On the 14th day of the great war, Arjuna had taken a vow that he would slay Jayadratha – the main culprit in the brutal and adharmic killing of his son Abhimanyu – before sunset. If he failed, Arjuna had vowed to give up his life by entering into a pyre.
Drona, the commander in chief of the Kaurava army since the fall of Bhishma, had set up several complex vyuhas, or army formations, to prevent Arjuna from getting to Jayadratha. Arjuna had proven to be one step ahead of his guru Drona. He had engaged in a brief battle after which he prayed to the elder to let him go. Drona had no option and his favorite student slipped through.
After that though the madhyama Pandava had gone further and further in the battlefield and there was no news of him for a long time. Yudhisthira began to get worried and sent Satyaki to look for Arjuna. He too didn’t return for a while which set panic in the Pandava camp. Yudhisthira had to resort to his most reliable warrior – Bhima!
He convinced Bhima to go in search of their younger brother. Bhima talked to Dhrishtadyumna so the Emperor is protected well in his absence (Drona’s constant aim in the war was to capture Yudhishthira alive) and set out in search of Arjuna. He was stopped by Drona twice. On both occasions, he destroyed the chariot, horses and the charioteer. Drona was displaced and Bhima made his way in, after declaring to Drona that he would never take the approach of Arjuna in making a request.
Several brothers of Duryodhana then made a futile attempt at stopping Vrikodara. They ended up paying the ultimate price – that of their life.
Soon, Bhima spotted Arjuna fighting the enemies in one corner of the battlefield. He joined his brother and Krishna and gave out a loud shout. The intensity of Bhima’s ‘garjane’ was such that Yudhisthira heard the same, although they were miles apart. The elder Pandava was now assured of his brother’s safety and felt very relieved.
The Arrival of Karna
Hearing the tremendous shout-out by Bhima, the entire army on both sides got jittery. The Bhima-naada was so loud that the soldiers started trembling and their bows slipped!
पुनर्घोरेण नादेन पाण्डवस्य महात्मनः |
समरे सर्वयोधानां धनूंष्यभ्यपतन् क्षितौ || Drona – JayadrathaVadha – 114 – 13 ||
“Hearing the tremendous sound emanating from the great Pandava, the bows slipped from the hands of all the warriors and fell down on the earth”
The roar of Bhima created such a tremendous noise that all the horses and elephants carrying the soldiers urinated out of fear!
Karna then came in front of Bhima and started a duel with his mighty bow. He shot twenty sharp arrows and Bhima and also injured Vishoka, Bhima’s charioteer, with five arrows.
The great Bhima, who was equally adept at using the bow (like his favourite mace), fired a stream of 64 arrows in return at Karna.
प्रहस्त भीमसेनस्तु कर्णं प्रत्यर्पयद्रणे |
सायकानां चतुःषष्ट्या क्षिप्रकारी महाबलः || 114 – 17 ||
“The fast-moving and powerful Bhimasena smiled and hit back at Karna with sixty four arrows”
Karna kept firing several arrows at Bhima. But the response from Bhima was so quick that each of Karna’s arrows were met midway itself by Bhima’s arrows and thus were cutoff. This infuriated Karna and he released a mighty shower of arrows on Bhima which engulfed him completely. Bhima’s reply was equally glorious. He cut-off Karna’s bow by hitting an arrow near his fist. Karna had to take some time to tie another bow of his and restart the fight.
Bhima welcomed Karna in his second attempt now by firing arrows directly at Karna’s chest. Karna started bleeding profusely.
सुस्राव चास्य रुधिरं विद्धस्य परमेषुभिः |
धातुप्रस्यन्दिनः शैलाद्यथा गैरिकराजयः || 114 – 24 ||
“Having been hit by those arrows, blood started flowing profusely from his (Karna’s) body just like the flow of Gairika from the mountain”
Karna took some time to recover from his injury. He finally regained his composure and shot hundreds of arrows at Bhima. This time, Bhima’s response was two-fold – he gave a smile and broke Karna’s new bow by piercing its hood.
Bhima decided it was time to show Karna his place. With a ‘bhalla’ he dispatched Karna’s charioteer to the abode of Yama! With four other arrows, he killed the four horses attached to his chariot. Karna had to save himself by jumping out of his chariot and joining Vrushasena.
हताश्वात्तु रथात्कर्णः समाप्लुत्य विशाम्पते |
स्यन्दनं वृषसेनस्य समारोहन्महारथः || 114 – 28 ||
“O King! The maharathi Karna jumped from his chariot, the horses of which were killed, and took refuge in the chariot of Vrushasena”
The chariot of Vrushasena moved away from there signalling the defeat of Karna. This brought a loud cheer from the Pandava camp. Bhima let out another roar, bringing immense joy to Yudhisthira. The entire Pandava camp celebrated this victory of Bhima by blowing their conches. Arjuna twanged his Gandiva and Krishna blew his Panchajanya.
Thus, the first of many battles between Bhima and Karna, on the fourteenth day of the great war, ended with the complete routing of Karna.