The Mahabharata Home
"Sanjaya said, 'While Nakula was employed in destroying and routing the Kaurava divisions in battle with great force, Vikartana's son Karna, filled with rage, checked him, O king. Then Nakula smiling the while, addressed Karna, and said, "After a long time, through the favour of the gods, I am seen by thee, and thou also, O wretch, dost become the object of my sight. Thou art the root of all these evils, this hostility, this quarrel. It is through thy faults that the Kauravas are being thinned, encountering one another. Slaying thee in battle today, I will regard myself as one that has achieved his object, and the fever of my heart will be dispelled." Thus addressed by Nakula, the Suta's son said unto him the following words befitting a prince and a bowman in particular, "Strike me, O hero. We desire to witness thy manliness. Having achieved some feats in battle, O brave warrior, thou shouldst then boast. O sire, they that are heroes fight in battle to the best of their powers, without indulging in brag. Fight now with me to the best of thy might. I will quell thy pride." Having said these words the Suta's son quickly struck the son of Pandu and pierced him, in that encounter, with three and seventy shafts. Then Nakula, O Bharata, thus pierced by the Suta's son, pierced the latter in return with eighty shafts resembling snakes of virulent poison. Then Karna, that great bowman, cutting off his antagonist's bow with a number of arrows winged with gold and whetted on stone, afflicted him with thirty arrows. Those arrows, piercing through his armour drank his blood in that battle, like the Nagas of virulent poison drinking water after having pierced through the Earth. Then Nakula, taking up another formidable bow whose back was decked with gold, pierced Karna with twenty arrows and his driver with three. Then, O monarch, that slayer of hostile heroes, viz., Nakula, filled with rage, cut off Karna's bow with a razor-headed shaft of great keenness. Smiling the while, the heroic son of Pandu then struck the bowless Karna, that foremost of car-warriors, with three hundred arrows. Beholding Karna thus afflicted, O sire, by the son of Pandu, all the carwarriors there, with the gods (in the welkin), were filled with great wonder. Then Vikartana's son Karna taking up another bow, struck Nakula with five arrows in the shoulder-joint. With those arrows sticking to him here, the son of Madri looked resplendent like the Sun with his own rays while shedding his light on the Earth. Then Nakula piercing Karna with seven shafts, once more, O sire, cut off one of the horns of Karna's bow. Then Karna, taking up in that battle a tougher bow, filled the welkin on every side of Nakula with his arrows. The mighty car-warrior, Nakula, however, thus suddenly shrouded with the arrows shot from Karna's bow quickly cut off all those shafts with shafts of his own. Then was seen overspread in the welkin a vast number of arrows like to the spectacle presented by the sky when it is filled with myriads of roving fireflies. Indeed, the sky shrouded with those hundreds of arrows shot (by both the warriors) looked, O monarch, as if it was covered with flights of locusts. Those arrows, decked with gold, issuing repeatedly in continuous lines, looked beautiful like rows of cranes while flying through the welkin. When the sky was thus covered with showers of arrows and the sun himself hid from the view, no creature ranging the air could descend on the Earth. When all sides were thus covered with showers of arrows, those two high-souled warriors looked resplendent like two Suns risen at the end of the Yuga. Slaughtered with the shafts issuing from Karna's bow the Somakas, O monarch, greatly afflicted and feeling much pain, began to breathe their last. Similarly, thy warriors, struck with the shafts of Nakula, dispersed on all sides, O king, like clouds tossed by the wind. The two armies thus slaughtered by those two warriors with their mighty celestial shafts, retreated from the range of those arrows and stood as spectators of the encounter. When both the armies were driven off by means of the shafts of Karna and Nakula, those two high-souled warriors began to pierce each other with showers of shafts. Displaying their celestial weapons on the field of battle, they quickly shrouded each other, each desirous of compassing the destruction of the other. The shafts shot by Nakula, dressed with Kanka and peacock feathers, shrouding the Suta's son, seemed to stay in the welkin. Similarly, the shafts sped by the Suta's son in that dreadful battle, shrouding the son of Pandu, seemed to stay in the welkin. Shrouded within arrowy chambers, both the warriors became invisible, like the Sun and the Moon, O king, hidden by the clouds. Then Karna, filled with rage and assuming a terrible aspect in the battle, covered the son of Pandu with showers of arrows from every side. Completely covered, O monarch, by the Suta's son, the son of Pandu felt no pain like the Maker of day when covered by the clouds. The son of Adhiratha then, smiling the while, sped arrowy lines, O sire, in hundreds and thousands, in that battle. With those shafts of the high-souled Karna, an extensive shade seemed to rest on the field of battle. Indeed, with those excellent shafts constantly issuing out (of his bow), a shade was caused there like that formed by the clouds. Then Karna, O monarch, cutting off the bow of the high-souled Nakula, felled the latter's driver from the car-niche with the greatest ease. With four keen shafts, next, he quickly despatched the four steeds of Nakula, O Bharata, to the abode of Yama. With his shafts, he also cut off into minute fragments that excellent car of his antagonist as also his standard and the protectors of his car-wheels, and mace, and sword, and