(The Council of War)
THE term of banishment having expired, Yudhishthir demanded that the kingdom of Indra-prastha should be restored to him. The old Dhrita-rashtra and his queen and the aged and virtuous councillors advised the restoration, but, the jealous Duryodhan hated his cousins with a genuine hatred, and would not cement. All negotiations were therefore futile, and preparations were made on both sides for the most sanguinary and disastrous battle that bad ever been witnessed in Northern India.
The portions translated in this Book are from Sections i., ii. iii., xciv., cxxiv., and exxvi. of Book v. of the original text.
Mirth and song and nuptial music waked the echoes of the night,
Youthful bosoms throbbed with pleasure, lovelit glances sparkled bright,
But when young and white -robed USHAS ope'd the golden gates of day,
To Virata's council chamber chieftains thoughtful held their way,
Stones inlaid in arch and pillar glinted in the glittering dawn,
Gay festoons and graceful garlands o'er the golden cushions shone!
Matsya's king, Panchala's monarch, foremost seats of honour claim,
Krishna too and Valadeva, Dwarka's chiefs of righteous fame,
By them sate the bold Satyaki from the sea-girt western shore,
And the godlike sons of Pandu,--days of dark concealment o'er,
Youthful princes in their splendour graced Virata's royal hall,
Valiant sons of valiant fathers, brave in war, august and tall,
In their gem-bespangled garments came the warriors proud and high,
Till the council chamber glittered like the star-bespangled sky
Kind the greetings, sweet the converse, soft the golden moments fly,
Till intent on graver questions all on Krishna turn their eye,
Krishna with his inner vision then the state of things surveyed,
And his thoughts before the monarchs thus in weighty accents laid.
"Known to all, ye mighty monarchs! May your glory ever last,
'True to plighted word Yudhishthir hath his weary exile passed,
Twelve long years with fair Draupadi in the pathless jungle strayed,
And a year in menial service in Virata's palace stayed,
He hath kepthis plighted promise, braved affliction, woe, and shame,
And he begs, assembled monarchs, ye shall now his duty name.
For he swerveth not from duty kingdom of the sky to win,
Prizeth hamlet more than empire, so his course be free from sin,
Loss of realm and wealth and glory higher virtues in him prove,
Thoughts of peace and not of anger still the good Yudhishthir move!
Mark again the sleepless anger and the unrelenting hate
Harboured by the proud Duryodhan driven by his luckless fate,
From a child, by fire or poison, impious guile or trick of dice,
He hath compassed dark destruction by deceit and low device!
Ponder well, ye gracious monarchs, with a just and righteous mind,
Help Yudhishthir with your counsel, with your grace and blessings kind,
Should the noble son of Pandu seek his right by open war,
Seek the aid of righteous monarchs and of chieftains near and far?
Should he smite his ancient foemen skilled in each deceitful art,
Unforgiving in their vengeance, unrelenting in their heart?
Should he rather send a message to the proud unbending foe,
And Duryodhan's haughty purpose seek by messenger to know?
Should he send a noble envoy, trained in virtue, true and wise,
With his greetings to Duryodhan in a meek and friendly guise?
Ask him to restore the kingdom on the sacred Jumna's shore
Either king may rule his empire as in happy days of yore?"
Krishna uttered words of wisdom pregnant with his peaceful thought,
For in peace and not by bloodshed still Yudhishthir's right he sought.
Krishna's elder Valadeva, stalwart chief who bore the plough,
Rose and spake, the blood of Vrishnis mantled o'er his lofty brow:
"Ye have listened, pious monarchs, to my brother's gentle word,
Love he bears to good Yudhishthir and to proud Hastina's lord,
For his realm by dark blue Jumna good Yudhishthir held of yore,
Brave Duryodhan ruled his kingdom on the ruddy Ganga's shore,
And once more in love and friendship either prince may rule his share,
For the lands are broad and fertile, and each realm is rich and fair!
Speed the envoy to Hastina with our love and greetings kind,
Let him speak Yudhishthir's wishes, seek to know Duryodhan's mind,
Make obeisance unto Bhishma and to Drona true and bold,
Unto Kripa, archer Karna, and to chieftains young and old,
To the sons of Dhrita-rashtra, rulers of the Kuru land,
Righteous in their kingly duties, stout of heart and strong of hand,
To the princes and to burghers gathered in the council hall,
Let him speak Yudhishthir's wishes, plead Yudhishthir's cause to all.
