Chapter 37 — The Battle: Catalogue of Forces Continued

[It is not easy to say whether this lengthy description of the battle is Vasishta’s or Valmiki’s own making. Both of them were well acquainted with military tactics. Vasishta was the general of King Sudasa against the Persians. Valmiki was the epic poet of Rama’s wars with Ravana in the celebrated Ramayana. These descriptions are left out in the translations of this work as entirely useless in yoga philosophy without regard that they formed the preliminary step to Rama’s military education, which he was soon after called to complete under the guidance of Vishwamitra in his hermitage. — V. L. Mitra]


Vasishta said:—

Thus the ravaging war was making a rapid end of men, horse, elephants and all. The brave coming foremost in the combat fell in equal numbers on both sides. These and many others were reduced to dust and ashes. The bravery of the brave served only to send them like poor moths to the fire and flame of destruction.

Know now the names of the central districts, not yet mentioned by me, that sent their warriors to the field, in favor of the consort prince of Leela. These were the inland forces of Sursena, the Gudas, and the Asganas; the Madhymikas and they that dwell in the tropics. The Salukas and Kodmals, and Pippalayanas; the Mandavyas, Pandyans, Sugrivas and Gurjars. The Pariyatras, Kurashtras, Yamunas and Udumvaras; the Raj-waras, the Ujjainas, the Kalkotas and the Mathuras (of Muttra). The Panchalas, the Northern and Southern Dharmakshetras; the Kurukshetriyas, Panchalakas and Saraswatas.

The line of war chariots from Avanti, being opposed by the arms of the warriors of the Kunta and Panchanada districts, fell in fighting by the sides of the hills. Those arrayed in silk clothes, being defeated by the enemy, fell upon the ground and were trodden down by elephants. 10 The brave of Daspura, being hacked in their breasts and shoulders by enemy weapons, were pursued by the Banabhuma warriors and driven to a distant pool. 11 The Santikas, being ripped in their bellies, lay dead and motionless in naked field, wrapped in their mangled entrails that were torn and devoured by the voracious pisachas at night. 12 Veteran and outspoken warriors of Bhadrasiri, well skilled in the battlefield, drove the Amargas into a ditch like tortoises to their pits. 13 The Haihayas were driving the Dandakas, who fled like fleet stags flying with the swiftness of winds, gushing blood drawn by pointed, piercing enemy arrows. 14 The Daradas, gored by the tusks of enemy elephants, were carried away like broken tree branches in the floods of their blood. 15 The Chinas, bodies mangled by darts and arrows, cast themselves in the water, their bodies a burden they could no longer bear. 16 The demons, pierced in their necks by Karnatic lancers, fled in all directions like faggots of fire, or like the flying meteors of heaven. 17 The Sakas and Dasakas fought each other by pulling the other’s hair, as if whales and elephants were struggling mutually with their respective elements. 18 Fleeing cowards were trapped in snares cast by the Dasarna warriors, like dolphins hiding under reeds are dragged out by nets on a blood-red shore. 19 The Tongas’ swords and pikes destroyed the Gurjara force by the hundreds, and like razors shaved the heads of hundreds of Gurjara women.

20 The luster of the warriors’ weapons illuminated the land like flashes of lighting, and clouds of arrows rained like showers in the forest. 21 A flight of the crowbars obscured the sun and frightened the Abhira warriors with the dread of an eclipse. They were as surprised as if ambushed by a gang of plunderers after their cattle. 22 Handsome gold collared, tawny colored Tamras soldiers were dragged by the Gauda warriors, as captors snatch their fair captives by the hair. 23 Like cranes by vultures, Tongons were beset by Kanasas with their blazing weapons, destroying elephants and breaking discuses. 24 The rumbling noise raised by Gauda warriors whirling their cudgels frightened the Gandharas so much that they were driven from the field like a herd of beasts, or like the fearful Dravidas. 25 A host of Saka warriors, dressed in black like the mist of night, poured like a blue torrent from the blue sky before their white-robed foes, the Persians.

26 The crowded array of arms lifted in the clear and bright sky appeared like a thick forest under a milk white ocean of frost that shrouds the mountainous region of Mandara. 27 From below, the flights of arrows appeared like cloud fragments in the air, and when viewed from above by the celestials, appeared like waves of the sea. 28 The air was a forest thickly beset by trees of spears and lances, with arrows flying like birds and bees, and innumerable umbrellas, with their gold and silver mountings, appearing as so many moons and stars in the sky.

