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Chapter 90

Mahabharata English - KARNA PARVA

“Sanjaya said, ‘Flying away in consequence of the falling of Arjuna’sarrows, the broken divisions of the Kauravas, staying at a distance,continued to gaze at Arjuna’s weapon swelling with energy and careeringaround with the effulgence of lightning. Then Karna, with showers ofterrible shafts, baffled that weapon of Arjuna while it was stillcareering in the welkin and which Arjuna had shot with great vigour inthat fierce encounter for the destruction of his foe. Indeed, that weapon(of Partha) which, swelling with energy, had been consuming the Kurus,the Suta’s son now crushed with his shafts winged with gold. Bending thenhis own loud-sounding bow of irrefragable string, Karna shot showers ofshafts. The Suta’s son destroyed that burning weapon of Arjuna with hisown foe-killing weapon of great power which he had obtained from Rama,and which resembled (in efficacy) an Atharvan rite. And he pierced Parthaalso with numerous keen shafts. The encounter then, O king, that tookplace between Arjuna and the son of Adhiratha, became a very dreadfulone. They continued to strike each other with arrows like two fierceelephants striking each other with their tusks. All the points of thecompass then became shrouded with weapons and the very sun becameinvisible. Indeed, Karna and Partha, with their arrowy downpours, madethe welkin one vast expanse of arrows without any space between. All theKauravas and the Somakas then beheld a wide-spread arrowy net. In thatdense darkness caused by arrows, they were unable to see anything else.Those two foremost of men, both accomplished in weapons, as theyincessantly aimed and shot innumerable arrows, O king, displayed diversekinds of beautiful manoeuvres. While they were thus contending with eachother in battle, sometimes the Suta’s son prevailed over his rival andsometimes the diadem-decked Partha prevailed over his, in prowess andweapons and lightness of hands. Beholding that terrible and awfulpassage-at-arms between those two heroes each of whom was desirous ofavailing himself of the other’s lapses, all the other warriors on thefield of battle became filled with wonder. The beings in the welkin, Oking, applauded Karna and Arjuna. Indeed, many of them at a time, filledwith joy, cheerfully shouted, sometimes saying, “Excellent, O Karna!” andsometimes saying, “Excellent, O Arjuna!” During the progress of thatfierce encounter, while the earth was being pressed deep with the weightof cars and the tread of steeds and elephants, the snake Aswasena, whowas hostile to Arjuna, was passing his time in the nether region. Freedfrom the conflagration at Khandava, O king, he had, from anger,penetrated through the earth (for going to the subterranean region). Thatbrave snake, recollecting the death of his mother and the enmity he onthat account harboured against Arjuna, now rose from the lower region.Endued with the power of ascending the skies, he soared up with greatspeed upon beholding that fight between Karna and Arjuna. Thinking thatthat was the time for gratifying his animosity towards, as he thought,the wicked-souled Partha, he quickly entered into Karna’s quiver, O king,in the form of an arrow. At that time a net of arrows was seen, sheddingits bright arrows around. Karna and Partha made the welkin one dense massof arrows by means of their arrowy downpours. Beholding that wide-spreadexpanse of arrows, all the Kauravas and the Somakas became filled withfear. In that thick and awful darkness caused by arrows they were unableto see anything else. Then those two tigers among men, those two foremostof all bowmen in the world, those two heroes, fatigued with theirexertions in battle, looked at each other. Both of them were then fannedwith excellent and waving fans made of young (palm) leaves and sprinkledwith fragrant sandal-water by many Apsaras staying in the welkin. AndSakra and Surya, using their hands, gently brushed the faces of those twoheroes. When at last Karna found that he could not prevail over Parthaand was exceedingly scorched with the shafts of the former, that hero,his limbs very much mangled, set his heart upon that shaft of his whichlay singly within a quiver. The Suta’s son then fixed on his bow-stringthat foe-killing, exceedingly keen, snake-mouthed, blazing, and fierceshaft, which had been polished according to rule, and which he had longkept for the sake of Partha’s destruction. Stretching his bow-string tohis ear, Karna fixed that shaft of fierce energy and blazing splendour,that ever-worshipped weapon which lay within a golden quiver amid sandaldust, and aimed it at Partha. Indeed, he aimed that blazing arrow, bornin Airavata’s race, for cutting off Phalguna’s head in battle. All thepoints of the compass and the welkin became ablaze and terrible meteors,and thunderbolts fell. When that