Mahabharata Karna Parva - Translation by KM Ganguly

Mahabharata Adiparva


"Sanjaya said, 'Piercing through the Pandava host, Karna, surrounded by thousands of cars and elephants and steeds and foot-soldiers, rushed towards king Yudhishthira the just. Cutting off with hundreds of fierce shafts the thousands of weapons sped at him by his foes, Vrisha fearlessly pierced through that host. Indeed, the Suta's son cut off the heads, the arms and the thighs of his enemies, who, deprived of life, fell down on the Earth. Others, finding their divisions broken, fled away. The Dravida, the Andhaka, and the Nishada foot-soldiers, urged on by Satyaki, once more rushed towards Karna in that battle, from desire of slaying him. Deprived of arms and head-gears, and slain by Karna with his shafts, they fell down simultaneously on the Earth, like a forest of Sala tree cut down (with the axe). Thus hundreds, thousands and ten thousands of combatants, deprived of life and filling the whole welkin with their fame, fell down with their bodies on the Earth. The Pandus and the Pancalas obstructed Karna, otherwise called Vaikartana, who careered wrathfully in battle like the Destroyer himself, even as people seek to obstruct a disease with incantations and drugs. Crushing all those assailants Karna once more rushed towards Yudhishthira, like an irresistible disease unchecked by incantations and drugs and (propitiatory) rites. At last checked by the Pandus, the Pancalas, and the Kekayas, all of whom were desirous of rescuing the king, Karna could not succeed in passing them over, like Death that is unable to vanquish persons conversant with Brahma. Then Yudhishthira, with eyes red in wrath, addressed Karna, that slayer of hostile heroes, who was held in check at a little distance from him, and said these words "O Karna, O Karna, O thou of vain sight, O son of a Suta, listen to my words. Thou always challengest the active Phalguna in battle. Obedient to the counsels of Dhritarashtra's son, thou always seekest to oppose us. Mustering thy great prowess, show thou today all thy might, all thy energy, and all the hatred thou bearest towards the sons of Pandu. Today in dreadful encounter, I will purge thee of thy desire for battle." Having said these words, the son of Pandu, O king, pierced Karna with ten shafts made entirely of iron and equipped with wings of gold. That chastiser of foes, and great bowman, viz., the Suta's son, O Bharata, pierced Yudhishthira, with the greatest care, in return, with ten arrows equipped with heads like the calf's tooth. Thus pierced by the Suta's son in contempt, O sire, the mighty-armed Yudhishthira, blazed up with wrath like a fire upon receiving butter. Bending his formidable bow decked with gold, the son of Pandu placed on his bow-string a whetted arrow capable of piercing the very hills. Drawing the bow to its fullest stretch, the king quickly sped that arrow, fatal as the rod of the Destroyer, from desire of slaying the Suta's son. Sped by the king endued with great might, that arrow whose whizz resembled the noise of the thunder, suddenly pierced Karna, that mighty car-warrior, on his left side. Deeply afflicted by the violence of that stroke, the mighty-armed Karna with weakened limbs, fell into a swoon on his car, his bow dropping from his hand. Beholding Karna in that plight, the vast Dhartarashtra host uttered cries of "Oh" and "Alas," and the faces of all the combatants became colourless. Beholding the prowess of their king, on the other hand, O monarch, amongst the Pandavas, leonine roars and shouts and confused cries of joy arose. The son of Radha, however, of cruel prowess, recovering his senses soon enough, set his heart on the destruction of Yudhishthira. Drawing his formidable bow called Vijaya that was decked with gold, the Suta's son of immeasurable soul began to resist the son of Pandu with his sharp shafts. With a couple of razor-headed arrows he slew in that encounter Candradeva and Dandadhara, the two Pancala princes, that protected the two car wheels of the high-souled Yudhishthira. Each of those heroes, standing by the side of Yudhishthira's car, looked resplendent like the constellation Punarvasu by the side of the moon. Yudhishthira, however, once more pierced Karna with thirty arrows. And he struck Sushena and Satyasena, each with three arrows. And he pierced everyone of the protectors of Karna with three straight arrows. The son of Adhiratha then, laughing and shaking his bow inflicted a cutting wound on the king's body with a broad-headed arrow, and again