Chapter 156

Mahabharata English - DRONA PARVA

“Sanjaya said, ‘Seeding his uncle thus addressed in harsh and insultingwords by the Suta’s son, Aswatthaman, uplifting his scimitar, furiouslyrushed towards the latter. Filled with fury, Drona’s son rushed towardsKarna, in the very sight of the Kuru king, like a lion at an infuriatedelephant.

“And Aswatthaman said, ‘O lowest of men, Kripa was speaking of thevirtues truly possessed by Arjuna. Of wicked understanding as thou art,thou rebukest, however, my brave uncle from malice. Possessed with prideand insolence, thou braggest today of thy prowess, not regarding any ofthe world’s bowmen in battle![209] Where was thy prowess and where werethy weapons when vanquishing thee in battle the wielder of Gandiva slewJayadratha in thy very sight? Vainly, O wretch of a Suta, dost thouindulge in thy mind the hope of vanquishing him who formerly contended inbattle with Mahadeva himself. The very gods with the Asuras unitedtogether and with Indra at their head had failed to vanquish Arjuna, thatforemost of all wielders of weapons, having Krishna only for his ally.How then, O Suta, hopest thou, aided by these kings, to vanquish thatforemost of heroes in the world, viz., the unvanquished Arjuna, inbattle? Behold, O Karna of wicked soul, (what I do to thee) today! Olowest of men, O thou of wretched understanding, I shall presently severthy head from thy trunk.’

“Sanjaya continued, ‘Thus saying, Aswatthaman made a furious rush atKarna. The king himself, of great energy, and Kripa, that foremost ofmen, held him fast. Then Karna said, ‘Of wicked understanding, thiswretch of a Brahmana thinks himself brave and boasts of his prowess inbattle. Set him at liberty, O chief of the Kurus. Let him come in contactwith my might.’

“Aswatthaman said, ‘O son of a Suta, O thou of wicked understanding, this(thy fault) is pardoned by us. Phalguna, however, will quell this risenpride of thine.’

“Duryodhana said, ‘O Aswatthaman, quell thy wrath. It behoveth thee, Ogiver of honours, to forgive. Thou shouldst not, O sinless one, be angrywith the Suta’s son. Upon thee and Karna and Kripa and Drona and theruler of the Madras and Suvala’s son resteth a great burthen. Drive awaythy wrath, O best of Brahmanas! Yonder, all the Pandava troops areapproaching from desire of fight with Radha’s son. Indeed, O Brahmana,yonder they come, challenging us all.’

“Sanjaya continued, ‘Thus pacified by the king, the high-souled son ofDrona, O monarch, whose ire had been excited, suppressed his wrath andforgave (Karna). Then the preceptor Kripa, of noble heart, who is of aquite disposition, O monarch, and mild temper, therefore, returned soonunto him, said these words.’

“Kripa, said, ‘O Suta’s son of wicked heart, this (thy fault) is pardonedby us. Phalguna, however, will quell this thy risen pride.’

