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Chapter 31

Mahabharata English - KARNA PARVA

“Dhritarashtra said, ‘It seems that Arjuna slew all of you at his will.Indeed, the Destroyer himself could not escape him in battle, if Arjunatook up arms against Him. Single-handed, Partha ravished Bhadra, andsingle-handed, he gratified Agni. Single-handed, he subjugated the wholeEarth, and made all the kings pay tribute. Single-handed, with hiscelestial bow he slew the Nivatakavachas. Single-handed, he contended inbattle with Mahadeva who stood before him in the guise of a hunter.Single-handed, he protected the Bharatas, and single-handed, he gratifiedBhava. Single-handed, were vanquished by him all the kings of the Earthendued with fierce prowess. The Kurus cannot be blamed. On the otherhand, they deserve praise (for having fought with such a warrior). Tellme now what they did. Tell me also, O Suta, what Duryodhana did afterthat.’

“Sanjaya said, ‘Struck and wounded and overthrown from their vehicles anddivested of armour and deprived of weapons and their beasts slain, withplaintive voices and burning with grief and vanquished by their foes, thevain Kauravas, entering their tents once more took counsel of oneanother. They then looked like snakes deprived of fangs and poison trodupon by others. Unto them, Karna, sighing like an angry snake, squeezinghis hands, and eyeing thy son, said, “Arjuna is always careful, firm,possessed of skill, and endued with intelligence. Again, when the timecomes, Vasudeva awakes him (to what should be done). Today, by thatsudden shower of weapons we were deceived by him. Tomorrow, however, Olord of Earth, I will frustrate all his purposes.” Thus addressed byKarna, Duryodhana said, “So be it,” and then granted permission to thoseforemost of kings to retire. Bidden by the king, all those rulersproceeded to their respective tents. Having passed the night happily,they cheerfully went out for battle (the next day). They then beheld aninvincible array formed by king Yudhishthira the just, that foremost oneof Kuru race, with great care, and according to the sanction ofBrihaspati and Usanas. Then that slayer of foes, Duryodhana, called tomind the heroic Karna, that counteractor of foes, that warrior with necklike that of a bull, equal to Purandara himself in battle, the Maruts inmight, and Kartavirya in energy. Indeed, the heart of the king turnedtowards Karna. And the hearts of all the troops also turned to that hero,that Suta’s son, that mighty bowman, as one’s heart turns to a friend ina situation of great danger.’

“Dhritarashtra said, ‘What did Duryodhana next do, O Suta, when thehearts of all of you turned towards Vikarna’s son Karna? Did my troopscast their eyes on Radha’s son like persons afflicted with cold turningtheir gaze towards the Sun? Upon the recommencement of the battle afterthe withdrawal of the troops, how, O Sanjaya, did Vikarna’s son Karnafight? How also did all the Pandavas fight with the Suta’s son? Themighty-armed Karna would, single-handed, slay the Parthas with theSrinjayas. The might of Karna’s arms in battle equals that of Sakra orVishnu. His weapons are fierce, and the prowess also of that high-souledone is fierce. Relying upon Karna, king Duryodhana had set his heart onbattle. Beholding Duryodhana deeply afflicted by the son of Pandu, andseeing also the sons of Pandu displaying great prowess, what did thatmighty car-warrior, viz., Karna, do? Alas, the foolish Duryodhana,relying on Karna, hopeth to vanquish the Parthas with their sons andKeshava in battle! Alas, it is a matter of great grief that Karna couldnot, with his strength, overcome the sons of Pandu in fight! Withoutdoubt, Destiny is supreme. Alas, the terrible end of that gambling matchhath now come! Alas, these heartrending sorrows, due to Duryodhana’sacts, many in number and like unto terrible darts, are now being borneby, me, O Sanjaya! O sire, Subala’s son used to be then regarded as apolitic person. Karna also is always exceedingly attached to kingDuryodhana. Alas, when such is the case, O Sanjaya, why have I then tohear of the frequent defeats and deaths of my sons? There is no one thatcan resist the Pandavas in battle. They penetrate into my army like a maninto the midst of helpless women. Destiny, indeed, is supreme.’

“Sanjaya said, ‘O king, think now of all those wrongful acts of thinelike that match at dice and the others–acts that have passed away fromthe subjects of thought with man. One should not, however, reflect onbygone acts. One may be ruined by such reflection. That result (whichthou hadst expected) is now much removed from the point of fruition,since, although possessed of knowledge, thou didst not reflect on thepropriety or impropriety of thy acts then. Many a time wert thou, O king,counselled against warring with the Pandavas. Thou didst not, however, Omonarch, accept those counsels, from folly. Diverse sinful acts of agrave nature were perpetrated by thee against the sons of Pandu. Forthose acts this awful slaughter of kings hath now come. All that,however, is now past. Do not grieve, O bull of Bharata’s race. O thou ofunfading glory, listen now to the details of the awful carnage that hasoccurred.

