The Mahabharata Home
"Sanjaya said, 'Thy son then, O monarch, humbly approaching that mighty car-warrior, viz., the ruler of the Madras, addressed him, from affection, in these words, "O thou of true vows, O thou of great good fortune, O enhancer of the sorrows of foes, O ruler of the Madras, O hero in battle, O thou that inspirest hostile troops with fear, thou hast heard, O foremost of speakers, how, for the sake of Karna who spoke unto me, I myself am desirous of soliciting thee among all these lions of kings. O thou of incomparable prowess, O king of the Madras, for the destruction of the foe, I solicit thee today, with humility and bow of the head. Therefore, for the destruction of Partha and for my good, it behoveth thee, O foremost of car-warriors, to accept, from love, the office of charioteer. With thee for his driver, the son of Radha will subjugate my foes. There is none else for holding the reins of Karna's steeds, except thee, O thou of great good fortune, thou that art the equal of Vasudeva in battle. Protect Karna then by every means like Brahma protecting Maheswara. Even as he of Vrishni's race protects by every means the son of Pandu in all dangers, do thou, O chief of the Madras, protect the son of Radha today. Bhishma, and Drona, and Kripa, and thyself and the valiant ruler of the Bhojas, and Shakuni the son of Subala, and Drona's son and myself, constituted the chief strength of our army. Even thus, O lord of Earth, we had divided amongst ourselves the hostile army into portion for the share of each. The share that had been allotted to Bhishma is now no more as also that which had been allotted to the high-souled Drona. Going even beyond their allotted shares, those two slew my foes. Those two tigers among men, however, were old, and both of them have been slain deceitfully. Having achieved the most difficult feats, both of them, O sinless one, have departed hence to heaven. Similarly, many other tigers among men, of our army, slain by foes in battle, have ascended to heaven, casting off their lives and having made great exertions to the best of their powers. This my host, therefore, O king, the greater portion of which has been slaughtered, has been reduced to this state by the Parthas who were at first fewer than us. What should be done for the present? Do that now, O lord of Earth, by which the mighty and the high-souled sons of Kunti, of prowess incapable of being baffled, may be prevented from exterminating the remnant of my host. O lord, the Pandavas have in battle slain the bravest warriors of this my force. The mighty-armed Karna alone is devoted to our good, as also thyself, O tiger among men, that art the foremost of car-warriors in the whole world. O Shalya, Karna wishes to contend in battle today with Arjuna. On him, O ruler of the Madras, my hopes of victory are great. There is none else in the world (save thee) that can make so good a holder of the reins for Karna. As Krishna is the foremost of all holders of reins for Partha in battle, even so, O king, be thou the foremost of all holders of reins for Karna's car. Accompanied and protected, O sire, by him in battle, the feats that Partha achieve are all before thee. Formerly, Arjuna had never slain his foes in battle in such a way. Now however, his prowess has become great, united as he is with Krishna. Day after day, O ruler of the Madras, this vast Dhritarashtra force is seen to be routed by Partha because he is united with Krishna. A portion remains of the share allotted to Karna and thyself, O thou of great splendour. Bear that share with Karna, and destroy it unitedly in battle. Even as Surya, uniting with Aruna, destroys the darkness, do thou, uniting with Karna, slay Partha in battle. Let the mighty car-warriors (of the enemy), fly away, beholding in battle those two warriors endued with the effulgence of the morning sun, viz., Karna and Shalya, resembling two Suns risen above the horizon. Even as darkness is destroyed, O sire, at the sight of Surya and Aruna, even so let the Kaunteyas (Pandavas) with the Pancalas and the Srinjayas perish beholding thee and Karna. Karna is the foremost of car-warriors, and thou art the foremost of drivers. In the clash of battle, again there is none equal to thee. As he of Vrishni's race protects the son of Pandu under all circumstances, even so let thyself protect Vikarna's son Karna in battle. With thee as his driver, Karna will become invincible, O king, in battle even with the gods having Sakra at their head! What then need be said about the Pandavas? Do not doubt my words.'"
