The intense battle between Bhima and Karna on the 14th day of the war seemed like would never end. Karna would get badly defeated and put himself in danger. Seeing this, Duryodhana kept sending his brothers to defend his dear friend. All of them in turn got killed by Bhima. Seeing the dead bodies of his friend’s brothers, Karna would weep and challenge Bhima again. Thirty two Kaurava princes were dead this way, and Karna did not realize the role he was playing in this marana-homa.
After Shatrunjaya and six others were killed thus by Bhima, Karna returned again and engaged with Bhima. This time, the battle reached its most intense phase. In addition to hurting each other with hundreds of arrows, Bhima and Karna also destroyed any soldier who was nearby or came in the way. Hundreds of elephant-warriors, horse-riders and foot-soldiers paid the price with their lives.
Thousands of fighters in the vicinity ran away seeing the intensity of the fight between the two. The battlefield around them was strewn with the jewellery and weaponry of the dead soldiers. Wherever one turned, one could see ear-rings, armlets, anklets, garlands, clothes, half-destroyed umbrellas, mutilated horses, elephants and broken chariots.
पतितैरपविद्धैश्च सम्बभौ द्यौरिव ग्रहैः
(The field) was like the sky full of planets.
Even the siddhas and charanas in the sky were stunned with the exhibition of valor and skill shown there.
After a while, Bhima picked up a sharp arrow and aimed it at the ear of Karna. That arrow pierced his ear-ring and brought it down. Bhima then hurt Karna by hitting a bhalla at his chest. Karna hit back at Bhima with a hundred arrows. They covered each other with a shower of arrows. Bhima then broke Karna’s bow.
ततो भीमो महाबाहू राधेयस्य महात्मनः |
क्षुरप्रेण धनुष्च्छित्त्वा कर्णं विव्याध पत्रिणा ||
Bhima, the one with great shoulders, then released a kshurapra at Karna, cut his bow, and hurt him.
Karna quickly picked up another bow and resumed the fight. Even as Karna showered numerous arrows, Bhima decided to get closer to Karna for a more intense battle. He rushed his chariot towards Karna’s. In return, Karna too drove near Bhima. The two of them were now in a very close range battle.
Bhima cut each of Karna’s arrows into three pieces even as they were flying in air. The battle was so intense that the soldiers around them could hear the sound emanating from their gloves (while they were fixing and releasing arrows). The rest of the soldiers stopped their battle and stood there admiring the duel.
Karna then released several sharp arrows and cut off the quiver, bow and the ropes of the horses of Bhima’s chariot. He also killed Bhima’s horses and hurt his charioteer Vishoka. Bhima in return hurled a Shakti at Karna but Karna managed to destroy it before it reached him.
Bhima picked up a sword and shield. Karna, by releasing another arrow, destroyed the shield. Bhima then hurled the mighty sword at Karna. It fell with such a force that Karna’s bow was cut off by it. Karna picked up another bow.
By this time, Bhima’s anger knew no bounds. He decided to take on Karna in a one-to-one fight and reached Karna’s chariot.
स भीमसेनो कुपितो बलवान् सत्यविक्रमः |
विहायसं प्राक्रमद्वै कर्णस्य रथमाविशत् ||
Bhima, who was angry, powerful and always of true valor, jumped in the air and reached Karna’s chariot.
Seeing Bhima inside his chariot, Karna panicked and, in a totally un-Kshatriya like move, hid himself in the corner of the chariot’s flag.
तस्य तच्चरितं दृष्ट्वा सङ्ग्रामे विजयैषिणः |
ध्वजालयस्थो राधेयो भीमसेनमवञ्चयत् ||
Seeing his (Bhima’s) intention to obtain victory, Karna hid in the corner of the chariot’s flag and cheated Bhimasena.
Bhima looked around for Karna. Not finding him in his chariot, he stood near the flag on the battleground, having climbed down from the chariot. While Karna hid like a coward, Vrikodara did not give up his Kshatriya Dharma for even one moment.
When Bhimasena waited thus, not having any weapon in hand, Karna suddenly jumped out and attacked him. Again, a battle between then ensued. Bhima saw Karna had chosen this moment to resume battle with him and looked around. He saw a pile of dead elephants which had been killed by Arjuna and went towards them. When Karna attacked him again, Bhima responded – with an elephant!
व्यवस्थानमथाकाङ्क्षान् धनञ्जयशरैर्हतम् |
उद्यम्य कुञ्जरं पार्थस्तस्थौ परपुरञ्जयः ||
Wanting to stay on in the battlefield, Bhima, the defeater of enemies, lifted an elephant that was killed by the arrow of Arjuna and stood there.
Karna shot arrows and split the elephants. Bhima kept hurling more and more elephants while Karna brought them down. Bhima then hurled many chariot wheels, dead horses and other debris that was in the battlefield. Karna, having the benefit of his weapons, approached Bhima and put his bow around his shoulders.
Forgetting how he behaved totally unworthy of a Kshatriya and how he hid from battle, Karna began laughing and boasting how he had ‘defeated’ Bhima. He insulted Bhima calling him a “Toobara” (one without beard), a fool, glutton and coward!
He demanded that Bhima should return to the forest and live there. He felt Bhima was not fit for battle. Karna’s rants couldn’t smack of more hypocrisy. He kept touching Bhima with his bow and kept laughing. He asked Bhima to quit battle and go home, knowing fully well that Bhima would be enraged by this suggestion.
Arjuna, who was nearby, saw the whole farcical theatrics of Karna, and the incessant boasting. He observed that Karna had attacked a weaponless Bhima, after hiding from him initially. He attacked Karna with sharp arrows.
After a brief engagement with Arjuna, Karna quickly took flight from there, in his typical fashion.
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