“‘When the night dawned, Karna repaired to king Duryodhana. Approachingthe king, the mighty-armed hero said, “I shall, O king, engage in battletoday the illustrious son of Pandu. Either I will slay that hero today,or he will slay me. In consequence of the diverse things both myself andPartha had to do, O Bharata, an encounter, O king, could not hithertotake place between myself and Arjuna! Listen now, O monarch, to thesewords of mine, spoken according to my wisdom. Without slaying Partha inbattle I will not come back, O Bharata. Since this army of ours hath beendeprived of its foremost warriors, and since I will stand in battle,Partha will advance against me, especially because I am destitute of thedart Sakra gave me. Therefore, O ruler of men, listen now to what isbeneficial. The energy of my celestial weapons is equal to the energy ofArjuna’s weapons. In counteracting the feats of powerful foes, inlightness of hands, in range of the arrows shot, in skill, and in hittingthe mark, Savyasaci is never my equal. In physical strength, in courage,in knowledge of (weapons), in prowess, O Bharata, in aiming, Savyasaci isnever my equal. My bow, called Vijaya, is the foremost of all weapons (ofits kind). Desirous of doing what was agreeable (to Indra), it was madeby Vishakarman (the celestial artificer) for Indra. With that bow, Oking, Indra had vanquished the Daityas. At its twang the Daityas beheldthe ten points to be empty. That bow, respected by all, Sakra gave toBhrigu’s son (Rama). That celestial and foremost of bows Bhrigu’s songave to me. With that bow I will contend in battle with the mighty-armedArjuna, that foremost of victorious warriors, like Indra fighting withthe assembled Daityas. That formidable bow, the gift of Rama, is superiorto Gandiva. It was with that bow that the Earth was subjugated thriceseven times (by Bhrigu’s son). With that bow given to me by Rama I willcontend in battle with the son of Pandu. I will, O Duryodhana, gladdenthee today with thy friends, by slaying in battle that hero, viz.,Arjuna, that foremost of conquerors. The whole Earth with her mountainsand forest and islands, without a heroic warrior (to oppose thy wish),will, O king, become thine today, over which thyself with thy sons andgrandsons will reign supreme. Today there is nothing that is incapable ofbeing achieved by me, especially when the object is to do what isagreeable to thee, even as success is incapable of being missed by anascetic zealously devoted to virtue and having his soul under control.Arjuna will not be able to bear me in battle, even as a tree in contactwith fire is incapable of bearing that element. I must, however, declarein what respect I am inferior to Arjuna. The string of his bow iscelestial, and the two large quivers of his are inexhaustible. His driveris Govinda. I have none like him. His is that celestial and foremost ofbows, called Gandiva, which is irrefragible in battle. I also have thatexcellent, celestial, and formidable bow called Vijaya. In respect of ourbows, therefore, O king, I am superior to Arjuna. Listen now to thosematters in which the heroic son of Pandu is superior to me. The holder ofthe reins (of his steeds) is he of Dasharha’s race who is adored by allthe worlds. His celestial car decked with gold, given unto him by Agni,is impenetrable in every part, and his steeds also, O hero, are enduedwith the speed of the mind. His celestial standard, bearing the blazingApe, is exceedingly wonderful. Again, Krishna, who is Creator of theuniverse, protects that car. Though inferior to Arjuna in respect ofthese things, I still desire to fight with him. This Shalya, however, theornament of assemblies, is equal to Saurin. If he becomes my driver,victory will certainly be thine. Let Shalya, therefore, who is incapableof being resisted by foes be the driver of my car. Let a large number ofcarts bear my long shafts and those that are winged with vulturinefeathers. Let a number of foremost cars, O monarch, with excellent steedsyoked unto them, always follow me, O bull of Bharata’s race. By thesearrangements I will, as regards the qualities mentioned, be superior toArjuna. Shalya is superior to Krishna, and I am superior to Arjuna. Asthat slayer of foes, viz., he of Dasharha’s race, is acquainted withhorselore, even so is that mighty car-warrior, viz., Shalya acquaintedwith horselore. There is none equal to the chief of the Madras in mightof arms. As there is none equal to myself in weapons, so there is noneequal to Shalya in knowledge of steeds. So circumstanced, I will becomesuperior to Partha. Against my car, the very gods with Vasava at theirhead will not dare advance. All these being attended to, when I take mystand on my car, I will become superior to Arjuna in the attributes ofwarrior and will then, O best of the Kurus, vanquish Phalguna. I desire,O monarch, all this to be done by thee, O scorcher of foes. Let thesewishes of mine be accomplished. Let no time be suffered to elapse. If allthis be accomplished, the most effectual aid will be rendered to me onevery desirable point. Thou wilt then see, O Bharata, what I will achievein battle. I will by every means vanquish the sons of Pandu in battlewhen they will approach me. The very gods and Asuras are not able toadvance against me in battle. What need be said then of the sons of Panduthat are of human origin?'”

“Sanjaya continued, ‘Thus addressed by that ornament of battle, viz.,Karna, thy son, worshipping the son of Radha, answered him, with a gladheart, saying, “Accomplish that, O Karna, which thou thinkest. Equippedwith goodly quivers and steeds, such cars shall follow thee in battle.Let as many cars as thou wishest bear thy long shafts and arrows equippedwith vulturine feathers. Ourselves, as also all the kings, O Karna will,follow thee in battle.'”

“Sanjaya continued, ‘Having said these words, thy royal son, endued withgreat prowess, approached the ruler of the Madras and addressed him inthe following words.'”

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