The warriors woke before sunrise and prepared for battle in various ways. I feel at this point it may be necessary to speak a little about the living situation and conditions for the warriors. From what can be ascertained from the Mahabharata (which I shall use as the sole source of information) the armies lived in a large encampment. I believe it was divided by rank and importance of the Kings princes and other nobility who were fighting in the battle. I come to this conclusion based on the fact that the warrior caste in general places a great deal of pains to order and absolutely everything being divided in its proper place. They hold very rigidly to a chain of command and it is a form of respect that when a group of people join forces the higher ranking warriors are given there due respect as respect is the bread and butter of the warrior caste. There was a place where specifically the royal and high ranking Ksatrias lived and then there was areas for camp followers servants and priests. We find in the Drona-Parva that the royal personalities had various morning rituals which followed almost mystic significance in there order. After Bath they were shown various auspicious symbols to meditate and then given things to smell and then things to touch. I find this significant. The meaning is that they were attempting to purify there senses so that there mind could be free to act in the proper way. In the early morning before sunrise all the warriors of the Kuru and Pandava army began to gather on the field of battle.
The commanders all began to shout “assemble together” and the great Kuru division began to form. The sound of all the soldiers horses and elephants getting into position was so loud and made such a great shaking that people thought the earth would split open. The Kuru’s were the first to gather there formation and were complete by the time the first rays of the sun began to come over the horizon.
As the sun began to rise over the field the size and scope of the kuru army could be seen. All the golden weapons and armor could begin to be seen shining amidst the ranks of the Kuru’s. As the light began to increase it illuminated the standards and
flags of the Kuru’s which were all the colors of Indra’s rainbow and which were made of gold and covered in gems and shone like fire.
Sakuni, Salya, Jayadratha, the two princes of Avanti named
Vinda and Anuvinda, the Kekaya brothers, Sudakshina ,Srutayudha, Jayatsena,Vrihadballa and Kritavarman, were all the commanders of 10 divisions. Bhisma was the commander of the Kuru division as well as the army.
Bhisma was standing on a silver chariot wearing silver armor and had a silver helmet. His umbrella was white as well as his horses. On his flag was a large gold palm tree with five stars. The entire kuru division stood before all the others and at the
head of that was Bhisma who looked like a full moon surrounded by clouds.
Turning to face the Kuru army Bhisma began a pre battle speech by which he intended to enliven the army
Bhisma said. “ All you warriors listen to me. A wide door now stands before you which is open to you for entering heaven. If you go through it you will enter the region of Sakra (Indra) or Brahman.(liberation) The sages of olden times have showed us this eternal path. Honor yourselves by engaging in this battle with an attentive mind. Great kings such as Nabhaga, Yayati, Mandhatri, Nahusa, and Nriga, were crowned with success and obtained the highest region of bliss by actions such as these. To die of disease at home is a low thing for a Kshatriya. The death he meets with in battle is his eternal duty.”
This speech by Bhisma is significant, he is explaining how rare it is in this world that people can actually get a chance to face the time of death prepared. Death is such a random thing and it also is so scary to most people that they avoid thinking about it completely. However the warriors on that field not only could see the door to the next world wide open to them, they also had been given the great benediction that they could face it and die in a way which would be fulfilling to them. Fear is a great impediment for anything in life and death may be considered among the greatest of fears. However the warriors assembled there were trained from birth to be prepared for death and it was also there desire and fulfillment of purpose to fight in battle. Therefore they were extremely fortunate to be on the field. There whole life was free from the fear and they therefore enjoyed it completely and now they would either conquer and win a great kingdom or die and go to heaven and enjoy an honorable afterlife.