“Sanjaya continued, ‘Then the Pandavas, O king, and the Panchalas,celebrated for their prowess, uniting together approached in thousands,uttering loud shouts; Karna also, that foremost of car-warriors, enduedwith great energy, surrounded by many foremost ones among the Kuruwarriors and resembling Sakra in the midst of the celestials, waited,drawing his bow and relying on the might of his own arms. Then commenceda battle between Karna and the Pandavas. O king, that was exceedinglydreadful and characterised by loud leonine roars. Then Pandavas, Omonarch, and the Panchalas, celebrated for their prowess, beholding themighty-armed Karna, loudly shouted, saying, ‘There is Karna,’ ‘Where isKarna in this fierce battle.’–‘O thou of wicked understanding, O lowestof men, fight with us!’–Others, beholding the son of Radha said, witheyes expanded In wrath, ‘Let this arrogant wretch of littleunderstanding, this son of a Suta, be slain by the allied kings. He hathno need to live. This sinful man is always very hostile to the Parthas.Obedient to the counsels of Duryodhana, this one is the root of theseevils. Slay him.’ Uttering such words, great Kshatriya car-warriors,urged by Pandu’s son, rushed towards him, covering him with a denseshower of arrows, for slaying him. Beholding all those mighty Pandavasthus (advancing), the Suta’s son, trembled not, nor experienced any fear.Indeed, seeing that wonderful sea of troops, resembling Death himself,that benefactor of thy sons, viz., the mighty and fight-handed Karna,never vanquished in battle, O bull of Bharata’s race, began, with cloudsof shafts, to resist that force on all sides. The Pandavas also foughtwith the foe, shooting showers of shafts. Shaking their hundreds andthousands of bows they fought with Radha’s son, like the Daityas of oldfighting with Sakra. The mighty Karna, however, with a dense arrowyshower of his own dispelled that downpour of arrows caused by those lordsof earth on all sides. The battle that took place between them, and inwhich each party counteracted the feats of the other,’ resembled theencounter between Sakra and the Danavas in the great battle fought ofyore between the gods and the Asuras. The lightness of arm that we thenbehold of the Suta’s son was wonderful in the extreme, inasmuch as, allhis foes, fighting resolutely, could not strike him in that battle.Checking the clouds of arrows shot by the (hostile) king, that mightycar-warrior, viz., Radha’s son, sped terrible arrows marked with his ownname at the yokes, the shafts, the umbrellas, the cars, and the steeds(of his foes). Then those kings, afflicted by Karna and losing theircoolness, began to wander on the field like a herd of kine afflicted withcold. Struck by Karna, large numbers of steeds and elephants andcar-warriors were seen there to drop down deprived of life. The wholefield, O king, became strewn with the fallen heads and arms ofunreturning heroes. With the dead, the dying, and the wailing warriors,the field of battle, O monarch, assumed the aspect of Yama’s domain. ThenDuryodhana, O king, witnessing the prowess of Karna, repaired toAswatthaman and addressing him, said, ‘Behold, Karna, clad in mail, isengaged with all the (hostile) kings. Behold, the hostile army, afflictedwith the arrows of Karna, is being routed like the Asura army overwhelmedwith the energy of Kartikeya. Seeing his army vanquished in battle bythat intelligent Karna, yonder cometh Vibhatsu from desire of slaying theSuta’s son. Let such steps, therefore, be taken as may prevent the son ofPandu from slaying that mighty car-warrior viz., Suta’s son, in the verysight of us all.’ (Thus addressed), Drona’s son, and Kripa, and Salya,and that great car-warrior, viz., the son of Hridika, beholding the sonof Kunti coming (towards them) like Sakra himself towards the Daityahost, all advanced against Partha for rescuing the Suta’s son. Meanwhile,Vibhatsu, O monarch, surrounded by the Panchala I advanced against Karna,like Purandara proceeding against the Asura Vritra.'[210]

“Dhritarashtra said, ‘Beholding Phalguna excited with fury and lookinglike the Destroyer himself, as he appears at the end of the Yuga what, OSuta, did Vikartana’s son Karna do next? Indeed, the mighty car-warriorKarna, the son of Vikartana, had always challenged Partha. Indeed, he hadalways said that he was competent to vanquish the terrible Vibhatsu. Whatthen, O Suta, did that warrior do when he thus suddenly met his everdeadly foe?'[211]

