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Published by: divyaksd on Aug 04, 2010
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WHEN Drona died, the princes of the
Kaurava army installed Karna as
Generalissimo. Karna stood up in his
gorgeous war chariot driven by Salya. The
dauntless confidence of his bearing and
his great renown as a warrior heartened
the Kauravas. The battle again began.
Readers of the stars were consulted and
the Pandavas chose the propitious hour for
grim battle. Arjuna led the attack on
Karna, supported by Bhimasena
immediately behind his chariot.
Duhsasana made a concentrated attack on
Bhima and sent a shower of arrows at
him. Bhima chuckled and said to himself.
"I have this wretch now safe in my hands.
I shall today redeem my promise to
Draupadi. Too long has my oath waited
for performance."
As Bhima thus bethought himself of what
Duhsasana had done to Draupadi, the
anger within him blazed up uncontrollably
and throwing down all his weapons, he
jumped from his chariot and leapt upon
Duhsasana like a tiger on its prey, hurled
him down and broke his limbs.
"Wicked beast, is this the wretched hand
that held Draupadi by the hair? Here, I
tear out the root from your body. If there
be any here wishing to help you, let him
come forward and try!"
Glaring hatefully at Duryodhana as he
roared this challenge, Bhimasena tore

Duhsasana's arm out and threw the
bleeding limb on the battlefield.
And then he fulfilled the terrible oath he
had taken thirteen years before. He sucked
and drank the blood from his enemy's
body like a beast of prey and danced on
the bloody field, mad with passion. "I
have done it!" he roared. "The oath I
swore against this great sinner has been
redeemed. It only remains to redeem my
oath as regards Duryodhana. The
sacrificial fire is ready. Let that victim
also prepare."
The scene made everyone shudder. Even
great Karna was shaken as he saw Bhima
in this ecstasy of wrath. "Do not flinch,"
said Salya to Karna. "It does not befit you
to show any sign that may be mistaken for
fear. When Duryodhana stands quivering
in despair; it is not right that you also
should lose heart. After the great
Duhsasana's death, the army's hope rests
solely on you. You must now bear the full
burden. Like the gallant warrior you are,
seek single combat with Arjuna, and win
eternal glory on earth or the soldier's
heaven!" At these words, Karna recovered
his courageous spirit. With eyes red with
wrath and unshed tears, he bade Salya
drive the chariot towards Arjuna.
"Enough of fighting," said Aswatthama
addressing Duryodhana earnestly. "Let us
terminate this disastrous enmity. Beloved
friend, make peace with the Pandavas.
Stop the battle."
"What? Did you not hear the words that
the stubborn Bhima uttered when like a
ravening beast, he drank human blood and
danced over my brother's mangled body?
What talk can there be now of peace?
Why do you speak vain words!" said
Duryodhana. Saying thus, he ordered a
fresh disposition of the forces, and gave
the command for attack.
Then followed a great battle. The son of
Surya sent a dazzling arrow, which spat

fire and made for Arjuna, like a serpent
with its flaming double-tongue out. Then
Krishna, Arjuna's charioteer, at the nick of
time, pressed the vehicle down five
fingers deep in the mud, so that the
serpent shaft just missed Partha's head but
struck off his helmet! Arjuna was red with
shame and anger and he fixed a dart on his
bow to make an end of Karna.
And Karna's fated hour was come, and as
had been foretold, the left wheel of his
chariot suddenly sank in the bloody mire.
He jumped down on the ground to lift the
wheel up from the mud.
"Wait a minute!" he cried. "My chariot
has sunk in the ground. Great warrior as
you are, and knowing dharma as you do,
you would certainly not take unfair
advantage of this accident. I shall
presently set my car right and give you all
the battle you want."
Arjuna hesitated. Karna was now
somewhat perturbed on account of the
mishap. He remembered the curse that had
been pronounced on him, and again
appealed to Arjuna's sense of honor.
Krishna intervened. "Ha, Karna!" be
exclaimed, "it is well that you too
remember that there are things like
fairplay and chivalry! Now that you are in
difficulty, you remember them indeed.
But when you and Duryodhana and
Duhsasana and Sakuni dragged Draupadi
to the Hall of Assembly and insulted her,
how was it you forgot them utterly? You
helped to inveigle Dharmaputra, who was
fond of play but was unskilled at it, to
gamble, and you cheated him. Where had
your fairplay hidden itself then? Was it
fairplay to refuse to give to Yudhishthira
his kingdom when according to the pledge
the twelve years of forest life and the
thirteenth year incognito were duly
completed? What had happened to the
dharma you appeal for now? You
conspired with the wicked men who

sought to poison and kill Bhima. You
acquiesced in the plot to burn the
Pandavas alive when sleeping in the
palace of wax into which they had been
lured. What had happened to dharma all
that time? What did dharma tell you when
violent hands were laid on Draupadi and
you were looking on enjoying the sight?
Did you not then mock at her saying:
'Your husbands have left you unprotected,
go and marry another husband'? The
tongue that was not ashamed to utter those
words now talks of chivalry. Chivalry
indeed! When a mob of you surrounded
the young Abhimanyu and shamelessly
slew him, was that chivalry? Wicked man,
do not talk now of chivalry and fairplay,
for you have never honored them!"
When Krishna was denouncing him in this
manner in order to urge Arjuna to prompt
action, Karna bent his head in shame and
uttered not a word. Karna silently
ascended the chariot leaving the wheel
still stuck in the mud and took his bow
and sent an arrow at Arjuna with unerring
aim and such power that it stunned him
for a moment.
Karna utilised the respite won, to jump
down again and hurriedly tried to lift the
chariot wheel up. But the curse was too
strong for him and fortune had deserted
the great warrior.
The wheel would not budge, though he
strove with all his great strength. Then he
tried to recall the mantras of mighty astras
he had learnt from Parasurama, but his
memory failed in the hour of his need,
even as Parasurama had foretold.
"Waste no more time, Arjuna," cried
Madhava. "Send your shaft and slay your
wicked enemy."
Arjuna's mind was wavering. His hand
hesitated to do what was not chivalrous.
But when Krishna said this, the poet says:
"Arjuna accepted this command of the

Lord and sent an arrow which cut and
severed the head of the Radheya."
The poet had not the heart to impute this
act to Arjuna who was the embodiment of
nobility. It was the Lord Krishna that
incited Arjuna to kill Karna when he was
vainly trying to raise his chariot out of the
mud in which it had stuck. According to
the code of honor and laws of war
prevailing then, it was wholly wrong.
Who could bear the responsibility for
breaches of dharma except the Lord
Himself? The lesson is that it is vanity to
hope, through physical violence and war,
to put down wrong. The battle for right,
conducted through physical force leads to
numerous wrongs and, in the net result,
adharma increases.

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