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 7 of the Mahabharata war?
Bhishma Comforts Duryodhana
On the seventh morning, Duryodhana wakes up with a much wounded body and a much more grievously aching soul. He goes to Bhishma and asks him, ‘Grandsire, our army has higher numbers of soldiers.
‘We have the stronger and more experienced warriors. We have the craftier strategists. And yet the Pandavas enter and exit our formations at will.
‘Just yesterday, Bhimasena waded in alone deep into our ranks and managed to escape unhurt. How is it that with the dice loaded in our favour, we continue to lose?’
Bhishma laughs mirthlessly. ‘I cannot answer that question, O Prince,’ he says, ‘but I am performing my duty with the fullest heart. Thousands upon thousands of men have given themselves over to you.
‘Today, too, I shall fight to the best of my ability. Either I will kill the Pandavas or they will kill me. But I must tell you, Duryodhana, that no one on Earth can vanquish the Pandavas who have Janardana on their side.
‘So our defeat in this war is certain, no matter what path it takes.’
Duryodhana is downcast when he hears this, but knowing that Bhishma has once again vowed to fight with all his power gladdens him. ‘Here,’ says the grandsire, ‘take this herb. Apply it to your wounds. It will give you comfort.’
Mandala for the Kauravas
Out on the battlefield, the formation that Bhishma favours this morning is one known as Mandala – which is a mystical circle representing the universe.
In it, various divisions of the army are mixed together to create a complex pattern that is hoped to prove impenetrable. Next to every elephant are placed seven chariots.
Next to every chariot are placed seven cavalrymen. Behind every horseman stand seven archers, and behind every archer are seven swordsmen holding shields.
There is therefore no isolation of each division, and the enemy intending to break this formation should be well-versed in all kinds of warfare.
Vajra for the Pandavas
Yudhishthir’s response is to counter with the formation called Vajra, named after Indra’s weapon shaped like the thunderbolt.
We are not told specifically of the positions taken up by the various warriors, but we can surmise (following the pattern from the other arrays) that Bhimasena will be at the tip, with Dhrishtadyumna, Shikhandin, Abhimanyu and Arjuna supporting him from behind.
Yudhishthir will be ensconced in the middle – corresponding to the hilt of the sword – with veterans like Virata and Drupada guarding the rear.
The first significant event of Day 7 occurs when Arjuna, in a rare moment of bloodlust, uses the Aindrastra on a sea of soldiers in the Kaurava army.
It is said that the weapon slices through them all, piercing each man with two or three arrows. Among the thousands of kings and elephants and horses in his path, not even one is left unwounded.
This leads to all of them fleeing with loud wails of help, and the son of Ganga speeds to that location where Arjuna’s chariot stands, in a bid to curtail him and rescue his fellow soldiers.
Drona versus Virata
While Bhishma is fighting with Arjuna, a duel breaks out between Drona and the Matsya king Virata.
The latter suffers heavy losses at the hands of the acharya, and after his chariot has been broken and his charioteer killed, he takes refuge in the chariot of his son, Sankha.
Fighting from the same chariot, father and son mount another offensive on Drona, temporarily managing to disconcert him a little. But Drona shifts up a gear effortlessly, shooting a poisoned arrow at Sankha’s heart that pierces the prince through and through.
Seeing his son dropping to his death, Virata flees from the scene.
Iravan versus Vinda and Anuvinda
The two princes of Avanti, Vinda and Anuvinda, advance against Iravan, the prince of the Naga kingdom, the son of Ulupi and Arjuna. In this battle, Iravan first forces Anuvinda to go on foot by destroying his chariot.
The prince then seeks his brother’s vehicle, and the two of them fight from the same car. Unperturbed, Iravan has no trouble killing the charioteer of the brothers, forcing the horses to bolt away from the field.
Ghatotkacha versus Bhagadatta
Ghatotkacha gets into a battle with Bhagadatta, the ruler of the Pragjyotishas.
Seated on an elephant and commanding his horde of beasts against the Pandavas, he had been wreaking havoc when the son of Bhimasena comes to halt him.
