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THE MAHABHARATA ADI PARVA
“Vaisampayana said, ‘O thou of Bharata’s race, beholding the sons of Dhritarashtra and Pandu accomplished in arms, Drona, O monarch, addressed king Dhritarashtra, in the presence of Kripa, Somadatta, Valhika, the wise son of Ganga (Bhishma), Vyasa, and Vidura, and said, ‘O best of Kuru kings, thy children have completed their education. With thy permission, O king, let them now show their proficiency.’ Hearing him, the king said with a gladdened heart, ‘O best of Brahmanas, thou hast, indeed, accomplished a great deed. Command me thyself as to the place and the time where and when and the manner also in which the trial may be held. Grief arising from my own blindness maketh me envy those who, blessed with sight, will behold my children’s prowess in arm. O Kshatri (Vidura), do all that Drona sayeth. O thou devoted to virtue, I think there is nothing that can be more agreeable to me.’
Then Vidura, giving the necessary assurance to the king, went out to do what he was bid. And Drona endued with great wisdom, then measured out a piece of land that was void of trees and thickets and furnished with wells and springs. And upon the spot of land so measured out, Drona, that first of eloquent men, selecting a lunar day when the star ascendant was auspicious, offered up sacrifice unto the gods in the presence of the citizens assembled by proclamation to witness the same. And then, O bull among men, the artificers of the king built thereon a large and elegant stage according to the rules laid down in the scriptures, and it was furnished with all kinds of weapons. They also built another elegant hall for the lady-spectators. And the citizens constructed many platforms while the wealthier of them pitched many spacious and high tents all around.
“When the day fixed for the Tournament came, the king accompanied by his ministers, with Bhishma and Kripa, the foremost of preceptors, walking ahead, came unto that theatre of almost celestial beauty constructed of pure gold, and decked with strings of pearls and stones of lapis lazuli. And, O first of victorious men, Gandhari blessed with great good fortune and Kunti, and the other ladies of the royal house-hold, in gorgeous attire and accompanied by their waiting women, joyfully ascended the platforms, like celestial ladies ascending the Sumeru mountain. And the four orders including the Brahmanas and Kshatriyas, desirous of beholding the princes’ skill in arms, left the city and came running to the spot. And so impatient was every one to behold the spectacle, that the vast crowd assembled there in almost an instant. And with the sounds of trumpets and drums and the noise of many voices, that vast concourse appeared like an agitated ocean.
“At last, Drona accompanied by his son, dressed in white (attire), with a white sacred thread, white locks, white beard, white garlands, and white sandal-paste rubbed over his body, entered the lists. It seemed as if the Moon himself accompanied by the planet Mars appeared in an unclouded sky. On entering Bharadwaja performed timely worship and caused Brahmanas versed in mantras to celebrate the auspicious rites. And after auspicious and sweet-sounding musical instruments had been struck up as a propitiatory ceremony, some persons entered, equipped with various arms. And then having girded up their loins, those mighty warriors, those foremost ones of Bharata’s race (the princes) entered, furnished with finger-protectors (gauntlet), and bows, and quivers. And with Yudhishthira at their head, the valiant princes entered in order of age and began to show wonderful skill with their weapons. Some of the spectators lowered their heads, apprehending fall of arrows while others fearlessly gazed on with wonder. And riding swiftly on horses and managing them ‘dexterously’ the princes began to hit marks with shafts engraved with their respective names. And seeing the prowess of the princes armed with bows and arrows, the spectators thought that they were beholding the city of the Gandharvas, became filled with amazement. And, O Bharata, all on a sudden, some hundreds and thousands, with eyes wide open in wonder, exclaimed, ‘Well done! Well done!’ And having repeatedly displayed their skill and dexterity in the use of bows and arrows and in the management of cars, the mighty warriors took up their swords and bucklers, and began to range the lists, playing their weapons.
The spectators saw (with wonder) their agility, the symmetry of their bodies, their grace, their calmness, the firmness of their grasp and their deftness in the use of sword and buckler. Then Vrikodara and Suyodhana, internally delighted (at the prospect of fight), entered the arena, mace in hand, like two single-peaked mountains. And those mighty-armed warriors braced their loins, and summoning all their energy, roared like two infuriate elephants contending for a cow-elephant; and like two infuriated elephants those mighty heroes faultlessly (in consonance with the dictates of the science of arm) careered right and left, circling the lists. And Vidura described to Dhritarashtra and the mother of the Pandavas (Kunti) and Gandhari, all the feats of the princes.’”
“Vaisampayana continued, ‘Upon the Kuru king and Bhima, the foremost of all endued with strength, having entered the arena, the spectators were divided into two parties in consequence of the partiality swaying their affections. Some cried, ‘Behold the heroic king of the Kurus!’–some–’Behold Bhima!’–And on account of these cries, there was, all on a sudden, a loud uproar. And seeing the place become like a troubled ocean, the intelligent Bharadwaja said unto his dear son, Aswatthaman, ‘Restrain both these mighty warriors so proficient in arms. Let not the ire of the assembly be provoked by this combat of Bhima and Duryodhana.’
