Everyone present there congratulated Bhīmasena. He bowed down before his elder brother and said, “Now the entire world is yours, free of all obstacles. The main person behind all this hatred and enmity is now fallen here with his limb broken. Duśśāsana and the other evil men have been eliminated too!”
Yudhishitra said, “Yes! What you say is true! Thanks to Kṛṣṇa’s generous assistance, we have now won over the entire world. You have vanquished the enemy and have been victorious!”
Everyone blew their conches. The skies reverberated with the sound of the conches. Kṛṣṇa then spoke to the people who had surrounded Bhīma and were heaping praises on him – “It is not right to hurt the enemy who has bitten dust. Humiliated, he has fallen there, powerless like a log of wood. He joined hands with evil associates, paid no heed to the wise words of the elders such as Vidura, Bhīṣma, and the others. What do we get by causing him more pain? Get on to your chariots! Let us leave the place!”
Duryodhana was greatly agitated hearing Kṛṣṇa’s words. He wriggled on the ground like a snake whose tail was bitten. He lifted his chest up, with the support of his hands. With his brows knotted in disgust, he shouted back at Kṛṣṇa, not caring for his mortal pains, “Hey! You relative of Kamsa’s slave! Don’t you feel ashamed to speak now, having encouraged an adhārmic combat with maces. Do you think I didn’t notice your indications to Bhīma? You don’t seem to have any self-respect or shame – you have killed thousands of kings through your unjust means. You lied to Droṇa that Aśvatthāma was dead and made him drop his weapons. You saw Dhṛṣṭadyumna killing him but didn’t stop him for doing so. You made Ghaṭotkaca victim of the Śaktyāyudha that had been reserved for killing Arjuna all the while. You helped Arjuna dodge the Sarpāstra fired by Karṇa. You had him killed when his chariot wheel had got stuck in the ground. If you had fought us all in a dhārmic manner, victory would never have been yours!”
Vāsudeva-Kṛṣṇa replied, “Duryodhana! It is because of your heinous deeds that you lost all your relatives and elders such as Bhīṣma and Droṇa. Your closest aide, Karṇa, got killed too. When I came to your court to plead for a treaty of peace, you listened to Śakuni’s words and decided not to give the Pāṇḍavas a share in their ancestral property. You tried to poison them and burn them alive. You cheated them in the game of dice and humiliated Draupadī. Abhimanyu, a young lad, was killed by several men at once. You performed heinous deeds before and during the battle and we had to get you killed”
Duryodhana said, “I acquired knowledge and skill as long as I lived. I have performed great dāna and have executed several dhārmic tasks. I enjoyed the luxuries of a vast kingdom and stood up on the heads of the kṣatriyas. I have now met with the death that several kṣatriyas desire to have. Who else can get a better death than this? I will go to the heavens with all my beloved ones. You will all rut back down here with your lowly thoughts and actions!”
Kṛṣṇa consoled and cheered up everyone around him and saw them off to their camps. He too returned to the encampments, dropped Arjuna off at his tent and he got off at his own. Once they all got off, the chariot they had used all the while for the war caught fire and got charred. When Kṛṣṇa was asked why this happened, he said, “The chariot had already got destroyed due to the divine weapons of Droṇa and Karṇa. It had remained intact as I had sat on it. Now, as our task is complete, I gave up the chariot. As it serves no other purpose henceforth, it caught fire!” He then said, “I think it is better we stop staying in our camps.” Kṛṣṇa made arrangements for everyone to stay on the banks of the river Oghavatī that night.
Dharmarāja came to Kṛṣṇa and said, “Kṛṣṇa! It is due to your grace that the kingdom is free of obstacles now! It is now in your hands to ensure that we do not lose whatever we have gained by great effort! Please go ahead to Hastinagara now and console Gāndhārī. She is a very pious woman. When she hears that she has lost her sons and grandsons, her fire of agony will char us to death. No one except you can face her. Thus, please go ahead there and console her by speaking the right kind of words.”
