In Naimisaaranya, Sooti, the storyteller, told the Story of Maha Bharata to Saint Sounaka and other sages and saints on the occasion of Satrayaga, as told by Saint Vaisampayana to King Janamejaya.
After consoling Draupadi, Gandhari also accompanied Dhritarashtra to the battlefield. With the blessings of Veda Vyasa, though she was tying a cotton band around her head, covering her eyes, she could see the entire battlefield minutely and she could identify each and every dead body in the battlefield. Gandhari could see from distance but as if from a near point, the field of battle, terrible to behold.
Gandhari was proceeding further, viewing the battlefield from all angles. She saw broken chariots, broken swords, pieces of bows and arrows, dead bodies of horses and elephants, formed into heaps. Scattered all over with bones and covered with streams of blood, that field was strewn with thousands upon thousands of dead bodies on every side. Trunkless heads and headless trunks were scattered everywhere. Those who ruled great kingdoms were lying dead, with their mouths open. Blood was flowing like canals. The swords, bows, arrows and maces were lying there formed into heaps. Some dead bodies were crushed into pieces, unable to be identified. Vultures flying in the sky were coming down to take away parts of the dead bodies. Jackals and wolves were busily engaged in eating the dead bodies.
Beholding these ghastly scenes, the heart of Gandhari was afflicted with great sorrow.
“My son’s covetousness and foolishness led to this great disaster,” she thought.
Saint Vyasa told Dhritarashtra to perform mass cremation to all the dead bodies lying in the battle field and went away.
All Pandavas and Sri Krishna accompanied Dhritarashtra to the battlefield. The daughters-in-law of Gandhari were searching for the dead bodies of their husbands. Along with them ladies belonging to the Kaurava family and others who came from Hastinapura were also searching for the dead bodies of their husbands, sons, brothers etc. who had laid their lives for the sake of the King, Suyodhana.
All ladies were crying aloud, calling their kith and kin by names and searching for the dead bodies. Beholding the heaps of dead bodies, some ladies fainted. Some ladies were calling their husbands, sons and brothers by names and beating their chests and heads with both hands.
Beholding this, the heart of Gandhari was broken into pieces. She called Krishna and said:
“O Krishna! Look at the daughters-in-law of
Dhritarshtra, how they are lamenting for their lost husbands, sons and
brothers, how they are searching for the dead bodies of their husbands
etc. If one finds the dead of another lady’s husband, she was
calling her crying aloud.
How can you bear all these things Krishna! Is it not your own greatness? Look at that side. Some of my daughters-in-law are searching for the heads of their husbands! They are weeping and searching hither and thither. Some are holding the heads of their husbands and are searching for the related bodies. They are weeping, as they are unable to find the respective bodies. Some are collecting the parts of the bodies of their husbands and are joining them to identify the dead bodies. As some bodies are eaten away by wolves and jackals, the ladies are not able to find the bodies of their husbands. What sin I have committed to behold all these scenes. I am beholding my sons, daughters in law, brothers, relatives and friends in this pitiable condition.” Gandhari was lamenting for the deaths of her sons.
Krishna did not speak a single word but simply followed her. Meanwhile, Gandhari found the dead body of Suyodhana at a distance. Her legs and hands trembled. She fell down near the dead body of her son. She was weeping loudly.
“O my son Suyodhana! What is this? Why are you rolling on the ground filled with dirt and dust? I am your mother, Gandhari. Dont you respect me by standing? Krishna! Krishna! Look at my son, Suyodhana. While he was proceeding for the battle, he came to me for my blessings. I blessed him that “Dharma will triumph”. Do you know why I blessed him in that manner? Krishna! those who witnessed the great insult meted out to Pandavas and Draupadi in open assembly, feared that some day or other, Dharma will triumph and the destruction of Kauravas is imminent. I also thought like that. Hence I blessed my son in that manner.
I never supported Suyodhana as my son. I also told Suyodhana that it would be better to die in the battlefield instead of returning home facing defeat. Then only he will attain higher regions after death. My son made my second word come true. I am lamenting for his death, as he is my son. I never feel for his death as a hero.
Krishna, why should I lament for the death of Suyodhana, who fought and died in the battlefield like a great hero.The only calamity is that none are there to look after me and my husband during our old age. Vidura told my husband and my son many a time several morals. Had they paid heed to atleast one word, this disastrous great mass massacre would have been averted.
Krishna, my son Suyodhana, accompanied by eleven akshouhini strong army, is now lying on bare earth in dirt and dust, unattended. All my sons are lost. I am unable to behold the distress and suffering of my daughters-in-law lamenting for the deaths of their husbands. I do not know what sin they have committed to suffer this mental agony. They are innocent. They do not know the politics. They do not know how and for what this battle was fought. But they are the worst sufferers of this battle.