After Bhisma was done talking all the generals situated themselves at the heads of there respective armies, except for Karna and his relations out of spite for Bhisma. All the kings on the Kuru side proceeded, making the ten points of the horizon resound with their leonine roars. And their divisions shone brightly, with white umbrellas, banners, standards, elephants, steeds, cars, and foot-soldiers. The Earth was agitated with the sounds of drums and tabors and cymbals, and the clatter of car-wheels. The mighty car-warriors, decked with their bracelets and armlets of gold and with their bows (variegated with gold), looked resplendent like hills of fire. And with his large palmyra-standard decked with five stars, Bhishma, the Senapati of the Kuru army, looked like the resplendent Sun himself.
The great bowmen amongst the Srinjayas headed by Dhrishtadyumna, (beholding Bhishma) looked like little animals when they would behold a mighty yawning lion. Indeed, all the combatants headed by Dhrishtadyumna repeatedly trembled in fear. Indeed, the two armies facing each other looked like two oceans at the end of the Yuga agitated by fierce Makaras, and abounding with huge crocodiles. Never before, did was seen or heard of two such armies encountering each other like these of the Kauravas and Pandavas.
Seeing the Dhritarashtra divisions arrayed in order of battle, Pandu's son of virtuous soul, king Yudhishthira the just, addressed Dhananjaya, saying,--'Men are informed from the words of that great Rishi Brihaspati that the few must be made to fight by condensing them, while the many may be extended according to pleasure. In encounters of the few with the many, the array to be formed should be the needle-mouthed one. Our troops compared with the enemy's are few. Keeping in view this precept of the great Rishi, array our troops, O son of Pandu.'
Hearing this, Arjuna answered king Dharmaraj, saying,” --That immovable array known by the name of Vajra, which was designed by Indra,--that invincible array is the one that I will make for you, O best of kings.
He who is like the bursting tempest, he who is incapable of being borne in battle by the foe, that Bhima the foremost of smiters, will fight at our head. That foremost of men, conversant with all the appliances of battle, becoming our leader, will fight in the van, crushing the energy of the foe. That foremost of smiters, viz., Bhima, beholding whom all the hostile warriors headed by Duryodhana will retreat in panic like smaller animals beholding the lion, all of us, our fears dispelled, will seek his shelter as if he were a wall, like the celestial seeking the shelter of Indra. The man breathes not in the world who would bear to cast his eyes upon that bull among men, Vrikodara of fierce deeds, when he is angry.'
Even this, was what Vibhatsu said, pointing out the mighty Bhimasena (to Yudhishthira). While Partha was saying so, all the troops, worshipped him on the field of battle with congratulatory words. King Yudhishthira, the son of Kunti, took up his position in the center of his army, surrounded by huge and furious elephants resembling moving hills. The high-souled Yajnasena, the king of the Panchalas, endued with great prowess, stationed himself behind Virata with an Akshauhini of troops for the sake of the Pandavas. And on the cars of those kings, were tall standards bearing diverse devices, decked with excellent ornaments of gold, and endued with the effulgence of the Sun and the Moon.
Transcending the huge standards on all the cars on the Kuru side and that of the Pandavas, was the one gigantic ape on Arjuna's car. Foot-soldiers, by many hundreds of thousands, and armed with swords, spears, and scimitars, proceeded ahead for protecting Bhimasena. And ten thousand elephants with (temporal) juice trickling down their cheek and mouth, and resembling (on that account) showering clouds,endued with great courage, blazing with golden armour, huge hills, costly, and emitting the fragrance of lotuses, followed the king behind like moving mountains. The high-souled and invincible Bhimasena, whirling his fierce mace that resembled the rod of death seemed to crush the large army of the Kurus. Incapable of being looked at like the Sun himself, and scorching as it were, the hostile army (like fire), none of the combatants on the Kuru side could bear to even look at him from any point. And this array, fearless and having its face turned towards all sides called Vajra, having bows for its lightning,and extremely fierce, was protected by the wielder of Gandiva. Who was none other than the Amsha of Indra. Disposing their troops in this counter-array against the Kuru army, the Pandavas waited for battle. And protected by the Pandavas, that array became invincible in the world of men.
