The Mahabharata Home
"'Duryodhana said, "Even thus did that illustrious Deity, that Grandsire of all the worlds, viz., Brahman, act as driver on that occasion and even thus did Rudra become the warrior. The driver of the car, O hero, should be superior to the warrior on it. Therefore, O tiger among men, do thou hold the reins of the steeds in this battle. As on that occasion the Grandsire had been selected with care by all the celestials, indeed, O great king, as one greater than Sankara, so thou that art superior to Karna art now selected by us with care. Like the Grandsire holding the reins of Rudra's steeds, do thou hold, without delay, the reins of Karna's steeds in battle, O thou of great splendour."
"'Shalya said, "O foremost of men, many a time have I heard this excellent and celestial history, recited to me, of those two lions among gods. Indeed, I have heard how the Grandsire acted as the driver of Bhava and how the Asuras also, O Bharata, were all destroyed with one shaft. Krishna also had knowledge of all this before, the knowledge, viz., of how the illustrious Grandsire had become the driver on that occasion of yore. Indeed, Krishna knoweth the past and the future with all their details. Knowing this fact, he became the driver, O Bharata, of Partha like the Self-create becoming the driver of Rudra. If the Suta's son, by some means, succeeds in slaying the son of Kunti, Keshava, beholding Partha slain, will fight himself. That bearer of the conch, the discus, and the mace, will then consume thy army. There is no king here that will stay in the ranks in front of that illustrious one of Vrishni's race when he will be excited with wrath.'"
"Sanjaya said, 'Unto the ruler of the Madras who was speaking in that strain, that chastiser of foes, viz., thy mighty-armed son of cheerful soul replied, saying, "Do not, O mighty-armed one, think disparagingly of Karna, otherwise called Vaikartana, in battle,--that warrior who is the foremost of all wielders of arms and who is acquainted with the meaning of the whole body of our scriptures. Hearing the terrible and loud twang of his bow and the sound of his palms, the Pandava troops fly away on all sides. Thou hast witnessed it with thy own eyes, O mighty-armed one, how Ghatotkaca, screened by his illusions and displaying hundreds of still slain that night (by Karna). Feeling a great fear all these days Vibhatsu could never stand, fronting Karna. The mighty Bhimasena also, moved hither and thither by the horn of Karna's bow, was, O king, addressed in very harsh words such as 'Fool' and 'Glutton.' The two brave sons of Madri also were defeated by Karna in great battle, though, from some object he had in view, he did not, O sire, slay them then. That foremost one of Vrishni's race, viz., the heroic Satyaki, the chief of the Satwata clan, was vanquished by Karna and made carless. Others, such as all the Srinjayas headed by Dhrishtadyumna, have been repeatedly defeated in battle by Karna the great car-warrior who has achieved all these feats and who excited with wrath, is competent to slay Purandara himself armed with the thunderbolt in fight. Thyself also, O hero, art acquainted with every weapon. Thou art, again, the master of all branches of learning. There is none on Earth who is thy equal in might of arms. Irresistible in prowess, thou art like a dart (Shalya) unto thy enemies. It is for this, O king, that thou O slayer of foes, art called 'Shalya.' Encountering the might of thy arms, all the Satwatas were unable to get the better of it. Is Krishna superior to thee in might of arms, O king? Indeed, as Krishna is to bear the burthen of the Pandava troops upon the slaughter of Partha, even so art thou to bear the burthen of this vast (Kaurava) force if Karna lays down his life. Why should he be able to resist my troops and why shouldst not thou be able to slay the hostile troops, O sire? For thy sake, O sire, I would willingly follow the footsteps of my (slain) brothers and the other heroic kings of the Earth."
"'Shalya said, "O son of Gandhari, when thou, O giver of honours, describest me before thy troops to be superior to the son of Devaki, I am exceedingly gratified with thee. I accept the drivership of the celebrated son of Radha when he will fight with that foremost of the sons of Pandu, as thou desirest. I have, however, O hero, a compact to make with Vaikartana, and that is this: I will utter whatever words I may wish, in this one's presence.'"
"Sanjaya continued, 'Thy son then, O king, with Karna, O sire, answered the ruler of the Madras, saying, "Let it be so" in the presence of all the kshatriyas. Assured by Shalya's acceptance of the drivership, Duryodhana, filled with joy, embraced Karna. Eulogised (by bards and panegyrists around), thy son then once more addressed Karna, saying, "Slay all the Parthas in battle, like the great Indra slaying the Danavas." Shalya having accepted the office of holding the reins of his steeds, Karna, with a cheerful heart, once more addressed Duryodhana, saying, "The ruler of the Madras does not say very cheerfully what he says. O king, solicit him once more in sweet words." Thus addressed, the mighty king Duryodhana, possessed of great wisdom and accomplished in everything, once more spoke unto that lord of Earth, viz., Shalya, the ruler of Madras, in a voice deep as that of the clouds and filling the whole region there with the sound of that voice: "O Shalya, Karna thinks that he should fight with Arjuna today. O tiger among men hold the reins of Karna's steeds in battle. Having slain all the other warriors Karna desires to slay Phalguna. I solicit thee, O king, repeatedly, in the matter of holding the reins of his steeds. As Krishna, that foremost of all drivers, is the counsellor of Partha, even so do thou protect the son of Radha today from every danger.'"
"Sanjaya continued, 'Embracing thy son then, Shalya the ruler of the Madras, joyfully answered that slayer of foes, viz., Duryodhana, saying, "If this is what is thou thinkest, O royal son of Gandhari, O thou of handsome features, I shall, for that, accomplish everything that may be agreeable to thee. O chief of the Bharatas, for whatever acts I may be fit, employing myself therein with my whole heart, I will bear the burthen of those acts of thine. Let Karna, however, and thyself pardon me all those words, agreeable or disagreeable, that I may speak unto Karna from desire of his good.'"
"'Karna said, "O ruler of the Madras, be thou ever engaged in our good as Brahman in that of Ishana, as Keshava in that of Partha."
"'Shalya said, "These four kinds of conduct--self-rebuke and self-praise, speaking ill of others, and adulation of others, are never practised by those that are respectable. That, however, O learned one, which I shall say, for inspiring thy confidence is fraught with self-adulation. For all that, listen to it duly. O puissant one, like Matali himself, I am fit to act as the driver of even Indra in watchfulness, in managing the steeds, in knowledge of coming danger and of the means of avoiding it, and in competence to avoid it in practice. When thou wilt be engaged in battle with Partha, I will hold the reins of thy steeds. Let thy anxiety be dispelled, O Suta's son."'"
Next: Section 36