The Mahabharata war, also called the Kurukshetra war, is the climactic event of the Hindu epic, Mahabharata. It is fought between two sets of cousins in the Kuru dynasty, the Pandavas (sons of Pandu) and the Kauravas (sons of Dhritarashtra).
Kingdoms like Panchala and Matsya side with the Pandavas. Krishna, the regent of Dwaraka, drives the chariot of Arjuna, the third Pandava, and signals his support for their cause.
The war is fought over eighteen days on the battlefield of Kurukshetra. It is won by the Pandavas at the end, but only after unfathomable destruction to lives and wealth on both sides.
(For the full summary of the war, see: 18 Days of the Mahabharata War: A Day-wise Summary.)
In this post, we will answer the question: What happens on Day 4 of the Mahabharata war?
Abhimanyu Fights Five
Ashwatthama, Bhurishrava, Chitrasena, and the son of Samyamani (not sure who this character is; he is not named) fight against Abhimanyu.
Even though facing five of the best warriors among men, he handles himself like a lion fighting alone with five wild elephants. None of them are able to equal Abhimanyu in sureness of aim, bravery, prowess, knowledge of weapons, and sense of timing.
He ultimately injures Ashwatthama in the arm, kills Bhurishrava’s horses, and shatters the chariot of Chitrasena. The five warriors retreat from the scene.
Dhrishtadyumna versus Kripa
Dhrishtadyumna gets into a fight with Kripacharya and pierces him on his shoulder-joint. He then slays the guard standing behind Kritavarma in his chariot.
He also kills Damana, the heir of Paurava. A fierce battle begins now between the prince of Panchala and the son of Samyamani.
Dhrishtadyumna manages to break his foe’s chariot, killing his steeds, the charioteer and rear-guards. The son of Samyamani picks up a scimitar and advances toward Dhrishtadyumna, who is still on his chariot.
And following the rules of combat, the Panchala prince jumps onto the ground, picks up a mace, and brings it down with a thud on the other man’s head, killing him on the spot.
The Valour of Bhimasena
Duryodhana leads a group of ten thousand elephants against Bhimasena early on Day 4, but the latter, grabbing hold of his mace, jumps off his chariot to fight them on foot while uttering roar after roar.
He begins to knock them down one by one even as the sons of Draupadi, Abhimanyu, Nakula, Sahadeva and Dhrishtadyumna accompany him from the rear on their respective chariots.
Bhima manages to kill an elephant with just one stroke of the mace. He is not the least bit ruffled at being surrounded by such a large number of beasts, and he goes about twirling his club like it was a sword.
Elephant-riders and mahouts fall to the ground like rain, and many of them break their necks at Bhima’s feet. The other Pandava warriors also help him in this massacre, picking out the animals with their arrows.
Many elephants in this division surrender to Bhimasena by kneeling on the ground and laying their trunks out.
Sanjaya tells us that Bhima wandered over the field like the Destroyer himself, club in hand, bathed in the fat and blood and marrow of the beasts he had killed.
Many of the surviving elephants see it fit to flee the battlefield at this point, and in doing so they trample upon chariots and footmen of the Kaurava army.
Bhima kills some Kauravas
Bhimasena returns to battle after a short period of rest, this time on a chariot in full armour bearing a bow. His first opponent after the interruption is Duryodhana, who manages to disorient him by piercing him with an arrow to the chest.
Bhima swoons due to this, and his charioteer retreats enough to allow the other Pandava heroes to hold fort.
But it does not take long for Bhima to recover. Once back on his feet, he instructs his driver to lead him to the fourteen sons of Dhritarashtra who are fighting in that place:
Senapati, Sushena, Jalasandha, Sulochana, Ugra, Bhimaratha, Bhima, Virabahu, Aolupa, Durmukha, Dushpradarsha, Vivitsu, Vikata and Sama.
Out of these fourteen, Bhima manages to kill Senapati, Jalasandha, Sushena, Ugra, Virabahu, Bhima, Bhimaratha and Sulochana. The rest of them flee in terror.