Krishna! Look at my eldest daughter-in-law, how she is weeping beating her head and chest. The dead body of Suyodhana is drenched with her tears. Behold the fate of my other daughers-in-law. They are roaming like mad people, weeping for the deaths of their husbands. What sin have they committed to be afflicted with this mental agony?
All my sons are dead and are enjoying in heaven. But their wives are deeply lamenting for their deaths. It appears there is no end for their sorrow. They are too young and they have not yet fully enjoyed sensual pleasures with their husbands.
No, it is not their fate. It is all due to the misdeeds committed by me and my husband. Otherwise, Dharmaja would not have destroyed my entire family.” lamenting Gandhari.
Krishna never uttered a single word. Unless the entire grief caused by the deaths of her sons comes out, her mind will not remain peaceful, Krishna thought. Meanwhile, Gandhari found the dead body of Dussaasana with the broken chest.
“Behold Krishna! he is Dussaasana, the other son of mine, killed by Bhimasena with his mighty mace, impelled by Draupadi and the recollection of his woes at the time of dice game. Bhimasena quaffed all his blood by breaking his chest. O Krishna, at that time, I told Dussaasana--- “O my son Dussaasana! Draupadi is under the care and protection of Sri Krishna. It is not safe on your part to insult her in such a heinous manner. Have you done this knowing fully well about the dire consequences? Dont you know about the vigour and valour of Bhimasena? It is not too late. Respect Draupadi. Your uncle, Sakuni is a wretch and wicked. Dont follow his words. Shed his companionship. Save the respect and glory of Kuru Vamsa”.....Krishna. .nobody paid heed to my words As a result, they all met with this kind of miserable death at the hands of Bhimasena. Who can change their fate?
Bhimasena tolerated with great patience, his indignity and indignation and waited for an opportunity like a cobra. He took revenge by killing all my sons in the battle field. Krishna! Taking revenge is justifiable but breaking the chest of Dussaasana and quaffing his blood is brutal. Can a great hero like Bimasena do like this? Will Bimasena get a great name and fame by doing like this? Will any mother tolerate this?
Krishna! look at the body of Vikarna lying amidst the dead bodies of elephants. His wife is weeping, sitting by the side of her husband. All his vital parts have been eaten away by vultures.
Krishna! Here is my another son Durmukha, killed by Bhimasena. His face was half-eaten by wolves. I do not know how could he be killed before whom no foe could stand and fight.
O Krishna! Youthful and handsome, and alwlays waited upon and served by most beautiful ladies, my son Vivimsati, is now sleeping amidst the dead bodies, stained with dust and blood. Now he is surrounded and waited upon by vultures.” told Gandhari to Sri Krishna.
Now she approached the dead body of Abhimanyu. Beholding that young and handsome youth, Gandhari told Krishna:
“O Krishna! He is Abhimanyu, your nephew, who resembled a fierce and proud hero, he who, without a follower, alone pierced into the impenetrable array of Drona and killed all of them, is now sleeping alone, having succumbed to death. Krishna! His face has not been dimmed even after death. The beautiful daughter of Virata and wife of Abhimanyu, overwhelmed with great grief at the sight of her heroic husband, is indulging in lamentation. Krishna, kindly hear what she says:
“O Abhimanyu! Where have you gone leaving your mother Subhadra and father Arjuna. They are all waiting for you. Your maternal uncle Krishna is calling you. Why you are silent without speaking a single word. I heard that Drona, Karna, Asvathama are embodiment of Dharma. How they all surrounded you and killed you mercilessly. Is this called heroism? Neither the acquisition of vast Kuru kingdom nor the defeat of all foes, conduces to the joy of Pandavas bereft of you.”
Krishna, it appears there is no end for her grief.
Krishna! Look at her mother, Sudheshna, lamenting for the death of her son Uttara Kumara and her husband Virata. At this age, she lost her husband, son and son-in -law. How can she tolerate this great grief.
Krishna! Please come here. Look at the dead body of great hero, Karna. All his wives, with dishevelled tresses and loud wails of grief, are sitting around that fallen hero.
Krishna! look at the dead body of Bahlika He appears to be in deep and sound sleep.
Krishna! Here is the dead body of my son in law, Saindhava, the husband of my only daughter, Dussala. At your instance, Arjuna killed Saindhava brutally. Is it not! But Saindhava was half-dead when he lusted Draupadi while she was alone in forest. On that day, Pandavas spared his life, beholding the face of their sister, Dussala. Today, Arjuna himself mercilessly killed Saindhava, without considering him as his sister’s husband. Alas! Dussala is searching for the head of her husband but in vain. Krishna! can there be a greater grief to me than that my daughter of tender age should be a widow and all my daughters-in-law should become lordless. Arjuna left all those who brutally killed his son, Abhimanyu but killed Saindhava who just stopped Bhimasena and others from proceeding further. Is it a just act?
