Day 3 : When Krishna attacked Bhishma

Arjuna chooses Krishna
Arjuna chooses Krishna

While it is a well known tale that when Krishna was approached by both Duryodhana and Arjuna to take their respective sides in the Kurukshetra war, Krishna made two offers. The first offer was that one person would get the entire Vrishni army totaling almost 10,000 soldiers or more and the second offer was his own personal support albeit under the condition that he would not actually lift any weapons and fight in the battlefield. Since Arjuna was the younger one, he was given the first right of choice and he chose the unarmed Krishna thus leaving Duryodhana with Krishna’s army.

On Day 3 of the Kurukshetra war, Bhishma arranged the Kaurava army in the eagle formation and proceeded to lead the same from the front. To counter this formation, Arjuna and Dhristadyumna decided to arrange the Pandava army in the crescent formation with Bhima leading the right flank and Arjuna himself leading the left flank.

During the course of the battle, Bhima managed to wound Duryodhana who lay down in a swoon in his chariot. When his charioteer took him close to Bhishma, Duryodhana accused the Kaurava commander of being too soft on the Pandavas, which enraged the grand old sire a lot.

Stung by the young Duryodhana’s reproaches, Bhishma fought during the second half of the day with extremely high intensity and delivered quite a severe attack on the Pandava army. Despite attempts by several brave Pandava warriors, the onslaught of Bhishma was causing a great number of fatalities in the Pandava army.

Spurred on by Krishna, young Arjuna took it upon himself to fight the grand old commander of the Kaurava army. While Bhishma was very impressed with his grand nephew’s prowess on the battlefield, Krishna sensed that Arjuna was not fighting at his best on that particular day. He could clearly see that Arjuna simply did not have the heart to fight Bhishma, someone he had always admired and treated as a role model from his childhood.

Krishna approaches Bhishma with the Sudarsana Chakra
Krishna approaches Bhishma with the Sudarsana Chakra

This angered Krishna and he dropped the reins of the chariot, jumped down and went forward towards Bhishma with his Sudarsana Chakra. Ecstatic at this turn of events, Bhishma welcomed Krishna by dropping his weapons and stated that it would be his absolute joy to die at the hands of Krishna, the Lord of the World.

Completely distressed at this situation, Arjuna raced down towards Krishna and reminded him of his promise of not lifting any weapons on the battlefield in this war. He also promised him that he would not flinch anymore at the thought of fighting his own kith and kin in the Kaurava army and that he would unfailingly do his duty to Dharma. It was only when the young Pandava prince provided these assurances that Krishna put away his weapon and came back to Arjuna’s chariot.

Thus, Day 3 of the Kurukshetra War almost saw Krishna break his promise and kill Bhishma.


This post has been written for the Week at the Merge, Week 45 writing prompt where the post had to be about the William Shakespeare quote – “The third day comes a frost, a killing frost.

15 thoughts on “Day 3 : When Krishna attacked Bhishma

  1. I always imagine how hard it would have been for Arjuna to have taken that decision. But then, that alone was the righteous path. Nice story to go with the prompt.

    • @Rekha, yes, he was extremely troubled when it came to fighting his own kith and kin, such a noble character, no!!!

  2. One amendment, Jairam – Krishna offers the warriors of his tribe alone – not the entire Yadava army. Had it been the latter, Satyaki could not have fought on the side of the Pandavas. (Vrishnis is right but NOT the Yadava army.)

    • @Suresh, my bad 😦 will go ahead and amend the post right away. Thanks for pointing out the error though, what would I do without you ? 😉

  3. Ok…knew the first part of the story…now know the second part. Better read up my stories and mythology before I can tell my daughter. 🙂 thanks for sharing

    • @Vidya, yes, Arjuna’s character and the perturbed mindset with which he begins the Kurukshetra war is something that most of us can relate to, right!!

    • @Arvind, coming from you, that is high praise indeed, thanks for reading the post and leaving behind your feedback. And keep coming back for more mythology related posts and stories 😀

  4. Hey! I always thought Arjuna was given the 1st choice, not because he was younger, but because when he went to ask Krishna for help, he sat near his feet, where as Duryodhana, who reached before arjuna, sat near his head. So when Krishna got up, He saw Arjuna, asked him 1st.

    • @Galway Gal, yes, as you are aware there are multiple versions of this great epic and quite a few versions mention that Krishna gave Arjuna the first choice because he saw him first. So yes, you are also correct 🙂

    • @Galway Gal, plus Krishna also uses the exact words “Exercise the right to first choice which custom gives you as the younger man” as well, just referred it 🙂

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