Speak he not in futile anger, for Duryodhan holds the power,
And Yudhishthir's wrath were folly in this sad and luckless hour,
By his dearest friends dissuaded, but by rage or madness driven,
He hath played and lost his empire, may his folly be forgiven!
Indra-prastha's spacious empire now Duryodhan deems his own,
By his tears and soft entreaty let Yudhishthir seek the throne,
Open war I do not counsel, humbly seek Duryodhan's grace,
War will not restore the empire nor the gambler's loss replace!"
Thus with cold and cruel candour stalwart Valadeva cried,
Wrathful rose the brave Satyaki, fiercely thus to him replied.
Shame unto the halting chieftain who thus pleads Duryodhan's part,
Timid counsel, Valadeva, speaks a woman's timid heart,
Oft from warlike stock ariseth weakling chief who bends the knee,
As a withered fruitless sapling springeth from a fruitful tree!
From a heart so faint and craven, faint and craven words must flow,
Monarchs in their pride and glory list not to such counsel low,
Couldst thou, impious Valadeva, midst these potentates of fame,
On Yudhishthir pious-hearted cast this undeservéd blame?
Challenged by his wily foeman and by dark misfortune crost,
Trusting to their faith Yudhishthir played a righteous game and lost,
Challenge from a crownéd monarch can a crownéd king decline,
Can a Kshatra warrior fathom fraud in sons of royal line?
Nathless he surrendered empire true to faith and plighted word,
Lived for years in pathless forests Indra-prastha's mighty lord,
Past his years of weary exile, now he claims his realm of old,
Claims it, not as humble suppliant, but as king and warrior bold,
Past his year of dark concealment, bold Yudhishthir claims his own,
Proud Duryodhan now must render Indra-prastha's jewelled throne!
Bhishma counsels, Drona urges, Kripa. pleads for right in vain,
False Duryodhan will not render sinful conquest, fraudful gain,
Open war I therefore counsel, ruthless and relentless war,
Grace we seek not when we meet them speeding in our battle car!
And our weapons, not entreaties, shall our foemen force to yield,
Yield Yudhishthir's rightful kingdom or they perish on the field,
False Duryodhan and his forces fall beneath our battle's shock,
As beneath the bolt of thunder falls the crushed and riven rock!
Who shall meet the helméd Arjun in the gory field of war,
Krishna with his fiery discus mounted on his battle-car,
Who shall face the twin-born brothers by the mighty Bhima led,
And the vengeful chief Satyaki with his bow and arrows dread?
Ancient Drupad wields his weapon peerless in the field of fight,
And his brave son, born of AGNI, owns an all-consuming might,
Abhimanyu, son of Arjun, whom the fair Subhadra bore,
And whose happy nuptials brought us from far Dwarka's sea-girt shore,
Men on earth nor bright Immortals can the youthful hero face,
When with more than Arjun's prowess Abhimanyu leads the race!
Dhrita-rashtra's sons we conquer and Gandhara's wily son,
Vanquish Karna though world-honoured for his deeds of valour done,
Win the fierce -contested battle and redeem Yudhishthir's own,
Place the exile pious-hearted on his father's ancient throne!
And no sin Satyaki reckons slaughter of the mortal foe,
But to beg a grace of foemen were a mortal sin and woe,
Speed we then unto our duty, let our impious foemen yield,
Or the fiery son of Sini meets them on the battle-field!"
Fair Panchala's ancient monarch rose his secret thoughts to tell,
From his lips the words of wisdom with a graceful accent fell:
"Much I fear thou speakest truly, hard is Kuru's stubborn race,
Vain the hope, the effort futile, to beseech Duryodhan's grace
Dhrita-rashtra pleadeth vainly, feeble is his fitful star,
Ancient Bhishma, righteous Drona, cannot stop this fatal war,
Archer Karna thirsts for battle, moved by jealousy and pride,
Deep Sakuni, false and wily, still supports Duryodhan's side!