snake of the form of an arrow was fixedon the bow-string, the Regents of the world, including Sakra, set up loudwails. The Suta’s son did not know that the snake Aswasena had enteredhis arrow by the aid of his Yoga powers. Beholding Vaikartana aim thatarrow, the high-souled ruler of the Madras, addressing Karna, said, “Thisarrow, O Karna, will not succeed in striking off Arjuna’s head. Searchingcarefully, fix another arrow that may succeed in striking off thy enemy’shead.” Endued with great activity, the Suta’s son, with eyes burning inwrath, then said unto the ruler of the Madras, “O Shalya, Karna neveraimeth an arrow twice. Persons like us never become crooked warriors.”Having said these words, Karna, with great care, let off that shaft whichhe had worshipped for many long years. Bent upon winning the victory, Oking, he quickly said unto his rival, “Thou art slain, O Phalguna!” Spedfrom Karna’s arms, that shaft of awful whizz, resembling fire or the sunin splendour, as it left the bow-string, blazed up in the welkin andseemed to divide it by a line such as is visible on the crown of a womandividing her tresses. Beholding that shaft blazing in the welkin, theslayer of Kamsa, Madhava, with great speed and the greatest ease, presseddown with his feet that excellent car, causing it to sink about a cubitdeep. At this, the steeds, white as the rays of the moon and decked intrappings of gold, bending their knees, laid themselves down on theground. Indeed, seeing that snake (in the form of an arrow) aimed byKarna, Madhava, that foremost of all persons endued with might, put forthhis strength and thus pressed down with his feet that car into the earth,whereat the steeds, (as already said) bending down their knees, laidthemselves down upon the earth when the car itself had sank into it. Thenloud sounds arose in the welkin in applause of Vasudeva. Many celestialvoices were heard, and celestial flowers were showered upon Krishna, andleonine shouts also were uttered. When the car had thus been pressed downinto the earth through the exertions of the slayer of Madhu, theexcellent ornament of Arjuna’s head, celebrated throughout the earth, thewelkin, heaven, and the waters, the Suta’s son swept off from the crownof his rival, with that arrow, in consequence of the very nature of thatsnaky weapon and the great care and wrath with which it had been shot.That diadem, endued with the splendour of the sun or the moon or fire ora planet, and adorned with gold and pearls and gems and diamonds, hadwith great care been made by the puissant Self-born himself forPurandara. Costly as its appearance indicated, it was inspiring terror inthe hearts of foes, contributing to the happiness of him that wore it,and shedding a fragrance, that ornament had been given by the chief ofthe celestials himself with a cheerful heart unto Partha while the latterhad proceeded to slaughter the foes of the gods. That diadem wasincapable of being crushed by Rudra and the Lord of waters and Kuverawith Pinaka and noose and thunderbolt and the very foremost of shafts. Itcould not be endured by even the foremost ones among the gods. Vrisha,however, now broke it forcibly with his snake-inspired shaft. Endued withgreat activity, that wicked-natured snake of fierce form and false vows,falling upon that diadem-decked with gold and gems, swept it away fromArjuna’s head. That snake, O king, forcibly tore it away from Partha’shead, quickly reducing into fragments that well-made ornament set overwith many a gem and blazing with beauty, like the thunderbolt riving amountain summit decked with lofty and beautiful trees graced withflowers. Crushed by that excellent weapon, possessed of splendour, andblazing with the fire of (the snake’s) poison, that beautiful andmuch-liked diadem of Partha fell down on the earth like the blazing discof the Sun from the Asta hills. Indeed, that snake forcibly swept awayfrom Arjuna’s head that diadem adorned with many gems, like the thunderof Indra felling a beautiful mountain summit adorned with lofty treesbearing budding leaves and flowers. And the earth, welkin, heaven, andthe waters, when agitated by a tempest, roar aloud, O Bharata, even suchwas the roar that arose in all the worlds at that time. Hearing thattremendous noise, people, notwithstanding their efforts to be calm,became extremely agitated and reeled as they stood. Reft of diadem, thedark complexioned and youthful Partha looked beautiful like a bluemountain of lofty summit. Binding then his locks with a white cloth,Arjuna stood perfectly unmoved. With that white gear on his head, helooked like the Udaya hill illumined with the rays of the sun. Thus thatshe-snake (whom Arjuna had killed at Khandava) of excellent mouth,through her son in the form of an arrow, sped by Surya’s son, beholdingArjuna of exceeding energy and might standing with his head at a levelwith the reins of the steeds, took