The following day, while Virata and his soldiers were still engaged against the Trigartas, the Kurus invaded Matsya crossing the northern borders and defeating the few garrisons located in that area with derisory ease. When the herdsmen arrived out of breath, only Prince Uttara, Virata’s youngest son, remained at the court. All able-bodied men were with the king to the south. There was nothing left for them but to complain to him.
“Don’t worry, shepherds,” said the boy, “despite my young age I will be able to recover the stolen goods and our herds and punish the thieves. Don’t worry, I will leave immediately.”
“Prince,” retorted the rather worried shepherds, “what you are saying seems impossible to us. We have not told you that among the enemy ranks we have seen Karna, Duryodhana, and even Bhishma and Drona. It is a great attack; you would need to send the troops. What could you do alone, without your soldiers’ help?”
“I know who is in the ranks of our opponents, but neither Karna, nor Duryodhana, nor anyone else scare me. Just wait until you see me fight. I tell you that I, alone, will put the famous Kurava warriors to flight.”
Uttara’s childish bluster made Draupadi smile heartily, and she thought about how to protect the young man’s life. The opportunity was given to him by the prince himself, when he complained that he could not, however, go because he lacked a valid charioteer. Draupadi said:
“If you don’t have a charioteer, take Brihannala with you. He will know how to drive your chariot very well.”
“But Brihannala is a eunuch,” the prince laughed aloud and in a stern tone continued: “How can this person participate in a battle? When the field turns into hell, he will end up scared to death and will run away, leaving me alone on the battlefield.”
“You are wrong,” replied Draupadi. “I know that in the past Brihannala drove Arjuna’s chariot in a war action, so he must be very experienced. You can be sure he will be of great help to you.”
Uttara, who would have preferred the game to end there, had no choice but to accept.
After a few hours, he found himself traveling north.
When they reached the border, the two sighted the Kuru army, which looked like a sea in great turmoil.
At that point Uttara began to sweat cold; before him were tens of thousands of war experts and ruthless soldiers, led by heroes famous for their deeds such as the sons of Dhritarastra, Bhishma, Drona, Karna, Kripa, and many others. Thinking of those fighters, whom he had heard about as a child and whom until then he had imagined more as legendary figures than real people, he felt pervaded by a mad terror, so much so that his hair stood on end. Realizing that his intentions were only the bluster of a boy, he felt death near.
“Brihannala,” he stammered in terror, “turn the chariot, let’s go back immediately!”
Arjuna turned and looked at him smiling.
“Go back? But we just caught up with them. We need to retrieve the herds. Why do you want to run away?”
“Let’s go back, I tell you!” he shouted. “Do you know who are the ones we are pretending to defeat? Bhishma, Drona, and the others. How can you imagine that a young man like me who has not even finished his period of studies can face those heroes that not even the Devas could beat? Let’s go back immediately!”
But Arjuna refused to flee and tried to persuade him to go on. In terror, Uttara jumped off the chariot and began to run in the opposite direction. The Pandava threw himself in pursuit and immobilized him, reassuring him with words full of wisdom.
In the meantime the Kurus, from afar, had observed with amusement the singular scene of the young man fleeing hastily and the eunuch chasing him. But while everyone laughed, the intelligent Bhishma watched seriously.
“That eunuch looks a lot like Arjuna,” he said worriedly to Drona, “and if that’s true we will have to prepare for a hard fight.”
Hearing of the elders’ concerns, Duryodhana rejoiced in his heart; he believed he had achieved his goal.
“If that is Arjuna, then we have succeeded. The thirteenth year has not yet fully elapsed, and therefore he and his brothers will have to go back to the forest for another thirteen years. And, what are you worried about anyway? He is alone and we are many. Does he think he can defeat an entire army without help?”, he commented.
The elders did not answer, but it was evident from the facial expressions of Drona and his son Asvatthama that they were worried. Duryodhana was confused. He didn’t understand why those invincible heroes feared that lonely adversary so much.
Meanwhile Arjuna had managed to persuade Uttara not to give up.
“Well, what do you want me to do?” Uttara moaned as they headed towards the chariot, “I, who am little more than a child? How do you want me to fight the Kuravas alone?”
“Don’t be afraid,” replied Arjuna, “you won’t have to fight; I’ll do it for you. You just have to drive the chariot, I’ll take care of the rest.”
The prince looked at him in amazement.
“Look over there,” Arjuna said. “On the top of that shami tree, some time ago, the Pandava heroes hid their weapons, all of celestial origin. Go and get them; with them we can’t lose.”
Forcibly led to the tree, Uttara carried the large bundle down and when he opened it he had to cover his eyes to protect himself from the glare.
“These are the weapons of the Pandavas,” Arjuna said, “and this bow is the Gandiva. All these weapons have been given to them by the Devas themselves, and whoever possesses them acquires incomparable strength.”
So the great hero, after bending down to pay them respects, grabbed the Gandiva and lifted it up. Then he vibrated the string with impressive force, causing a rumble so loud that it made the Kurava soldiers tremble. No Kshatriya in the world was unaware of that unmistakable sound.
“It’s Arjuna, it’s Arjuna!” They all exclaimed in great excitement. “The Pandavas are coming! May the Devas protect us!”
An unstoppable panic spread among the soldiers. This angered Duryodhana.
“This terror that has gripped our troops is your fault,” he told Bhishma in an annoyed tone. “What is the reason for spreading an irrational fear? First of all, we should be happy if that sound belongs to the Gandiva, as that means that Arjuna has been discovered. But even if he wishes to fight us, why should we worry? We have a mighty army led by the strongest generals in the world, so we shouldn’t fear even the Devas with Indra at the head. This unrest of yours has no reason to exist.”
Bhishma, who was a master of astrology, flatly contradicted his nephew.
“You are still wrong, Duryodhana. I can assure you that the thirteenth year ended at the exact moment Arjuna made the Gandiva vibrate, and as for the battle against him you will soon realize why I am so alarmed.”
Meanwhile Arjuna, to cheer up the prince who at that point was beginning to feel particularly confused, revealed to him his identity, that of his brothers, and his wife’s. Then, he put him at the helm of the chariot, urging him to go against the Kuravas.
As the war chariot approached, raising great clouds of dust, the worst omens appeared in the sky above the Kuravas, signs that prophesied defeat. All the more experienced warned Duryodhana. It was at that point that Karna’s fury exploded, and he exclaimed:
“Enough of these unreasonable glorifications to that man who, although being alone, thinks he can do something against us! If you are afraid of him, step aside and go to hide; I will give the victory to our king!”
Offended by those words, Kripa and others reacted verbally. Even Asvatthama, hearing Karna insulting his father, was about to lash out at Surya’s son with murderous fury. But Duryodhana managed to calm the spirits. And the defenses began to be arranged, waiting for the collision with the famous son of Indra. The chariot was still almost two kilometers away when three arrows fell at the feet of Bhishma, Drona and Kripa. This was the signal of greeting and respect. At that gesture, the three venerable acaryas smiled and blessed Arjuna.
It was a great battle.
The unstoppable Pandava defeated all the maharathas on the field one by one, even managing to knock out the six strongest, Kripa, Asvatthama, Karna, Bhishma, Duryodhana and Drona. From each one of them he took away a trophy. Massacred by the thousands, the Kurava soldiers retreated in disorder beyond the borders. That day it was literally impossible to fight against Arjuna, who seemed to be death made man.
This is a section of the book “Maha-bharata, Vol. 1”.
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