The Kauravas belonging to the Dhritarashtra party stood facing the west, while the Parthas stood facing the east, armed for battle. The troops of the Kauravas looked like the army of the chief of the Danavas, while that of the Pandavas looked like the army of the celestials.
The wind began to blow from behind the Pandavas (against the face of the Dhartarashtras), and the beasts of prey began to yell against the Dhartarashtras. The elephants belonging to thy sons could not bear the strong odour of the temporal juice emitted by the huge elephants (of the Pandavas).
Duryodhana rode on an elephant of the complexion of the lotus, with rent temples, graced with a golden Kaksha (on its back), and cased in an armour of steel net-work. He was in the very centre of the Kurus and was adored by eulogists and bards. And a white umbrella of lunar effulgence was held over his head graced with a golden chain. Him Sakuni, the ruler of the Gandharas, followed with the vicious mountain dwelling tribes of Gandhara (Afghanistan) placed all around. The venerable Bhishma was at the head of all the troops, with a white umbrella held over his head, armed with bow and sword, with a white headgear, with a white banner (on his car), and with white steeds (yoked thereto), and altogether looking like a white mountain. In Bhishma's division were all the sons of Dhritarashtra, and also Sala who was a countryman of the Valhikas, and also all those Kshatriyas called Amvastas, and those called Sindhus, (Pakistan) and those also that are called Sauviras, and the heroic dwellers of the country of the five rivers. And on a golden car unto which were yoked red steeds, the high-souled Drona, bow in hand and with never-failing heart, the preceptor of almost all the kings, remained behind all the troops, protecting them like Indra. And Saradwat's son, Kripacarya that fighter in the van, that high-souled and mighty bowman, called also Gautama, conversant with all modes of warfare, accompanied by the Sakas, the Kiratas, the Yavanas, (Greece and Turkey) and the Pahlavas, took up his position at the northern point of the army. That large force which was well protected by mighty car-warriors of the Vrishni and the Bhoja races, (Narayani Sena: Krsnas personal army)as also by the warriors of Surashtra well-armed and well-acquainted with the uses of weapons, and which was led by Kritavarman, proceeded towards the south of the army. Ten thousand cars of theSamasaptakas who were created for either the death or the fame of Arjuna, and who, accomplished in arms, intended to follow Arjuna at his heels all went out as also the brave Trigartas.
In the army, were thousands of elephants of the foremost fighting powers. Unto each elephant was assigned 100 chariots; unto each chariot, a hundred horsemen; unto each horseman, ten bowmen; and unto each bowman ten combatants armed with sword and shield. Thus, O Bharata, were the divisions arrayed by Bhishma. The Senapati Bhishma, the son of Santanu, as each day dawned, sometimes disposed thy troops in the human army, sometimes in the celestial, sometimes in the Gandharva, and sometimes in the Asura.
Thronged with a large number of Maharathas, and roaring like the very ocean, the Dhartarashtra army, arrayed by Bhishma, stood facing the west for battle. Illimitable as the army was, it looked terrible; but the army of the Pandavas, although it was not such (in number), yet seemed to me to be very large and invincible since Kesava and Arjuna were its leader.
