Reading Guide. Karna is dead, but Duryodhana is still alive, and he has used his supernatural powers to take refuge beneath the waters of a lake.
Source. Indian Myth and Legend by Donald A. Mackenzie (1913). [700 words]
The Kauravas fled in terror when Karna was slain, and Kripa said unto Duryodhana, "Now that our greatest warriors are dead, it would be well to sue for peace."
Said Duryodhana, "After the wrongs I have done the Pandavas, how can I ask or expect mercy at their hands? Let the war go on till the end comes."
Shalya was then chosen as the leader of the Kaurava army, which had greatly shrunken in numbers, and on the morning of the eighteenth day of the war the battle was waged with fury. But the Pandavas were irresistible, and when Duryodhana perceived that they were sweeping all before them, he fled away secretly, carrying his mace. He had power to hide under water as long as he desired, by reason of a mighty charm which had been conferred upon him by the demons; so he plunged into a lake and lay concealed below the waters.
Shalya was slain by Yudhishthira, and he fell like to a thunder-splintered rock. Sahadeva overthrew false Shakuni, the gambler, who had played against Yudhishthira with loaded dice, and Bhima cut down all Duryodhana's brethren who had survived until that last fateful day. Of all the Kaurava heroes there then remained alive only Ashwathaman, son of Drona, Kripa, and Kritavarman, and the hidden Duryodhana.
At length Bhima discovered where Duryodhana was concealed. Yudhishthira went to the lake side and urged him to come forth and fight.
Said Duryodhana, "Take my kingdom now and have pleasure in it. Depart and leave me, for I must retire to the jungle and engage in meditation."
Yudhishthira said, "I cannot accept aught from thee except what is won in battle."
Said Duryodhana, "If you promise to fight one by one, I will come out of the water and slay you all."
Yudhishthira said, "Come forth, and the battle will be fought as thou dost desire. Now thou hast spoken as becomes a kshatriya."
Still Duryodhana tarried, and Bhima shouted, "If thou dost not come out of the lake at once, I will plunge in and drag thee to the shore."
Then Duryodhana came forth, and the Pandavas laughed to see him, for he was covered with mire, and water streamed down from his raiment.
Said Duryodhana, "Soon will your merriment be turned to grief."
Now, all during the time of the Pandava exile, Duryodhana had practised with the mace, so that he became the equal of Bhima. But he had no one to support him there. The other survivors remained in hiding. Then Balarama appeared, and he caused the combat to be waged in the middle of the blood-red plain; he was Duryodhana's supporter.
The warriors fought like two fierce bulls, and smote one another heavy blows, until their faces were reddened with blood. Once Duryodhana almost achieved victory, for he struck Bhima on the head so that all present thought that the Pandava hero had received his deathblow. Bhima staggered but recovered himself, and soon afterwards he struck Duryodhana a foul blow upon the knee, which smashed the bone so that he fell prostrate. Thus was the vow of Bhima fulfilled.
He danced round Duryodhana a time, then, kicking his enemy's head, cried out at length, "Draupadi is avenged."
Yudhishthira was wroth; he smote Bhima on the face and said, "O accursed villain, thou wilt cause all men to speak ill of us."
Then Arjuna led Bhima away, and Yudhishthira knelt beside Duryodhana and said, "Thou art still our ruler, and if thou wilt order me to slay Bhima, thy command will be obeyed. Thou art now very nigh unto death, and I sorrow for the Kaurava wives and children, who will curse us because that thou hast been laid low."
Said Balarama, "Bhima hath broken the laws of combat, for he smote Duryodhana below the waist."
Krishna said, "My brother, did not Duryodhana wrong the Pandavas with foul play at dice? And did not Bhima, when he beheld Draupadi put to shame, vow to break the knee of Duryodhana?"
Said Balarama, "So thou dost approve of this? Can I forget that Bhima kicked the head of our wounded kinsman, the rajah?"
Krishna stayed the vengeful hand of Balarama, and prevailed upon him to take vows not to fight against the Pandavas.