Mahabharata

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293

"ARJUNA has not returned, nor has Satyaki, who was sent after him. Bhima, my fear grows. I hear the Panchajanya, but not the twang of Arjuna's bowstring. Satyaki, that bravest and most loyal of friends, has not come back with any tidings. My anxiety is increasing every moment," said Yudhishthira to Bhima in great perplexity of mind.

"I have never seen you so agitated," replied Bhimasena. "Do, not let your fortitude grow less. Command me as you please. Do not let the wheels of your mind stick in the mud of anxiety."

"Dearest Bhima, I fear your brother has been slain, and it seems to me Madhava has now himself taken up arms. I hear the conch of Madhava but I hear not the resounding twang of Gandiva. I fear Dhananjaya, the unrivalled hero, in whom were centerd all our hopes, has been killed. My mind is confused. If you would do as I tell you, go at once to where Arjuna is. Join him and Satyaki, and do what needs to be done, and come back. Satyaki, under orders from me, pierced the Kaurava ranks and proceeded in the direction of Arjuna. You go now, and do likewise and, if you indeed see them alive, I shall know it by your lion-roar."

"My Lord, do not grieve. I shall go and let you know they are safe," said Bhima, and immediately turning to Dhrishtadyumna said: "Panchala, you know very well that Drona is seeking, by some means or other, to seize Dharmaputra alive. Our foremost duty is to protect the King. But I must also obey him and fulfil his command. And so I go, trusting him to your care."

"Bhima, do not be concerned. Go with an assured mind. Drona cannot take Yudhishthira without first killing me," said the heroic son of Drupada, sworn enemy of Drona. And Bhima hurried away.

The Kauravas surrounded Bhima in full force and vowed to prevent him from going to Arjuna's relief. But like a lion scattering less noble beasts he put his enemies to flight, killing no less than eleven of the sons of Dhritarashtra. Bhima then approached Drona himself. "Stop," cried Drona. "Here I am, your enemy. You cannot proceed further without defeating me. Your brother Arjuna went in with my consent. But I cannot let you go." Drona spoke thus believing that he would receive the same courtesy from Bhima as he did from Arjuna. But Bhima was furious at hearing these words of Drona, and answered scornfully.

294

"Oh brahmana, it was not with your permission that Arjuna went. He broke your resistance and pierced your battle lines fighting his way through, but he did not hurt you out of pity. But I shall not, like Arjuna, show mercy to you. I am your enemy. Once upon a time, you were our preceptor and were like a father to us. We respected you as such. Now, you have yourself said you are our enemy. May it be so!" Saying this, Bhima aimed his mace at Drona's chariot that crumbled to pieces. And Drona had to take to another chariot.

The second chariot too was broken to pieces. And Bhima forced his way through overcoming all opposition. Drona lost eight chariots that day. And the army of the Bhojas, that tried to stop Bhima, was completely destroyed.

He proceeded mowing down all opposition and reached where Arjuna was fighting Jayadratha's forces.

As soon as he saw Arjuna, Bhima roared like a lion. Hearing that roar, Krishna and Arjuna were exceedingly pleased and raised yells of joy. Yudhishthira heard these roars and, relieved of his doubts and anxieties, he pronounced blessings on Arjuna. And he thought within himself:

"Before the sun sets today, Arjuna's oath will be fulfilled. He will slay the man who caused Abhimanyu's death and will return in triumph. Duryodhana may sue for peace after Jayadratha's death. Seeing so many of his brothers slain, it is possible that foolish Duryodhana may see light. The lives of numerous kings and great warriors have been sacrificed on the field of battle and even the stubborn and narrow-visioned Duryodhana may now see his fault and ask for peace. Will this indeed happen? The great grandsire Bhishma has been offered as a sacrifice. Will this wicked enmity end with it and shall we be saved from further cruel destruction?"

While thus Yudhishthira was fondly hoping and dreaming of peace, the battle was raging with great fury where Bhima, Satyaki and Arjuna were engaging the enemy.

295

Only the Lord knows through what travail the world must evolve. His ways are inscrutable.