Verses 17 - 18



17. & 18. Sanjaya addresses Dhrtarastra as ‘lord of the earth’ to remind him of his obligation as king to rise above personal considerations and act for the welfare of the kingdom.

The King of Kasi was an expert archer. His kingdom had a close relationship with the Kurus. Vicitravirya, son of Santanu and Satyavati, was married to two daughters of the king of Kasi – Ambika and Ambalika. Dhrtarastra was the son of Ambika while Pandu was the son of Ambalika. Bhima was also married to the daughter of the king of Kasi.

Sikhandi, son of Drupada, fought in the Kuruksetra war on the side of the Pandavas. He was born in an earlier life as Amba, daughter of the king of Kasi, who was to marry Vicitravirya along with her two sisters. But she wanted to marry another man so Bhisma let her go. But since she had already been taken by Bhisma he did not marry her and Bhisma also rejected her. Feeling deeply humiliated and wanting revenge, Amba did great penance with the desire to kill Bhisma. She was reborn as Shikhandini.

From her birth, Shikhandini was raised like a man, trained in warfare and eventually married. On her wedding night, her wife insulted her on finding out the truth. Contemplating suicide, she fled Pancala, but was saved by a Yaksa who exchanged his sex with her. Shikhandi came back a man.

In the battle of Kuruksetra, Bhisma recognised him as Amba reborn, and upheld the ksatriya tradition of not fighting ‘a woman’. Thus, with Shikhandi’s help Arjuna dealt a death blow to Bhisma, who had been invincible till then. Shikhandi was finally killed by Asvatthama on the 18th day of battle.

Dhrstadyumna was the son of Drupada and brother of Draupadi and Shikhandi. He was appointed Commander of the Pandava Army, and was responsible for the killing of Drona. Even though he was the prophesied killer of Drona, he was accepted by Drona to join his school for young princes, where he learnt advanced martial arts.

When his sister was betrothed to a young brahmana who won the martial contest at her svayamvara, Dhrstadyumna secretly followed him and his brothers, only to discover that they were in fact the five Pandavas: Yudhisthira, Bhima, Arjuna, Nakula and Sahadeva.

At a point when Drona, as the Kuru commander, was killing vast numbers of Pandava troops, Krsna advised Yudhisthira to adopt a plan to kill the preceptor. It was known that as long as Drona raised his weapons he was invincible. Krsna advised that it be proclaimed that Drona’s son, Asvatthama had died in the battle. Yudhisthira hesitated so Bhima killed an elephant named Asvatthama and shouted “Asvatthama is dead”.”

Shocked Drona asked Yudhisthira to ascertain the news, knowing that the son of Dharma would never speak a lie. Yudhisthira said that Asvatthama was dead, but muttered “(I wonder) whether the man or the elephant”. Krsna blew his conch at that exact moment so that Drona did not hear the latter part.

In grief, Drona lay down his arms and Dhrstadyumna killed him

After the war was over, Asvatthama treacherously attacked the Pandava camp during the night, killing Dhrstadyumna and the sons of Draupadi in revenge for his father’s death and the defeat of the Kurus.

Virata was king of the Matsyas in whose court the Pandavas spent a year in hiding during their exile. Virata was the father of Princess Uttara who married Abhimanyu, Arjuna’s son. Abhimanyu’s son Pariksita then became king after Yudhisthira. Virata was killed by Drona.

Satyaki was Krsna’s cousin and charioteer. He accompanied Krsna to the Kuru capital as the emissary of peace which was ridiculed and turned down by the sons of Dhrtarastra.

Satyaki was a valiant warrior and on one particular occasion, stunned Drona by breaking his bow 101 times. On the fourteenth day of the conflict, Satyaki fought an intense battle with his archrival Bhurisravas with whom he had a long standing family feud. After a long and bloody battle, Satyaki begins to tire, but is rescued by Arjuna, who shoots an arrow cutting off Bhurisravas’ arm. Satyaki emerges from his swoon, and swiftly decapitates his enemy.

The sons of Draupadi from each of the Pandavas were Prativindhya, Srutasoma, Srutakarma, Satanika and Srutasena. They were all killed in an attack at night by the Kauravas, totally against the laws of warfare at that time.

