The Kurukshetra War in Mahabharat lasts 18 days, with the Pandavas having 7 Akshaunis or divisions and the Kauravas having 11 Akshaunis, totaling 18 Akshaunis again. Before the war begins, Krishna gives Arjuna the teaching of the Gita and the Vishwaroopa darshan. Here is a day-by-day account of important events. If you need to brush up on your Mahabharat, try these free ebooks and summary of the whole epic.

Day 1

On the morning of that momentous day the battle began which led the death of many noble warriors. All of the Kaurava army, uncaring about their very lives, rushed with raised flags and standards against the Pandavas, and the Pandava army stood against them with cheering hearts, Bhima leading them.

Duryodhana and his brothers surrounded Bhima, shooting arrows at him. Then Draupadi’s five sons with the twins Nakula and Sahadeva and Abhimanyu, Arjuna’s son, rushed against the Kaurava army, tearing them with their arrows.

On that first day Uttara, Virata's son –who was driven by Arjuna – was struck by Shalya, King of Madra, and was killed.

Dushasana fought Nakula, attempting to strike him with many an arrow, but Nakula cut down these arrows, the standard and the bow of his enemy.

Yudishtira fought Shalya, while Drishtadyumna sought Drona in battle.

The King of Panchala fought the King of Sind and the battle between them was fierce and terrible.

Day 2

On the second day the battle raged again, neither side prevailing over the other but the Kaurava forces lost many soldiers on this day.

Drishtadyumna fought it out with Drona and had to be rescued by Bhima.

Satyaki killed Bhishma’s charioteer, and the horses went out of control taking Bhishma off the battlefield.

Day 3

On the third day Bhishma arrayed his forces in the form of a great bird, an eagle, and the army of the Pandavas was counter-arrayed in the shape of a half-moon, with the right horn commanded by Bhima, Yudishtira holding the center, and Arjuna managing the left horn. All morning, the armies fought and none gave way.

In the afternoon, Bhishma, invoked celestial astras, and mowed down the Pandava army on all sides. Krishna urged Arjuna, saying, "The hour is come when you must hold to your promise to slaughter the Kaurava army and fight Bhishmaf. Behold, your army is being destroyed by him alone." He drove the chariot to where Bhishma's chariot stood. Beholding him advancing, the Pandava host rallied, while Bhishma covered the onrushing chariot with his arrows. Arjuna, took Gandiva and sent forth arrows that cut the grandsire's bow in two. As Bhishma seized and strung another, that too was cut down.

With a third bow Bhishma sent forth arrows against Arjuna. Krishna, with great skill, avoided them but many still struck him and Arjuna. Krishna saw that Bhishma's arrows were again slaughtering the Pandava army, while Arjuna was fighting mildly, out of respect for Bhishma.

Afraid of the consequences, Krishna dropped the reins, leaped from the chariot, and ran toward Bhishma, whirling his discus, eager to slay him. But Arjuna ran after him, and, throwing his arms at his feet, stopped him. "Stop, O Krishna! Remember your promise not to fight; do not let men say you are a liar. I by my weapons, by the truth, by my own deeds, will destroy our foes. The task is mine." Hearing this, Krishna, angry still, mounted the car and took up the reins again.

Arjuna, drawing Gandiva summoned an astra and causing a river of blood from the Kaurava army. Every other sound was silenced by his bow. As the sun set the Kauravas withdrew, Bhishma and Drona with them, and the Pandavas triumphed that day.

Day 4

Abhimanyu is attacked by the Kauravas, and is aided by Arjuna, and Bhima with his mace. Duryodhana sends a huge force of elephants against him, which Bhima disperses. Finally, Bhima is struck by an arrow and has to rest a while. He however, kills eight of Duryodhana’s brothers by then.

