The First Day of Battle, Yudhisthira Seeks Permission to Fight. The two armies were now ready for battle, when Yudhisthira, putting off his armour, proceeded to the Kuru camp and, prostrating himself before Bhishma, sought his blessings and permission to fight, which that hero readily gave. Then Yudhisthira asked for permission as well as blessings from Drona, Krpa, and Salya, and all of them granted the boon he sought.
Yuyutsu Joins the Pandavas: Then, in the midst of all, Yudhisthira loudly asked if any of the Kurus would join them as allies; whereupon Yuyutsu, a son of Dhritarashtra, offered to fight on behalf of the Pandavas, and was gladly welcomed by them. Then, leaving the Kurus, Yuyutsu went over to the Pandavas, with cymbals and beat of drums.
The Battle: That fearful battle commenced, and the fight was so terrible that the son did not know his father, nor the father his son. Cars crashed, elephants shocked, and horsemen dashed against one another. Pikes, axes, maces, clubs, swords, lances, javelins, and darts pierced and hacked and flew, and great was the slaughter on each side. The day ended with the death of Sveta, an ally of the Pandavas, who then retired to their tents for the night.
The Second Day of Battle: The second day commenced like the first, and the Pandava, forces were, at the suggestion of Yudhisthira, arranged in the form of Kraunearunaruna Vyuha (array), at the head of which stood king Drupada, with Bhima, Dhrstadyumna, Nakula, Sahadeva, the sons of Draupadi, and Abhimanyu constituting its two wings; while Yudhisthira himself formed its back. The Kauravas, on their side, formed a great (Maha) Vyuha, and the battle commenced. It was a great fight in which Bhima and Arjuna, Dhrstadyumna and Drona, Bhima and the king of Kalinga were arrayed against each other; and the day ended with the death of the lord of Kalinga, an ally of the Kurus.
The Third Day of Battle: When the third day commenced, Bhima formed a great Vyuha, called Garuda, at the back of which stood Bhishma himself, with Drona and Krtavarman for its eyes, with Asvatthaman and Krpa at its head; and Duryodhana and his followers at the rear. Against this Arjuna, with the assistance of Dhrstadyumna, formed a Vyuha after the shape of the half Moon, with Bhima, assisted by Virata and Drupada, on its Right, Dhrstadyumna and Sikhandin in the middle, and Arjuna and Krshna on the left.
The fight was as fearful as on the two previous days, and Bhishma performed wonders indeed. He multiplied himself a thousand fold, and seemed to fight in all directions, and the vast army of Yudhisthira gave way before him. Then Arjuna, led by Krshna, faced the Grandsire (Bhishma), and all the Kuru heroes joined in the fight. But Arjuna did not put forth his best, while Bhishma exerted himself to the utmost. Unable to bear this, Krsna took up his discus, threw aside the reins, jumped down from his car, and rushed out to Bhima to fight. Seeing him thus ready for battle, Bhishma greeted him and bowed to him, saying, "Strike me down, O Lord Great will be my good in this world and the next if I am slain by you." In the meanwhile, Arjuna came running after Krsna and tried to hold his arms and, seizing him by the feet, succeeded in stopping him, crying, "Quell your wrath, O Krsna. I swear that I will kill Kurus, nor withdraw from the acts to which I have pledged myself." At this Krshna was pacified; and, holding his discus, mounted the car again, and Arjuna on that day wrought great havoc among the Kuru ranks.
The Fourth Day of Battle: On the fourth day of battle the armies were arrayed in the same Vyuhas as on the previous day, and Bhima and Arjuna engaged in a single combat, and distinguished themselves. Bhima displayed his powers against Duryodhana and his allies; and when the combatants retired in the evening, the Kauravas felt that they were being vanquished by the Pandavas. Thereupon Bhima told Duryodhana that the Pandavas were invulnerable because the Supreme Creator himself, from whose navel sprang the lotus from which Brahma was born, he who is both the actor and the act, the father and mother of the universe, had become incarnate as Krsna, and bore an eternal affection for the Pandavas; and so he advised him to make peace. "For," said he, "Righteousness (Dharma) is where Krshna is; and victory is where Righteousness is." But Duryodhana refused to listen to his words.
