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Mahabharata, Book Ix - Abuimanyu's Death - Poem by Veda Vyasa

Fatal was the blood-red morning purpling o'er the angry east,
Fatal day for Abhimanyu, bravest warrior and the best,

Countless were the gallant chieftains like the sands beside the sea,
None with braver bosom battled, none with hands more stout and free!

Brief, alas, thy radiant summers, fair Subhadra's gallant boy,
Loved of Matsya's soft-eyed princess and her young heart's pride and joy,

Brief, alas, thy sunlit winters, light of war too early quenched,
Peerless son of peerless Arjun, in the blood of foemen drenched!

Drona on that fatal morning ranged his dreadful battle -line
In a circle darkly spreading where the chiefs with chiefs combine,

And the Pandavs looked despairing on the battle's dread array,
Vainly strove to force a passage, vainly sought their onward way!

Abhimanyu, young and fiery, dashed alone into the war,
Reckless through the shattered forces all resistless drove his car,

Elephants and crashing standards, neighing steeds and warriors slain
Fell before the furious hero as he made a ghastly lane!

Proud Duryodhan rushed to battle, strove to stop the turning tide,
And his stoutest truest warriors fought by proud Duryodhan's side,

Onward still went Abhimanyu, Kurus strove and fought in vain,
Backward reeled and fell Duryodhan and his bravest chiefs were slain!

Next came Salya car-borne monarch 'gainst the young resistless foe,
Urged his fiery battle -coursers, stretched his death-compelling bow,

Onward still went Abhimanyu, Salya strove and fought in vain,
And his warriors took him bleeding from the reddened battle-plain!

Next Duhsasan darkly lowering thundered with his bended bow,
Abhimanyu smiled to see him, kinsman and the dearest foe,

'Art thou he,' said Abhimanyu, 'known for cruel word and deed,
Impious in thy heart and purpose, base and ruthless in thy greed?

Didst thou with the false Sakuni win a realm by low device,
Win his kingdom from Yudhishthir by ignoble trick of dice,

Didst thou in the council chamber with your insults foul and keen
By her flowing raven tresses drag Yudhishthir's stainless queen,

Didst thou speak to warlike Bhima as thy serf and bounden slave,
Wrong my father righteous Arjun, peerless prince and warrior brave?

Welcome! have sought thee often, wished to cross thy tainted path,
Welcome! Dearest of all victims to my nursed and cherished wrath,

Reap the meed of sin and insult, draw on earth thy latest breath,
For I owe to Queen Draupadi, impious prince, thy speedy death! '

Like a snake upon an ant-hill, on Duhsasan's wicked heart
Fell with hissing wrath and fury Abhimanya's fiery dart,

From the loss of blood Duhsasan fainted on his battle-car,
Kuru chieftains bore him senseless from the blood-stained scene of war!

Next in gleaming arms accoutred came Duryodhan's gallant son,
Proud and warlike as his father, famed for deeds of valour done,

Young in years and rich in valour, for alas! he fought too well,
And before his weeping father proud and gallant Lakshman fell!

Onward still went Abhimanyu midst the dying and the dead,
Shook from rank to rank the Kurus and their shattered army fled,

Then the impious Jayadratha, king of Sindhu's sounding shore,
Came forth in unrighteous concert with six car-borne warriors more,

Darkly closed the fatal circle with the gulfing surge's moan,
Dauntless with the seven brave chieftains Abhimanyu fought alone!

Fell, alas, his peacock standard and his car was broke in twain,
Bow and sabre rent and shattered and his faithful driver slain,

Heedless yet of death and danger, misty with the loss of blood,
Abhimanyu. wiped his forehead, gazed where dark his foemen stood!

Then with wild despairing valour, flickering flame and closing life,
Mace in hand the heedless warrior rushed to end the mortal strife,

Rushed upon his startled foemen, Abhimanyu fought and fell,
And his deeds to distant ages bards and wand'ring minstrels tell!

Like a tusker of the forest by surrounding banters slain,
Like a wood-consuming wildfire quenched upon the distant plain,

Like a mountain-shaking tempest spent in force and hushed and still,
Like the red resplendent day-god setting on the western hill,

Like the moon serene and beauteous quenched in eclipse dark and pale,
Lifeless slumbered Abhimanyu when the softened starlight fell!

