The Mahabharata is one of the most significant ancient Indian epics, narrating the story of the great Kurukshetra war between the Pandavas and the Kauravas. The war lasted for 18 days, and it saw many heroes fighting bravely, resulting in significant losses on both sides. However, the most critical question among all is – Who died last in Mahabharata? The answer is not a simple one, as many warriors fought until the very end. In this article, we will delve deep into the final days of the war and find out who died last.
Days 1-4: Initial Battles and the Fall of Bhishma
The first few days of the war saw fierce battles between the Pandavas and the Kauravas. Bhishma, the commander-in-chief of the Kaurava army, wreaked havoc on the Pandava army, causing numerous losses. However, Abhimanyu, Arjuna’s son, challenged Bhishma and defeated his bodyguards. He directly attacked the commander-in-chief, but despite his bravery, the Pandavas suffered heavy losses, and the Kauravas emerged victorious on the first day.
On the second day, Arjuna realized that they needed to reverse their losses and decided to kill Bhishma. With the help of Krishna, he located Bhishma’s chariot and engaged him in a fierce duel. The battle raged for hours, and although Arjuna managed to hurt Bhishma, he was unable to defeat him. Drona and Dhristadyumna also engaged in a duel, with Drona breaking Dhristadyumna’s bow numerous times. However, Bhima intervened and saved Dhristadyumna from certain death.
The third day of the war saw Bhishma arranging the Kaurava forces in the formation of an eagle, with himself leading from the front. The Pandavas countered this by using the crescent formation, with Bhima and Arjuna at the head of the right and left horns, respectively. The Kauravas focused their attack on Arjuna, covering his chariot with arrows and javelins. Abhimanyu and Satyaki combined to defeat the Gandhara forces of Shakuni, while Bhima and his son Ghatotkacha attacked Duryodhana in the rear.
The fourth day of the battle was marked by the valour shown by Bhima. Bhishma commanded the Kaurava army to move on the offensive from the outset. Bhima, with his mace aloft, attacked the Kauravas, killing many soldiers and even Duryodhana’s eight brothers. However, he was soon struck by an arrow on the chest and sat down in his chariot dazed. Duryodhana, seeing his brothers die, was distraught and went to Bhishma, asking him how the Pandavas could still prevail and win. Bhishma replied that the Pandavas had justice on their side, and advised Duryodhana to seek peace.
Days 5-9: The Unimaginable Carnage
The fifth day of the war saw the slaughter continuing, with Bhishma causing immeasurable loss of life on the Pandava side. Satyaki bore the brunt of Drona’s attacks and could not withstand them. However, Arjuna fought and killed thousands of soldiers sent by Duryodhana to attack him. The unimaginable carnage continued during the ensuing days of the battle. On the sixth day, Drona caused immense loss of life on the Pandava side, breaking their formations, and causing chaos. And On day 7, Drona killed Shankya, the son of Virata. On the eighth day, Bhima killed eight of Dhritarashtra’s sons.
On the ninth day, Krishna was overwhelmed by anger at the apparent inability of Arjuna to defeat Bhishma. He rushed towards the Kaurava commander, with the wheel of a fallen chariot in his hands. Bhishma laid down his arms and was ready to die at the hands of the Lord, but Arjuna stopped him, reminding him of his promise not to wield a weapon. Realizing that the war could not be won as long as Bhishma stood, Krishna suggested the strategy of placing a eunuch in the field to face him.
Day 10: The Fall of Bhishma
On the tenth day of the war, the Pandavas were unable to withstand Bhishma’s prowess and decided to put Shikhandi in front of him, as the commander had taken a vow not to attack a woman. Shikhandi’s arrows fell on Bhishma without hindrance, and Arjuna positioned himself behind Shikhandi, protecting himself from Bhishma’s attack. He aimed his arrows at the weak points in Bhishma’s armour, and soon, with arrows sticking from every part of his body, the great warrior fell from his chariot.
The Kauravas and Pandavas gathered around Bhishma, and at his request, Arjuna placed three arrows under Bhishma’s head to support it. Bhishma had promised his father, King Shantanu, that he would live until Hastinapur were secured from all directions. To keep this promise, Bhishma used the boon of “Ichcha Mrityu” (self-wished death) given to him by his father. After the war was over, when Hastinapur had become safe from all sides and after giving lessons on politics and Vishnu Sahasranama to the Pandavas, Bhishma died on the first day of Uttarayana.
