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THE MAHABHARATA ADI PARVA
“Vaisampayana said, ‘After this, with his sheet loosely hanging down, Adhiratha entered the lists, perspiring and trembling, and supporting himself on a staff.
“Seeing him, Karna left his bow and impelled by filial regard bowed down his head still wet with the water of inauguration. And them the charioteer, hurriedly covering his feet with the end of his sheet, addressed Karna crowned with success as his son. And the charioteer embraced Karna and from excess of affection bedewed his head with tears, that head still wet with the water sprinkled over it on account of the coronation as king of Anga. Seeing the charioteer, the Pandava Bhimasena took Karna for a charioteer’s son, and said by way of ridicule, ‘O son of a charioteer, thou dost not deserve death in fight at the hands of Partha. As befits thy race take thou anon the whip. And, O worst of mortals, surely thou art not worthy to sway the kingdom of Anga, even as a dog doth not deserve the butter placed before the sacrificial fire.’ Karna, thus addressed, with slightly quivering lips fetched a deep sigh, looked at the God of the day in the skies. And even as a mad elephant riseth from an assemblage of lotuses, the mighty Duryodhana rose in wrath from among his brothers, and addressed that performer of dreadful deeds, Bhimasena, present there, ‘O Vrikodara, it behoveth thee not to speak such words. Might is the cardinal virtue of a Kshatriya, and even a Kshatriya of inferior birth deserveth to be fought with. The lineage of heroes, like the sources of a lordly river, is ever unknown. The fire that covereth the whole world riseth from the waters. The thunder that slayeth the Danavas was made of a bone of (a mortal named) Dadhichi. The illustrious deity Guha, who combines in his composition the portions of all the other deities is of a lineage unknown. Some call him the offspring of Agni; some, of Krittika, some, of Rudra, and some of Ganga. It hath been heard by us that persons born in the Kashatriya order have become Brahmanas. Viswamitra and others (born Kshatriyas) have obtained the eternal Brahma.
The foremost of all wielders of weapons, the preceptor Drona hath been born in a waterpot and Kripa of the race of Gotama hath sprung from a clump of heath. Your own births, ye Pandava princes, are known to me. Can a she-deer bring forth a tiger (like Karna), of the splendour of the Sun, and endued with every auspicious mark, and born also with a natural mail and ear-rings? This prince among men deserveth the sovereignty of the world, not of Anga only, in consequence of the might of his arm and my swearing to obey him in everything. If there be anybody here to whom all that I have done unto Karna hath become intolerable, let him ascend his chariot and bend his bow with the help of his feet.’
“Vaisampayana continued, ‘Then there arose a confused murmur amongst the spectators approving of Duryodhana’s speech. The sun, however, went down, but prince Duryodhana taking Karna’s hand led him out of the arena lighted with countless lamps. And, O king, the Pandavas also, accompanied by Drona and Kripa and Bhishma, returned to their abodes. And the people, too, came away, some naming Arjuna, some Karna, and some Duryodhana (as the victor of the day). And Kunti, recognising her son in Karna by the various auspicious marks on his person and beholding him installed in the sovereignty of Anga, was from motherly affection, very pleased. And Duryodhana, O monarch, having obtained Karna (in this way), banished his fears arising out of Arjuna’s proficiency in arms. And the heroic Karna, accomplished in arms, began to gratify Duryodhana by sweet speeches, while Yudhishthira was impressed with the belief that there was no warrior on earth like unto Karna.’”
“Vaisampayana continued, ‘Beholding the Pandavas and the son of Dhritarashtra accomplished in arms, Drona thought the time had come when he could demand the preceptorial fee. And, O king, assembling his pupils one day together, the preceptor Drona asked of them the fee, saying, ‘Seize Drupada, the king of Panchala in battle and bring him unto me. That shall be the most acceptable fee.’ Those warriors then answering, ‘So be it’, speedily mounted up on their chariots, and for bestowing upon their preceptor the fee he had demanded, marched out, accompanied by him. Those bulls among men, smiting the Panchalas on their way, laid siege to the capital of the great Drupada. And Duryodhana and Karna and the mighty Yuyutsu, and Duhsasana and Vikarna and Jalasandha and Sulochana,–these and many other foremost of Kshatriya princes of great prowess, vied with one another in becoming the foremost in the attack. And the princes, riding in first class chariots and following the cavalry, entered the hostile capital, and proceeded along the streets.
