The Mahabharata Home
"Vaisampayana said (After Kunti had said this), Karna heard an affectionate voice issued out of the solar circle. Coming from a great
distance, that voice was uttered by Surya himself with paternal affection. (And it said)--The words said by Pritha are true. O Karna, act according to the words of thy mother. O tiger among men, great good will result to thee if thou fully followest those words.'
"Vaisampayana continued, 'Though, thus addressed by his mother, and by also his father Surya himself, Karna's heart did not yet waver, for he was firmly devoted to truth. And he said, 'O Kshatriya lady, I cannot admit what thou hast said, viz., that obedience to thy commands constituteth (in my case) the highest of my duties. O mother, I was abandoned by thee as soon as I was born. This great injury, involving risk to life itself, that thou didst me, hath been destructive of my achievements and fame. If, indeed, I am a Kshatriya, I have, for thee, been deprived of all the rites of a Kshatriya. What enemy would have done me a greater injury? Without showing me mercy, when thou shouldst have shown it, and having kept me divested of all the rites (that are obligatory in consequence of the order of my birth), thou wouldst however, lay thy command on me today! Thou hadst never before sought my good as a mother should. Thou addressest me today, however, desiring to do good to thyself. Who is there that would not be afraid of Dhananjaya having Krishna with him (for the driver of his car)? If, therefore, I go today unto the Parthas, who is there that would not regard me as doing so from fright? Hitherto, nobody knew me to be their brother. If, giving out on the eve of battle that I am their brother, I go to the Pandavas, what would all the Kshatriyas say? Furnished with every object of desire, and worshipped by them with a view to make me happy, how can I render that friendship of Dhritarashtra's sons utterly futile? Having provoked hostilities with others, they always wait on me respectfully, and always bow down to me, as the Vasus bow down to Vasava. They think that aided by my might, they are capable of encountering the foe. How can I then frustrate that cherished hope of theirs? With me as their boat, they desire to cross the impassable ocean of battle. How can I then abandon them that are desirous of crossing that ocean which hath no other ferry? This is the time when all those have been supported by Dhritarashtra's sons should exert themselves for their masters. I shall certainly act for them, reckless of even my life. Those sinful men of unsteady heart, who, well-fed and well-furnished (with every necessary) by their masters, undo the benefit received by them when the time cometh for paying back, are thieves of their master's cakes, have neither this nor the other world for them. I will not speak deceitfully unto thee. For the sake of Dhritarashtra's son, I shall fight against thy sons to the best of my strength and might. I must not, however, abandon kindness and the conduct that becometh the good. Thy words, therefore, however beneficial cannot be obeyed by me now. This thy solicitation to me will not yet be fruitless. Except Arjuna, thy other sons, Yudhishthira, Bhima, and the twins, though capable of being withstood by me in tight and capable also of being
slain, shall not yet be slain by me. It is with Arjuna alone, among all the combatants of Yudhishthira, that I will fight. Slaying Arjuna in battle, I shall achieve great merit, or slain by Savyasachin, I shall be covered with glory. O famous lady, the number of thy sons will never be less than five. Five it will always be,--either with me, or with Arjuna, and myself slain.'
"Hearing these words of Karna, Kunti who was trembling with grief, embraced her son who was unmoved in consequence of his fortitude, and said, 'Indeed, O Karna, even if what thou sayest seemeth to be possible, the Kauravas will certainly be exterminated. Destiny is all. Thou hast, however, O grinder of foes, granted to four of thy brothers the pledge of safety. Let that pledge be borne in thy remembrance at the time of shooting of weapons in battle.' And having told all this, Pritha also addressed Karna, saying, 'Blessed be thou, and let health be thine.' And Karna replied unto her, saying, 'Be it so!' And they then left the spot, wending in different directions.'"
Next: Section CXLVII