Beholding the vast Dhartarashtra army ready for battle, king Yudhisthira, the son of Kunti, gave way to grief. Seeing that impenetrable array formed by Bhishma and regarding it as really impenetrable, the king became pale and addressed Arjuna, saying,--O, mighty-armed Dhananjaya, how shall we be able to fight in battle with the Dhartarashtras who have the Grandsire for their (chief) combatant? Immovable and impenetrable is this array that hath been designed, according to the rules laid down in the scriptures, by that grinder of foes, Bhishma, of transcendent glory. With our troops we have become doubtful (of success), O grinder of foes. How, indeed, will victory be ours in the face of this mighty array?'--
Thus addressed, that slayer of foes Arjuna answered Yudhisthira, the son of Pritha, who had been plunged into grief at sight, O king, of the Kuru army, in these words,--Hear, O king, how soldiers that are few in number may vanquish the many that are possessed of every quality. Thou art without malice; I shall, therefore, tell thee means, O king. The Rishi Narada knows it, as also both Bhishma and Drona. Referring to this means, the Lord Bramha himself in days of old on the occasion of the battle between the Gods and the Asuras said unto Indra and the other celestials.--They that are desirous of victory do not conquer by might and energy so much as by truth, compassion, righteousness and energy. Discriminating then between righteousness, and unrighteousness, and understanding what is meant by covetousness and having recourse to exertion fight without arrogance, for victory is there where righteousness is.--For this know, O king, that to us victory is certain in (this) battle. Indeed, as Narada said,--There is victory where Krishna is.--Victory is inherent to Krishna. Indeed, it followeth Madhava. And as victory is one of its attributes, so humility is his another attribute. Govinda is possessed of energy that is infinite. Even in the midst of immeasurable foes he is without pain. He is the most eternal of male beings. And there victory is where Krishna is. Even he, indestructible and of weapons incapable of being baffled, appearing as Hari in olden days, said in a loud voice unto the Gods and the Asuras,--Who amongst you would be victorious?--Even the conquered who said.--With Krishna in the front we will conquer. --And it was through Hari's grace that the three worlds were obtained by the mighty Indra. I do not, therefore, behold the slightest cause of sorrow for you, that has the Sovereign of the Universe and the Lord himself of the celestials for wishing victory to yourself."
king Yudhishthira, disposing his own troops in counter array against the divisions of Bhishma, urged them on, saying,--'The Pandavas have now disposed their forces in counter array agreeably to what is laid down (in the scriptures). O sinless ones, fight fairly, desirous of (entering) the highest heaven'.--In the centre (of the Pandava army) was Sikhandin and his troops, protected by Arjuna. And Dhristadyumna moved in the van, protected by Bhima. The southern division (of the Pandava army) was protected. O king, by that mighty bowman, the handsome Yuyudhana, that foremost combatant of the Satwata race, resembling Indra himself. Yudhisthira was stationed on a car that was worthy of bearing the king of heaven himself, adorned with an excellent standard, variegated with gold and gems, and furnished with golden traces (for the steeds), in the midst of his elephant divisions. His pure white umbrella with ivory handle, raised over his head, looked exceedingly beautiful; and many great Rishis walked around the king uttering words in his praise. And many priests, and regenerate Rishis and Siddhas, uttering hymns in his praise wished him, as they walked around, the destructions of his enemies, by the aid of Japas, and Mantras, efficacious drugs, and diverse propitiatory ceremonies. That high-souled chief of the Pandavas, then giving away unto the Brahmanas kine and fruits and flowers and golden coins along with cloths proceeded like the mighty Indra, the chief of the celestials.
The car of Arjuna, furnished with a hundred bells, decked with Jamvunada gold of the best kind, endued with excellent wheels, possessed of the effulgence of fire, and unto which were yoked white ghandarva steeds, looked exceedingly brilliant like a thousand suns. And on that ape-bannered car the reins of which were held by Kesava, stood Arjuna with Gandiva and arrows in hand--a bowman whose peer exists not on earth, nor ever will.
For crushing the Kuru troops he who assumes the most awful form,--who, divested of weapons, with only his bare hands, pounds to dust men, horses, and elephants,--that strong-armed Bhimasena, otherwise called Vrikodara, accompanied by the twins, became the protector of the heroic car-warriors (of the Pandava) army. Like unto a furious prince of lions of sportive gait, or like the great Indra himself with (earthly) body on the Earth, beholding that invincible Vrikodara, like unto a proud leader of an elephantine herd, stationed in the van (of the army), the warriors on thy side, their strength weakened by fear, began to tremble like elephants sunk in mire.