Abhimanyu, a brave and tragic hero, was the son of Arjuna and Subhadra, the half-sister of Lord Krsna. As an unborn child in his mother’s womb, Abhimanyu learnt the art of entering the deadly and virtually impenetrable circular battle formation known as Chakravyuha from Arjuna. Arjuna spoke about entering the Chakravyuha. Subhadra then dozed off so Arjuna did not explain how to exit the Chakravyuha. As a result, Abhimanyu only knew how to penetrate it, not how to escape from it.

Abhimanyu spent his childhood in Dvaraka, his mother’s city. He was trained by Pradyumna, the son of Krsna, and his father Arjuna and brought up under the guidance of Lord Krsna. He was married to Uttara, daughter of king Virata to seal an alliance between the Pandavas and the royal family of Virata. The Pandavas had been hiding in cognito through the final year of their exile in Virata’s kingdom of Matsya.

Being the grandson of Lord Indra, god of mystical weapons and wars, Abhimanyu was a courageous and dashing warrior. Considered equal to his father, Abhimanyu was able to hold at bay great heroes like Drona, Karna, Duryodhana and Duhsasana. He was praised for his audacious bravery and absolute loyalty to his father, uncles and their cause.

On the 13th day of battle, the Kauravas challenged the Pandavas to break the Chakravyuha. The Pandavas accepted the challenge since both Krsna and Arjuna knew how to break the formation.

However, on that day, Krsna and Arjuna were drawn into fighting on another front. Since the Pandavas had accepted the challenge they had no choice but to use young Abhimanyu, who had partial knowledge. To make sure that Abhimanyu did not get trapped in the Chakravyuha, the remaining Pandava brothers decided that they and their allies would also break into the formation along with Abhimanyu and assist him in breaking out of it. On the fateful day, Abhimanyu used his skills to successfully break into the formation. The Pandava brothers and allies attempted to follow him inside the formation, but they were cut off by Jayadratha. Abhimanyu was left to fend for himself against the entire Kaurava army.

Abhimanyu fought valiantly slaying several warriors who came his way including Duryodhana’s son Laxmana. He wounded Karna and made Duhsasana faint in the battlefield. Duryodhana, incensed at his son’s death, ordered the entire Kaurava force to attack Abhimanyu. Ignoring all codes of war, the Kauravas attacked him simultaneously. His sword broke and the remaining chariot wheel shattered into pieces. Duhsasana’s son then killed him by crushing his skull with a mace.

It is said that Abhimanyu’s death marked the end of the adherence to the rules of war. Krsna cites the despicable manner in which Abhimanyu was killed to tell Arjuna to kill Karna. This is cited as a reason to kill Duryodhana. News of the shocking acts committed on Abhimanyu reached his father Arjuna at the end of the day. Arjuna vows to kill Jayadratha the very next day by sunset.

The Kaurava army the next day places Jayadratha furthest away from Arjuna, and every warrior attempts to prevent Arjuna from reaching anywhere close to Jayadratha. Arjuna literally hacks through the Kaurava army and kills more than a hundred thousand soldiers and warriors in a single day. However, almost by sundown, Arjuna’s chariot is still nowhere near Jayadratha’s. Arjuna becomes despondent because he realizes that failure is imminent, and starts getting mentally prepared to self-immolate. Krsna uses his powers to temporarily create an eclipse. The Kauravas and Pandavas alike believe that indeed the sun has set and the war stops according to the rules. Both sides come to watch Arjuna self-immolate. In his haste to see Arjuna’s death, Jayadratha also comes to the front. Krsna sees the opportunity that he has effectively created, and the sun comes out again. Before the Kauravas can take corrective action, Krsna points out to Arjuna and asks him to pick up his Gandiva and behead Jayadratha. Arjuna’s unerring arrows decapitate Jayadratha, and his vow to kill Jayadratha by sunset that day and avenge Abhimanyu’s death is fulfilled.

Abhimanyu’s son, Pariksita, born after his death, remains the sole survivor of the Kuru clan at the conclusion of the war, and carries on the Pandava lineage.

All these mighty warriors blew their conches to signify their unity and solidarity.

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