Chapter 34 — The Battle as Seen by Onlookers

Vasishta speaking:—

The generals and ministers of the warring sides, and the aerial spectators of the battles, were talking among themselves this way.

See, here the ground has become a lake of blood, with heads of slaughtered hosts floating like lotuses upon it. And there the air has become like the starry heaven, glittering with broken weapons flying like birds in the sky. Behold the air is red with the particles of bright red blood borne above by the winds. It is midday, but the sky presents evening clouds with the glow of the setting sun.

What are these, says one, that are flying like straws in the sky? They are, says the other, no straws but the flight of arrows that have filled the air. Another cries that as long as the dust of the earth is wet with the blood of the brave, heroes are entitled to glory and have their home in heaven for myriads of years. A scripture says to fear not these dark swords whose blades are worn by the brave like petals of blue lotuses about their breasts, and the brave are favorites in the eyes of the goddess of fortune.

The heavenly apsara nymphs that saw the fighting and felt a desire to embrace the brave. The god of the flowery bow (Kama, the God of Love) was busy loosening their waist bands. They beckoned their welcome by waving their reddened palms, by shaking red leaves on trees, by the round glances of their eyes, in the blooming blossoms of plants, and by the perfume of their breath in the honey fragrance of flowers. The guardian spirits of the pleasure gardens of paradise sang sweet notes with the woodland choir and danced in the wagging tails of peacocks. 10 As a brave warrior broke the enemy line with his hardy axe, his beloved was breaking his hard heart and spirit with the soft glances of her eyes.

11 It is by my lance, says the lancer, that I have severed the head of my enemy with rings in his ears, like the head of the ascending node of Rahu approaching the disc of the sun. 12 Look, there is a champion hurling blocks of stones attached to the end of a chain reaching his feet! There is another, whirling his wonderful log of wood held in his uplifted arm. 13 There comes that warrior in the form of Yama, the God of the underworld, appearing from the region of the dead spirits and spreading a horrid devastation all around. Come let us go back the way we came. 14 Look at these ravenous birds greedily plunging their long necks into the flesh of bodies just separated from their heads, and glutting themselves with the gushing blood. See there the headless trunk of the slain moving to and fro in the field of battle.

15 The eloquent among the spectators were talking to one another about the frailty of human life and the uncertainty of the time of their meeting in the next world. 16 O, the stern cannibal of death, says one, that devours entire bodies of armies in one swoop, now weltering in blood, and levels the leveling hosts to the ground.

17 The showers of arrows falling on the elephants resemble the showers of raindrops on mountain tops. The darts sticking to their front bones are like bolts of lightening piercing the cliff tops. 18 While a headless body was groveling on the ground for lack of its head, its head was flying on high like a bird of air, proclaiming its immortality in heaven. 19 The army harassed by stones slung at their heads cried to entrap the enemy in the snares set at their feet.

20 Wives that had become apsaras (heavenly nymphs) after death, were now eager to claim their husbands, restored to their youth by virtue of falling in the field of battle. 21 The glaring light of the line of lances that had reached the skies seemed like a flight of stairs or golden vistas for the ascent of the brave to the gates of heaven. 22 The wife of the slain soldier, now a heavenly goddess, taking possession of her husband’s fair gold-like breast, was looking about in search of another.

23 Generals, arms waving, wailed loudly over their fallen armies in the field. They appeared like cliffs of rocks resounding to the clamorous surges of the sea below. 24 They shouted at warriors to fight their best. They cried out to remove the wounded to the rear and not trample the bodies of their own soldiers, now lying low on the ground.