The Fifth Day of Battle: On the fifth day again the two armies faced each other for the fight, and the sons of Pandu arrayed their troops after the figure of a Hawk. At the back of it was Bhima; Sikhandin and Dhrstadyumna were its eyes; Satyaki was at its head, and Arjuna at its neck. Drupada was at its left wing; its Right wing was formed by Kaikeya, who commanded an Aksauhini; the sons of Draupadi and Abhimanyu came at the rear; while at the tail was Yudhisthira, supported by Nakula and Sahadeva.
The Kauravas had formed a Makara-like array. The battle began fiercely, and Bhishma and Arjuna again faced each other and distinguished themselves while a number of single combats took place; and after a great deal of loss on either side, the armies retired for the night.
The Sixth Day of Battle: When the night had worn away and the combatants had taken rest, they again marched forth for battle; and Dhrstadyumna, at the suggestion of Yudhisthira, arranged the Pandava troops in the Makara array (Vyuha) King Drupada and Arjuna formed its head, Nakula and Sahadeva its eyes, Bhima its back, Abhimanyu and Yudhisthira its neck, and Virata its back. Dhrstadyumna was stationed on its left wing, Dhrstaketu and Cekitana on its Right, while Sikhandin was stationed at the tail of the array.
Beholding the Pandava troops, Bhishma arranged his troops in a counter array, figuring a huge Crane. At its back was placed Drona; Asvatthaman and Krpa formed its two eyes; Krtavarman was placed at its head; Duryodhana at its neck; the king of Madra at its breast; while the sons of Somadatta stood in the rear of the array.
Then the two armies rushed to battle, and when it had raged till mid-day, Yudhisthira ordered his troops to be formed in an array known as Sucimukha; and with Bhima at their head, they penetrated into Kuru ranks. But they were repulsed, and when the battle ended for the day and the armies retired to their tents for the night, hundreds and thousands lay prostrate on the field.
The Seventh Day of Battle: When the day had ended, Duryodhana, sick and bleeding, went to Bhima and begged him to exert himself, or else all was lost; and that hero promised that either he would conquer the Pandavas or they should conquer him. The next morning he formed his troops in the Mandala array, and against this Yudhisthira formed his own in the Vajra array. The armies then closed in a fight, and many single combats took place between the heroes on either side; and after a terrible struggle they retired to their tents at the approach of night.
The Eighth Day of Battle: When the day dawned on the eighth morning, the Kurus formed a mighty array, resembling the dreadful Ocean itself; and Bhima marched in the van of his troops, supported by Drona, Asvatthaman, Duryodhana and Krpa. Against this Yudhisthira ordered Dhrstadyumna to form his troops in the Srngataka array; and at its head was placed Bhima; at the navel Arjuna; in the middle Yudhisthira, Nakula and Sahadeva; while Abhimanyu, Virata, the sons of Draupadi and Ghaotkaca brought up the rear.
The battle raged all day long, until the hideous pall of night fell over the earth; and, broken and exhausted, the two armies retired to their respective tents for rest.
The Ninth Day of Battle: When the ninth day dawned, Arjuna asked Dhrstadyumna to place Sikhandin face to face before Bhishma promising to protect him (Sikhandin) himself. Bhishma, on his side, formed his troops in the Sarvatobhadra array and, assisted by all the heroes Krpa, Krtavarman, Sakuni, Jayadsratha, Drona, Asvatthaman, and the rest, led the battle against the mighty forces of the Pandavas.
The fight that ensued was fearful to behold, and Bhima inflicted great slaughter on the Pandava armies which, shaken and repulsed, retired to their tents for the night.
The Tenth Day of Battle: When the armies had retired for the night, Yudhisthira, faint and disheartened, approached Krshna, and sought his advice. Krshna offered to fight Bhima and slay him; but, as Arjuna had taken a vow to do this himself, he (Krshna) thought it was easy enough for him to accomplish the task. Then Yudhisthira remembered that Bhishma had promised to give him good advice in time of need; and so he begged Krshna to accompany him to seek Bhishma's counsel how best to secure victory for the Pandava side. Krshna agreed, and they both went to the Grand-sire of the Kurus (Bhishma) to ask him about the means of his own death.
