The Mahabharata Home
Vaisampayana said, "And it came to pass that at this time a Suta named Adhiratha, who was a friend of Dhritarashtra, came to the river Ganga, accompanied by his wife. And, O king, his wife named Radha was unparalleled on earth for beauty. And although that highly blessed dame had made great endeavours to obtain a son, yet she had failed, O represser of foes, to obtain one. And on coming to the river Ganga, she beheld a box drifting along the current. And containing articles capable of protecting from dangers and decked with unguents, that box was brought before her by the waves of the Janhavi. And attracted by curiosity, the lady caused it to be seized. And she then related all unto Adhiratha of the charioteer caste. And hearing this Adhiratha took away the box from the water-side, and opened it by means of instruments. And then he beheld a boy resembling the morning Sun. And the infant was furnished with golden mail, and looked exceedingly beautiful with a face decked in ear-rings. And thereupon the charioteer, together with his wife, was struck with such astonishment that their eyes expanded in wonder. And taking the infant on his lap, Adhiratha said unto his wife, 'Ever since I was born, O timid lady, I had never seen such a wonder. This child that hath come to us must be of celestial birth. Surely, sonless as I am, it is the gods that have sent him unto me!' Saying this, O lord of earth, he gave the infant to Radha. And thereat, Radha adopted, according to the ordinance, that child of celestial form and divine origin, and possessed of the splendour of the filaments of the lotus and furnished with excellent grace. And duly reared by her, that child endued with great prowess began to grow up. And after Karna's adoption, Adhiratha had other sons begotten by himself. And seeing the child furnished with bright mail and golden ear-rings, the twice-born ones named him Vasusena. And thus did that child endued with great splendour and immeasurable prowess became the son of the charioteer, and came to be known as Vasusena and Vrisha. And Pritha learnt through spies that her own son clad in celestial mail was growing up amongst the Angas as the eldest son of a charioteer (Adhiratha). And seeing that in process of time his son had grown up, Adhiratha sent him to the city named after the elephant. And there Karna put up with Drona, for the purpose of learning arms. And that powerful youth contracted a friendship with Duryodhana. And having acquired all the four kinds of weapons from Drona, Kripa, and Rama, he became famous in the world as a mighty bowman. And after having contracted a friendship with Dhritarashtra's son, he became intent on injuring the sons of Pritha. And he was always desirous of fighting with the high-souled Falguna. And, O king, ever since they first saw each other, Karna always used to challenge Arjuna, and Arjuna, on his part, used to challenge him. This, O foremost of kings, was without doubt, the secret known to the Sun, viz., begot by himself on Kunti, Karna was being reared in the race of the Sutas. And beholding him decked with his ear-rings and mail, Yudhishthira thought him to be unslayable in fight, and was exceedingly pained at it. And when, O foremost of monarchs, Karna after rising from the water, used at mid-day to worship the effulgent
[paragraph continues] Surya with joined hands, the Brahmanas used to solicit him for wealth. And at that time there was nothing that he would not give away to the twice-born ones. And Indra, assuming the guise of a Brahmana, appeared before him (at such a time) and said, 'Give me!' And thereupon Radha's son replied unto him, 'Thou art welcome!'"
Next: Section CCCVIII