away his diadem only, that well-madeornament (formerly) owned by Aditi’s son and endued with the effulgenceof Surya himself. But Arjuna also (as will appear in the sequel) did notreturn from that battle without causing the snake to succumb to the powerof Yama. Sped from Karna’s arms, that costly shaft resembling fire or thesun in effulgence, viz., that mighty snake who from before had become thedeadly foe of Arjuna, thus crushing the latter’s diadem, went away.Having burnt the gold-decked diadem of Arjuna displayed on his head, hedesired to come to Arjuna once more with great speed. Asked, however, byKarna (who saw him but knew him not), he said these words, “Thou hadstsped me, O Karna, without having seen me. It was for this that I couldnot strike off Arjuna’s head. Do thou quickly shoot me once again, afterseeing me well. I shall then slay thy foe and mine too.” Thus addressedin that battle by him, the Suta’s son said, “Who are you possessed ofsuch fierce form?” The snake answered, saying, “Know me as one that hasbeen wronged by Partha. My enmity towards him is due to his having slainmy mother. If the wielder of the thunderbolt himself were to protectPartha, the latter would still have to go to the domains of the king ofthe pitris. Do not disregard me. Do my bidding. I will slay thy foe.Shoot me without delay.” Hearing those words, Karna said, “Karna, Osnake, never desires to have victory in battle today by relying onanother’s might. Even if I have to slay a hundred Arjunas, I will not, Osnake, still shoot the same shaft twice.” Once more addressing him in themidst of battle, that best of men, viz., Surya’s son, Karna, said, “Aidedby the nature of my other snaky weapons, and by resolute effort andwrath, I shall slay Partha. Be thou happy and go elsewhere.” Thusaddressed, in battle, by Karna, that prince of snakes, unable from rageto bear those words, himself proceeded, O king, for the slaughter ofPartha, having assumed the form of an arrow. Of fierce form, the desirehe ardently cherished was the destruction of his enemy. Then Krishna,addressing Partha in that encounter, said into him, “Slay that greatsnake inimical to thee.” Thus addressed by the slayer of Madhu, thewielder of Gandiva, that bowman who was always fierce unto foes, enquiredof him, saying, “Who is that snake that advanceth of his own accordagainst me, as if, indeed he advanceth right against the mouth ofGaruda?” Krishna replied, “Whilst thou, armed with bow, wert engaged atKhandava in gratifying the god Agni, this snake was then in the sky, hisbody ensconced within his mother’s. Thinking that it was only a singlesnake that was so staying in the sky, thou killedest the mother.Remembering that act of hostility done by thee, he cometh towards theetoday for thy destruction. O resister of foes, behold him coming like ablazing meteor, falling from the firmament!'”

“Sanjaya continued, ‘Then Jishnu, turning his face in rage, cut off, withsix keen shafts, that snake in the welkin as the latter was coursing in aslanting direction. His body thus cut off, he fell down on the earth.After that snake had been cut off by Arjuna, the lord Keshava himself, Oking, of massive arms, that foremost of beings, raised up with his armsthat car from the earth. At that time, Karna, glancing obliquely atDhananjaya, pierced that foremost of persons, viz., Krishna, with tenshafts whetted on stone and equipped with peacock feathers. ThenDhananjaya, piercing Karna with a dozen well-shot and keen arrowsequipped with heads like the boar’s ear, sped a cloth-yard shaft enduedwith the energy of a snake of virulent poison and shot from hisbow-string stretched to his ear. That foremost of shafts, well shot byArjuna, penetrated through Karna’s armour, and as if suspending his lifebreaths, drank his blood and entered the earth, its wings also havingbeen drenched with gore. Endued with great activity, Vrisha, enraged atthe stroke of the shaft, like a snake beaten with stick, shot many mightyshafts, like snakes of virulent poison vomiting venom. And he piercedJanardana with a dozen shafts and Arjuna with nine and ninety. And oncemore piercing the son of Pandu with a terrible shaft, Karna laughed anduttered a loud roar. The son of Pandu, however, could not endure hisenemy’s joy. Acquainted with all the vital parts of the human body,Partha, possessed of prowess like that of Indra, pierced those vitallimbs with hundreds of arrows even as Indra had struck Vala with greatenergy. Then Arjuna sped ninety arrows, each resembling the rod of Deathat Karna. Deeply pierced with those shafts, Karna trembled like amountain riven with thunder. The head-gear of Karna, adorned with costlygems and precious diamonds and pure gold, as also his earrings, cut offby Dhananjaya with his winged arrows, fell down on the earth. The costlyand bright armour also of the Suta’s son that had been forged with greatcare