Before the battle of Kurukhetra commenced, the two sides had to choose their respective commander in chiefs. This decision is critical to the battle strategy of each side since it is the leadership which will decide the execution of the menacing battle that lies ahead.
Pandavas appointed Dhristyadhumna, son of Drupad as their commander in chief while Kauravas agreed to appoint Bheesma as their. Here are the logics for each side.
Strategy of Pandavas
When the Pandava leadership team assembled at Panchala, different opinions and plans were suggested as to who should become the commander in chief of the allied forces and lead the army towards victory.
I think we should appoint King Drupad as the commander in chief. He is the senior most among us and he has witnessed more battles compared to any of the other generals.
Why not King Viraat? He is equally senior to King Drupad
We should choose someone who is fit for leadership. We should not choose someone because he has lot of experience or is highly skilled. Let’s consider each warrior and evaluate who is the right one who deserves to be the commander in chief of this army. We must not forget that we have a weaker force than the Kauravas. The ratio is 7:11, so it is critical for us to divide responsibilities to each division and co-ordinate our efforts.
Amongst all the warriors, 8 of us have the merit to lead this army.
We cannot appoint Yudhisthira as commander in chief since he is the king who must be protected from the invading army. The samrat must not become the leader himself and should be under strict defence.
We cannot appoint Arjuna or Abhimanyu as commander in chief since only these two warriors have the merit to face Bheesma and Drona. Arjuna and Abhimanyu are our ace archers and they must not be occupied with assimilating the army, forming plans, bottlenecks and managing the whole military machine. We need Arjuna and Abhimanyu to counter Bheesma and Drona. Besides that, Abhimanyu is young and inexperienced. Arjuna is experienced but he has other things to worry about and we cannot afford to occupy him in managerial activities.
We cannot appoint Bheema as the commander in Chief since we will need an expert general to defend our formations from enemy attack. Remember, as long as Drona and Bheesma are present, we will undertake massive causalities and to prevent severe causalities, we need Bheema to defend our divisions.
I cannot be the commander in chief since I have pledged not to fire any weapon in this battle. Besides that, I will be riding Parth’s chariot and together me and Parth will hammer key targets in the enemy camp.
Rest remains, Virata, Drupad and Dhristyadhumna. In these three generals, I would prefer to go with the agile prince since this is the battle of our Yuga. Dhristyadhumna is a celibate prince who has no family and no weakness and hence he is the only person who can focus all his energy in managing this army, creating battle plans, forming bottlenecks and develop the strategy for each day.
All the other generals agreed to Krishna’s logic and Dhristyadhumna was appointed the commander in chief of Pandava army. Dhristyadhumna led the army for 18 days and was killed by Aswathama during a night raid.
The Kaurava Strategy
The Kaurava leadership team assembled to discuss who can be the commander in chief of the army.
I want Karna to be the commander in chief of this army. We have only two threats – Arjuna and Bheema. If we can get rid of these two warriors, victory is ours. Leave Bheema up to me, he has spent 13 years in exile and I have spent these 13 years practicing the craft of Mace. As for Arjuna, only one man in our camp can kill him. My friend Karna.
Bheesma won’t kill him, he loves Arjuna dearly. Drona will not kill him because Arjuna is his favorite student. Other warriors do not have the merit to stand in front of Arjuna, hence I demand that Karna is appointed the commander in chief.
My foolish nephew, you know nothing about battle strategies. We will have to appoint Bheesma as the commander in chief. This is because Bheesma has Ichhamrityu and nobody can kill him. If you want to be victorious, you will have to defeat this entire army and the presence of Bheesma will ensure that you will win half of the battle before it even starts.
But what about Arjuna? Bheesma and Drona won’t kill Arjuna and we must get rid of Arjuna as early as possible.
That is right but what about the whole army? Merely killing Arjuna will not secure victory for you. You must also defeat the whole army and so long Bheesma is the commander in chief and has the shield of Ichamrityu with him, your victory is certain.
I will be the commander in chief but there are two conditions. I will not kill any Pandava. And I will not allow Karna to fight under my flag.
So be it.
This is pure injustice with my friend, Karna. I want him from day one because Arjuna has to be killed for us to secure victory.
No Duryodhana. Uncle Shakuni is right. You will need Bheesma more than me since he is the most fearsome warrior in the whole Kuru clan. Forget me, Drona, Kripa, Arjuna – we are nothing in front of him. Only Bheesma has done the unthinkable – he has defeated Parashurama.
Hence, by merit and experience, he only deserves to be the commander in chief of your army. If you do not appoint him and appoint me as the commander in chief, your army may split. You need to hold your army together and for that reason, Bheesma is the apt person.
As for me, I shall wait. Since Bheesma and Drona won’t kill Arjuna, I shall wait for the right time.
Duryodhana appoints Bheesma as commander in chief of the Kaurava Army.
As we can see, the Kaurava generals are fighting their individual battles. Bheesma is fighting for his vow of protecting the throne, Drona is fighting because he is an employee of Dhritarasthra and wants to avenge Drupad, Karna is fighting to prove his superiority over Arjuna. There is no agenda and co-ordination.
The Pandava generals divide the responsibilities and focus more on team effort than individual gains. It is the whole team that works together to succeed, personal battles become secondary.