Wednesday, April 1, 2009

PDE Mahabharata: The Contest


Reading Guide. Now that the Pandavas and Kauravas have been trained as warriors, they will display their skills in a tournament. In this excerpt from Dutt's verse adaptation, you will see how Bhima engages in a mock fight with Duryodhana that grows deadly serious, and then Arjuna is introduced; he displays the greatest skills of all the princes.

Image. You can see Arjuna's bow lifted in the air in the sculpture below; the sculpture is from the Kedareshwara temple in Halebidu in Karnataka, India.

Source. Mahabharata, Epic of the Bharatas, by Romesh C. Dutt (1898). [500 words] You can read more about the author here: Romesh Chunder Dutt.



Ekalavya | 17. The ContestKarna


Bhima came and proud Duryodhan with their maces lifted high,
Like two cliffs with lofty turrets cleaving through the azure sky.

In their warlike arms accoutred with their girded loins they stood,
Like two untamed jungle tuskers in the deep and echoing wood!

And as tuskers range the forest, so they range the spacious field,
Right to left and back they wander and their ponderous maces wield.

Unto Kuru's sightless monarch wise Vidura drew the scene,
Pritha proudly of the princes spake unto the Kuru queen.

While the stalwart Bhima battled with Duryodhan brave and strong,
Fierce in wrath, for one or other, shouted forth the maddened throng,

"Hail to Kuru prince Duryodhan!" "Hail to Bhima hero proud!"
Sounds like these from surging myriads rose in tumult deep and loud,

And with troubled vision Drona marked the heaving restless plain,
Marked the crowd by anger shaken, like the tempest-shaken main.

To his son he softly whispered quick the tumult to appease,
Part the armed and angry wrestlers, bid the deadly combat cease;

With their lifted clubs the princes slow retired on signal given,
Like the parting of the billows, mighty-heaving, tempest-driven!

Came forth then the ancient Drona on the open battle-ground,
Stopped the drum and lofty trumpet, spake in voice like thunder's sound:

"Bid him come, the gallant Arjun! Pious prince and warrior skilled,
Arjun, born of mighty Indra, and with Vishnu's prowess filled."

Gauntleted and jewel-girdled, with his bow of ample height,
Archer Arjun pious-hearted to the gods performed a rite,

Then he stepped forth proud and stately in his golden mail encased,
Like the sunlit cloud of evening with the golden rainbow graced,

And a gladness stirred the people all around the listed plain,
Voice of drum and blare of trumpet rose with shankha's festive strain!

"Mark! The gallant son of Pandu, whom the happy Pritha bore,
Mark! The heir of Indra's valour, matchless in his arms and lore,

Mark! The warrior young and valiant, peerless in his skill of arms,
Mark! The prince of stainless virtue, decked with grace and varied charms!"

Pritha heard such grateful voices borne aloft unto the sky,
Milk of love suffused her bosom, tear of joy was in her eye!

And where rested Kuru's monarch, joyous accents struck his ear,
And he turned to wise Vidura seeking for the cause to hear:

"Wherefore like the voice of ocean, when the tempest winds prevail,
Rise the voices of the people and the spacious skies assail?"

Answered him the wise Vidura, "It is Pritha's gallant boy;
Godlike moves in golden armour, and the people shout for joy!"

"Pleased am I," so spake the monarch, "and I bless my happy fate,
Pritha's sons like fires of yajna sanctify this mighty State!"

Now the voices of the people died away and all was still;
Arjun to his proud preceptor showed his might and matchless skill.

Towering high or lowly bending, on the turf or on his car,
With his bow and glist'ning arrows, Arjun waged the mimic war,

Targets on the wide arena, mighty tough or wondrous small,
With his arrows still unfailing, Arjun pierced them one and all!

Wild-boar shaped in plates of iron coursed the wide-extending field,
In its jaws five glist'ning arrows sent the archer wondrous-skilled;

Cow-horn by a thread suspended was by winds unceasing swayed,
One and twenty well-aimed arrows on this moving mark he laid,

And with equal skill his rapier did the godlike Arjun wield,
Whirling round the mace of battle ranged the spacious tourney field!


Ekalavya | The Contest | Karna




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