The Great War – 2 (Who won? Who lost?)

The Kurukshetra war was fought for 18 days and by the end, the Pandavas won. The war is without doubt one of the most brutal events that occurred in Bharatavarsha. The significance of the war lies in the fact that it marked the victory of dharma over adharma.

File:The Battle of Kurukshetra.jpg

In subsequent blogs, I will describe each day of the war in detail and discuss who fought whom, who died, and who defeated whom in the battles. The battle formations, the strategies, the use of weapons, and the end result of each day of the war will be presented in a series of blogs covering each day of the war.

Before getting into this, it is important to know who won and who lost. The Kurukshetra war is no secret. Everyone knows what happens. The Pandavas won and the Kauravas lost! Right? The fact is it not so easy to arrive at such a conclusion.

The Pandavas won the war but lost everything. The Kauravas lost everything but won at the end. These two statements may seem puzzling but this is one interpretation of the results of the great war.

The Pandavas won since they defeated the Kauravas. All the commanders of the Kauravas –  Bheeshma, Drona, Karna, and Shalya were killed. Arjuna killed Karna and brought the 18 day war towards an end. Bheema killed all the hundred sons of Dhritarashtra and fulfilled his vow. The Kauravas lost since everyone on their side were dead except Ashwathama, Kripa, and Kritavarma.

File:Duel between Duryodhana and Bhima.jpg
Bheema kills Duryodhana

But then what happened on the night of Day 18 changed everything. Ashwathama was wild with anger at the way his father was killed. Seeing Duryodhana lie on the ground bleeding, with his thighs shattered increased Ashwathama’s anger.

Blessed by Rudra, he entered the Pandava camp and killed everyone who was asleep. Dhristadyumna, Shikhandi, Yudhamanyu, Uttamauja, and the five sons of Draupadi were brutally killed. The only ones who survived were the five Pandava brothers and Satyaki. That was because Krishna had taken them away suspecting that Ashwathama would do something terrible.

At the end, the winners the Pandavas had lost their commander and all their sons. They had no heirs to take over the kingdom that they had won. The pregnant Uttara was struck by the Brahmastra and her son Parikshit was dead (Krishna revived Parikshit but it is a different story).

At the end of the war, there was only grief for Yudhishtira. A bigger shock awaited the Pandavas when Kunti revealed that Karna was their brother. Yudhishtira was so shocked by this that he asked Arjuna to take over the throne and decided to leave for the forest. Even in victory, the Pandavas experienced defeat.

Yudhishtira was listless and depressed. It took lot of effort from Krishna, Vyasa, and finally Bheeshma before he agreed to rule as the Emperor. Krishna the architect of the Pandava win did not get any reward for his help. What he got was a curse! Gandhari cursed him and his clan saying that he would die with his fellow Yadavas just as her sons died.

In the end, Duryodhana dies peacefully when he learns of Ashwathama’s revenge. When he falls celestial beings shower flowers on him. But the Pandavas continue to suffer for a long time. They even experience hell after their death. That brings his back to the question of who won and who lost.

You will probably agree with me that it is not such an easy question to answer. There are many nuances in the Mahabharata that the great Vyasa has included. It forces us to think, analyse, and discuss. That is the beauty of this great work!

Please do share your views by commenting.

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