are in need of immediate relief."

While Arjuna was pondering thus, a javelin came hurtling at Arjuna and another towards Janardana. Wild with anger, Arjuna sent three well-aimed shafts, which compelled Susarma to turn back.

They lost no more time but drove quickly to where Bhagadatta was doing havoc. As soon as Arjuna's car was seen, the Pandava forces rallied and soon Arjuna reached the lines where Bhagadatta was.

Bhagadatta attacked Arjuna on Supratika like the Destroyer incarnate. But Vasudeva's skill avoided the shock, each time the beast charged.

Bhagadatta showered arrows on Arjuna and Krishna. But Arjuna's arrows broke the elephant's armor and began to hurt the beast. Bhagadatta saw that his elephant could no longer stand the attack and he hurled a javelin at Krishna.

Arjuna met it with a shaft from his bow and broke it into two. Bhagadatta then discharged another javelin that struck Dhananjaya's helmet.

Readjusting his helmet, Arjuna bent his bow exclaiming: "Bhagadatta, take your last look at the world and prepare for death!"

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Bhagadatta was a veteran of very advanced age. His grey hair and the wrinkles on his noble old face gave him the intrepid appearance of a lion. Indeed, so old was he that the skin hung loose down over his eyes and he had tied its folds over his forehead with a silk kerchief so that they might not interfere with his sight.

Bhagadatta was not more renowned for valor than for purity of character and conduct and was one of the most illustrious among the brave men of his time. Men gave him the title 'Friend of Indra' in recognition of his greatness.

"Look around for the last time," said Arjuna to this great man and hurled at him shafts that broke his bow, shattered his quiver and pierced the joints of his armor.

In those days, all warriors wore heavy armor and the secret of hitting weak points such as joints and moving parts was specially studied by kshatriyas and was an important part of military training.

When deprived of all his weapons, Bhagadatta hurled his elephant goad at Arjuna. It was sent with deadly aim and charged with the Vaishnava mantra.

It would have killed Arjuna, but Krishna came in between and presented himself as a target for the missile. It settled on his chest as a shining necklace.

Charged with the mantra of Vishnu, it could not hurt Vishnu but just became the Lord's jewelled garland round his neck.

"Janardana, how is it you have offered yourself as a target for the enemy's missile? You said you would be charioteer and leave all the fighting to me. How could you do this?" protested Arjuna.

"Beloved Arjuna, you do not understand. This shaft would have killed you if it had hit you. But it is really my own thing and came back to its lawful owner," Krishna said and laughed. Then, Partha sent an arrow that entered the head of Bhagadatta's elephant as a serpent enters into the anthill.

Bhagadatta tried to urge his great beast forward, but it stood stark rigid. And his loud command went in vain even as the words of man, who has lost his wealth, are disregarded by his wife.

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Like a great hill the elephant stood rigid for a moment and then it suddenly sank down driving its tusks into the earth and yielded up the ghost with an agonised squeal.

Arjuna was somewhat grieved at the death of the noble animal and for his not having been able to slay Bhagadatta, without killing the beast.

Arjuna's shafts tore the silken napkin that bound up the folds of the aged king's forehead and he was blinded at once by his own hanging wrinkles.

Soon, a sharp crescent-headed shaft came and pierced his chest. And Bhagadatta fell like a great tree in a storm, his golden necklace shining like flowers on the uprooted tree. The Kaurava forces fell into utter confusion.

Sakuni's brothers Vrisha and Achala tried their best to oppose Arjuna and attacked him in front and rear. But their chariots were soon dashed to pieces and they were themselves stricken dead on the field like two lion cubs. They both looked much alike and equally noble in appearance. The poet says that the bodies of these two valiant heroes who did not flee when the rest fled, shed a strange lustre all around. Sakuni was full of anger when he saw his brave and incomparable brothers lying dead on the field.

He attacked Arjuna fiercely and used all the weapons of illusion, in which he was skilled. But Arjuna's strokes broke all the charms and rendered them useless. And Sakuni had to leave the field, as fast as his horses could bear him.

The Pandava forces then attacked Drona's army and wrought great havoc till the sunset, and the twelfth day's fight ended. Drona gave orders to cease fighting and the Kaurava forces, which had lost heavily, retired in sullen dejection to their camp.

The Pandava army, on the other band, was in high spirits and its warriors gathered round campfires in cheerful talk and praise of Arjuna and the other heroes, who had led them to victory.