The Bhishma Parva (Sanskrit: भीष्म पर्व), or the Book of Bhishma, is the sixth of eighteen books of the Indian epic Mahabharata. Bhishma Parva traditionally has 4 sub-books and 122 chapters. The critical edition of Sabha Parva has 4 sub-books and 117 chapters.
Bhishma Parva describes the first 10 days of the 18-day Kurukshetra War, and its consequences. It recites the story of Bhishma, the commander in chief of the Kaurava armies, who was fatally injured and can no longer lead as the commander.
This book of Mahabharata includes the widely studied Bhagavad gita, sometimes referred to as Gita, or The Song of the Lord, or The Celestial Song. Bhagavadgita chapters describe Arjuna's questioning the purpose of war, ultimate effects of violence and the meaning of life. Arjuna's doubts and metaphysical questions are answered by Krishna. Other treatises in Bhishma parva include the Just war theory in ancient India, as well as strategies of war and troop deployment.This book describes the deaths of Uttarā kumarā (brother-in-law of Abhimanyu and brother of Uttara wife of Abhimanyu), Vrishasena (Elder son of Karna) and also Bhishma's fall respectively on 1st, 3rd and 10th days of the war. Karna didn't fight in these first ten days on Bhishma's order.
Structure and chapters
- 1. Jamvu - khanda Vinirmana Parva (chapters 1 - 10)
- The parva begins with a meeting of two sides where the rules of war are agreed. Rishi Veda Vyasa, the grandfather to both Kauravas and Pandavas, offers a blessing to Dhritarashtra - who is blind - in the form of the gift of sight, so he can see the tragedy unfolding ahead. Dhritarashtra declines the offer, claiming he does not want to witness the slaughter of his family and friends. Vyasa then gave boon of celestial vision to Sanjaya, to have knowledge of everything, Manifest or concealed, happening there, even thoughts in the mind. And weapons will not be able to harm him, while the war is in progress. He will describe the war to Dhritarashtra. Vyasa then makes a final attempt to Dhritarashtra to seek peace and avoid the war. King Dhritarashtra confides that his sons do not listen to him or obey him. Vyasa counsels war is evil, victory in war is uncertain, only sorrow and slaughter on all sides is certain no matter who wins. Dhritarashtra, aware of Sanjaya's special powers to see the world, asks him about the visible world. Sanjaya describes the sights of world to him. He describes the world near him, as well as far of places in north, south, east and west, everywhere with beautiful people, of forests, fruits and birds, of moon and planets that appear with stars at night. The description makes Dhritarashtra sad that his sons are choosing war, rather than a negotiated peace.
- 2. Bhumi Parva (chapters 11 - 12)
- Sanjaya continues to describe the world. He mentions island nations, nations without kings, lands with white people, black people, mixed race people, celestial gems, ocean of milk and ghee. Then he describes the planets seen at night, why they are believed to be globes, that light-giving sun too is a very large sphere according to calculations of Arka, eclipses occur when planets temporary cover the sun or moon. Such is the merit of the world we live in, says Sanjaya.
- 3. Bhagavad Gita Parva (chapters 13 - 42)
- Dhritarashtra asks Sanjaya for the details of war over the ten days. Sanjaya describes how Bhishma marshaled the Kaurava army by declaring, "to die at home is a waste of life, a chance to die in battle for a cause is the highest honor a man can have." Arjuna described the Kaurava army as one with 100,000 elephants trained for war, 10 million chariots, 1 billion horsemen, archers, and soldiers with sword and shields. Learning about this vast army, Yudhishthira sets in grief. Arjuna reminds him that Narada told him that where there is Dharma there is Krishna and where there is Krishna there is victory. In fact, Arjuna believed in that vedas were told by God and to attain Godhood one must become a monk by leaving off home and birth-caste. As Krishna had demanded five villages for settlement so Arjuna asked his charioteer Krishna whether he should become a monk or fight (Bhagavad Gita, Chapter 1, Shlok 36).
- Arjuna asks Krishna, his charioteer, to bring the chariot between the two assembled armies, to see who were assembled to fight. He sees friends, families and human beings on both sides of the war. Introspective Arjuna wonders if their cause justifies war, bloodbath. War only kills, it arouses only hate among kindreds and human beings. Arjuna tells Krishna, "I seek neither victory nor a kingdom." Arjuna doubts whether war is ever justified. To Arjuna's doubts, Krishna gives various answers. These answers range from nature of life to demands of justice, to three paths of liberated and free life, to human duty, and are collectively called the Bhagavad Gita.
- Krishna grants him the sight to view his extraordinary form. Arjuna apologizes for not being able to recognize him as a divine, and for the words and disrespect he had shown, if he had said anything carelessly, from judgement on occasions in the past, regarding him a friend.
- Beholding Dhananjaya taking up once again his Gandiva, Pandava party uttered a tremendous shout. There came the gods with Indra, from desire of witnessing the sight of that great slaughter. Just before the war, Yudhishthira too takes off his armour, comes off his chariot, and with namaste (pressed hands) walks over to the enemy side. His brothers amazed by his act, join him and walk across the line of war. Yudhishthira with his brothers, meet and bow before enemy generals and their preceptors- Bhishma, Drona, Kripa and Salya, one by one - to seek their permission and blessings to fight them, to death. Bhishma, moved by this humane action, says he admires their sense of humanity, and wishes them to obtain victory. Yudhishthira asks him, how shall they, in battle, vanquish him. Bhishma refuses by saying his time is not yet come. Then he goes to Drona with same desire. Drona blesses him with victory and says, as long as he fight, they cannot vanquish him. Then he goes to Kripa with same intent. Kripa too blesses him and says it is difficult to slay him. At last to Salya, and reminds him the boon he granted, to weaken in battle, the energy of the Suta's son(Karna). Salya says he will look after his victory and his wish, shall be accomplished. With choked voices and tears, their soldiers cheer the Pandava brothers for their namaste and exhibition of respect for the human beings on the side of the enemy. Yudhishthira and Pandava brothers return to their side. Vasudeva went to Radha's son and ask him to come to his side as long as Bhishma is not slain. Karna said, he will not do anything that is disagreeable to his friend. Hearing these words of Karna, Krishna ceased, and headed back to his side. Yuyutsu, abandoning his Kaurava brothers, from Yudhishthira speech, join Pandava side. Yudhishthira accepts him and filled with joy. The conches blare the start of war. The war begins.
