The Mahabharata Home
"Sanjaya said, 'Beholding the mighty Karna take up his station from desire of battle, the Kauravas, filled with delight, uttered loud shouts from every side. With the beat of cymbals and the sound of drums, with the whizz of diverse kinds of arrows and the roars of combatants endued with great activity, all thy troops proceeded to battle, making death only the point at which to stop. When Karna set out and the warriors of the Kuru army were filled with joy, the Earth, O king, trembled and made a loud noise. The seven great planets including the Sun seemed to proceed against one another (for combat). Meteoric showers became noticeable and all the quarters seemed ablaze. Thunders fell from a cloudless sky, and fierce winds began to blow. Animals and birds in larger numbers kept thy army to their right, foreboding great calamities. After Karna had set out, his steeds tumbled down on the Earth. A frightful shower of bones fell from the sky. The weapons (of the Kuru warriors) seemed to be ablaze; their standards trembled; and their animals, O monarch, shed copious tears. These and many other terrible and awful portents appeared for the destruction of the Kurus. Stupefied by destiny, none of them regarded those portents at all. Beholding the Suta's son setting out, all the rulers of men (in the Kaurava army) cried victory to him. The Kauravas regarded the Pandavas to have been already vanquished. That slayer of hostile heroes, that foremost of car-warriors, viz., Vaikartana, as he stayed on his car recollecting the death of Bhishma and Drona, blazed up with splendour like the Sun or fire. Reflecting on the mighty feats of Partha, and burning with self-conceit and pride, and blazing with wrath and breathing long and hard, he addressed Shalya and said these words: "When stationed on my car and armed with my bow, I would not take fright at Indra himself armed with the thunder and excited with wrath. Beholding those great heroes headed by Bhishma lying on the field of battle, do not feel any anxiety. Seeing even the faultless Bhishma and Drona, equal unto Indra and Vishnu, those crushers of foremost of cars and steeds and elephants, those heroes that were unslayable, slain by the foe, I do not still experience any fear in this battle. Acquainted with mighty weapons, and himself the foremost of brahmanas, why, indeed, did not the preceptor slay in battle all foes, seeing them destroy the mightiest of our kings with their drivers and elephants and cars? Remembering that Drona in great battle, I tell you truly, listen to me, ye Kurus, there is none amongst you, save myself, that is competent to bear the advancing Arjuna, that warrior who resembles Death himself in his fiercest form. In Drona were the skills attendant on practice, and might, and bravery, and the highest of weapons and policy. When even that high-souled one had to succumb to Death, I regard all the others (of our army), strengthless and on the point of death. In this world I do not find anything, even on reflection, to be stable, in consequence of the inevitable connection of acts. When the preceptor himself is dead, who then will indulge in the certain belief that he will live till even today's sun-rise? When the preceptor was thus slain by the enemy in battle, without doubt weapons, ordinary and celestial, and might and prowess, and achievements and wise policy, are not able to compass the happiness of man. In energy Drona was equal to fire or the Sun, in prowess he resembled Vishnu or Purandara; in policy he was equal to Brihaspati or Usana; irresistible as he was, weapons could not yet protect him. When (our) women and children are weeping and uttering loud wails, when the valour of the Dhartarashtras has been defeated, I know it, O Shalya, that it is I who am to fight. Proceed therefore, against the army of our enemies. Who else, save myself, will be able to bear those troops amongst whom are stationed the royal son of Pandu firm in truth, and Bhimasena and Arjuna, and Satyaki, and the twins? Therefore, O ruler of the Madras, proceed quickly, in this battle, towards the Pancalas, the Pandavas, and the Srinjayas. Encountering them in battle, either I will slay them, or myself to Yama's presence by the path taken by Drona. Do not think, O Shalya, that I will not go into the very midst of those heroes. These intestine dissensions cannot be tolerated by me. (Without seeking to tolerate them) I will even follow in the wake of Drona. Wise or ignorant, when his period is run out, everybody is equally regarded by the Destroyer; no one can escape, O learned one, for this, I will proceed against the Parthas. I am unable to transgress my destiny. The son of Vichitravirya's son is, O king, always engaged in doing me good. For the accomplishment of his purpose, I will cast away my life-breaths that are so dear, and this body that is so difficult of being cast away. This foremost of cars covered with tigerskins, with axle producing no sound equipped with a golden seat endued with trivenu made of silver, and unto which are yoked these foremost of steeds, Rama gave unto me. Behold, also, O Shalya, these beautiful bows, these standards, these maces, these shafts of fierce forms, this blazing sword, this mighty weapon, this white conch of fierce and loud blare. Riding upon this car decked with banners, its wheels producing a rattle deep as that of the thunder, having white steeds yoked unto it, and adorned with excellent quivers, I will, putting forth my might, slay in battle that bull among car-warriors, Arjuna. If Death himself, that universal consumer, were to protect with vigilance the son of Pandu in battle, I would still encounter him in fight and either slay him or myself go to Yama's presence following Bhishma. If Yama, Varuna, Kuvera, and Vasava, with all their followers coming hither, unitedly protect the son of Pandu in this great battle, what need of many words, I will still vanquish him with them.'"
