It was day 4 of the great war. The first day after Arjuna had finally given up his inhibitions against fighting his own family for the sake of Dharma. Bhagavan Sri Krishna had achieved the dual purpose of fulfilling his devotee Bhishma’s wishes of holding a weapon in the war while at the same time removing all remaining traces of reluctance in the mind of another of his devotee Arjuna. Bhishma would be left wondering if he had achieved a ‘victory’ by making Sri Krishna hold his Sudarshana chakra, or in fact had paved the way for the destruction of his Kaurava army at the hands of Arjuna.
Arjuna displayed extraordinary prowess on the fourth morning, causing the death of thousands of enemies. Bhishma had responded equally ferociously and had damaged Pandavas considerably. Dhrishtadyumna then took center stage for a while and fought bravely against the Madrakas and the Kekayas. He came to the rescue of Abhimanyu who was surrounded by Ashwathama, Bhurishrava, Shalya, Chitrasena and Samyamana. After a intense battle, Dhrishtadyumna killed the son of the King of Samyamana with his mace causing panic in the Kaurava camp.
Soon a very interesting dual took shape. On the Kaurava side Duryodhana, Vikarna, Dushashana, Vivishanti, Durmarshana, Dusaha, Chitrasena, Durmukha, Satyavrata, Bhadra, Purumitra and Shalya came together and attacked the Pandavas. The response from the Pandava camp came in the form of a formation that included Bhimasena, Dhrishtadyumna, the five sons of Draupadi, Abhimanyu and Nakula-Sahadeva. Each of the warriors showered the opposition with numerous arrows, spears and swords.
अथ दुर्योधनं दृष्ट्वा भीमसेनो महाबलः |
विधित्सुः कलहस्यान्तं गदां जग्राह पाण्डवः ||
Bhimasena noticed Duryodhana’s presence in front of him. Seething with anger he picked up a mighty mace and rushed towards him. The Kaurava side saw this and, for a moment, thought that Kailasa parvata itself had started walking on the battlefield. They ran out of the field in all directions!
गजानीकेन सहितस्तेन राजा सुयोधनः |
मागधं पुरतः कृत्वा भीमसेनं समभ्ययात् ||
Duryodhana invoked the services of the King of Magadha who had a mighty army of ten thousand elephants. This entire unit of elephants rushed towards Bhimasena.
This only provoked an even more aggressive response from Bhima. He got down from his chariot with the mace in his hand and ran towards the elephant army. It was as if Indra, with his Vajrayudha, was in the midst of the Himalaya Parvatas. The elephants started dispersing out of panic.
The sons of Draupadi, Abhimanyu, Nakula-Sahadeva and Dhrishtadyumna started firing sharp arrows at those elephants with the intention of aiding Bhima. They also threw blades, sharp edged knives, javelins and unusually long arrows at those Gajas. It was as if mother earth was experiencing a shower of weapons!
भग्नदन्तान् भग्नकटीन् भग्नसक्थींश्च वारणान् |
भग्नपृष्टान् भग्नकुम्भान् निहतान् पर्वतोपमान् ||
Bhimasena entered the formation of those elephants. Each elephant required only one shot from the mace of Bhima before they fell down lifeless. Within a fraction of time, the battlefield was littered with broken tusks of elephants. Some had collapsed with their thighs broken, some had a fractured back while other elephants had collapsed with their legs immovable. Many pachyderms were seen urinating out of fear while wriggling with pain on the ground.
There were other Mahagajas whose trunks had been split open and were falling down due to excessive bleeding. It was as if a line of mountains were collapsing – one at a time.
गजानां रुधिराक्तां तां गदां बिभ्रद् वृकोदरः |
घोरः प्रतिभयश्चासीत् पिनाकीव पिनाकधृक् ||
Both the Pandavas and Kauravas noticed the mace of Bhima who was roaming around still. That mighty weapon was steeped with the marrow and blood of the hundreds of elephants killed. It was as if Rudra, with his Pinaka at hand, was roaming Kurukshetra.
Several thousand elephants were massacred within a short duration. The remaining elephants went into panic and started stampeding their own warriors.
Abhimanyu and the other Pandava heroes approached Bhima wanting to know if he needed any assistance. What they noticed stunned them.
व्यायच्छमानं गदया दिक्षु सर्वासु भारत |
नृयमानमपश्याम नृत्यन्तमिव शङ्करम् ||
Bhima was standing amidst a pile of elephant corpses. His own body, it seemed, had had a sprinkling of blood all over. His mace had innumerable elephant hair stuck to it. Bhima was still swinging his mace all around. For a moment, the Pandavas thought Shankara was performing his Tandava.
महावात इवाभ्राणि विधमित्वा स वारणान् |
अतिष्ठत् तुमुले भीमः श्मशान इव शूलभृत् ||
It was difficult to gather if it was Bhima who was standing in the midst of those dead bodies or if it was Yama himself. It was like Rudra standing in a smashana.
The elephant army was finished.