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Chapter 87

Mahabharata English - KARNA PARVA

“Sanjaya said, ‘Beholding Vrishasena slain, Karna, filled with grief andrage, shed tears from his eyes for the death of his son. Endued withgreat energy, with eyes red as copper from rage, Karna proceeded in theface of his foe, having summoned Dhananjaya to battle. Then those twocars, both possessed of solar effulgence and covered with tiger-skins,when they came together, looked like two suns close to each other. Bothhaving white steeds and both crushers of foes, those two great bowmen,those two warriors possessed of solar effulgence, looked resplendent likethe sun and the moon in the firmament. Beholding those two warriors thatresembled Indra and Virochana’s son (Vali) carefully preparing for battlefor the conquest of the three worlds, all creatures were filled withwonder. Seeing those two warriors rushing towards each other with theclatter of car-wheels the twang of bows, the sound of palms, the whizz ofarrows, and leonine shouts, and seeing also their standards, viz., thatof Karna bearing the elephant’s rope and that of Partha bearing the ape,approach each other, all the lords of the earth became filled withwonder. Seeing those two car-warriors engaged with each other, O Bharata,all the kings uttered leonine shouts and cheered them repeatedly withapplause. Beholding that single combat between Partha and Karna,thousands of combatants there slapped their armpits and waved theirgarments on the air. The Kauravas beat their musical instruments and blewtheir numerous conchs for gladdening Karna. Similarly, all the Pandavas,for gladdening Dhananjaya, caused every point of the compass to resoundwith the blasts of their trumpets and conchs. With those leonine shoutsand slaps on armpits and other loud cries and roars of brave warriors,tremendous became the noise there on the occasion of that encounterbetween Karna and Arjuna. People beheld those two tigers among men, thosetwo foremost of car-warriors, stationed on their cars, each armed withhis formidable bow, each equipped with arrows and darts, and each owninga lofty standard. Both were clad in mail, both had scimitars tied totheir belts, both had white steeds, and both were adorned with excellentconchs. One had Krishna for driver on his car, and the other had Shalya.Both of them were great car-warriors and both looked alike. Bothpossessed of leonine necks and long arms, the eyes of both were red, andboth were adorned with garlands of gold. Both were armed with bows thatseemed to flash like lightning, and both were adorned with wealth ofweapons. Both had yak-tails for being fanned therewith, and both weredecked with white umbrellas held over them. Both had excellent quiversand both looked exceedingly handsome. The limbs of both were smeared withred sandal-paste and both looked like infuriated bulls. Both werebroad-necked like the lion, both were broad-chested, and both endued withgreat strength. Challenging each other, O king, each desired to slay theother. And they rushed against each other like two mighty bulls in acow-pen. They were like a couple of infuriated elephants or of angrymountains or of infant snakes of virulent poison or of all-destroyingYamas. Enraged with each other like Indra and Vritra, they looked likethe sun and the moon in splendour. Filled with wrath, they resembled twomighty planets risen for the destruction of the world at the end of theYuga. Both of them born of celestial fathers, and both resembling gods inbeauty, they were of godlike energy. Indeed, they looked like the sun andthe moon come of their own accord on the field of battle. Both of themendued with great might, both filled with pride in battle, they werearmed with diverse weapons. Beholding those two tigers among men, thosetwo heroes endued with the impetuosity of tigers, thy troops, O monarch,were filled with great joy. Seeing those two tigers amongst men, viz.,Karna and Dhananjaya, engaged in battle, a doubt entered the hearts ofall as to which of them would be victorious. Both armed with superiorweapons, and both well-practised in battle, both made the welkin resoundwith the slaps on their armpits. Both possessed of great celebrity inconsequence of prowess and might, they resembled the Asura Samvara andthe chief of the celestials in respect of their skill in battle. Bothequal to Kartavirya or Dasaratha’s son in battle, both resembled Vishnuhimself