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text by Gilbert Mane



I bow to Narayana and to Nara

I bow to Saraswati, Goddess of learning

I bow to the holy man, Wyasa


The End of the Battle



Shantanu, Bhishma's father, had given Bhishma a gift. Bhishma could

choose the hour of his death. Bhishma decided to live until the sun was
in the north. Then he could die and follow the sun to Liberation.

Now that Bhishma was dying the Kaurawas thought that they would lose.
As Bhishma lay on his bed of arrows he called for Duryodhana.

"Make peace with Yudhishthira," he said, "Give him back his kingdom.
You stole it like a cheat, now give it back like a man."

"Never!" cried Duryodhana angrily.

Bhishma called for Karna. "You are a son of Kunti and the Sun god. The
Pandawas are your brothers. Make peace with them," he pleaded.

"I know my parents. But I was abandoned by Kunti at birth. Duryodhana

has been kind to me. I have vowed to stay with him until death. I will not
join the Pandawas." He left with Bhishma's blessing to join the fight.

Drona took over the lead of the Kaurawa army. Now that Bhishma had
fallen Karna joined in the fight. Duryodhana was overjoyed.

"Dhrishtadyumna is going to kill me," said Drona, "I will fight anyone to
the death except him. But, O Duryodhana, what do you wish of me?"

"Capture Yudhishthira alive," Duryodhana replied, "If he is killed the

Pandawas will take revenge. But if he loses again at dice we may be able
to end this terrible fight and keep the kingdom."

"I cannot capture him if Arjuna is there. Lure Arjuna away and I will obey
you." But Arjuna heard of this plan, and he made a vow, "While I live,
Yudhishthira will not be captured!"

The fighting was truly terrible. Sahadewa and Sakuni fought each other
like wild animals. Nakula fell upon his uncle Shalya and killed his horses
and charioteer. Bhima killed hundreds of Kaurawa soldiers with his mace.

All warriors were consumed by anger. They wanted revenge for the
deaths of so many friends. They began to forget the rules of war.
Abhimanyu, Arjuna's son, fought so fiercely that even his enemies praised
his courage and skill.

The Kaurawas were being forced back. Drona spotted Yudhishthira and
raced towards him. Despite Yudhishthira's shower of arrows Drona closed
in on him. Arjuna saw the danger. He raced towards Drona. Drona could
not approach Yudhishthira because of Arjuna's fiery arrows.

Drona knew Arjuna had to be led away from Yudhishthira. On the twelfth
day of the battle Susharma, a king fighting for the Kaurawas said, "I and
all my warriors from the land of Trigarta take a vow. We will not return
alive from the battlefield unless Arjuna is dead!"

He challenged Arjuna who began to fight them ferociously. Drona then

ordered his men to attack Yudhishthira. Dhrishtadyumna, Draupadi's
brother rushed to his aid. Drona trembled with fear because
Dhrishtadyumna had been born especially to kill him.

Bhima, Nakula and many other kings came to help Yudhishthira. Seeing
this Duryodhana, Karna and many of the Kaurawas came to help Drona.
Arjuna finally defeated the Death Squad of Susharma and sped to
Yudhishthira. With his arrival the Kaurawas were driven off.

Duryodhana was so angry that he used foul language to Drona in front of

the army. Drona was shocked. "Duryodhana! Impatience is the greatest
weakness of men. Arjuna is protecting his brother with great skill. But
tomorrow we will capture Yudhishthira!"

The End of the Battle


On the thirteenth day Arjuna was again lured away by Susharma. Drona
attacked Yudhishthira with a special formation of warriors. It was made up
of seven circles of troops each harder to break through than the last.
Bhima, Dhrishtadyumna and many other great warriors could not break
Drona's formation. Only Arjuna knew how to break all the circles.

Abhimanyu, Arjuna's son, had heard him say how to enter the circles. But
he did not know how to get out again.

