Chapter 110 — Description of Battle

Vasishta continued:—

In the meantime the battle raged in full fury between the royal forces and the hostile bands that had advanced before the city gates. Here the enemies were plundering the city and villages, and there they set fire to houses and hamlets. The sky was hidden by clouds of smoke and dust and the air was filled by loud cries of havoc and wailing on every side. The sun was hidden by the thickening shadow of a network of arrows spread over the skies. The disc of the sun now appeared to view and was then lost to sight the next moment.

The burning fire of incendiaries set flame to the leaves of forest trees. Firebrands of burning wood were falling loosely all around and iron sheets of arrows were hurling through the air. The flame of the blazing fire added a double luster to burnished and waving weapons. The souls of the great combatants falling in battle were carried aloft to the regions of Indra where heavenly apsara nymphs took care of them.

The thundering sounds of fierce elephants excited the bravery of warriors. Missile weapons of various kinds were flung about in showers. The loud shouts and cries of combatants depressed the spirits of treacherous cowards. The white clouds of dust flying in the air appeared like elephants intercepting the paths of the midway skies. Chieftains eager to die in the field wandered about with loud shouts. Men were falling in numbers here and there as if stricken by lightning on the battlefield. Burning houses were falling below and fiery clouds dropped from above. Flying arrows in the form of rocks were rolling on high and descending upon and dispatching to death numbers of soldiers who were ready to die. 10 Galloping horses in the field made it appear like a wavy ocean from far away. The crashing of the tusks of fighting elephants crackled like clashing clouds in air. 11 Arrow shafts filled the forts and its strongholds, their flashing on roofs making a glare of fire around.

12 The dashing of one another passing to and fro tore their garments into pieces. The furling of flags in open air and the clashing of shields between combatants made a pat-pat noise all around. 13 The flash of elephant tusks, the crash of weapons dashing on stony rocks, and the loud uproar and clamor of the battlefield invited the elephants of heaven to join in the fight. 14 Flights of arrows ran like rivers into the ocean of the sky. Flying lances, swords and discuses flung into the air resembled sharks and alligators swimming in the ethereal sea. 15 The impact of the armor of the clamorous combatants and the clashing of arms in commingled warfare were like the sound of the ocean crashing against islands.

16 Foot soldiers’ feet trod down the ground into a muddy pool. Blood issuing from arrow wounds in their bodies ran like rivers carrying down broken chariots and slain elephants in its rapid course. 17 The flight of winged arrows and the falling of battle axes resembled waves of a sea of missiles in the air. Broken arms of the vanquished floated upon it like sea animals.

18 The sky was set on fire by flames issuing forth from the clashing arms. The celestial regions were filled with the deified souls of departed heroes, now released from the chains of their wrinkled and decaying frames of earth. 19 Clouds of dingy dust and ash filled the sky with flashes of lightning flaming like arches amidst them. Missile weapons filled the air, as the drawn out arms occupied the surface of the earth. 20 Contending combatants hooted at one another and broke and cut their weapons in mutual contest. Cars were split by clashing at each other and chariots were destroyed by dashing together.

Í21 Here the headless trunks of the kabandhas (man eating cannibals) mingled with the gigantic bodies of vetala demons. It was disastrous on every side as demonic vetalas plucked hearts for their tasty meal. 22 Warriors tore the arteries of the slain, breaking apart their arms, heads and thighs, while the uplifted and shaking arms of kabandhas made a moving forest in the air. 23 Demons moving about with open and jeering mouths made their stomachs and jaws into caskets for carrion. Soldiers passing with their helmets and crowns looked fiercely on all around.

24 To kill or die, to slay or to be slain, was the soldier’s final glory in the field. Their greatest shame was to retreat giving or receiving wounds. 25 He makes death happy who dries up the boast of soldiers and chieftains, who drains the flowing ichor of ferocious elephants, and who is entirely bent on destruction. 26 Loud applause was given to the victory of modest and unknown heroes, and great censures were poured upon nameless and treacherous cowards. 27 Rousing the sleeping virtues of bravery is as glorious to the great and strong as the laying out of treasures for the protection of their protégés.

28 Elephant trunks were broken in conflicts of elephant riders and charioteers, stopping the flow of fragrant ichor fluid from their front lobes. 29 Elephants left loose by their flying leaders fell into lakes and cried like shrill storks. Here they were pursued and overcome by men who inflicted terrible wounds upon them. 30 In some place unprotected people, abused and half dead in their fight against each other, fled and fell at the feet of their king, just as daytime takes shelter under the shining sun. 31 Maddened by pride and the force of giddiness, they became subject to death, just as millionaires and traders seek a better place in fear of their life.

32 The red coats of soldiers and the red flags lifted upon their arms like a forest of trees spread a reddish color all around, like the adoration of the three worlds. 33 White umbrellas, resembling the waves of the Milky Ocean when churned by Mandara Mountain, covered the weapons of the soldiers and made the sky appear like a garden of flowers.

34 Eulogies sung by bards and gandharvas added to the valor of the warriors. Flowing juice from tall palm trees infused a vigor to their veins, like that of Baladeva. 35 There was the clashing of arms of the rakshasa demons who fought together in bodies big as lofty trees, taking bodies to fill their mountain caves so they could feed on the carcasses.

36 On one side there was a forest of spears rising in the sky with the severed heads and arms of the slain attached to them. There were flying stones on another side, flung from the slings of combatants and covering the ground below. 37 There was the clapping of hands and weapons of champions, resembling the splitting and bursting of great trees. The loud wailing of women was also heard echoing amidst the lofty buildings of the city. 38 Flights of fiery weapons in the air resembled flying firebrands on high, with a hissing and whistling sound. People fled from them, leaving their homes and treasures all behind. 39 Onlookers fled to save their heads from arrows flying all about, just as timid snakes hide for fear of the devouring garuda bird flying upon them from the sky. 40 Brave soldiers were ground under elephant tusks as if pounded under the jaws of death, or like grapes crushed in pressing mills.

41 Weapons flying in the air were repelled and broken by stones flung by machines. The shouts of champions resounded like the echoing yells of elephants issuing out of ragged caverns. 42 Hollow sounding mountain caves resounded to the loud shouts of warriors who were ready to expose their dear lives and dearly earned vigor in the battlefield. 43 The burning fire of firearms and the flames of incendiaries flashed on all sides. These conflicts and chariot fighting went on unceasingly all around.

44 The battlefield was surrounded by surviving soldiers who were as brave hearted as Mount Kailash with the strong god Shiva seated therein. 45 Brave men who boldly expose their lives in battle enjoy a lasting life by their death in warfare. But they die in their living state by their flight from the battlefield.

46 Big elephants were being killed in the battlefield like lotus flowers immersed into the waters of lakes. Great champions were seen to stalk over the plains like towering storks strutting on the banks of lakes. 47 Showers of stones fell in torrents with a whizzing sound. Showers of arrows were flying with a whistling noise around. The uproar of warriors growled in the skies. Flying weapons hurled through the air, and the neighing of horses, the cries of elephants and the whirling of chariot wheels, together with the hurling of stones from the height of hills, deafened the ears of men all about.