The Mahabharata Home
(Sambhava Parva continued)
"Vaisampayana continued, 'When the spectators, with eyes expanded with wonder, made way for that subjugator of hostile cities, Karna, that hero with his natural mail and face brightened with ear-rings, took up his bow and girded on his sword, and then entered the spacious lists, like a walking cliff. That far-famed destroyer of hostile hosts, the large-eyed Karna, was born of Pritha in her maidenhood. He was a portion of the hot-beamed Sun and his energy and prowess were like unto those of the lion, or the bull, or the leader of a herd of elephants. In splendour he resembled the Sun, in loveliness the Moon, and in energy the fire. Begotten by the Sun himself, he was tall in stature like a golden palm tree, and, endued with the vigour of youth, he was capable of slaying a lion. Handsome in features, he was possessed of countless accomplishments. The mighty-armed warrior, eyeing all around the arena, bowed indifferently to Drona and Kripa. And the entire assembly, motionless and with steadfast gaze, thought, 'Who is he?' And they became agitated in their curiosity to know the warrior. And that foremost of eloquent men, the offspring of the Sun, in a voice deep as that of the clouds, addressed his unknown brother, the son of the subduer
of the Asura, Paka (Indra), saying, 'O Partha, I shall perform feats before this gazing multitude; excelling all thou hast performed! Beholding them, thou shall be amazed.' And, O thou best of those blest with speech, he had hardly done when the spectators stood up all at once, uplifted by some instrument, as it were. And, O tiger among men, Duryodhana was filled with delight, while Vibhatsu was instantly all abashment and anger. Then with the permission of Drona, the mighty Karna, delighting in battle, there did all that Partha had done before. And, O Bharata, Duryodhana with his brothers thereupon embraced Karna in joy and then addressed him saying, 'Welcome O mighty-armed warrior! I have obtained thee by good fortune, O polite one! Live thou as thou pleasest, and command me, and the kingdom of the Kurus.' Kama replied, 'When thou hast said it, I regard it as already accomplished. I only long for thy friendship. And, O lord, my wish is even for a single combat with Arjuna.' Duryodhana said, 'Do thou with me enjoy the good things of life! Be thou the benefactor of thy friend, and, O represser of enemies, place thou thy feet on the heads of all foes."
"Vaisampayanacontinued, 'Arjuna, after this, deeming himself disgraced, said unto Karna stationed amidst the brothers like unto a cliff, 'That path which the unwelcome intruder and the uninvited talker cometh to, shall be thine, O Karna, for thou shall be slain by me.' Karna replied, 'This arena is meant for all, not for thee alone, O Phalguna! They are kings who are superior in energy; and verily the Kshatriya regardeth might and might alone. What need of altercation which is the exercise of the weak? O Bharata, speak then in arrows until with arrows I strike off thy head today before the preceptor himself!'
"Vaisampayana continued, 'Hastily embraced by his brothers, Partha that subduer of hostile cities, with the permission of Drona, advanced for the combat. On the other side, Karna, having been embraced by Duryodhana with his brothers, taking up his bow and arrows, stood ready for the fight. Then the firmament became enveloped in clouds emitting flashes of lightning, and the coloured bow of Indra appeared shedding its effulgent rays. And the clouds seemed to laugh on account of the rows of white cranes that were then on the wing. And seeing Indra thus viewing the arena from affection (for his son), the sun too dispersed the clouds from over his own offspring. And Phalguna remained deep hid under cover of the clouds, while Karna remained visible, being surrounded by the rays of the Sun. And the son of Dhritarashtra stood by Karna, and Bharadwaja and Kripa and Bhishma remained with Partha. And the assembly was divided, as also the female spectators. And knowing the state of things, Kunti the daughter of Bhoja, swooned away. And by the help of female attendants, Vidura, versed in the lore of all duties, revived the insensible Kunti by sprinkling sandal-paste and water on her person. On being restored to consciousness, Kunti, seeing her two sons clad in mail, was seized with fear, but she could do nothing (to protect them). And beholding both the warriors with bows
strung in their hands the son of Saradwat, viz., Kripa, knowing all duties and cognisant of the rules regulating duels, addressed Karna, saying 'This Pandava, who is the youngest son of Kunti, belongeth to the Kaurava race: he will engage in combat with thee. But, O mighty-armed one, thou too must tell us thy lineage and the names of thy father and mother and the royal line of which thou art the ornament. Learning all this, Partha will fight with thee or not (as he will think fit). Sons of kings never fight with men of inglorious lineage.'
"Vaisampayana continued, 'When he was thus addressed by Kripa, Karna's countenance became like unto a lotus pale and torn with the pelting showers in the rainy season. Duryodhana said, 'O preceptor, verily the scriptures have it that three classes of persons can lay claim to royalty, viz., persons of the blood royal, heroes, and lastly, those that lead armies. If Phalguna is unwilling to fight with one who is not a king, I will install Karna as king of Anga.'
"Vaisampayana said, 'At that very moment, seated on a golden seat, with parched paddy and with flowers and water-pots and much gold, the mighty warrior Karna was installed king by Brahmanas versed in mantras. And the royal umbrella was held over his head, while Yak-tails waved around that redoubtable hero of graceful mien. And the cheers, having ceased, king (Karna) said unto the Kaurava Duryodhana, 'O tiger among monarchs, what shall I give unto thee that may compare with thy gift of a kingdom? O king, I will do all thou biddest!' And Suyodhana said unto him, 'I eagerly wish for thy friendship.' Thus spoken to, Karna replied, 'Be it so.' And they embraced each other in joy, and experienced great happiness.'"
Next: Section CXXXIX