On the second day of the Mahabharata war, a most extraordinary battle takes place that brings forth the great skill and force of Bhimasena and sets the tone for the direction of the war for the next 17 days (the Kauravas had a notional win on the first day).
As the great warriors engage in multiple duels, Drona and Dhrishtadyumna happen to come face to face. The fight between them went on for a while and sensing the need for help, Bhima rushed towards his dear friend and brother-in-law. Seeing the arrival of the mighty Bhima, Duryodhana instructed the Kalingas to proceed towards Drona so they can aid him. This laid the foundation for a ghastly slaughter of the Kalingas at the hands of the Madhyama Pandava.
As the Kalingas approached that part of the field where Bhimasena stood, they were joined by the Nishadas. The King of the Kalingas was Shrutayu, also known as Bhanuman. The leader of the Nishadas was Ketumanta. Together they planned to ambush Bhima. The Karushas also joined them. On the other hand, the Chedis came towards Bhima to support him in his fight. A massive battle began.
The fighting got so intense that the soldiers lost track of who was on their side and who the enemy was! After a while the Chedis beat a strategic retreat. This meant that the mighty army of the Kalingas and Nishadas was on one side and Bhimasena, alone, on the opposite.
सर्वैः कलिङ्गैरासन्नः सन्निव्रुत्तेषु चेदिषु |
स्वबाहुबलमास्थाय न न्यवर्तत पाण्डवः ||
The question of retrieving didn’t arise in Bhima’s mind. He began his response by showering the enemies with a barrage of arrows. He was engaged by Shakradeva, the son of the Kalinga King. After a short battle, Shakradeva managed to kill the horses of Bhima’s chariot. Seeing that his car was immobile Bhima was enraged and picked up a mighty iron mace and hurled the same at Shakradeva. That mace was so destructive that Shakradeva, his chariot, charioteer and the horses were also simultaneously killed.
The death of his son brought grief and anger to Kalinga Raja. He surrounded Bhima with several thousand chariots. Bhima decided it was time to show the world his special skills with another weapon – the sword! He picked up a long and sharp sword and a shield. Seeing this, the Kalinga released a terrible arrow which had a poison-head. Bhima split the arrow into two with his sword and started mocking the enemy soldiers with a loud shout.
Bhanumanta then hurled 14 javelins at Bhima in rapid succession. Not one of them managed to even touch Bhima as he sliced them all with his sword. Bhima decided that the time had come to end this farce of a contest. He hurled such a loud shout that the soldiers around wondered if he was even human. Bhima jumped from his chariot and approached Bhanumanta who was riding an elephant.
ततो भीमो महाराज नदित्वा विपुलं स्वनम् |
सासिर्वेगादवप्लुत्य दन्ताभ्यां वारणोत्तमम् ||
आरुरोह ततो मध्यं नागराजस्य मारिष |
खड्गेन पृथुना मध्ये भानुमन्तमथाच्छिनत् ||
In the most acrobatic act seen till that day in the war, Bhima held the elephant and climbed up using its tusks. In a flash he was right in front of Bhanumanta and in the next moment he slashed the Kalinga King right through the middle!
Now it was time for Bhima to climb down to the ground and he decided to take an unusual route. He slashed the shoulder of that mighty elephant with his sword. It collapsed like a mountain that was crushed. He ran amok amongst the Kalingas and was seen amongst the horses one moment, only to be seen slaughtering elephants by the dozens at the next moment. He was all over the Kalingas like an eagle flying over its prey.
भीमसेनश्चरन् मार्गान् सुबहून् प्रत्यदृश्यत |
भ्रान्तमुद्भ्रान्तमाविद्धमाप्लवं प्रसृतं प्लवम् |
संयतं समुदीयं च दर्शयामास पाण्डवः ||
What followed next was a Marana-Homa – a death sacrifice. Bhima displayed all the skills associated with sword-fighting. He moved around – jumped in the air – rushed through his enemies – jumped right behind – walked equally on both sides – defended himself with his shield and jumped over enemy soldiers. The net result was the annihilation of the Kalinga army.
There was carnage all over. Heaps of slashed javelins, bows, heads separated from their trunks, chains, jewellery, elephant heads, quivers, whips, hooks, bells, broken chariots – the destruction by this one man army was unimaginable in scale.
Bhimasena then targeted the warriors riding chariots. He chose them one-by-one. Climbing on to the vehicle, he beheaded each warrior with a single swish of his sword. As if to mark the completion, he cut the flag from the vehicle and moved on to the next chariot.
निजघान पदा काम्श्चिदाक्षिप्यान्यानपोथयत् |
खड्गेनान्यान्श्च चिच्छेद नादेनान्यान्श्च भीषयन् ||
ऊरुवेगेन चाप्यन्यान् पातयामास भूतले |
अपरे चैनमालोक्य भयात् पञ्चत्वमागताः ||
Bhimasena went into a different zone next. And the Kalingas paid a heavy price. He killed some of them by squashing them under his legs. Many were beheaded. Some others died merely listening to his roar. A few warriors died hit by his thighs as he rushed through the enemy formation. He caught hold of some and stared at them. They died out of fear!
Ketumanta, the Nishada leader, came forward at that moment and fired nine arrows at Bhima. Sensing that his lord may want to engage in archery, Vishoka brought forward a chariot for Bhima. Climbing the same, Bhima returned 7 arrows at Ketumanta which found his two chariot-keepers Satyadeva and Satya, both of whom instantly died. Bhima then released 3 iron arrows and dispatched Ketumanta to the world of Yama.
Bhima then switched to a mace and killed 700 warriors belonging to the Kalingas. The last two-thousands warriors of Kalinga then simultaneously attacked him. The result was the same. Two-thousand dead bodies.
To signal the end of his mission, Bhimasena blew his conch. The horses and elephants, which were without their Kalinga masters, ran helter-skelter. There was fear and panic all over the Kaurava army.
Shikandi and Dhrishtadyumna then approached Bhima. After a further fight with other Kaurava warriors and a short duel with Bhishma, Bhima left that area of Kurukshetra along with Dhrishtadyumna.
सन्ततार सुदुस्तारं भीमसेनो महाबलः |
The annihilation of the invincible Kalingas by Bhimasena was complete.