The Third Day

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The Third Day

The previous day’s defeat had warned Bhishma, who more prudently organized his armies into the Garuda formation. He had placed himself in the beak of the gigantic bird; in the eyes stood Drona and Kritavarma; Asvatthama and Kripa, with their battalions, formed the head; Trigarta and Jayadratha were in the neck, and the body was made up of Duryodhana with all his brothers. Finally, in the queue was Brihadbala, the king of Koshala. All were obviously accompanied by their respective armies.

Before launching again on the attack, Bhishma spoke to the soldiers, renewing in them the courage they seemed to have lost.

When Arjuna saw the enemy formation advancing towards them, he consulted with Dhristadyumna: the two decided to respond to the attack with the crescent attitude. In the first point, with his army, was Bhima; along the flank, in increasing density, Drupada and Virata; then Nila and Drishtaketu; after which the mighty Dhristadyumna and his brother Shikhandi were admired; followed Yudhisthira with his army of elephants, Satyaki and the five sons of Draupadi. Abhimanyu and his half-brother Iravan were also nearby. Finally Ghatotkacha and the Kekayas. At the other end, terrifying anyone who looked at them, Arjuna and Krishna stood, holding the reins in His hand. Everyone was eager to return to combat.

Bhishma, with the sound of his shell, gave the signal for the battle to begin.


In a dense dust that blocked a clear view, the old man, aided by Drona, was confronted by Bhima and his son Ghatotkacha; but the efforts of the two heroes did not serve to prevent him from the usual enormous massacre. Like a huge fire moving between cotton balls, it ignites them in the blink of an eye. Bhishma made a vacuum around him, forcing Arjuna once again to head towards him. Seeing him arrive, the soldiers who covered the back of the Kaurava fought to the maximum of their strength, wanting to allow their general to continue his work of devastation. Sakuni even managed to destroy Satyaki’s chariot, but failed to kill him. The hero Vrishni jumped into Abhimanyu’s chariot, from which he continued to fight.

And as Bhishma and Drona headed for Yudhisthira, who was being protected by Madri’s twins, the confusion became indescribable.

The one who really stood out that day was Ghatotkacha, who moved with terrible fury, frightening even more than his father had done until then. Having clashed with Duryodhana and his battalion, he completely annihilated him, saving the latter only in order not to break his father’s oath.

Seeing him fighting so inspired, Bhima ran and hurled himself against the hated enemy, who could only be saved thanks to the intervention of the two elderly masters. They managed to take him out of the camp and have him healed of the numerous wounds that had been inflicted on him.

A few minutes passed and Duryodhana returned, in time to see his army battered by the wonders of Bhima and Satyaki. Not enduring the sight of such carnage, he ran to Bhishma.

“Why do you watch those two slaughter our men and do nothing to prevent it?” he shouted angrily. “Yet you are still alive, and so are Drona, and his son Asvatthama, so how can you allow this to happen? I can tell right away that you love the Pandavas so much that you want their victory. If you have already lost the will to fight, tell me, and I will ask Karna to come and fight for me.”

Bhishma looked at him, laughed in his face, and responded:

“For years I have been telling you that the Pandavas cannot be defeated, that even Indra himself would not be able to face them in battle; but you never wanted to listen to me, you never wanted to pay attention to what I was telling you. We are all doing what is in our abilities, especially I who am now old and cannot do more than I am already doing.”

But as Duryodhana continued to scold him, Bhishma, stung by his grandson’s harsh words, threw himself into the fray with tenfold fury.

And that morning’s situation, which had been all too favorable to the Pandavas, turned upside down. Everyone had to wake up to the harsh reality of that suffocating presence. The old warrior’s bow seemed to sing, and the hiss of arrows, racing at the speed of light, accompanied it. Hit by the hundreds, the Pandava soldiers fell mutilated and rivers of blood began to flow again: Bhishma himself seemed to run at the speed of his arrows.

