The Mahabharata Home
"Sanjaya said, 'Flying away in consequence of the falling of Arjuna's arrows, the broken divisions of the Kauravas, staying at a distance, continued to gaze at Arjuna's weapon swelling with energy and careering around with the effulgence of lightning. Then Karna, with showers of terrible shafts, baffled that weapon of Arjuna while it was still careering in the welkin and which Arjuna had shot with great vigour in that fierce encounter for the destruction of his foe. Indeed, that weapon (of Partha) which, swelling with energy, had been consuming the Kurus, the Suta's son now crushed with his shafts winged with gold. Bending then his own loud-sounding bow of irrefragable string, Karna shot showers of shafts. The Suta's son destroyed that burning weapon of Arjuna with his own foe-killing weapon of great power which he had obtained from Rama, and which resembled (in efficacy) an Atharvan rite. And he pierced Partha also with numerous keen shafts. The encounter then, O king, that took place between Arjuna and the son of Adhiratha, became a very dreadful one. They continued to strike each other with arrows like two fierce elephants striking each other with their tusks. All the points of the compass then became shrouded with weapons and the very sun became invisible. Indeed, Karna and Partha, with their arrowy downpours, made the welkin one vast expanse of arrows without any space between. All the Kauravas and the Somakas then beheld a wide-spread arrowy net. In that dense darkness caused by arrows, they were unable to see anything else. Those two foremost of men, both accomplished in weapons, as they incessantly aimed and shot innumerable arrows, O king, displayed diverse kinds of beautiful manoeuvres. While they were thus contending with each other in battle, sometimes the Suta's son prevailed over his rival and sometimes the diadem-decked Partha prevailed over his, in prowess and weapons and lightness of hands. Beholding that terrible and awful passage-at-arms between those two heroes each of whom was desirous of availing himself of the other's lapses, all the other warriors on the field of battle became filled with wonder. The beings in the welkin, O king, applauded Karna and Arjuna. Indeed, many of them at a time, filled with joy, cheerfully shouted, sometimes saying, "Excellent, O Karna!" and sometimes saying, "Excellent, O Arjuna!" During the progress of that fierce encounter, while the earth was being pressed deep with the weight of cars and the tread of steeds and elephants, the snake Aswasena, who was hostile to Arjuna, was passing his time in the nether region. Freed from the conflagration at Khandava, O king, he had, from anger, penetrated through the earth (for going to the subterranean region). That brave snake, recollecting the death of his mother and the enmity he on that account harboured against Arjuna, now rose from the lower region. Endued with the power of ascending the skies, he soared up with great speed upon beholding that fight between Karna and Arjuna. Thinking that that was the time for gratifying his animosity towards, as he thought, the wicked-souled Partha, he quickly entered into Karna's quiver, O king, in the form of an arrow. At that time a net of arrows was seen, shedding its bright arrows around. Karna and Partha made the welkin one dense mass of arrows by means of their arrowy downpours. Beholding that wide-spread expanse of arrows, all the Kauravas and the Somakas became filled with fear. In that thick and awful darkness caused by arrows they were unable to see anything else. Then those two tigers among men, those two foremost of all bowmen in the world, those two heroes, fatigued with their exertions in battle, looked at each other. Both of them were then fanned with excellent and waving fans made of young (palm) leaves and sprinkled with fragrant sandal-water by many Apsaras staying in the welkin. And Sakra and Surya, using their hands, gently brushed the faces of those two heroes. When at last Karna found that he could not prevail over Partha and was exceedingly scorched with the shafts of the former, that hero, his limbs very much mangled, set his heart upon that shaft of his which lay singly within a quiver. The Suta's son then fixed on his bow-string that foe-killing, exceedingly keen, snake-mouthed, blazing, and fierce shaft, which had been polished according to rule, and which he had long kept for the sake of Partha's destruction. Stretching his bow-string to his ear, Karna fixed that shaft of fierce energy and blazing splendour, that ever-worshipped weapon which lay within a golden quiver amid sandal dust, and aimed it at Partha. Indeed, he aimed that blazing arrow, born in Airavata's race, for cutting off Phalguna's head in battle. All the points of the compass and the welkin became ablaze and terrible meteors, and thunderbolts fell. When that snake of the form of an arrow was fixed on the bow-string, the