"I will break Drona's circles!" cried Abhimanyu to the Pandawas, "Follow
me and we will break out together!" Abhimanyu's charioteer, Sumitra
tried to warn him of the danger.

"Lord Shri Krishna is my uncle," said Abhimanyu, "And Arjuna is my

father. Fear and doubt do not dare come near me!"

Abhimanyu shattered the circle of soldiers and began to slaughter the

Kaurawas. But Jayadratha brought his troops to close the circles behind
Abhimanyu. The Pandawas fought desperately to get in but could not
defeat Jayadratha. Abhimanyu was alone.

Nevertheless no one could defeat him. He even killed one of

Duryodhana's sons. "I want Abhimanyu dead!" shouted Duryodhana, "I
don't care how! Forget the rules of war!"

Six of the greatest warriors surrounded Abhimanyu and Karna attacked

him from behind. This was against the rules. All his weapons were
broken and still he fought with a chariot wheel. Finally he was attacked
by a son of Duh-Shasana with a mace. Abhimanyu snatched the mace
from him. Abhimanyu then stopped fighting because his opponent was

At that moment he was struck from behind with another mace and killed.
The evil of this act made the sun hide its face, the trees bowed their
branches and rivers ceased to flow. The gods began to weep. But the
Kaurawas rejoiced.

Hearing of his son's death Arjuna joined in the wailing in the Pandawa camp.
When told of Jayadratha's role he vowed to kill him. "I will not return alive from
the battlefield if Jayadratha is still alive at sunset tomorrow!" he said.

Duryodhana was overjoyed. If only they could protect Jayadratha for one day
Arjuna would have to kill himself. "Place Jayadratha in the middle of the army.
Protect him in every way!" he cried.

Arjuna attacked the Kaurawas furiously. As the Kaurawas began to collapse

Drona gave Duryodhana magic armour and sent him against Arjuna. At first
Arjuna's arrows were useless. Arjuna, puzzled concentrated on Duryodhana and
saw through the magic. He began to shoot enchanted arrows killing
Duryodhana's horses, charioteer and wounding Duryodhana himself.
Duryodhana fled from the battlefield.

Jayadratha was exposed to Arjuna's wrath. All the Pandawas were closing in on
Jayadratha. Karna attacked Bhima showering him with arrows. But Bhima
destroyed Karna's chariot, driving him into a rage. Bhima then remembered how
Karna had insulted Draupadi and began to glow with anger. Karna had his bow
broken and was forced to retreat.

Bhima then killed sixteen of Duryodhana's brothers. The last one killed was
Wikarna. He was known as a lover of justice and, after he had killed him, Bhima
began to weep because he had loved Wikarna so much.

Karna attacked Bhima again and after a long struggle had Bhima at his mercy.
He remembered his vow to Kunti, not kill any of the Pandawas except Arjuna and
he let Bhima go.

The sun was beginning to set and still Arjuna had not killed Jayadratha. They
were fighting together when suddenly darkness fell. The Kaurawas rejoiced and
Jayadratha stopped fighting.

"Kill him now!" cried Krishna, "I have created this darkness as a trick."

Arjuna shot an arrow which cut off Jayadratha's head. The last rays of the setting
sun then showed themselves. The head of Jayadratha flew through the air and
landed in his father's lap as he was meditating. His father died of grief. The
fight was growing more horrible with every passing day.

The End of the Battle


The fighting began to grow more cruel and vicious. As the sun set the armies
kept fighting in the dark. This was against all the rules of war.

Bhima*s son Ghatothkacha, whose mother was a demoness, brought an army of

demon followers and attacked the Kaurawas.

He struck fear into their hearts.

With his magical powers he created whole armies of horrible ghosts. The
Kaurawa army began to panic and run away. Ashwatthama however was not
afraid at all. With his arrows he made the ghosts vanish.

