Chapter 32 — Onset of the War

Vasishta said:—

Leela, standing in air with the goddess of wisdom, saw the apsara nymphs dancing with eagerness for the war between combatants below. She saw the armies assemble in her own territory once governed by her lord. She saw the field of the air no less formidable because of the assembled ghosts.

The meeting of the two armies made the ground appear like a billowy sea, or like two clouds meeting in the sky with the appearance of two hostile forces. The battle array of armored warriors, flashing like the fire of heaven, was followed by their commingled blows resembling the rattling of thunder above, deafening the ears and dazzling the sight. Then darts and javelins, spears and lances, and many other missiles began to fall on both sides, like showers of raindrops, hailstones and meteorites from the skies. Showers of shafts fell with a force that would pierce the wings of garuda. As they hit the warriors, they covered the glare of the sun off their armor.

Combatants stood face to face with their arms lifted, steadily staring at each other as if they were pictures in a painting. Armies arranged in long regiments, standing in lines opposite each other, repeatedly shouted and answered each another. The battle array of both armies, and the drums on each side, were stopped by their leaders warnings against striking the first blow. 10 The space that separated the hostile forces was the breadth of two bows, like a bridge from one another. It looked like a gap caused by winds in the middle of the ocean at the universal deluge.

11 Leaders were drowned in thoughts of fear of bloodshed and massacre. Cowardly soldiers groaned in their hearts with the hoarse noise of croaking frogs. 12 There were many brave ones eager to yield their precious lives in a trice. Archers stood with bowstrings drawn to the ear, ready to let their pointed arrows loose at the foe. 13 Others stood dreadfully fixed to strike their arms upon the enemy. Many with frowning looks stared sternly at their adversaries.

14 Armor was clashing, the faces of killers were burning with rage, and the faces of cowards turned towards sheltered retreats, ready for flight. 15 All stood in doubt of their lives until the end of the war, and the bodies of old men, like big elephants, were covered with goose bumps.

16 The silence in anticipation of the first blow resembled the calm of the stormy main or the deep sleep of a city at the dead of night. 17 Musical instruments, drum and conch-shell were all silent, and a thick cloud of dust covered the face of the earth and sky. 18 The retreaters were flying from their stronger assailants, who kept running after them like sharks after shoals of fish in the sea. 19 The glittering fringes of flags put the ethereal stars to blush, and the lifted goads in the hands of the elephant-drivers made a forest of tapering trees in the sky. 20 Arrows flew in the air like flocks of the winged tribe, and the loud beating of drums and blowing of pipes resounded in the air.

21 A round phalanx attacked a host of wicked demons, and a squadron in garuda formation of right and left wings attacked a body of elephants. 22 Somewhere a great howling arose from the vanguard of a body of troops thrown into disorder by a cohort in the form of eagles. In another place, many were seen shouting and attacking each another. 23 Warriors of many legions raised a tremendous noise, and the hands of combatants raised a host of large clubs. 24 The glare of dark steel shaded sunbeams like a cloud. Darts hissing in the air resembled the rustling of breeze amidst the dry leaves of trees.

25 Now began the main battle, like the dashing of clouds upon clouds at the end of a kalpa age. War raged like sea whipped by a hurricane. 26 Big elephants fell in the field like coal-black rocks hurled down by gusts of wind. 27 It seemed like infernal spirits had been let loose from their caves of hell to rage in the battlefield with their horrid and dismal figures. 28 The dark cloud of swords hid daylight and warriors raised their black spears, seemingly bent upon converting the earth into an ocean of bloodshed.