pierced him with sixty arrows and then uttered a loud shout. Then many foremost heroes amongst the Pandavas, desirous of rescuing the king, rushed in wrath towards Karna and began to grind him with their arrows. Satyaki and Chekitana and Yuyutsu and Shikhandi and the sons of Draupadi and the Prabhadrakas, and the twins (Nakula and Sahadeva) and Bhimasena and Shishupala and the Karushas, Matsyas, the Suras, the Kaikayas, the Kasis and the Kosalas, all these brave heroes, endued with great activity, assailed Vasusena. The Pancala prince Janamejaya then pierced Karna with many arrows. The Pandava heroes, armed with diverse kinds of arrows and diverse weapons and accompanied by cars and elephants and steeds, rushing towards Karna, encompassed him on all sides, from desire of slaying him. Thus assailed on all sides by the foremost of Pandava warriors, Karna invoked into existence the brahmastra and filled all the points of the compass with arrows. The heroic Karna then, like unto a blazing fire having shafts for its scorching flame, careered in battle, burning that forest of Pandavas troops. The high-souled Karna, that great bowman, aiming some mighty weapons, and laughing the while, cut off the bow of that foremost of men, Yudhishthira. Then aiming ninety straight arrows within the twinkling of an eye, Karna cut off, with those sharp shafts, the armour of his antagonist. That armour, decked with gold and set with gems, looked beautiful, as it fell down, like a wind-tossed cloud penetrated by the rays of the Sun. Indeed, that armour, adorned with costly 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 with blood, wrathfully hurled at the son of Adhiratha a dart made wholly of iron. Karna, however, cut (into pieces) that blazing dart, as it coursed through the welkin, with seven shafts. That dart, thus cut off with those shafts 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 the wounds of Karna, and the latter, filled with rage and breathing like a snake, cut off his antagonist's standard and pierced the Pandava himself with 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. Thereupon the king, riding on another car unto which were yoked those steeds, white as ivory and having black hair on their tails, that used to bear him (to battle), turned his face and began to fly. Thus did Yudhishthira began to retreat. His Parshni driver had been slain. He became exceedingly cheerless and unable to stay before Karna. The son of Radha then, pursuing Yudhishthira, the son of Pandu, cleansed himself by touching him in the shoulder with his own fair hand (the palm of which was) graced with the auspicious signs of the thunderbolt, the umbrella, the hook, the fish, the tortoise, and the conchshell, and desired to seize him by force. 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 thou seizest him, he will reduce both thee and me to ashes." Then Karna, O king, laughing in mockery, addressed the son of Pandu and thus spoke unto him disparagingly. "How, indeed, born though thou art in a noble race, and observant though thou art of Kshatriya duties, wouldst thou leave the battle in fear, desiring to save thy life? I think that thou art not well-acquainted with the duties of Kshatriyas. Endued with Brahma-force, thou art indeed devoted to the study of the Vedas and the performance of sacrificial rites. Do not, O son of Kunti, fight again, and do not again approach brave warriors. Do not use harsh language towards heroes and do not come to great battles. Thou mayst use such words, O sire, towards others, but thou shouldst never address persons like us in that way. By using such words towards persons like us, thou wouldst in battle meet with this and other kinds of behaviour. Go back to thy quarters, O son of Kunti, or thither where those two, viz., Keshava and Arjuna, are. Indeed, O king, Karna will never slay one like thee." Having said these words unto the son of Pritha, the mighty Karna, setting Yudhishthira free, began to slaughter the Pandava host like the wielder of the thunderbolt slaughtering the Asura host. That ruler of men, (viz., Yudhishthira,) then, O king, quickly fled away. Beholding the king flying away, the Cedis, 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 the king. Beholding the division of Yudhishthira retreating, the heroic Karna became highly glad with all the Kurus and began to pursue the retreating force. The din of battle-drums and conchs and cymbals and bows, and leonine shouts, arose from among the Dhartarashtra troops. Meanwhile Yudhishthira, O thou of Kuru's