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Chapter 83: Borrowed Armor

WHEN Dhritarashtra heard Sanjaya relate the success of Arjuna, he exclaimed: "Oh Sanjaya! When Janardana came to Hastinapura seeking a settlement, I told Duryodhana that it was a great opportunity and he must not lose it. I told him to make peace with his cousins. 'Kesava has come to do us a good turn. Do not disregard his advice,' I said. But Duryodhana heeded not. What Karna and Duhsasana said seemed to him better advice than mine. The Destroyer entered his mind and he sought his own ruin.

Drona deprecated war, so also did Bhishma, Bhurisravas, Kripa and others.

But my obstinate son would not listen.

Impelled by inordinate ambition, he got entangled in anger and hatred, and invited this ruinous war."

To Dhritarashtra thus lamenting, Sanjaya said: "Of what avail are your regrets now? The life-giving water has all run to waste and you now seek to stop the breach. Why did you not prevent the son of Kunti from gambling? Had you done the right thing then, all this great grief would have been stopped at the source. Even later, if you had been firm and stopped your son from his evil ways, this calamity could have been avoided. You saw the evil and yet, against your own sound judgment, you followed the foolish advice of Karna and Sakuni. Kesava, Yudhishthira and Drona do not respect you now as they did before.

Vasudeva now knows that your rectitude is only hypocrisy. The Kauravas are now doing their utmost as warriors, but they are unequal to opposing the strength of Arjuna, Krishna, Satyaki and Bhima.

Duryodhana has not spared himself. He is putting forth his utmost strength. It is not meet that you should now accuse him or his devoted soldiers."

"Dear Sanjaya, I admit my dereliction of duty. What you say is right. No one can change the course of fate. Tell me what happened. Tell me all, be it ever so unpleasant," said the old king convulsed with grief. And obedient to the old king's behest, Sanjaya continued his narration.

Duryodhana was greatly agitated when he saw Arjuna's chariot proceeding triumphantly towards the Sindhu king. He rushed to Drona and complained bitterly:

"Arjuna has effected a breach in the great army and has advanced to Jayadratha's position. Seeing our discomfiture, the warriors, protecting the Sindhu king, will surely lose heart. They had believed that it was impossible for Arjuna to get past you and that has now been falsified. He advanced before your eyes and nothing was done to prevent it. You seem indeed bent on helping the Pandavas. I am in great distress of mind. Sir, tell me, in what matter have I offended you? Why are you letting me down in this way? If I had known that you would do this, I should not have asked Jayadratha to stay here. It was a great mistake I committed in not letting him go, as he desired, back to his own country. If Arjuna attacks him, it is not possible for him to escape death.

Forgive me. I am talking foolishly, distracted by grief. Do go in person yourself to save the Saindhava."

To this frantic appeal Drona made answer:

"King, I shall not take offence at your thoughtless and unworthy remarks. You are like a son to me. Aswatthama himself is not dearer! Do what I ask you. Take this coat of armor and, donning it, go and stop Arjuna. I cannot do so for my presence is necessary in this part of the field. See there, the clouds of arrows! The Pandava army is attacking us in great force.

Yudhishthira is here unsupported by Arjuna and is this not just the opportunity we wanted? Our very plan has borne fruit and I must now take Yudhishthira prisoner and deliver him to you. I cannot give up this objective and run after Phalguna now. If I go after Arjuna now, our battle array will be hopelessly broken and we shall be lost. Let me put this armor on you. Go in confidence. Do not fear.

You have valor, skill and experience. This coat will protect you against all weapons.

It will not let any blow pass through your body. Go forth to battle, Duryodhana, in confidence as Indra did, clad in the armor given by Brahma. May victory be yours."

Duryodhana's confidence was restored and, as the acharya directed, he went, dressed in magic armor and accompanied by a large force of soldiers, to attack Arjuna.

Arjuna had crossed the Kaurava army and gone far ahead towards where Jayadratha had been kept for safety. Seeing that the horses were somewhat fatigued, Krishna stopped the chariot and was about to unyoke the tired animals, when the brothers Vinda and Anuvinda came up suddenly and began to attack Arjuna.

They were defeated and Arjuna scattered their forces and slew them both. After this, Krishna unyoked the chariot and let the horses roll in the mud. The horses rested for a while and were refreshed.

Then, they proceeded again according to plan.

"Dhananjaya, look behind! There comes the foolhardy Duryodhana. What good luck! Long have you suppressed your anger, and now is the time for you to let yourself go. Here is the man who caused all this grief, delivering himself into your hands. But remember he is a great archer, well-versed in bow lore, and also a keen and strong-limbed fighter." Thus said Krishna and they halted to give battle to the Kaurava.

Duryodhana approached without fear.

"They say, Arjuna, that you have done acts of prowess. I have not seen this myself. Let me see if your courage and your skill are indeed as great as your reputation," said Duryodhana to Arjuna as he began to battle.

The combat was fierce indeed and Krishna was surprised.

"Partha, I am astonished," said Krishna,

"How is it your arrows do not seem to hurt Duryodhana? This is the first time I see the shafts proceeding from the Gandiva bow strike their targets without effect. This is strange, Have your arms lost their power? Or has the Gandiva bow lost its quality? Why do your arrows strike Duryodhana and drop to the ground without piercing him? This is most puzzling."

Arjuna smiled and replied: "I understand.

This man has come dressed by Drona in charmed armor. The acharya has taught me the secret of this armor, but this man wears it as a bullock might do. You will see some fun now!"

Saying thus, Arjuna proceeded to shoot his arrows, first depriving Duryodhana of his horses, his charioteer and his car.

Then, Arjuna broke his bow and disarmed him completely. There after he sent needle-eye darts which pierced just those parts of Duryodhana's body that were not covered by armor, until he could bear it no longer and turned and fled.

When Duryodhana was thus discomfited, Krishna blew his conch and it sent a thrill of fear in Jayadratha's army. The warriors around the Sindhu king were surprised.

They at once got ready in their chariots and Bhurisravas, Chala, Karna, Vrishasena, Kripa, Salya, Aswatthama and Jayadratha, eight of them, arrayed their forces against Arjuna.