The Mahabharata Research
Mahabharata is the longest and greatest literary piece that was ever created by mankind. The Mahabharata is an epic narrative of the Kurukṣetra War, the prelude to the war and the fates of the Kaurava and the Paṇḍava princes. The vastness of Mahabharata owes to the fact that it's not simply a tale of the great war. It also contains philosophical and devotional material, in addition to an unbelievable list of storeis that are related to the kingdoms or characters that are part of the main story. Among the principal works and stories in the Mahabharata are the Bhagavadgita, the story of Nala-Damayanti, the tale of Dushyanta-Shakuntala, an abbreviated version of the Ramayana, and the story of Rishisringa etc which are often considered as works in their own right.
The Crux of Mahabharata in 5 Minutes
The following section give a 5 minute overview of the vast epic reciting some of the key events during the course ofthe epic. Indeed a great number of storeis are omitted here to focus just on the main storyline leading to the Mahabharata war, and is written as a recap for someone who is familiar with the epic and the characters. More detailed stories and analysis of events would follow in separate narrations.
The beginning: Shantanu becomes the king of Hastinapur
The main story of Mahabharata begins with the ascent of Shantanu, the youngest son of king Pratipa, to the throne of Hastinapur. King Pratipa of the Kuru dynasty, had three sons: Devapi, Bahlika and Shantanu . The eldest son Devapi had lepressy and gave up his inheritence to become a hermit. Balhika abandoned his paternal kingdom and started living with his maternal uncle in Balkh and inherited the kingdom from him. Thus Shantanu became the king of Hastinapur. Bahlika, his son (Somdatta) and grandson (Bhurishravas) were killed in the Mahabharata war
Birth of Devavrat & Vyasa
Shantanu's wife Ganga gave birth to 7 sons, all died in infancy. The 8th son Devavrat survived infancy. He was brought up by his mother Ganga who lived separated from her husband Shantanu. Devavrat went to the school of Parasuram where he gained knowledge on warfare, administration, litereature and politics.
Matsyagandha (one who smelled like a fish) was the daughter of a fisherman Dusharaj and worked as a boatwoman, on the river Yamuna. Once a wandering sage named Parashara boarded her boat and during the journey got attracted to her, and she ended up getting a son from the Sage who later treated her for her body odour. She gained a sweet smell, and later was called Yojangandha (one whose sweet smell spread one yojana around) or Satyavati. This child born to Satyavati and sage Parashara was dark in complexion and was born on an island on the river Yamuna. Thus he was called Krishna Dwaypayan (Krishna-black, Dwaipayan-one born on an island). Dwaypayan grew up to become one of the most renowned and enlightened sages. He is believed to be responsible for compiling the Vedas. And for this reason, he gained the name Vyasa (the compiler), and is often referred to as Ved-vyasa.
The Vows of Bhishma and Amba
Shaantanu wanted to marry Satyavati. Satyavati's father agreed on the condition that Satyavati's son would be the king of Hastinapur. Shantanu could not accept this condition since Devavrat is the crown prince. Dejected Shantanu returned to Hastinapur. Devavrat, on knowing the reason for his father's grief, went to Satyavati's father. He vowed that he would never claim the throne of Hastinapur. Satyavati's father was not satisfied, he said what if your sons claim the throne? So Devavrat swore that he would not create progeny and remain unmarried. Satyavati's father was satisfied. Shaantanu praised Devavrat for his oath and married Satyavati. Devavrat gained the name Bheeshm (one who took a terrible oath). The later part of the epic makes one question whether Bhishma's oath and his abidance to it was really wise since it bound him to the side of unrighteousness and die on the side of adharma. But it's also due to his oath and the sacrifices he did for the same that he is revered as the most respected admired character in the epic.
Two sons were born to Satyavati: Vichitravirya and Chitrangad. Soon Shantanu died. Young Chitrangad was killed in a battle with a Gandharva called Chitrangad. Adolecent Vichitravirya was coronated as the king. The Kuru prince was not invited to the Swayamvara (the bridegroom selection event) of the Kashi princess. Ordered by his step mother Styavati, Bhishma kidnapped the three princess of Kashi: Ambaa, Ambika and Ambalika during their Swayamvara. King Shalva challenged Bhishma during the abduction and was defeated by Bhishma.
