Mahabharata Karna Parva - Translation by KM Ganguly

Mahabharata Adiparva


"'Karna continued, "Thou shouldst know all this, O Shalya. I shall however, again speak unto thee. Listen with close attention to what I say. Once on a time a brahmana came to our house as a guest. Observing our practices he became highly gratified and said unto us, 'I dwelt for a long time on a peak of the Himavat quite alone. Since then I have seen diverse countries following diverse religions. Never, however, have I seen all the people of a country act unrighteously. All the races I have met will admit that to be true religion which has been declared by persons conversant with the Vedas. Travelling through various countries following various religions, I at last, O king, came among the Vahikas. There I heard that one at first becomes a brahmana and then he becomes a kshatriya. Indeed, a Vahika would, after that, become a Vaishya, and then a Shudra, and then a barber. Having become a barber, he would then again become a brahmana. Returning to the status of a brahmana, he would again become a slave. One person in a family becomes a brahmana: all the others, falling off from virtue, act as they like. The Gandharas, the Madrakas, and the Vahikas of little understanding are even such. Having travelled through the whole world I heard of these practices, destructive of virtue, of these sinful irregularities amongst the Vahikas.' Thou shouldst know all this, O Shalya. I shall, however, again speak to thee about those ugly words that another said unto me regarding the Vahikas. In former days a chaste woman was abducted by robbers (hailing) from Aratta. Sinfully was she violated by them, upon which she cursed them, saying, 'Since ye have sinfully violated a helpless girl who am not without a husband, therefore, the women of your families shall all become unchaste. Ye lowest of men, never shall ye escape from the consequences of this dreadful sin.' It is for this, O Shalya, that the sisters' sons of the Arattas, and not their own sons, become their heirs. The Kauravas with the Pancalas, the Salwas, the Matsyas, the Naimishas, the Koshalas, the Kasapaundras, the Kalingas, the Magadhas, and the Cedis who are all highly blessed, know what the eternal religion is. The wicked even of these various countries know what religion is. The Vahikas, however, live without righteousness. Beginning with the Matsyas, the residents of the Kuru and the Pancala countries, the Naimishas as well and the other respectable peoples, the pious among all races are conversant with the eternal truths of religion. This cannot be said of the Madrakas and the crooked-hearted race that resides in the country of the five rivers. Knowing all these things, O king, hold thy tongue, O Shalya, like one deprived of utterance, in all matters connected with religion and virtue. Thou art the protector and king of that people, and, therefore, the partaker of sixth part of their merits and demerits. Or perhaps, thou art the partaker of a sixth part of their demerits only, for thou never protectest them. A king that protects is a sharer in the merits of his subjects. Thou art not a sharer in their merits. In days of yore, when the eternal religion was reverenced in all countries, the Grandsire, observing the practices of the country of the five rivers, cried fie on them. When even in the krita age, Brahman had censured the practices of those fallen people of evil deeds who were begotten by Shudras on others' wives, what would you now say to men in the world? Even thus did the Grandsire condemn the practices of the country of the five waters. When all people were observant of the duties of their respective orders, the Grandsire had to find fault with these men. Thou shouldst know all this, O Shalya. I shall, however, again speak to thee. A Rakshasa of the name of Kalmashapada, while plunging in a tank, said, 'Eleemosynation is a kshatriya's dirt, while the non-observance of vows is a brahmana's dirt. The Vahikas are the dirt of the Earth, and the Madra women are the dirt of the whole female sex. While sinking in the stream, a king rescued the Rakshasa. Asked by the former, the latter gave this answer. I will recite it to you. Listen to me. 'The mlecchas are the dirt of mankind: the oilmen are the dirt of the Mlecchas; eunuchs are the dirt of oilmen; they who avail of the priestly ministrations of Kshatriyas, in their sacrifices, are the dirt of eunuchs. The sin of those again that have the last-named persons for their priests, of also of the Madrakas, shall be thine if thou do not abandon me.' Even this was declared by the Rakshasa to be the formula that should be used for curing a person possessed by a Rakshasa or one killed by the energy of a poison. The words that follow are all very true. The Pancalas observe the duties enjoined in the Vedas; the Kauravas observe truth; the Matsyas and the Surasenas perform sacrifices, the Easterners follow the practices of the Shudras; the Southerners are fallen; the Vahikas are thieves; the Saurashtras are bastards. They that are defiled by ingratitude, theft, drunkenness, adultery with the wives of their preceptors, harshness of speech, slaughter of kine, lustful wanderings during the night out of home, and the wearing of other people's ornaments,--what sin is there that they do not incur? Fie on the Arattas and the people of the country of the five rivers! Commencing with the Pancalas, the Kauravas, the Naimishas, the Matsyas,--all these,--know what religion is. The old men among the Northerners, the Angas, the Magadhas, (without themselves knowing what virtue is) follow the practices of the pious. Many gods, headed by Agni, dwell in the East. The pitris dwell in the South that is presided over by Yama of righteous deeds. The West is protected by the mighty Varuna who overlooks the other gods there. The north is protected by the divine Soma along with the Brahmanas. So Rakshasas and Pishacas protect the Himavat, the best of mountains. The Guhyakas, O great king, protect the mountains of Gandhamadana. Without doubt, Vishnu, otherwise, called Janardana, protects all creatures. (For all that the Vahikas have no especial protectors among the gods). The Magadhas are comprehenders of signs; the Koshalas comprehend from what they see; the Kurus and the Pancalas comprehend from a half-uttered speech; the Salwas cannot comprehend till the whole speech is uttered. The Mountaineers, like the Sivis, are very stupid. The Yavanas, O king, are omniscient; the Suras are particularly so. The mlecchas are wedded to the creations of their own fancy. Other peoples cannot understand. The Vahikas resent beneficial counsels; as regards the Madrakas there are none amongst those (mentioned above.) Thou, O Shalya, art so. Thou shouldst not reply to me. The Madrakas are regarded on Earth as the dirt of every nation. So the Madra woman is called the dirt of the whole female sex. They that have for their practices the drinking of spirits, the violation of the beds of their preceptors, the destruction of the embryo by procuring miscarriage, and the robbing of other people's wealth, there is no sin that they have not. Fie on the Arattas and the people of the country of the five rivers. Knowing this, be silent. Do not seek to oppose me. Do not let me slay Keshava and Arjuna, having slain thee first.'"

"'Shalya said, "The abandonment of the afflicted and the sale of wives and children are, O Karna, prevalent amongst the Angas whose king thou art. Recollecting those faults of thine that Bhishma recited on the occasion of the tale of Rathas and Atirathas, drive away thy wrath. Do not be angry. Brahmanas may be found everywhere; Kshatriyas may be found everywhere; so also Vaishyas and Shudras, O Karna, women of chastity and excellent vows may also be found everywhere. Everywhere men take delight in jesting with men and wounding one another. Lustful men also may be found everywhere. Everyone on every occasion can command skill in speaking of the faults of others. No one, however, knows his own faults, or knowing them, feels shame. Everywhere are kings devoted to their respective religions, and employed in chastising the wicked. Everywhere may be found virtuous men. It cannot be, O Karna, that all the people of a country are sinful. There are men in many countries that surpass the very gods by their behaviour.'"

"Sanjaya continued, 'Then king Duryodhana stopped Karna and Shalya (from going on with their wordy warfare), addressing the son of Radha as a friend, and beseeching Shalya with joined hands, Karna, O sire, was quieted by thy son and forbore saying anything more. Shalya also then faced the enemy. Then Radha's son, smiling, once more urged Shalya, saying, "Proceed."'"