29 Kekayas made loud shouts, like the war hoops of drunken soldiers. Kankas covered the field like a flight of cranes, and the sky was filled with dust over their heads. 30 The Kirata army made a murmuring sound like the effeminate voices of women, causing the lusty Angas to rush upon them with a furious roar. 31 Khasias, bodies covered with kusa grass, appeared like birds with feathers, and raised clouds of dust by flapping their feathered arms. 32 The whirling warriors of Narmada’s coasts came rushing unarmed into the field and began to mock, deride, flout and move about in their merry mood. 33 Low statured Salwas came with bells jingling on their waist bands, flinging their arrows in the air, and throwing showers of their darts. 34 The soldiers of Sibi were pierced by spears hurled by the Kuntas. They fell as dead bodies in the field, but their spirits fled to heaven in the form of vidyadharas. 35 A mighty, light footed army took possession of the field and in its quick march, laid the Pandunagaras groveling on the ground. 36 Big Punjabis and furious warriors from Benares crushed the bodies of stalwart warriors with their lances and cudgels, like elephants crush mighty trees under their feet and tusks. 37 Burmese and Vatsenis were cut down by the discs of the Nepalese. Saws cut down Sahyas like withered trees. 38 Heads of white Kaka, were lopped off with sharp axes. Their neighboring prince of the Bhadras was burnt down by the fiery arrows. 39 Matangajas fell under the hands of Kashthayodhas like old, unchained elephants fall into a miry pit. Others who came to fight fell like dry fuel in a blazing fire. 40 Mitragartas fell into the hands of Trigartas and were scattered about the field like straws, and having their heads struck off as they fled, they entered the infernal regions of death. 41 The weak Vanila force, falling into the hands of a Magadha army that resembled a sea gently shaken by the breeze, went down in the sands like thin, aged elephants. 42 Chedis lost their lines fighting the Tongans and lay withered on the battlefield, like scattered flowers fading under the shining sun. 43 Kosalas were unable to withstand the war cry of the deadly Pauravas, routed by showers of clubs, arrows and darts. 44 Those pierced by pikes and spears looked like coral plants, red with blood all over their bodies, and fled to the sheltering hills like red hot suns to the setting mountains. 45 Flights of arrows and weapons, carried away by strong winds, moved in the air like cloud fragments with a swarm of black bees hovering under them. 46 Flying arrows wandering with the roar of elephants appeared to be showering clouds, their feathers appeared as the woolly breed, their reedy shafts seemed like trees. 47 Wild elephants and people of the plains were all torn to pieces like bits of torn linen. 48 War chariots with broken wheels fell into pits like the broken crags of mountains. The enemy stood upon their tops like a thick mist or cloud. 49 The hosts of stalwart warriors meeting on the battlefield gave it the appearance of a forest of palm and tamara trees, but when weapons chopped off their arms, they made it appear like a mountainous wood with clumps of stunted pine trees.

50 The youthful maidens of paradise were filled with joy and glee to find the groves of their native hill (Meru) full of brave champions (fallen in the field).

51 The forest of the army howled in a tremendous roar until it was burnt down by the all devouring fire of the enemy. 52 Hacked by the Assamese, their weapons snatched by the Bhutas, the Dasarnas threw away their staffs and fled like a herd of cows. 53 The Kasias by their valor were eager to despoil the tinsels from the dead bodies of the chiefs, like summer heat robs the beauty from lotuses in a drying pool. 54 Tushakas were beset by Mesalas with darts, spears and mallets. The sly Katakas were defeated and driven away by the Narakas. 55 Kauntas were surrounded by Prastha warriors and were defeated like good people by the treachery of the wily. 56 The elephant drivers who had struck off the heads of their hosts in a trice, were pursued by harpooners and fled with their severed heads like the lotus flowers plucked by their hands. 57 The Saraswatas fought on both sides with one another until it was evening, and yet no party was the looser or gainer, just like a learned discussion among pundits or lawyers. 58 The puny and short statured Deccans, driven back by the demons of Lanka, redoubled their attack against them, like smoldering fire is rekindled by fresh fuel.

59 Rama, what more shall I say about this war which baffles even Sesha, with his hundred tongues and mouths, to attempt a full description?