Vain is Valadeva's counsel, vainly shall our envoy plead,
Half his empire proud Duryodhan yields not in his boundless greed,
In his pride lie deems our mildness faint and feeble-hearted fear,
And our suit will fan his glory and his arrogance will cheer!
Therefore let our many heralds travel near and travel far,
Seek alliance of all monarchs in the great impending war,
Unto brave and noble chieftains, unto nations east and west
North and south to warlike races speed our message and request!
Meanwhile peace and offered friendship we before Duryodhan place,
And my priest will seek Hastina, strive to win Duryodhan's grace,
If he renders Indra-prastha, peace will crown the happy land,
Or our troops will shake the empire from the east to western strand!"
Vainly were Panchala's Brahmans sent with messages of peace,
Vainly urged the Kuru elders that the fatal feud should cease,
Proud Duryodhan to his kinsmen would not yield their proper share,
Pandu's sons would not surrender, for they had the will to dare!
Fatal war and dire destruction did the mighty gods ordain,
Till the kings and arméd nations strewed the red and reeking plain,
Krishna in his righteous effort sought for wisdom from above,
Strove to stop the war of nations and to end the feud in love,
And to far Hastina's palace Krishna went to sue for peace,
Raised his voice against the slaughter, begged that strife and feud should cease!
Silent sat the listening chieftains in Hastina's council hall,
With the voice of rolling thunder Krishna spake unto them all:
"Listen, mighty Dhrita-rashtra, Kuru's great and ancient king,
Seek not war and death of kinsmen, word of peace and love I bring!
'Midst the wide earth's many nations Bharats in their worth excel,
Love and kindness, spotless virtue, in the Kuru-elders dwell,
Father of the noble nation, now retired from life's turmoil,
Ill beseems that sin or untruth should thy ancient bosom soil!
For thy sons in impious anger seek to do their kinsmen wrong,
And withhold the throne and kingdom which by right to them belong,
And a danger thus ariseth like the comet's baleful fire,
Slaughtered kinsmen, bleeding nations, soon shall feed its fatal ire!
Stretch thy hands, O Kuru monarch! prove thy truth and holy grace,
Man of peace! avert the slaughter and preserve thy ancient race.
Yet restrain thy fiery children, for thy mandates they obey,
I with sweet and soft persuasion Pandu's truthful sons will sway.
'Tis thy profit, Kuru monarch! that the fatal feud should cease,
Brave Duryodhan, good Yudhishthir, rule in unmolested peace,
Pandu's sons are strong in valour, mighty in their arméd hand,
INDRA shall not shake thy empire when they guard the Kuru land!
Bhishma is thy kingdom's bulwark, doughty Drona rules the war,
Karna matchless with his arrows, Kripa peerless in his car,
Let Yudhishthir and stout Bhima by these noble warriors stand,
And let helmet-wearing Arjun guard the sacred Kuru land,
Who shall then contest thy prowess from the sea to farthest sea,
Ruler of a worldwide empire, king of kings and nations free?
Sons and grandsons, friends and kinsmen, will surround thee in a ring,
And a race of loving heroes guard their ancient hero-king,
Dhrita-rashtra's lofty edicts will proclaim his boundless sway,
Nations work his righteous mandates and the kings his will obey!
If this concord be rejected and the lust of war prevail,
Soon within these ancient chambers will resound the sound of wail,
Grant thy children be victorious and the sons of Pandu slain,
Dear to thee are Pandu's children, and their death must cause thee pain!
But the Pandavs skilled in warfare are renowned both near and far,
And thy race and children's slaughter will methinks pollute this war,
Sons and grandsons, loving princes, thou shalt never see again,
Kinsmen brave and car-borne chieftains will bedeck the gory plain!
Ponder yet, O ancient monarch! Rulers of each distant State,
Nations from the farthest regions gather thick to court their fate,
Father of a righteous nation! Save the princes of the land,
On the armed and fated nations stretch, old man, thy saving hand!
Say the word, and at thy bidding leaders of each hostile race
Not the gory field of battle but the festive board will grace,
Robed in jewels, decked in garlands, they will quaff the ruddy wine,
Greet their foes in mutual kindness, bless thy holy name and thine!