- 4. Bhishma-vadha Parva (chapters 43 - 124)
- 1st day of war
- On the first day, flying arrows cover the sky and a cloud of dust obscures the sun. The twang of bowstrings and battle cries of two sides creates a tempest of sound. Arjuna goes against Ganga's son. Satyaki rushed against Kritavarman. Bhimasena struggled in battle against Duryodhana. Dussasana rushed against Nakula. Yudhishthira himself encountered Salya. Dushtdhaumya rushed against Dron. Ghatotkacha and Alamvusha, both Rakshasha of cruel deeds, encountered each other. Sikhdandin rushed against Drona's son, Aswatthaman. Bhagadatta battle Virata. Drupada rushed against Jayadratha. And thus general engagement took place between all other. In that frightful and terrible battle, Bhishma began to waver, divisions of Pandavas. Bhishma then protected by five mighty car-warriors, penetrated the Pandava host. Then Abhimanyu in wrath, resists all those car warriors. In that fierce combat, the mighty Bhishma invoked many low-tier celestial weapons in air and aimed at Abhimanyu. And at this, ten great bowmen and car-warriors came to protect him, with Bhima, Dhrishtadyumna and Satyaki among them. Uttara engages Salya, cripples Salya chariot. Salya then hurled an iron dart, slaying Uttara outright. Sweta beholding his brother slain, blazed up in wrath, and rushed with the desire of slaying Salya the ruler of Madras. Sweta kills hundreds of noble princes fighting for the Kauravas. Bhishma seeing his side destruction, impetuously rushed to that side against him. In that battle, both destroyed each other chariot, cut off bow, pierced each other. When Bhishma got advantage in fight, there comes to his rescue many car-warriors with Satyaki, Bhimasena, Dhrishtadyumna and Abhimanyu in them. Drona, Kripa and Salya comes to aid Bhishma. Bhishma checks all those car-warriors alone. Then taking out an arrow, placing and powering it with Brahma energy, released it with such a force, piercing through Sweta armor and body, struck into the earth. Dhanajaya slowly withdrew his troops from that side. Later Virata's son Sankha rushed with desire of slaying Salya. Bhishma comes roaring to that side trembling Pandava host. Then Arjuna to protect Sankha from Bhishma, quickly placed himself in front of him and engages him. Bhishma destroys Sankha car and abandoning Arjuna rushed towards Drupada, the king of Panchalas. Bhishma kills numerous soldiers fighting for the Pandavas. The conches and drums blare to mark the end of that day's war and both sides withdrew their troops. Duryodhana filled with delight beholding Bhishma in battle, whereas Yudhishthira filled with grief consults Janarddana, accompanied by all. He consults with commander of his army, Dhrishtadyumna, to change array of his army by name Krauncharuma for next day.
- 2nd day war
- On second day, conches blare the restart of war. Bhishma shows his terrible prowess, by showering arrows upon Abhimanyu, Arjuna, Virata, Dhrishtadyumna and many others and wavered the mighty array of the Pandavas. Car-divisions of the Pandavas began to fly away. Then Arjuna, beholding Bhishma annihilating his host angrily said to Janarddana to proceed to that place where grandsire is to slay him. Sanjaya comments about who else save Bhishma, Drona and Karna are capable of advancing in battle against bearer of Gandiva and have a chance against him. Arjuna encounters a group protecting Bhishma and battles with them. Satyaki, Virata, Dhrishtadyumna, five sons of Draupadi and Abhimanyu comes to support him. Duryodhana criticizes Bhishma to do something of Arjuna. Battle commences between both parties with Bhishma against Arjuna. Both were unable to gain advantage over other. Gods beholding their prowess from sky, comments that excited with rage, they both are equal, and are incapable of ever being vanquished in battle by themselves or other beings. Drona battles Dhrishtadyumna and cut off his bow three times along with destruction of his chariot two times. Dhrishtadyumna taking a shield and large scimitar rushed towards Drona, but Drona didn't let him proceed. Bhima rescues him. Duryodhana sent Kalinga army to check Bhima. Drona abandoning Dhrishtadyumna, encountered Virata and Drupada together. Bhima alone battles whole Kalinga army. When Bhima chariot got destroyed he killed enemy prince by hurling a mace and then taking up a sword, started leaping on the field. Jumping on elephant from tusk, dividing the rider in the middle with his huge sword, cutting elephant neck while descending, destroying cavalry, infantry by whirling and wheeling, he started to slay all in its wake. In that battle they no longer regarded Bhima, as a human being. Asoka aids Bhima and mount him on his chariot. Bhima then start killing remaining warriors. Bhima total despatched 2700 warriors to the region of death. Kalinga army shook with terror and fled away. Bhima chases them. Sikhandin, Dhrishtadyumna, and Satyaki aids Bhima. Bhishma, hearing those cries in battle, quickly proceeded towards Bhima. Bhishma faces whole group of combatants. Bhishma slays Bhima steeds. Satyaki felled with his shaft charioteer of Kuru grand-sire. Bhishma steeds became alarmed and took him away to another side. They then celebrate their victory. Dhrishtadyumna engages in battle with Drona's son, Salya and Kripa, and slew steeds of Drona's son car. Abhimanyu comes to aid prince of Panchalas. Lakshmana(Duryodhana son) battles Abhimanyu. Duryodhana comes to aid his son, so do Arjuna. Arjuna destroys all those warriors whoever blocked his path. Bhishma with Drona praises Arjuna skills and at sunset withderew their troops.
