The Mahabharata 8
Vyāsa
Hindu
16:02 h
The Mahābhārata is one of the two major Sanskrit epics of ancient India, the other being the Rāmāyaṇa. It narrates the struggle between two groups of cousins in the Kurukshetra War and the fates of the Kaurava and the Pāṇḍava princes and their succession. Along with the Rāmāyaṇa, it forms the Hindu Itihasa. It also contains philosophical and devotional material, such as a discussion of the four “goals of life” or puruṣārtha (12.161). Among the principal works and stories in the Mahābhārata are the Bhagavad Gita, the story of Damayanti, an abbreviated version of the Rāmāyaṇa, and the story of Ṛṣyasringa, often considered as works in their own right.

The Mahabharata

Book 8: Karna Parva

Kisari Mohan Ganguli, tr.


Section I

Om! Having bowed down unto Narayana, and unto that most exalted of male beings, Nara, and unto the goddess Sarasvati also, must the word Jaya be uttered.

Vaishampayana said, "After Drona had been slain, O monarch, the royal warriors (of the Kaurava army) headed by Duryodhana, with hearts filled with great anxiety, all repaired to Drona's son. Lamenting the loss of Drona, and deprived of energy in consequence of their cheerlessness, they sat around the son of Sharadvata's daughter, afflicted with grief. Comforted for a little while by considerations founded upon the scriptures, when night came, those rulers of Earth proceeded to their respective tents. Those lords of Earth, however, O thou of Kuru's race, could feel no happiness in their abodes. Thinking of that immense slaughter, they could not also sleep. The Suta's son (Karna), and king Suyodhana and Duhshasana and Shakuni, in special, could not compose themselves to sleep. Those four passed that night together in Duryodhana's tent, reflecting upon the woes they had inflicted upon the high-souled Pandavas. Formerly they had brought Draupadi, plunged into woe on account of the match at dice, into the assembly. Recollecting it they experienced great regret, their hearts being filled with anxiety. Thinking of those sufferings inflicted (upon the Pandavas) in consequence of the gambling match they passed that night in sorrow, O king, as if it were really a hundred years. Then when morning came, observing the dictates of the ordinance, all of them duly went through the customary rites. Having gone through these customary rites, and comforted to some extent, O Bharata, they ordered their troops to be arrayed, and then came out for battle, having made Karna their generalissimo by tying the auspicious thread round his wrists, and having caused many foremost of brahmanas, by presents of vessels of curds, clarified butter, akshatas, coins of gold, kine, jewels and gems, and costly robes, to pray for their victory, and having caused heralds and musicians, and panegyrists to adore them with hymns about victory. The Pandavas also, O king, having gone through their morning rites, issued from their camp, resolved on battle. Then commenced a fierce battle, making the hair to stand on end, between the Kurus and the Pandavas, each desirous of vanquishing the other. During the commandership of Karna, the battle that took place between the Kuru and the Pandava troops was exceedingly fierce and lasted for two days. Then Vrisha (Karna) having made an immense slaughter of his enemies in battle, was at last slain in the sight of the Dhartarashtras, by Arjuna. Then Sanjaya, repairing to Hastinapura told Dhritarashtra all that had happened at Kurujangala."

Janamejaya said, "Having heard of the fall of Bhishma and that other mighty car-warrior, Drona, the old king Dhritarashtra the son of Ambika had been afflicted with great grief. How, O foremost of brahmanas, could he, plunged into grief, support his life having heard of the death of Karna, that well-wisher of Duryodhana? How indeed, could that descendant of Kuru support his life when he, upon whom that monarch had rested the hope of his sons' victory, had fallen? When the king did not lay down his life even after hearing of Karna's death, I think that it is very difficult for men to yield up life even under circumstances of great grief! O brahmana, when the king did not yield up his life after hearing of the fall of the venerable son of Shantanu, of Bahlika and Drona and Somadatta and Bhurishrava, as also other friends and his sons and grandsons, I think, O regenerate one, that the act of yielding up one's life is exceedingly difficult! Tell me all these in detail and as they actually happened! I am not satiated with hearing the high achievements of my ancestors!"


Section II

Vaishampayana said, "Upon the fall of Karna, O monarch, the son of Gavalgana, with a cheerless heart, set out that night for Nagapura, on steeds that rivalled the wind in speed. Arrived at Hastinapura, with a heart filled with deep anxiety, he proceeded to Dhritarashtra's abode which no longer teemed with kinsmen and friends. Beholding the king deprived of all energy by grief, joining his hands he worshipped, with a bend of his head, the monarch's feet. Having duly worshipped king Dhritarashtra, he uttered an exclamation of woe and then began, 'I am Sanjaya, O lord of Earth! Art thou not happy? I hope thou art not stupefied, having through thy own faults fallen into such distress? Counsels for thy good had been uttered by Vidura and Ganga's son and Keshava. I hope thou feelest no pain now, remembering thy rejection of those counsels? Counsels for thy good had also been uttered in the assembly by Rama and Narada and Kanwa and others. I hope thou feelest no pain now, remembering their rejection by thee? I hope thou feelest no pain, remembering the slaughter in battle, by the foe, of Bhishma and Drona and others, those friends that were ever engaged in thy good?'Unto the Suta's son who with joined hands was telling him so, the monarch afflicted with grief and drawing a long and hot breath, said these words.