On reaching Hastinapur, Ambaa refused to marry Vichitravirya and she disclosed her love for king Shalva. Bhishma made arrangements for Amba to return back to Shalva. Shalva refused to marry Ambaa, as she had stayed with Bhishma. Dejected Amba asked Bhishma to marry her. He declined because of his vow to remain unmarried. Furious, Amba swore to avenge Bhishma. She asked his Guru, Parashuram to persuade him to marry her, but Parashuram failed. She tried to gain military support to battle Bhishma. All her attempts were futile, since no one dared to challenge the mighty Bhishma. Angered, insultated and hurt, Ambaa comitted sucide.
Birth of Dhritarashtra & Pandu
Ambika and Ambalika married Vichitravirya. Vichitravirya died soon after this marriage. Bhishma continued his position as a caretaker of the state. The kingdom of Hastinapur was without king. So Satyavati invited her son, Sage Vyas to impregnate Ambikaa and Ambaalikaa. Ambikaa bore a blind son Dhritarashtra. Satyavati requested Vyas that Ambikaa should be given another chance. But rather than face the ugly Vyas again, Ambikaa sent her maid, who bore a son Vidur. Meanwhile Ambaalikaa bore a son Paandu, from Vyas. Though elder, Dhritarashtra was blind, and hence Pandu became the king of Hastinapur.
Birth of Karna
Yadav dynasty was established by King Yadu, son of King Yayati. The Yadav King Shurasena's daughter Pritha, was adopted by his cousin, King Kuntibhoj. She came to be known as Kunti. Kunti was appointed to serve their guest Sage Durvas. During this time she gave birth to a baby boy: Karna. Fearing that having a baby before marriage will bring disgrace to herself and her family, she discarded the newly born baby in a river. He was found and adopted by a charioteer Adhirath and his wife Radha.
Pandu and Dhritarashtra
Bheeshm had to repeat his deeds of adbuction this time for the marriage of Dhritarashtra. Bhishma went to the kingdowm of Gandhara with a proposal to get Gandhari, the princess of Gandhara, married to Dhritarashtra. King Pandu married Kunti, and later during one of his conquesteds married the beautiful Madri, the princess of Madra. Months later, Pandu successfully completed the digvijay expedition. A feat not achieved by his father, and uncles, including Bheeshm. Pandu was diagnosed as infertile. (Mahabharat says, Pandu accidentally killed a sage and his wife in the woods, who then cursed Pandu that he would die if he attempts to make love to his wives)
Dejected, Pandu gave up his kingdown and chose to live in the forest with his 2 wives. Dhritarashtra became a caretaker king, but Bhishma continued to be the real care taker without executive powers.
Birth of Pandavas & Kauravas
Once in the Forest, Pandu gave consent to his wives to bear children from other men (Mahabharata mentions that Kunti had a boon to bear sons from men of her choice and that Karna was born on her experimenting the boon with the Sun god). In the following 5 years Kunti bore 3 sons - Yudhishtira, Bhima and Arjuna (as per Mahabharata - from the gods Dharma, Vayu and Indra), and Madri bore 2 - Nakula and Sahadeva (from Ashwini kumars).
Meanwhile in Hastinapur, on the same day as the birth of Bheem, Duryodhan was born to Gandhari. In the following years a 100 sons and many daughters were born to Dhritarashtra (probably through his many wives - though Mahabharata mentions that all the 100 were born from a single fetus of Gandhari). On a fateful day, Pandu and Madri died in a tragic accident. Kunti returned to Hastinapur with 5 children. After Kunti's arrival, Satyavati, Ambika and Ambalika retired to the forest. Duryodhana raged with hatred towards the Pandavas, since they would now have claim to the throne of Hastinapur, which he believed would be his own. His hatred was more concentrated on Bhima, since Yudhistira was already a weaker warrior and he saw Bhima as the biggest threat for his claim to the throne (as Arjuna, Nakula and Sahadeva were younger to him).