But the Kaurawa army still ran. Karna had saved up a special divine weapon to
kill Arjuna. But the Kaurawa army was being destroyed by Ghatothkacha and his
demons. Finally he released his weapon against Ghatothkacha. Ghatothkacha,
seeing his death coming, grew and grew and grew. When he was struck his
huge body fell and killed thousands of Kaurawas.

Bhima was filled with grief at his sons death. He fought ferociously.

Duryodhana shouted at Drona, "You love the Pandawas! You won*t fight or kill
them! You are a weak old man!"

"They can*t be killed by fair means. If you insist, I will break the rules", said
Drona. He began to use special weapons against ordinary soldiers. All the
Pandawas tried to stop him but couldn*t.

"He will only lay down his weapons if he thinks Ashwatthama, his son, is dead",
said Krishna.

"Ashwatthama is dead, Ashwatthama is dead", the Pandawas began to cry.

"Yudhishthira can only speak the truth. Only if he says so will I believe it", said

At once Bhima struck and killed an elephant called Ashwatthama and

Yudhishthira called out, "Ashwatthama is dead." But before he could say "...the
elephant" Krishna ordered the trumpets to sound and Yudhishthira*s words were
drowned. Drona put down his weapons and sat in meditation. Dhrishtadyumna
crept up behind him and struck his head from his shoulders.


After the death of Drona, Karna was made leader of the Kaurawa forces.
Karna fought like a lion. He was the son of the Sun God and he blazed
with fury.

Ashwatthama, furious at his father Drona*s death, killed thousands of the

Pandawa army. Arjuna raced to their aid and seemed to be everywhere
on the battlefield at once.

Ashwatthama released a divine weapon which began raining down arrows

on the Pandawas. As the Pandawas sent arrows in return, flaming discs
began to rain down. As they fought against the discs, fire rocks and huge
weapons began to rain down.

"Stop!" cried Krishna, "Lay down your weapons. This divine weapon of
Ashwatthama grows stronger when it is fought. It can only be defeated by
peace and surrender."

Quickly the Pandawa army laid down their weapons and thought only of
peace. Immediately the deadly shower ceased.

Bhima refused to stop fighting. He jumped into his chariot and raced
towards the enemy. Bhima came upon Duh-shasana.

When Yudhishthira had lost the dice game Duh-shasana had grabbed
Draupadi by the hair and had dragged her before the men. He had tried
to strip her of her clothes but Krishna had saved her. Bhima had been so
angry to see his wife shamed that he had vowed to kill Duh-Shasana and
drink his blood. Everyone had been horrified by this awful vow. Duh-
Shasana had been especially terrified of the savage look in Bhima*s eyes.

Duh-shasana had fought bravely during the battle but had always hidden
from Bhima. Now he had nowhere to hide. He and Bhima fought. They
shot arrows, threw javelins and attacked with maces. Finally with their
weapons gone and chariots destroyed Bhima killed Duh-Shasana with his
bare hands, he tore open his chest and drank his blood.

The End of the Battle


On the seventeenth day of battle Karna vowed to kill Arjuna. King Shalya
who had wanted to fight for Yudhishthira but had been tricked by
Duryodhana, agreed to drive Karna*s chariot. At first he would not agree
because he was a king and it was not a king*s job to drive a chariot.

Duryodhana begged Shalya to drive the chariot because he was so good

at it. Shalya agreed but only if he was allowed to talk to Karna. While
driving he kept telling Karna how brave and skilful Arjuna was. Karna*s
heart began to sink.

Finally Karna and Arjuna met on the battlefield and then began the
greatest contest of the whole war. They showered each other with
magical arrows. They were both wounded. Karna shot a snake arrow at
Arjuna*s neck but Krishna made the chariot swerve and Arjuna* s helmet
was knocked from his head.

Both Krishna and Shalya were wounded. The fight was even and neither
Arjuna nor Karna seemed able to defeat the other.