Think, O man of many seasons! When good Pandu left this throne,
And his helpless loving orphans thou didst cherish as thine own,
'Twas thy helping steadying fingers taught their infant steps to fame,
'Twas thy loving gentle accents taught their lips to lisp each name,
As thine own they grew and blossomed, dear to thee they yet remain,
Take them back unto thy bosom, be a father once again!
Unto thee, O Dhrita-rashtra! Pandu's sons in homage bend,
And a loving peaceful message through my willing lips they send:
Tell our monarch, more than father, by his sacred stern command
We have lived in pathless jungle, wandered far from land to land,
True unto our plighted promise, for we ever felt and knew,
To his promise Dhrita-rashtra cannot, will net be untrue!
Years of anxious toil are over and of woe and bitterness,
Years of waiting and of watching, years of danger and distress.
Like a dark unending midnight hung on us this age forlorn,
Streaks of hope and dawning brightness usher now the radiant morn!
Be unto us as a father, loving not inspired by wrath,
Be unto us as a teacher, pointing us the righteous path,
If perchance astray we wander, thy strong arm shall lead aright,
If our feeble bosom fainteth, help us with a father's might!
This, O king! the soft entreaty Pandu's sons to thee have made,
These are words the sons of Pandu unto Kuru's king have said,
Take their love, O gracious monarch! Let thy closing days be fair,
Let Duryodhan keep his kingdom, let the Pandavs have their share.
Call to mind their noble suffering, for the tale is dark and long
Of the outrage they have suffered, of the insult and the wrong,
Exiled into Varnavata, destined unto death by flame,
For the gods assist the righteous, they with added prowess came,
Exiled into Indra-prastha, by their toil and by their might
Cleared a forest, built a city, did the rajasuya rite,
Cheated of their realm and empire and of all they called their own,
In the jungle they have wandered and in Matsya lived unknown,
Once more quelling every evil they are stout of heart and hand,
Now redeem thy plighted promise and restore their throne and land!
Trust me, mighty Dhrita-rashtra! trust me, lords who grace this hall,
Krishna pleads for peace and virtue, blessings unto you and all,
Slaughter not the arméd nations, slaughter not thy kith and kin,
Mark not, king, thy closing winters with the bloody stain of sin,
Let thy sons and Pandu's children stand beside thy ancient throne,
Cherish peace and cherish virtue, for thy days are almost done!"
From the monarch's ancient bosom sighs and sobs convulsive broke,
Bhishma wiped his manly eyelids and to proud Duryodhan spoke:
"Listen, prince, for righteous Krishna counsels love and holy peace,
Listen, youth, and may thy fortune with thy passing years increase!
Yield to Krishna's words of wisdom, for thy weal he nobly strives,
Yield and save thy friends and kinsmen, save thy cherished subjects' lives,
Foremost race in all this wide earth is Hastina's royal line,
Bring not on them dire destruction by a sinful act of thine!
Sons and fathers, friends and brothers, shall in mutual conflict die
Kinsmen slain by dearest kinsmen shall upon the red field lie,
Hearken unto Krishna's counsel, unto wise Vidura's word,
Be thy mother's fond entreaty and thy father's mandate heard!
Tempt not wrath and fiery vengeance on thy old heroic race,
Tread not in the path of darkness, seek the path of light and grace,
Listen to thy king and father, he hath Kuru's empire graced,
Listen to thy queen and mother, she hath nursed thee on her breast!"
Out spake Drona priest and warrior, and his words were few and high,
Clouded was Duryodhan's forehead, wrathful was Duryodhan's eye:
"Thou hast heard the holy counsel which the righteous Krishna said,
Ancient Bhishma's voice of warning thou hast in thy bosom weighed,
Peerless in their godlike wisdom are these chiefs in peace or strife,
Truest friends to thee, Duryodhan, pure and sinless in their life!
Take their counsel, and thy kinsmen fasten in the bonds of peace,
May the empire of the Kurus and their warlike fame increase,
List unto thy old preceptor! Faithless is thy fitful star,
And they feed thy passions falsely, those who urge and counsel war!
Crownéd kings and arméd nations will contest for thee in vain,
Vainly brothers, sons, and kinsmen will for thee their lifeblood drain,
For the victor's crown and glory never, never can be thine,
Krishna conquers, and brave Arjun! mark these deathless words of mine!
