Chapter XI - 41 Home | Index | Previous | Next

"So, I got the last rites done for the dead, according to the Sastras; then in great anxiety lest the sea swallow Dwaraka before the women, children and old people were evacuated; I hurried them to come out and started for Indraprastha, as commanded by Krishna. We left Dwaraka with no mind to leave it. We managed to reach the borders of Panchanada (Punjab) with hearts heavy on account of the absence of Krishna, but I was urged forward by the need to obey the divine injunction, and to carry, according to that injunction, the burden of those people."

"The sun was setting one day; we dared not cross at that late hour a flooded river that impeded our progress. I decided to encamp on the bank of that river for the night. We collected the jewels and valuables of all the women and kept them in a secure place; the queens alighted from the palanquins and the maids scattered themselves for rest. I approached the river for the evening rites dragging myself along with the sadness of separation from Krishna. Meanwhile, pitch darkness pervaded the place and soon we heard wild barbarian war cries from the surrounding darkness. I peered into the night and found a horde of forest-dwelling nomads rushing upon us with sticks, spears and daggers. They laid hands on the jewels and valuables; they started dragging away the women and binding them hand and foot.

"I shouted at them and threatened them with dire consequences. 'Why do you fall like moths into fire", I asked them. "Why be like fish that meet death craving for the angler's worm?" I told them. "Do not meet death in this vain attempt to collect loot," I warned them. "I imagine you do not know who I am. Have you not heard of the redoubtable bowman, Pandu's son Arjuna, who overwhelmed and defeated the three world-conquerors, Drona, Bhishma and Karna? I shall now dispatch the whole lot of you to the kingdom of death, with a twang of this bow, my incomparable Gandiva. Flee before you meet destruction, or else, feed with your lives this hungry bow", I announced.

"Nevertheless, they went about their nefarious task undismayed; their cruel attack did not abate; they fell upon our camp and dared attack even me. I held myself in readiness and fitted divine arrows to efface them all. But alas, a terrible thing happened: I cannot explain how or why! Of the sacred formulae which fills the missile with potency, I could not recall a single one! I forgot the processes of invocation and revocation. I was helpless."

"Before my very eyes, the robber bands dragged away the queens, the maids and others. They were screaming in agony, calling on me by name 'Arjuna! Arjuna! Save us; rescue us; do you not hear us? Why are you deaf to our cries? Are you giving us over to these brigands? Had we known that this would be our fate we would have died in the sea like our dear city, Dwaraka.' I heard it all, in terrible agony; I saw it all. They were screaming and fleeing in all directions, women, children and the aged and the infirm. Like a lion whose teeth have been plucked out and whose claws have been sheared, I could not harm those ruffians. I could not string my bow. I attacked them with the arrows in my clasp. Very soon, even the stock of arrows was exhausted. My heart was burning with anger and shame. I became disgusted with my own pusillanimity. I felt as if I was dead. All my efforts were in vain. The greatly blessed inexhaustible receptacle of arrows had failed me, after Vaasudeva had left."