Regents of the world, including Sakra, set up loud wails. The Suta's son did not know that the snake Aswasena had entered his arrow by the aid of his Yoga powers. Beholding Vaikartana aim that arrow, the high-souled ruler of the Madras, addressing Karna, said, "This arrow, O Karna, will not succeed in striking off Arjuna's head. Searching carefully, fix another arrow that may succeed in striking off thy enemy's head." Endued with great activity, the Suta's son, with eyes burning in wrath, then said unto the ruler of the Madras, "O Shalya, Karna never aimeth an arrow twice. Persons like us never become crooked warriors." Having said these words, Karna, with great care, let off that shaft which he had worshipped for many long years. Bent upon winning the victory, O king, he quickly said unto his rival, "Thou art slain, O Phalguna!" Sped from Karna's arms, that shaft of awful whizz, resembling fire or the sun in splendour, as it left the bow-string, blazed up in the welkin and seemed to divide it by a line such as is visible on the crown of a woman dividing her tresses. Beholding that shaft blazing in the welkin, the slayer of Kamsa, Madhava, with great speed and the greatest ease, pressed down with his feet that excellent car, causing it to sink about a cubit deep. At this, the steeds, white as the rays of the moon and decked in trappings of gold, bending their knees, laid themselves down on the ground. Indeed, seeing that snake (in the form of an arrow) aimed by Karna, Madhava, that foremost of all persons endued with might, put forth his strength and thus pressed down with his feet that car into the earth, whereat the steeds, (as already said) bending down their knees, laid themselves down upon the earth when the car itself had sank into it. Then loud sounds arose in the welkin in applause of Vasudeva. Many celestial voices were heard, and celestial flowers were showered upon Krishna, and leonine shouts also were uttered. When the car had thus been pressed down into the earth through the exertions of the slayer of Madhu, the excellent ornament of Arjuna's head, celebrated throughout the earth, the welkin, heaven, and the waters, the Suta's son swept off from the crown of his rival, with that arrow, in consequence of the very nature of that snaky weapon and the great care and wrath with which it had been shot. That diadem, endued with the splendour of the sun or the moon or fire or a planet, and adorned with gold and pearls and gems and diamonds, had with great care been made by the puissant Self-born himself for Purandara. Costly as its appearance indicated, it was inspiring terror in the hearts of foes, contributing to the happiness of him that wore it, and shedding a fragrance, that ornament had been given by the chief of the celestials himself with a cheerful heart unto Partha while the latter had proceeded to slaughter the foes of the gods. That diadem was incapable of being crushed by Rudra and the Lord of waters and Kuvera with Pinaka and noose and thunderbolt and the very foremost of shafts. It could not be endured by even the foremost ones among the gods. Vrisha, however, now broke it forcibly with his snake-inspired shaft. Endued with great activity, that wicked-natured snake of fierce form and false vows, falling upon that diadem-decked with gold and gems, swept it away from Arjuna's head. That snake, O king, forcibly tore it away from Partha's head, quickly reducing into fragments that well-made ornament set over with many a gem and blazing with beauty, like the thunderbolt riving a mountain summit decked with lofty and beautiful trees graced with flowers. Crushed by that excellent weapon, possessed of splendour, and blazing with the fire of (the snake's) poison, that beautiful and much-liked diadem of Partha fell down on the earth like the blazing disc of the Sun from the Asta hills. Indeed, that snake forcibly swept away from Arjuna's head that diadem adorned with many gems, like the thunder of Indra felling a beautiful mountain summit adorned with lofty trees bearing budding leaves and flowers. And the earth, welkin, heaven, and the waters, when agitated by a tempest, roar aloud, O Bharata, even such was the roar that arose in all the worlds at that time. Hearing that tremendous noise, people, notwithstanding their efforts to be calm, became extremely agitated and reeled as they stood. Reft of diadem, the dark complexioned and youthful Partha looked beautiful like a blue mountain of lofty summit. Binding then his locks with a white cloth, Arjuna stood perfectly unmoved. With that white gear on his head, he looked like the Udaya hill illumined with the rays of the sun. Thus that she-snake (whom Arjuna had killed at Khandava) of excellent mouth, through her son in the form of an arrow, sped by Surya's son, beholding Arjuna of exceeding energy and might standing with his head at a level with the reins of the steeds, took away his diadem only, that