“Meanwhile, the king of Panchala, beholding that mighty force and hearing its loud clamour, came out of his palace, accompanied by his brothers. Though king Yajnasena was well-armed, the Kuru army assailed him with a shower of arrows, uttering their war-cry. Yajnasena, however, not easy to be subdued in battle, approaching the Kurus upon his white chariot, began to rain his fierce arrows around.
“Before the battle commenced, Arjuna, beholding the pride of prowess displayed by the princes, addressed his preceptor, that best of Brahmanas, Drona, and said, ‘We shall exert ourselves after these have displayed their prowess. The king of Panchala can never be taken on the field of the battle by any of these. Having said this, the sinless son of Kunti surrounded by his brothers, waited outside the town at a distance of a mile from it. Meanwhile Drupada beholding the Kuru host, rushed forward and pouring a fierce shower of arrows around, terribly afflicted the Kuru ranks. And such was his lightness of motion on the field of battle that, though he was fighting unsupported on a single chariot, the Kurus from panic supposed that there were many Drupadas opposed to them. And the fierce arrows of that monarch fell fast on all sides, till conchs and trumpets and drums by thousands began to be sounded by the Panchalas from their houses (giving the alarm).
Then there arose from the mighty Panchala host a roar terrible as that of the lion, while the twang of their bow-strings seemed to rend the very heavens. Then Duryodhana and Vikarna, Suvahu and Dirghalochana and Duhsasana becoming furious, began to shower their arrows upon the enemy. But the mighty bowman, Prishata’s son, invincible in battle, though very much pierced with the arrows of the enemy, instantly began, O Bharata, to afflict the hostile ranks with greater vigour. And careering over the field of battle like a fiery wheel, king Drupada with his arrows smote Duryodhana and Vikarna and even the mighty Karna and many other heroic princes and numberless warriors, and slaked their thirst for battle. Then all the citizens showered upon the Kurus various missiles like clouds showering rain-drops upon the earth. Young and old, they all rushed to battle, assailing the Kurus with vigour. The Kauravas, then, O Bharata, beholding the battle become frightful, broke and fled wailing towards the Pandavas.
“The Pandavas, hearing the terrible wail of the beaten host, reverentially saluted Drona and ascended their chariots. Then Arjuna hastily bidding Yudhishthira not to engage in the fight, rushed forward, appointing the sons of Madri (Nakula and Sahadeva) the protectors of his chariot-wheels, while Bhimasena ever fighting in the van, mace in hand, ran ahead. The sinless Arjuna, thus accompanied by his brothers, hearing the shouts of the enemy, advanced towards them, filling the whole region with the rattle of his chariot-wheels. And like a Makara entering the sea, the mighty-armed Bhima, resembling a second Yama, mace in hand, entered the Panchala ranks, fiercely roaring like the ocean in a tempest. And Bhima, mace in hand, first rushed towards the array of elephants in the hostile force, while Arjuna, proficient in battle, assailed that force with the prowess of his arms. And Bhima, like the great Destroyer himself, began to slay those elephants with his mace.
Those huge animals, like unto mountains, struck with Bhima’s mace, had their heads broken into pieces. Covered with stream of blood, they began to fall upon the ground like cliffs loosened by thunder. And the Pandavas prostrated on the ground elephants and horses and cars by thousands and slew many foot-soldiers and many car-warriors. Indeed, as a herdsman in the woods driveth before him with his staff countless cattle with ease, so did Vrikodara drive before him the chariots and elephants of the hostile force.