The tale of Drona
The epic then tells us the story of Drona, the son of sage Bharadwaja. Drona was well trained in military arts, mathematics, science, philosophy, administrative politics etc. Poverty ridden Dronaacharya was unable to support his wife Krupi and son Ashwathama. He decided to get help from Drupad who was his childhood friend, and now the king of Panchal. King Drupad insulted Dron by saying "Friendship is only among equals." Drona decided to avenge Drupad with the help of his disciples. In search of good pupils, he came to Hastinapur to meet Kripacharya ( the royal teacher in Dhritarashtra's court, and the brother in law of Drona).
Education of Kauravas & Pandavas
Bhishma called upon Dronacharya to teach Kauravas and Pandavas. Many princes from other states, Ashwathama and Karna studied in Drona's school. Out of the love for his son, Drona gave the knowledge of Narayan-astra only to Ashwathama. Drona also loved Arjuna due to his amazing skills in archery, and hence taught almost all archery techniques and special weapons to Arjun (except the Brahmadand). When Drona saw that a tribal prince named Ekalavya showed skills that would make him better than Arjuna, he asked the tribal Ekalavya for his thumb. When Drona denied the knowledge of Divyastras (special sophisticated weapons of that time) to Karna, Karna decided to leave Drona's school and gain that knowledge from Drona's own teacher. He thus moved on to the school of Parashurama, where he gained the knowledge of many advance warfare skills. During their schooling the Kauravas tried to kill Bheema twice, but Bhima somehow survies both times. Kunti and the Paandavas lived in fear and caution.
Re-entry of Karna
Kauravas & Pandavas completed their education. On the last day, a demonstration was arranged for the Kuru princes to show their valour. Arjuna demonstrates his superior archery skills which mesmerises the public. When Arjuna was praised for his archery skills, 22 year old Karna entered the screen and challenged 17 year old Arjun to a duel. Bheem countered this challenge by inferring that Karna was not fit to challenge the prince as he was a charioteer's son. Duryodhan was delighted to see someone who could challenge Arjuna and befriended Arjuna's competitor, by making Karna the King of Anga. Karna in return swore his allegience to Duryodhana until death.
After the education of the princes was complete, Drona asked his pupils to defeat Drupad as his Gurudakshina. Kauravas led by Duryodhana and Karna failed to defeat Drupad. Arjun and Bheema defeated Drupad and brought him as a prisoner to Drona. Drona returned the kingdom of Southern Paanchal to Drupad and released him. Drona who was now the king of Northern Panchal, extended a hand of friendship to Drupad as his equal. Enraged Drupad brought up his son Dristhadyumna with the ambition to "avenge Drona". The twin sister of Drusthadyumna was the beautiful Druapadi. Who was also called Yagnasena, Panchali and Krishnaa.
The House of Lac Episode
Duryodhan, Dushasan, Karna and Shakuni plan to kill the Paandavas. Dhritarashtra on Duryodhan's advice sends Pandavas and Kunti to the town of Varanavat. There they stay in Lakshagriha, a house built by Purochana, a servant of Duryodhana. They stay here for almost a year. Vidura informs Pandavas of Duryodhana's plan to set the house on fire. Kunti started an annachatra. When a tribal woman came with her 5 sons, she intoxicated them. At night Bheem set the house on fire, and they all ran for life. On seeing the charred remains in Lakshagriha, it was declared that Kunti and her sons had died. No more were the men of Duryodhan hunting for them. No doubt, this was a cruel act. But given a choice to kill or die, the survival instinct won.
Bheema's first kill - Hidimba
When running away from Varnavat, the Paandav are attacked by a tribal king Hidimba. Bheema kills Hidimba. His sister, Hidimi requests Bheem to marry her. It was against the social law to marry before the elder brother got married. Neither did Bheem wish to marry Hidimbi. But Kunti saw an opportunity, to gain a friend and shelter at least for sometime. She asked Bheem to marry Hidimbi, and stay with her until he fathered one son. They stayed with Hidimbi for nearly a year. After the birth of Ghatotakach Pandavas left the forest.