Seeing this outcome, Bhishma calls out to his warriors to attack Bhima. ‘The second son of Pandu has just routed the brothers of Duryodhana!’ he says. ‘He has punctured a hole in our formation. Attack him, O Heroes! And see to his death.’
Heeding his call is Bhagadatta, who races along the ground as if his horses are winged. The battle between him and Bhima is one-sided, and he soon succeeds in making Vrikodara lose consciousness once again.
Just as Bhagadatta is pondering a move to claim the life of his opponent, though, Ghatotkacha appears on the scene and begins working some magic.
Ghatotkacha Protects his Father
Ghatotkacha’s elephants are much larger than ‘normal’ elephants, and they all have four tusks each. These elephants enter into battle against the elephants of Bhagadatta, and before long, the latter is struggling to hold on.
Urged by Duryodhana, Drona leads a small group of kings who advance to support Bhagadatta.
Watching the reinforcements arrive, Ghatotkacha resorts to illusions. He creates a vision by which his form is enlarged many thousand times, and he rises to the sky perched on the head of a divine white elephant that looks very much like the Airavata.
In his hands are weapons that no one had ever seen before, part-club, part-lance, and part-sword. Behind him, he conjures up a great horde of elephants led by the three divine ones: Anjana, Vamana and Mahapadma.
Watching this vision take shape between their eyes, the Kaurava army is scared witless. Bhishma himself stops Drona from attacking, and calls Bhagadatta back.
‘The time for sunset is near, Acharya,’ he says. ‘And this is when the powers of Rakshasas increase manifold, while those of men decrease. Let us therefore not engage with this son of Bhima right this moment. Let us retreat, and let this mark the end of battle for today.’
Hearing the way Bhimasena lorded over the Kaurava army on the fourth day, Dhritarashtra is gripped with despair. ‘Hearing of the feats of the Pandavas from your lips,’ he tells Sanjaya, ‘fills me with fear and wonder at the same time.
‘Everything that has happened to us so far has been the dictate of destiny. What ascetic penances have these sons of Pandu performed so that they have been gifted the ability to be so valorous in battle?
‘Why do they seem undefeatable whereas my sons fall away before them as if they are mere rodents in front of a giant snake?
‘What science is known to them that my children do not know? It appears that divine support exists for them alone, and for us there is nothing but chastisement.
‘Why have we earned this censure from the gods, O Sanjaya? In this ocean of distress I do not see a shore. I feel like a man who has been thrown into the middle of a great ocean with no boat.
‘I feel the strength of the waves engulf me, and I see no hope.
‘Will you tell me, my dear minister, why it has come to this? What is the true cause of such clear imbalance between the strengths of the two sets of princes?’
Sanjaya replies in a grave tone, ‘O King, listen to my words, and having listened, let them penetrate your heart properly. Nothing in this whole matter is the result of incantation, magic, destiny or illusion.
‘The sons of Pandu have not created any new terrors, even though they are able to do so. Dhananjaya fights with earthly weapons; Bhimasena wields a mace very like the one held by Duryodhana.
‘But the reason for their superiority, Your Majesty, is their unflagging quest for righteousness.
‘Wherever righteousness is, there is victory. Your sons, by contrast, are sinful and despicable beings. They performed many cruel acts directed at the Pandavas.
‘Indeed, who can forget the time when Duhsasana sought to undress Draupadi with his own two hands? Let them now reap the fruit of all those poisonous trees.
‘They never listened to Vidura or Bhishma, who begged for peace. Like a sick and ignorant man does not listen to the words of a healer and thereby dies, in the same way, O King, your sons are destined to die.
‘Fate and destiny play no part in all this, Your Highness. None!’
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- Bhima: 10 Questions about the Mahabharata Hero Answered
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- Karna: 41 Questions about the Mahabharata Hero Answered
- Draupadi: 46 Questions about the Mahabharata Heroine Answered