by many foremost of artists working for a long time, the son ofPandu cut off within a moment in many fragments. After thus divesting himof his armour, Partha then, in rage, pierced Karna with four whettedshafts of great energy. Struck forcibly by his foe, Karna suffered greatpain like a diseased person afflicted by bile, phlegm, wind, and fever.Once more Arjuna, with great speed, mangled Karna, piercing his veryvitals, with numerous excellent shafts, of great keenness, and sped fromhis circling bow with much force and speed and care. Deeply struck byPartha with those diverse arrows of keen points and fierce energy, Karna(covered with blood) looked resplendent like a mountain of red chalk withstreams of red water running adown its breast. Once more Arjuna piercedKarna in the centre of the chest with many straight-coursing and strongshafts made entirely of iron and equipped with wings of gold and eachresembling the fiery rod of the Destroyer, like the son of Agni piercingthe Krauncha mountains. Then the Suta’s son, casting aside his bow thatresembled the very bow of Sakra, as also his quiver, felt great pain, andstood inactive, stupefied, and reeling, his grasp loosened and himself ingreat anguish. The virtuous Arjuna, observant of the duty of manliness,wished not to slay his enemy while fallen into such distress. The youngerbrother of Indra then, with great excitement, addressed him, saying,”Why, O son of Pandu, dost thou become so forgetful? They that are trulywise never spare their foes, however weak, even for a moment. He that islearned earneth both merit and fame by slaying foes fallen into distress.Lose no time in precipitately crushing Karna who is always inimical tothee and who is the first of heroes. The Suta’s son, when able, will oncemore advance against thee as before. Slay him, therefore, like Indraslaying the Asura Namuci.” Saying, “So be it, O Krishna!” and worshippingJanardana, Arjuna, that foremost of all persons in Kuru’s race once morequickly pierced Karna with many excellent arrows like the ruler ofheaven, piercing the Asura, Samvara. The diadem-decked Partha, O Bharata,covered Karna and his car and steeds with many calf-toothed arrows, andputting forth all his vigour he shrouded all the points of the compasswith shafts equipped with wings of gold. Pierced with those arrowsequipped with heads like the calf’s tooth, Adhiratha’s son of broad chestlooked resplendent like an Asoka or Palasa or Salmali decked with itsflowery load or a mountain overgrown with a forest of sandal trees.Indeed, with those numerous arrows sticking to his body, Karna, Omonarch, in that battle, looked resplendent like the prince of mountainswith its top and glens overgrown with trees or decked with floweringKarnikaras. Karna also shooting repeated showers of arrows, looked, withthose arrows constituting his rays, like the sun coursing towards theAsta hills, with disc bright with crimson rays. Shafts, however, of keenpoints, sped from Arjuna’s arms, encountering in the welkin the blazingarrows, resembling mighty snakes, sped from the arms of Adhiratha’s son,destroyed them all. Recovering his coolness, and shooting many shaftsthat resembled angry snakes, Karna then pierced Partha with ten shaftsand Krishna with half a dozen, each of which looked like an angry snake.Then Dhananjaya desired to shoot a mighty and terrible arrow, made whollyof iron, resembling the poison of snake or fire in energy, and whosewhizz resembling the peal of Indra’s thunder, and which was inspired withthe force of a high (celestial) weapon. At that time, when the hour ofKarna’s death had come, Kala, approaching invisibly, and alluding to theBrahmana’s curse, and desirous of informing Karna that his death wasnear, told him, “The Earth is devouring thy wheel!” Indeed, O foremost ofmen, when the hour of Karna’s death came, the high brahmastra that theillustrious Bhargava had imparted unto him, escaped from his memory. Andthe earth also began to devour the left wheel of his car. Then inconsequence of the curse of that foremost of Brahmanas, Karna’s car beganto reel, having sunk deep into the earth and having been transfixed atthat spot like a sacred tree with its load of flowers standing upon anelevated platform. When his car began to reel from the curse of theBrahmana, and when the high weapon he had obtained from Rama no longershone in him through inward light, and when his terrible snake-mouthedshaft also had been cut off by Partha, Karna became filled withmelancholy. Unable to endure all those calamities, he waved his arms andbegan to rail at righteousness saying, “They that are conversant withrighteousness always say that righteousness protects those that arerighteous. As regards ourselves, we always endeavour, to the best of ourability and knowledge to practise righteousness. That righteousness,however, is destroying us now instead of protecting us that