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Chapter 64: The First Day's Battle

DUHSASANA was leading the Kaurava forces and Bhimasena did the same on the Pandava side. The noise of battle rolled and rent the air. The kettledrums, trumpets, horns and conchs made the sky ring with their clamor.

Horses neighed, charging elephants trumpeted and the warriors uttered their lion-roars. Arrows flew in the air like burning meteors. Fathers and sons, uncles and nephews slew one another forgetful of old affection and ties of blood. It was a mad and terrible carnage. In the forenoon of the first day's battle the Pandava army was badly shaken. Wherever Bhishma's chariot went, it was like the dance of the destroyer. Abhimanyu could not bear this and he attacked the grandsire. When the oldest and the youngest warriors thus met in battle, the gods came to watch the combat. Abhimanyu's flag, displaying the golden karnikara tree brightly waved on his chariot.

Kritavarma was hit by one of his arrows and Salya was hit five times. Bhishma himself was hit nine times by Abhimanyu's shafts. Durmukha's charioteer was struck by one of Abhimanyu's sword-edge arrow and his severed head rolled on the ground.

Another broke Kripa's bow. Abhimanyu's feats brought down showers of flowers from the gods who looked on. Bhishma and the warrior supporting him exclaimed:

"Indeed, a worthy son to Dhananjaya!"

Then the Kaurava warriors made a combined attack on the valiant youth. But he stood against them all. He parried with his own all the shafts discharged by Bhishma.

One of his well-aimed arrows brought the grandsire's palm tree flag down. Seeing this, Bhimasena was overjoyed and made a great lion-roar that further inspired the valiant nephew. Great was the grandsire's joy, seeing the valor of the young hero.

Unwillingly, he had to use his full strength against the boy. Virata, his son Uttara, Dhrishtadyumna, the son of Drupada and Bhima came to relieve the young hero and attacked the grandsire who then turned his attentions on them.

Uttara, the son of Virata, rode an elephant and led a fierce charge on Salya. Salya's chariot horses were trampled to death and thereupon he hurled a javelin at Uttara. It went with unerring aim and pierced him in the chest.

The goad he had in his hand dropped and he rolled down dead. But the elephant did not withdraw. It continued charging until Salya cut off its trunk and hit it in many places with his arrows. And then it uttered a loud cry and fell dead. Salya got into Kritavarma's car.

Virata's son Sveta saw Salya slay his younger brother. His anger rose, like fire fed by libations of butter. And he drove his chariot towards Salya. Seven chariot warriors at once came up in support of Salya and protected him from all sides.

Arrows were showered on Sveta and the missiles sped across like lightning in clouds. Sveta defended himself marvelously. He parried their shafts with his own and cut their javelins down as they sped towards him. The warriors in both armies were amazed at the skill displayed by Sveta. Duryodhana lost no time now and sent forces to relieve Salya.

Whereupon there was a great battle.

Thousands of soldiers perished, and numerous were the chariots broken and the horses and elephants killed. Sveta succeeded in putting Duryodhana's men to flight and he pushed forward and attacked Bhishma.

Bhishma's flag was brought down by Sveta. Bhishma, in his turn, killed Sveta's horses and charioteer. There upon, they hurled javelins at one another and fought on.

Sveta took a mace, and swinging it, sent it at Bhishma's car which was smashed to pieces. But the grandsire, even before the mace dashed against the chariot, had anticipated it and jumped down. From the ground he pulled the string of his bow to his ear and sent a fatal arrow at Sveta.

Sveta was struck and fell dead. Duhsasana blew his horn and danced in joy. This was followed by a great attack on the Pandava army by Bhishma.

The Pandava forces suffered greatly on the first day of the battle. Dharmaputra was seized with apprehension, and Duryodhana's joy was unbounded. The brothers came to Krishna and were engaged in anxious consultations.

"Chief among Bharatas," said Krishna to Yudhishthira, "do not fear. God has blessed you with valiant brothers. Why should you entertain any doubts? There is Satyaki and there are Virata, Drupada and Dhrishtadyumna, besides myself. What reason is there for you to be dejected? Do you forget that Sikhandin is awaiting for his predestined victim Bhishma?" Thus did Krishna comfort Yudhishthira.