Day 5-8

Every day Bhima slew six to ten of Duryodhana’s brothers, as per his oath during the gambling game. Therefore the Pandavas, though they often fought their cousins and struck them wounded, never slew them, so that Bhima could keep his promise. Several times he and Duryodhana fought, longing to kill each other, but they were equal neither prevailed. But Duryodhana, when he went each night to his tent, was overcome with grief, and wept for his brothers.

Day 9

Bhishma arrays the troops as a hollow square and wrecks much havoc upon the Pandava army. The exhausted Pandavas approach Bhishma at his camp at night, seeking his advice on how they may slay him. Bhishma tells them to use Shikhandi as a shield, for he would never raise his bow upon a woman.

Day 10

The Pandavas send Shikhandi against Bhishma, and Arjuna coming up behind him sends many arrows against Bhishma. Ten and ten more pierce Bhishma, who thought pierced by so many does not fall. Then the Pandavas surround Bhishma and driving off the Kauravas, pierce Bhishma with many an arrow until no space on his body greater than the breadth of two fingers remains to be seen.

Then Bhishma reeling under the pain falls, but his body does nottouch the ground and is held up by the arrow shafts. Both armies stop their battle in honor of the eldest of Bharatas and approach him seeking his advice. Arjuna gives him a pillow of three shafts to rest his head on and strikes the ground with a blazing arrow to provide him with a cool jet of sweet water.

Bhishma, with his power to choose the time of his death, seeks to stay alive till the sun turns to its northern run at the time of Uttarayana. Thus he lies there on his bed of arrows, waiting for the faithful moment.

Day 11-12

Karna enters the battle, thus far kept away by Bhishma. Drona is made the commander of the army, and Duryodhana asks him to capture Yudhisthara alive. Drona sets up the Trigarthas to draw away Arjuna from protecting his elder brother. However, towards the evening of both days, as Drona approaches Yudhisthara, the Pandava flees.

Day 13

Drona, deeply ashamed at failing in his mission, once again sets the Trigarthas to draw away Arjuna. He now sets up the indomitable Chakravyuha against the Pandava army. The Pandavas are at a loss to defend themselves since mong the Pandavas, only Arjuna knows how to break this array. However, Abhimanyu volunteers his services. But Abhimanyu knows only ow to break into the array and not how to break out. Yudhisthara and Bhima assure him that they will follow him closely to ensure that the gates of the formation stay open.

Abhimanyu sets out with the Pandavas following him, but inside the complex array, he is separated from the Pandavas by Jayadratha, who blocks the Pandavas from entering. Abhimanyu continues to the center, wrecking havoc upon the Kaurava army, until faced in an unfair battle by many Kaurava warriors including Drona, Karna, Ashwattama and three others, loses his chariot, horses, weapons and charioteer. He is slain by Dushasana’s son.

That night, Arjuna hears of the dastardly murder of his son, and vows to revenge himself upon Jayadratha. If he fails to slay him by sundown, he vows to immolate himself.

Day 14

Realizing that Arjuna will kill himself if only they protect Jayadratha from him till sundown, the Kauravas rally around the king and keep Arjuna at bay. Drona challenges Arjuna to distract him and they fight relentlessly, without managing to kill the other. Krishna, anxious that Arjuna's vow should be kept, drives the chariot forward, leaving Drona behind. Karna, Drona, Ashwattama and Duryodhana, all surround Arjuna to keep him from Jayadratha. The fearful fight raged till the sun approached the western hills. Krishna said to Arjuna, "You cannot kill Jayadratha till you have slain these warriors. I shall eclipse the sun in darkness so that they will think it has set and be less careful." Through his divine power, he eclipses the son, creating darkness and deceiving the Kauravas, who part way, thinking Arjuna must now take his life. But Arjuna fixes an astra and taking aim at Jayadratha, lets it loose. Jayadratha’s head is severed just as the eclipse ends and the sun begins to shine again. Seeing that they were deceived, the Kauravas weep in sorrow and anger.