well-made ornament (formerly) owned by Aditi's son and endued with the effulgence of Surya himself. But Arjuna also (as will appear in the sequel) did not return from that battle without causing the snake to succumb to the power of Yama. Sped from Karna's arms, that costly shaft resembling fire or the sun in effulgence, viz., that mighty snake who from before had become the deadly foe of Arjuna, thus crushing the latter's diadem, went away. Having burnt the gold-decked diadem of Arjuna displayed on his head, he desired to come to Arjuna once more with great speed. Asked, however, by Karna (who saw him but knew him not), he said these words, "Thou hadst sped me, O Karna, without having seen me. It was for this that I could not strike off Arjuna's head. Do thou quickly shoot me once again, after seeing me well. I shall then slay thy foe and mine too." Thus addressed in that battle by him, the Suta's son said, "Who are you possessed of such fierce form?" The snake answered, saying, "Know me as one that has been wronged by Partha. My enmity towards him is due to his having slain my mother. If the wielder of the thunderbolt himself were to protect Partha, the latter would still have to go to the domains of the king of the pitris. Do not disregard me. Do my bidding. I will slay thy foe. Shoot me without delay." Hearing those words, Karna said, "Karna, O snake, never desires to have victory in battle today by relying on another's might. Even if I have to slay a hundred Arjunas, I will not, O snake, still shoot the same shaft twice." Once more addressing him in the midst of battle, that best of men, viz., Surya's son, Karna, said, "Aided by the nature of my other snaky weapons, and by resolute effort and wrath, I shall slay Partha. Be thou happy and go elsewhere." Thus addressed, in battle, by Karna, that prince of snakes, unable from rage to bear those words, himself proceeded, O king, for the slaughter of Partha, having assumed the form of an arrow. Of fierce form, the desire he ardently cherished was the destruction of his enemy. Then Krishna, addressing Partha in that encounter, said into him, "Slay that great snake inimical to thee." Thus addressed by the slayer of Madhu, the wielder of Gandiva, that bowman who was always fierce unto foes, enquired of him, saying, "Who is that snake that advanceth of his own accord against me, as if, indeed he advanceth right against the mouth of Garuda?" Krishna replied, "Whilst thou, armed with bow, wert engaged at Khandava in gratifying the god Agni, this snake was then in the sky, his body ensconced within his mother's. Thinking that it was only a single snake that was so staying in the sky, thou killedest the mother. Remembering that act of hostility done by thee, he cometh towards thee today for thy destruction. O resister of foes, behold him coming like a blazing meteor, falling from the firmament!'"
"Sanjaya continued, 'Then Jishnu, turning his face in rage, cut off, with six keen shafts, that snake in the welkin as the latter was coursing in a slanting direction. His body thus cut off, he fell down on the earth. After that snake had been cut off by Arjuna, the lord Keshava himself, O king, of massive arms, that foremost of beings, raised up with his arms that car from the earth. At that time, Karna, glancing obliquely at Dhananjaya, pierced that foremost of persons, viz., Krishna, with ten shafts whetted on stone and equipped with peacock feathers. Then Dhananjaya, piercing Karna with a dozen well-shot and keen arrows equipped with heads like the boar's ear, sped a cloth-yard shaft endued with the energy of a snake of virulent poison and shot from his bow-string stretched to his ear. That foremost of shafts, well shot by Arjuna, penetrated through Karna's armour, and as if suspending his life breaths, drank his blood and entered the earth, its wings also having been drenched with gore. Endued with great activity, Vrisha, enraged at the stroke of the shaft, like a snake beaten with stick, shot many mighty shafts, like snakes of virulent poison vomiting venom. And he pierced Janardana with a dozen shafts and Arjuna with nine and ninety. And once more piercing the son of Pandu with a terrible shaft, Karna laughed and uttered a loud roar. The son of Pandu, however, could not endure his enemy's joy. Acquainted with all the vital parts of the human body, Partha, possessed of prowess like that of Indra, pierced those vital limbs with hundreds of arrows even as Indra had struck Vala with great energy. Then Arjuna sped ninety arrows, each resembling the rod of Death at Karna. Deeply pierced with those shafts, Karna trembled like a mountain riven with thunder. The head-gear of Karna, adorned with costly gems and precious diamonds and pure gold, as also his earrings, cut off by Dhananjaya with his winged arrows, fell down on the earth. The costly and bright armour also of the Suta's son that had been forged with great care by many