The Mahabharata Home
"Sanjaya said, 'Hearing, O sire, these words of Radha's son who delighted in battle, Shalya once more addressed Karna, citing an example, "I am born in the race of men who performed great sacrifices, who never retreated from battle, who were kings whose coronal locks underwent the sacred bath. I am also myself devoted to the practice of virtue. Thou, O Vrisha, seemest to be like one that is intoxicated with spirits. For all that, I will, from friendship, seek to cure thy erring and intoxicated self. Listen, O Karna, to this simile of a crow that I am about to narrate. Having heard it, thou mayest do what thou choosest, O thou that art destitute of intelligence and that art a wretch of thy race. I do not, O Karna, remember the slightest fault in me for which, O thou of mighty arms, thou mayst desire to slay my innocent self. I must tell thee what is for thy good and what is for thy ill, acquainted as I am with both, especially as I am the driver of thy car and desirous of the good of king Duryodhana. What land is level and what not, the strength or weakness of the warrior (on my vehicle), the fatigue and faintness, at all times, of the steeds and the warrior (I am driving), a knowledge of the weapons that are available, the cries of animals and birds, what would be heavy for the steeds and what exceedingly heavy for them, the extraction of arrows and the curing of wounds which weapons counteract which, the several methods of battle, and all kinds of omens and indications, I who am so nearly connected with this car, being none else than its driver, should be familiar with. For this, O Karna, I narrate this instance to thee once more. There lived on the other side of the ocean a Vaishya who had abundance of wealth and corn. He performed sacrifices, made liberal gifts, was peaceful, devoted to the duties of his own order, and pure in habits and mind. He had many sons whom he loved, and was kind unto all creatures. He lived fearlessly in the dominions of a king that was guided by virtue. There was a crow that lived on the refuse of the dishes set before those well-behaved young children of the Vaishya. Those Vaishya children always gave the crow meat and curds, and milk, and sugared milk with rice, and honey, and butter. Thus fed with the refuse of their dishes by the young children of that Vaishya, the crow became arrogant and came to disregard all birds that were equal to him or even superior. It chanced that once certain swans of cheerful hearts, of great speed and capable of going everywhere at will and equal unto Garuda himself in range and speed of flight, came to that side of the ocean. The Vaishya boys, beholding those swans, addressed the crow and said, 'O ranger of the skies, thou art superior to all winged creatures.' Deceived by those children of little understanding, that oviparous creature from folly and pride, regarded their words to be true. Proud of the refuse of the children's dishes upon which he fed, the crow then, alighting in the midst of those swans capable of traversing great distances, desired to enquire as to who amongst them was their leader. The foolish crow at last challenged him amongst those birds of tireless wings whom he regarded their leader, saying, 'Let us compete in flight.' Hearing those words of the raving crow, the swans that had assembled there, those foremost of birds endued with great strength, began to laugh. The swans then, that were capable of going everywhere at will, addressed the crow, saying. 'We are swans, having our abode in the Manasa lake. We traverse the whole Earth, and amongst winged creatures we are always applauded for the length of the distances we traverse. Being, as thou art, only a crow, how canst thou, O fool, challenge a swan endued with might, capable of going everywhere at will, and doing large distances in course of his flight? Tell us, O crow, how thou shalt fly with us.' The boastful crow, in consequence of the foolishness of his species, repeatedly finding fault with the words of that swan, at last gave this answer. The crow said, 'I shall without doubt fly displaying a hundred and one different kinds of motion. Doing every hundred Yojanas in a separate and beautiful kind of motion, I shall display all those motions. Rising up, and swooping down, and whirling around, and coursing straight, and proceeding gently, and advancing steadily, and performing the diverse courses up and receding back, and soaring high, and darting forward and soaring upwards with fiercer velocity, and once more proceeding gently and then proceeding with great impetuosity, and once again swooping down and whirling around and advancing steadily, and rising up by the jerks, and soaring straight, and once more falling down and wheeling in a circle and rushing proudly, and diverse other kinds of motion, these all I shall display in the sight of all you. Ye shall then witness my strength. With one of these different kinds of motion I shall presently rise into the sky. Point out duly, ye swans, by which of these motions I shall course through space. Settling the kind of motion amongst yourselves, you will have to course with me. Adopting all those different motion, ye shall have to course with me through supportless space.' The crow having said these words, one of the swans addressed him, 'Listen, O son of Radha, to the words that the swan said. The swan spoke, 'Thou, O crow, wilt doubtless fly the hundred and one different kinds of flight. I shall, however, fly in that one kind of motion that all (other) birds know, for I do not, O crow, know any other. As regards thee, O thou of red eyes, fly thou in any kind of course that thou likest.' At these words, those crows that had been assembled there laughed aloud, saying, 'How will the swan with only one kind of flight get the better of a hundred different kinds of flight?'
