Chapter 49

Mahabharata English - KARNA PARVA

“Sanjaya said, ‘Piercing through the Pandava host, Karna, surrounded bythousands of cars and elephants and steeds and foot-soldiers, rushedtowards king Yudhishthira the just. Cutting off with hundreds of fierceshafts the thousands of weapons sped at him by his foes, Vrishafearlessly pierced through that host. Indeed, the Suta’s son cut off theheads, the arms and the thighs of his enemies, who, deprived of life,fell down on the Earth. Others, finding their divisions broken, fledaway. The Dravida, the Andhaka, and the Nishada foot-soldiers, urged onby Satyaki, once more rushed towards Karna in that battle, from desire ofslaying him. Deprived of arms and head-gears, and slain by Karna with hisshafts, they fell down simultaneously on the Earth, like a forest of Salatree cut down (with the axe). Thus hundreds, thousands and ten thousandsof combatants, deprived of life and filling the whole welkin with theirfame, fell down with their bodies on the Earth. The Pandus and thePancalas obstructed Karna, otherwise called Vaikartana, who careeredwrathfully in battle like the Destroyer himself, even as people seek toobstruct a disease with incantations and drugs. Crushing all thoseassailants Karna once more rushed towards Yudhishthira, like anirresistible disease unchecked by incantations and drugs and(propitiatory) rites. At last checked by the Pandus, the Pancalas, andthe Kekayas, all of whom were desirous of rescuing the king, Karna couldnot succeed in passing them over, like Death that is unable to vanquishpersons conversant with Brahma. Then Yudhishthira, with eyes red inwrath, addressed Karna, that slayer of hostile heroes, who was held incheck at a little distance from him, and said these words “O Karna, OKarna, O thou of vain sight, O son of a Suta, listen to my words. Thoualways challengest the active Phalguna in battle. Obedient to thecounsels of Dhritarashtra’s son, thou always seekest to oppose us.Mustering thy great prowess, show thou today all thy might, all thyenergy, and all the hatred thou bearest towards the sons of Pandu. Todayin dreadful encounter, I will purge thee of thy desire for battle.”Having said these words, the son of Pandu, O king, pierced Karna with tenshafts made entirely of iron and equipped with wings of gold. Thatchastiser of foes, and great bowman, viz., the Suta’s son, O Bharata,pierced Yudhishthira, with the greatest care, in return, with ten arrowsequipped with heads like the calf’s tooth. Thus pierced by the Suta’s sonin contempt, O sire, the mighty-armed Yudhishthira, blazed up with wrathlike a fire upon receiving butter. Bending his formidable bow decked withgold, the son of Pandu placed on his bow-string a whetted arrow capableof piercing the very hills. Drawing the bow to its fullest stretch, theking quickly sped that arrow, fatal as the rod of the Destroyer, fromdesire of slaying the Suta’s son. Sped by the king endued with greatmight, that arrow whose whizz resembled the noise of the thunder,suddenly pierced Karna, that mighty car-warrior, on his left side. Deeplyafflicted by the violence of that stroke, the mighty-armed Karna withweakened limbs, fell into a swoon on his car, his bow dropping from hishand. Beholding Karna in that plight, the vast Dhartarashtra host utteredcries of “Oh” and “Alas,” and the faces of all the combatants becamecolourless. Beholding the prowess of their king, on the other hand, Omonarch, amongst the Pandavas, leonine roars and shouts and confusedcries of joy arose. The son of Radha, however, of cruel prowess,recovering his senses soon enough, set his heart on the destruction ofYudhishthira. Drawing his formidable bow called Vijaya that was deckedwith gold, the Suta’s son of immeasurable soul began to resist the son ofPandu with his sharp shafts. With a couple of razor-headed arrows he slewin that encounter Candradeva and Dandadhara, the two Pancala princes,that protected the two car wheels of the high-souled Yudhishthira. Eachof those heroes, standing by the side of Yudhishthira’s car, lookedresplendent like the constellation Punarvasu by the side of the moon.Yudhishthira, however, once more pierced Karna with thirty arrows. And hestruck Sushena and Satyasena, each with three arrows. And he piercedeveryone of the protectors of Karna with three straight arrows. The sonof Adhiratha then, laughing and shaking his bow inflicted a cutting woundon the king’s body with a broad-headed arrow, and again pierced him withsixty arrows and then uttered a loud shout. Then many foremost heroesamongst the Pandavas, desirous of rescuing the king, rushed in wrathtowards Karna and began to grind him with their arrows. Satyaki andChekitana and Yuyutsu and Shikhandi and the sons of Draupadi and thePrabhadrakas, and the twins (Nakula and Sahadeva) and Bhimasena andShishupala and the Karushas, Matsyas, the Suras, the