- 3rd day war
- Bhishma formed array by name Garuda. Savyasachin disposed his troops in counter-array of form half-moon. Duryodhana sends thousand of car warriors to battle Arjuna. Abhimanyu and Satyaki slaughter Sakuni army. Drona and Bhishma slaughter division of Pandavas. Bhima and ghatotkacha swooned away Duryodhana, whose charioteer, speedily bore him away. Duryodhana requests Bhishma to not to favour Pandavas. Bhishma said for him he will check the sons of Pandu. Bhishma slaughter vast host of Pandavas and in consequence of his prowess that vast army was routed. Partha as per Vasudeva words rushed to encounter with Bhishma. Arjuna cuts Bhishma bow two times and in return praised by him. Bhishma mangles both Vasudeva and Dhananjaya with keen shafts. Krishna wonders beholding Bhishma prowess. Vasudeva gets angry, jumping from car, summoned Sudarsana in his right arm and whirling it rushed impetuously towards Bhishma. Partha, jumping down from his car, seizes his foot by his two hands. Krishna drags him along but Partha manages in stopping him at the tenth step. Arjuna gratifies Krishna with words. Both returns to their chariots. A group attack on Arjuna which Arjuna resists. Then invoking the highly wonderful and terrible 'Mahendra' weapon, and causing it to appear in the welkin, made shower of arrows to occur on the Kaurava host. So many Kuru and Pandava soldiers were killed that streams of blood flowed on the battlefield. Both side withdrew their forces for the nightly rest. Pandava army celebrate their victory and praises Arjuna for achieving feat of slaying more than 10,000 warriors in that day battle.
- 4th day war
- The fourth day war starts, with Bhishma avoiding Abhimanyu encounters Partha. Abhimanyu fights a group with Drona's son among them. An army surrounds Arjuna with his son Abhimanyu for slaying them both. Dhristadyumna beholding them both surrounded by the foe, with his division comes to aid them. Salya battles Dhrishtadyumna and cuts off his bow. Abhimanyu comes to aid Dhrishtadyumna. A group fight occurs there. Bhima terrifies Kaurava brothers and made them flee save Duryodhana. Duryodhana sends Magadha division consisting of 10,000 elephents to advance towards Bhimasena. Vridakora, mace in hand, jumped down from his car, uttering a loud roar rushed towards that elephant division. He started to slaughter those division and routed that large division of army. Alamvusha(Rakshasa) battles Satyaki. Later, Bhurisravas battles Satyaki. Duryodhana and his brothers battle against Bhima. Duryodhana breaks Bhima bow and afflicts his charioteer Visoka, by his shafts, in return gets his bow broken by Bhima. In rage, Duryodhana aims a terrible shaft at Bhimasena, which struck his chest, and deeply pierced, he swooned away. Abhimanyu comes to aid Bhima. Regaining consciousness, Bhima faces 14 brothers of Kauravas and sent 8 of them to Death's domain, shocking Duryodhana. Other brothers fled from battle from fear of Bhima. Bhagdatta riding his elephant battles Bhimasena. A group attack on Bhagdatta of the Pandava army surrounding him, and trembles his elephant with their attack. King Bhagdatta in rage, struck Bhimasena in his chest with his shaft, which swooned away Bhima. Gatotkacha comes to aid his father, and disappearing from the view, creating terrible illusion, reappeared assuming fierce form, himself riding Airavata created by his power of illusion, with three other elephants following him. They four afflicts Bhagdatta elephants with their tusks, which causes that elephant to utter loud cries. And hearing those terrible and loud cries of that elephnat, Bhishma with Drona, Suyodhana and other kings comes to rescue him. Bhishma avoids fight with gatotkacha as evening had approached, and withdrew his troops. Pandavas shouts for their victory and worshipped both heroes, Bhima and his son. King Duryodhana, became cheerless at the death of his brothers, and began to pass the hours in meditation.
- 5th day war
- At night, Duryodhana talks with Bhishma. Bhishma tells him that let peace be made with the Pandavas, which Duryodhana ignores. After night had passed away, the two armies approach each other for battle. Bhishma arrayed his army in shape of a Makara and sons of Pandu arrayed their troops called the Syena(hawk). Bhima and Arjuna battles Bhishma. Duryodhana address Drona to aid Bhishma. Drona penetrates into the Pandava array with his son. His son get stopped by Satyaki and battles him. Bhishma avoids Sikhandin, remembering feminity of his sex, and Sikhandin approaching Drona, avoided from fear, that warrior. Yudhishthira with his troops engaged Salya. Vikarna engaged with Sahadeva. Bhishma engaged in battle with Arjuna. Kripa and Kritavarman both rushed against Dhrishtadyumna. Bhimasena proceeded against vindictive Duryodhana and his brother. Sahadeva battles Sakuni. Yudhishthira goes after elephant division to rout it. Satyaki and Abhimanyu with troops battles Salya and his army. Pandava generalissimo Dhrishtadyumna, engaged in battle, with Drona. Bhishma checks mighty Bhimasena with his troops and breaks his bow. Satyaki comes to aid him. Bhishma felled Satyaki charioteer, aiming a fierce shaft, and his steeds bolted away over the field, taking him along. All praise Bhishma for this feat. Bhishma slays Pandava forces. Dhrishtadyumna heads the army while, King Virata battle Bhishma. Drona's son battles Phalguni. Arjuna cuts Aswatthaman's bow. Taking up another bow both pierce each other. Arjuna arrows penetrates through his armor, drinking his life-blood, but Drona's son wavered not, still fighting unperturbed, in that battle, desirous of doing good to his side. All applaud that warrior feat as he did. The heroic Vibhatsu, showing mercy to the son of his preceptor, avoids him. Abhimanyu faces Lakshmana, and slays his four steeds with charioteer. Kripa saves him. Bhishma, excited with wrath, slew with his celestial weapons the troops of the Pandavas. Duryodhana despatched 10,000 cars against Satyaki who was slaying his troops, but he slew with his celestial weapons all those car warriors, and approached with his sons, Bhurisravas for battle. Bhurisravas respectfully challeges him, which he accepts. They cut off Satyaki sons bow, then their heads, with sharp shafts. Satyaki roaring rushed against Bhurisravas. They both destroyed each other car and jumping down on the ground started to fight with shields and scimitars. Bhima quickly comes to lift Satyaki on his car, so do Duryodhana brothers. Dhanajaya slew total 25,000 car warriors, that day. Duryodhana for slaying Partha, surrounded him, also his son, with a part of army. Just at that time sun disappeared, causing as per the war rules, both sides to retreat.
