The Mahabharata Home
OM! HAVING BOWED down to Narayana, and Nara, the foremost of male beings, and unto the goddess Saraswati, must the word Jaya be uttered.
"Vaisampayana said, 'Having offered oblations, of water unto all their friends and kinsmen, the sons of Pandu, and Vidura, and Dhritarashtra, and all the Bharata ladies, continued to dwell there (on the banks of the sacred stream). The high-souled sons of Pandu desired to pass the period of mourning, 1 which extended for a month, outside the Kuru city. After king Yudhishthira the just had performed the water-rites, many high-souled sages crowned with ascetic success and many foremost of regenerate Rishis came there to see the monarch. Among them were the Island-born (Vyasa), and Narada, and the great Rishi Devala, and Devasthana, and Kanwa. They were all accompanied by best of their pupils. Many other members of the regenerate order, possessed of wisdom and accomplished in the Vedas, leading lives of domesticity or belonging to the Snataka class, came to behold the Kuru king. Those high-souled ones, as they came, were duly worshipped by Yudhishthira. The great Rishis then took their seats on costly carpets. Accepting the worship suited to that period (of mourning and impurity) that was offered them, they sat in due order around the king. Thousands of Brahmanas offered consolation and comfort to that king of kings residing on the sacred banks of the Bhagirathi with heart exceedingly agitated by grief. Then Narada, after having accosted the Rishis with the Island-born for their first, in due time, addressed Yudhishthira, the son of Dharma, saying, 'Through the might of thy arms and the grace of Madhava, the whole Earth, O Yudhishthira, hath been righteously won by thee. By good luck, thou hast escaped with life from this dreadful battle. Observant as thou art o f the duties of a Kshatriya, dost thou not rejoice, O son of Pandu? Having slain all thy foes, shalt thou not gratify thy friends, O king? Having obtained this prosperity, I hope, grief doth not afflict thee still.'
"Yudhishthira said, 'Indeed the whole Earth hath been subjugated by me through my reliance on the might of Krishna's arms, through the grace of the Brahmanas, and through the strength of Bhima and Arjuna. This heavy grief, however, is always sitting in my heart, viz., that through covetousness
[paragraph continues] I have caused this dreadful carnage of kinsmen. Having caused the death of the dear son of Subhadra, and of the sons of Draupadi, this victory, O holy one, appears to me in the light of a defeat. What wilt Subhadra of Vrishni's race, that sister-in-law of mine, say unto me? What also will the people residing in Dwaraka say unto the slayer of Madhu when he goes thither from this place? This Draupadi, again, who is ever engaged in doing what is agreeable to us, bereaved of sons and kinsmen, is paining me exceedingly. This is another topic, O holy Narada, about which I will speak to thee. In consequence of Kunti having kept her counsels close in respect of a very important matter, great has been my grief. That hero who had the strength of ten thousand elephants, who in this world was an unrivalled car-warrior, who was possessed of leonine pride and gait, who was endued with great intelligence and compassion, whose liberality was very great, who practised many high vows, who was the refuge of the Dhartarashtras, who was sensitive about his honour, whose prowess was irresistible, who was ready to pay off all injuries and was always wrathful (in battle), who overthrew us in repeated encounters, who was quick in the use of weapons, conversant with every mode of warfare, possessed of great skill, and endued with wonderful valour (that Karna) was a son of Kunti, born secretly of her, and therefore, a uterine brother of ours. Whilst we were offering oblations of water unto the dead, Kunti spoke of him as the son of Surya. Possessed of every virtue, that child had been cast into the water. Having placed him in a basket made of light materials, Kunti committed him to the current of Ganga. He who was regarded by the world as a Suta's child born of Radha, was really the eldest son of Kunti and, therefore, our uterine brother. Covetous of kingdom, alas, I have unwittingly caused that brother of mine to be slain. It is this that is burning my limbs like a fire burning a heap of cotton. The white-steeded Arjuna knew him not for a brother. Neither I, nor Bhima, nor the twins, knew him for such. He, however, of excellent bow, knew us (for his brothers). We have heard that on one occasion Pritha went to him for seeking our good and addressed him, saying, 'Thou art my son!' That illustrious hero, however, refused to obey Pritha's wishes. Subsequently, we are informed, he said unto his mother these words, 'I am unable to desert Duryodhana in battle! If I do so, it would be a dishonourable, cruel, and ungrateful act. If, yielding to thy wishes, I make peace with Yudhishthira, people will say that I am afraid of the white-steeded Arjuna. Having vanquished Arjuna with Kesava, therefore, in battle, I will subsequently make peace with Dharma's son.' Even these were his words as we have heard. Thus answered, Pritha once more addressed her son of broad chest and said, 'Fight Phalguna then, but spare my four other sons.' The intelligent Karna, with joined hands, then replied unto his trembling mother, saying, 'If I get thy four other sons even under my power, I will not slay them. Without doubt, O goddess, thou shalt continue to have five sons. If Karna be slain with Arjuna, thou shalt have five! If, on the other hand, Arjuna be slain, thou shalt have five, numbering me.' Desirous of the good of her children, his mother once more said unto him, 'Go, O Karna, do good unto those brothers of thine whose good thou always seekest.' Having said
these words, Pritha took his leave and came back to her abode. That hero has been slain by Arjuna,--the uterine brother by the brother! Neither Pritha, nor he, had ever disclosed the secret, O lord! That hero and great bowman was therefore slain by Arjuna in battle. Subsequently I have come to know, O best of regenerate ones, that he was my uterine brother. Indeed, at Pritha's words I have come to know that Karna was the eldest born! Having caused my brother to be slain, my heart is burning exceedingly. If I had both Karna and Arjuna for aiding me, I could have vanquished Vasudeva himself. Whilst I was tortured in the midst of the assembly by the wicked-souled sons of Dhritarashtra, my wrath, suddenly provoked, became cooled at sight of Karna. Even while listening to the harsh and bitter words of Karna himself on that occasion of our match at dice, to the words, that Karna uttered from desire of doing what was agreeable to Duryodhana, my wrath became cooled at sight of Karna's feet. It seemed to me that Karna's feet resembled the feet of our mother Kunti. Desirous of finding out the reason of that resemblance between him and our mother, I reflected for a long time. With even my best exertions I failed to find the cause. Why, indeed, did the earth swallow up the wheels of his car at the time of battle? Why was my brother cursed? It behoveth thee to recite all this to me. I desire to hear everything from thee, O holy one! Thou art acquainted with everything in this world and thou knowest both the past and the future!'
1 Literally, the period of impurity. The period of mourning is the period of impurity, according to the Hindu scriptures. By performing the Sraddha rite, one becomes pure again. Till then, one can perform no religious rites.
Next: Section II