25 Look! There apsaras are eagerly tying their loosened hair and advancing with sobbing bosoms to receive the departed warriors joining their company in their celestial forms. 26 Ah, receive our guests from afar, says one, on the banks of the rivers of paradise, decorated with golden lotus blossoms, and entertain them with fresh water and cooling breeze. 27 Look! There are groups of weapons broken into pieces like bones by their impact, huddled in the air with a jingling sound and shining like stars in the sky. 28 See the stream of deceased souls flowing in arrow-like currents and rolling in whirlpools of flying discs, rapidly gliding with the pebbles and stones flung in the air from the slings. 29 The sky has become like a lake of lotuses with lotus-form heads of warriors flung aloft in the air, while flying weapons are floating like their stalks with the broken swords all around like their thorns. 30 Flying fragments of flags form the skins of the plants, and the darts sticking to them appear like big black bees fluttering about the flowers moving with the breeze. 31 Arrows sticking to the dead bodies of elephants are like ants on mountain tops, and like timid girls clinging to men’s bosoms.

32 Winds unfurling the curling locks of supernatural vidyadhara females indicate their approaching nuptials, like in an augury the unfolding plumage of fowls predict success. 33 Lifted umbrellas shine like so many moons on high, and the moon itself, shining above in the form of fair fame, spreads her light like a white canopy over the earth. 34 The brave warrior, soon after his death, assumes a celestial form framed by his own merit, just like a man in his sleep attains the state he imagined to himself in his waking.

35 Flying spears, lances, clubs and discs are hurtling in the air like shoals of restless fish and sharks moving about constantly in the troubled waters of the sea. 36 Milk-white rags of umbrellas, tattered and shattered by arrow shafts, fly like cranes in the crowded air, appearing like the disc of the moon broken into a thousand pieces. 37 Fans flying in the air with a hoarse gurgling seem like waves of the sea lifted in the air, undulating with a babbling noise in the ocean of the sky. 38 Those scraps of fans and umbrellas, ripped by slashing weapons, appear like the laurels of glory flung aloft and flying in the regions of air.

39 Look, O friends, how these flying arrows and showering spears are approaching us with the hits of their spoil, like bodies of locusts bearing away their green booty in the air. 40 Listen to the clanking sound of steel striking by the uplifted arm of an armored soldier, resounding like the loud alarm of the king of death. 41 Hear the tremendous blows of weapons, like the fury of an all destroying tornado, throwing down mountain-like elephants, their great ivory tusks lying on the ground like waterfalls. 42 Look, there the chariot drivers are stopped in their course struggling to make their way through puddles of blood in which wheels and horses are stuck together like in a bog of quagmire. 43 The jingling of arms and armor and the jangling of swords and steel resound like a lute playing for the dancing of the dire and dreaded dame of death.

44 See the skirts of the sky are reddened by the red particles borne by the winds from streams of blood flowing out of the wounds in the bodies of men, horses and elephants lying dead in the field. 45 Look at the array of arrows in the air in the shape of a wreath of blossoms, falling like lightning from dark black clouds of weapons hanging on high. 46 See the surface of the earth filled with blood-red weapons appearing like faggots of fire strewn over the ground in a universal conflagration. 47 A multitude of weapons mingle together clashing and breaking one another into pieces, falling down in showers like the innumerable rays of the sun.

48 The fighting of one man among the motionless many is like the play of a magician acting his parts for a bewitched audience. See, there indifferent spectators are viewing the battle as a dream (by their prajna or inner vision of the mind).

49 The field of battle, where all other sounds are hushed under the clashing of arms, resembles the stage of the martial god Bhairava chanting his pitiless war song in jarring cacophony. 50 The battlefield is turned into a sea of blood filled with the sands of pounded weapons and rolling with the waves of broken discuses. 51 The sky is filled with martial music loudly sounding on all sides. Echoes off the hills seem to challenge one another in their aerial flight and fighting. 52 Alas, for shame, says one, that these arrows flung with such force from bowstrings, flying with such loud hissing, glittering like red hot lightning, are foiled in their aim of piercing impenetrable armor and glance off hitting stony hills. 53 Hear me friend. You are tired of the sight. It is time for us to leave this place before our bodies are pierced by these sharp arrows flashing like fire, and before the day runs its course into the evening.