- 6th day war
- After night had passed away, battle once more went out. Yudhishthira addresss Dhrishtadyumna, to dispose the troops in the array of Makara. Devavrata, beholding Pandava army thus arrayed, disposed his army, in counter-array in form of a huge crane. Bhimasena rushed against division of Bharadwaja's son, and despatched Drona's charioteer to the region of Yama. Drona himself controls his chariot and began to consume the Pandava army. Bhimasena faces younger brothers of Duryodhana. Bhimasena slew 1,000 car-warriors protecting Kaurava brothers. Then leaving his car and taking up his mace, goes after his cousins to smite them, penetrating Dhartarashtra host. Dhrishtadyumna learning, goes after Bhima for his welfare and take him on his car. Dhristadyumna battles Kaurava brothers and applies his fierce weapon called Pramohana on them. Their senses and strength becomes afflicted by that weapon so they fled in all direction. Drona approaches Drupada for battle and pierce him with three shafts. Deeply pierced by Drona, he left the battle. Drona enjoys his victory by blewing his conch. Drona rescues his side by using Prajna weapon neutralizing Dhristadyumna weapon. Kaurava brothers proceeds towards Bhima and Prishata's son. Yudhishthira sends 12 car warriors with Abhimanyu and five sons of Draupadi in them, to aid them, in Suchimukha(needle) array. Dhrishtadyumna seeing his preceptor advance towards him. Drona cuts off his bow two times and slewing also his steeds and charioteer, trembles their army in their very sight. Duryodhana and his brothers faces Bhima. Bhima faces Duryodhana and made Kaurava brothers fled. Abhimanyu, accompanied by Bhimasena and Dhrishtadyumna pursue them and a dreadful conflict took place between those mighty combatants. Abhimanyu piercing Vikarna, slays his steeds. Bhima faces Duryodhana and destroys his car partially. Jayadratha with his army comes to help Duryodhana. Kripa mounts Duryodhana on his car. Jayadratha with his army battles Bhima. Abhimanyu comes with his troops to battle Kaurava brothers. Abhimanyu destroys Vikarna car and injures him. Beholding Vikarna pierced, his other uterine brothers rushed, against Abhimanyu and his troops. Satanika slays Dushkarna(Kaurava brother) in battle, and a terrible battle occurs there between both sides. And Bhishma the son of Santanu spends his day slaughtering Panchalas army. At last both sides withdrew their troops and retires.
- 7th day war
- Duryodhana talks with Bhishma before war. Bhishma gives him herb for healing his wounds, from previous day. Bhishma arrayed his troops called Mandala. Beholding enemy array that was exceedingly fierce, king Yudhishthira disposed his troops in the array called Vajra. Thousands of Kings surrounds Dhananjaya for battle. Arjuna excited with wrath, invoked the Aindra weapon, wounding those kings. Drona battles Virata and destroys his car. Virata mounts his son Sankha car, and battles him with his son. The mighty son of Bhardwaja, excited with wrath, struck Sankha with an arrow, felling him down. And beholding his son slain, Virata fled from fear, avoiding Drona in battle. Sikhandin battles Aswatthaman, who excited in wrath, overthrew Sikhandin chariot. Sikhandin taking scimitar and shield on ground move towards him. The son of Drona destroys his weapons and pierces him with winged arrows. Sikhandin exceedingly afflicted with those arrows, fled mounting Satyaki car. Satyaki battles cruel Rakshasha Alamvusha. He cut off in that combat Satyaki bow and pierces him, by using his power of illusion. Satyaki invokes in air Aindra weapon, which he had obtained from his preceptor Arjuna, which destroys Demoniac illusion, and afflicts Alamvusha, making him fled in fear. Dhrishtadyumna battles royal son Duryodhana, excited with wrath cut off his bow, slew his steeds and pierces him. That mighty-armed warrior, ran on foot, with a sabre, towards the son of Prishata. Sakuni mounts him on his car. Kritavarman battles Bhima, for getting his car destroyed and body mangled by latter. His army comes to cover him. Gatotkacha on his car rushes against Bhagadatta, who was stationed on his elephant. Bhagadatta slays his four steeds and futile his all efforts before mangling him. The son of Hidimba fled from fear. Salya engaged in battle with his sister's sons, the twins. Salya despatched four steeds of Nakula, to the abode of Yama. Nakula mounts his brother car. Sahadeva, excited with wrath, shot a shaft, which deeply pierces the king, making him swoon away. His charioteer bore him away over the field. The twins blew their conches joyfully after vanquishing in battle their maternal uncle. Three Kaurava brothers engages Abhimanyu. In that fierce battle, Abhimanyu deprives them of their car but slew them not, remembering Bhima's words. Arjuna battles Susarman army and vanquishes them. Ruler of Trigartas comes to aid Susarman. Sikhandin comes to aid Arjuna. Arjuna avoiding Duryodhana and Jayadratha, proceeds towards the son of Ganga. Yudhishthira avoiding Salya, proceeds, accompanied by Bhima and twins, towards Bhishma. The high souled son of Ganga and Santanu, battles all sons of Pandu united together, wavered not at all. Jayadratha breaks their bows. Bhishma cuts off Sikhandin bow. Sikhandin flee. Yudhishthira in anger criticizes him for such cowardiceness, and Sikahandin returns after hearing his good harsh words. Salya resists Sikhandin from proceeding and fires fiery weapons which Sikhandin baffles using Varuna weapon. Bhishma cut off the bow of Yudhishthira and damages his car. Until then Jayadratha with Kuru brothers battles Bhimasena and pierces him. But disregarding those arrows, Vrikodara destroys his car and comes down on foot to destroy more car via his mace. Bhishma then slew steeds of Pandu prince and Yudhishthira quickly mounts Nakula car. Yudhishthira orders rulers to surround Bhishma for his destruction and Bhishma felled head of those who rallied towards him. Sikhandin rushes towards Bhishma for battle but Bhishma disregarding him proceeds to another side. Dhrishtadyumna and Satyaki afflicts Bharata host. A group attack occurs on Dhrishtadyumna and slays his steeds. Dhrishtadyumna quickly mounts Satyaki car. King Yudhishthira, supported by a large force, proceed against those foes for rescue. Drona, consumes Panchalas army to sport. At sunset, both sides, proceeds towards their tents.
