The Mahabharata War: What happens on Day 5?

What happens on Day 5 of the Mahabharata War - Featured Image - Pointed tip of a spear

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 5 of the Mahabharata war?

Makara Fights Syena

On Day 5, with the majority of the Kauravas still reeling from Bhimasena’s onslaught of the previous day, Bhishma arranges his troops in the shape of an alligator (Makara).

In response, the Pandavas adopt the formation of a hawk (Syena), with Bhima stationed at the beak. We are told that Shikhandi and Dhrishtadyumna stand in positions that correspond with the bird’s eyes, and Satyaki leads the division that makes up its head.

At its neck stands Arjuna with his Gandiva, and the left wing, supported by an akshauhini of soldiers, is guarded by Drupada.

The king of the Kekayas, along with his army, mans the right wing, and bringing up the rear are the sons of Draupadi, Abhimanyu, and Yudhishthir himself, fighting alongside Nakula and Sahadeva.

Duryodhana Complains to Drona

Duryodhana, stung by grief at the death of his brother the previous day, addresses Drona and says, ‘Acharya, it is with hope of your help that we have decided to fight this war.

‘If you exhibit your skill and prowess, there is no way that this army of the Pandavas can survive. Please perform your duty, O Preceptor, therefore, and fight so that the sons of Pandu may be slain.’

In response to these words, Drona rushes onward into the Pandava ranks, where he is checked by Satyaki. But the acharya is in fine fighting mood today, so he covers the Vrishni king with arrows, and when Bhima rides up in support, he gets the same treatment too.

Bhishma and Shalya arrive at this point to drive home the advantage further, causing Bhima and Satyaki to retreat (at least for the time being).

Shikhandi approaches Drona and Bhishma with a bid to fight, but the grandsire rides away, in view of his oath of not fighting women. Drona challenges the Panchala prince but the latter withdraws after a short fight.

All Five Pandavas Together

Arjuna breathes fire from deep within the neck of the hawk, and falls upon the numerous soldiers of the Kaurava army.

Such is his resplendence that the car-warriors whom he attacks get scattered all over the plain, and they approach Bhishma for help. The son of Ganga vows to protect them.

All five Pandavas now array themselves against a massive force comprised of the horses of Kamboja, the many thousand men of the Gopayana army (a division of the Madras), the Sauviras, the Gandharas, the Trigartas, and the remainder of the Kalingas.

Later, Shikhandi once again attempts to challenge Bhishma but the latter refuses. Arjuna encounters Drona, Kripa, Vikarna and many other kings on his own.

Bhimasena marches out against Duryodhana and Dussaha. Sahadeva fights Shakuni and his son Uluka. Nakula battles the huge division of chariot warriors that make up the Trigarta army.

A number of small battles

As the morning wears on, a number of small battles take place:

  • Bhishma fights with Arjuna. Jayadratha engages with Bhimasena.
  • Yudhishthir and his sons parry with Shalya.
  • Vikarna challenges Sahadeva, Chitrasena battles Shikhandin.
  • The Matsyas, under the leadership of Virata, attack Duryodhana and Shakuni. Drupada, Chekitana and Satyaki together take on Drona and Ashwatthama.
  • Dhrishtadyumna has to contend with the combined strength of Kripa and Kritavarma.

Bhima versus Bhishma

In the afternoon, Bhishma and Bhimasena find themselves facing each other.

The Pandava hurls at the Kuru elder a dart of gold, and though Bhishma wards it off with short, well-aimed arrows, a piece of it still hits him on the forehead and threatens to knock off his crown.

With another arrow he cuts off Bhima’s bow in two.

Satyaki arrives to support Bhima at this point, and Bhishma immediately fells the charioteer of the Vrishni king, causing his horses to bolt away.

The chariot lurches here and there without control, leaving Satyaki with no ability to fight in any significant manner. A horde of Pandava footmen run after the car to restrain the horses.

Arjuna spares Ashwatthama

Arjuna and Ashwatthama face each other. The latter pierces the former’s breasts with six arrows, but receieves five shafts in return from the Gandiva.

His bow is also cut off by Arjuna, which prompts him to pick up another one and shoot at his enemy seventy fierce arrows. This duel lasts a long while, and the end Arjuna is in a position to land the fatal blow.

But keeping in mind that Ashwatthama is the son of Drona his preceptor, and that he is a Brahmin by birth, he chooses to pardon him, and instructs Krishna to steer the chariot to where Bhishma is fighting.

Abhimanyu Rises

Abhimanyu pierces Chitrasena with many sharp shafts and Purumitra with seven arrows. He also pierces Satyavrata with seventy well-hewn ones.

The three warriors return with arrows of their own, but Abhimanyu is able to ward them off with extreme ease.

A battle now brews between Abhimanyu and Lakshmana, the son of Duryodhana. The son of Arjuna kills Lakshmana’s steeds, and then cuts off his bow.

He also shatters with arrows a dart that Lakshmana hurls at him in desperation. But just as he is about to descend upon his enemy, Kripacharya intervenes and picks up Lakshmana in his chariot.

This rivalry between Abhimanyu and Lakshmana returns to life on Day 13, during which Abhimanyu kills his opponent.

Satyaki Kills Ten Thousand

Satyaki distinguishes himself in battle this afternoon, matching the speed of Arjuna in drawing his arrows and shooting them at his foes. He appears to people as a mass of clouds pouring a thick shower of rain.

King Duryodhana despatches ten thousand chariots against him, but Satyaki stands on his own, burning them all with his expert use of celestial weapons.

Bhurishrava gets into a duel with the sons of Satyaki, ten of them in all. Bhurishravas is outnumbered and surrounded, but he fights like a man possessed, and first cuts off the bows of his enemies, then their heads.

Satyaki flies toward Bhurishrava to avenge his sons’ deaths, but the Kaurava warrior humbles the Vrishni hero, depriving him of chariot, horses and armour.

But before the final blow can be administered, in the nick of time, Bhimasena arrives to rescue Satyaki, bearing him upon his chariot and whisking him away.

This enmity between Bhurishrava and Satyaki resurfaces on Day 14, when Satyaki gains the upper hand and kills the Kuru warrior.

Arjuna kills Twenty Thousand

Just as the sun assumes a red hue and is about to set, twenty thousand chariots are sent to fight Arjuna by Duryodhana, and all twenty thousand are obliterated.

The Matsyas and the Kekayas then attack Arjuna and Abhimanyu together, but the two warriors hold the massive armies at bay until sundown.

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