Then Karna*s chariot began to sink into the ground. Years before a priest
had cursed him - his chariot would sink into the ground when he met his
greatest enemy.

Karna jumped down and began to wrestle with the chariot wheel.

"Wait", he cried, "It is unfair to fight while my chariot is stuck!"

"Was it fair to shame Draupadi?" called Krishna, "Was it fair to cheat at

dice? Was it fair to kill Abhimanyu from behind when he had stopped
fighting? O Arjuna, kill this wretch without delay!"

Arjuna shot his last arrow. Karna*s head was struck from his body and
rolled in the dust.

The Kaurawas stood still in shock with their mouths open. Their weapons
fell from their fingers. Then they began to run...

The eighteenth and last day of the battle dawned. The Kaurawas knew
they were going to lose.

Duryodhana said, "Everyone must die sooner or later. You are warriors
and you must die fighting not running away!"

Shalya agreed to command the Kaurawa army. Both armies met and
fought viciously. Throughout the day the last of the mighty warriors
began to fall. But Shalya could not be defeated. No matter how hard the
Pandawa army attacked him he drove them off. Many thousands of men
were killed.

Yudhishthira, Arjuna, Bhima, Nakula and Sahadewa were everywhere on

the battlefield and the Kaurawa army was slaughtered.

Still Shalya fought for Duryodhana. Yudhishthira, usually mild and gentle
and kind, became enraged at Shalya killing his men. With the help of his
brothers he attacked Shalya and after a long battle in which each man
was wounded and had to replace broken chariots, he threw a golden spear
covered in jewels.

Shalya spread his arms as if to welcome death. As the spear struck him
the earth rose behind him to soften his fall.

Bhima attacked Shakuni. Shakuni had helped Duryodhana cheat at the

dice game which had begun all the bitterness. Shakuni was protected by
his sons but Bhima killed them one by one. Shakuni was enraged and
attacked Bhima. But Bhima destroyed his sword, his bow, his shield and
his spear. He killed Shakuni*s charioteer and his horses and broke his
chariot. Shakuni began to run away.

"Where are you going you coward! You cheat!" cried Bhima, "You are no
warrior! You are an old woman!"

He threw a spear which cut Shakuni*s head off. He then killed the rest of
Duryodhana*s brothers.

The End of the Battle


The army of the Kaurawas began to fall apart. Everyone began to flee in
terror. When news of the death of all the great heroes reached the
women and children they began to cry and scream.

Of all the great heroes in the Kaurawa army only Kripacharya, Kritawarma
and Ashwatthama were left alive. Seeing his whole army destroyed and
standing alone on the battlefield Duryodhana looked around at the piles of
dead men and animals and broken weapons. He became full of fear and
he also began to run away.

He came to a lake and decided to hide beneath its surface. As he entered

the lake Sanjaya, who was returning to Duryodhana *s father
Dhritarashthra, came by.

"Tell my father that we have been defeated," he said sadly, "Tell him I
have entered this lake to rest."

As Sanjaya walked away Duryodhana entered the lake and the surface
froze. He lay quite still.

Kripacharya, Kritawarma and Ashwatthama came to the lake side.

"O King," they called, "Arise from this lake. The Pandawas are few and
they are tired. We can still defeat them!"

"Tomorrow," said Duryodhana wearily, "Let me rest for today. Tomorrow

we will fight them."

Ashwatthama was pleased. He wanted to keep fighting and killing. But

word of Duryodhana’s hiding place reached Yudhishthira.

The Pandawas raced to the lake.


"O Duryodhana!" cried Yudhishthira, "You are a coward and a murderer! Your greed
and selfishness has caused thousands of women to be widowed. Millions of children
are now orphans because of you!"

"I am too tired to listen to you or to fight today." said Duryodhana wearily, "You can
have the kingdom. I just want to rest."