“Sanjaya continued, ‘Beholding the son of Pandu rushing towards him likean elephant towards a rival elephant, Karna fearlessly proceeded againstDhananjaya. Partha, however, soon covered Karna who was thus advancingwith great impetuosity, with showers of straight shafts, equipped withwings of gold. Karna also covered Vijaya with his shafts. The son ofPandu then once more shrouded Karna with clouds of arrows. Then Karna,filled with rage, pierced Arjuna with three shafts. The mightycar-warrior, Arjuna, beholding Karna’s lightness of hand, could not brookit. That scorcher of foes shot at the Suta’s son thirty straight shafts,whetted on stone and equipped with blazing points. Endued with greatmight and energy, he also pierced him, in rage, with another long arrowon the wrist of his left arm, smiling the while. Karna’s bow then droppedfrom that arm of his, which had thus been pierced with great force. Thenthe mighty Karna, taking up that bow within the twinkling of an eye, oncemore covered Phalguna with clouds of shafts, displaying great lightnessof hard. Dhananjaya then, O Bharata, smiling the while, baffled with hisown shafts, that arrowy shower shot by the Suta’s son. Approaching eachother, those two great bowmen, desirous of counteracting each other’sfeats, continued to cover each other with showers of shafts. The battlethat took place between them, viz., Karna and the son of Pandu, becameexceedingly wonderful, like that between the two wild elephants for thesake of a she-elephant in her season. Then the mighty bowman Partha,beholding Karna’s prowess, quickly cut of the latter’s bow at the handle.And he also despatched the four steeds of the Suta’s son to Yama’s abodewith a number of broad-headed shafts. And that scorcher of foes also cutoff from the trunk the head of Karna’s driver. Then, the son of Pandu andPritha pierced the bowless, the steedless, and the driverless Karna withfour shafts. Then that bull among men Karna, afflicted with those shafts,specially jumping down from that steedless car, mounted upon that ofKripa. Beholding the son of Radha vanquished, thy, warriors, O bull ofBharata’s race, fled away in all directions. Seeing them fly away, kingDuryodhana himself checked them and said these words, ‘Ye heroes, do notfly away. Ye bulls among Kshatriyas, stay in battle. I myself will nowadvance for slaying Partha in battle. I myself will slay Partha with theassembled Panchalas. While I shall fight with the wielder of Gandivatoday, Partha will behold my prowess to resemble that of the Destroyerhimself at the end of the Yuga. Today the Parthas shall behold my shaftsshot in thousands to resemble flights of locusts. The combatants shallbehold me today shooting, bow in hand, dense showers of shafts, liketorrents of rain poured by the clouds at the end of the summer season. Ishall today vanquish Partha with my straight shafts. Stay, ye heroes, inbattle, and remove your fear or Phalguna. Encountering my prowess,Phalguna shall never be able to bear it, like the ocean, the abode ofmakaras, unable to overcome the continents.’ Thus saying, the kingproceeded in rage, his eyes red in wrath, surrounded by a large host,towards Phalguna. Beholding the mighty-armed Duryodhana thus proceeding,Saradwat’s son, approaching Aswatthaman, said these words, ‘Yonder, themighty-armed Duryodhana, deprived of his senses by wrath, desireth tofight with Phalguna, like an insect desiring to rush into a blazing fire.Before this foremost of kings layeth down his life, in our very sight, inthis battle with Partha, prevent him (from rushing into the encounter).The brave Kuru king can remain alive in battle as long only as he dothnot place himself within the range of Partha’s shafts. Let the king bestopped before he is consumed into ashes by the terrible shafts ofPartha, that resemble snakes just freed from their sloughs. When we arehere, O giver of honours, it seems to be highly improper that the kingshould himself go to battle to fight, as if he had none to fight for him.The life of this descendant of Kuru will be in great danger if he engagesin battle with the diademdecked (Arjuna), like that of an elephantcontending with a tiger.’ Thus addressed by his maternal uncle, Drona’sson, that foremost of all wielders of weapons, quickly repaired untoDuryodhana and addressing him, said these words, ‘When I am alive, O sonof Gandhari, it behoveth thee not to engage thyself in battle,disregarding me, O descendant of Kuru, that am ever desirous of thy good.Thou needst not be at all anxious about vanquishing Partha. I will checkPartha! Stand here, O Suyodhana.’

“Duryodhana said, ‘The preceptor (Drona) always protecteth the sons ofPandu, as if they are his own sons. Thou also always never interferestwith those my foes. Or, it may be due to my misfortune, that thy prowessnever becometh fierce in battle. This may be due also to thy affectionfor Yudhishthira or Draupadi. I myself am ignorant of the true reason.Fie on my covetous self, for whose sake all friends, desirous of makingme happy, are themselves vanquished and plunged into grief. Except thee,O son of Gotama’s daughter, what foremost of all wielders of weapons ofthere, what warrior, indeed, equal to Mahadeva himself in battle, thatwould not, though competent, destroy the foe? O Aswatthaman; be pleasedwith me and destroy my enemies. Neither the gods nor the Danavas arecapable of staying within the range of thy weapons, O son of Drona, slaythe Panchalas and the Somakas with all their followers. As regards therest, we will slay them, Protected by thee. Yonder, O Brahmana, theSomakas and the Panchalas, possessed of great fame, are careering amid mytroops like a forest-conflagration. O mighty-armed one, check them asalso the Kailkeyas, O best of men, else, protected by the diadem-decked(Arjuna), they will annihilate us all. O Aswatthaman, O chastiser offoes, go thither with speed. Whether thou accomplishest it now orafterwards, that feat, O sire, should be accomplished by thee. Thou hastbeen born, O mighty-armed one, for the destruction of the Panchalas.Putting forth thy prowess, thou shalt make the world destitute ofPanchalas. Even thus the reverend ones crowned with (ascetic) success,have said. It will be as they have said. Therefore, O tiger among men,slay the Panchalas with all their followers. The very gods with Vasava attheir head are incapable of staying within the range of thy weapons, whatneed be said then of the Parthas and the Panchalas? These words of mineare true. I tell thee truly, O hero, that the Pandavas united with theSomakas are no match for thee in battle! Go, O mighty-armed one! Letthere be no delay. Behold, our army, afflicted with Partha’s shafts, isbreaking and flying away. Thou art competent, O mighty-armed one, aidedby thy own celestial energy, to afflict, O giver of honours, the Pandavasand the Panchalas.'”

Chapter 157
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