“Meanwhile, Phalguna, impelled by the desire of doing good unto Bharadwaja’s son, assailed the son of Prishata with a shower of arrows and felled him from the elephant on which he was seated. And, O monarch, Arjuna, like unto the terrible fire that consumeth all things at the end of the Yuga, began to prostrate on the ground horses and cars and elephants by thousands. The Panchalas and the Srinjayas, on the other hand, thus assailed by the Pandava, met him with a perfect shower of weapons of various kinds. And they sent up a loud shout and fought desperately with Arjuna. The battle became furious and terrible to behold. Hearing the enemy’s shouts, the son of Indra was filled with wrath and assailing the hostile host with a thick shower of arrows, rushed towards it furiously afflicting it with renewed vigour. They who observed the illustrious Arjuna at that time could not mark any interval between his fixing the arrows on the bowstring and letting them off. Loud were the shouts that rose there, mingled with cheers of approval. Then the king of the Panchalas, accompanied by (the generalissimo of his forces) Satyajit, rushed with speed at Arjuna like the Asura Samvara rushing at the chief of the celestials (in days of yore). Then Arjuna covered the king of Panchala with a shower of arrows. Then there arose a frightful uproar among the Panchala host like unto the roar of a mighty lion springing at the leader of a herd of elephants. And beholding Arjuna rushing at the king of Panchala to seize him, Satyajit of great prowess rushed at him. And the two warriors, like unto Indra and the Asura Virochana’s son (Vali), approaching each other for combat, began to grind each other’s ranks. Then Arjuna with great force pierced Satyajit with ten keen shafts at which feat the spectators were all amazed. But Satyajit, without losing any time, assailed Arjuna with a hundred shafts. Then that mighty car-warrior, Arjuna, endued with remarkable lightness of motion, thus covered by that shower of arrows, rubbed his bow-string to increase the force and velocity of his shafts.
Then cutting in twain his antagonist’s bow, Arjuna rushed at the king of the Panchalas, but Satyajit, quickly taking up a tougher bow, pierced with his arrows Partha, his chariot, charioteer, and horses. Arjuna, thus assailed in battle by the Panchala warrior, forgave not his foe. Eager to slay him at once, he pierced with a number of arrows his antagonist’s horses, flags, bow, clenched (left) fist, charioteer, and the attendant at his back. Then Satyajit, finding his bows repeatedly cut in twain and his horses slain, desisted from the fight.
“The king of the Panchalas, beholding his general thus discomfited in the encounter, himself began to shower his arrows upon the Pandava prince. Then Arjuna, that foremost of warriors, crowned with success, began to fight furiously, and quickly cutting his enemy’s bow in twain as also his flagstaff which he caused to fall down, pierced his antagonist’s horses, and charioteer also with five arrows. Then throwing aside his bow Arjuna took his quiver, and taking out a scimitar and sending forth a loud shout, leaped from his own chariot upon that of his foe. And standing there with perfect fearlessness he seized Drupada as Garuda seizeth a huge snake after agitating the waters of the ocean. At the sight of this, the Panchala troops ran away in all directions.
“Then Dhananjaya, having thus exhibited the might of his arm in the presence of both hosts, sent forth a loud shout and came out of the Panchala ranks. And beholding him returning (with his captive), the princes began to lay waste Drupada’s capital. Addressing them Arjuna said, ‘This best of monarchs, Drupada, is a relative of the Kuru heroes. Therefore, O Bhima, slay not his soldiers. Let us only give unto our preceptor his fee.’
But fear not for thy life, though it dependeth now on the will of thy foe. Dost thou now desire to revive thy friendship (with me)?’ Having said this, he smiled a little and again said, ‘Fear not for thy life, brave king! We, Brahmanas, are ever forgiving. And, O bull among Kshatriyas, my affection and love for thee have grown with me in consequence of our having sported together in childhood in the hermitage. Therefore, O king, I ask for thy friendship again. And as a boon (unasked), I give thee half the kingdom (that was thine). Thou toldest me before that none who was not a king could be a king’s friend. Therefore is it, O Yajnasena, that I retain half thy kingdom. Thou art the king of all the territory lying on the southern side of the Bhagirathi, while I become king of all the territory on the north of that river. And, O Panchala, if it pleaseth thee, know me hence for thy friend.’
“On hearing these words, Drupada answered, ‘Thou art of noble soul and great prowess. Therefore, O Brahmana, I am not surprised at what thou doest. I am very much gratified with thee, and I desire thy eternal friendship.’
“Vaisampayana continued, ‘After this, O Bharata, Drona released the king of Panchala, and cheerfully performing the usual offices of regard, bestowed upon him half the kingdom. Thenceforth Drupada began to reside sorrowfully in (the city of) Kampilya within (the province of) Makandi on the banks of the Ganga filled with many towns and cities. And after his defeat by Drona, Drupada also ruled the southern Panchalas up to the bank of the Charmanwati river. And Drupada from that day was well-convinced that he could not, by Kshatriya might alone, defeat Drona, being very much his inferior in Brahma (spiritual) power. And he, therefore, began to wander over the whole earth to find out the means of obtaining a son (who would subjugate his Brahmana foe).