Kaikayas, the Kasisand the Kosalas, all these brave heroes, endued with great activity,assailed Vasusena. The Pancala prince Janamejaya then pierced Karna withmany arrows. The Pandava heroes, armed with diverse kinds of arrows anddiverse weapons and accompanied by cars and elephants and steeds, rushingtowards Karna, encompassed him on all sides, from desire of slaying him.Thus assailed on all sides by the foremost of Pandava warriors, Karnainvoked into existence the brahmastra and filled all the points of thecompass with arrows. The heroic Karna then, like unto a blazing firehaving shafts for its scorching flame, careered in battle, burning thatforest of Pandavas troops. The high-souled Karna, that great bowman,aiming some mighty weapons, and laughing the while, cut off the bow ofthat foremost of men, Yudhishthira. Then aiming ninety straight arrowswithin the twinkling of an eye, Karna cut off, with those sharp shafts,the armour of his antagonist. That armour, decked with gold and set withgems, looked beautiful, as it fell down, like a wind-tossed cloudpenetrated by the rays of the Sun. Indeed, that armour, adorned withcostly brilliants, fallen off from the body of that foremost of men,looked beautiful like the firmament in the night, bespangled with stars.His armour cut off with those arrows, the son of Pritha, covered withblood, wrathfully hurled at the son of Adhiratha a dart made wholly ofiron. Karna, however, cut (into pieces) that blazing dart, as it coursedthrough the welkin, with seven shafts. That dart, thus cut off with thoseshafts of great bowman, fell down on the Earth. Then Yudhishthira,striking Karna with four lances in his two arms and forehead and chest,repeatedly uttered loud shouts. Thereupon blood spouted forth from thewounds of Karna, and the latter, filled with rage and breathing like asnake, cut off his antagonist’s standard and pierced the Pandava himselfwith three broad-headed arrows. And he also cut off the couple of quivers(that his foe had) and the car (he rode) into minute fragments. Thereuponthe king, riding on another car unto which were yoked those steeds, whiteas ivory and having black hair on their tails, that used to bear him (tobattle), turned his face and began to fly. Thus did Yudhishthira began toretreat. His Parshni driver had been slain. He became exceedinglycheerless and unable to stay before Karna. The son of Radha then,pursuing Yudhishthira, the son of Pandu, cleansed himself by touching himin the shoulder with his own fair hand (the palm of which was) gracedwith the auspicious signs of the thunderbolt, the umbrella, the hook, thefish, the tortoise, and the conchshell, and desired to seize him byforce. He then remembered the words of Kunti. Then Shalya addressed him,and said, “Do not, O Karna, seize this best of kings. As soon as thouseizest him, he will reduce both thee and me to ashes.” Then Karna, Oking, laughing in mockery, addressed the son of Pandu and thus spoke untohim disparagingly. “How, indeed, born though thou art in a noble race,and observant though thou art of Kshatriya duties, wouldst thou leave thebattle in fear, desiring to save thy life? I think that thou art notwell-acquainted with the duties of Kshatriyas. Endued with Brahma-force,thou art indeed devoted to the study of the Vedas and the performance ofsacrificial rites. Do not, O son of Kunti, fight again, and do not againapproach brave warriors. Do not use harsh language towards heroes and donot come to great battles. Thou mayst use such words, O sire, towardsothers, but thou shouldst never address persons like us in that way. Byusing such words towards persons like us, thou wouldst in battle meetwith this and other kinds of behaviour. Go back to thy quarters, O son ofKunti, or thither where those two, viz., Keshava and Arjuna, are. Indeed,O king, Karna will never slay one like thee.” Having said these wordsunto the son of Pritha, the mighty Karna, setting Yudhishthira free,began to slaughter the Pandava host like the wielder of the thunderboltslaughtering the Asura host. That ruler of men, (viz., Yudhishthira,)then, O king, quickly fled away. Beholding the king flying away, theCedis, the Pandavas, the Pancalas, and the mighty car-warrior Satyaki,all followed that monarch of unfading glory. And the sons of Draupadi,and the Suras, and the twin sons of Madri by Pandu, also followed theking. Beholding the division of Yudhishthira retreating, the heroic Karnabecame highly glad with all the Kurus and began to pursue the retreatingforce. The din of battle-drums and conchs and cymbals and bows, andleonine shouts, arose from among the Dhartarashtra troops. MeanwhileYudhishthira, O thou of Kuru’s race, quickly riding on the car ofSrutakirti, began to behold the prowess of Karna. Then king Yudhishthira,the just, seeing his troops fast slaughtered, became filled with rage,and addressing his