(Author’s note: I dedicated significant text to the pre-war parvas. The reason is that there are many important events in those parvas that are often ignored by tele-serials, movies and abridged books. I will not detail the war parvas so much as much of it is well known, read and discussed. I will again go into greater depths of the post-war parvas)
The Mahabharat, Book 6: Bhishma Parva (भीष्म पर्व)
The book 6 Bhisma Parva, is the Book of Bhishma. It describes the first part of the great battle, with Bhishma as commander-in-chief for the Kauravas. This is probably one of the most important parvas because it contains a sub-parva known as “Bhagwat Gita Parva” or as you rightly guessed the narration of the Gita, the most sacred book of the Hindus. In this sub-section, the high-souled Vasudev by reasons based on the philosophy of final release drove away Arjun’s compunction springing from the latter’s regard for his kindred (whom he was on the eve of slaying).
Later on, it describes the great depression of Yudhishthira’s army, and also a fierce fight for ten successive days. In this the magnanimous Krishna, attentive to the welfare of Yudhishthira, seeing the loss inflicted (on the Pandava army), descended swiftly from his chariot himself and ran, with dauntless breast, his driving whip in hand, to effect the death of Bhishma. Krishna also smote with piercing words Arjun, the bearer of the Gandiva and the foremost in battle among all wielders of weapons. Finally, the foremost of bowmen, Arjun, placing Shikhandi before him and pierces Bhishma with his sharpest arrows and felled him from his chariot.
The Mahabharat, Book 7: Drona Parva (द्रोण पर्व)
The Drona Parva of the Mahabharata is a book dealing with the exploits of the sage Drona in the battle of Kurukshetra while he was the commander-in-chief of the Kaurava army.
Since Drona served Hastinapur all throughout his life, he was bound by duty to fight for the Kauravas. Drona is one of the most powerful and destructive warriors in the Kurukshetra War. He was an invincible warrior, whom no person on earth could defeat. Though the Pandavas were his favorites, he had to slay hundreds of thousands of Pandava soldiers with his powerful armory of weapons and incredible skill. It is also described in the Parva that Drona had been the preceptor of most kings involved in the war, on both sides.
The Drona Parva is one of the Parvas of the 18 Parvas of Mahabharata that ends with the ruin of most of the great warriors who participated in the battle of Kurukshetra.
This parva also describes the slaying of young Abhimanyu on the 13th day. The Kurukshetra War is also known as “Dharma Yudh” or the war between good and bad. But on the 13th day, all rules of “dharma” were broken to kill the lone warriror Abhimanyu by deceit and cruelty. This day marked the end of the “dharma yudh”. The 14th day describes the terrible battle that ensues on account of Arjun’s vow to kill Jarasandha. The war of the 14th day and the resultant death of Jayadrath severely angers the remaining Kaurava warriors. The fight goes into the night. In the night war, Ghatotkacha and his demons gain upper hand because during night time the powers of demons increase several fold. Ghatotkach brings severe damage to the opposing army and getting rid of the opposing demon Alambush. Finally, Karna has to use his “shakti”, the gift from Indra to kill Ghatotkacha.
The book ends with the fall of Drona on the 15th day.
Lord Krishna is the planner and the executor. Krishna’s many manouverings come to fore during this stage. It is believed that Krishna let the events unfold themselves that resulted in the death of young Abhimanu. This not only resulted in the end of the “fair means of war” but incited the Pandavas and especially Arjun’s wrath. Krishna also caused the death of Jayadrath by trickery and “sacrificed” Ghatotkach to deprive Karna of his “shakti“, the divine unfailable weapon/astra that he had reserved for killing Arjun.
The fate of the war which was already in favour of Pandavas at the beginning of this parva was completely sealed by the end of Drona.
The Mahabharat, Book 8: Karna Parva (कर्ण पर्व)
The Karna Parva describes the war with Karna as the commander in chief of the Kaurava. Both sides have lost a significant size of their armies, especially the Kauravas. The 17th day describes the slaying of Duhshasan by Bheem, drinking his blood from the chest, taking a handful to Draupadi to adorn her hair and thus fulfilling vows of both. On the 17th day, Karna is killed when his chariot gets stuck in the mud and Arjun uses a moon-cresent arrow to decapacitate Karna’s head.
The Mahabharat, Book 9: Shalya Parva (शल्य पर्व)
This is the 18th and the last day of the war. The handful Kaurava army is now led by Shalya, king of Madra, brother of Madri and maternal uncle of the Pandavas. Sahadev kills Shakuni. Yudhishthir is shown a true warrior on this day and not his usual counselling role. He assumes near Yama-like bearance and engages in with a fight with Shalya. Shalya is finally killed. Durodhana escapes into the forest and takes refuge in a lake. He is discovered and challenged. A fight between Duryodhan and Bheem follows. Duryodhan proves to be equal in strength to Bheem and more conversant with the art of mace war. Bheem begins to tire and Krishna indicates Bheem to hit Duryodhan below his waist (on his thighs), against the rule of mace-fights. Duryodhan is subdued and lies in agony. The war is but over.
(to be continued with post-war parvas)