Noticing that explosion of aggression, Arjuna tried to oppose it, but it was difficult for him to locate it: in one moment it seemed to materialize in the east, the next in the west, in still others he could not see it at all. It seemed that Bhishma had demanded the stage of the camp all to himself, that only he had become the protagonist, and that his only desire had suddenly become to destroy, without anyone’s help, the entire army of the Pandavas. Seeing all this, Krishna rebuked his friend Arjuna.

“Why do you look at this massacre and do not intervene? You could stop it and you do not do it because you love and respect this great man; but have you forgotten your duty as Kshatriya? Have you forgotten the abuses that you had to suffer from the Kauravas? And the promise you have made me?”

“Drive the chariot where the great Bhishma is now,” the Pandava retorted in a resolute tone.

And the two clashed again.

Arjuna’s elegant but effective combat was openly applauded by Bhishma, who as he unveiled his vast repertoire of martial mastery, emphasized those wonders by shouting:

“Well done! Bravo Arjuna! Keep it up, son of Indra!”

But despite his total admiration for his nephew, he always fought with tremendous rage. Arjuna, on the other hand, remained soft, almost gentle, seeming fearful of offending that great personality. Everyone noticed it. Krishna looked at Satyaki.

“My friend,” He said, “I have promised Draupadi to avenge her for all the suffering she has endured, and I have also promised to free this planet from the torment of the asuras. But Arjuna loves his relatives and his teachers too much, respects Bhishma and Drona too much and does not put heart into the battle. If he continues like this, we will never win. Now, as My promise can never be in vain and since he does not want to serve Me, I will do what he should have done”.

And as He spoke with Satyaki, his fury visibly increased, until the divine Krishna abandoned the human form and assumed that of the destroyer Narayana. As soon as He assumed this aspect, He thought of His weapon, the Sudarshana which immediately, brilliant as a thousand suns, appeared in his right hand. It was terrifying and at the same time fascinating to see Him on Arjuna’s chariot with the disc spinning at a dizzying speed around His right index finger. In clouds of dust, Krishna jumped off the chariot with the frown of an angry lion.

Everyone, stopping, thought:

“Now Krishna will destroy the whole world.”

Nobody could take their eyes off that image. He advanced towards Bhishma with all the intention of killing him on the spot, the drops of sweat mingled with the dust, while His long hair was gently blown by the wind.

At that fantastic scene, Bhishma got off the chariot and knelt on the ground.

“O Lord of Lords,” he prayed humbly, “I bow before You. I do not deserve the honor of Your fury when you could destroy me simply by wanting it. But because You want to bless me, You throw yourself at me brandishing Sudarshana. O Narayana, there cannot be glory greater than this. Come, then; by taking my life you will free me from the ungodly company of the Kauravas.”

Seeing Krishna approaching the old hero menacingly, Arjuna jumped off the chariot and ran after Him, grabbing the Lord by the arm that wielded the disc. Then he fell at his feet.

“My friend, You must not break an oath because of me: You promised You would not take up arms in this battle. Now if You did, Your reputation would be compromised. Don’t be angry with me, don’t kill Bhishma personally; I swear that I will face him with greater commitment and that I will stop him.”

Appeased by the words of Arjuna, Krishna returned to the chariot and took the reins in His hand: then He raised the transcendental panchajanya conchshell and played it with force, imitated by the Pandava. Those sounds made their enemies lose all courage, all hope of victory. Shaken by the unusual sight of Krishna’s furious face, that day Arjuna fought as never before, using his heavenly weapons against Bhishma and causing terrible carnage.

It was a great fortune for the Kauravas that sunset was close at hand, so that the Kaurava generals were able to recall their armies. If the battle continued, Arjuna would destroy the entire enemy army that same evening.


In his tent, Duryodhana was the image of despair. For the first time he had seen his cousin’s terrible abilities, and he was terrified of them.

Then, when night fell, he found some relief in sleep.


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

To buy the complete book, click above

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