Exile Comes To The End
Thus ended the exile of Pandavas. They could successfully fulfill all the conditions of banishment. Duryodhana and Shakuni had no excuse now, but to offer Pandavas their due portion of kingdom. But greed and hatred ruled the heart of Kauravas. Their rule extended almost all over north India, a vast expanse of power and possession. To part with a part of land and wealth was not acceptable to Duryodhana, as is the case with almost every ruler! Therefore, Shakuni insisted and Duryodhana concurred not to anything to Pandavas.
As such Kauravas were least afraid of five Pandavas, there was no army to support them in war. Kauravas were sure to win even if Arjuna and Bhima convinced Yudhisthira for war. Here Bhima and Arjuna knew how ungrateful Duryodhana and Shakuni could be, they had anticipated that Duryodhana would never agree to give Pandavas their rightful kingdom. They told Yudhisthira to prepare for war, indeed it was the only option left to regain their glory and wealth.
Accordingly Arjuna was sent to Dwaraka to seek advice and help from Sri Krishna. Moreover, there were one hundred kings who were obliged by Sri Krishna in their release from the jail of demon king Jarasangha.
Preparation For War?
When Arjuna reached Dwaraka, he found to his surprise Duryodhana was also camping to seek help from Sri Krishna. His purpose was to ask for Sri Krishna's army to fight on his side. Next day, Duryodhana reached the palace of Sri Krishna and was told to wait for a while as Sri Krishna was asleep. Soon Arjuna also went. Duryodhana took his seat at the head of the Lord, while Arjuna sat at the holy feet. In a while Sri Krishna opened his eyes to see his dear friend and disciple at his feet. Said the lord, "O Arjuna, what brings you here so early in the morning?"
But Duryodhana could not wait, he intervened and said, "O Krishna, I have come before Arjuna. Therefore, please speak to me first."
The lord jested, "But I saw Arjuna first. Let him talk to me first."
But the sober Arjuna himself told the lord, "No, Duryodhana is right. He has come before me. Let him put forward his purpose of visit."
Thus given chance, Duryodhana asked of Sri Krishna to fight on his side. Sri Krishna said, "But Duryodhana I have vowed not to pick up arms in this war. But army can be on your side. Decide what do you want, me or my army."
The foolish Duryodhana thought : "There is no use of Sri Krishna if he is not fighting, I will ask for his huge army." Thus all army of Sri Krishna went to the side of Kauravas. Arjuna was pleased for all Pandavas wanted was gracious lord on their side. He thanked Duryodhana for his choice.
Yudhisthira sent message to Dhritarashtra to give them half of the kingdom which was their right. Dhritarashtra asked Duryodhana to consider the demand, but proud and indiscreet Duryodhana refused to part with any portion of his kingdom.
Yudhisthira then requested to grant to give them five villages, one each to five Pandavas. But still Duryodhana refused.
Thus the clouds of war loomed large as Bhima and Arjuna wanted to take their due even by force.
Sri Krishna was informed and requested to settle the matter. As a last appeal Sri Krishna accepted to act as their ambassador. He went to the court of Dhritarashtra and pleaded with the king to see reason. "Be just, O king", said Sri Krishna, "Save the kingdom from annihilation. Your and Duryodhana's irresponsible behavior would bring calamity to whole race. Pandavas must be given their right. Where has your sense of justice gone? Control your foolish son, otherwise this kingdom will see only widows as its inhabitants!"
But the helpless king was overpowered with his love for his son. he left the decision to Duryodhana. Duryodhana replied, "O Krishna, why are you wasting your time. what to talk of half kingdom, I will not part with even that much of land that a needle could hold on its tip!"
Preparation of War
The inevitability of war left both Kauravas and Pandavas to chalk out their respective strategies and assess the strength and weaknesses of their opponents. While Arjuna was the best archer on Pandavas side Karna was no less a warrior on Kauravas side. To the extent some one rated him greater than even Arjuna! This particular fact caused a great concern in the heart of mother Kunti.
The story of Karna - 3
To find a way out Indra foster father of Arjuna, and king of heaven, decided to rob Karna of his protective kavacha and kundalas given to him by his father, the Sun God. It was a very well known fact that Karna was the most generous person on the earth, he would not disappoint any one who begged anything of him.
Indra disguised as a Brahmin beggar, therefore, came to Karna and requested him for a favour. Without a moment's hesitation, Karna said, "O respectful Brahmin, you have come at the opportune time. I have just finished my worship and whosoever asks me any thing at this hour his wish is granted."
"Give me, O generous Karna, your kavacha and kundala, if you can!," said the Indra. Karna without any hesitation tore out the his natural protective armour and handed over to the God Indra. This rendered Karna essentially weak.
So also, Mother Kunti approached her eldest son Karna. Karna was till now unaware that Kunti was his real mother. With a heavy heart, Kunti begged and pleaded for Arjuna's life dissuading Karna from fighting the war. During this encounter, which is very touching in the original text, Karna comes to know about his birth, how Kunti deserted him at the mercy of river waters. And Sun God was in fact his father.
Kunti was willing to announce him as her son now, and offered him the throne of Hastinapur if he decided to fight on the side of his brothers, Pandavas! But Karna had declared his loyalty to Duryodhana. He politely declined mother Kunti's offer and said, "O mother, I promise you one thing; in any event you shall have your five sons alive. If Arjuna dies I shall be the fifth, otherwise there would be no change in your life."
The War of Mahabharata
Rules and regulations were laid down for this Dharma-Yuddha, war of righteousness. War would be fought from dawn to dusk. Injured and helpless who has lost his weapon would not be attacked. Fight would be between equals, a charioteer would engage the other charioteer only and not pedestrian soldier. No one should attack anyone from behind. At sunset everyone would return to his respective camp. The injured would be treated by the physicians. The fellow from one camp would be allowed to visit other camp without hesitation.
On the side of Kauravas Bhishma was to lead the front. Besides, Dronacharya, Duryodhana, Jayadratha, and many more would fight against Pandavas. Karna would be out of picture till Bhishma was alive and leading the Kauravas.
On Pandavas side Sri Krishna became the charioteer of Arjuna. Besides five brothers, king Virata, Abhimanyu - son of Arjuna --, Ghatotkacha - son of Bhima from Hidambi, brother of Draupadi, and many more joined the forces.
Eighteen Days of Devastation
The First Day
The fateful day, probably the month of December, dawned. Battle lines were drawn. The two sides were arrayed against each other. Sri Krishna was the charioteer of Arjuna. He had decided not to fight or lift any weapon, but he would guide Arjuna and Pandavas with his wisdom and useful tips and hints.
Conches and trumpets were blown. The horses and chariots were ready, elephants decorated. Arrows and javelins were sharpened, clubs and maces flashed with terrifying power.
Duryodhana reached near the chariot of Bhishma and told him about the powerful generals on his side. Bhishma appealed to all the warriors to fight to the end, for death in this great war, on the battlefield, guaranteed liberation and attainment to the joys of Heaven.