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Saturday, September 23, 2017

Karna Parva - Maha Bharatha Series 45

We are into Book 8. After the death of Aswatthaman, Karna is made the Commander of the Kuru army. When Duryodhana and his leaders lament the loss of Drona and his son, Karna says: “Wise neither get dejected nor rejoice at what destiny brings, because it is not possible to overcome destiny”. The role of destiny is repeatedly emphasized in Mahabharatha. No wonder this philosophy has infiltrated the Indian psyche deeply.

The art of story-telling is at its best, when Vyasa gives us a summary of the chapter within the first few pages and then gives the details. In summary,  Karna took over the command of the Kauravas, fought valiantly for 2 days and was killed by Arjuna. Then, come the details of the battle through the words of Janamejaya, Dhrithrashtra and Sanjaya.

First come the names of everyone who was killed till that day in the battle. The names of individuals include Bhishma, Drona, Aswatthaman, Karna, Jayadratha, Bhurisravas, Vinda, Anuvinda, Bhagadatta, Sudhakshina, Srutayu, Vahlika, Paurava, Shalva and many more. It is interesting to note that the sons were killed before the fathers – eg., Aswatthaman, the sons of Karna and, of course, all of the Kauravas. I wish I understand the meaning.

The tribes involved in the war of Kurukshetra are also listed. They are: Srinjayas, Panchalas, Kiratas, Abhishahas, Kalingas, Sinis, Dravidas, Malavas and many more.

On the side of the Pandavas those killed were Abhimanyu, Gatothkachan, Virata, Drupada, Chitrasena, Purujit and Kuntibhoja. Tribes mentioned on this side include Chedis, Kaikeyas, Magadas, Pancalas and some maritime and seacoast tribes.  Other names mentioned in Section 12 include Pandyas, Cholas, Keralas, Andhras and Kanchis. Many of these troops are said to have been led by Satyaki.

In section 10, of Book 8, Sanjaya is describing what happened after Drona was killed. Sanjaya reports the following words spoken by Aswatthaman during the deliberation. He says: “For success one should have passion/enthusiasm, the time has to be ripe, one should have the skills and the goals (policy) should be clear. However, the results depend on another factor, namely Destiny”.

Later, before he takes up a direct conflict with Arjuna, Karna tells Duryodhana that for many untold reasons he did not go on combat directly with Arjuna. He then recounts all his strengths and says that Arjuna is no match for him in skills and equipment. There is some arrogance in his statements. However, he says that the one thing Arjuna has but Karna does not have is the presence of Vasudeva (Krishna) on Arjuna’s side.

Then, Karna says that the only charioteer as capable as Krishna and one as knowledgeable about horses as Krishna is Shalya. Therefore, he asks for Shalya to handle his chariot that day. This is interesting because, the chariot and the charioteer are used as metaphors for mind and its control in Katha Upanishad and in Bhagvad Gita.

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