Bhagadatta draws first blood by injuring Ghatotkacha with many an arrow, but the latter stands tall like a mountain, refusing to move or give way.
When Bhagadatta hurls fourteen lances at Ghatotkacha, the Rakshasa manages to cut them all down by means of his arrows. But it’s a steadily draining effort, with Bhagadatta relentlessly pushing him back.
In one last ditch attempt, Ghatotkacha musters all his energy and hurls a dart at the elephant-riding king, but it is blown to smithereens.
Watching this, Ghatotkacha jumps off his chariot (his horses had already been slain) and runs away to find refuge deep within the Pandava ranks.
Shalya fights his Nephews
Shalya, the ruler of the Madras, engages with Nakula and Sahadeva, the sons of his sister. He injures Nakula’s horses, kills his charioteer, and forces him onto the chariot of Sahadeva.
The twin onslaught of the youngest Pandavas proves too much for Shalya, though, who takes a full blow on the chest from a dart hurled at him by Sahadeva, and goes into a swoon.
He is carried off from the field by his charioteer, at which sight the Kaurava soldiers in that region are plunged in sorrow.
Nakula and Sahadeva, fittingly, blow on their conches and utter leonine roars at gaining a victory over their maternal uncle.
Arjuna versus Susharma
Arjuna intends to fight Bhishma, but on the way, he meets Susharma of the Trigartas, and challenges him to a fight.
The king takes shelter in the safety of numbers, summoning a large army of car warriors and footmen to bear down upon the third Pandava. But Arjuna single-handedly routs all of them.
Just when he is preparing to fight Susharma, however, he sees that the rest of the Pandavas are advancing against Bhishma, so he hurries over to support them.
Yudhishthir, Bhimasena, Arjuna, Nakula and Sahadeva converge upon the son of Ganga, but the grandsire wavers not, standing sturdy as a mountain, bearing the showers of arrows with great strength.
Yudhishthir Rebukes Shikhandi
Yudhishthir sees Shikhandi hastily retreating from striking range of Bhishma.
‘Do not flee, O Prince of Panchala,’ he says firmly. ‘Before battle began, you made some tall claims indeed that you would kill Bhishma. Now that you face him here, why do you show him your back instead of your armour?
‘Attack him, Prince, and if you die at the tip of his arrow, it will be a death well-earned.’
Shame-faced at this rebuke, Shikhandi returns and launches a bid to attack Bhishma, but only succeeds in being warded off ably by Shalya.
Bhishma versus Jayadratha
Bhima rushes toward the king of the Saindhavas with mace in hand, even though the latter is perched on a chariot.
Jayadratha pierces the Pandava with five hundred arrows, each resembling a shaft of death hurtling out of Yama’s abode. But Bhima dodges them all and kills his opponent’s horses.
At this point, Chitrasena, one of the sons of Dhritarashtra, comes to Jayadratha’s aid and draws Bhima to himself.
Even though facing a passion-crazed Bhima who is grinding his teeth, Chitrasena maintains his composure, and elects to face the Pandava on foot, with a scimitar and shield.
In a surprising turn of events, he even manages to make Bhima drop his mace on the ground, earning applause from the surrounding Kaurava soldiers as a result.
Bhishma battles Yudhishthir
Bhishma’s battle with Yudhishthir continues, meanwhile, and takes on a darker hue as the grandsire begins to use progressively dangerous weapons.
People witnessing this duel think that Yudhishthir has already entered the cave of death. But Nakula and Sahadeva come up to support their brother, and the three of them succeed in pushing Bhishma back.
Yudhishshir loses his bow, his horses and his chariot in this fight, and overcome by anger, he calls out to his men to charge at the son of Shantanu.
‘Slay this commander of the Kaurava forces, O Kings,’ he says, ‘by uniting as one.’
Hundreds of chariots thus glide toward Bhishma from all directions, but like a young lion hunting down a group of deer, Bhishma hacks them down with a smile of defiance on his face.
Thus ends Day 7 of the battle, with the Kauravas almost pressing the Pandavas back to the western edge of Kurukshetra.
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