Done the day of death and slaughter, darkening shadows close around,
Wearied warriors seek for shelter on the vast and tented ground,

Soldiers' camp-fires brightly blazing, tent-lights shining from afar,
Cast their fitful gleam and radiance on the carnage of the war!

Arjun from a field at distance, where upon that day he fought,
With the ever faithful Krishna now his nightly shelter sought,

Wherefore, Krishna,' uttered Arjun, 'evil omens strike my eye,
Thoughts of sadness fill my bosom, wake the long-forgotten sigh,

Wherefore voice of evening bugle speaks not on the battle-field,
Merry conch nor sounding trumpet music to the warriors yield?

Harp is hushed within the dark tents and the voice of warlike song,
Bards beside the evening camp-fire tales of war do not prolong,

Good Yudhishthir's tent is voiceless and my brothers look so pale,
Abhimanyu comes not joyous Krishna and his sire to hail,

Abhimanyu's love and greeting bless like blessings from above,
Fair Subhadra's joy and treasure, Arjun's pride and hope and love! '

Softly and with many tear-drops did the sad Yudhishthir tell,
How in dreadful field of battle gallant Abhimanyu fell,

How the impious Jayadratha fell on Arjun's youthful son,-
He with six proud Kuru chieftains,-Abhimanyu all alone,

How the young prince reft of weapon and deprived of steel and car,
Fell as falls a Kshatra warrior fighting on the field of war!

Arjun heard; the father's bosom felt the cruel cureless wound,
'Brave and gallant boy! ' he uttered as he sank upon the ground,

Moments passed of voiceless sorrow and of speechless bitter tear,
Sobs within his mailéd bosom smote the weeping listener's ear!

Moments passed; with rising anger quivered Arjun's iron frame,
Abhimanyu's cruel murder smote the father's heart to flame,

'Didst thou say that Sindhu's monarch on my Abhimanyu bore,-
He alone,-and Jayadratha leagued with six marauders more,

Didst thou say the impious Kurus stooped unto this deed of shame,
Outrage on the laws of honour, stain upon a warrior's fame?

Father's curse and warrior's hatred sting them to their dying breath,
For they feared my boy in battle, hunted him to cruel death,

Hear my vow, benign Yudhishthir, hear me, Krishna righteous lord,
Arjun's hand shall slay the slayer, Arjun plights his solemn word

May I never reach the bright sky where the righteous fathers dwell,
May I with the darkest sinners live within the deepest hell-

With the men who slay their fathers, shed their loving mothers' blood,
Stain the sacred bed of gurus, steal their gold and holy food,

Cherish envy, cheat their kinsmen, speak the low and dastard lie,
If, ere comes to-morrow's sunset, Jayadratha doth not die,

Jayadratha dies to-morrow, victim to my vengeful ire,
Arjun else shall yield his weapons, perish on the flaming pyre! '

Softer tear-drops wept the mother, joyless was Subhadra's life,-
Krishna's fair and honoured sister, Arjun's dear and lovéd wife:

'Dost thou lie on field of battle smeared with dust and foeman's gore,
Child of light and love and sweetness whom thy hapless mother bore,

Soft thine eye as budding lotus, sweet and gentle was thy face,
Are those soft eyes closed in slumber, faded in that peerless grace,

And thy limbs so young and tender, on the bare earth do they lie,
Where the hungry jackal prowleth and the vulture flutters nigh,

Gold and jewels graced thy bosom, gems bedecked thy lofty crest,
Doth the crimson mark of sabre decorate that manly breast?

Rend Subhadra's stony bosom with a mother's cureless grief,
Let her follow Abhimanyu and in death obtain relief,

Earth to me is void and cheerless, joyless in my hearth and home,
Dreary without Abhimanyu is this weary world to roam!

And oh! cheerless is that young heart, Abhimanyu's princess-wife,
What can sad Subhadra offer to her joyless sunless life,

Close our life in equal darkness, for our day on earth is done,
For our love and light and treasure, Abhimanyu, he is gone!

Long bewailed the anguished mother, fair Draupadi tore her hair,
Matsya's princess early widowed shed her young heart's blood in tear!


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