Krishna! look at the dead body of Salya who is equivalent to Dharmaja in virtues. But Salya fought on behalf of Suyodhana, drove the chariot of Karna, and made him to suffer with his pungent, arrow-like sharp words. The wives and children of Salya surrounded his dead body and are grieving for his death.
Krishna, look at the dead body of Bhagadatta who is capable of conquering even Mahendra. But, out of love and affection towards Arjuna, you got him killed.
Krishna! Behold Bhishma, the oldest in Kuru clan, taking rest on arrow bed, as if Sun is resting on earth. Krishna, after the departure of Bhishma, who will guide the Kuru dynasty?
Drona also is equivalent to Mahendra in prowess. He read all Vedas and Sastras. He taught Dharnurveda to all the princes of Kuru Kingdom. But Dhrishtadyumna mercilessly cut his head while Drona discarded his bow and arrows. Krishna, do you think it just on the part of Dhrishtadyumna? The wife of Drona, the mother of Asvathama is weeping loudly for the death of her husband. The students of Drona are making arrangements for his funeral. As no fuel is available, they are setting the pyre by collecting all the broken chariots, flag poles, bows and arrows. All of them are going round the pyre in ante direction and are proceeding towards the river for taking holy bath.
Krishna! Behold the dead body of Bhoorisravasa, son of Somadatta. Krishna! in your very presence, Arjuna cut his arm while your brother, Satyaki cut his head. His wife and sons are weeping for his tragic death. Bhoorisravasa is a virtuous warrior. But, Arjuna cut his arm while he was engaged in fighting with Satyaki. Is it a proper act?
Satyaki killed him while he was under Prayopavesa, discarding his bow and arrows. All this had happened in your very presence. Do you feel happy for the unscrupulous act of Arjuna and Satyaki?” asked Gandhari.
Krishna, with smiling face, followed her without speaking a single word. Meanwhile, Gandhari found the dead body of her own brother, Sakuni.
“Krishna! Look at this dead body. He is my own brother, Sakuni. He was killed by his nephew, Nakula. He is a wizard but his wisdom did not work before you. He played wicked dice game with Dharmaja and sent Pandavas to forests. Today, he lost his life in the game of war. He was the root cause for fomenting enmity between Pandavas and Kauravas. My son blindly trusted him. Suyodhana is a fool. Otherwise, he would not have trusted Sakuni.
Krishna! These are the dead bodies of mighty warriors and Kings of Magadha and Kalinga. This is the dead body of Brihadbala, King of Kosala who enjoyed royal pleasures. Now he is lying amidst thousands of unidentified dead bodies. His wives are grieving for his death.
These are the dead bodies of Kekaya Kings who were killed by Drona. All their wives surrounded their dead bodies and are lamenting for their miserable death. The sons of these Kings are performing their funeral ceremonies and are proceeding towards the river for holy bath. Some of their wives are weeping, keeping the heads of their husbands on their lap.
Krishna! have you identified this body. He is Dhrishtaketu, son of Sisupala, your nephew. This is the body of Suketu, son of Dhrishtaketu. Both father and son died on the same spot. Their wives and mothers are grieving for their deaths.
Krishna! Do you know Vinda and Anuvinda. They are the kings of Avanti. They are lying on the ground as uprooted trees.
Krishna! beholding all this, I have a great doubt. Bhishma, Drona, Karna, Asvathama, Bhoorisravasa, Kripacharya, Saindhava, Kritavarma, my son Suyodhana are all Athiradhas and Maharadhas. Pandavas also equally took part in the battle along with the above warriors. How you, your brother, Satyaki and five Pandavas survived, escaping death, while all others perished. Is it not a miracle? I cannot believe it. Unless all of you are endowed with enormous divine power, it is not possible.
But the same God did injustice to all my sons. I am feeling sorry for that. God deprived me all of my sons. Bhimasena did not spare a single son to look after us in this old age. What can I do? It is all our fate. Had we followed the advice given by you in the open assembly, this mass massacre would have been averted. Not only you, Bhishma, Drona, Vidura advised us in right direction. We paid no attention to any of your advices.
The words spoken by you in the open assembly have become true. I know you are solely responsible for this great disaster and destruction. Instead of sitting idle and preaching morals, you could have, even by force, prevented both sides from entering into war. Why you have not done that? Are you not capable of doing so? There are several elders, wise and learned, in the Kuru assembly. I know, you all conspired together and spoiled the mission for mediation. Hence you are all responsible for this great mass massacre.
Krishna! it appears to my mind that in order to see the end of Suyodhana, you enacted the drama of mediation and fomented the ill feelings between Kauravas and Pandavas. Hence your mission failed. This is all your own making. You have to reap the consequences.