race, quickly riding on the car of Srutakirti, 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 thy sons. The shouts then, O Bharata, of the warriors (of both hosts), and the noise made by cars and elephants and steeds and foot-soldiers, and the clash of weapons, became tremendous. "Exert," "Strike," "Face the foe," were the words that the combatants addressed to one another as they began to slay one another in that dreadful battle. And in consequence of the showers of shafts shot by them a shadow as that of the clouds seemed to spread over the field. And in consequence of those rulers of men, covered with arrows, striking one another, they became divested of banners and standards and umbrellas and steeds and drivers and weapons in that battle. Indeed, those lords of Earth, deprived of life and limbs, fell down on the Earth. Looking like the mountain-summits in consequence of their uneven backs, huge elephants with their riders, deprived of life, fell down like mountains riven by thunder. Thousands of steeds, with their armour, equipments, and adornments all torn and broken and displaced, 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 of foot-soldiers, slain by hostile heroes in that dreadful clash, fell down in thousands. The Earth became covered with the heads of heroic combatants intoxicated with battle, heads that were adorned with large and expansive eyes of coppery hue and faces as beautiful as the lotus or the moon. And people heard noises as loud in the sky as on the surface of the Earth, in consequence of the sound of music and song proceeding from large bands of Apsaras on their celestial cars, with which those bands of heavenly choristers continually greeted the newly-arrived heroes slain in hundreds and thousands by brave enemies on Earth, and with which, placing them on celestial cars, they repaired on those vehicles (towards the region of Indra). Witnessing with their own eyes those wonderful sights, and actuated by the desire of going to heaven, heroes with cheerful hearts speedily slew one another. Car-warriors fought beautifully with car-warriors in that battle, and foot-soldiers with foot-soldiers, and elephants with elephants, and steeds with steeds. Indeed, when that battle, destructive of elephants and steeds and men, raged in this way, the field became covered with the dust raised by the troops. Then enemies slew enemies and friends slew friends. The combatants dragged one another by their locks, bit one another with their teeth, tore one another with their nails, and struck one another with clenched fists, and fought one another with bare arms in that fierce battle destructive of both life and sins. Indeed, as that battle, fraught with carnage of elephants and steeds and men, raged on so fiercely, a river of blood ran from the bodies of (slain) human beings and steeds and elephants. And that current carried away a large number of dead bodies of elephants and steeds and men. Indeed, in that vast host teeming with men, steeds, and elephants, that river formed by the blood of men and steeds and elephants and horsemen and elephant-men, became miry with flesh and exceedingly terrible. And on that current, inspiring the timid with terror, floated the bodies of men and steeds and elephants. Impelled by the desire of victory, 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 above its surface as they swam through it. Smeared all over with blood, their armour and weapons and robes--all became bloody. Some bathed in it and some drank the liquid and some became strengthless, O bull of Bharata's race. Cars and steeds, and men and elephants and weapons and ornaments, and robes and armour, and combatants that were slain or about to be slain, and the Earth, the welkin, the firmament, and all the points of the compass, became red. With the odour, the touch, the taste, and the exceedingly red sight of that blood and its rushing sound, almost all the combatants, O Bharata, became very cheerless. The Pandava heroes then, headed by Bhimasena and Satyaki, once more rushed impetuously against that army already beaten. Beholding the impetuosity of that rush of the Pandava heroes to be irresistible, the vast force of thy sons, O king, turned its back on the field. Indeed, that host of thine, teeming with cars and steeds and elephants and men no longer in compact array, with armour and coats of mail displaced and weapons and bows loosened from their grasp, fled away in all directions, whilst being agitated by the enemy, even like a herd of elephants in the forest afflicted by lions.'"