warriors, commanded them, saying, “Slay these enemies.Why are ye inactive?” Then the mighty car-warriors of the Pandavas,headed by Bhimasena, thus commanded by the king, all rushed against thysons. The shouts then, O Bharata, of the warriors (of both hosts), andthe noise made by cars and elephants and steeds and foot-soldiers, andthe clash of weapons, became tremendous. “Exert,” “Strike,” “Face thefoe,” were the words that the combatants addressed to one another as theybegan to slay one another in that dreadful battle. And in consequence ofthe showers of shafts shot by them a shadow as that of the clouds seemedto spread over the field. And in consequence of those rulers of men,covered with arrows, striking one another, they became divested ofbanners and standards and umbrellas and steeds and drivers and weapons inthat battle. Indeed, those lords of Earth, deprived of life and limbs,fell down on the Earth. Looking like the mountain-summits in consequenceof their uneven backs, huge elephants with their riders, deprived oflife, fell down like mountains riven by thunder. Thousands of steeds,with their armour, equipments, and adornments all torn and broken anddisplaced, fell down, along with their heroic riders, deprived of life.Car-warriors with weapons loosened from their grasp, and deprived by(hostile) car-warriors of cars and life, and large bands offoot-soldiers, slain by hostile heroes in that dreadful clash, fell downin thousands. The Earth became covered with the heads of heroiccombatants intoxicated with battle, heads that were adorned with largeand expansive eyes of coppery hue and faces as beautiful as the lotus orthe moon. And people heard noises as loud in the sky as on the surface ofthe Earth, in consequence of the sound of music and song proceeding fromlarge bands of Apsaras on their celestial cars, with which those bands ofheavenly choristers continually greeted the newly-arrived heroes slain inhundreds and thousands by brave enemies on Earth, and with which, placingthem on celestial cars, they repaired on those vehicles (towards theregion of Indra). Witnessing with their own eyes those wonderful sights,and actuated by the desire of going to heaven, heroes with cheerfulhearts speedily slew one another. Car-warriors fought beautifully withcar-warriors in that battle, and foot-soldiers with foot-soldiers, andelephants with elephants, and steeds with steeds. Indeed, when thatbattle, destructive of elephants and steeds and men, raged in this way,the field became covered with the dust raised by the troops. Then enemiesslew enemies and friends slew friends. The combatants dragged one anotherby their locks, bit one another with their teeth, tore one another withtheir nails, and struck one another with clenched fists, and fought oneanother with bare arms in that fierce battle destructive of both life andsins. Indeed, as that battle, fraught with carnage of elephants andsteeds and men, raged on so fiercely, a river of blood ran from thebodies of (slain) human beings and steeds and elephants. And that currentcarried away a large number of dead bodies of elephants and steeds andmen. Indeed, in that vast host teeming with men, steeds, and elephants,that river formed by the blood of men and steeds and elephants andhorsemen and elephant-men, became miry with flesh and exceedinglyterrible. And on that current, inspiring the timid with terror, floatedthe bodies of men and steeds and elephants. Impelled by the desire ofvictory, some combatants forded it and some remained on the other side.And some plunged into its depths, and some sank in it and some rose aboveits surface as they swam through it. Smeared all over with blood, theirarmour and weapons and robes–all became bloody. Some bathed in it andsome drank the liquid and some became strengthless, O bull of Bharata’srace. Cars and steeds, and men and elephants and weapons and ornaments,and robes and armour, and combatants that were slain or about to beslain, and the Earth, the welkin, the firmament, and all the points ofthe compass, became red. With the odour, the touch, the taste, and theexceedingly red sight of that blood and its rushing sound, almost all thecombatants, O Bharata, became very cheerless. The Pandava heroes then,headed by Bhimasena and Satyaki, once more rushed impetuously againstthat army already beaten. Beholding the impetuosity of that rush of thePandava heroes to be irresistible, the vast force of thy sons, O king,turned its back on the field. Indeed, that host of thine, teeming withcars and steeds and elephants and men no longer in compact array, witharmour and coats of mail displaced and weapons and bows loosened fromtheir grasp, fled away in all directions, whilst being agitated by theenemy, even like a herd of elephants in the forest afflicted by lions.'”

Chapter 48
Chapter 50
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