“Vaisampayana continued, ‘Then the son of the preceptor of the princes restrained those combatants with their maces uplifted and resembling two swollen oceans agitated by the winds that blow at the universal dissolution. And Drona himself entering the yard of the arena commanded the musicians to stop, and with a voice deep as that of the clouds addressed these words, ‘Behold ye now that Partha who is dearer to me than my own son, the master of all arms, the son of Indra himself, and like unto the younger brother of Indra, (Vishnu)! And having performed the propitiatory rites, the youthful Phalguna, equipped with the finger protector (gauntlet) and his quiver full of shafts and bow in hand, donning his golden mail, appeared in the lists even like an evening cloud reflecting the rays of the setting sun and illumined by the hues of the rainbow and flashes of lightning.
“On seeing Arjuna, the whole assembly were delighted and conchs began to be blown all around with other musical instruments. And there arose a great uproar in consequence of the spectators’ exclaiming,–’This is the graceful son of Kunti!’–’This is the middle (third) Pandava!’–’This is the son of the mighty Indra!’–’This is the protector of the Kurus’–’This is the foremost of those versed in arms!’–’This is the foremost of all cherishers of virtue!’–’This is the foremost of the persons of correct behaviour, the great repository of the knowledge of manners!’ At those exclamations, the tears of Kunti, mixing with the milk of her breast, wetted her bosom. And his ears being filled with that uproar, that first of men, Dhritarashtra, asked Vidura in delight, ‘O Kshatri, what is this great uproar for, like unto that of the troubled ocean, arising all on a sudden and rending the very heavens?’ Vidura replied, ‘O mighty monarch, the son of Pandu and Pritha, Phalguna, clad in mail hath entered the lists. And hence this uproar!’ Dhritarashtra said, ‘O thou of soul so great, by the three fires sprung from Pritha who is even like the sacred fuel, I have, indeed, been blessed, favoured and protected!’
“Vaisampayana continued, ‘When the spectators, excited with delight, had somewhat regained their equanimity, Vibhatsu began to display his lightness in the use of weapons. By the Agneya weapon, he created fire, and by the Varuna weapon he created water, by the Vayavya weapon, he created air, and by the Parjanya weapon he created clouds. And by the Bhauma weapon, he created land, and by the Parvatya weapon, he brought mountains into being. By the Antardhana weapon all these were made to disappear. Now the beloved one of his preceptor (Arjuna) appeared tall and now short; now he was seen on the yoke of his car, and now on the car itself; and the next moment he was on the ground. And the hero favoured by his practised dexterity, hit with his various butts–some tender, some fine and some of thick composition. And like one shaft, he let fly at a time into the mouth of a moving iron-boar five shafts together from his bow-string. And that hero of mighty energy discharged one and twenty arrows into the hollow of a cow’s horn hung up on a rope swaying to and fro. In this manner, O sinless one, Arjuna showed his profound skill in the use of sword, bow, and mace, walking over the lists in circles.
“And, O Bharata, when the exhibition had well-nigh ended, the excitement of the spectators had cooled, and the sounds of instruments had died out there was heard proceeding from the gate, the slapping of arms, betokening might and strength, and even like unto the roar of the thunder. And, O king, as soon as this sound was heard, the assembled multitude instantly thought, ‘Are the mountains splitting or is the earth itself rending asunder, or is the welkin resounding with the roar of gathering clouds? And then all the spectators turned their eyes towards the gate. And Drona stood, surrounded by the five brothers, the sons of Pritha, and looked like the moon in conjunction with the five-starred constellation Hasta. And Duryodhana, that slayer of foes, stood up in haste and was surrounded by his century of haughty brothers with Aswatthaman amongst them. And that prince, mace in hand, thus surrounded by his hundred brothers with uplifted weapons appeared like Purandara in days of yore, encircled by the celestial host on the occasion of the battle with the Danavas.’”
“Vaisampayana continued, ‘When the spectators, with eyes expanded with wonder, made way for that subjugator of hostile cities, Karna, that hero with his natural mail and face brightened with ear-rings, took up his bow and girded on his sword, and then entered the spacious lists, like a walking cliff. That far-famed destroyer of hostile hosts, the large-eyed Karna, was born of Pritha in her maidenhood. He was a portion of the hot-beamed Sun and his energy and prowess were like unto those of the lion, or the bull, or the leader of a herd of elephants. In splendour he resembled the Sun, in loveliness the Moon, and in energy the fire. Begotten by the Sun himself, he was tall in stature like a golden palm tree, and, endued with the vigour of youth, he was capable of slaying a lion. Handsome in features, he was possessed of countless accomplishments.
