71.THE EIGHTH DAY
WHEN the eighth day dawned, Bhishma arrayed his army in tortoise formation. Yudhishthira said to Dhrishtadyumna: "See there, the enemy is in kurma vyuha (tortoise formation). You have to answer at once with a formation that can break it." Dhrishtadyumna immediately proceeded to his task. The Pandava forces were arrayed in a three-pronged formation. Bhima was at the head of one prong, Satyaki of another, and Yudhishthira at the crest of the middle division. Our ancestors had developed the science of war very well. It was not reduced to writing but was preserved by tradition in the families of kshatriyas. Armor and tactics were employed suitably to meet the weapons of offence and the tactics that the enemy used in those days. The Kurukshetra battle was fought some thousands of years ago. Reading the story of the battle in the Mahabharata, we should not, having the practice and incidents of modern warfare in mind, reject the Mahabharata narrative as mere myth with no relation to fact. Only about a century and a half ago, the English admiral Nelson fought great sea battles and won undying renown. The weapons used and the vessels that actually took part in Nelson's battles, would seem almost weird and even ridiculous if compared with those of modern naval warfare. If a hundred and fifty years can make so much difference, we must be prepared for very strange things in the procedure and events of a period, so long back as that of the Mahabharata war. Another matter to be kept in mind is that we cannot expect, in the books of poets and literary writers, accurate or full details about weapons and tactics, although the narrative may be of battles. Military affairs were in ancient times the sole concern of the military order, the kshatriyas. Their culture and their training were entirely their own charge. The principles and the secrets of warfare and the science and art of the use of military weapons were handed down from generation to generation by tradition and personal instruction. There were no military textbooks and there was not any place for them in the works of poets and rishis. If a modern novel deals in some chapters with the treatment and cure of a sick person, we can not expect to see such details in it as might interest a medical man. No author would care, even if he were able, to include scientific details in his story. So, we cannot hope to find in the epic of Vyasa, precise details as to what is tortoise formation or lotus formation. We have no explanation as to how one could, by discharging a continuous stream of arrows, build a defence around himself or intercept and cut missiles in transit, or how one could be living when pierced all over by arrows, or how far the armor worn by the soldiers and officers could protect them against missiles or what were the ambulance arrangements or how the dead were disposed of.