"'"Then those two, viz., the swan and the crow, rose into the sky, challenging each other. Capable of going everywhere at will, the swan proceeded in one kind of motion, while the crow coursed in a hundred different kinds. And the swan flew and the crow also flew, causing each other to wonder (at his skill) and each speaking highly of his own achievements. Beholding the diverse kinds of flight at successive instants of time, the crows that were there were filled with great joy and began to caw more loudly. The swans also laughed in mockery, uttering many remarks disagreeable (to the crows). And they began to soar and alight repeatedly, here and there. And they began to come down and rise up from tree-tops and the surface of the earth. And they uttered diverse cries indicative of their victory. The swan, however, with that one kind of slow motion (with which he was familiar) began to traverse the skies. For a moment, therefore, O sire, he seemed to yield to the crow. The crows, at this, disregarding the swans, said these words: 'That swan amongst you which has soared into the sky, is evidently yielding'. Hearing these words, the (soaring) swan flew westwards with great velocity to the ocean, that abode of Makaras. Then fear entered the heart of the crow who became almost senseless at not seeing any island or trees whereon to perch when tired. And the crow thought within his heart as to where he should alight when tired, upon that vast expanse of water. The ocean, being as it is the abode of countless creatures, is irresistible. Dwelt in by hundreds of monsters, it is grander than space. Nothing can exceed it in depth, O Suta's son. Men know, O Karna, that the waters of the ocean are as limitless as space. For the extent of its waters, O Karna, what is a crow to it? The swan, having traversed a great distance in a moment, looked back at the crow, and (though capable) could not leave him behind. Having transgressed the crow, the swan cast his eyes on him and waited, thinking, 'Let the crow come up.' The crow then, exceedingly tired, came up to the swan. Beholding him succumbing, and about to sink, and desirous of rescuing him in remembrance of the practices of good folks, the swan addressed him in these words, 'Thou hadst repeatedly spoken of many kinds of flight while speaking on the subject. Thou wouldst not speak of this (thy present motion) because of its having been a mystery to us? What is the name of this kind of flight, O crow, that thou hast now adopted? Thou touchest the waters with thy wings and beak repeatedly. Which amongst those diverse kinds of flight is this, O crow, that thou art now practising? Come, come, quickly, O crow, for I am waiting for thee.''"
"'Shalya continued, "Exceedingly afflicted, and touching the water with his wings and beak, O thou of wicked soul, the crow, beheld in that state by the swan, addressed the latter. Indeed, not seeing the limit of that watery expanse and sinking down in fatigue, and exhausted with the effort of his flight the crow said unto the swan, 'We are crows, we wander hither and thither, crying-caw, caw. 'O swan, I seek thy protection, placing my life-breaths at thy hands. Oh, take me to the shores of the ocean with the wings and beak.' The crow, very much fatigued, suddenly fell down. Beholding him fallen upon the waters of the ocean with a melancholy heart, the swan, addressing the crow who was on the point of death, said these words, 'Remember, O crow, what thou hadst said in praise of thyself. The words even were that thou wouldst course through the sky in a hundred and one different kinds of flight. Thou, therefore that wouldst fly a hundred different kinds of flight, thou that art superior to me, alas, why then art thou tired and fallen down on the ocean?' Overcome with weakness, the crow then, casting his eyes upwards at the swan, and seeking to gratify him, replied, saying, 'Proud of the remains of others' dishes upon which I fed, I had, O swan, regarded myself as the equal of Garuda and disregarded all crows and many other birds. I now, however, seek thy protection and place my life-breaths at thy hands. Oh, take me to the shores of some island. If, O swan, I can, O lord, return in safety to my own country, I will never again disregard anybody. Oh rescue me now from this calamity.' Him that said so and was so melancholy and weeping and deprived of senses, him that was sinking in the ocean, uttering cries 'caw, caw,' him so drenched by the water and so disgusting to look at and trembling with fear, the swan, without a word, took up with his feet, and slowly caused him to ride on his back. Having caused the crow whose senses had deserted him to ride upon his back, the swan quickly returned to that island whence they had both flown, challenging each other. Placing down that ranger of the sky on dry land and comforting him, the swan, fleet as the mind, proceeded to the region he desired. Thus was that crow, fed on the remains of others' dinners, vanquished by the swan. The crow, then, casting off the pride of might and energy, adopted a life of peace and quiet. Indeed, even, as that crow, fed upon the remains of the dinners of the Vaishya children, disregarded his equals and superiors, so dost thou, O Karna, that art fed by the sons of Dhritarashtra upon the remains of their dishes, disregard all thy equals and superiors. Why didst thou not slay Partha at Virata's city when thou hadst the advantage of being protected by Drona and Drona's son and Kripa and Bhishma and the other Kauravas? There where, like a pack of jackals defeated by a lion, ye all were defeated with great slaughter by the diadem-decked Arjuna, what became of your prowess? Beholding also thy brother slain by Savyasaci, in the very sight of the Kuru heroes, it was thou that didst fly away first. By the skirts also of the dvaitya lake, O Karna, when thou wert assailed by the Gandharvas, it was thou that, deserting all the Kurus, didst first run away. Having vanquished in battle the Gandharvas headed by Citrasena, with great slaughter, it was Partha, O Karna, that liberated Duryodhana with his wife. Rama himself, O Karna, before the kings in the (Kuru) assembly spake of the great prowess of both Partha and Keshava. Thou didst frequently hear the words of Drona and Bhishma, speaking in the presence of all the kings, that the two Krishnas are unslayable. I have told thee a little only regarding those matters in which Dhananjaya is superior to thee like the brahmana who is superior to all created beings. Soon wilt thou see, stationed on that foremost of cars, the son of Vasudeva and the son of Kunti and Pandu. As the crow (in the story), acting with intelligence, had sought the protection of the swan, so do thou seek the protection of him of Vrishni's race, and of Pandu's son Dhananjaya. When thou shalt in battle behold Vasudeva and Dhananjaya, those two endued with great prowess, stationed together on the same car, thou shalt not then, O Karna, utter such speeches. When Partha will, with hundreds of arrows, quell thy pride, then wilt thou behold the difference between thyself and Dhananjaya. Those two best of persons are celebrated among the gods, the Asuras and human beings. Thou that art a firefly, do not, from folly, think disrespectfully of those two resplendent luminaries. Like the Sun and moon, Keshava and Arjuna are celebrated for their resplendence. Thou, however, art like a fire-fly among men. O learned one, O son of a Suta, do not think disrespectfully of Acyuta and Arjuna. Those two high-souled persons are lions among men. Forbear indulging in such boasts."'"
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