86. Karna And Bhima
ARJUNA had left Yudhishthira
behind to repel Drona's attacks and had gone to make good his word that before
sunset Jayadratha would lie dead on the field of battle.
Jayadratha had been the main
cause of Abhimanyu's death. He it was who had effectively prevented the relief
of Abhimanyu by the Pandavas, and thereby caused Abhimanyu to be isolated,
overpowered and slain.
We have seen how Yudhishthira in
his anxiety sent first Satyaki and then Bhima to join Arjuna in his battle
against Jayadratha. Bhima reached where Arjuna was engaged and sounded his
simhanada (lion-roar). Dharmaputra heard the lion-roar of Bhima and knew that
Arjuna was found alive.
It was the fourteenth day and the
battle raged fiercely at many points, between Satyaki and Bhurisravas at one
place, between Bhima and Karna at another and between Arjuna and Jayadratha at
Drona remained at the main front
resisting the attack of the Panchalas and the Pandavas, and leading a
counter-offensive against them.
Duryodhana arrived with his
forces at the sector where Arjuna attacked Jayadratha, but was soon defeated
and turned back. The battle thus raged long and furiously on more than one
front. The armies were so deployed that each side was exposed to danger in its
Duryodhana was speaking to Drona:
"Arjuna, Bhima and Satyaki have
treated us with contempt and proceeded successfully to Jayadratha's sector and
they are pressing hard on the Sindhu king. It is indeed strange that, under
your command, our battle array should have been broken and our plans completely
foiled. Everyone asks how it is that the great Drona with all his mastery of
the science of war has been so badly outmaneuvered. What answer shall I make? I
have been betrayed by you."
Duryodhana thus, once again,
bitterly reproached Drona, who replied unperturbed:
accusations are as unworthy as they are contrary to truth. There is nothing to
be gained by talking about what is past and beyond repair. Think of what is to
be done now."
"Sir, it is for you to
advise me. Tell me what should be done. Give your best consideration to the
difficulties of the situation and decide and let us do it quickly."
Puzzled and perplexed, thus did Duryodhana plead.
Drona replied: "My son, the
situation is no doubt serious. Three great generals have advanced,
outmanoeuvring us. But they have as much reason to be anxious as we, for their
rear is now left as open to attack as ours. We are on both sides of them and
their position is not therefore safe. Be heartened, go up to Jayadratha again,
and do all you can to support him. It is of no avail to dishearten oneself by
dwelling on past defeats and difficulties. It is best I stay here and send you
reinforcements as and when required. I must keep the Panchalas and Pandava army
engaged here. Otherwise, we shall be wholly destroyed."
Accordingly, Duryodhana went with
fresh reinforcements again to where Arjuna was directing his attack on
The narrative of the fourteenth
day's fighting at Kurukshetra shows that, even in the Mahabharata times, the
modern tactics of turning and enveloping movements was not unknown.
The advantages and risks of such
strategy appear to have been fully understood and discussed even in those days.
Arjuna's flanking manoeuvres perplexed his enemies greatly. The story of that
day's battle between Bhima and Karna reads very much like a chapter from the
narrative of a modern war.
Bhima did not desire to fight
Karna or remain long engaged with him. He was eager to reach where Arjuna was.
But Radheya would, by no means, permit him to do this. He showered his arrows
on Bhimasena and stopped him from proceeding.
The contrast between the two
warriors was striking. Karna's handsome lotus-like face was radiant with smiles
when he attacked Bhima saying: "Do not show your back," "Now, do
not flee like a coward," and so on.
Bhima was all anger when taunted
in this manner. He was maddened by Karna's smiles. The battle was fierce but
Karna did everything with a smiling air of ease whereas Bhima's face glowed
with rage and his movements were violent.
Karna would keep at a distance
and send his well-aimed shafts but Bhima would disregard the arrows and
javelins failing thick upon him and always try to close with Karna.
Radheya did everything he did,
calmly and with graceful ease, whereas Bhimasena fumed and fretted with
impatience, as he showed his amazing strength of limb.
Bhima was red with bleeding
wounds all over and presented the appearance of an Asoka tree in full blossom.
But he minded them not, as he attacked Karna cutting bows in twain and smashing
When Karna had to run for a fresh
chariot, there was no smile on his face. For anger rose in him, like the sea on
a full moon day, as he attacked Bhima. Both showed the strength of tigers and
the speed of eagles and their anger was now like that of serpents in a fury.
Bhima brought before his mind all
the insults and injuries which he and his brothers and Draupadi had suffered,
and fought desperately, caring not for life.
The two cars dashed against each
other and the milk white horses of Karna's chariot and Bhimasena's black horses
jostled in the combat like clouds in a thunderstorm.
Karna's bow was shattered and his
charioteer reeled and fell. Karna then hurled a javelin at Bhima. But Bhima
parried it and continued pouring his arrows on Karna, who had taken up a fresh
Again and again did Karna lose
his chariot. Duryodhana saw Karna's plight and calling his brother Durjaya
said: "This wicked Pandava will kill Karna. Go at once and attack Bhima
and save Karna's life."
Durjaya went as ordered and attacked Bhima who, in a rage sent
seven shafts which sent Durjaya's horses and his charioteer to the abode of
Yama and Durjaya himself fell mortally wounded.
Seeing his bleeding body wriggling
on the ground like a wounded snake, Karna was overwhelmed with grief and
circled round the hero, paying mournful honor to the dead.
Bhima did not stop but continued the
fight and greatly harassed Karna. Karna once again had to find a fresh chariot.
He sent well aimed shafts and hit Bhima who in a fury hurled his mace at Karna
and it crashed on Karna's chariot and killed his charioteer and horses and
broke the flagstaff. Karna now stood on the ground with bent bow.
Duryodhana now sent another
brother to relieve Karna. Durmukha went accordingly and took Karna on his
Seeing yet another son of
Dhritarashtra come to offer himself up to death, Bhima licked his lips in gusto
and sent nine shafts on the newly arrived enemy. And, even as Karna climbed up
to take his seat in the chariot, Durmukha's armor was broken and he fell
When Karna saw the warrior bathed
in blood and lying dead by his side, he was again overwhelmed with grief and
stood motionless for a while.
Bhima relentlessly continued his
attack on Karna. His sharp arrows pierced Karna's coat of armor and he was in
But he too at once returned the
attack and wounded Bhima all over.
Still the Pandava would not stop
and attacked Karna furiously. The sight of so many of Duryodhana's brothers
dying for his sake one after another was too much for Karna.
This, and the physical pain of
his own wounds made him lose courage and he turned away defeated. But, when
Bhima stood up on the field of battle red with wounds all over like a flaming fire
and emitted a triumphant yell, he could not brook it but returned to the