- 8th day war
- Having passed the night, rulers once more proceeds to battle. Kaurava forms ocean array. Yudhishthira orders Prishata's son to form Sringataka array against hostile arrays. Bhishma scorches and grinds every side, excited with rage. Dharma's son sends troops under Bhima against son of Ganga. Bhishma slaughters all of them with his weapon, save the mighty Bhimasena. Bhima battles Bhishma, who was protected by Duryodhana and his brothers. Bhima slays Bhishma charioteer, making his car ran on field uncontrolled. Bhima(16) slays 8 more brothers of Duryodhana, making other sons fled except Duryodhana, who then goes to Bhishma in grief for talk. Dharma's son sends large army with Dhrishtadyumna, Sikhandin, Satyaki, Drupada and Virata in them, against Bhishma alone from desire of slaying him. Drona slaughters large part of army from here and Bhimasena, excited with wrath, caused a terrible carnage upon Kauravas and their elephant divisions from there. Nakula and Sahadeva fell upon the Kaurava cavalry. Large number of kings slain by Arjuna in that battle. Iravat(Naga), Arjuna's son joins fight, and destroys enemy forces. Duryodhana sends Alamvusha for son of Phalguni. Alamvusha display his power of illusion and creates 2,000 terrible armed Rakshasa to advance against Irawat. Irawat sends them to the regions of Yama and fight with difficulty against him and with his sword cut off his bow. Rakshasa uses his illusion and Irawat uses his power of changing forms to fight and cut off his body in pieces with axe. Rakshasa, although cut, recovers his body, and increases his size. Irawat summons his Naga force to surround him but Rakshasa assumes form of Garuda and devoured those snakes. And when Irawat became confounded, he felled on the earth Irawat's head. Bhishma slaying Pandavas army trembles them, and Drona too afflicts enemy forces, making Arjuna wonder. King Duryodhana with his army rushed against Gatotkacha troops. Gatotkacha slew king elephants and Duryodhana his 4 Rakshasa and injures him. Gatotkacha gets angry, and pick a huge dart to slay him but Bhagadatta, mounting upon an elephant place himself before king. Hurling that dart he felled down that elephant. Hearing elephant roar, Bhishma sends large army with Jayadratha, Bhurisravas, Salya, Aswatthaman, and Vikarna among, to aid them. Gatotkacha overwhelms them all, making them tremble. All attack him combine covering him with arrowy shower. Deeply pierced, he soared up into the sky and utters loud roar. Yudhishthira sends Bhima with Abhimanyu, sons of Draupadi, and troops to rescue him. Half warriors fled just looking at Bhimasena. King Duryodhana excited with wrath, rushed towards Bhimasena, cut off his bow, and noticing an opportunity deeply pierces him, injuring him. Gatotkacha and Abhimanyu comes to fight Duryodhana. Drona sends warriors with Kripa, Bhurisravas, Salya, Aswatthaman, and Kaurava brothers among them, for Duryodhana support. Old Drona himself pierces Bhima but in return, deeply pierced by Bhimasena , sat down on car. Beholding him thus pained, his son and Duryodhana, excited with wrath, rushed towards Bhimasena. Bhimasena, quickly taking up a mace, jumps down from his car and rushes towards them. All afflicts Bhima, from all sides. Abhimanyu with his troops come to rescue him. Aswatthaman injures king Nila in battle. Gatotkacha, with his kinsmen comes to battle Drona's son. Filled with wrath he slew many Rakshasa, which rages giant Gatotkacha, who uses his extraordinary powers of illusion, confounding all in that place, making them see each other cut, slain and bathed in blood. All fly away from that place. Devavrata cried that its just a applied illusion, do not fly away, yet they stopped not, their senses having been confounded. Duryodhana talks with Bhishma about battle. Bhishma address Bhagdatta to fight them at his best. Bhagdatta faces Pandavas army with Bhimasena, Abhimanyu, Rakshasa Gatotkacha, sons of Draupadi among them. Bhagdatta calls out his elephant, Supratika, and rushes against them. And battle begins by means of barbed arrows, muskets, and shafts. All surrounds with celestial weapons, in anger, that single elephant. Bhagdatta resists all but deeply pierced and exceedingly pained, by their attack that elephant, speedily turned back, and fled crushing Pandava ranks. Bhagadatta returns and fights with Bhima, and crushed thousands of foot-soldiers under his elephant. Gatotkacha, assuming a terrible form rush towards Bhagadatta. Bhagdatta pierces all the combatants surrounding him alone, and damages Bhima car. Bhima, deprived of his car, jumps down, taking up his mace. Arjuna comes there and king Duryodhana sends army towards Arjuna. Arjuna griefs for his slain son Iravat. Bhima(25) faces Kaurava brothers and slew 9 more of them, others fled. Drona checks him from proceeding. Ganga's son, Bhagadatta and Gautama resists Arjuna. And the field of battle lay covered with fallen darts, swords, arrows, lances, scimitars, axes, bearded darts, iron crows, battle-axes, spiked clubs, short arrows and rockets. As dark night set in and the battle could no longer be seen, all withdrew their troops.
- At night, Duryodhana consults with Sakuni, Dussasana and Karna about battle that their generals showing mercy towards the Pandavas. Suta's son says that let Bhishma withdraw from the fight and lay aside his weapons, he will slay Partha along with his army, in the very sight of Bhishma. Duryodhana and Dussasana goes to Bhishma and ask him either slay the brave sons of Pandu or permit Karna to fight, as he will vanquish in battle Pandava. Bhishma said that next day he will fight a fierce and famed battle.