foremost of artists working for a long time, the son of Pandu cut off within a moment in many fragments. After thus divesting him of his armour, Partha then, in rage, pierced Karna with four whetted shafts of great energy. Struck forcibly by his foe, Karna suffered great pain like a diseased person afflicted by bile, phlegm, wind, and fever. Once more Arjuna, with great speed, mangled Karna, piercing his very vitals, with numerous excellent shafts, of great keenness, and sped from his circling bow with much force and speed and care. Deeply struck by Partha with those diverse arrows of keen points and fierce energy, Karna (covered with blood) looked resplendent like a mountain of red chalk with streams of red water running adown its breast. Once more Arjuna pierced Karna in the centre of the chest with many straight-coursing and strong shafts made entirely of iron and equipped with wings of gold and each resembling the fiery rod of the Destroyer, like the son of Agni piercing the Krauncha mountains. Then the Suta's son, casting aside his bow that resembled the very bow of Sakra, as also his quiver, felt great pain, and stood inactive, stupefied, and reeling, his grasp loosened and himself in great anguish. The virtuous Arjuna, observant of the duty of manliness, wished not to slay his enemy while fallen into such distress. The younger brother of Indra then, with great excitement, addressed him, saying, "Why, O son of Pandu, dost thou become so forgetful? They that are truly wise never spare their foes, however weak, even for a moment. He that is learned earneth both merit and fame by slaying foes fallen into distress. Lose no time in precipitately crushing Karna who is always inimical to thee and who is the first of heroes. The Suta's son, when able, will once more advance against thee as before. Slay him, therefore, like Indra slaying the Asura Namuci." Saying, "So be it, O Krishna!" and worshipping Janardana, Arjuna, that foremost of all persons in Kuru's race once more quickly pierced Karna with many excellent arrows like the ruler of heaven, piercing the Asura, Samvara. The diadem-decked Partha, O Bharata, covered Karna and his car and steeds with many calf-toothed arrows, and putting forth all his vigour he shrouded all the points of the compass with shafts equipped with wings of gold. Pierced with those arrows equipped with heads like the calf's tooth, Adhiratha's son of broad chest looked resplendent like an Asoka or Palasa or Salmali decked with its flowery load or a mountain overgrown with a forest of sandal trees. Indeed, with those numerous arrows sticking to his body, Karna, O monarch, in that battle, looked resplendent like the prince of mountains with its top and glens overgrown with trees or decked with flowering Karnikaras. Karna also shooting repeated showers of arrows, looked, with those arrows constituting his rays, like the sun coursing towards the Asta hills, with disc bright with crimson rays. Shafts, however, of keen points, sped from Arjuna's arms, encountering in the welkin the blazing arrows, resembling mighty snakes, sped from the arms of Adhiratha's son, destroyed them all. Recovering his coolness, and shooting many shafts that resembled angry snakes, Karna then pierced Partha with ten shafts and Krishna with half a dozen, each of which looked like an angry snake. Then Dhananjaya desired to shoot a mighty and terrible arrow, made wholly of iron, resembling the poison of snake or fire in energy, and whose whizz resembling the peal of Indra's thunder, and which was inspired with the force of a high (celestial) weapon. At that time, when the hour of Karna's death had come, Kala, approaching invisibly, and alluding to the Brahmana's curse, and desirous of informing Karna that his death was near, told him, "The Earth is devouring thy wheel!" Indeed, O foremost of men, when the hour of Karna's death came, the high brahmastra that the illustrious Bhargava had imparted unto him, escaped from his memory. And the earth also began to devour the left wheel of his car. Then in consequence of the curse of that foremost of Brahmanas, Karna's car began to reel, having sunk deep into the earth and having been transfixed at that spot like a sacred tree with its load of flowers standing upon an elevated platform. When his car began to reel from the curse of the Brahmana, and when the high weapon he had obtained from Rama no longer shone in him through inward light, and when his terrible snake-mouthed shaft also had been cut off by Partha, Karna became filled with melancholy. Unable to endure all those calamities, he waved his arms and began to rail at righteousness saying, "They that are conversant with righteousness always say that righteousness protects those that are righteous. As regards ourselves, we always endeavour, to the best of our ability and knowledge to practise righteousness. That righteousness, however, is destroying us now instead of protecting