Chapter 38 — The Battle: End of the Day, the Battlefield after Cessation of Fighting

Vasishta continued:—

Now as the war waged fiercely, with mingled shouts on both sides, the sun shrouded his polished armor under the mist of darkness and was about to set.

The waters of limpid streams glided over the showers of stones flung by the forces that fell on the fading clusters of lotuses growing in them. The clashing of shafts and darts glittered like flashes of fire in the sky, and waves of arrows were seen, now approaching close and then receding at a distance. Below, severed heads floated in whirlpools of blood like loose lotuses, while above, the sea of heaven was filled with flying weapons moving like marine animals. The rustling of the breeze and the whistling of clouds of weapons frightened the aerial masters and woodland apes with fear of an approaching rain.

The day declined after it had run its course of eight watches and assumed the graceful countenance of a hero returning in glory after he has fought his battle. The army, like the day, declined in splendor, being battered in its cavalry and shattered in its force of elephants. Army commanders, in concert with the ministers of war, sent envoys to the hostile parties for a truce to the fighting. Both parties, seeing how much they lost in the engagement, agreed to a truce and the soldiers gave their assent with one voice.

10 They hoisted their soaring banners of truce on the tops of the highest chariots, and a mounted crier on each side proclaimed the truce to the armies below. 11 They unfurled white flags on all sides, which like so many moons in the gloom of night, proclaimed peace on earth by cessation from fighting. 12 Then the drums delivered their loud peals, resounded by the roaring of clouds above and all about. 13 The flights of arrows and weapons that had been raging like fire in the sky now began to fall in torrents on the ground below, like the currents of Lake Manasarovar. 14 Hands and arms of warriors rested like their feet, like the shaking of trees and the surges of the sea end after an earthquake. 15 The two armies went their own ways from the field of battle, like inlets of the sea run into the land in different directions.

16 The armies being at rest, there was an end of all agitation in the field, like ocean waves are lulled to rest with the calm after being churned by Mandara Mountain. 17 In an instant the battlefield became as dreadful as the dismal womb of death, and as deep and dark as the hollow pit of the sea after Agastya sucked up its waters. 18 It was covered with the dead bodies of men and beasts and flowed with the floods of purpling blood. It resounded with the sounds of insects, like a heath with the humming of beetles. 19 Gory bodies gushed with blood and gurgled like sea waves.

The cries of the wounded wanting to live pierced the ears and throbbed the heart strings of the living. 20 The dead and wounded rolling around side by side in streams of blood made the living think the dead were still alive like themselves. 21 Big elephants lying dead in piles on the field appeared like cloud fragments, and the heaps of broken chariots looked like a forest blown over by a storm. 22 Streams of blood flowed with the dead bodies of horses and elephants, and heaps of arrows, spears, mattocks and mallets flowed together with broken swords and missiles. 23 Horses were lying in their halters and harnesses. Dead soldiers were wrapped in their mail and armor. Flags, fans, turbans and helmets lay scattered in the field.

24 The winds rustled by the openings of quivers like the hissing of snakes or the whistling of the breeze in the holes of bamboo trees. Flesh eating pisacha demons were rolling on beds of dead bodies as if they were beddings of straws. 25 The gold chains from the helmets and head ornaments of fallen soldiers glittered with rainbow colors, and greedy dogs and jackals tore at the entrails of the dead like long ropes or strings.

26 The wounded were gnashing their teeth in the field of blood, like the croaking of frogs in a miry pool of blood. 27 Those dressed in party-colored coats with a hundred spots now had their arms and thighs gushing in a hundred streams of blood. 28 Friends wailed bitterly over the bodies of their dead and wounded lying amidst heaps of arrows and weapons, broken cars and scattered trappings of horses and elephants that covered the land. 29 Headless trunks of demons danced about with uplifted arms touching the sky. The stink of carrion, fat and blood filled nostrils with nausea. 30 Elephants and horses of noble breed lay dead or gasping with their mouths gaping upwards, streams of blood dashing against their rock-like bodies beat as loudly as drums. 31 Blood gushing out of wounded horses and elephants ran like that of a wounded whale into a hundred streams. Blood spouting from the mouths of dying soldiers flowed into a hundred channels.