- 9th day war
- Next day, Bhishma disposed his troops in array called Sarvatobhadra(square). Abhimanyu afflicts and routes large army, trembling them. Duryodhana sends Alamvusha. Alamvusha slaughters and routs host of the Pandavas, and the Pandava army fled away from excess of fear. He meets sons of Draupadi and battles against them. They pierces Alamvusha, making him senseless and regaining his consciousness then, excited with wrath, he cut off their weapons, destroyed their cars and pierced each of them heavily. Beholding them afflicted, son of Arjuna rushed at him. Both pierces each other, but Abhimanyu pushes him back. That Rakshasa, then, exhibited his great powers of illusion causing a thick darkness to set in, dimming visibility. Abhimanyu however, invoked into existence, the blazing solar weapon, making once more everything visible, neutralizing the illusion. He conjured other diverse illusion but the son of Phalguni however, neutralized them all, with his weapons. Rakshasa seeing his illusion destroyed and himself struck, fled in great fear. Bhishma battles Subhadra's son. Satyaki rushes in battle towards Drona's son, who cut off his bow in twain. Satyaki taking up another bow pierces him, making him sit on his car and Drona's son damages his car later. Drona comes there but Arjuna meet him for battle. Duryodhana despatched army to cover Drona. Arjuna engaged them and shot, the Vayavya weapon against their division, causing a wind to arose destroying their cars. Beholding the fierce Vayavya weapon, Drona shot Saila weapon, abating the wind. Bhagdatta surrounds Bhima with an elephant division. Bhima, taking up his mace, quickly jumps down from his car, and inflicted those elephant division, seizing some by their tusk, breaking them and slaughtering some with mace. Elephant division fled with troops. Bhishma causes great carnage to occur in battle. Dhrishtadyumna, Sikhandin, Virata and Drupada comes to stop him. He pierces all except Sikhandin and cut off Drupada's bow. Five sons of Draupadi, Satyaki, headed by Yudhishthira, with troops comes to protect them. Bhishma troops surrounds him to protect him, and there happened a fierce general engagement between both sides. Arjuna slaughters large host. Drona afflicts Drupada, making him retreat. Satyaki battles Bhishma and Yudhishthira with his troops surrounds Bhishma. And again a fierce battle commences. Duryodhana sends Dussasana with large force to protect Bhishma. Bhishma pierces all surrounding him and Drona too pierces his foes. Surrounded on all sides, yet unvanquished by that large foes, Bhishma slaughters his foes. Afflicted by the shafts of Bhishma, all fled away. Vasudeva encourages Vibhatsu to overthrow Bhishma. Yudhishthira with large host rallied, and came again to the fight, seeing Partha proceeding for an encounter with Bhishma. Partha with his celestial bow, cut into fragments Bhishma's bow twice by means of his sharp shafts and get praised by Bhishma. Bhishma mangles both Partha and Vasudeva. Beholding Bhishma on rampage, Krishna again filled with wrath, jumping down from car, rushes towards Bhishma, whip in hand, desirous of slaying him. Arjuna seizes Madhava and reminds him his words not to fight, only drive Arjuna's chariot or else people will say him a liar. Madhava returns, in anger, mounts his car. Then both sides slaughter each others army. Pandavas troops flee when they faced Bhishma, who was grinding his foes. Sunset occurs, withdrawal on field occurs.
- By the end of 9th day, the war has slaughtered over 100 million people and many key personalities of the Epic. Each night, either Duryodhana or Yudhishthira are depressed with massive losses of their men, or key generals. Embedded in the parva are treatises on war - various ways to arrange and advance army, various forms of attack and defense, and war logistics. The parva also describes the efforts by Pandavas and Bhishma to a negotiated peace, even while war was in progress. These efforts fail.
- Pandavas become peaceless and discuss ways to kill Bhishma - the commander-in-chief of Kauravas. Krishna says he will slay Bhishma in battle, if they ask. Yudhishthira refuses, for his own glorification, to falsify his words, but he wish to slay him, the sire of his sire. When they can't figure it out, so they decide to ask Bhishma. They approach his tent, unarmed. Bhishma welcomes them. Yudhishthira asks the means of his death, as he is obstacle to their victory. Bhishma said, that as long he is alive, victory cannot be theirs in battle, and with weapons, he is difficult of being vanquished by the very gods and Asuras, however with no weapons, anyone can slay him. He says he would welcome being killed, but continues to battle because he is a trained warrior. Bhishma suggests that Pandavas should place Sikhandi in front of Arjuna, as he has taken an oath to never fight anyone, who was once female; they should then destroy his weapons, only then, they can kill him. All return to their tents. Arjuna griefs for this shameful act. Vasudeva motivates him. All retires to their beds.
- 10th day war
- In the battle on the 10th day, Bhishma, slaughters divisions of Pandavas. Sikhandin pierces him, but he didn't fight him. Arjuna comes to support him and destroys car-warriors, all fled away in fear. Bhishma slew in battle more than two lakh soldiers. The mighty Dussasana, abandoning all fears, battles Dhananjaya and Partha cut off his bow, splitted his car, but he still resists Partha. Alamvusha resisted Satyaki and wounds him. Bhagadatta comes to battle Satyaki, cut off his bow, and Duryodhana, surrounded him with large number of cars. Aswatthaman encounters both Old Virata and Drupada. Kripa proceeds against Sahadeva, who cuts his bow in battle. Vikarna battles Nakula. Dhrishtadyumna battles Kritavarman. Bhimsena proceeds against Bhurisravas. Drona resists Yudhishthira, who, accompanied by a large force, was going towards Bhishma. A group attack occurs on Bhima, who resists all and breaks Kripa and Jayadratha bow, and destroys Jayadratha car. Salya afflicts Bhima charioteer and all pierces Bhima, but he trembled not, stood still, filled with wrath, cuts Kritavarman bow. Dhananjaya with Sikhandin, comes thither. King Duryodhana sends Susarman with large force, against both. They both felled heads of combatants by hundreds and routs the fierce host of Kauravas. Patha cuts Salya bow. Drona commanded by Duryodhana come to that spot. Yudhisthira meets Bhishma, who tells him to slay him as planned. Abhimanyu fought with Duryodhana who was supported by a large force. Son of Drona battles Satyaki. Bhimasena slaughters elephant-division. Yudhishthira encounter Salya. Jayadratha battles Virata. Dhrishtadyumna battle Drona, who cuts his bow in battle. Arjuna taking opportunity, with Sikhandin, rush at Bhishma. King Bhagadatta comes, but Arjuna ignores, so he proceeds against Drupada. Arjuna disperses divisions around Bhishma and Bhishma slew fourteen-thousand car warriors, following Arjuna. Sikhandin pierces Bhishma, but Bhishma only looked, Sikhandin however understood it not. Arjuna encourages Sikhandin and Devavrata check only angry Arjuna in battle. Dussasana comes and again battle Arjuna, felled down many car warriors on earth. Arjuna vanquished Dussasana, but Dussasana still fought. Duryodhana sends troops against Phalguni. Vibhatsu aims diverse celestial weapons at their heads and felled them, routing them back, all fled. Bhishma invokes a celestial weapon, at Arjuna, Sikhandin comes dashing between them, and he withdrew that fiery weapon. Salya, Kripa, Dussasana and Vikarna slaughters Pandava host. Bhishma slew twenty-seven thousand soldiers more, in addition, with seven great car-warriors among them. Bhishma slay Satanika. Krishna urges Dhananjaya, to slay Bhishma. Bhishma afflicts all generals of Pandavas, and Phalguni comes, to rescue them all. All pierces Bhishma, and except Sikhandin, he fights them all back. Arjuna cuts Bhishma bow. Seven great car warriors from Kurus came to save him, invoking celestial weapons, at Phalguni's car and seven great car warriors from Pandavas comes to check them. Sikhandin pierces Bhishma and Arjuna cuts off Bhishma bow multiple times, disarming him. Bhishma thinks, that if Visnu himself wasn't their protector, he could have slayed all Pandavs with a single strike, his time now had come. Rishis and Vasus appears to talk with him, and no one heard word spoken by them, save Bhishma and Sanjaya, by Vyasa grace. Both pierces Bhishma, and he still fights but Arjuna placing Sikhandin to the fore, cuts his bow 2 more times, and damages his car. Bhishma addresses Dussasana for his bravery. Bhishma take up a shield to cover, but Arjuna cut off that shield. Yudhishthira sends army at Bhishma and Kaurava brothers surrounds Bhishma. Although Bhishma was pierced in all his vital limbs, yet that day he stayed calmly in battle. Arjuna afflicts them all, breaking their formation and all fled away from battle. All attacks Bhishma surrounding him, and soon he was fatally injured. And that foremost of all bowmen, fell down from his car, pierced all over with arrows, his body touched not the ground. Loud cries were heard over there. And that hero, even with loss of blood, permitted not his senses to depart, as per his father boon to him. The Kurus headed by Kripa and Duryodhana, sighed and wept. All Pandavas obtaining victory, blew their conches and rejoiced. Rishis and the Pitris all applauded Bhishma of high vows.
