The Eighth Day

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The Eighth Day

The sun rose for the eighth time over that expanse of men and animals gathered at Kurukshetra.

After performing his morning devotions, Bhishma paused to reflect on what had happened the previous day and thought it right to organize the army according to the urmi, the ocean. This formation allowed continuous offensive spreads that could expand everywhere, just like the waves of the sea.

Yudhisthira, who had carefully observed the formidable enemy array, asked his generals to respond with the Shringataka. Basically it was multiple horns that could easily penetrate the enemy formation.

 

The hostilities began.

Determined not to allow the usual daily carnage, Bhima placed himself in front of the old Bhishma and did not give up until he had killed the charioteer and destroyed the chariot. But as he continued to fight his grandfather, he glimpsed eight of Dhritarastra’s sons quite close to each other in the corner of his eye. Roaring with joy, he attacked them with tremendous fury and after bitter duels killed them all. Duryodhana, who was nearby, had to witness the scene without being able to intervene: as in a nightmare the voice of the Pandava came back to his mind, swearing over the years:

“I will kill you and all your brothers. May I lose my spiritual merits if I don’t keep my promise.”

Now, seeing him fight with that ardor, it was clear that Bhima had every intention of carrying out his purposes. And again, Duryodhana was afraid for his own life and that of his brothers. But when he revealed his concerns to the teacher, he replied with the usual warnings. So, with the images of that umpteenth tragedy imprinted in his mind, he resumed fighting with great sadness.

 

Midday came on that immense carnage.

This time it was Nakula and Sahadeva who aroused the admiration of all, fighting with their swords drawn side by side. That day they were terrible. Such was their speed that it was difficult for anyone to determine where they were: sometimes they could be seen running on the ground spinning their weapons, other times in the air as if they were flying, or on the roofs of chariots while, with incredible speed, they decimated their opponents. But, Bhishma and Drona equally deserved the same recognition for fighting just as hard as the twins and Bhima.

Unfortunately, in the early hours of the afternoon it was Arjuna who suffered a serious loss: his son Iravan, born of Ulupi during his tirtha-yatra, so brave that he could be compared to Abhimanyu, after putting Shakuni on the run, fell in a bitter fight to hand of Alambusha.

And the Kuravas, carried away by the wings of enthusiasm for the success achieved by the Rakshasa, launched a vehement attack that overwhelmed the Pandavas. It was Ghatotkacha who, furious at the death of his cousin, saved the situation. Playing with enemies like a cat does a mouse, he first defeated Duryodhana, then caused his army enormous losses and repulsed the offensive. And yet he had several of Dhritarastra’s sons under his power and could have killed them, but he did not do so out of respect for his father’s oath. As mentioned above, Duryodhana found himself at the mercy of the Rakshasa and they had to intervene in force to rescue him. But when Ghatotkacha had seen so many heroes in front of him not only was he not scared, he felt the excitement of the fight growing within him. At that moment his screams echoed everywhere: it was as if millions of bloodthirsty ghosts had invaded the camp and were exterminating the Kaurava.

Yudhisthira managed to make out his nephew’s voice and called for Bhima.

“Brother, listen, this is Ghatotkacha. There is no doubt that he is far from in trouble right now. He will surely be busy killing thousands of our enemies. But better be careful. As Arjuna is busy defending the sons of Drupada from Bhishma, right now no one else but you can be really useful to him; go to him, therefore, and support him in the fight.

Bhima caught up with his son with great speed.

Under their mighty blows it seemed that the entire Kaurava army was on the verge of being crushed, so much so that even the bravest had to seek escape. Duryodhana, quivering with rage, urged his charioteer to head for Bhima, but it didn’t take long for him to realize that the Pandava was too strong; so the moment he saw him rushing towards him with the club raised and with all the intention of crushing him under his mighty blows, he ran away hastily. As soon as the soldiers saw the king escape, they followed suit. Alone Bhima and Ghatotkacha had managed to put a good part of the enemy army to flight.

Duryodhana ran to Bhishma and said:

“Bhima and his son are causing real devastation; they cannot be contained. You come and protect our troops.”

“Kaurava, unfortunately I cannot come personally, otherwise Arjuna and Abhimanyu will burn our armies in a few minutes. I will send Bhagadatta to face the son of Vayu.”

And again the elderly monarch and his elephant Supratika ran and rearranged the fleeing troops. Then they hurled themselves against those two frenzied enemies.

The monarch of Dasharna, who also rode a huge and mighty elephant, tried to prevent them from advancing, but he had to retreat: Supratika, with hundreds of wounds and his head bathed in blood, did not care for the pain, rather, the more he became targeted the more his destructive fury increased. Hearing the furious trumpeting of the animal and the flicker of weapons, Arjuna ran and the uproar increased. It was then that Indra’s son learned the news of Iravan’s death.

“So many died just because of Duryodhana’s envy,” he said sadly to Krishna, “Vidura had foretold it, he clearly knew what was going to happen. That’s why he always looked for ways to avoid it. In one week our armies, even though they were massive, have dwindled so much. How many dead? how much blood?”

News of the death of his nephew Iravan also reached Bhima. His anger flared up. He looked for more of Dhritarastra’s children to be sacrificed on the altar of vengeance and only when he managed to kill eight others in the afternoon did he seem to calm down a little. Knowing well by now that the fit of destructive madness that had taken him at that moment would not completely subside until he had exterminated any man or object that came within range, the Kauravas lost all desire to continue the battle and withdrew.

Darkness fell.

The Pandavas had suffered heavy losses, but those who had had the worst were undoubtedly the Kauravas.

 

This is a section of the book “Maha-bharata, Vol. 2”.

To buy the complete book, click above

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