Duryodhana, distraught, orders his army to fight through the night, and the two hosts lighting torches, continue their battle. But so tired are they that men are killed while they fell asleep, and many were killed by their friends in a daze. During this time, Gathokacha, the rakshasa son of Bhima wrecks havoc among the Kaurava, until he is felled by the Shakti, a weapon given to Karna by Indra. Karna was planning to use the Shakti against Arjuna However, Duryodhana, desperate to end Gathokacha’s carnage pleads with Karna to use it. Now Karna loses the weapon since it can be used only once and returns to Indra.

Then the two armies take a break and call a truce till the moon rises and rest upon the battlefield.

Day 15

The battle continues through moonrise and sunrise, when Drona begins to slaughter the Pandava army. Arjuna and Drona meet in a fierce battle but no side can prevail. Drona then fights both Virata and Drupada, killing them both. Seeing that no one can slay this fierce warrior, Krishna advices that they use deceit to kill him. Yudhisthara reluctantly agrees and Bhima is odered to kill an elephant named Ashwattaman, the “horse-voiced.”

Then when he is near Drona, he announces loudly, “I have killed Ashwattaman.” Drona’s legs turn to water, but he cannot believe that a mighty warrior like Ashwattama could be killed by Bhima. So he turns to Yudhisthara and asks him, “Is this true?” Yudhisthara, the ever-truthful replies in the affirmative. Drona is distraught. Overcome, he drops his weapons and goes into meditation to leave is body. Dristhadyumna in his rage rushes to the chariot and takes his head off while he is sitting in meditation.

Ashwattama enraged by his father’s death, let’s loose the Narayanastra against the Pandava army. Krishna tells everyone to lay down their weapons and lie on the ground, since this is the only way the weapon can be made harmless.

Kunti requests Karna to join the side of the Pandavas, telling him that he is her eldest son. But Karna says he will spare all the Pandavas, except Arjuna.

Day 16

Shalya is made charioteer of Karna, much to his dismay because though Karna matches Arjuna in archery, only Shalya can match Krishna as a charioteer.

Day 17

Bhima fights Dushasana and kills him, drinking his blood and taking it in his hands to drape across Draupadi’s hair.

Karna wounds Yudhisthara sorely, who leaves the battlefield to rest. Hearing this, Arjuna goes to his tent to see how he is. Yudhisthara however, in pain and anger, insults Arjuna, thinking that he has run from Karna. In shame and anger, Arjuna draws his sword against Yudhisthara, and has to be pacified by Krishna. Ashamed at their reckless acts and words, the two brothers seek each other’s forgiveness.

Karna and Arjuna battle each other in a ferocious fight, until Parashurama’s curse comes true and Karna’s chariot wheel sinks to the ground. As he gets down to remove the wheel, Krishna urges Arjuna to take his bow and slay Karna, as there would not be another chance to do so. Arjuna takes aim at Karna, and Karna is about to retaliate, taking up his bow. However, the other curse of Parashurama comes true and he forgets his astra mantras, and is slain by Arjuna.

Day 18

Shalya is made the commander of the Kauravas and battles and is killed by Yudhisthara. Shakuni is killed by Sahadeva. No one of the Kaurava army except Ashwattama, Duryodhana and Kripacharya and Kritavarma survive the war. Enraged by his loss, Duryodhana heads to a lake to cool down his body, which has become hot with anger.

Krishna takes the Pandavas to the lake and Bhima taunts Duryodhana out of it. As they fight a mace battle, Duryodhana is invincible because of his mother Gandhari’s boon that his body is impenetrable. However, his thighs are vulnerable, and Bhima’s strike’s Duryodhana’s thigh, felling him. In greta pain, Duryodhana is left to die by the Pandavas.

Mahabharat Books

Print versions of the Mahabharata are available on Flipkart (with free home delivery). Mahabharata by C. Rajagopalachari is the cheapest, while the 12-volume Mahabharata by Kisari Mohan Ganguli is the most comprehensive. For kids, Amar Chitra Katha's 3-volume Mahabharata comic is the best.