The Mahabharata Home
"Narada said, 'That tiger of Bhrigu's race (viz., Rama), was well-pleased with the might of Karna's arms, his affection (for him), his self-restraint, and the services he did unto his preceptor. Observant of ascetic penances, Rama cheerfully communicated, with due forms, unto his penance-observing disciple, everything about the Brahma weapon with the mantras for withdrawing it. Having acquired a knowledge of that weapon, Karna began to pass his days happily in Bhrigu's retreat, and endued with wonderful prowess, he devoted himself with great ardour to the science of weapons. One day Rama of great intelligence, while roving with Karna in the vicinity or his retreat, felt very weak in consequence of the fasts he had undergone. From affection begotten by confidence, the tired son of Jamadagni placing his head on Karna's lap, slept soundly, White his preceptor was thus sleeping (with head) on his lap, a frightful worm, whose bite was very painful and which subsisted on phlegm and fat and flesh and blood, approached the presence of Karna. That blood-sucking worm, approaching Karna's thigh, began to pierce it. Through fear of (awaking) his preceptor, Karna became unable to either throw away or kill that worm. Though his limb was bored through by that worm, O Bharata, the son of Surya, lest his preceptor should awake, suffered it to do its pleasure. Though the pain was intolerable, Karna bore it with heroic patience, and continued to hold Bhrigu's son on his lap, without quivering in the least and without manifesting any sign of pain. When at last Karna's blood touched the body of Rama of great energy, the latter awoke and said these words in fear, 'Alas, I have been made impure! What is this that thou art doing, Tell me, casting off all fear, what is the truth of this matter!' Then Karna informed him of that worm's bite. Rama saw that worm which resembled a hog in shape. It had eight feet and very keen teeth, and it was covered with bristles that were all pointed like needles. Called by the name of Alarka, its limbs were then shrunk (with fear). As soon as Rama cast his, eyes on it, the worm gave up its life-breath, melting in that blood which it had drawn. All this seemed wonderful. Then in the welkin was seen a Rakshasa of terrible form, dark in hue, of a red neck, capable of assuming any form at wilt, and staying on the clouds,--his object fulfilled, the Rakshasa, with joined hands, addressed Rama, saying, 'O best of ascetics, thou hast rescued me from this hell! Blessed be thou, I adore thee, thou hast done me good!' Possessed of great energy, the mighty-armed son of Jamadagni said unto him, 'Who art thou? And why also didst thou fall into hell? Tell me all about it.' He answered, 'Formerly I was a great Asura of the name of Dansa. In the Krita period, O sire, I was of the same age with Bhrigu. I ravished the dearly-loved spouse of that sage. Through his curse I felt down on the earth in the form of a worm. In anger thy ancestors said unto me, 'Subsisting on urine and phlegm, O wretch, thou shalt lead a life of hell.' I then besought him, saying, 'When, O Brahmana, shall this curse end?' Bhrigu replied unto me, saying. 'This curse shall end through Rama of my race. It was for this that I had obtained such a course of
life like one of uncleansed soul. O righteous one, by thee, however, I have been rescued from that sinful life.' Having said these words, the great Asura, bending his head unto Rama went away. Then Rama wrathfully addressed Karna, saying, 'O fool, no Brahmana could endure such agony. Thy patience is like that of a Kshatriya. Tell me the truth, without fear.' Thus asked, Karna, fearing to be cursed, and seeking to gratify him, said these words, 'O thou of Bhrigu's race, know me for a Suta, a race that has sprung from the intermixture of Brahmanas with Kshatriyas. People call me Karna the son of Radha. O thou of Bhrigu's race, be gratified with my poor self that has acted from the desire of obtaining weapons. There is no doubt in this that a reverend preceptor in the Vedas and other branches of knowledge is one's father. It was for this that I introduced myself to thee as a person of thy own race.' Unto the cheerless and trembling Karna, prostrated with joined hands upon earth, that foremost one of Bhrigu's race, smiling though filled with wrath, answered, 'Since thou hast, from avarice of weapons, behaved here with falsehood, therefore, O wretch, this Brahma weapon shalt not dwell in thy remembrance 1. Since thou art not a Brahmana, truly this Brahma weapon shall not, up to the time of thy death, dwell in thee when thou shalt be engaged with a warrior equal to thyself! 2 Go hence, this is no place for a person of such false behaviour as thou! On earth, no Kshatriya will be thy equal in battle.' Thus addressed by Rama, Karna came away, having duty taken his leave. Arriving then before Duryodhana, he informed him, saying, 'I have mastered all weapons!'"
6:1 Literally, "shall not appear to thee by inward light."
6:2 The meaning is this, "This weapon shall not dwell with thee up to thy last moments. Thou shalt forget it or it shall not appear at thy bidding, when thy death becomes nigh, though at other times, thou mayst be master of it."
Next: Section IV