The Mahabharata Home
"Vaisampayana said, 'That foremost of speakers, the sage Narada, thus questioned, narrated everything about the manner in which he who was believed to be a Suta's son had been cursed (in former days).'
"Narada said, 'It is even so, O mighty armed one, as thou sayest, O Bharata! Nothing could resist Karna and Arjuna in battle. This, O sinless one, that I am about to tell thee is unknown to the very gods. Listen to me, O mighty-armed one, as it befell in former days. How all the Kshatriyas, cleansed by weapons should attain to regions of bliss, was the question. For this, a child was conceived by Kunti in her maidenhood, capable of provoking a general war. Endued with great energy, that child came to have the status of a Suta. He subsequently acquired the science of weapons from the preceptor (Drona), that foremost descendant of Angirasa's race. Thinking of the might of Bhimasena, the quickness of Arjuna in the use of weapons, the intelligence of thyself, O king, the humility of the twins, the friendship, from earliest years, between Vasudeva and the wielder of Gandiva, and the affection of the people for you all, that young man burnt with envy. In early age he made friends with king Duryodhana, led by an accident and his own nature and the hate he bore towards you all. Beholding that Dhananjaya was superior to every one in the
science of weapons, Karna. one day approached Drona in private and said these words unto him, 'I desire to be acquainted with the Brahma weapon, with all its mantras and the power of withdrawing it, for I desire to fight Arjuna. Without doubt, the affection thou bearest to every one of thy pupils is equal to what thou bearest to thy own son. I pray that all the masters of the science of weapons may, through thy grace, regard me as one accomplished in weapons!' Thus addressed by him, Drona, from partiality for Phalguna, as also from his knowledge of the wickedness of Karna, said, 'None but a Brahmana, who has duly observed all vows, should be acquainted with the Brahma weapon, or a Kshatriya that has practised austere penances, and no other.' When Drona had answered thus, Karna, having worshipped him, obtained his leave, and proceeded without delay to Rama then residing on the Mahendra mountains. Approaching Rama, he bent his head unto him and said, 'I am a Brahmana of Bhrigu's race.' This procured honour for him. With this knowledge about his birth and family, Rama received him kindly and said, 'Thou art welcome!' at which Karna became highly glad. While residing on the Mahendra mountains that resembled heaven itself, Karna met and mixed with many Gandharvas, Yakshas, and gods. Residing there he acquired all the weapons duly, and became a great favourite of the gods, the Gandharvas, and the Rakshasas. One day he roved on the sea-coast by the side of that asylum. Indeed, Surya's son, armed with bow and sword, wandered alone, While thus employed, O Partha, he inadvertently slew, without witting it, the Homa cow of a certain utterer of Brahma who daily performed his Agnihotra rite. Knowing that he had perpetrated that act from inadvertence, he informed the Brahmana of it. Indeed Karna, for the object of gratifying the owner, repeatedly said, 'O holy one, I have killed this thy cow without wilting it. Forgive me the act!' Filled with wrath, the Brahmana, rebuking him, said these words, 'O thou of wicked conduct, thou deservest to be killed. Let the fruit of this act be thine, O thou of wicked soul. While fighting him, O wretch whom thou always challengest, and for whose sake thou strivest so much every day, the earth shall swallow the wheel of thy car! And while the wheel of thy car shall thus be swallowed up by the earth, thy foe, putting forth his prowess, will cut off thy head, thyself being stupefied the while! Leave me, O vile man! As thou hast heedlessly slain this my cow, even so wilt thy foe cut off thy head while thou shalt be heedless!' Though cursed, Karna still sought to gratify that foremost of Brahmanas by offering him kine and wealth and gems. The latter, however, once more answered him, 'All the words will not succeed in falsifying the words spoken by me! Go hence or remain, do whatever thou likest.' Thus addressed by the Brahmana, Karna, hanging down his head from cheerlessness, returned timidly to Rama, reflecting on that matter.'
Next: Section III