Mahabharata Bhishma Parva Chapter 17

Mahabharata Bhishma Parva (Bhagavat-Gita Parva) Chapter 17

Sanjaya said,—"Just as the holy Krishna-Dwaipayana Vyasa had said, in that very manner the kings of the Earth, mustered together, came to the encounter. On that day on which the battle commenced Soma approached the region of Pitris.[1] The seven large planets, as they appeared in the firmament, all looked blazing like fire.[2] The Sun, when he rose, seemed to be divided in twain. Besides, that luminary, as it appeared in the firmament, seemed to blaze forth in flames.[3] Carnivorous jackals and crows, expecting dead bodies to feast upon, began to utter fierce cries from all directions that seemed to be ablaze. Every day the old grandsire of the Kurus, and the son of Bharadwaja, rising from bed in the morning, with concentrated mind, said,—'Victory to the sons of Pandu'—while those chastisers of foes used (at the same time) yet to fight for thy sake according to the pledge they had given. Thy father Devavrata, fully conversant with every duty, summoning all the kings, said these words (unto them). 'Ye Kshatriyas, this broad door is open to you for entering heaven. Go ye through it to the region of Sakra and Brahman. The Rishis of olden times have showed you this eternal path.[4] Honour ye yourselves by engaging in battle with attentive minds. Nabhaga, and Yayati, and Mandhatri, and Nahusa, and Nriga, were crowned with success and obtained the highest region of bliss by feats like these. To die of disease at home is sin for a Kshatriya.

The death he meets with in battle is his eternal duty.'—Thus addressed, O bull of Bharata's race, by Bhishma, the kings, looking beautiful in their excellent cars, proceeded to the heads of their respective divisions. Only Vikartana's son Karna, with his friends and relatives, O bull of Bharata's race, laid aside his weapons in battle for the sake of Bhishma. Without Karna then, thy sons and all the kings on thy side proceeded, making the ten points of the horizon resound with their leonine roars. And their divisions shone brightly, O king, with white umbrellas, banners, standards, elephants, steeds, cars, and foot-soldiers. And the Earth was agitated with the sounds of drums and tabors and cymbals, and the clatter of car-wheels. And the mighty car-warriors, decked with their bracelets and armlets of gold and with their bows (variegated with gold), looked resplendent like hills of fire. And with his large palmyra-standard decked with five stars, Bhishma, the generalissimo of the Kuru army,[5] looked like the resplendent Sun himself. Those mighty bowmen of royal birth, O bull of Bharata's race, that were on thy side, all took up their positions, O king, as Santanu's son ordered. (King) Saivya of the country of the Govasanas, accompanied by all the monarchs, went out on a princely elephant worthy of royal use and graced with a banner on its back. And Aswatthaman, of the complexion of the lotus, went out ready for every emergency, stationing himself at the very head of all the divisions, with his standard bearing the device of the lion's tail.



  1. Nilakantha in a long note explains that Magha Vishayagas Somas cannot mean that Soma or the Moon entered the constellation called Magha. He quotes numerous slokas scattered throughout the Mahabharata that throw light, directly or indirectly, on the question of the opening day of the battle, and shows that all these lead to a different conclusion. What is meant by the Moon approaching the region of the Pitris is that those who fall in battle immediately ascend to heaven; of course, they have first to go to the region of Pitris. Thence they have to go to the lunar region for obtaining celestial bodies. All this implies a little delay. Here, however, in the case of those that would fall on the field of Kurukshetra, they would not have to incur even such a little delay. Chandramas or Soma approached the region of Pitris so that the fallen warriors might have celestial bodies very soon, without, in fact, any necessity, on their part, to incur the delay of a journey to the lunar region prior to their ascension to heaven with resplendent bodies.
  2. There are nine planets in all the Pauranic astronomy. Of these Rahu and Ketu are regarded Upagrahas, and hence, of grahas there are only seven. Thus Nilakantha, and the Burdwan pundits have made a mess of this line.
  3. The Bengal texts read Bhanumanudito divi. The Bombay reading is Bhanumanudito Ravis. If the latter be adopted, Bhanuman would be an adjective of Ravis.
  4. Purvais Purvatarais is literally—"They of old and still older times"; for Sanatanas some editions read Srutijas (qualifying panthas). Srutija means arising from the Srutis or as laid down in the Srutis.
  5. Chamupatis is the Bengal reading. The Bombay text reads Chamupari. If the latter reading be adopted, the meaning would be, "at the head of the (Kuru) army."