But Yudhishthira became furious. "Your pride started this war! We won*t accept the
kingdom as your gift. We will take it through conquest! Name your weapon. Fight
with one of us. Either conquer and rule or die!"

Duryodhana became angry and jumped up from the bottom of the lake. "I choose to
fight with the mace!" he roared. "I will fight all you! But one at a time. Those are
the rules of war."

"Where were the rules of war when you killed Abhimanyu?" said Yudhishthira in
disgust, "You use the rules only when it suits you. Still, you may choose to fight one
of us. If you win we will make you king."

Now Krishna was furious, "Duryodhana is an expert with the mace. Only Bhima can
defeat him. Even then it will be difficult to defeat him in a fair fight. This will be like
the dice game. Yudhishthira have you thrown away the kingdom after all this?"

But Bhima said, "I will fight and kill Duryodhana. I will do anything to kill him!"

"Excellent!" said the Lord Shri Krishna.

The fight began. Both warriors were cautious and circled each other. Then they
would rush at each other, jump in the air, duck to avoid a blow and try to push each
other to the ground.

They fought fairly and both were soon covered in their own and each other*s blood.
Bhima was stronger but Duryodhana was more skilful. Both had been trained by
Balarama, Krishna*s brother. Neither could defeat the other by fighting fairly.

Seeing this Arjuna caught Bhima’s eye. He slapped his thigh. Bhima understood.
The next time Duryodhana leapt into the air Bhima brought his mace crashing into
his thigh. Such a blow was against the rules. Both Duryodhana’s legs were

The End of the Battle


Years before, when Draupadi had been dragged into the meeting hall, Duryodhana
had slapped his thigh and told Draupadi to sit there. Bhima had vowed to smash
that thigh. Now he had fulfilled his vow and Duryodhana lay dying in the dust. But
Duryodhana blamed Krishna for his downfall and he cursed him.

When Ashwatthama heard how Duryodhana had been beaten against the rules he
became angry. Then he remembered how his father had been tricked into death and
he became furious. He vowed to kill all the remaining soldiers in the Pandawa army
that night. He told the dying Duryodhana who was pleased to hear of this vow.

Ashwatthama was wondering how to kill the Pandawas when he saw a birds’ nest in
a tree. While the chicks were sleeping an owl silently crept into the nest and killed
them all. Ashwatthama decided that he would be equally cunning and cruel.

Kripacharya, his uncle, tried to stop him doing this terrible deed but Ashwatthama
was too angry to hear sense. He crept up to the sleeping Pandawa camp.
Ashwatthama was disappointed to find that Krishna had taken the Pandawas far from
the camp.

So he killed all their sons instead. He also killed Drishtadyumna and all the other
survivors of the battle. Only Yudhishthira, Bhima, Arjuna, Sahadewa and Nakula
survived. Draupadi and Kunti were also left alive to mourn their children and

When Duryodhana heard what had happened he died happily.

"The Pandawas may have survived," said Ashwatthama, "But their family will not!"

Abhimanyu, Arjuna’s son, had been killed in the battle. But Uttara, his wife, was
alive and she was going to have a baby. Ashwatthama picked up a blade of grass
from the ground. He said some magic words and it turned into a flaming sword. The
sword sped towards Uttara’s womb to kill the baby.

Lord Shri Krishna, seeing the danger, entered the womb of Uttara and stood between
the baby and the flaming sword.

Meanwhile the Pandawas caught up with Ashwatthama. He and Bhima fought for
hours. At last Ashwatthama was defeated. He had a jewel in his forehead. It was
taken from him and placed in Yudhishthira’s crown. He was forced to kneel in the
dust and his head was shaved.

Bhima brought him to Draupadi. "Should I kill this wretch who has killed your
children?" he asked.

"No," said Draupadi, "He is no longer a warrior. He is no longer a man. It will be

worse for him to live!" Krishna cursed him: he would live a long life but be loved by no
one. Ashwatthama crept away ashamed.