Bheema slays Bakasur
Pandavas and Kunti go to Ekchakra. Here they stay for about a year, with a Brahmin family. Each day, one family of this town has to send one person to Bakasur, the man eating cannibal. When its the turn of this Brahmin family, Bheema goes to Bakasur. He kills Bakasur and sternly warns his community to stop eating humans, or be prepared to die like Bakasur. Pandavas and Kunti leave Ekachakra Draupadi's swayamwar.
Many kings and princes including Yadav brothers Krishna and Balarama gather for the Swayamvar. Krishna recognizes the Pandavas. To win the hand of Draupadi, the kings had to win a context to string a bow and hit the eye of a moving fish's statue with a single arrow. All assembled kings fail the contest When Karna is about to try, Draupadi declares that she will not marry a Charioteer's son. Pandavas are sitting amongst the audience, disguised as Brahmins. As all kings failed in the contest, Arjun dressed as a poor brahmin enters the stage and hits the target. Enraged kings attack the Pandavas. Bheema & Arjuna defeat the kings assembled there. As instructed accidentally by Kunti, all 5 Pandava brothers marry Draupadi. Now with the support of Panchala and the Yadava kingdoms, Pandavas declare that they are alive. Upon the advice of Bhishma and Drona, Dhritarashtra invites Pandavas to Hastinapur. Dhritarashtra divides the Kuru kingdom among the princes. He gives the barren and forest lands (Khandava Forest) to the Paandavas. Duryodhan becomes the crown prince of Hasinapur.
About 8 years at Indraprastha
Arjuna and Krishna burn parts of the Khandava Forest, to build the new city of Indraprastha (Today's Delhi). They start ruling part of Kuru region from Indraprastha. During this time 5 sons are born to Draupadi from the five Pandava brothers: Prativindhya, Sutasom, Shatatik, Shrutakarma and Shrutakirti.
To save a pack of cattle from thieves, Arjun has to disturb Yudhisthir & Draupadi to fetch his weapons. As a result, as per agreed pact among the brothers, he goes to exile for a year. During this time he marries: Ulupi, Chitrangada and Krishna's sister Subhadra. Arjun fathers three sons during this time: Babruvahan is born to Chitrangada, Iravan to Ulpi and Abhimanyu to Subhadra. During these years, Yudhishthira married Pouravi and Devika. Bheem married Balandhara. Sahadev married Vijaya.
Bheema kills Jarasandh
Upon Krishna's advice, Pandavas decide to perform the Rajasuya Yadnya. The mighty king of Magadha, Jarashandha poses a threat for Rajasuya Yagna. Krishna has a long history of enemity with Jarasandha. Thus Krishna asks Bheema to kill Jarasandha. Arjun, Krishna and Bheema go to the Magadha capital disguised as Brahmins and challenges Jarasandha for a wrestling match. Bheema kills Jarasandha in a duel. Bheeam coronates Jarasandha's son Sahadev to the throne of Magadha. Pandava Sahadev marries a daughter of Jarasandha.
The 4 younger Pandava brothers set out to all corners of Aryavartha to gain acceptance of Yudhistira as Emperor. They were accepted and honoured by many kings, and challenged by a few others. They defeat all the kingdoms and gained their allegience to Yudhishtira. Pandavas thus perform the Rajasuya Yagna to coronate Yudhistira as the Emperor. Many kings gather for the Yagna. Among them is Shishupal the king of Chedi. Shishupal is the son of Vasudev's sister, Shrutvata. Since childhood he had carried enemity towards Krishna. It kept growing with time. To top it, Krishna kidnapped and married Shishupal's bride, Rukmini before her wedding.During the rajasuya yagna, Krushn was given the honour of chief guest. This triggred the rage of Shishupal. He spoke openly, and lowly of Krishna in the assembly. On realising that a battle might ensue among the assembled kings, Krishna killed Shishupal. Krishna then installed Shishupal's son to the throne of Chedi. Nakul married Karenumati, a daughter of Shishupal.