“Meanwhile Drona continued to reside in Ahicchatra. Thus, O king, was the territory of Ahicchatra full of towns and cities, obtained by Arjuna, and bestowed upon Drona.’
“Vaisampayana continued, ‘After the expiration, O king, of a year from this, Dhritarashtra, moved by kindness for the people, installed Yudhishthira, the son of Pandu, as the heir-apparent of the kingdom on account of his firmness, fortitude, patience, benevolence, frankness and unswerving honesty (of heart). And within a short time Yudhishthira, the son of Kunti, by his good behaviour, manners and close application to business, overshadowed the deeds of his father. And the second Pandava, Vrikodara, began to receive continued lessons from Sankarshana (Valarama) in encounters with the sword and the mace and on the chariot. And after Bhima’s education was finished, he became in strength like unto Dyumatsena himself and continuing to live in harmony with his brothers, he began to exert his prowess. And Arjuna became celebrated for the firmness of his grasp (of weapons), for his lightness of motion, precision of aim, and his proficiency in the use of the Kshura, Naracha, Vala and Vipatha weapons, indeed, of all weapons, whether straight or crooked or heavy. And Drona certified that there was none in the world who was equal to Arjuna in lightness of hand and general proficiency.
“One day, Drona, addressing Arjuna before the assembled Kaurava princes, said, ‘There was a disciple of Agastya in the science of arms called Agnivesa. He was my preceptor and I, his disciple. By ascetic merit I obtained from him a weapon called Brahmasira which could never be futile and which was like unto thunder itself, capable of consuming the whole earth. That weapon, O Bharata, from what I have done, may now pass from disciple to disciple. While imparting it to me, my preceptor said, ‘O son of Bharadwaja, never shouldst thou hurl this weapon at any human being, especially at one who is of poor energy. Thou hast, O hero, obtained that celestial weapon. None else deserveth it. But obey the command of the Rishi (Agnivesa). And, look here, Arjuna, give me now the preceptorial fee in the presence of these thy cousins and relatives.’ When Arjuna, on hearing this, pledged his word that he would give what the preceptor demanded, the latter said, ‘O sinless one, thou must fight with me when I fight with thee.’ And that bull among the Kuru princes thereupon pledged his word unto Drona and touching his feet, went away northward.
Then there arose a loud shout covering the whole earth bounded by her belt of seas to the effect that there was no bowman in the whole world like unto Arjuna. And, indeed, Dhananjaya, in encounters with the mace and the sword and on the chariot as also with the bow, acquired wonderful proficiency. Sahadeva obtained the whole science of morality and duties from (Vrihaspati) the spiritual chief of celestials, and continued to live under the control of his brothers. And Nakula, the favourite of his brothers taught by Drona, became known as a skilful warrior and a great car-warrior (Ati-ratha). Indeed, Arjuna and the other Pandava princes became so powerful that they slew in battle the great Sauvira who had performed a sacrifice extending over three years, undaunted by the raids of the Gandharvas.
And the king of the Yavanas himself whom the powerful Pandu even had failed to bring under subjection was brought by Arjuna under control. Then again Vipula, the king of the Sauviras, endued with great prowess, who had always shown a disregard for the Kurus, was made by the intelligent Arjuna to feel the edge of his power. And Arjuna also repressed by means of his arrows (the pride of) king Sumitra of Sauvira, also known by the name of Dattamitra who had resolutely sought an encounter with him. The third of the Pandava princes, assisted by Bhima, on only a single car subjugated all the kings of the East backed by ten thousand cars. In the same way, having conquered on a single car the whole of the south, Dhananjaya sent unto the kingdom of the Kurus a large booty.
“Thus did those foremost of men, the illustrious Pandavas, conquering the territories of other kings, extend the limits of their own kingdom. But beholding the great prowess and strength of those mighty bowmen, king Dhritarashtra’s sentiments towards the Pandavas became suddenly poisoned, and from that day the monarch became so anxious that he could hardly sleep.’”