in energy or Bhava himself in fight. Both had white steeds, Oking, and both were borne on foremost of cars. Both of them, again, hadforemost of drivers in that great battle. Beholding, O monarch, those twogreat car-warriors looking resplendent on their cars, the bands ofSiddhas and Charanas that came there became filled with wonder. TheDhartarashtras then, O bull of Bharata’s race, with their troops,encompassed the high-souled Karna, that ornament of battle, withoutlosing any time. Similarly the Pandavas headed by Dhrishtadyumna, filledwith joy, encompassed that high-souled Partha who was unrivalled inbattle. Karna became the stake, O monarch, of thy army in that battle,while Partha became the stake of the Pandavas. The soldiers of both sideswere as members of that assembly and became the spectators of that game.Indeed, as regards the parties engaged in that game of battle, eithervictory or defeat was certain. Those two then, Karna and Arjuna, forvictory or the reverse, began the match between ourselves and thePandavas both standing on the field of battle. Skilled in fight, the twoheroes, O monarch, in that encounter, became highly enraged with eachother and wished to slay each other. Desiring to take each other’s life,like Indra and Vritra, O lord, they faced each other like two mightycomets of terrible form. Then in the sky, differences and disputes,accompanied with revilings, arose among the creatures there, O bull ofBharata’s race, on the subject of Karna and Arjuna. All the inhabitantsof the world, O sire, were heard to differ amongst themselves. The gods,the Danavas, the Gandharvas, the Pishacas, the Snakes, the Rakshasas,adopted opposite sides in that encounter between Karna and Arjuna. Thewelkin, O monarch, with all the stars, became anxious on Karna’s account,while the wide earth became so on Partha’s account, like the mother forher son. The rivers, the seas, the mountains, O best of men, the trees,the deciduous plants and herbs, took the side of the diadem-deckedArjuna. The Asuras, Yatudhanas, the Guhyakas, O scorcher of foes, andravens and other rangers of the sky, sided with Karna. All the gems andprecious jewels, the four Vedas with the histories as the fifth, theUpavedas, the Upanishads, with all their mysteries, and the compilations,and Vasuki, and Citrasena, and Takshaka, and Upatakshaka, and all themountains, and all the offspring of Kadru with their children, all thegreat snakes endued with poison, and the Nagas, took the side of Arjuna.Airavata and his children, the offspring of Surabhi, the offspring ofVaisali, and the Bhogins sided with Arjuna. The smaller snakes all sidedwith Karna. Wolves and wild stags and all kinds of auspicious animals andbirds were, O king, for victory to Partha. The Vasus, the Maruts, theSadhyas, the Rudras, the Vishvedevas and the Ashvinis, and Agni and Indraand Soma and Pavana, and the ten points of the compass, became thepartisans of Dhananjaya, while all the Adityas sided with Karna. Thevaishyas, the shudras, the Sutas, and those castes that were of a mixedorigin, all, O king, adopted the side of Radha’s son. The celestials,however, with the pitris, and with all that were numbered with them asalso with their followers, and Yama and Vaishravana and Varuna were onthe side of Arjuna. The brahmanas, the kshatriyas, the sacrifices, andthose gifts called dakshinas, were for Arjuna. The pretas, and pishacas,many carnivorous animals and birds, the rakshasas with all the monstersof the sea, the dogs, and the jackals were for Karna. The diverse tribesof celestial and regenerate and royal rishis were for the son of Pandu.The gandharvas headed by Tumvuru, O king, were on the side of Arjuna.With the offspring of Pradha and Mauni, the several classes of gandharvasand apsaras, and many wise sages, having for their vehicles wolves andstags and elephants and steeds and cars and foot, and clouds and thewind, came there for witnessing the encounter between Karna and Arjuna.The gods, the danavas, the gandharvas, the nagas, the yakshas, the birds,the great rishis versed in the Vedas, the pitris that subsist upon thegifts called svadha, and asceticism and the sciences, and the (celestial)herbs with diverse virtues, came, O monarch, and took up their stationsin the welkin, making a great noise. Brahman, with the regenerate rishisand the Lords of creatures, and Bhava himself on his car, came to thatpart of the welkin. Beholding those two high-souled