I have trained the youthful Arjun, seen him bend the warlike bow,
Marked him charge the hostile forces, marked him smite the scattered foe.
Fiery son of Jamadagni owned no greater loftier might,
Breathes on earth no mortal warrior conquers Arjun in the fight!
Krishna too, in war resistless, comes from Dwarka's distant shore,
And the bright-gods quake before him whom the fair Devaki bore,
These are foes thou may'st not conquer, take an ancient warrior's word,
Act thou as thy heart decideth, thou art Kuru's king and lord!"
Then in gentler voice Vidura sought his pensive mind to tell,
From his lips serene and softly words of woe and anguish fell:
"Not for thee I grieve, Duryodhan, slain by vengeance fierce and keen,
For thy father weeps my bosom and the aged Kuru queen!
Sons and grandsons, friends and kinsmen slaughtered in this fatal war,
Homeless, cheerless, on this wide earth they shall wander long and far,
Friendless, kinless, on this wide earth whither shall they turn and fly,
Like some birds bereft of plumage, they shall pine awhile and die,
Of their race and sad survivors they shall wander o'er the earth,
Curse the fatal day, Duryodhan, saw thy sad and woeful birth!
Tear-drops filled his sightless eyeballs, anguish shook his agéd frame,
As the monarch soothed Duryodhan by each fond endearing name:
"Listen, dearest son, Duryodhan, shun this dark and fatal strife,
Cut not grief and death's black shadows on thy parents' closing life,
Krishna's heart is pure and spotless, true and wise the words he said,
We may win a worldwide empire with the noble Krishna's aid,
Seek the friendship of Yudhishthir loved of righteous gods above,
And unite the scattered Kurus by the lasting tie of love!
Now at full is tide of fortune, never may it come again,
Strive and win, or ever after all repentance may be vain.
Peace is righteous Krishna's counsel and he comes to offer peace,
Take the offered boon, Duryodhan! Let all strife and hatred cease!"
Silent sat the proud Duryodhan wrathful in the council hall,
Spake to mighty-arméd Krishna and to Kuru warriors all:
"Ill becomes thee, Dwarka's chieftain, in the paths of sin to move,
Bear for me a secret hatred, for the Pandavs secret love,
And my father, wise Vidura, ancient Bhishma, Drona bold,
Join thee in this bitter hatred, turn on me their glances cold!
What great crime or darkening sorrow shadows o'er my bitter fate,
That ye chiefs and Kuru's monarch mark Duryodhan for your hate,
Speak, what nameless guilt or folly, secret sin to me unknown,
Turns from me your sweet affection, father's love that was my own?
If Yudhishthir, fond of gambling, played a heedless reckless game,
Lost his empire and his freedom, was it then Duryodhan's blame,
And if freed from shame and bondage in his folly played again,
Lost again and went to exile, wherefore doth he now complain?
Weak are they in friends and forces, feeble is their fitful star,
Wherefore then in pride and folly seek with us unequal war,
Shall we, who to mighty INDRA scarce will do the homage due,
Bow to homeless sons of Pandu and their comrades faint and few,
Bow to them while warlike Drona leads us as in days of old,
Bhishma greater than the bright-gods, archer Karna true and bold?
If in dubious game of battle we should forfeit fame and life,
Heaven will ope its golden portals for the Kshatra slain in strife,
If unbending to our foemen we should press the gory plain,
Stingless is the bed of arrows, death for us will have no pain!
For the Kshatra knows no terror of his foeman in the field,
Breaks like hardened forest timber, bonds not, knows not how to yield,
So the ancient sage Matanga of the warlike Kshatra. said,
Save to priest and sage preceptor unto none he bends his head!
Indra-prastha which my father weakly to Yudhishthir gave,
Nevermore shall go unto him while I live and brothers brave,
Kuru's undivided kingdom Dhrita-rashtra rules alone,
Let us sheathe our swords in friendship and the monarch's empire own,
If in past in thoughtless folly once the realm was broke in twain,
Kuru-land is re-united, never shall be split again!
Take my message to my kinsmen, for Duryodhan's words are plain,
Portion of the Kuru empire sons of Pandu seek in vain,
Town nor village, mart nor hamlet, help us righteous gods in heaven,
Spot that needle's point can cover not unto them be given!"