Translated by Vaughan Pilikian


After Bhishma is cut down at the end of the previous book of the Maha·bhárata, the book which bears his name, Duryódhana selects Drona as leader of his forces. Drona accepts the honour with Bhishma’s blessing, despite his ongoing personal conflicts as mentor to both the Pándava and Káurava heroes in their youth. The fighting rages on, with heavy losses on both sides. Furious and frustrated, Duryódhana accuses Drona of collaborating with the enemy, but he replies that as long as Árjuna is on the field, the Pándavas will remain invincible. When Árjuna is finally diverted from the main action of the battle, Yudhi·shthira entrusts Árjuna’s son Abhimányu with the task of making a breach in the Káurava formation. Abhimányu rampages through Drona’s army, but at last is cornered by several Káurava warriors and finally killed by Jayad·ratha. Returning at night to the Pándava camp, Yudhi·shthira is racked with guilt and appalled by what he has to tell his brother. Vyasa arrives in the Pándava camp and tries to alleviate the king’s sorrow. They talk long into the night about the meaning of the war:

In life kings rule the earth and at life’s end when war is done they make their bed upon it. So are these mighty ones acquainted with death. Some have the strength of a hundred elephants and some the power of the winds, yet when they die in battle they are men and nothing but men. Nowhere do I see any still standing if he once took the breath of another: these are fighters of main and splendour and written in the heart of each for all time is the will to overcome his other. When their lives have left them and they sleep in death then at last they come to know this thing. Death is a word that gets its meaning from this, from the demise of all these bold lords of the earth. Heroes though they are, in the end the fiery sons of kings die powerless and without pride, and broken by the will of his foe each sets out for the place of the Sun God and his kin.

473 pp.  |  ISBN-13: 978-0-8147-6723-8  |  ISBN-10: 0-8147-6723-0  |  Co-published by New York University Press and JJC Foundation

About the Translator

Vaughan Pilikian translates and edits Sanskrit literature for the JJC Foundation, co-publishers (with NYU Press) of the Clay Sanskrit Library. He also translated Maha·bhárata VII: Drona (volume two of four).