The Mahabharata War: What happens on Day 6?

What happens during Day 6 of the Mahabharata war - Featured Image - Picture of a Makara breathing fire

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 6 of the Mahabharata war?

Makara for the Pandavas

Day 5 is considered to have ended with honours shared, though one has to say that the Kauravas probably had a better time of it.

On Day 6, at the behest of Yudhishthir, Dhrishtadyumna arranges his forces in the shape of a makara, effectively copying what Bhishma had done on the previous day with the Kaurava troops.

(However, the word ‘makara’ seems to have varied meanings. It is used to signify a chimerical beast, one that has the tail of a fish and the head of a terrestrial animal. The latter can be an alligator, a deer, an elephant or a peacock.)

Drupada and Dhananjaya are stationed at the head of this formation, and Sahadeva and Nakula formed its two eyes. Bhimasena stands at its beak (this suggests that it might have been a peacock or another bird).

Abhimanyu, the sons of Draupadi, Ghatotkacha, Satyaki and Yudhishthir, along with their respective armies, fill out the neck portion.

Virata, supported by Dhrishtadyumna, takes control of the animal’s back, while Dhrishtaketu and Chekitana are positioned on the right wing.

Krauncharuma for the Kauravas

Bhishma smiles to himself when he looks at the enemy’s formation, for imitation after all is equivalent to flattery. He adopts the Krauncharuma Vyuha for his troops, an array that Yudhishthir had used on Day 2.

He places Drona at the beak of this bird, and Ashwatthama and Kripa become its two eyes. Kritavarma, along with the king of the Kambojas and the Bahlikas, are placed at the head.

Shurasena and Duryodhana, guarded by numerous tribes and small kings, create the long neck of the crane.

The Pragjyotishas, the Madras, the Sauviras, and the Kekayas – these come together to form the breasts.

Susharma takes the left wing, while the Tusharas, the Yavanas, the Sakas, along with the Chulikas, occupy the right wing. Srutayush, Sataytish and Bhurishrava are assigned the role of protecting the formation from the back.

Bhima fights Drona

The first salvo of Day 6 is hurled by Bhima, who attacks Drona (both of them are at the foremost positions of their respective armies this morning) and kills his charioteer after a short but fierce battle.

This enrages Drona out of his senses, and restraining his horses himself with one hand, still manages to defeat Bhima and unleash a torrent of death upon the Pandava forces.

Bhishma comes to fight by Drona’s side now, and together they rout the Srinjayas and the Kekayas, thus boring a hole through the Pandava formation.

Arjuna and Bhima band together similarly to attack the Kauravas at a different place, in a bid to distract the two Kuru elders away from offense into defence.

Bhima enters the Kaurava Ranks

Bhimasena rides to the place where Duhsasana, Durvisha, Dussaha, Durmada, Jaya, Jayasena, Vikarna, Chitrasena, Sudarshana, Charuchitra, Suvarman, Dushkarna, and Karna are present.

These are thirteen of Duryodhana’s brothers, fighting while arrayed close together. When they see Bhima in their midst, all by himself (or perhaps at the head of a tiny group of soldiers), they become excited and proclaim, ‘Come, Brothers! Let us slay this arrogant one.’

But Bhima, despite being lost in the midst of the Kaurava ranks, does not allow fear to enter his heart.

He leaps out of his chariot with mace in hand, and sets about dismantling every chariot that comes within range of his swinging arm. He disappears within the sea of Kaurava soldiers.

When Dhrishtadyumna chances upon the empty chariot of Bhima, he fears the worst.

‘Alas,’ he says to Visoka, Bhima’s charioteer, ‘has the beloved son of Pritha left for the abode of Yama?’

Visoka tells him the truth, that Bhima had instructed him to wait and had waded into the enemy’s army by himself, and hearing that, Dhrishtadyumna’s heart is lightened a touch. But he resolves to go after his brother-in-law.

The Pramohanastra

When Dhrishtadyumna enters Kaurava territory, he follows the trail of fallen elephants and soldiers left in Bhimasena’s wake.

He keeps his ears open for the Pandava’s cry, and while doing so, he urges his charioteer to keep moving forward, engaging with warriors only fleetingly.

After a while of searching thus, he catches up with Bhima. At this moment, sixteen chariots of great Kaurava warriors have surrounded the Pandava, and are raining arrows on him.