"Sanjaya continued, 'Hearing these words of the bragging Karna who was exceedingly delighted with the prospect of battle, the valiant king of the Madras, deriding him, laughed aloud, and gave him the following reply for checking him.
"'Shalya said, "Forbear, forbear, O Karna, from such bragging. Thou art in transports of delight and sayest what thou shouldst never say. Where is Dhananjaya, that foremost of men, and where again, art thou, O lowest of men? Who else, save Arjuna, could take away the younger sister of (Keshava) that foremost of all persons, having forcibly agitated the home of the Yadus that was protected by the younger brother of Indra and that resembled heaven itself that is guarded by the chief of celestials? What man save Arjuna who is endued with prowess that is equal to the prowess of the chief of the celestials, could on the occasion of the dispute caused by the slaughter of an animal, summon Bhava the Lord of Lords, the Creator of the worlds, to battle? For the sake of honouring Agni, Jaya had vanquished asuras and gods and great snakes and men and birds and pishacas and yakshas and rakshasas with his shafts and gave unto that god the food he had desired. Dost thou remember, O Karna, the occasion when, slaughtering those foes in large numbers with his excellent shafts endued with the effulgence of the Sun, Phalguna liberated Dhritarashtra's son himself among the Kurus? Dost thou remember the occasion when, thyself having been the first to fly away, the quarrelsome sons of Dhritarashtra were liberated by the Pandavas after the latter had defeated those rangers of the skies (the gandharvas headed by Citraratha)? On the occasion also of the seizure of (Virata's) kine, the Kauravas, swelling with numbers in respect of both men and animals, and having the preceptor and the preceptor's son and Bhishma amongst them, were vanquished by that foremost of men. Why, O son of Suta, didst thou not vanquish Arjuna then? For thy destruction another excellent battle has now presented itself. If thou dost not fly away from fear of thy enemy, know O Suta's son, that as soon as thou goest to battle thou wilt be slain.'"
"Sanjaya continued, 'When the ruler of the Madras was most heartily engaged in addressing these harsh speeches to Karna and uttering these praises of the latter's foe, that scorcher of foes, viz., the commander of the Kuru army, excited with rage, said these words unto the Madra king.
"'Karna said, "Let it be so, let it be so. Why, however, dost thou indulge in Arjuna's praises? A battle is about to ensue between myself and him. If he vanquishes me in fight, then will these thy praises be regarded as well-uttered.'"
"Sanjaya continued, 'The ruler of the Madras said, "Let it be so," and gave no reply. When Karna, from desire of fight, addressed Shalya, saying, "Proceed," then that great carwarrior, having white steeds yoked unto his vehicle and owning Shalya as his charioteer, proceeded against his foes, slaying large numbers in battle along his way, like the Sun destroying the darkness. Indeed, on that car covered with tiger-skins and having white steeds yoked unto it, Karna proceeded with a cheerful heart, and beholding the army of the Pandavas, speedily enquired after Dhananjaya.'"
Next: Section 38