Needless to say, the war between the Kauravas and the Pandavas could not be stopped.
Despite Krishna’s best efforts, Duryodhana rejected the Pandavas offering for peace. Krishna argued brilliantly for just five pieces of land – one for each Pandava – to avert the war. Duryodhana arrogantly refused.
Duryodhana was foolish enough to try and imprison Krishna himself, though Krishna had come to Hastinapur in the capacity of a messenger.
Krishna escaped and came back to the Virata kingdom and war started between the Pandavas and the Kauravas.
For the first ten days of the war, Bheeshma, the commander-in-chief of the Kaurava army wrecked havoc on the Pandava army.
However, when Bheeshma was brought down on the tenth day, the war started swinging in favour of the Pandavas.
Unfortunately in the thirteenth day of the war, because of Jayadratha – a warrior of the Kauravas, Abhimanyu was trapped all alone among the Kaurava warriors. All of the Kaurava warriors including Karna attacked Abhimanyu at the same time, when Abhimanyu was deep inside the Kaurava army and there the Kaurava soldiers cut off Abhimanyu’s bow and in the end killed Abhimanyu there.
Abhimanyu’s father Arjuna was furious when he heard about this. He vowed to kill Jayadratha the very next day, in the battlefield. Arjuna was so incensed with the death of his son that he had promised himself that if he could not kill Jayadratha the next day, he would kill himself.
Despite the clinical annihilation of the Kaurava army by Arjuna the next day, Arjuna nearly failed in his task. It was only because Krishna could exploit the fact that the fourteenth day of the Kurukshetra battle had been a solar eclipse that Arjuna was able to fulfill his vow.
However, that was another unfortunate fact.
Duryodhana was furious that he had been unable to protect Jayadratha.
Arjuna was easily one of the best warriors of the Pandava side.
If, Duryodhana had successfully protected Jayadratha on the fourteenth day of battle, Arjuna would have killed himself and after that, the victory of the Kauravas was certain.
However, it was not to be, because of Krishna’s work.
Usually, it was the custom to stop the battle after the sun had set. However, on the fourteenth day, Duryodhana was so furious that that day he let the battle go on. The fourteenth day was the first time in the Kurukshetra battle that the battle continued even after the sun had set.
In the beginning this move of Duryodhana backfired on him. In the evening, there was utter confusion in both the armies who were fighting at night time. It was so bad that Duryodhana had to modify his original order – he could not let the entire Kaurava army fight like this – because that caused more harm to the Kaurava army than to the Pandava army – the Kaurava soldiers were killing their own as they were not able to see properly in the night. So Duryodhana ordered half the army to hold up the light for the other half to fight the Pandava army.
In the battlefield, both Arjuna and Gatothgaja were fighting against the onslaught of Dronacharya, the next general of the Kaurava army, after Bheeshma.
That was when the two men heard that Karna was massacring the Pandava soldiers elsewhere in the battlefield.
Arjuna wanted to meet Karna when Krishna stopped him.
Krishna turned to Gatothgaja. "Only two people can kill Karna. One of them is Arjuna and the other is you, Gatothgaja. I want you to face Karna, because it is night time now."
“But Karna’s Shakthi…” Arjuna started.
Arjuna’s words were unheeded as Gatothgaja was already off to meet Karna during the night time.
Gatothgaja was brilliant. Already he was furious with Karna for having been one of the warriors who had killed his cousin and now that his army actually needed him, Gatothgaja was devastatingly efficient. He used his power of illusion to confuse the entire Kaurava army. Obviously, as a Rakshasa his powers were heightened after sunset. Gatothgaja wrecked havoc on the Kaurava army. It went so bad, that that night, Gatothgaja sent almost the entire Kaurava army running away from the battlefield.
The only person who stood up against the might of Gatothgaja was Karna.
Karna was very knowledgeable about powerful weapons. One of the powerful weapons which Karna had was the Vasavi Shakthi. The Shakthi was a gift from Indra, the king of the Devas to Karna. However, the most important caveat about the Shakthi weapon was that Karna could use it only once.
Gatothgaja continued with his massacre of the Kaurava army unmindful of anything. It went so bad that Duryodhana for a second, actually feared that the son of Bheema was going to win the war for the Pandavas on that night.
Naturally, Duryodhana went to Karna for help seeing Gatothgaja’s work. "Karna do something! Please just do something. If we do not stop Gatothgaja..." Duryodhana gasped unable to finish the sentence.
Karna looked worriedly because he knew exactly how to stop Gatothgaja.
Karna mumbled something when Duryodhana yelled at him. "If you know what to do, just do it."
"I have the Shakthi weapon with me. It would kill Gatothgaja. There is no escape from it – be it a human or rakshasa." Karna mumbled unhappily.
"Then use the Shakthi!" Duryodhana screamed.
"I was saving the weapon to use it on Arjuna," Karna mumbled. "Because I can use the Shakthi only once."
"Arjuna?" Duryodhana yelled angrily. "You think Arjuna is important right now? If you do not use the Shakthi against this son of Bheema, there will be no tomorrow for the war!" Duryodhana shouted as he stared at Gatothgaja who had now changed his size to that of a mountain.
Gatothgaja was crushing the Kaurava soldiers just by running over them.
Having no choice in the matter, Karna used the Shakthi – the weapon which Indra had granted Karna.
The weapon flew straight to Gatothgaja's chest and after fatally wounding the rakshasa after that, the Shakthi disappeared from there and went back to Indra.
"Fall on the Kaurava army!" Bheema screamed in utter horror as he saw the damage that the Shakthi had done to his son. Tears were rolling down Bheema’s eyes as Gatothgaja tottered.
The huge Rakshasa fell on the Kaurava army and even as he fell, because of his huge size, he destroyed a battalion of Kaurava army, even in his death.
With tears stricken eyes Bheema rushed forward to mourn for his fallen son.
But even at that time, Bheema could not miss the sad smile on Krishna's face.
"Why are you smiling, Krishna?" Arjuna demanded hugging the dead Gatothgaja. "My son is dead and you are smiling. Why?"
"Bheema's son has done more than just fight the war. He has practically won the war for you." Krishna said quietly. "The only person in the Kaurava army who has the capacity to win the war was Karna. He could do it if he had used his Shakthi on Arjuna, my friend." Krishna took in a deep breath as he continued. "And today Karna has used the weapon. He cannot use it again. Gatothgaja has just won the war for you. He is the true hero of the Pandavas." Krishna repeated looking proudly at the dead rakshasa. “Gatothgaja is the rakshasa who saved the Pandavas.”