32 Those pierced with arrows in their eyes and mouths uttered an inaudible voice with their last gasp of death. Those pierced in their bellies had their bowels gushing out with a horrible stench. The ground was reddened with thickened blood issuing out of the wounds. 33 Half-dead elephants grasped headless trunks with their trunks, while the loose horses and elephants that had lost their riders were trampling over dead bodies at random. 34 The weeping, crying and tottering wives of fallen soldiers fell upon their dead bodies weltering in blood, embracing them closely by their necks, then made an end of themselves with the same weapons.

35 Groups of soldiers were sent with guides to fetch dead bodies from the field. The hands of their living companions were busily employed dragging the dead. 36 The field had become a wide river running with waves of blood breaking into a hundred whirling streams and carrying severed heads like lotuses, and the torn braids of hair floating like bushes. 37 Men were busy taking weapons from the bodies of the wounded who lamented loudly on account of their dying in a foreign land and losing their arms, armor, horses and elephants.

38 Dying souls remembered their sons and parents, their dear ones and their adored deities. They called out their names and sighed and sobbed with heart-rending sounds. 39 The brave who died cursed their fates, and those who fell fighting elephants blamed the unkind gods they had adored in vain. 40 Cowards fearing to be killed resorted to base flight, but the dauntless brave stepped forward into the whirlpools of blood. 41 Some, suffering under the agony of arrows stuck in their mortal parts, thought upon the sins of their past lives that had brought such pain upon them. Blood sucking vetala ghosts advanced with their horrid mouths to drink blood from headless torsos.

42 Below, the floating flags, umbrellas and fans looked like white lotuses in a lake of blood, while from above, the evening stretched her train of stars like red lotuses in an ethereal sea. 43 The battlefield looked like an eighth sea of blood. The war chariots were its rocks and their wheels its whirlpools. The flags were its foam and froth, and the white fans its bubbles. 44 The field of blood with scattered chariots plunged in mud and mire and covered with broken pieces of woods looked like a tract of land devastated by a hurricane. 45 It was as desolate as a country burned by a fire, or like the dry bed of the sea sucked up by the sage Agastya. It was like a district devastated by a sweeping flood.

46 The battlefield was filled with heaps of weapons as high as the bodies of big elephants lying dead about the ground. 47 The lances carried down by streams of blood were as big as the palm trees growing on the summits of mountains. 48 Weapons sticking in elephant bodies seemed like shining flowers growing on green trees. Their entrails, torn and carried away by vultures, spread a fretted network in the sky. 49 Lances stuck in the ground by streams of blood made a woody forest on the banks of a red river, and the flags floating on the surface were like a bush of lotuses in the liquid blood. 50 Friends pulled dead bodies from the bloody pool in which they drowned, and men marked the bodies of big elephants by the jutting weapons sticking in them.

51 Trunks of trees that had their branches lopped off by the weapons looked like the headless bodies of slain soldiers, and the floating carcasses of elephants seemed like so many boats swimming in a sea of blood. 52 White garments swept down by the current looked like froth on the pool of blood. They were picked up by servants sent to search them out.

53 The demonic bodies of headless soldiers were rising and falling in the field, hurling large wheels and discs upon the flying army on all sides. 54 Dying warriors were frothing forth floods of blood from their throats, and stones stained with blood were inviting greedy vultures to devour them. 55 Then there were groups of sutala, vetala and uttala demons and ghosts dancing about the field with their war dances, whirling the broken bits of war-chariots upon the flying soldiers on all sides. 56 The stir and last gasp of the dying were fearful to behold, and the faces of the dying and the dead covered in dust and blood were pitiful to the beholder. 57 Devouring dogs and ravenous ravens had pity as they saw the last gasp of the dying. Carrion feeders were howling and fighting over carcasses until many of them became dead bodies from fighting each other.

58 Now I have described the sea of blood that flowed fast with the gore of unnumbered hosts of horses, elephants and camels, and of warriors and their leaders, and the multitudes of cars and war chariots. But it became a pleasure garden to the god of death, delighting in his bed of bloodshed and grove of weapons strewn all around.