The Mahabharata Home
"Sanjaya said, 'Thus rebuked by Shalya of immeasurable energy, the son of Radha, feeling the propriety of his rebuker's name in consequence of his wordy darts, and becoming filled with rage, answered him thus:
"'Karna said, "The merits of meritorious men, O Shalya, are known to them that are themselves meritorious but not to them that are destitute of merit. Thou, however, art destitute of every merit. How then canst thou judge of merit and demerit? The mighty weapons of Arjuna, his wrath, his energy, his bow, his shafts and the prowess also of that high-souled hero are, O Shalya, well known to me. So also, O Shalya, thou dost not know, so as well as I myself, the greatness of Krishna, that bull among the lords of Earth. But knowing my own energy as also that of Pandu's son, I challenge him to battle, O Shalya, I do not act like an insect in respect of a blazing fire. I have this shaft, O Shalya, of keen mouth, blood-drinking, lying alone within one quiver, equipped with wings, well-steeped in oil and well-adorned. It lieth amid sandal dust, worshipped by me for long years. Partaking of the nature and form of a snake, it is poisonous and fierce and capable of killing large numbers of men and steeds and elephants of terrible form, and exceedingly awful, it is capable of piercing coats of mail and bones. Inspired with wrath, I may pierce even the mighty mountains of Meru with it. That shaft I will never shoot at any other person save Phalguna or Krishna, the son of Devaki. In this I tell thee the truth. Listen to it. With that shaft, O Shalya, I will, inspired with rage, fight with Vasudeva and Dhananjaya. That would be a feat worthy of me. Of all the heroes in the Vrishni race, it is Krishna in whom Prosperity is always established. Among all the sons of Pandu, it is Partha in whom Victory is always established. Those two tigers among men, stationed together on the same car, will advance against my single self for battle. Thou shalt, O Shalya, behold today the nobility of my lineage. Those two cousins, one of whom is the son of the aunt and the other the son of the maternal uncle, those two invincible warriors, thou shalt see, will be slain by me (with one shaft) and will look like two pearls strung together in the same string. Arjuna's gandiva and the ape-bearing banner, and Krishna's discus and the Garuda-bearing banner, inspire with fear only those that are timid. To me, however, O Shalya, they are causes of delight. Thou art a fool, of evil disposition, and unskilled in the ways of great battle. Overcome with terror, thou utterest these ravings. Or, thou art praising them for some reason not known to me. Having slain those two first, I shall then slay thee today with all thy kinsmen. Born in a sinful country thou art wicked-souled and mean, and a wretch amongst kshatriyas. Being a friend, why dost thou, like an enemy, frighten me with these praises of the two Krishnas? Either they two will slay me today or I will slay them two. Knowing as I do my own might, I do not cherish any fear of the two Krishnas. A 1,000 Vasudevas and hundreds of Phalgunas, I shall, single-handed, slay. Hold thy tongue, O thou that art born in a sinful country. Hear from me, O Shalya, the sayings, already passed into proverbs, that men, young and old, and women, and persons arrived in course of their listless wanderings, generally utter, as if those sayings formed part of their studies, about the wicked Madrakas. brahmanas also duly narrated the same things formerly in the courts of kings. Listening to those sayings attentively, O fool, thou mayst forgive or rejoin. The Madraka is always a hater of friends. He that hateth us is a Madraka. There is no friendship in the Madraka who is mean in speech and is the lowest of mankind. The Madraka is always a person of wicked soul, is always untruthful and crooked. It hath been heard by us that till the moment of death the Madrakas are wicked. (Amongst the Madrakas) the sire, the son, the mother, the mother-in-law, the brother, the grand-son, and other kinsmen, companions, strangers arrived at their homes, slaves male and female, mingle together. The women of the Madrakas mingle, at their own will, with men known and unknown. Of unrighteous conduct, and subsisting upon fried and powdered corn and fish, in their homes, they laugh and cry having drunk spirits and eaten beef. They sing incoherent songs and mingle lustfully with one another, indulging the while in the freest speeches. How then can virtue have a place amongst