- Bhishma's bed of arrows
- Slain Bhishma in the evening, Bhimasena enjoys their victory. Dussasana informs everyone of Bhishma's slaughter, shocking Drona. All desists from fight, then, repairs to Bhishma, offering their salutations. Bhishma blesses everyone and asks for pillow. Phalguni taking up Gandiva and 3 shafts, inspiring them with mantras, supported Bhishma's head. As he slipped into death, surgeons rushed to give him medical help, but Bhishma refused medical care. All were filled with wonder, beholding constancy in virtue displayed by Bhishma. All repairs back to their tents. Madhava, filled with joy at the fall of Bhishma, talks with Yudhishthira. At night, Bhishma asks for water. The valiant Arjuna, stretching his Gandiva, fires Parjanya weapon, in the very sight of entire army, pierced the earth, arosing a jet of water. And beholding that feat of Vibhatsu implying superhuman prowess, all were filled with great wonder. He called Duryodhana and made another appeal to stop the war, enter into peace negotiations. Duryodhana refused. All returns to their respective quarter.
- Hearing Bhishma's slaughter, Radha's son comes with tears, fell at his feet. Bhishma embraces him and tells him the truth about his birth, he heard from Narada and Vyasa. He said his hatred was just to stop him from fighting his step-brothers. He said, in real battle prowess he is equal to Arjuna or the high-souled Krishna and much superior to men. He ask him to unite with Pandavas and end hostility like his life. Karna said he know this, but cannot leave Duryodhana, just like Vasudeva cannot Pandavas. He said, he cannot step back from fight, or people will say he was afraid of Arjuna. He asks him to grant permission to fight Dhananjaya, and also asks for forgiveness for any harsh act. Bhishma says that he permit him to battle like Kshatriya, a righteous battle. Karna salutes and returns.
Bhishma Parva was composed in Sanskrit. Several translations of the book in English are available. Two translations from the 19th century, now in the public domain, are those by Kisari Mohan Ganguli and Manmatha Nath Dutt. The translations vary with each translator's interpretations.
Clay Sanskrit Library has published a 15 volume set of the Mahabharata which includes a translation of Bhishma Parva by Alex Cherniak. This translation is modern and uses an old manuscript of the Epic. The translation does not remove verses and chapters now widely believed to be spurious and smuggled into the Epic in 1st or 2nd millennium AD.
J. A. B. van Buitenen has published an annotated edition of Bhagvadgita from Bhishma Parva, based on critically edited and least corrupted version of Mahabharata known in 1980. Debroy, in 2011, notes that updated critical edition of Bhishma Parva, with so far known spurious and corrupted text removed, has 4 sub-books, 117 adhyayas (chapters) and 5,381 shlokas (verses). Debroy's translated version of the critical edition of Bhishma Parva appeared in Volume 5 of his series.
Just war theory
The Jamvukhanda Vinirmana sub-parva of Bhishma parva is one of the several instances in the Mahabharata that provides an outline of just war theory in ancient India. Book 12 (Shanti Parva) is another instance of a significant discussion of just war theory and principles of proportionate punishment.
Before the first day of war, the Kurus, the Pandavas and the Somakas meet and agree on rules of war. Some examples of the agreed rules were:
- Fairness - Every battle must be fair. Only armed and fighting soldiers can be attacked.
- Proportional and equitable response - those who fight with words, should be fought with words; chariot warriors should fight chariot warriors, horse man with horse man. Disproportionate weapons to cause suffering or slaughter shall not be used.
- Enemy soldier that surrenders should not be treated with violence, but treated with kindness and respect.
- Disarmed, injured enemy should be helped, not attacked nor killed.
- Logistical staff such as those who play on drums or conch to announce the daily start or stop of war, or those that bring food or equipment, must not be attacked nor injured.
Chapters 25 through 40 of Bhishma parva present the dialogue between Arjuna and Krishna. Arjuna sees family, friends and good human beings on both sides of the war. He does not want to kill. Arjuna argues that gaining a kingdom with stain of blood is a tragedy. He asks Krishna, why fight? Krishna's answer are in several parts:
- Krishna starts with a foundation of Samkhya philosophy - the mystery of knowing Self. He says, one must distinguish between the real and unreal, the Self that is permanent and universal from the body that is temporary and fleeting. One's action should serve the cause of the permanent Self, not the temporary body. In a war motivated by just cause, virtue and ideas, the permanent Self is at stake and what one fights for.
- Krishna next presents a summary of Yoga philosophy - the mystery of living in Self, as a free and liberated person. One must be free, claims Krishna, from the pairs of opposite extremes (heat and cold, pain and pleasure, anxiety and craving). One must act for the goodness innate in that action, not because one craves for the fruit of the action, or is angry, or is fearful.
