After the resounding defeat of Karna in the first duel between them on the 14th day of the great war, Bhima desired to proceed towards Arjuna so his older brother’s wish could be satisfied. However, Karna, was unable to tolerate the humiliation of the first defeat. He alighted a new chariot and came back to the scene of the battle between him and Vrikodara.
By the time Karna arrived, Bhima had traveled further towards Arjuna. Karna called him back for a duel.
भीमसेनस्तदाह्वानम् कर्णान्नामर्षयद् युधि |
अर्धमण्डलमावृत्य सूतपुत्रमयोधयत् ||
Bhimasena did not tolerate that invitation of the son of the Suta; He returned a distance of half a mandala and engaged in war.
Bhimasena was never one to refuse a call for battle. It was after all Kshatriya Dharma. Hence he returned back and took on Karna, once again.
Karna started this second battle with a shower of iron arrows with bent edges. Bhima countered them all effectively. Bhima was intensely angry by that time. As if to mock Bhima, Karna smiled at him. This false show of ease by Karna further enraged Vrikodara.
Bhima aimed 21 arrows and shot them at Karna, due to which the special kavacha worn by Karna was shredded to pieces. In response Karna hit Bhima’s horses with five special arrows. Karna intensified his attack and pierced Bhima with 64 arrows. A long battle between the two of them started. Each warrior shot numerous arrows at each other. Both were pierced with many tens of arrows and were bleeding profusely. But neither of them quit the duel.
तत्र भारत भीमं तु दृष्टवन्तः स्म सायकैः |
समाचिततनुं संखे श्वाविधं शललैरिव ||
O Bharata! We then saw the body of Bhima, hit by Karna’s arrows, appearing like a porcupine full of quills.
An enraged Bhima charged at Karna and, with 14 arrows, hit him at all his sensitive points in the body. Soon, Bhima broke Karna’s bow and all his other equipment in the chariot. Karna’s charioteer and the four horses were killed by Bhima next. A sharp naracha then pierced Karna’s chest defeating him completely.
In great distress and rendered completely helpless, Karna jumped on to another chariot that was nearby.
Even though he was defeated a second time, Karna’s anger did not subside. The fierce look in his face made the Kaurava soldiers believe, for a moment, that Bhima’s time had arrived. The third round of battle between the two of them started. They engaged with each other like two tigers; they moved around like eagles; their movements were like that two of two bulls.
Bhima thought of all the troubles the Kauravas and Karna had given them since their childhood. He thought of the insults heaped upon them when they lost the game of dice. He remembered the great misery Draupadi had to undergo in front of the full palace. He also recollected the attempts of Karna and the Kauravas to imprison Sri Krishna when he approached them with an offer of peace.
Bhima’s anger intensified. The fight between them reached a climax. The two elephants collided with each other.
ऋष्यवर्णान् हयान् कर्कैर्मिश्रान् मारुतरंहसः |
निरीक्ष्य तव पुत्राणां हाहाकृतमभूद् बलम् ||
Seeing the horses bearing the hue to deer mixing with the horses that were white in colour, the army of your sons started shouting (in anticipation)!
Karna, at this stage, picked up thirty arrows made of gold and aimed it at Bhima. Bhima in return cut them off and hit Karna’s charioteer with a bhalla. Karna’s chariot went out of control. Karna picked up a golden Shakti and threw it at Bhima. The entire Kaurava army expected Bhima’s end with it. However, Bhima shot seven sharp arrows and cut the Shakti into pieces even while it was still in the air.
After another exchange of arrows, Bhima finally cut off Karna’s bow. He then shot 4 arrows sending Karna’s horses to the abode of Yama.
Seeing the desperate state of Karna, Duryodhana ordered his brother Durjaya to rush to Karna’s aid. Durjaya quickly reached Karna’s side and shot 9 arrows at Bhima. He then shot 6 arrows at Vishoka, Bhima’s charioteer and another 7 sharp arrows at Bhima again.
Those were the last arrows Durjaya ever shot. Bhima was provoked and he responded with a barrage of arrows that took out the life of Durjaya, his charioteer and his horses.
Karna’s sorrow knew no bounds.
स्वलङ्कृतं क्षितौ क्षुन्नं चेष्टमानं यथोरगम् |
रुदन्नार्तस्तव सुतं कर्णश्चक्रे प्रदक्षिणम् ||
Karna started crying profusely and did a pradakshina to your son, who had fallen on the decorated battlefield like a struggling snake.
Bhima was not worried about the scene being witnessed there. He picked up a powerful weapon called Shataghni threw it at Karna. Karna was both mentally and physically injured.