Bhishma's Advice: When they entered his tent, Bhishma welcomed them both; and Yudhisthira asked him how they could vanquish him in battle and secure sovereignty for themselves. "O son of Kunti," said Bhishma, "so long as I am alive you will not be able to obtain victory. Therefore smite me down without delay, and I permit you to strike me as you please. When I am slain, all else will be slain; know that for certain."
"Tell me," said Yudhisthira, "the means by which we may be able to vanquish you, for otherwise you are incapable of being defeated by anyone."
"O son of Pandu," replied Bhishma, "I am indeed incapable of being defeated in a fight. But I do not fight with one who is a woman. That mighty car-Warrior, Sikhandin, was once a female. Let the heroic Arjuna, clad in mail, placing Sikhandin in front of him, pierce me with arrows; and, beholding a person in front of me who was a woman once, I shall not fight. Then let Dhananjaya (Arjuna) quickly pierce me through. Except the illustrious Krshna or Dhananjaya, I do not find any one in the three worlds who can slay me in battle."
Hearing this, Yudhisthira and Krshna returned to their tents; and when Arjuna heard what was to happen the next day, he was filled with grief and shame at the idea of having to slay the high-souled Bhishma. But Krshna reminded him of his promise to slay the Grandsire, and he remembered too that Sikhandin had been created in order to compass the death of Bhishma; and so he agreed.
Sikhandin's Part: When the sun rose on the tenth morning, the two armies arrayed themselves for the fight. Sikhandin was in the van of the Pandava Troops; and he was supported by all the five Pandava brothers and their allies. In the van of his own forces was Bhishma, and he was supported by all the principal Kuru heroes and warriors.
The Death of Bhishma: Then ensued a most fearful fight, the most terrible of all, and many hundreds and thousands of warriors were slain on either side; but Bhishma was irresistible everywhere. Thereupon Arjuna, beholding Bhima's prowess, asked Sikhandin to confront the Grandsire; and Bhishma, seeing before him one who was a woman once, ceased to fight. Sikhandin pierced him with many arrows, but they did not cause him the slightest pain. Then Arjuna, standing behind Sikhandin, discharged many arrows at him, which pierced his very vitals like the thunderbolt. Unable to fight with Arjuna, screened behind Sikhandin, Bhishma received his arrows without complaint; and, mangled with darts, fell down from his car, with his head laid towards the east, a little before the sun had set. Great were the lamentations at his fall, and the Kurus became deeply dejected and depressed at heart.
The Bed of Arrows: When Bhishma fell, the sun was in the southern solstice; but the Grandsire desired to pass when it came to the northern solstice. And, as he could die only at his own pleasure, he, the best of all Veda-knowing sages, decided to live on till the sun should change the direction of his course. But, as his head was hanging down, he asked for a pillow; and Dhananjaya (Arjuna) supported it by means of sharp arrows, as suited his bed, and the hero was gratified. "On this bed," said he, "I shall lie till the sun rolls back to the northern solstice." Then, offering his homage to the Sun, he rested there.
Arjuna brings out water from the Earth: After the night had passed away, Bhishma was racked with pain, and asked Arjuna to give him some water to drink. Then Arjuna placed his arrow on his bow, Gandiva, and pierced the earth with the dart, whereupon there gushed out a jet of water, pure and auspicious, and Bhishma was pleased with the cool, nectar-like and celestial draught.
Bhishma's Advice to Duryodhana: Then Bhima called Duryodhana and, casting his eyes of compassion on him, said, "Renounce your wrath, O king. Conclude peace with the Pandavas. Give them half of your kingdom, and let Yudhisthira repair to Indraprastha. Let there be peace with my death. But, if you do not listen to my words, you will rue your folly hereafter." But Duryodhana would not listen.
Karna Seeks Permission to Fight: When the armies had retired for the night, Karna came to Bhishma, and sought his permission to fight for the Kurus. Bhishma gave him permission to do so. "Fight," said he; "I accord you permission. Free from malice and wrath, casting off arrogance, engage in the fight." Then the son of Radha (Karna) saluted and propitiated the Grandsire, mounted his chariot, and went to the pavilion of Duryodhana to offer his service to the king.