Among other kings, Kauravas are also present at the Rajasuya Yagna. They get jealous of Pandavas after seeing the palace and kingdom of Indraprastha.
Game of Dice and the 12 years exile
Dhritarashtra sends an invitation to Yudhishtira to play a game of dice. Probably around 31 years old, Yudhishtira goes to Hastinapur with brothers, wives, children and mother. The dice match is played in a newly built hall. Shakuni plays the match instead of Duryodhana. With a baised dice, Shakuni keeps on winning everything that Yudhishtira bets. Finally Yudhishtira places his brothers and wife as a bet. Pandavas and Draupadi become slaves of Kauravas. Dushasan drags Draupadi to the court. Shamelessly, Duryodhan says: "As they are now our slaves, I command that they disrobe." On hearing these words, the 5 Pandava brothers remove their uttariya (a long piece of cloth worn on the shoulders, like a shawl) and keep it aside. Draupadi, who was wearing only one robe (ekvastra) denied to discard it. Druyodhan ordered Dushasan to disrobe Draupadi. At this command, Dushasan gleefully tried to get hold of her robe. Surging with rage Bheem thundered, "I swear, I'll kill you and drink your blood Dushasan!" These words from Bheem probably stopped Dushasan from disrobing Draupadi, and trembling he sat on the floor. Frightened Dhritarashtra asks for forgiveness for his sons. He asks Draupadi to demand any three wishes. Draupadi asks for only two: liberation of herself and her husbands from slavery. Dhritarashtra granted the kingdom back to Yudhishthir.
When the Pandavas were on their way to Hastinapur, Dhritarashtra again invited them to play dice. Yudhishtira yet again looses. This time the loosing party goes in exile for 12 years followed by one year of incognito. And if identified during the incognito period, they had to restart the 12+1 year cycle again. Pandavas, wives, children, servants, soilders, with chariots and horses leave for the the forest. Kunti stays in Hastinapur with Vidur. Few days later all the other Paandava wives and their children go back to stay with their fathers. Draupadi's sons are sent to stay with Drupada. Pandavas, Draupadi, few servants and army continue to live in the forest.
During the stay in the foreest, Jayadratha, the brother in law of Duryodhana, tries to kidnap Draupadi. Bheema follows Jayadratha and captures him. When Bheema is about to kill Jayadratha, Yudhishtira intervenes and asks him to release Jayadratha as he is their sister Dusheela's husband. The Kauravas try to mock at the Pandavas condition by planning a wild camp near Pandava's camp site. During the journey the Kauravas encounter the Gandharva king Chitrasena who defeats the Kaurava warriors including Karna and takes Duryodhana as a prisoner. Informed by the kaurava soldiers, Yudhistira asks Bhima and Arjuna to defeat Chitrasena and release Duryodhana. Arjuna and Bhima release Duryodhana and he returns home. Bhima kills Jatasura who tries to abduct Draupadi. During the exile period Arjuna leaves behind his brothers and goes on wandering to gather/learn more special weapons from different parts of the world.
An Year of incognito
At the end of 12 years, Pandavas hide their weapons on a Shami tree and enter the Matsya kingdom. They now had to live incognito for a year. Yudhishtira, as Kanka, became a minister to the king Virat. Bheema, as Vallabh, worked as a chef. This job took care of his great appetite. Arjun, as Brihandala. worked as a dance teacher to the princess Uttara. Nakul worked as care taker of Cattles and Sahadev worked in the king's stable. Draupadi, as Sairandhri, worked as the hair dresser to the queen Sudeshana.
Bheema kills Keechak
Sudeshana's brother Keechak tries to molest Draupadi. Bheema and Draupadi arranged a plot to kill Keechak in the drakness of the night. Draupadi invited Keechak to the dance hall at night. Bheem disguised as Draupadi pounced on Keechak and killed him, making it look like a job of a Gandharva. Angered by the death of Keechak, the allies/brothers of Keechak (aka Anu-Keechak), tried to burn Draupadi with the body of Keechak. Bheema killed them all and set Draupadi free.
