77. THE TWELFTH DAY
THE attempt to capture Yudhishthira alive failed. Drona was speaking to Duryodhana about this. "It is clear we cannot succeed in our efforts to seize Yudhishthira so long as Dhananjaya is nearby. It is no want of interest on my part. If by some stratagem we could draw Arjuna away to some other part of the field, I could pierce the Pandava formations and capture Yudhishthira. I promise to seize him and deliver him to you provided he does not flee from the battle, renouncing honor. If he does that, then also we win indeed, do we not?" The chief of the Trigartadesa who heard Drona say this talked it over with his brothers, and they made a plan. They resolved to take the samsaptaka oath and challenge Arjuna to battle and draw him away from Yudhishthira's side. Accordingly, together with a large force, they gathered, and sat before the fire, dressed in matted grass, and went through funeral gifts and ceremonies for themselves as if already dead, and took their oath: "Not till we have killed Dhananjaya will we turn back. If we flee in fear from battle, may we be punished as for deadly sin!" Having adjured themselves thus before the sacred fire, they marched south for that was the direction of Death, and shouted "O Arjuna!" challenging him to battle. It was a great suicide squad organized to achieve what Drona had pointed out to be essential. Arjuna turned to Yudhishthira and addressed him thus: "King, the samsaptakas are calling me to battle. I am pledged to accept a challenge thus thrown out. Susarma and his men are calling me to battle. I shall destroy them all and return. Permit me to go." "Brother beloved," said Yudhishthira, "you know Drona's intentions. Keep that in mind and do whatever you think fit. He has promised Duryodhana to take me alive. He is a matchless warrior, brave, strong and skilled in, every branch of archery. He knows no fatigue and nothing escapes his watchful eyes."