The mighty-armed warrior, eyeing all around the arena, bowed indifferently to Drona and Kripa. And the entire assembly, motionless and with steadfast gaze, thought, ‘Who is he?’ And they became agitated in their curiosity to know the warrior. And that foremost of eloquent men, the offspring of the Sun, in a voice deep as that of the clouds, addressed his unknown brother, the son of the subduer of the Asura, Paka (Indra), saying, ‘O Partha, I shall perform feats before this gazing multitude; excelling all thou hast performed! Beholding them, thou shall be amazed.’ And, O thou best of those blest with speech, he had hardly done when the spectators stood up all at once, uplifted by some instrument, as it were. And, O tiger among men, Duryodhana was filled with delight, while Vibhatsu was instantly all abashment and anger. Then with the permission of Drona, the mighty Karna, delighting in battle, there did all that Partha had done before. And, O Bharata, Duryodhana with his brothers thereupon embraced Karna in joy and then addressed him saying, ‘Welcome O mighty-armed warrior! I have obtained thee by good fortune, O polite one! Live thou as thou pleasest, and command me, and the kingdom of the Kurus.’ Kama replied, ‘When thou hast said it, I regard it as already accomplished. I only long for thy friendship. And, O lord, my wish is even for a single combat with Arjuna.’ Duryodhana said, ‘Do thou with me enjoy the good things of life! Be thou the benefactor of thy friend, and, O represser of enemies, place thou thy feet on the heads of all foes.”
“Vaisampayanacontinued, ‘Arjuna, after this, deeming himself disgraced, said unto Karna stationed amidst the brothers like unto a cliff, ‘That path which the unwelcome intruder and the uninvited talker cometh to, shall be thine, O Karna, for thou shall be slain by me.’ Karna replied, ‘This arena is meant for all, not for thee alone, O Phalguna! They are kings who are superior in energy; and verily the Kshatriya regardeth might and might alone. What need of altercation which is the exercise of the weak? O Bharata, speak then in arrows until with arrows I strike off thy head today before the preceptor himself!’
“Vaisampayana continued, ‘Hastily embraced by his brothers, Partha that subduer of hostile cities, with the permission of Drona, advanced for the combat. On the other side, Karna, having been embraced by Duryodhana with his brothers, taking up his bow and arrows, stood ready for the fight. Then the firmament became enveloped in clouds emitting flashes of lightning, and the coloured bow of Indra appeared shedding its effulgent rays. And the clouds seemed to laugh on account of the rows of white cranes that were then on the wing. And seeing Indra thus viewing the arena from affection (for his son), the sun too dispersed the clouds from over his own offspring. And Phalguna remained deep hid under cover of the clouds, while Karna remained visible, being surrounded by the rays of the Sun. And the son of Dhritarashtra stood by Karna, and Bharadwaja and Kripa and Bhishma remained with Partha. And the assembly was divided, as also the female spectators.
And knowing the state of things, Kunti the daughter of Bhoja, swooned away. And by the help of female attendants, Vidura, versed in the lore of all duties, revived the insensible Kunti by sprinkling sandal-paste and water on her person. On being restored to consciousness, Kunti, seeing her two sons clad in mail, was seized with fear, but she could do nothing (to protect them). And beholding both the warriors with bows strung in their hands the son of Saradwat, viz., Kripa, knowing all duties and cognisant of the rules regulating duels, addressed Karna, saying ‘This Pandava, who is the youngest son of Kunti, belongeth to the Kaurava race: he will engage in combat with thee. But, O mighty-armed one, thou too must tell us thy lineage and the names of thy father and mother and the royal line of which thou art the ornament. Learning all this, Partha will fight with thee or not (as he will think fit). Sons of kings never fight with men of inglorious lineage.’
“Vaisampayana continued, ‘When he was thus addressed by Kripa, Karna’s countenance became like unto a lotus pale and torn with the pelting showers in the rainy season. Duryodhana said, ‘O preceptor, verily the scriptures have it that three classes of persons can lay claim to royalty, viz., persons of the blood royal, heroes, and lastly, those that lead armies. If Phalguna is unwilling to fight with one who is not a king, I will install Karna as king of Anga.’
“Vaisampayana said, ‘At that very moment, seated on a golden seat, with parched paddy and with flowers and water-pots and much gold, the mighty warrior Karna was installed king by Brahmanas versed in mantras. And the royal umbrella was held over his head, while Yak-tails waved around that redoubtable hero of graceful mien. And the cheers, having ceased, king (Karna) said unto the Kaurava Duryodhana, ‘O tiger among monarchs, what shall I give unto thee that may compare with thy gift of a kingdom? O king, I will do all thou biddest!’ And Suyodhana said unto him, ‘I eagerly wish for thy friendship.’ Thus spoken to, Karna replied, ‘Be it so.’ And they embraced each other in joy, and experienced great happiness.’”