Battle of Virata
After the death of Keechak at the hands of Sairandhari's Gandharva husband, King Virat asked Draupadi to leave Matsya kingdom. Draupadi asked Sudeshna for a couple of days after which she would leave. The kingdoms of Trigarta and Kuru decided to attack Matsya and rob it of its cattles, as the death of Keechak indicated the presence of Pandavas there. When Susharma of Trigarta attacked Virat, Virat with all his army (assisted by Bhima) went to face Susharma. Bheem saved the life of king Virat in this battle.
Meanwhile the Kuru army opened another front to attack Virat. Prince Uttara was the only available warrior and went out to face the enemies taking Brihandala as his charioteer. But when he found himself facing the Kaurava army, he fled for his life. His charioteer Brihandala, Arjun in disguise, helped him overcome the fear. Arjun fetched his weapons from the Shami tree and fought the Kauravas. Kauravas were defeated. Arjun was recognized. Duryodhan complained that the Pandavas were found before the end of 13 Solar years. Bhishma gave verdict that 13 Lunar years were complete and the exile bond was fulfilled.
Defeated Kauravas went back to Hastinapur. Victorious Arjun and Uttar returned to the palace to be greeted by victorious Virat. Soon Pandavas revealed theri true identity to King Virat.
Marriage of Uttara & Abhimanyu
After the end of one year hiding, Pandavas and Draupadi revealed their identity. The king Virat, is ashamed of the fact that these great people worked for him. Now knowing the identity of Brihandala, he was worried. Arjun had taught her dance for a year, who would now marry her? He requested Arjun to marry Uttaraa. Arjun, who looked upon his disciple as a daughter, accepted her as his daughter-in-law. Soon the wedding of Uttaraa and Abhimanyu took place in the capital.
Yadavas, Panchalas and other relatives gathered for the wedding. After the wedding, they discussed the future plans. Knowing that Duryodhan would not give back the kingdom Pandavas started gathering army. At the same time the process for peace talks with Dhritarashtra are initiated.
Many rounds of peace talks took place. About one year had passed since Pandavas came out of incognito. As a last attempt, Krishna went to Hastinapur to ask for their Kingdom. Duryodhan declined. Krishna and the Pandavas were ready to negotiate for 5 villages/towns. Duryodhan replied he would not give even a small piece of land to Pandavas. Talks continued for about 10 days. Krishna was unable to bring peace arrangements between Kauravas & Pandavas. War was now inevitable.
Departure to Kurukeshtra
Balaram arrived in Upaplavya, and met Krishna. On learning that the war was inevitable, he decided to go on a piligrimage. He asked his men to get required material for the yatra from Dwaraka to Prabhas. Next 15-20 days, Balaram traveled from Upaplavya to Prabhas. On Karthik Krishna 1, Pushya Nakshtra: ie. 27 days after Krishna's arrival in Upapalvya: Pandavas left for Kurukshetra. On the same day Balaram started his Saraswati pilgrimage from Prabhas. For the next 23 days: Kauravas and Pandavas setup their camps, and prepared the battle field. Yudhishtira travels to the Kaurava camp to take blessings from elders (Bhishma, Drona, Kripa,...).
The armies of Pandavas & Kauravas reached Kurukshetra. Pandavas had 7 Akshouhini of army while the Kauravas had 11 Akshouhinis. The armies spent a few days in preparing their camps. And finally the great war begins at Kurukshetra.
On the first day, Arjuna is emotionally weakened looking the list of relatives assembled on the enemy side and expresses his hesitation in fighting elders whom he love and respect. Krishna reminds Arjun of his duty and has a philosophical conversation at the end of which Arjuna becomes determined to just fight it like any other war. Their dialogue is popular as Geeta, which in its today's form evolved over a period of years where the scholars and philosophers of ancient India probably added in their contributions to make it one of the best philosophical works in the world. It is admired by almost everyone who comes across this work (including some of the modern day greats from the west like Albert Einstein and Robert Oppenheimer).