"Dhritarashtra said, 'Hearing, O Sanjaya, of the fall of the heroic son of Ganga, that warrior of all celestial weapons, as also of the fall of that foremost of all bowmen, Drona, my heart feeleth great pain! That hero endued with great energy and born of the Vasus themselves, who slew every day 10,000 car-warriors clad in mail, that high-souled one unto whom Bhrigu's son had given the highest weapons, that warrior who in his childhood had been trained in the science of the bow by Rama, alas, even he hath been slain by Yajnasena's son Shikhandi protected by the Pandavas! At this my heart is greatly pained! That hero through whose grace those mighty car-warriors, the royal sons of Kunti, as also many other lords of Earth, have become maharathas, alas, hearing of the slaughter of that great bowman of sure aim, Drona, by Dhrishtadyumna, my heart is exceedingly pained! Those two had not in the world a person equal to them in (knowledge and use of) the four kinds of weapons! Alas, hearing of the slaughter of these two, Bhishma and Drona, in battle my heart is exceedingly pained! That warrior who had not in the three worlds a person equal to him in knowledge of weapons, alas, hearing of the slaughter of that hero, Drona, what did the people of my side do? After the high-souled son of Pandu, Dhananjaya, exerting himself with prowess, had despatched unto Yama's abode the strong force of the samsaptakas, after the Narayana weapon of the intelligent son of Drona had been baffled, and after the (Kaurava) divisions had begun to fly away, what, indeed, did the people of my side do? I think that, after Drona's death my troops, flying away and sinking in an ocean of grief, resembled shipwrecked mariners struggling on the bosom of the vast deep. What also, O Sanjaya, became the colour of the faces of Duryodhana, and Karna, and Kritavarma the chief of the Bhojas and Shalya, the ruler of the Madras, and of my remaining sons, and of the others, when the Kuru divisions fled away from the field? Tell me all this as it truly happened in battle, O son of Gavalgana, and describe to me the prowess put forth by the Pandavas and the warriors of my side!"

"Sanjaya said, 'O sire, hearing all that has happened unto the Kauravas through thy fault, thou shouldst not feel any anguish! He that is wise never feeleth any pain at what Destiny bringeth! And since Destiny is unconquerable, human purposes may or may not become attainable. Hence, he that is wise never feeleth pain on the acquisition or the reverse of the objects cherished by him.

"Dhritarashtra said, 'I do not feel great pain, O Sanjaya! I regard all this to be the result of Destiny! Tell me all that thou wishest!'"


Section III

"Sanjaya said, 'Upon the fall of the great bowman Drona, thy sons, those mighty car-warriors, became pale and deprived of their senses. Armed with weapons, all of them, O monarch, hung down their heads. Afflicted with grief and without looking at one another, they stood perfectly silent. Beholding them with such afflicted countenances, thy troops, O Bharata, themselves perturbed by grief, vacantly gazed upwards. Seeing Drona slain in battle, the weapons of many of them, O king, dyed with blood, dropped from their hands. Innumerable weapons, again, O Bharata, still retained in the grasp of the soldiers, seemed in their pendent attitude, to resemble falling meteors in the sky. Then king Duryodhana, O monarch, beholding that army of thine thus standing as if paralysed and lifeless, said, "Relying upon the might of your army I have summoned the Pandavas to battle and caused this passage-at-arms to commence! Upon the fall of Drona, however, the prospect seems to be cheerless. Warriors engaged in battle all die in battle. Engaged in battle, a warrior may have either victory or death. What can be strange then in this (viz., the death of Drona)? Fight ye with faces turned towards every direction. Behold now the high-souled Karna, the son of Vikartana, that great bowman of mighty strength, careering in battle, using his celestial weapons! Through fear of that warrior in battle, that coward, viz., Dhananjaya, the son of Kunti, always turns back like a small deer at the sight of a lion! It is he who, by the ordinary methods of human battle, brought the mighty Bhimasena endued with the strength of 10,000 elephants to that plight! It is he who, uttering a loud roar, slew with his invincible dart the brave Ghatotkaca of a 1,000 illusions and well-acquainted with celestial weapons! Behold today the inexhaustible might of arms of that intelligent warrior of sure aim and invincible energy! Let the sons of Pandu behold today the prowess of both Ashvatthama and Karna resembling that of Vishnu and Vasava! All of you are singly able to slay the sons of Pandu with their troops in battle! How much more then are you capable, when united together, of that feat! Endued with great energy and accomplished in weapons, you will today behold one another engaged in the achievement of mighty tasks!'"

"Sanjaya continued, 'Having said these words, O sinless one, thy son Duryodhana, with his brothers, made Karna the generalissimo (of the Kuru army). Obtaining the command, the mighty car-warrior Karna, so fierce in battle, uttered loud roars and fought with the foe. He caused, O sire, a great carnage among the Srinjayas, the Pancalas, the Kekayas, and the Videhas. From his bow issued innumerable lines of arrows, one close behind the wings of another, like flights of bees. Having afflicted the Pancalas and the Pandavas endued with great activity, and slain thousands of warriors, he was at last slain by Arjuna!"


Section IV