Krishna! Listen! If I am truthful and faithful to my husband throughout my life, your entire Yadava community will perish soon by fighting with each other. This is my curse, for what you have done to the Kuru community. Besides that, exactly after one year 36 days from today, you will be brutally killed and your dead body will lie on the earth, unattended. This is my curse.” said Gandhari.
Sri Krishna smiled and said: “O Mother Gandhari! your curse is not new to me. It is already there. On a previous occasion, when some Yadavas insulted a saint, that saint cursed the entire Yadava community in the same manner. By God’s will, the same words came out of your mouth. There is yet another secret. Yadavas will never be killed by others. So they have to kill each other. Therefore, your curse is nothing but a reiteration of the earlier curse. O mother Gandhari, please get up. We have to make arrangements for the funerals of all those who died in this war.” said Krishna.
Then, Gandhari and Krishna proceeded towards Dhritarashtra. On the way, Sri Krishna told Gandhari: “O mother, Gandhari, are you not aware of the evil deeds commited by Suyodhana and Dussaasana. Even myself, Bhishma, Drona, Bahlika and even their father, Dhritarashtra, could not stop them from doing so. Their wicked deeds and mischievous acts culminated into this great war. Hence, how am I responsible for what had happened? Kindly, put an end to your grief. You are the mother of great warriors. Your sons fought in the war and died as great heroes. They attained higher regions after their death.” said Krishna. Dhritarashtra asked Dharmaja: “Dharmaja! you know better about the statistics of the war losses on either side. Can you tell me how many died on both sides?” asked Dhritarashtra. “My dear Paternal Uncle, Dhritarasthra! of the 18 akshouhini army, 76,00,20,000 are Kshatriyas. 24,320 belong to other castes. As all of them died in the battle field, they attained higher regions. Some have fled away with fear from battle field. They attained Guhyaka Loka. But none of them who died in the battle field will enter hell.” said Dharmaja. “Dharmaja! some of them who died in the war have no near relatives. Is there any wrong in performing funeral ceremonies to them?” asked Dhritarashtra. “The battle itself if a sacred yajna. Those who died in the war sacrified their lives in this sacred yajna. Therefore, they are all eligible for funeral rituals.” said Dharmaja. After getting proper sanction from Dhritarashtra, Dharmaja sent for Dhoumya, Vidura and Sanjaya and deputed them to perform mass funerals to all those who died in the battle field, except those who were born in Bharata clan. Then, Dharmaja, with the help of Brahmins, arranged pyres for Suyodhana, Dussaasana, Karna, Salya, Abhimanyu, Ghatotkacha, Virata, Dhrishtaketu etc., and completed the funeral ceremonies. As sufficient fuel was not available, they gathered the broken parts of chariots, wheels, flagposts, bows and arrows and arranged pyres for funeral ceremonies. Dharmaja arranged mass funerals to all unidentified bodies of Kshatriyas. Later, Dharmaja, Dhritarashtra and other Pandavas went to the nearby river for holy bath. Dhritarashtra and Dharmaja offered tarpanas, tilodakas and dharmodakas to all the near relatives who were born in Bharata clan. At that time, Kunti, with tearful eyes, said loudly: “All of you gathered here, please listen. Karna, the bosom friend of Suyodhana, is none other than my own son, elder to Dharmaja. He was not born to Radha. He is not Radheya. He is Kaunteya. He is eldest brother of all Pandavas and Kauravas. While I was unmarried, with the blessings of Saint Doorvasa, Karna was born to me through Soorya (Sun God) with natural armour and ear rings. Therefore, O Dharmaja, Karna is also entitled for Tilodakas as he is your elder brother.” said Kunti. On hearing these words, Dharmaja fainted. Rest were amazed and astonished. There was dead silence for some time. With great difficulty, Dharmaja opened his mouth “O mother Kunti, how can you bear this burning fire in your upper cloth, all these years. Why did you not reveal this truth to me earlier. Who else is there to attack Karna except Arjuna. O mother, why you gave birth to Karna as eldest of all. The boon given to you by Saint Doorvasa has become a curse to all of us. We are left with great grief. Had we known earlier that Karna was our elder brother, our attitude towards him would have been different. This mass massacre would not have occurred.” Dharmaja lamented for the death of Karna. Immediately, in the name of Karna, Dharmaja performed all the necessary rituals and offered Tilodakas. Even Dhritarashtra also offered Tilodakas as he was born in Bharata clan. Dharmaja sent for the wives, daughters-in-law of Karna and regarded them as his kinsfolk and consoled them. Dharmaja performed all rituals and offered, in the name of Karna, cows, gold, silver etc., to brahmins as charity.