shield decked with a hundred moons, and other utensils and equipments of battle. Then Nakula, steedless and carless and armourless, O monarch, quickly alighting from his car, stood, armed with a spiked bludgeon. Even that terrible bludgeon, so uplifted by the son of Pandu, the Suta's son, O king, cut off with many keen arrows capable of bearing a great strain. Beholding his adversary weaponless. Karna began to strike him with many straight shafts, but took care not to afflict him greatly. Thus struck in that battle by that mighty warrior accomplished in weapons, Nakula, O king, fled away precipitately in great affliction. Laughing repeatedly, the son of Radha pursued him and placed his stringed bow, O Bharata, around the neck of the retreating Nakula. With the large bow around his neck, O king, the son of Pandu looked resplendent like Moon in the firmament when within a circular halo of light, or a white cloud girdled round by Indra's bow. Then Karna, addressing him, said, "The words thou hadst uttered were futile. Canst thou utter them now once more in joy, repeatedly struck as thou art by me? Do not, O son of Pandu, fight again with those amongst the Kurus that are possessed of greater might. O child, fight with them that are thy equals. Do not, O son of Pandu, feel any shame for it. Return home, O son of Madri, or go thither where Krishna and Phalguna are." Having addressed him thus he abandoned him then. Acquainted with morality as the brave Karna was, he did not then slay Nakula who was already within the jaws of death. Recollecting the words of Kunti, O king, Karna let Nakula go. The son of Pandu, thus let off, O king, by that bowman, Suta's son, proceeded towards Yudhishthira's car in great shame. Scorched by the Suta's son, he then ascended his brother's car, and burning with grief he continued to sigh like a snake kept within a jar. Meanwhile Karna, having vanquished Nakula, quickly proceeded against the Pancalas, riding on that car of his which bore many gorgeous pennons and whose steeds were as white as the Moon. There, O monarch, a great uproar arose among the Pandavas when they saw the leader of the Kaurava army proceeding towards the Pancala car-throngs. The Suta's son, O monarch, made a great massacre there at that hour when the Sun had reached the meridian, that puissant warrior careering all the while with the activity of a wheel. We beheld many Pancala car-warriors borne away from the battle on their steedless and driverless cars with broken wheels and broken axles and with standards and pennons also that were broken and torn, O sire. And many elephants were seen to wander there in all directions (with limbs scorched by arrows) like individuals of their species in the wide forest with limbs scorched and burned in a forest conflagration. Others with their frontal globes split open, or bathed in blood, or with trunks lopped off, or with their armour cut down, or their tails lopped off, fell down, struck by the high-souled Karna, like straggling clouds. Other elephants, frightened by the shafts and lances of Radha's son proceeded against Radha's son himself like insects towards a blazing fire. Other huge elephants were seen striking against one another and shedding blood from various limbs like mountains with rillets running down their breasts. Steeds of the foremost breed, divested of breast-plates and their ornaments of silver and brass and gold, destitute of trappings and bridle-bits and yak-tails and saddle-cloths, with quivers fallen off from their backs, and with their heroic riders,--ornaments of battle,--slain, were seen wandering here and there on the field. Pierced and cut with lances and scimitars and swords, O Bharata, we beheld many a horseman adorned with armour and head-gear, slain or in course of being slain or trembling with fear, and deprived, O Bharata, of diverse limbs. Cars also, decked with gold, and unto which were yoked steeds of great fleetness, were seen by us dragged with exceeding speed hither and thither, their riders having been slain. Some of these had their axles and poles broken, and some, O Bharata, had their wheels broken; and some were without banners and standards, and some were divested of their shafts. Many car-warriors also were seen there, by us, O monarch, wandering all around, deprived of their cars and scorched with the shafts of the Suta's son. And some destitute of weapons and some with weapons still in their arms were seen lying lifeless on the field in large numbers. And many elephants also were seen by us, wandering in all directions, studded with clusters of stars, adorned with rows of beautiful bells, and decked with variegated banners of diverse hues. Heads and arms and chests and other limbs, cut off with shafts sped from Karna's bow, were beheld by us lying around. A great and fierce calamity overtook the warriors (of the Pandava army) as they fought with whetted arrows, and mangled as they were with the shafts of Karna. The Srinjayas, slaughtered in that battle by the Suta's son, blindly proceeded against the latter's self like insects rushing upon a blazing fire. Indeed, as that mighty car-warrior was engaged in scorching the Pandava divisions, the kshatriyas avoided him, regarding him to be the blazing Yuga fire. Those heroic and mighty car-warriors of the Pancala that survived the slaughter fled away. The brave Karna, however, pursued those broken and retreating warriors from behind, shooting his shafts at them. Endued with great energy, he pursued those combatants divested of armour and destitute of standards. Indeed, the Suta's son, possessed of great might, continued to scorch them with his shafts, like the dispeller of darkness scorching all creatures when he attains to the meridian.'"
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