The war between the Pandavas and the Kauravas was about to commence. Before the commencement of the battle, Yudhishtara felt that he needed the blessing of the elders. So without considering that the elders were on the other side, he got down from his chariot and walked over to the other side. With utmost devotion, he fell at the feet of Bhishma, Droanacharya and Kripacharya and asked for their blessings to win in the war.
After receiving their blessings, Yudhishtara was walking back to his own side when he suddenly turned. He looked at the Kaurava side. ‘If anyone feels like fighting on the side of Dharma, you are welcome to join and fight on our side!’ He shouted.
The entire Kaurava side was silent for a second. However, then one person spoke. ‘I will come if you will have me!’
Yudhishtara turned and saw that it was Yuyutsu. Yuyutsu was the son of Dhirdarashtra. But he was not the son of Gandhari. He was son of Dhirdarashtra and Sauvali, a woman from the trader community.
Yudhishtara happily welcomed Yuyutsu. Probably it was complete faith in Krishna. But whatever the reason Yudhishtara looked at the Kauravas and said smugly. ‘King Dhirdarashtra would now have atleast one son alive, at the end of the war!’
Yuyutsu was obviously always welcome in the Pandava side. Yuyutsu had been silently helping the Pandavas, over the years. Yuyutsu was the person who informed Yudhishtara about Duryodhana’s plan to kill Bheema, when they were children. That was the reason the Pandavas were able to go in search of Bheema, as soon as he went missing.
However, at this stage, rather strangely, Vikarna said nothing. The Vikarna who had defied his brother in open court and who had supported Draupadi, because he felt it was the right thing to do, did nothing when he was given a chance to openly support the Pandavas. It could of course be that Vikarna felt that no matter what, whether his elder brother was right or wrong, it was his duty to fight for him and Vikarna was content to let himself fight for the Kauravas.
When the battle moved on to the 13th day, Drona had formed the Chakravyuha and had trapped the young Abhimanyu inside it. Inside the Vyuha, the young Abhimanyu massacred every Kaurava in sight. Looking at his technique, Dronacharya decided that Abhimanyu could not be defeated as long as he had a bow and arrow in his hands. It was for this reason that Dronacharya ordered a hoard of Kaurava warriors to attack Abhimanyu at the same time. This was against the laws of war. But then no one said anything.
The lone voice which spoke against this was again Vikarna. ‘This is breaking the rules of war!’ he exclaimed aghast at his own teacher.
Dronacharya looked angrily at Vikarna. ‘Did the Pandavas follow the law when they killed Bhishma using Shikandi?’ Drona snapped.
So this time too Vikarna’s words went in vain and all the Kaurava warriors together killed the sixteen year old Abhimanyu.
Hearing the death of Abhimanyu, Arjuna swore that he was going to kill Jayadratha who was the one who made sure that Abhimanyu was all alone in the Chakravyuha, without any backup. Arjuna swore that if he did not kill Jayadratha by the end of the day, he was going to kill himself. Dronacharya being smart realized a golden opportunity and guarded Jayadratha inside three Vyuhas.
But then it was Arjuna they were talking about. When Arjuna started doing something, he did with his whole mind,body and soul. On the fourteenth day of the battle too, it did not matter to Arjuna who was before him. All that mattered to him was to kill Jayadratha. The existence of the other Kaurava soldiers probably did not even come inside his radar.
Arjuna was clinically annihilating the Kaurava army trying to get to Jayadratha.
Obviously there was a catch.
After Bhishma had fallen, when Dronacharya had taken over the reigns as the General of the Kaurava army, Dronacharya had promised Duryodhana that he was going to bring Yudhishtara captive to the Kaurava prince. However every time Dronacharya tried to take Yudhishtara captive, he was thwarted by Arjuna and Krishna. Now with Arjuna deep inside the enemy territory, Dronacharya set out to capture Yudhishtara.
However both Arjuna and Krishna had anticipated this and asked Satyaki and Bheema to protect Yudhishtara.
Satyaki has a very interesting story in the war. Satyaki was a Yadava. Before the beginning of the war, Krishna had assigned the entire Yadava army to fight for the Kauravas. So the Yadava army fought for the Kauravas. Despite this Satyaki fought for the Pandavas because he was a disciple of Arjuna. As Arjuna had taught him the use of weapons, Satyaki supported his Guru in the war.
When Dronacharya attacked Yudhishtara, both Satyaki and Bheema fought off the acharya. However in this short and fierce battle, Yudhishtara lost sight of Arjuna.
Fearing the worst, Yudhishtara sent Satyaki after Arjuna. Satyaki tried to convince Yudhishtara that nothing would happen to Arjuna, but Yudhishtara would not hear anything. So asking Bheema to defend Yudhishtara, Satyaki went inside the Vyugha.
However Satyaki was extraordinarily tired by the time when he reached Arjuna. In fact it was Arjuna who had to protect Satyaki from Bhurishravas. And so Satyaki could not give any message to Yudhishtara, about the well-being of Arjuna.
And so back to the Pandavas, Yudhishtara steadily grew worried as there was no news from Satyaki. Realizing that he had to send his best warrior to protect Arjuna and Satyaki, Yudhishtara sent Bheema into the Vyuha.
Having Dhrishtadyumna protect Yudhishtara, Bheema set out inside the Vyuha.
Dronacharya was standing at the rim of the Vyuha. Both Arjuna and Satyaki had bypassed the teacher because both of them respected Dronacharya. However Bheema saw no such need. To him Dronacharya was no longer worthy of respect. He was just the general of the Kaurava army. Bheema fought well and killed Drona’s horses and charioteer and brought down Drona’s chariot too. Drona ran to another chariot and by this time Bheema was inside the Vyuha.
Inside the Vyuha, there were two intense battles between Karna and Bheema. In the first battle Karna all but killed Bheema, completely humiliating Bheema and letting Bheema live because of his promise to Kunti to not hurt any other Pandava other than Arjuna. However in the second battle, Karna was not so lucky. Bheema fought back and fought back brilliantly. But as Bheema was about to completely disable Karna, Duryodhana sent his seven brothers to attack Bheema.
Bheema let Karna go and turned to Duryodhana’s brothers. He had promised that he was going to kill everyone of Duryodhana’s brothers and he had already killed 39 of Duryodhana’s brothers. Seeing seven more, Bheema’s eyes shone with the insanity of battle as he fell on them. But then Bheema stopped short. Because he suddenly saw who was the seventh Kaurava brother – It was Vikarna.
Bheema tried to push away Vikarna because he did not want to fight him. But in the end, the bloodlust of war won out and Bheema after a ferocious struggle killed Vikarna in battle.
As Vikarna fell dead, Bheema broke down crying. ‘My Vikarna! I killed you too! War is such a hated thing!’ Bheema said looking disgusted with himself. ‘You were a man of Dharma! You knew what was right and were brave enough to act on it! And a wretch that I am, I was forced to kill a man of Dharma like yourself…..’
And thus fell Vikarna, one of the unsung heroes of Mahabharatha….