He is doing his best to defend himself with the mace, but Dhrishtadyumna notices that a few arrows are sneaking through every few seconds, and are wearing down the son of Kunti little by little.

The Panchala prince switches on to battle mode, therefore, and begins shooting arrows of his own, first to break the circle around Bhima, and then entering it so that he can stand by his friend’s side.

He jumps to the ground, tends to Bhima’s injuries, pulls out the shafts that have pierced him, and embraces him in a show of support.

Duryodhana sees this and calls to his men to attack the duo. ‘Let the son of Drupada and the son of Pandu together be slain today by our weapons. Onward!’

But Dhrishtadyumna is ready for them. He uses a weapon called the Pramohana, which is a weapon of illusion that afflicts the mental balance of one’s foes.

By casting this, he causes the Kaurava army to flee in fear in all directions, with their horses and elephants being struck by chaos as well.

Bhima is Rescued

The Pramohanastra buys the two heroes some time, though, during which Yudhishthir despatches twelve rathas on Bhima’s trail.

The Kaikeyas, the sons of Draupadi, Dhrishtaketu and Abhimanyu set out with a large force in an array called the Suchimukha Vyuha, or the ‘point of the needle’.

(The Soochi Mukha Vyuha will make another appearance on Day 14, when Drona employs it.)

Using this formation, they penetrate the Kaurava array and reach the place where Bhima and Dhrishtadyumna are surrounded.

With Bhimasena ushered away in the chariot of the Kaikeya king, Dhrishtadyumna (perhaps foolishly) challenges Drona to a fight and loses his bow, his charioteer, and his horses.

Even his chariot is partly dismantled by the preceptor’s arrows. He climbs into Abhimanyu’s chariot, and together they flee from within the Kaurava ranks to the safety of their own side.

Bhishma fights Common Soldiers

The Kauravas adopt a strategy whereby Bhishma is left unmarked by any Pandava warrior, thus freeing him up to kill thousands of common soldiers that make up the Panchala army.

Like a butcher hacking a herd of goats to pieces, Bhishma mercilessly unleashes carnage on the Pandava army, much of which flees in terror.

Meanwhile, Arjuna adopts the same tactic from the right wing of the Makara formation, massacring thousands upon thousands of footmen, horses and elephants.

Kurukshetra resembled, says Sanjaya, an ocean whose water was blood, whose eddies were the numerous arrows that flew across the sky, whose islands were the elephants, and whose waves were the horses.

Bhima versus Duryodhana

With dusk approaching, Duryodhana once again seeks out Bhima with a desire to kill him. Bhima is excited about this, because he wishes to end the war by slaying Duryodhana once and for all.

‘It is in your name that all of these heroic men are fighting one another, vile one,’ he says. ‘Let me dispel the sorrows of Kunti, the anger of Draupadi, and the memory of all the woes you piled upon us all these years. Come, O son of Gandhari!’

Saying these words, Bhima shoots thirty six arrows at Duryodhana, all of them resembling flames from a blazing fire.

Two of them break the king’s bow, two account for his charioteer, and four send his horses to the abode of Yama.

With two more arrows he cuts off Duryodhana’s umbrella and with three more he destroys the mast of his chariot.

Sensing that the battle is not going well for his king, Jayadratha comes up to flank him. Kripacharya offers his chariot to rescue him while the Saindhava king wards off Bhima with a volley of arrows.

This duel peters out after a while.

Dushkarna Dies

Jayatsena, one of the Kaurava brothers, secures a victory against Sutasoma by cutting off the latter’s bow, but Satanika comes up to help his brother and pierces Jayatsena in the chest with a well-aimed arrow.

Dushkarna, Jayatsena’s brother, in turn cuts off Satanika’s bow, which infuriates him so much that he picks up a new bow and proceeds to cut Dushkarna’s head off with seven arrows.

Five of Dhritarashtra’s sons (Durmukha, Durjaya, Durmarshana, Satranjaya and Satrusha) now rush at Satanika to avenge Dushkarna’s death. But the Kekaya brothers (five of them) arrive to help Satanika out, and repel the attack of the Kauravas.

This death of Dushkarna brings the events of the sixth day of battle to a close.

Further Reading

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