Kṛṣṇa consented, got a chariot ready and immediately left for Hatinagara. He paid his respects to Dhṛtarāṣṭra and Gāndhārī and cried out loud. He uncontrollably wept for a while, washed his eyes, and with great humility spoke to Dhṛtarāṣṭra, “O King! There is nothing that you do not know. Time has seen it all. The Pāṇḍavas acted as per your wishes as they didn’t want the family to go into ruins. They went to the forest when they lost the game of dice and lived incognito for a year as per the rule. They underwent tremendous difficulties. When the war was round the corner, I tried my best to stop it from waging – I asked you for five villages – you refused to grant them! Now, the entire kṣatriya clan has been destroyed. Bhīṣma and the other elders constantly preached peaceful means but that never touched your heart. What can we do now? Our intellect deceives us all at times. You are a learned one. Don’t blame the Pāṇḍavas for what has transpired. They have not erred at all. They have never crossed the limits of dharma and have always been affectionate and courteous. Don’t get angry on the Pāṇḍavas. The Pāṇḍavas will take care of Gāndhārī and you just like your own children would have done. Don’t sob now and harbour hatred towards the Pāṇḍavas. Pray think of all this and bless the Pāṇḍavas with the best. You know the amount of respect and regard Dharmarāja has for you! He has greatly suffered during the war – day and night. He is not peaceful at all. He is ashamed of himself and can’t face you. Therefore, he hasn’t come here.”
He spoke to Gāndhārī who had drowned in a sea of sorrows – “O mother! O pious one! Please listen to the words I speak now. There is no other woman who can match you in this world! O queen! When I had come to strike a compromise, you spoke in a manner by which both the parties would be benefited. But you remember how your own sons paid no need to your words. You said the following to your son who was desirous of victory and fame – ‘You fool! Listen to my words! Victory prevails where dharma reigns!’ Your words have now come true. Please understand this and stomach your sorrow, O mother! Please don’t wish anything bad for the Pāṇḍavas. Even if you open your blindfold for once, your anger can burn the three worlds.”
Gāndhārī said, “Yes, what you say is true, Keśava! My mind is troubled due to too many worries and anxieties. Now I have regained composure after listening to your words. The Pāṇḍavas and you will need to show light to this old, blind king, hereafter.” She wept hiding her face behind her palms. Kṛṣṇa tried consoling her in various ways. He finally touched her feet, sought their leave, and returned to the Pāṇḍava camp the same evening.
Aśvatthāma, Kṛpācārya and Kṛtavarma got to know through messengers that Duryodhana was slain and rushed to the battlefield. Duryodhana was wounded all over his body and had fallen down like a great tree. They all sat around him and Aśvatthāma said, with tears in his eyes, “O valorous Duryodhana! Looking at you fallen here on the ground, with your body bathed in dust, we understand there is no dharma left in the human world. O King! You were ruling the entire earth until recently and now you have fallen down here in a place devoid of people, amidst a thick forest. You were the king of kings, an emperor and now you have eaten dust! Where is your silver umbrella and where did your huge army vanish? You were like Indra on earth and if you have met with this kind of fate, what should we say of the others? Lakṣmī – wealth is not permanent at all!”
Duryodhana wiped his eyes and said, “This is the nature of the world that Brahmā has designed. I too took care of the kingdom with sincere interest. I didn’t flee from the battlefield though I faced a lot of challenges. The sinful Pāṇḍavas have killed me through adhārmic means! Let it be so! Why should I survive after having lost all my relatives and friends? It is good that I did not survive after they all passed away! To my fortune, the three of you are still alive amidst this massive destruction of people and empires. I am glad that you have survived. If I’m to trust the Vedas, I’ll reach the heavens. I have now realised the value of Kṛṣṇa, the brilliant personality. It is because of him that I have ended up in this state, as per the kṣatriya-dharma. You don’t have to weep over me as I have never given up kṣatriya-dharma. You too have tired your best to see if you can bring victory to our side. Yet, who can control fate?” His eyes welled up and he stopped speaking.
Aśvatthāma, who was burning with rage said in a voice choked with sorrow, “O Lord! I am telling you honestly! Pray listen to me. Our enemies killed my father through unjust means. I am all the more pained looking at your state! I have decided to kill all the Pāñcālas right before Vāsudeva’s eyes, I seek your permission to do so!”
Duryodhana was given a jar of water by Kṛpācārya and he said, “O the best of brāhmaṇas! Anoint Aśvatthāma as the commander-in-chief- of the armies! Warriors, especially those who adhere to the kṣatriya-dharma will need to seek permission of their king before fighting a war!”
Kṛpācārya, accordingly anointed Aśvatthāma as the commander-in-chief.
Aśvatthāma embraced Duryodhana and left the place roaring like a lion. Kṛpācārya and Kṛtavarma left behind their king who was soaked in blood and followed Aśvatthāma.
End of Śalya-parva.
This is an English translation of Prof. A R Krishna Shastri’s Kannada classic Vacanabhārata by Arjun Bharadwaj and Hari Ravikumar published in a serialized form.