are devotedto it. I, therefore, think that righteousness does not always protect itsworshippers.” While saying these words, he became exceedingly agitated bythe strokes of Arjuna’s arrows. His steeds and his driver also weredisplaced from their usual position. His very vitals having been struck,he became indifferent as to what he did, and repeatedly railed atrighteousness in that battle. He then pierced Krishna in the arm withthree terrible arrows, and Partha, too, with seven. Then Arjuna spedseven and ten terrible arrows, perfectly straight and of fierceimpetuosity, resembling fire in splendour and like unto Indra’s thunderin force. Endued with awful impetuosity, those arrows pierced Karna andpassing out of his body fell upon the surface of the earth. Trembling atthe shock, Karna then displayed his activity to the utmost of his power.Steadying himself by a powerful effort he invoked the brahmastra.Beholding the brahmastra, Arjuna invoked the Aindra weapon with propermantras. Inspiring gandiva, its string, and his shafts also, withmantras, that scorcher of foes poured showers like Purandara pouring rainin torrents. Those arrows endued with great energy and power, issuing outof Partha’s car, were seen to be displayed in the vicinity of Karna’svehicle. The mighty car-warrior Karna baffled all those shafts displayedin his front. Seeing that weapon thus destroyed, the Vrishni hero,addressing Arjuna, said, “Shoot high weapons, O Partha! The son of Radhabaffles thy shafts.” With proper mantras, Arjuna then fixed thebrahmastra on his string, and shrouding all the points of the compasswith arrows, Partha struck Karna (with many) arrows. Then Karna, with anumber of whetted shafts endued with great energy, cut off the string ofArjuna’s bow. Similarly he cut off the second string, and then the third,and then the fourth, and then the fifth. The sixth also was cut off byVrisha, and then the seventh, then the eighth, then the ninth, then thetenth, and then at last the eleventh. Capable of shooting hundreds uponhundreds of arrows, Karna knew not that Partha had a hundred strings tohis bow. Tying another string to his bow and shooting many arrows, theson of Pandu covered Karna with shafts that resembled snakes of blazingmouths. So quickly did Arjuna replace each broken string that Karna couldnot mark when it was broken and when replaced. The feat seemed to him tobe exceedingly wonderful. The son of Radha baffled with his own weaponsthose of Savyasaci. Displaying also his own prowess, he seemed to get thebetter of Dhananjaya at that time. Then Krishna, beholding Arjunaafflicted with the weapons of Karna, said these words unto Partha:”Approaching Karna, strike him with superior weapons.” Then Dhananjaya,filled with rage, inspiring with mantras another celestial weapons thatlooked like fire and that resembled the poison of the snake and that wasas hard as the essence of adamant, and uniting the Raudra weapon with it,became desirous of shooting it at his foe. At that time, O king, theearth swallowed up one of wheels of Karna’s car. Quickly alighting thenfrom his vehicle, he seized his sunken wheel with his two arms andendeavoured to lift it up with a great effort. Drawn up with force byKarna, the earth, which had swallowed up his wheel, rose up to a heightof four fingers’ breadth, with her seven islands and her hills and watersand forests. Seeing his wheel swallowed, the son of Radha shed tears fromwrath, and beholding Arjuna, filled with rage he said these words, “OPartha, O Partha, wait for a moment, that is, till I lift this sunkenwheel. Beholding, O Partha, the left wheel of my car swallowed throughaccident by the earth, abandon (instead of cherishing) this purpose (ofstriking and slaying me) that is capable of being harboured by only acoward. Brave warriors that are observant of the practices of therighteous, never shoot their weapons at persons with dishevelled hair, orat those that have turned their faces from battle, or at a Brahmana, orat him who joins his palms, or at him who yields himself up or beggethfor quarter or at one who has put up his weapon, or at one whose arrowsare exhausted, or at one whose armour is displaced, or at one whoseweapon has fallen off or been broken! Thou art the bravest of men in theworld. Thou art also of righteous behaviour, O son of Pandu! Thou artwell-acquainted with the rules of battle. For these reasons, excuse mefor a moment, that is, till I extricate my wheel, O Dhananjaya, from theearth. Thyself staying on thy car and myself standing weak and languid onthe earth, it behoveth thee not to slay me now. Neither Vasudeva, northou, O son of Pandu, inspirest me with the slightest fear. Thou art bornin the Kshatriya order. Thou art the perpetuator of a high race.Recollecting the teachings of righteousness, excuse me for a moment, Oson of Pandu!”‘”

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