The Fourth Day

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Bhima and Bhagadatta

The Fourth Day

On the fourth day the usual themes were repeated: Bhishma on the one hand, Arjuna on the other, raging in the enemy ranks, sowing death and terror.

But that morning also Abhimanyu was terrible. It even seemed that there was no difference between the father and the son: the latter in fact with his prowess greatly amazed the soldiers, friends and enemies, who could not understand how a boy of just sixteen could fight in that way. Seeing him oppress famous warriors such as Bhishma, Shalya, Citrasena and Asvatthama, Arjuna meanwhile encouraged and applauded him, shouting warlike cries. However, in order to be safe, Dhristadyumna was there ready to help him.

Another hero fell that morning, the son of Shala, killed by Dhristadyumna’s club. Seeing him fall to the ground lifeless, his father, with tears in his eyes, ran to avenge him, and with him Shalya; at that point in the field the turmoil became frenzied.

In the meantime, Satyaki was openly applauded for having managed to put the Rakshasa Alambusha to flight.


At some point in the day, not at all oblivious to his vow to personally kill all of Dhritarastra’s children, Bhima spotted a group of them and launched himself against them, immediately engaging in a furious fight. As soon as Duryodhana saw the scene, afraid for the life of his brothers, he ran and fought valiantly; but the Pandava did not seem at all worried about the number of adversaries who tried in vain to protect the sons of Dhritarastra, and continued his work of destruction, killing men, horses and elephants without any discrimination. All the while he danced like a furious lion that has found its prey. And when that state of exaltation had reached its peak, Bhima, with the club raised above his head, ran against the sons of Dhritarastra and with a tremendous blow killed the first.

“Ninety-nine to go now,” he cried in a murderous fit.

As he said those words, the tone of his voice was frightening. Crazy with fury and drunk with joy at the same time, he killed eight in a few minutes. He seemed completely out of his mind.


Seeing him in that state, Bhishma charged the great Bhagadatta to protect the king’s brothers, over whom this terrible threat loomed. The noble monarch, who fought on the back of Supratika, a magnificent, gigantic elephant, set out in pursuit of Bhima. Under the gait of his hooves the earth shook, and everyone fled to avoid being trampled. As soon as they got close, the elderly and venerable Bhagadatta threw a heavy javelin at the Pandava, hitting him in the chest. From the force of the blow, quick and mighty as lightning, Bhima fainted. Ghatotkacha saw his father in distress and ran to his aid, managing to put the king to flight, who had seen himself unable to withstand the Rakshasa’s fury. Bhima, who in a few minutes had regained his senses, chased, with his son, Bhagadatta and his army; and they resumed the fight.

Worried about that deadly pairing, and anxious for the life of the king of Prajyotisha, Bhishma summoned several heroes, all very strong, and rushed with them to the place where the two were carrying out a real massacre. But they, not at all worried by the rush of numerous and valiant enemies, licked their lips, anticipating the pleasure of the imminent struggle. The physical impact of the bodies was terrible. Bhima and Ghatotkacha, in a few moments, wiped out thousands of lives. Seeing them more like possessed ghosts than men, Bhishma realized that it was not possible to fight them at that moment and ordered a retreat.

And for the fourth time since the terrible battle of Kurukshetra had begun, the sun went down.


In their camp the Pandavas complimented Ghatotkacha. Certainly he had been the hero of the day.

Only when they found themselves in their tents did the Kauravas realize how many dead they had left on the ground: that day they had lost tens and tens of thousands of soldiers. Exhausted and discouraged, they all went to sleep almost without saying a word.

But Duryodhana did not. He cried disconsolately, unable to dispel the image of his brothers, killed by Bhima before his own eyes. He thought that if he had continued in that way he would have had them all massacred one by one: at this thought he felt an irrepressible tremor invade his body. He tried to sleep, but after several unsuccessful attempts he decided to go and see Bhishma.

“Eight of my brothers have been killed,” he said in a hushed tone, “and Bhima’s fury does not seem to have subsided at all. How could this happen? You, Drona, Kripa, Bhagadatta and all the others looked without intervening and allowed this terrible slaughter. I did not know that the Pandavas and their allies were so strong; I believed that this battle would end in a few days with their surrender. What is happening? What makes them invincible?”

“Dear son,” Bhishma replied gently, “I have been telling you for years ad nauseam: the Pandavas are stronger. You are wrong when you accuse us of having witnessed the killing of your brothers without intervening. The explanation is much more simple: we couldn’t do anything for them, just as we couldn’t do it for everyone else.

“You still have time. Make peace with Yudhisthira and live quietly with your remaining friends and relatives. The Pandavas are pious and will not refuse a truce or peace. If you choose to continue on the path of impiety, then I will tell you right away what you really want to know, what makes them invincible: they have Krishna on their side. That’s why nobody, I mean nobody, can do anything against them. Reconsider the extent of our strength; four days of battle were not enough to make you open your eyes to the truth?”

Duryodhana listened to the elder’s words with his head down. Then, without further ado, he left the tent.

Bhishma knew him well; he knew that his nature was such that he would never admit defeat. He lay down and tried to sleep, but in vain.

He thought of the duel with Arjuna, what amazing skills he had shown, and also saw the incredible Abhimanyu, who made his way with the power of a tornado. And then his favorite image appeared to him, Krishna, on which he meditated every day, with his beautiful face altered by fury running towards him intent on killing him, Sudarshana in his hand.

Thinking of the Lord, the pure-hearted Bhishma fell asleep.


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

To buy the complete book, click above

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