ones, Karna andDhananjaya, about to encounter each other, Shakra himself said, “LetArjuna vanquish Karna.” Surya, however, said, “Let Karna vanquish Arjuna.Indeed, let my son Karna, slaying Arjuna, gain the victory in thisbattle. Let my son, slaying Karna, win victory.” Even thus did Surya andVasava, those two foremost of personages, who were there and had adoptedopposite sides, dispute with each other. Beholding those two high-souledones, Karna and Dhananjaya, about to engage themselves in battle, thegods and the asuras adopted opposite sides. The three worlds with thecelestial rishis and all the gods and all other creatures, trembled atthe sight. The gods were on the side of Partha, while the asuras were onthat of Karna. Thus all creatures were interested in that encounter,siding with this or that leader of car-warriors, the Kuru or the Pandavahero. Beholding the Self-born Lord of Creation (viz., Brahman), the godsurged him, saying, “Let, O god, the success of these two lions among menbe equal. Let not the vast universe be destroyed in consequence of thisencounter between Karna and Arjuna. O Selfborn one, say but the word, letthe success of these two be equal.” Hearing these words, Maghavat, bowingdown unto the Grandsire, represented this unto that god of gods, thatforemost one of all intelligent beings, saying, “Formerly it was said bythy holy self that the two Krishnas are always sure to win victory. Letit be (now) as thou then saidest. Be gratified with me, O holy one!” Atthis, Brahman and Isana replied unto the chief of the celestials, saying,’The victory of the high-souled Vijaya is certain, of that Savyasaci whogratified the eater of sacrificial libations in the forest of Khandavaand who, coming to heaven, rendered assistance to thee, O Sakra! Karna ison the side of the Danavas. It is proper, therefore, that he should meetwith defeat. By this, without doubt, the purposes of the gods will beachieved. One’s own business, O chief of the celestials, should always beimportant. The high-souled Phalguna, again, is devoted to truth and tomorality. He must always be victorious, without doubt. He by whom thehigh-souled and holy god having the bull on his standard was gratified,why should not he, O thou of a hundred eyes, be victorious,–he, that is,who hath for the driver of his car that Lord of the universe, Vishnuhimself? Possessed of great energy of mind and great strength, Partha isa hero, accomplished in arms and endued with ascetic merit. Possessedalso of great energy of body, he beareth the entire science of weapons.Indeed, Partha hath every accomplishment. He ought to be victorious,since that would accomplish the purposes of the gods. In consequence ofhis greatness, Partha transgresses destiny itself, whether favourable orunfavourable, and when he does so, a great destruction of creatures takesplace. When the two Krishnas are excited with wrath, they show regard fornothing. These two bulls among beings are the Creators of all real andunreal things. These two are Nara and Narayana, the two ancient and bestof Rishis. There is none to rule over them. They are rulers over all,perfectly fearless, they are scorchers of all foes. In heaven or amonghuman beings, there is none equal to either of them. The three worldswith the celestial Rishis and the Charanas are behind these two. All thegods and all creatures walk behind them. The entire universe exists inconsequence of the power of these two. Let Karna, that bull among men,obtain these foremost of regions of bliss here. Let him obtain identitywith the Vasus or the Maruts. Let him, with Drona and Bhishma, beworshipped in heaven, for Vikartana’s son is brave and is a hero. Let thevictory, however, belong to the two Krishnas.” After those two foremostones among the gods (Brahman and Isana), said so, the deity of a 1,000eyes, worshipping those words of Brahman and Isana and saluting allcreatures himself said, “Ye have heard what has been said by the two godsfor the benefit of the universe. It will be even so and not otherwise.Stay ye then, with cheerful hearts.” Hearing these words of Indra, allcreatures, O sire, became filled with wonder and applauded, O king, thatdeity. The celestials then showered diverse kinds of fragrant flowers andblew their trumpets. Indeed, the gods, the Danavas and the Gandharvas allwaited there for witnessing that matchless single combat between thosetwo lions among men. The two cars, O king, upon which Karna and