the Madrakas who are arrogant and notorious for all kinds of evil acts? No one should make friends with a Madraka or provoke hostilities with him. In the Madraka land there is no friendship. The Madraka is always the dirt of humanity. Amongst the Madrakas all acts of friendship are lost as purity amongst the Gandharakas and the libations poured in a sacrifice in which the king is himself the sacrificer and priest. Then again, it is truly seen that wise men treat a person bit by a scorpion and affected by its poison, even with these words: 'As a brahmana that assists at the religious ceremonies of a Shudra suffereth degradation, as one that hateth brahmanas always suffereth degradation, even so a person by making an alliance with the Madrakas becometh fallen. As there is no friendship in the Madraka, so, O scorpion, thy poison is nought.' With these mantras of the Atharvan I have duly performed the rite of exorcism. Knowing this, O learned one, hold thy tongue, or listen to something further that I will say. Those women that, intoxicated by spirits, cast off their robes and dance, those women that are not attached (to particular individuals) in the matter of intercourse and that they do as they please without owning any restrictions, I say, that being as thou art the child of one of those women, how canst thou, O Madraka, be a fit person for declaring the duties of men? Those women that live and answer calls of nature like camels and asses, being as thou art the child of one of those sinful and shameless creatures, how canst thou wish to declare the duties of men? When a Madraka woman is solicited for the gift of a little quantity of vinegar, she scratches her hips and without being desirous of giving it, says these cruel words, 'Let no man ask any vinegar of me that is so dear to me. I would give him my son, I would give him my husband, but vinegar I would not give.' The young Madraka maidens, we hear, are generally very shameless and hairy and gluttonous and impure. These and many other things of a like nature, in respect of all their acts, from the crown of their heads to the tip of their toes, are capable of being asserted of them by myself and others. How, indeed, would the Madrakas and the Sindhu-Sauviras know anything of duty, being born, as they are, in a sinful country, being mlecchas in their practices, and being totally regardless of all duties? It hath been heard by us that even this is the highest duty of a kshatriya, viz., that slain in battle, he should lie down on the Earth, applauded by the righteous. That I should lay down (my life) in this clash of arms is my foremost wish, desirous as I am of heaven through Death. I am also the dear friend of the intelligent son of Dhritarashtra. For his sake are my life-breaths and whatever wealth I have! As regards thyself, O thou that art born in a sinful country, it is evident that thou hast been tampered with by the Pandavas, since thou behavest towards us in everything like a foe. Like a righteous man that is incapable of being led astray by atheists, surely I am incapable of being dissuaded from this battle by hundreds of persons like thee. Like a deer, covered with sweat, thou art at liberty to weep or thirst. Observant as I am of the duties of a kshatriya, I am incapable of being frightened by thee. I recall to my mind the end, declared unto me in past times by my preceptor Rama, of those lions among men, those unreturning heroes, that laid down their lives in battle. Prepared for rescuing the Kauravas and slaying our foes, know that I am now determined to imitate the excellent behaviour of Pururavas. I do not, O ruler of the Madrakas, behold the person in the three worlds that can, I think, dissuade me from this purpose. Forbear to speak, knowing all this. Why dost thou rave in such a way from fear? O wretch amongst the Madrakas, I shall not now slay thee and present thy carcase as an offering to carnivorous creatures. From regard for a friend, O Shalya, for the sake of Dhritarashtra's son, and for avoiding blame, for these three reasons, thou still livest. If, O ruler of the Madras, thou speakest such words again, I shall then crush thy head with my mace that is as hard as the thunder. People will today see or hear, O thou that art born in a sinful country, either that the two Krishnas have slain Karna or that Karna has slain the two Krishnas." Having said these words, the son of Radha, O monarch, once more addressed the king of the Madras, fearlessly saying, "Proceed, proceed.'"
Next: Section 41