On the first day of the war the Pandavas have a set back as the Kaurava commander Bhishma did heavy destruction of their forces. The fortunes reversed on day 2 with Arjuna demonstrating his valour.The war continues with the balance tilting between the sides for the first 9 days. Worried by the fact that the Kaurava commander Bhishma stands between them and Victory, the Pandavas make a plot to place Shikhandi (a transgender) as the front guard of Arjuna which prompts Bhishma to give up fighting. Arjuna pierces Bhishma with arrows and an injured Bhishma falls on the Kurukshetra battle field. Both the sides grieve the fall of Bhishma.
Drona becomes the commander of the Kaurava Army on Day 11, and takes up the quest to capture Yudhistira, so as to end the war. But his plans are thwarted by Arjuna on Day 11 and Day12. The Samshaktaka army challenges and takes Arjuna away on Day 13, and Drona forms a formidable military formation called Chakravyuha to capture Yudhistira. With Arjuna being the lone warrior who was capable of penetrating this formation, and since he was away fighting the Samshaptakas in a different corner of the battlefield, his son Abhimanyu takes the challenge to penetrate the formation. But he gets trapped inside the formation and gets attacked simultaneously by all the great warriors on the Kaurava side including Drona, Karna, Aswatthama, Duryudhana, Shalya etc. The brutal killing of Abhimanyu, breaking all rules defined for the war, prompts Arjuna to swear that he will kill Jayadratha, who enabled the trapping of Abhimanyu, the very next day and he would immolate himself in case of a failure.
Despite the best efforts of the Kaurava forces, Arjuna kills Jayadratha on Day 14. The moral of the Kaurava forces is thwarted on the 14th day as Arjuna, assisted by Bhima and Satyaki crossed a vast army to decapitate Jayadratha. This was the day when Karna was repeatedly defeated by Bhima, until he finally ran out of weapons and got defeated back by Karna. On the 15th Day, the Pandavas make an emotional trick on Drona with a lie that his son Aswatthama is killed. A dejected Drona is emotionally weakened and he sits down in agony. Taking the chance, the Pandava commander Dirshtadhyumna beheads him.
On Day 16, Karna takes charge as the commander of Kauravas, and gets to defeat and abuse each of the Pandava brother except Arjuna, but leaves them alive. On day 17, Arjuna kills Karna after a fierce battle, while Karna gets down to lift his sunken Chariot wheel. After the fall of Karna, Shalya becomes the commander of Kauravas on Day 18, but gets killed by Yudhistira which literally brings the war close to an end. Having killed all the brothers of Duryodhana, Bhima finally challenges Duryodhana for a mace fight, and eventually crushes his thighs against the rule of mace fight. The mortally wounded Duryodhana is left for dying.
On the night of Day 18, Pandavas & Krishna are away from the camp. Kripacharya, Kritavarma & Ashwathama attack the Pandava camp at night. Ashwathama kills the 5 sons of Pandavas, 4 sons of Drupada and the grandsons of Drupada. When Pandavas & Krishna return to the camp, they get shocked with the massacre and they chase Ashwathama, and Arjuna briefly engages him in a fight,but he manges to escape.
Soon after the war ...
Pandavas won the 18 day war. All of Dhritarashtra's sons (except Yuyutsu), Karna and his sons, Drona, Bhishma, Somadutta, Bhurishrava, Jayadrath, Shalya, Shakuni and his sons and many others were killed. The losses on the Pandava side were no less. They lost Drupad, his 4 sons and many grandsons, Virat and his 3 sons, 8 Pandava sons including Ghatoakach, Iravan and Abhimanyu. For one month after the war Pandavas stayed outside Hastinapur to mourn the dead. After the mourning, Pandavas entered Hastinapur. Yudhishthir was coronated as the king. Bheem was declared the prince, yuvaraj.
Shanti parva: Bheeshm's advice
Pandavas and Krishna went back to Kurukshetra to visit Bhishma, who was on deathbed. For a few days, Bheeshm advised Yudhishthir on dharma; the duties of a king. 58 days after the war Bheeshm passed away. Yudhisthir ruled Hastinapur, with advice from Vidur and Dhritarashtra. A year later, Dhritarashtra offered Shraddha for his dead sons. Soon (18 months after the war) Kunti, Dhriturashtra, Gandhari, Vidur and Sanjay retired to the forest. 2 years later Pandavas went to visit them. They stayed with them for a couple of months. During this visit, Vidura passed away. A year later Dhritarashtra, Gandhari and Kunti were killed in a fire. Sanjay escaped.