- Krishna says there are three paths to liberation, moksha: Jnana yoga, Karma yoga and Dhyana yoga. Jnana, claims he, is knowledge. Karma is action. Dhyana is meditation. By fighting a just war, to the best of his abilities, without craving about the outcome, Arjuna would be performing Karma yoga.
- In Chapter 29, Krishna claims pursuit of action is superior than renunciation of action, though both lead to knowledge and liberation. Chapters 31-34 discuss bhakti as the path for spiritual emancipation.
Quotations and teachings
Jamvukhanda Vinirmana Parva, Chapter 3:
Men lose good judgment in things which concern their interest.
Jamvukhanda Vinirmana Parva, Chapter 3:
Success that is obtained by negotiations and other means is the best.
Success which is secured by creating disunion amongst the enemy is temporary.
Success secured by battle is the worst.
There are many evils in battle: the first and the foremost is slaughter.
Victory is always uncertain. It depends on chance. Even those that obtain victory have to suffer losses.
Jamvukhanda Vinirmana Parva, Chapter 4:
Everything rises from the earth and when destroyed everything goes into her. The earth is the stay and the refuge of all creatures. The earth is eternal.
Jamvukhanda Vinirmana Parva, Chapter 9:
If the resources of the earth are properly developed, she is then like an all-yielding cow, from which the threefold objects of Dharma, Artha and Kama might be milked. With the desire of enjoying the earth, men have become like dogs that snatch meat from one another.
Bhagavat Gita Parva, Chapter 15:
The man who suffers evil for his own misconduct should not attribute it to others.
Bhagavat Gita Parva, Chapter 21:
They that are desirous of victory do not so much conquer by might and prowess, as by truth, compassion, piety and virtue. Fight without any arrogance, for victory is certain to be there where righteousness is.
Bhagavat Gita Parva, Chapter 26:
It is better for one to live on alms than to kill.
Bhagavat Gita Parva, Chapter 26:
One sees it as a wonder, another speaks of it as a wonder, others again hear of it as a wonder; but even hearing of it, no one understands it. This indestructible embodied Self, O Bharata, is in the bodies of everyone.
Bhagavat Gita Parva, Chapter 26:
The self-controlled man attains peace.
Peace destroys all miseries. A mind that has attained peace becomes steady.
The man who casts off all desires, is free from attachments, from cravings for things and pride attains peace.
Bhagavat Gita Parva, Chapter 40:
Fearlessness, purity of heart, perseverance, yoga meditation, charity, self restraint, study of the Vedas, uprightness,
ahimsa, truth, freedom from anger, freedom from fault finding in others, renunciation, tranquility, compassion, absence of covetousness,
gentleness, modesty, vigor, forgiveness, firmness, cleanliness, absence of quarrelsomeness, freedom from vanity,
O Bharata, all these belong to him who is god-like.
- Flood, Gavin (1996) An Introduction to Hinduism. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, ISBN 0-521-43878-0
- Hiltebeitel, Alf (1990), The Ritual of Battle: Krishna in the Mahabharata, SUNY Press, ISBN 978-0791402504
- Ganguli, K.M. (1883-1896) "Bishma Parva" in The Mahabharata of Krishna-Dwaipayana Vyasa (12 Volumes). Calcutta
- Dutt, M.N. (1897) The Mahabharata (Volume 6): Bhishma Parva. Calcutta: Elysium Press
- van Buitenen, J.A.B. (1973) The Mahabharata: Book 1: The Book of the Beginning. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, p 477
- Debroy, B. (2010) The Mahabharata, Volume 1. Gurgaon: Penguin Books India, pp xxiii - xxvi
- Dahlsgaard, Peterson, & Seligman (2005), Shared Virtue: The Convergence of Valued Human Strengths Across Culture and History, Review of General Psychology, 9(3), pages 203-213
- Bhaktivedanta, A.C. (1968) The Bhagavad-Gita As It Is. Collier Books. ISBN 978-0892131341
- J.A.B. van Buitenen (1981), The Bhagavadgita in the Mahabharata - A Bilingual Edition, The University of Chicago Press, ISBN 978-0226846620
- L. R. Penna, Written and customary provisions relating to the conduct of hostilities and treatment of victims of armed conflicts in ancient India, International Review of the Red Cross, Volume 29, Issue 271, August 1989, pages 333-348
- Bhishma Parva The Mahabharata, Translated by Manmatha Nath Dutt (1897)
- John Murdoch (1898), The Mahabharata - An English Abridgment, Christian Literature Society for India, London, pages 74-85
- Alex Cherniak, Book VI - Vol 1 & 2, The Clay Sanskrit Library, Mahabharata: 15-volume Set, ISBN 978-0-8147-1696-0 and 978-0-8147-1705-9, New York University Press, Bilingual Edition
- Bibek Debroy, The Mahabharata : Volume 3, ISBN 978-0143100157, Penguin Books, page xxiii - xxiv of Introduction
- Bibek Debroy (2012), The Mahabharata, Volume 5, Penguin, ISBN 978-0143100171, Bhishma Parva
- Manmatha Nath Dutt (1897), Bhishma Parva Virata Parva, The Mahabharata, Elysium Press, page 5
- Manmatha Nath Dutt (1897), Bhishma Parva Virata Parva, The Mahabharata, Elysium Press, page 6
- Manmatha Nath Dutt (1897), Bhishma Parva Virata Parva, The Mahabharata, Elysium Press, page 7
- Manmatha Nath Dutt (1897), Bhishma Parva Virata Parva, The Mahabharata, Elysium Press, page 14
- Manmatha Nath Dutt (1897), Bhishma Parva Virata Parva, The Mahabharata, Elysium Press, page 21
- Manmatha Nath Dutt (1897), Bhishma Parva Virata Parva, The Mahabharata, Elysium Press, page 28
- Manmatha Nath Dutt (1897), Bhishma Parva Virata Parva, The Mahabharata, Elysium Press, page 32
- Manmatha Nath Dutt (1897), Bhishma Parva Virata Parva, The Mahabharata, Elysium Press, page 35 Abridged
- Manmatha Nath Dutt (1897), Bhishma Parva Virata Parva, The Mahabharata, Elysium Press, page 53 Abridged