Mahabharata

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WHEN the Pandavas saw Duryodhana proceeding in the direction of Arjuna, they attacked the Kaurava army in force so as to hold Drona and prevent him from going to Jayadratha's rescue.

So, Dhrishtadyumna led his forces repeatedly against Drona. As a result of all this, the Kaurava army had to fight on three fronts, and was greatly weakened.

Driving his chariot right against Drona's, Dhrishtadyumna attacked him violently. Drona's chestnut horses and the Panchala's dove-colored ones were entangled with one another and presented a picturesque sight like the clouds at sunset.

Dhrishtadyumna threw away his bow and, sword and shield in hand, he sprang upon Drona's chariot. Now standing on the shafts of the vehicle, now on the horses and now on the yoke, he attacked Drona bewilderingly, all the while seeming to scorch him with baleful and bloodshot eyes.

Long did this fight go on. Drona pulled his bow in great wrath and sent a shaft, which would have drunk the Panchala's life but for the unexpected intervention of Satyaki who sent an arrow and diverted the acharya's shaft.

Drona then turned and attacked Satyaki, which enabled the Panchala warriors to take Dhrishtadyumna away. Drona, hissing like a black cobra, his eyes red with anger, advanced on Satyaki who was among the front rank warriors on the Pandava side and who, when he saw Drona desiring battle, went forward to accept the challenge.

"Here is the man who, giving up his vocation as a brahmana has taken up the profession of fighting and is causing distress to the Pandavas," Satyaki said to his charioteer. "This man is the principal cause of Duryodhana's arrogance. This man fancies himself a very great soldier and is ever bursting with conceit. I must teach him a lesson. Take the chariot up quickly."

Satyaki's charioteer accordingly lashed the silver-white horses and took the car at a great pace. Satyaki and Drona shot shafts at one another so quick that they covered the sun, and the battlefield was in darkness for a while. The steel shafts swished glimmering like newly-sloughed snakes rushing about.

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The chariot hoods and the flagstaffs on both sides were battered down. Drona as well as Satyaki were bleeding profusely. The warriors on either side stood still watching the duel and they did not blow their conchs or raise their war cries or sound their lion-roars.

The Devas, Vidyadharas, Gandharvas and Yakshas watched the great battle from above. Drona's bow was broken by a well-aimed shaft from Satyaki, and the son of Bharadwaja had to take another bow and, even as he strung it, Satyaki shot it down again. Drona took up another bow  that too was shot down.

And so it went on till Drona lost a hundred and one bows without being able to shoot an arrow. The great acharya said to himself: "This man Satyaki is a warrior in the class of Sri Rama, Kartavirya, Dhananjaya and Bhishma,"and was glad he had an opponent worthy of him.

It was a craftsman's professional joy at skill displayed in the art he loved. For every specially-charged shaft that Drona sent, Satyaki had a ready answer of equivalent quality. Long did this equal combat continue. Drona of unrivalled skill in archery then resolved on killing Satyaki and sent the fire astra. But Satyaki saw this and, losing no time, sent the Varuna astra to counteract it.

But now Satyaki's strength began to fail and, seeing this, the Kaurava warriors were glad and shouted in satisfaction. When Yudhishthira saw Satyaki was hard pressed, he told those nearby to go to Satyaki's relief. "Our great and good hero Yuyudhana (Satyaki) is being overpowered by Drona. You should go there at once," he said to Dhrishtadyumna.

"The brahmana will otherwise slay Satyaki in a few minutes. Why are you hesitating? Go at once. Drona is playing with Satyaki as a cat plays with a bird. Satyaki is indeed in the paws of the Destroyer." Yudhishthira ordered the army to make a powerful attack on Drona. Satyaki was saved with difficulty. Just then, the sound of Krishna's conch was heard from the sector where Arjuna was fighting.

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"O Satyaki, I hear Panchajanya," cried Yudhishthira; "but the twang of Arjuna's bow does not accompany it. I fear Arjuna has been surrounded by Jayadratha's friends and is in danger. Arjuna is opposed by forces both in front of him and in his rear. He pierced the Kaurava ranks in the morning and he has not come back yet though the greater part of the day is gone. How is it that only Krishna's conch is heard? I fear Dhananjaya has been slain and therefore Krishna has taken up arms. Satyaki, there is nothing you cannot accomplish. Your bosom friend Arjuna, he, who taught you, is in mortal danger. Often has Arjuna spoken to me admiringly of your great skill and prowess. 'There is not another soldier like Satyaki,' he said to me when we were in the forest. Oh, look there! The dust is rising that side. I am certain Arjuna has been surrounded. Jayadratha is a powerful warrior, and there are many enemy warriors there helping him and resolved to die in defence of him. Go at once, Satyaki." Thus did Dharmaputra speak in great trepidation.

Satyaki, who was weary after his battle with Drona, replied: "Faultless among men, I shall obey your command. What would I not do for Dhananjaya's sake? My life is the merest trifle in my eyes. If you order me, I am ready to fight the gods themselves. But allow me to put before you what the wise Vasudeva and Arjuna told me when they left. 'Until we return after slaying Jayadratha you should not leave Yudhishthira's side. Be vigilant in protecting him. We entrust this to you in confidence and go. There is only one warrior in the Kaurava army whom we fear, and he is Drona. You know his sworn intention. We go leaving Dharmaputra's safety in our hands.' Thus said Vasudeva and Arjuna to me when they went. Arjuna laid this trust on me, believing me fit for it. How can I disregard his command? Do not have any fear about Arjuna's safety. No one can defeat him. The Sindhu king and the others cannot cope with a sixteenth part of Arjuna. Dharmaputra, to whom shall I entrust your safety if I must go? I see no one here who can stand against Drona if he comes to seize you. Do not ask me to go. Consider well before you command me to leave."

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"Satyaki," replied Yudhishthira, "I have thought over it. As I have weighed the danger against the need and I have concluded that you must go. You leave me with my full permission. Here is the powerful Bhima to look to my safety. There is Dhrishtadyumna also, and there are many others besides. There is no need to worry about me."

So saying, Yudhishthira placed a boxful of arrows and other weapons in Satyaki's chariot and got fresh horses yoked thereto and sent Satyaki uttering benedictions on him.

"Bhimasena, Yudhishthira is your charge. Be vigilant," said Satyaki, and went to join Dhananjaya.

Satyaki met with violent resistance as he proceeded to dash through the Kaurava forces. But he cut his way through bearing down all opposition. But the resistance was very stiff and his progress was slow.

When Drona saw Satyaki part from Yudhishthira, he began to assault the Pandava formation without rest or interval, until it began to break and retreat. Yudhishthira was greatly agitated.