Chapter 39 — The Battlefield Infested by Nocturnal Fiends

Vasishta speaking:—

Now the blood-red sun set down in the west like a hero red with blood. The sun hid his luster, which was dimmed by the brightness of the weapons of war in the western main. The sky which had reflected the blood-red flush of the field of blood was now dimmed by the setting of the glorious sun and darkened by the veil of evening. Thick darkness spread over the face of heaven and earth like the waters of the great deluge, and there appeared a body of vetala ghosts, dancing in a ring and clapping their hands.

The face of day, smeared with the blackness of nightfall, was painted by the light of evening with stars like pearly spots painted on the cheeks of an elephant. The busy buzz of creation became silent in the dead darkness of night, like the humming of bees over the surface of the waters, the hearts of men were closed in sleep as in death, like the petals of the lotus at night. Birds lay in their nests with folded wings and crests, like dead bodies were lying in the field covered with their wounds and weapons.

Then fair moonbeams shone above and white lotuses were blown below. The hearts of men were gladdened and the victors felt joyous in themselves. The ruddy evening assumed the shape of the blood-red sea of battle, and the fluttering bees now hid themselves like the faces of fallen soldiers. There was an ethereal lake above dotted on high with stars like white lotuses, and here was the earthly lake below, beset by lotuses resembling the stars of heaven.

10 Bodies thought to be lost in darkness were now recovered in moonlight like gems hidden under water are found scattered about. 11 The battlefield was filled with vetala ghosts howling with their hideous cries, while bodies of vultures, crows and owls tore at carcasses and sported with skeletons.

12 Funeral pyres blazed as brightly as the starry frame on high, and the fires consumed dead bodies with their bones and clothing. 13 The fire burnt bodies and bones to ashes, after which it extinguished itself as if sated with plenty. The female fiends now began to sport in the water. 14 There arose a mingled cry of dogs, crows, and yaksha demons and vetalas clapping their hands. Bodies of ghosts, thick as woods and forests, were moving about. 15 Dakinis were eager to steal away the flesh and fat from the piles of bodies gathered for funeral, and pisachas delighted in sucking the blood, flesh and bones of the dead. 16 The demons were now looking and now lurking about the funeral piles, and the rakshasa demons that rushed in carried away carcasses on their shoulders.

17 There came also bodies of ferocious kumbhandas and big damaras uttering their barbarous cries and hovering in the shapes of clouds over the fumes of fat and flesh. 18 Bodies of vetalas stood in the streams of blood like earthly beings and snatched the skeletons with hideous cries. 19 Vetala younglings slept in the bellies and chests of the elephants, and rakshasas were drinking their fill in the bloody field. 20 Giddy vetalas fought one another with the lighted faggots from the pyres, and the winds blew the stench of the putrid carcasses on all sides.

21 Female fiends (rupikas) filled the baskets of their bellies with carrion with a rat-a-tat noise. Yaksha cannibals were snatching half-burnt carcasses from the funeral pyres as their roasted meat and dainty food. 22 Aerial imps (khagas) attacked the dead bodies of the big Bangas and black Kalingas, and flouted about with their open mouths, emitting the blaze of falling meteors. 23 Vetala ghosts fell down in the dark and discolored blood-pits, lying hidden in the midst of heaps of dead bodies, while pisacha ogres and the leaders of yogini sprites laughed at them for their false step.

24 Entrails being pulled vibrated like the strings of musical instruments. The ghosts of men that had become fiends from their fiendish desires fell to fighting one another. 25 Valiant soldiers were frightened at the sight of female fiends (rupikas), and funeral rites were disturbed by the vetala and rakshasa demons. 26 The demons of the night (nisacharas) were frightened at the fall of carcasses from the shoulders of elves (rupikas) who were carrying them aloft in the air where they were waylaid by a throng of ghostly demons (bhuta-sankata). 27 Many dying bodies were lifted with difficulty by demons who, when they found the bodies unfit for their food, let them fall down dead on the ground. 28 Pieces of blood-red flesh that fell from the fiery jaws of jackals looked like clusters of asoka flowers strewn all around the funeral ground. 29 Vetala urchins were busy putting scattered heads over the headless bodies of Kabandhas, and bodies of yaksha, raksha, and pisacha ogres flashed like firebrands in the sky.

30 At last a thick cloud of darkness covered the face of the sky, and the hills, valleys, gardens and groves became hidden under an impenetrable gloom. Infernal spirits were loosened from their dismal abodes and ravaged at large over the battlefield like a hurricane under the vault of heaven.