Reading Guide. After Bhishma's fall, Drona takes command of Duryodhana's armies. and he vows to make Yudhishthira his prisoner, and Arjuna vows to defend his brother even at the cost of his own life.
Source. Mahabharata, Epic of the Bharatas, by Romesh C. Dutt (1898). [800 words]
Morning ushered in the battle; Pandav warriors heard with dread
Drona priest and proud preceptor now the Kuru forces led,
And the foe-compelling Drona pledged his troth and solemn word,
He would take Yudhishthir captive to Hastina's haughty lord!
But the ever faithful Arjun to his virtuous elder bowed,
And in clear and manful accents spake his warlike thoughts aloud,
"Sacred is our great preceptor, sacred is acharya's life;
Arjun may not slay his teacher even in this mortal strife!
"Saving this, command, O monarch, Arjun's bow and warlike sword,
For thy safety, honoured elder, Arjun stakes his plighted word,
"Matchless in the art of battle is our teacher fierce and dread,
But he comes not to Yudhishthir save o'er blood of Arjun shed!"
Morning witnessed doughty Drona foremost in the battle's tide,
But Yudhishthir's warlike chieftains compassed him on every side.
Foremost of the youthful chieftains came resistless Arjun's son —
Father's blood and milk of mothers fired his deeds of valour done!
As the lion of the jungle drags the ox into his lair,
Abhimanyu from his chariot draggled Paurava by the hair.
Jayadratha king of Sindhu marked the faint and captive chief,
Leaping from his car of battle, wrathful, came to his relief.
Abhimanyu left his captive, turned upon the mightier foe,
And with sword and hardened buckler gave and parried many a blow!
Rank to rank from both the forces cry of admiration rose,
Streaming men poured forth in wonder, watched the combat fierce and close:
Piercing Abhimanyu's buckler Jayadratha sent his stroke,
But the turned and twisted sword-blade snapping in the midway broke!
Weaponless the king of Sindhu ran into his sheltering car;
Shalya came unto his rescue from a battle-field afar.
Dauntless, on the new assailant Arjun's son his weapon drew,
Interposing 'twixt the fighters Bhima's self on Shalya flew!
Stoutest wrestlers in the armies, fiercest fighters with the mace,
Bhima and the stalwart Shalya stood as rivals face to face;
Hempen fastening bound their maces and the wire of twisted gold,
Whirling bright in circling flashes, shook their staff the warriors bold!
Oft they struck, and sparks of red fire issued from the seasoned wood,
And like hornéd bulls infuriate Madra's king and Bhima stood.
Closer still they came like tigers closing with their reddened paws,
Or like tuskers with their red tusks, eagles with their rending claws!
Loud as Indra's peals of thunder still their blows were echoed round;
Rank to rank the startled soldiers heard the oft-repeated sound.
But as strikes in vain the lightning on the solid mountain-rock,
Bhima nor the fearless Shalya fell or moved beneath the shock!
Closer drew the wrathful heroes and their clubs were wielded well,
Till by many blows belaboured both the fainting fighters fell.
Like a drunkard dazed and reeling Bhima rose his staff to wield.
Senseless Shalya, heavy-breathing, henchman carried from the field;
Writhing like a wounded serpent, lifted from the field of war,
He was carried by his soldiers to the shelter of his car!
Drona still with matchless prowess strove to keep his plighted word,
Sought to take Yudhishthir captive to Duryodhan, Kuru's lord,
Vainly then the twin-born brothers came to cross the conqueror's path;
Matsya's lord, Panchala's monarch, vainly faced him in his wrath;
Rank to rank the cry resounded circling o'er the battle-field,
"Drona takes Yudhishthir captive with his bow and sword and shield!"
Arjun heard the dreadful message and in haste and fury came,
Strove to save his king and elder and redeem his loyal fame,
Speeding with his milk-white coursers dashed into the thick of war,
Blew his shrill and dreaded shankha, drove his sounding battle-car,
Fiercer, darker grew the battle, when above the reddened plain,
Evening drew her peaceful mantle o'er the living and the slain!
Morning came; still round Yudhishthir Drona led the gathering war,
Arjun fought the Samsaptakas in the battle-field afar,
But the prince of fair Panchala marked his father's ancient foe,
And against the doughty Drona, Dhrishtadyumna bent his bow!
But as darksome cloudy masses angry gusts of storm divide,
Through the scattered fainting foemen Drona drove his car in pride,
Steeds went down and riven chariots, young Panchala turned and fled,
Onward drove resistless Drona o'er the dying and the dead!
One more prince of fair Panchala 'gainst the mighty Drona came,
Ancient feud ran in the red blood of Panchala's chiefs of fame,
Fated youth! With reckless valour still he fought his father's foe,
Fought and fell; relentless Drona laid the brave Satyajit low!
Surging still like ocean's billows other Pandav warriors came,
To protect their virtuous monarch and redeem their ancient fame,
Came in various battle-chariots drawn by steeds of every hue,
Various were the chieftains' standards which the warring nations knew!
Now Duryodhan marked the foemen heaving like the rising tide,
And he faced the wrathful Bhima towering in his tameless pride.
Short the war, for proud Duryodhan wounded from the battle fled,
And his warriors from fair Anga rested with the countless dead!