"Sanjaya continued, 'Hearing these words of Duryodhana, Shalya, became filled with rage. Contracting his brow into three lines, and waving his arms repeatedly, and rolling his large eyes red in wrath, that warrior of massive arms proud of his lineage and wealth and knowledge and strength, said these words:
"'Shalya said "Thou insultest me, O son of Gandhari, or without doubt suspectest me, since thou solicitest me, without hesitation, saying, 'Act thou as a driver.' Regarding Karna to be superior to ourselves, thou applaudest him thus. I, however, do not regard the son of Radha as my equal in battle. Assign to me a much greater share, O lord of Earth. Destroying that in battle, I will return to the place I come from. Or, if thou wishest, I will, O delighter of the Kurus, contend, single-handed, with the enemy. While engaged in consuming the foe, behold thou my prowess today. Brooding upon an insult, O thou of Kuru's race, a person like ourselves never engageth in my task. Do not have thy doubts about me. Never shouldst thou humiliate me in battle. Behold these two massive arms of mine, strong as the thunder. Behold also my excellent bow, and these shafts that resemble snakes of virulent poison. Behold my car, unto which are yoked excellent steeds endued with the speed of the wind. Behold also, O son of Gandhari, my mace decked with gold and twined with hempen chords. Filled with wrath, I can split the very Earth, scatter the mountains, and dry up the oceans, with my own energy, O king. Knowing me, O monarch, to be so capable, of afflicting the foe, why dost thou appoint me to the office of driver in battle for such a low-born person as Adhiratha's son? It behoveth thee not, O king of kings, to set me to such mean tasks! Being so superior, I cannot make up my mind to obey the commands of a sinful person. He that causeth a superior person arrived of his own will and obedient from love, to yield to a sinful wight, certainly incurreth the sin of confusing the superior with the inferior. Brahman created the brahmanas from his mouth, and the kshatriyas from his arms. He created the Vaishyas from his thighs and the Shudras from his feet. In consequence of the intermixture of those four orders, O Bharata, from those four have sprung particular classes, viz., those born of men of superior classes wedding women of classes inferior to themselves, and vice versa. The kshatriyas have been described to be protectors (of the other classes) acquirers of wealth and givers of the same. The brahmanas have been established on the Earth for the sake of favouring its people by assisting at sacrifices, by teaching and acceptance of pure gifts. Agriculture and tending of cattle and gift are the occupations of the Vaishyas according to the scriptures. Shudras have been ordained to be the servants of the brahmanas, the kshatriyas, and the vaishyas. Similarly, the Sutas are the servants of kshatriyas, and not latter the servants of the former. Listen to these my words, O sinless one. As regards myself, I am one whose coronal locks have undergone the sacred bath. I am born in a race of royal sages. I am reckoned a great car-warrior. I deserve the worship and the praises that bards and eulogists render and sing. Being all this, O slayer of hostile troops, I cannot go to the extent of acting as the driver of the Suta's son in battle. I will never fight, undergoing an act of humiliation. I ask thy permission, O son of Gandhari, for returning home."
"Sanjaya continued, 'Having said these words that tiger among men and ornament of assemblies, viz., Shalya, filled with rage stood up quickly and endeavoured to get away from that concourse of kings. Thy son, however, from affection and great regard, held the king, and addressed him in these sweet and conciliatory words, that were capable of accomplishing every object, "Without doubt, O Shalya, it is even so as thou hast said. But I have a certain purpose in view. Listen to it, O ruler of men, Karna is not superior to thee, nor do I suspect thee, O king. The royal chief of the Madras will never do that which is false. Those foremost of men that were thy ancestors always told the truth. I think it is for this that thou art called Artayani (the descendant of those that had truth for their refuge). And since, O giver of honours, thou art like a barbed arrow to thy foes, therefore art thou called by the name of Shalya on earth. O thou that makest large present (to brahmanas) at sacrifices, do thou accomplish all that which, O virtuous one, thou hadst previously said thou wouldst accomplish. Neither the son of Radha nor myself am superior to thee in valour that I would select thee as the driver of those foremost of steeds (that are yoked unto Karna's car). As, however, O sire, Karna is superior to Dhananjaya in regard to many qualities, even so doth the world regard thee to be superior to Vasudeva. Karna is certainly superior to Partha in the matter of weapons, O bull among men. Thou too art superior to Krishna in knowledge of steeds and might. Without doubt O ruler of the Madras, thy knowledge of horse is double that which the high-souled Vasudeva hath."
"'Shalya said, "Since, O son of Gandhari, thou describest me, O thou of Kuru's race, in the midst of all these troops, to be superior to Devaki's son, I am gratified with thee. I will become the driver of Radha's son of great fame while he will be engaged in battle with the foremost one of Pandu's sons, as thou solicitest me. Let this, however, O hero, be my understanding with Vikartana's son that I will in his presence utter whatever speeches I desire.'"
"Sanjaya continued, 'O king, thy son, with Karna then, O Bharata, answered the prince of the Madras, O best of Bharata's race, saying, "So be it."'"
Next: Section 33