Days 11-14: The Final Battles
With Bhishma unable to continue, Karna, Duryodhana’s loyal friend, entered the battlefield, much to Duryodhana’s joy. He made Drona the supreme commander of the Kaurava forces. Karna and Duryodhana wanted to capture Yudhisthira alive, as killing him would only enrage the Pandavas more, whereas holding him as a hostage would be strategically useful.
On the eleventh day of Mahabharata war, Drona formulated his battle plans to capture Yudhisthira. He cut down Yudhisthira’s bow, and the Pandava army feared that their leader would be taken prisoner. Arjuna rushed to the scene and, with a flood of arrows, made Drona retreat. On the twelfth day, the king of Trigartadesa, Susharma, along with his three brothers and 35 sons, challenged Arjuna, but he gave them a fierce fight, and they fell dead after fighting bravely.
On the thirteenth day, Abhimanyu, one of Arjuna’s sons, who knew the secret of entering the Chakra vyuh formation, broke the formation and slew tens of thousands of warriors. He also killed Dhuryodhana’s son but was soon surrounded and killed by many warriors at a time.
On the fourteenth day of Mahabharata war, Arjuna found Jayadrath guarded by the mighty Kaurav army. Seeing his friend’s plight, Lord Krishna raised his Sudarshan Chakra to cover the sun, faking a sunset. Arjun fought a powerful battle with Jayadrath and finally defeated him. Then, he shot a powerful arrow, decapitating Jayadrath.
Days 15-18: The End of the War
On the fifteenth day of the Kurukshetra War in Mahabharata, Bhima and Dhristadyumna fought Drona, who was very powerful and inconquerable, having the irresistible brahmadanda. Krishna hinted to Yudhisthira that Drona would give up his arms if his son Ashwathama was dead. Bhima proceeded to kill an elephant named Ashwathama and loudly proclaimed that Ashwathama was dead. Drona approached Yudhisthira to seek the truth of his son’s death, and Yudhisthira proclaimed Ashwathama Hatahath, naro va Kunjaro va, implying Ashwathama had died but that he was not sure whether it was Drona’s son or an elephant. The latter part of his proclamation (Naro va Kunjaro va) was drowned out by the sound of the conch blown by Krishna intentionally. Prior to this incident, the chariot of Yudhisthira, the king of righteousness, hovered a few inches off the ground. After the event, the chariot landed on the ground as he lied.
On the sixteenth day, Karna was made the supreme commander of the Kuru army. He fought valiantly, but he was surrounded and attacked by Pandava generals who were unable to prevail upon him. Karna inflicted heavy damage on the Pandava army, which fled. However, Arjuna successfully resisted Karna’s weapons with his own and also inflicted casualties upon the Kaurava army. Nakul killed Satyasena and Sushena, the sons of Karna.
On the seventeenth day, Karna defeated the Pandava brothers Nakul, Bhima, Sahadeva, and Yudhisthira in battle but spared their lives. Later, Karna resumed duelling with Arjuna, but his chariot wheel got stuck in the mud, and he asked for a pause. Krishna reminded Arjuna about Karna’s ruthlessness unto Abhimanyu while he was similarly left without a chariot and weapons. Hearing his son’s fate, Arjuna shot his arrow and decapitated Karna.
On the eighteenth day, Shalya took over as the commander-in-chief of the remaining Kaurava forces. Yudhishthira killed King Shalya in a spear combat, and Sahadeva killed Shakuni. Realizing that he had been defeated, Duryodhana fled the battlefield and took refuge in the lake, where the Pandavas caught up with him. Under the supervision of the now returned Balarama, a mace battle took place between Bhima and Duryodhana. Bhima flouted the rules (under instructions from Krishna) to strike Duryodhana beneath the waist, in which he was mortally wounded.
Ashwatthama, Kripacharya, and Kritavarma met Duryodhana at his deathbed and promised to avenge the actions of Bhima. They attacked the Pandavas’ camp later that night and killed all the Pandavas’ remaining army, including their children. Amongst the dead were Dhristadyumna and Shikhandi. Other than the Pandavas and Krishna, only Satyaki and Yuyutsu survived.
The Kurukshetra War in Mahabharata was a war of epic proportions, and it saw numerous heroes fighting bravely until the very end. Although it is tough to say who died last in Mahabharata, as many warriors fought until the very end, the fall of Duryodhana marked the end of the war. The war had significant consequences for the Pandavas, who emerged victorious but at a great cost. The Kurukshetra War in Mahabharata continues to be one of the most significant epics in Indian mythology, inspiring generations with its timeless teachings.