us that are devoted to it. I, therefore, think that righteousness does not always protect its worshippers." While saying these words, he became exceedingly agitated by the strokes of Arjuna's arrows. His steeds and his driver also were displaced from their usual position. His very vitals having been struck, he became indifferent as to what he did, and repeatedly railed at righteousness in that battle. He then pierced Krishna in the arm with three terrible arrows, and Partha, too, with seven. Then Arjuna sped seven and ten terrible arrows, perfectly straight and of fierce impetuosity, resembling fire in splendour and like unto Indra's thunder in force. Endued with awful impetuosity, those arrows pierced Karna and passing out of his body fell upon the surface of the earth. Trembling at the shock, Karna then displayed his activity to the utmost of his power. Steadying himself by a powerful effort he invoked the brahmastra. Beholding the brahmastra, Arjuna invoked the Aindra weapon with proper mantras. Inspiring gandiva, its string, and his shafts also, with mantras, that scorcher of foes poured showers like Purandara pouring rain in torrents. Those arrows endued with great energy and power, issuing out of Partha's car, were seen to be displayed in the vicinity of Karna's vehicle. The mighty car-warrior Karna baffled all those shafts displayed in his front. Seeing that weapon thus destroyed, the Vrishni hero, addressing Arjuna, said, "Shoot high weapons, O Partha! The son of Radha baffles thy shafts." With proper mantras, Arjuna then fixed the brahmastra on his string, and shrouding all the points of the compass with arrows, Partha struck Karna (with many) arrows. Then Karna, with a number of whetted shafts endued with great energy, cut off the string of Arjuna's bow. Similarly he cut off the second string, and then the third, and then the fourth, and then the fifth. The sixth also was cut off by Vrisha, and then the seventh, then the eighth, then the ninth, then the tenth, and then at last the eleventh. Capable of shooting hundreds upon hundreds of arrows, Karna knew not that Partha had a hundred strings to his bow. Tying another string to his bow and shooting many arrows, the son of Pandu covered Karna with shafts that resembled snakes of blazing mouths. So quickly did Arjuna replace each broken string that Karna could not mark when it was broken and when replaced. The feat seemed to him to be exceedingly wonderful. The son of Radha baffled with his own weapons those of Savyasaci. Displaying also his own prowess, he seemed to get the better of Dhananjaya at that time. Then Krishna, beholding Arjuna afflicted with the weapons of Karna, said these words unto Partha: "Approaching Karna, strike him with superior weapons." Then Dhananjaya, filled with rage, inspiring with mantras another celestial weapons that looked like fire and that resembled the poison of the snake and that was as hard as the essence of adamant, and uniting the Raudra weapon with it, became desirous of shooting it at his foe. At that time, O king, the earth swallowed up one of wheels of Karna's car. Quickly alighting then from his vehicle, he seized his sunken wheel with his two arms and endeavoured to lift it up with a great effort. Drawn up with force by Karna, the earth, which had swallowed up his wheel, rose up to a height of four fingers' breadth, with her seven islands and her hills and waters and forests. Seeing his wheel swallowed, the son of Radha shed tears from wrath, and beholding Arjuna, filled with rage he said these words, "O Partha, O Partha, wait for a moment, that is, till I lift this sunken wheel. Beholding, O Partha, the left wheel of my car swallowed through accident by the earth, abandon (instead of cherishing) this purpose (of striking and slaying me) that is capable of being harboured by only a coward. Brave warriors that are observant of the practices of the righteous, never shoot their weapons at persons with dishevelled hair, or at those that have turned their faces from battle, or at a Brahmana, or at him who joins his palms, or at him who yields himself up or beggeth for quarter or at one who has put up his weapon, or at one whose arrows are exhausted, or at one whose armour is displaced, or at one whose weapon has fallen off or been broken! Thou art the bravest of men in the world. Thou art also of righteous behaviour, O son of Pandu! Thou art well-acquainted with the rules of battle. For these reasons, excuse me for a moment, that is, till I extricate my wheel, O Dhananjaya, from the earth. Thyself staying on thy car and myself standing weak and languid on the earth, it behoveth thee not to slay me now. Neither Vasudeva, nor thou, O son of Pandu, inspirest me with the slightest fear. Thou art born in the Kshatriya order. Thou art the perpetuator of a high race. Recollecting the teachings of righteousness, excuse me for a moment, O son of Pandu!"'"
Next: Section 91