Sage Vyas started writing down all the all the minute details of the War. It took him about 4 years to gather all required information. He started writing Mahabharat after Dhritarashtra's death. It took him 3 years to complete the work. About 7/8 years after the war, Mahabharat was written and started propagating throughout the country. The epic, in its poetic form was sung by professional story tellers who added their own version of exaggerations and glorifications which expanded the epic over generations to reach the form as we know today with 100,000 verses.
Clash of the Yadavas
36 years after the great war, the Yadavas were having a merry party. The war had shown the differences among the Yadavas. Krishna and Satyaki were on Pandava side; whereas Kritvarma fought on Kauravas side; Balarama on the other hand remained nuetral. Krishna as a Yadav leader had kept the Yadav united.
But now in this party, the differences came to surface yet again. Kritavarma lashed out at Satyaki for killing an unconscious Bhurishravas. And Satyaki criticized Kritavarma for helping Ashwathama to kill the sleeping warriors of Pandava camp. The arguments led to a serious quarrel and Satyaki killed Kritavarma. Kritavarma's supporters killed Satyaki and Pradyumna who came to help him. Seeing his son slain, Krishna too joined the fight and killed a few Yadavas. Soon he saw that there was no end to it. He sent Daruka to Hastinapur, asking Arjun to come to Dwaraka for help. Krishna went to his palace, asked his father Vasudev to look after the women folk and retired to the forest. Tired, grieving Krushn was resting under a tree, when he was killed by a hunters arrow. Upon Krishna's death, Balarama went mediatating and he too expired during the meditation.
Arjuna arrived in Dwaraka and learnt of Krishna's death. This was a great blow for him. Grieving Vasudev too died after Arjuna arrived. Arjuna then held a meeting in the Sudarshana hall, with the available ministers, and Yadav princes. He gathered the subjects of Dwaraka, Yadav women and children, and started off to Indraprastha with some soilders accompaning him.
On the way Abhir tribes attacked this caravan. The Abhir's kidnapped many Yadava women. Arjun with his scant army was unable to save the women and defeat the Abhirs. Dejected, he continued his journey with the remaining Yadav women and children, subjects, army and the riches of Dwarka.
Arjuna established Ushneek (son of Samba) in the kingdom of Kashyapur, (near Multan, Pakistan). He continued to rule Kashyapur after his maternal uncle. (His desendants ruled until Nabi Mohammed defeated Devendra the last king in early 7th century. Devendra's son Asvapati was forced to Islam. Another son Gajpati came to Surat and established a small kingdom there.)
Arjuna established the son of Kritavarma, Bali at the city called Marttikavat. and the son of Satyaki, Yuyudhani on the banks of Sarasvati. He also installed, Vajra the great-grandson of Krishna on the throne of Mathura. After the coronation, Krishna's wives retired to the forest.
Death of Pandavas and Draupadi
Arjuna returned to Hastinapur after nearly 6 months. The Pandavas were dejected by Krishna's death. No longer did they wish to live in a world void of Krishna. Pandavas and Draupadi decided to retire. They crowned 36 year old Parikshit (son of Abhimanyu), left Subhadra and Uttara to take care of the kingdom, asked Yuyutsu to look after and advice the young king and for the Himalayas. They all died during their journey to the Himalayas. (Mahabharata mentions that Yudhishtira ascented to the heaven in his human form).
Years later, 60 year old Parikshit is killed by Takshak. Angered by this, his son Janmejaya started killing all Naga people. It is believed that this Sarpasatra took place in Multan. During this Sarpa satra, Sage Vaishampayan, disciple of Sage Vyas recited Mahabharat to the kings and the people who had gathered.
Sage Astik stoped this holocaust. Naga people start calling themselves Astek after their saviour. Decendants of Pandavas continued to rule the Kuru region for another 1200 years.