Arjunawere stationed, had white steeds yoked unto them both. And both hadexcellent standards, and both produced a loud rattle. Many foremost ofheroes, approaching the brave Vasudeva and Arjuna as also Shalya andKarna, began each to blow his conch. The battle then commenced (betweenthe two warriors), overwhelming all timid persons with fear. Fiercelythey challenged each other like Sakra and Samvara. The standards of thetwo heroes, perfectly bright, looked exceedingly beautiful on their cars,like the planets Rahu and Ketu risen in the firmament at the time of theuniversal dissolution. The elephant’s rope on Karna’s banner, lookinglike a snake of virulent poison and made of jewels and gems andexceedingly strong and resembling the bow of Indra, looked resplendent(as it waved in the air). That foremost of apes, again, belonging toPartha, with jaws wide open and terrible, and difficult of being gazedat, like the sun himself, inspired fear by his formidable teeth. Theimpetuous Ape on the standard of the wielder of Gandiva, becomingdesirous of battle, rushed from his station and fell upon Karna’sstandard. Endued with great impetuosity, the Ape, darting forward, struckthe elephant’s rope with his nails and teeth, like Garuda falling upon asnake. Decked with rows of little bells, hard as iron, and resembling thefatal noose (in the hands of Yama or Varuna), the elephant’s rope, filledwith wrath, closed with the Ape. Thus in that fierce single combatbetween those two heroes, which was the result of what had been settledat the time of the match at dice, their standards first battled with eachother. Meanwhile the steeds of the one neighed at the steeds of theother. The lotus-eyed Keshava pierced Shalya with his keen glances. Thelatter also cast similar glances at the former. Vasudeva, however,vanquished Shalya with those glances of his, while Dhananjaya, the son ofKunti, vanquished Karna with his glances. Then the Suta’s son, smilinglyaddressing Shalya, said, “If Partha by any means slays me in battletoday, tell me truly, O friend, what thou wilt do after that.” Shalyaanswered, saying, “If thou art slain, I myself will slay both Krishna andDhananjaya.” Once more the ruler of the Madras said, “If, O Karna, thewhite steeded Arjuna slays thee in battle today, I myself, on a singlecar, will slay both Madhava and Phalguna.'”

“Sanjaya continued, ‘Arjuna also asked Govinda a similar question.Krishna, however, smiling, said unto Partha these words of grave import,”The Sun himself may fall down from his place, the Earth herself maysplit into a 1,000 fragments; fire itself may become cold. Still Karnawill not be able to slay thee, O Dhananjaya! If, however, any suchoccurrence takes place, know then that the destruction of the universewill be at hand. As regards myself, I will, using my bare arms, slay bothKarna and Shalya in battle.” Hearing these words of Krishna, theape-bannered Arjuna, smiling, replied unto Krishna who was never fatiguedwith exertion, saying, “Shalya and Karna, united together, are not amatch for myself alone, O Janardana! Thou shalt today, O Krishna, beholdKarna with his standard and banners with Shalya and his car and steeds,with his umbrella and armour and darts and shafts and bow, cut in pieceswith my shafts in battle. Thou shalt today behold him with his car andsteeds and darts and armour and weapons, reduced to dust like a tree inthe forest crushed by a tusker. Today the widowhood of the wives ofRadha’s son is at hand. Verily, they must have in their (last night’s)dreams seen signs of approaching evil, O Mahadeva! Verily, thou shalttoday see the wives of Karna become widows. I cannot restrain my wrath atwhat was done before now by this fool of little foresight when he beheldKrishna dragged to the assembly and when laughing at us he abused usrepeatedly in vile words. Today, O Govinda, thou shalt behold Karnacrushed by me like a tree with its load of flowers crushed by aninfuriated elephant. Today, O slayer of Madhu, thou shalt, after Karna’sfall, hear those sweet words, ‘By good luck, O thou of Vrishni’s race,victory hath been thine!’ Thou shalt today comfort the mother ofAbhimanyu with a lighter heart for having paid thy debt to the foe. Todaythou shalt, filled with joy, comfort thy paternal aunt Kunti. Today thoushalt, O Madhava, comfort Krishna of tearful face and king Yudhishthirathe just with words sweet as nectar.”‘”

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