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Chapter 82: The Sindhu King

NEWS of Arjuna's oath reached the enemy. The spies informed Duryodhana's friends that Arjuna, having learnt that Jayadratha was the cause of Abhimanyu's death, had vowed to kill the Sindhu king before sunset next day.

Vriddhakshatra, the illustrious king of the Sindhus, was blessed with a son, who was named Jayadratha. At the time of the birth of the prince, a voice was heard to say:

"This prince will attain great glory and he will attain the happy regions above, slain in battle. One who, among the warriors of all ages, ranks among the most illustrious will, in the field of battle, sever his head from the body."

All living beings must die but hardly any, however wise or brave, welcome it.

Vriddhakshatra was grieved to hear the voice declare his son's end.

In his disturbed state of mind, he uttered a curse: "He, who shall cause my son's head to roll down on the ground, shall have his head burst at that very moment into fragments."

Jayadratha grew up and, when he reached manhood, Vriddhakshatra handed over the care of the State to the prince. He retired to the forest, where he spent the evening of his days in austerities in an ashrama near the plain, which afterwards became the Kurukshetra field of battle.

When Jayadratha came to know about Arjuna's vow, he remembered the prediction about his death and feared his end was near.

"I do not want to be in this battle any longer. Let me go back to my country," he said to Duryodhana.

"Do not fear, Saindhava," replied Duryodhana. "Here are all these veterans and warriors who will stand between you and danger. Karna, Chitrasena, Vivimsati, Bhurisravas, Salya, Vrishasena, Purumitra, Jaya, Bhoja, Kamboja, Sudakshina, Satyavrata, Vikarna, Durmukha, Duhsasana, Subahu, Kalinga, the Avanti princes, Drona, Drona's illustrious son and Sakuni all these warriors and I myself are here and you cannot be in danger. The whole of my army will have but one task today, to defend you against Arjuna. You should not leave us now." Jayadratha agreed to remain. He went to Drona and said to him:

"Master, you taught me and Arjuna and you know us both well. What is your appraisal of us two?"

"Son, I discharged my duties as teacher and dealt with you both impartially. The instruction was the same to you and to Arjuna, but Arjuna excels because of his superior discipline and his own practice.

But, you need not be discouraged by this.

You will be placed behind a strong force that Arjuna cannot easily pierce. Fight according to the tradition of your ancestors. Death comes to us all, cowards as well as brave men. And the warrior dying in battle attains with ease the happy regions which others only attain with great difficulty. Discard fear and fight."

Drona, having spoken thus to Jayadratha, proceeded to marshal the forces for the next day. Twelve miles to the rear of the main army Jayadratha and his detachment were placed in a strongly guarded position.

Bhurisravas, Karna, Aswatthama, Salya, Vrishasena and Kripa were there with all their forces. Between them and the Pandava army, Dronacharya arrayed the main Kaurava forces in circular formation.

Durmarshana's army was beaten. Like clouds driven about by a gale, the Kaurava forces were scattered and fled in all directions. When Duhsasana saw this, his anger rose.

Leading a huge force of elephants he surrounded Arjuna. Duhsasana was a very wicked man but he was brave also. He fought Arjuna fiercely and the field was strewn with the dead. Finally, he withdrew defeated and went back to join Drona's forces.

Savyasachi's car swiftly proceeded forward and passed Drona. "Illustrious one, grieving for my son, I have come to wreak vengeance on the Sindhu king. I crave your blessings for the fulfilment of my vow," said Arjuna to the acharya.

The acharya smiled and said: "Arjuna, you must first fight and defeat me before you can reach Jayadratha." Saying this Drona discharged a shower of arrows on Arjuna's car. Partha also replied with his arrows but these the acharya parried with ease and sent flaming shafts that hit Krishna and Arjuna.

The Pandava then decided to cut Drona's bow and bent his Gandiva for that purpose. Even as he was pulling his bowstring Drona's shaft came and cut the string.

The acharya, still retaining the smile on his face, rained a shower of arrows on Arjuna and his horses and chariot. Arjuna fought back, but the acharya showered his arrows that covered Arjuna and his chariot in darkness.

Krishna saw things were not going at all well and said: "Partha, no more waste of time. Let us proceed. It is no use fighting this brahmana, who seems to know no fatigue." Saying this, Krishna drove Arjuna's chariot to the left of the acharya and proceeded forward.

"Stop, surely you will not proceed without defeating your enemy," said Drona.

"You are my guru, not my enemy, O acharya. I am in the position of a son to you. There is no one in the wide world that can defeat you," said Arjuna and they proceeded forward at a swift pace bypassing Drona.

Then Arjuna pierced the Bhoja army.

Kritavarma and Sudakshina who opposed his passage were defeated. Srutayudha also tried to stop Arjuna's progress. There was a fierce battle in which Srutayudha lost his horses and he hurled his mace at Krishna.

His mother had obtained this mace as a result of her offering but the condition attached to the boon operated and it came back and struck Srutayudha himself dead.

This is the story of the mace.

Parnasa went through penances that pleased Varuna and obtained from that god a boon that her son Srutayudha may not be killed by any enemy.

"I shall give your son a divine weapon.

Let him use it in all his battles. No enemy will be able to defeat him or kill him. But he should not use the weapon against one who does not fight. If he does, the weapon will recoil and kill him. Saying this, god Varuna gave a mace. Srutayudha, when fighting Arjuna, disregarding the injunction, hurled the mace at Krishna who was not fighting but was only driving Arjuna's chariot.

The missile hit Janardana's chest and immediately rebounded fiercely back to Srutayudha. And like a demon recoiling fatally on the magician, that commits an error in uttering the spell of power that holds it in thrall, it slew Srutayudha and laid him dead on the field, like a great forest tree blown down by a storm.

Then the king of Kamboja led his forces against Arjuna. After a fierce fight, he lay stretched dead on the field like a great flagstaff after the festival is over.

When they saw the strong warriors, Srutayudha and the king of Kamboja, slain, the Kaurava force was in great confusion.

Srutayu and his brother Asrutayu then attacked Partha on both sides trying to save the situation, and greatly harassed him. At one stage of this battle, Arjuna leaned on the flagstaff, dazed with the wounds he received.

But Krishna spoke to him encouragingly and Arjuna recovered and resumed the fight, slaying the two brothers as well as their two sons who continued the struggle.

Arjuna marched on and, killing many more warriors successfully made his way to Jayadratha.