Preparation of War
The inevitability of war left both Kauravas and Pandavas to chalk out their respective strategies and assess the strength and weaknesses of their opponents. While Arjuna was the best archer on Pandavas side Karna was no less a warrior on Kauravas side. To the extent some one rated him greater than even Arjuna! This particular fact caused a great concern in the heart of mother Kunti.
The story of Karna 3
To find a way out Indra foster father of Arjuna, and king of heaven, decided to rob Karna of his protective kavacha and kundalas given to him by his father, the Sun God. It was a very well known fact that Karna was the most generous person on the earth, he would not disappoint any one who begged anything of him.
Indra disguised as a Brahmin beggar, therefore, came to Karna and requested him for a favour. Without a moment's hesitation, Karna said, "O respectful Brahmin, you have come at the opportune time. I have just finished my worship and whosoever asks me any thing at this hour his wish is granted."
"Give me, O generous Karna, your kavacha and kundala, if you can!," said the Indra. Karna without any hesitation tore out the his natural protective armour and handed over to the God Indra. This rendered Karna essentially weak.
So also, Mother Kunti approached her eldest son Karna. Karna was till now unaware that Kunti was his real mother. With a heavy heart, Kunti begged and pleaded for Arjuna's life dissuading Karna from fighting the war. During this encounter, which is very touching in the original text, Karna comes to know about his birth, how Kunti deserted him at the mercy of river waters. And Sun God was in fact his father.
Kunti was willing to announce him as her son now, and offered him the throne of Hastinapur if he decided to fight on the side of his brothers, Pandavas! But Karna had declared his loyalty to Duryodhana. He politely declined mother Kunti's offer and said, "O mother, I promise you one thing; in any event you shall have your five sons alive. If Arjuna dies I shall be the fifth, otherwise there would be no change in your life."
The War of Mahabharata
Rules and regulations were laid down for this Dharma-Yuddha, war of righteousness. War would be fought from dawn to dusk. Injured and helpless who has lost his weapon would not be attacked. Fight would be between equals, a charioteer would engage the other charioteer only and not pedestrian soldier. No one should attack anyone from behind. At sunset everyone would return to his respective camp. The injured would be treated by the physicians. The fellow from one camp would be allowed to visit other camp without hesitation.
On the side of Kauravas Bhishma was to lead the front. Besides, Dronacharya, Duryodhana, Jayadratha, and many more would fight against Pandavas. Karna would be out of picture till Bhishma was alive and leading the Kauravas.
On Pandavas side Sri Krishna became the charioteer of Arjuna. Besides five brothers, king Virata, Abhimanyu - son of Arjuna --, Ghatotkacha - son of Bhima from Hidambi, brother of Draupadi, and many more joined the forces.
Eighteen Days of Devastation
The First Day
The fateful day, probably the month of December, dawned. Battle lines were drawn. The two sides were arrayed against each other. Sri Krishna was the charioteer of Arjuna. He had decided not to fight or lift any weapon, but he would guide Arjuna and Pandavas with his wisdom and useful tips and hints.
Conches and trumpets were blown. The horses and chariots were ready, elephants decorated. Arrows and javelins were sharpened, clubs and maces flashed with terrifying power.
Duryodhana reached near the chariot of Bhishma and told him about the powerful generals on his side. Bhishma appealed to all the warriors to fight to the end, for death in this great war, on the battlefield, guaranteed liberation and attainment to the joys of Heaven.