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Mahabharata

Mahabharata

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Published by: pavika on Apr 18, 2011
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04/18/2011

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IT was the tenth day of the battle. Keeping
Sikhandin in front of him, Arjuna attacked
Bhishma. When Sikhandin's darts pierced
his breast, sparks flew from the grandsire's
eyes.
For a moment the old warrior's anger rose
like flaming fire and his eyes glared as if
to consume Sikhandin. But, at once, the
grandsire restrained himself.
He decided not to be provoked into
fighting Sikhandin, who was born a
woman and to strike whom it seemed
unworthy of a warrior.
He knew, however, his end was near and
calmed himself. Sikhandin went on
discharging his arrows, not minding the
battle of emotions in his opponent's mind.
Arjuna also steeled his heart, and from
behind Sikhandin aimed arrows at the
weak points in Bhishma's armor, even
while the grandsire stood still.
Bhishma smiled as the arrows continued
to come down thick on him, and turning to
Duhsasana, said: "Ah, these are Arjuna's
arrows! These cannot be Sikhandin's, for
they burn my flesh as the crab's young
ones tear their mother's body."
Thus did the grandsire look upon his dear
pupil's arrows and, while saying this to
Duhsasana, he took up a javelin and

hurled it at Arjuna. Arjuna met it with
three arrows which cut it to pieces even
as it was speeding through the air.
Bhishma then decided to end the combat
and made as if to dismount from his
chariot, sword and shield in hand. But
before he could do so, his shield was cut
to pieces by Arjuna's arrows.
With arrows sticking all over his body so
thickly that there was not even an inch of
intervening space, Bhishma fell headlong
to the ground from his chariot.
As he fell, the gods, who looked on from
above, folded their hands in reverent
salutation and a gentle breeze, laden with
fragrance and cool raindrops, swept over
the battlefield.
Thus fell the great and good Bhishma, the
son of Ganga, who came on earth to
hallow it and all it bears.
The blameless hero who, unasked, made
the great renunciation to give joy to his
father. The undefeated bowman who had
humbled the pride of Rama of the axe.
The selfless worker for righteousness'
sake, thus repaid his debt to Duryodhana,
and lay wounded to death sanctifying with
his life-blood the battlefield. As the
grandsire fell, the hearts of the Kauravas
also fell along with him.
Bhishma's body did not touch the ground,
on account of the arrows sticking out all
over his body. His body shone more
brightly than ever before, as it lay as on a
bed of honor, supported by the shafts that
had pierced his flesh.
Both armies ceased fighting and all the
warriors came running and crowded round
the great hero, who lay on his bed of
arrows. The kings of the earth stood with
bowed heads round him, as the gods
round Brahma.
"My head hangs down unsupported," said
the grandsire. The princes who stood near,
ran and brought cushions. The old warrior
rejected them with a smile and, turning

towards Arjuna said: "Dear son Partha,
give me a cushion befitting a warrior."
When Arjuna, whose arrows were just
then burning the grandsire's flesh, heard
those words addressed to him, he took
three arrows from out of his quiver and so
placed them that the grandsire's head
found support on their points.
"Princes," said Bhishma addressing the
assembled chiefs, "Arjuna's arrows were
indeed what my head required to be
supported on. This pillow gives me
satisfaction. Now, I must lie thus until the
sun turns north. My soul will not depart
till then. When I pass away, those of you
who may be alive then may come and see
me."
Then the grandsire turned again to Arjuna
and said: "I am tormented with thirst. Get
me some drinking water." At once, Arjuna
raised his bow, and drawing, it to the ear,
shot a shaft down into the earth near the
grandsire on his right side.
Upon the opening made by the arrow,
there gushed a stream of pure sweet water
to the very lips of the dying man. Ganga
came up, says the poet, to quench her dear
son's burning thirst. Bhishma drank and
was happy.
"Duryodhana, may you be wise!" said
Bhishma, addressing the Kaurava prince.
"Did you see how Arjuna brought me
water to quench my thirst? Who else in
this world can do such a deed? Make
peace with him without further delay.
May the war cease with my exit. Listen to
me, son, make peace with the Pandavas."
The grandsire's words did not please
Duryodhana. Even when dying, the
patient does not like medicine. He objects
to the bitter taste. All the princes retired to
their camps.

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